IKEA says adjö to its iconic 70-year-old catalogue: Are we witnessing the end of print marketing?

IKEA catalogue

An IKEA catalogue. Source: IKEA.

After 70 years, IKEA has announced it will stop printing and distributing catalogues, in response to shifting customer behaviour and trends in media consumption, signalling a decline in demand for print-based marketing.

Announcing the end of its iconic catalogue, IKEA systems B.V managing director Konrad Grüss said the decision was both emotional and rational.

“Turning the page with our beloved catalogue is emotional but rational,” Grüss said in a statement on Monday.

“Media consumption and customer behaviours have changed, and IKEA is already increasing digital investments while volumes and interest in the catalogue have decreased.”

Grüss said the move to say goodbye to the IKEA catalogue was largely influenced by IKEA’s ongoing transformation to become more digital and accessible.

Last year, IKEA online retail sales increased by 45% worldwide and its website welcomed more than four billion visits.

IKEA began distributing its print catalogue in Sweden in 1951, and by 2016, its printed and online catalogues had a combined distribution of 200 million copies across more than 50 markets.

Gary Mortimer, a professor of marketing and retail at the Queensland University of Technology, says while it’s disappointing to see a catalogue as distinctive as IKEA’s disappear, there’s undoubtedly less need for it.

“I do think the days of the paper catalogue are well and truly numbered,” Mortimer tells SmartCompany.

“I think we’ll eventually move to pure digital advertising, whether that’s small retailers or big retailers advertising through different mediums such as through Facebook or Instagram,” Mortimer says.

According to Mortimer, IKEA would have looked not just at the cost of producing the catalogues, but also the environmental footprint, when making its decision.

“IKEA would have looked at the cost to the environment of pulping trees, printing, the electricity, power and water that’s used, as well as the costs of transporting these heavy catalogues around to their global markets,” he says.

Mortimer says the rise of mobile phones, tablets and laptops, along with price comparison websites, have reduced the need for consumers to search for products and brands in catalogues.

“We’ve seen a number of price comparison websites pop up, which again, mitigates that requirement of consumers to compare prices across different catalogues. You simply have to go to a site comparison website now to find the cheapest brand available,” he says.

IKEA is not the only large company to change its print-based marketing strategy.

Earlier this year, Coles announced it would reduce the printing and production of its catalogue and no longer deliver them to households.

“Certainty, a move toward a digital footprint seems to be becoming more popular,” Mortimer says.

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