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Farming and Referral Programs, Branding

What the return of the print catalog tells us about the power of direct mail

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As retailers push their e-commerce divisions and promote online sales, traditional methods of shopping via print catalog has fallen by the wayside. But major department stores have come to realize that abandoning their traditional catalog business could trigger a dip in sales. JC Penney has produced catalogs since 1963 but when they pulled their print catalog in 2011, the company experienced over a 30 percent drop in sales and the department store has since announced the catalog’s return.

Retail outlets like JC Penney are realistic in addressing the new role of the print catalog. Instead of becoming the sole vehicle of sales, print catalogs can be used to augment and encourage sales in-store or online. A customer may thumb through a catalog at home to research or gain inspiration then head in-store or online to purchase an item. Nordstrom reported that customers that have a multi-channel relationship with a store – for example, browsing both in-store and online – spent four times as much as those who don’t.

Today’s print catalogs are different from those of the pre-internet days. Retailers may be reducing the number of pages in their catalog or exploring budget-trimming design options such as reduced page width which decreases weight for shipping. Williams Sonoma, one of retail’s most devoted catalog producers, now features fewer products in their catalogs and instead dedicates the space to expanded product descriptions and supplementary content such as recipes. When consumers can find value from a store’s print catalog, it helps to build the brand’s identity.

While shopping for homes isn’t quite at the same level of browsing through an Ikea catalogue, we can definitely apply knowledge from the experience of retail outlets with print catalogs. The fact is that consumers enjoy browsing for items through print media and direct mail is an effective tool for building relationships with customers. Adding value in your direct mail through informative articles and news strengthens that trust and bond between agent and client even more.

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