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Is the Product Catalog Extinct?

by Dan Finney | Apr 20, 2010, 13:00 PM
Is the Product Catalog Extinct?

As an agency that produces both printed catalog design and eCommerce websites, we have the luxury of viewing marketing returns for both print and web applications.

Some clients have approached us to translate their print catalogs into eCommerce sites with the intention of never producing a catalog again. Their goal is to lower their costs by eliminating printing and mailing costs. Does this mean that print catalogs are becoming extinct?

Other clients have maintained a balance between their print and web offerings. One trend that is definitely apparent is that phone orders are down and web orders are up. It would be very easy to assume that the print catalog has become irrelevant especially if you weigh the costs versus the declining phone orders. However, a deeper examination into sales metrics has shown that the arrival of a printed product catalog causes a noticeable spike in online sales.

Where have all of the catalogs gone?

As a youth, I remember the arrival of the Sears and JCPenney catalogs. (My parents wanted to look at it before I had a chance to gum up the pages, creasing them along the toy section.) It was a big deal when these catalogs arrived. Our mailbox load today is noticeably lighter, in part because catalogs have become smaller and more targeted to their audience, but a lot of the once-major players have left the market. This can translate into a venue with less competition, which spells more opportunity for your business.

A coordinated one-two-three punch works best.

Our clients have found the most success by keeping their websites up-to-date with the freshest and newest offerings. Occasionally a printed catalog is designed and sent out to new and repeat customers, and a close eye is kept on the buying trends. And for the third punch, a monthly e-newsletter is sent out to those who have opted-in, showcasing a new product or offering an exclusive incentive.

From the unique perspective of the print and web marketer, I can say that the catalog still has merit in your marketing arsenal. We find that the right customers get excited when they receive a catalog. They will keep it around and casually flip through it, sometimes only throwing it away when the newest catalog design arrives. (not everyone can take their computer on the back porch or with them on a trip) This type of customer wants a handy reference nearby and if she has to take the action of going to her computer to find what she needs, she may just as easily end up on your competitor’s eCommerce website.


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