Should brands discontinue print catalogs?
The gloves are off
If you're like me and feel your blood boil when you open your mailbox to stacks of unrequested catalogs — which most often go straight into the recycling bin — you may agree with why I think print catalogs are antiquated and should be eliminated.
For one thing, turnaround is faster in the digital world. Products can be produced and delivered in days rather than weeks and for marketers, results can be measured almost instantaneously through online analytics and tracking tools that measure open rates, click-throughs and other data.
Digital avenues are also cheaper, and at the same time can increase the likelihood of a purchase. Looking strictly at return on investment (ROI), the ROI for electronic catalogs sent through email is significantly better than for printed pieces mailed the old-fashioned way. Factor out the costs for printing and postage and factor in an opt-in list with recipients indicating an interest in what you offer and the ROI gets even better.
Not only are results more accurately measured in the digital world, but in terms of comparing sales results, digital marketing has been shown to also deliver better returns. A typical direct marketing piece that is "snail-mailed" will deliver a response ranging from 1% to 4%. Statistics on opt-in lists for email returns are significantly higher by comparison. Not only are your recipients interested in receiving the piece and therefore more likely to respond with a purchase, but according to the Direct Marketing Association, "email marketing has an average ROI of $43.52 for every dollar spent and [that] is only expected to rise."
Eliminating printed catalogs is also a better choice for the environment. In the digital world, trees and forests aren't cut down, and the chemicals necessary in the process of manufacturing paper aren't used. With consumers showing support for companies concerned with sustainability, going digital makes good marketing sense all around.
I do not object to the use of small quantities of printed brochures and catalogs with a specific and purposeful distribution. However, mass mailings of catalogs that deliver limited results need to be buried along with other dinosaurs of the past.
Anyone working in marketing or publishing within the past decade has heard the drumbeat of their industry's march to digital. However, the growth of digital marketing does not necessarily correlate to a decline in print advertising. Print advertising remains relevant, and using print channels and direct mail as part of an integrated marketing mix, especially in the case of retailers, makes a lot of business sense.
While there are higher overhead costs in sending out print catalogs and direct mail fliers, research shows that print channels are highly engaging when targeted to the appropriate consumer segment. Engagement with ads is higher in magazines than on TV or the Web, according to the marketing research firm Market Research Insight.
Magazine readers are focused and not multitasking while they're reading. This is supported by the 2010 "Experian Simmons Multi-Media Engagement Study," which showed that magazines are the leading medium for ad receptivity, trustworthiness and inspiration among consumers. Additionally, because of magazines' vertical nature, readers get exactly the content they're interested in and ads that are truly relevant.
Print is also the only medium that can activate more than one of the five senses at a time through scented perfume ads, multiple paper textures and embedded sound devices. Retail catalogs are often added to the stack of magazines people tend to place beside an easy chair for their leisure-time reading.
I'm not saying marketers should use print exclusively; we all know it's an increasingly digital world. My point is that any online marketing effort, especially in the retail space, is made more effective by having an ancillary print component.
Print is a strong driver of online behavior, too. Have you noticed that in the past several years, almost all print ads have begun to feature a URL or digital code? A lot of the new Internet-based mobile technologies, such as quick response codes, have forced media planners (and consumers) to give print a closer, more appraising look. Short code activation from print ads can help big-brand retailers build solid customer databases.
Integration between print and digital is essential. If you're a retailer, it shouldn't be an either/or proposition.
Direct Marketing News Decision
There is no question that digital has changed the marketing landscape, and the channel offers much in the way of measurable metrics. However, different consumers prefer to receive messages in different ways, including some who would prefer the sensory aspects that come with perusing a catalog offline.