Retail print catalogs have often struggled at the expense of digital or online catalogs. As with so many aspects of our lives, the pandemic is causing change and lockdowns are proving that print is still very much a contender.
The Benefits of Digital
It’s not hard to see why so many catalogs have transferred online. Digital does away with expensive printing and delivery charges and there’s no pulping of old catalogs or waiting around for new ones to be printed. The analytics associated with digital are now incredibly powerful, making it easy to collect large volumes of detailed data on user behaviors.
Why is Print Proving Popular?
An online catalog is a powerful package, so why is print making a comeback? With another national lockdown upon us, people are being forced to spend a huge proportion of their time at home and home is where print catalogs score. Recent research by Royal Mail revealed that 88% of people surveyed said they paid as much or more attention to mail during lockdown. This means leaflets and catalogs are far less likely to be dumped straight in the trash.
Royal Mail also reported that some of their clients, who hadn’t reopened all their stores following the first lockdown in the Spring, had sent print catalogs to their customers as a way of reaching out and getting back in touch.
But it goes further than this. People now inevitably have more time on their hands and are less distracted by a modern, hectic life. The pace of living has slowed and because of this, people can devote more time to reading a beautifully produced print catalog in the same way they might look at a magazine. For those of us in work, our lives are now dominated by Zoom calls and often unbroken screen time. Many are keen to take a moment, get off of the computer, and enjoy an analog experience for a few minutes.
Firms are using print catalogs to put pictures of their products directly into the hands of the customers. They are then typically directed online to complete their purchase.
Jigsaw Fashion Chain
Talking to The Guardian newspaper, Beth Butterwick of women’s fashion chain Jigsaw said they distributed an increased number of catalogs this winter.
“It’s a brilliant way of keeping a brand front of mind during lockdown,” she said. “On average, people will spend three or six minutes on a website, but a catalog or direct mail can lie on a coffee table for a month to six weeks. If there’s something you quite liked, you can keep going back.”
Last summer, catalog retailer Argos ditched its print catalog. The Daily Mail said COVID had killed the “Argos book of dreams after 47 years” and billion copies printed. The book of dreams made a small come back over Christmas with the firm releasing a Christmas gift guide. The print catalog went on to feature heavily in their seasonal TV advertisement.
Cox & Cox
Upmarket homeware brand Cox & Cox told The Guardian newspaper it was sending catalogs in an effort to attract new customers. It released a statement saying: “A far lower proportion of people open an email or click on an online ad than pick up and keep a catalog. By combining a variety of channels, you can not only reinforce your message but also increase your chances of catching people at just the right time.”
A scrappy leaflet or ill produced catalog is unlikely to cut through, but an attractive print offering that plugs into a firm’s digital catalog is proving an unexpected lockdown game changer. There is a tactile pleasure in viewing a glossy, beautifully printed catalog particularly when looking at premium products.
The Din of Social Media
Print catalogs can be a welcome distraction from our crammed email in-boxes and the din of our social media feeds. As physical products, they can easily remain in a locked down home long after a marketing email has been deleted. Print has staying power and if done right can increase the pleasure enjoyed by customers while they buy.
Once the battle against COVID is won and we return to something approaching normality it will be interesting to see whether the print bounce continues. Will firms continue to deploy print as a useful adjunct to their online offerings? For upmarket products, print may well be here to stay.