Shoppers still prefer catalogues – the three times you should push them most

While experts and analysts have been pushing retailers towards an omnichannel approach with an emphasis on online retail, experts say the traditional paper catalogue may have more of a hold on shoppers than you think.

Retail analysts say catalogues are still part of a well-rounded strategy, and that retailers shouldn’t be spamming shoppers but instead using them strategically to advance sales.

“Catalogues need to be utilised more than ever in a cross-channel strategy,” says Brian Walker, chief executive of retail consultancy Retail Doctor Group.

Recent research from AMP Capital Shopping Centres has found that 28% of 18-24 year-olds and 30% of 25-34 year-olds use catalogues as their first preference when shopping.

The finding gels with the number of businesses still using paper catalogues to get their product into homes – furniture retailer IKEA still maintains a thick yearly catalogue, while retailers such as Sportsgirl are updating their catalogues to have more of a glossy, professional feel.

Larger retailers such as JB Hi-Fi still rely on paper catalogues that have remained a staple in their marketing campaigns, using big, bright and bold colours and messages.

Walker says these catalogues are still a key strategy for retailers, and that they shouldn’t be ignored even during a massive shift to digital shopping.

“Catalogues bring the brand into people’s homes. It’s very much around creating interest using compelling visual graphics, and they need to support all the channels of the business in the process.”

While some businesses may be getting rid of the paper catalogue strategy, there are still three key times when you should be pushing them into mailboxes:

1. Holidays

These are the obvious ones. Christmas, Easter, some public holidays and other special occasions such as Mother’s Day, are all chances to get the paper catalogues out into the open.

“Especially Christmas,” Walker says. “It’s a time when people are spending more money, it’s a great time for communicating your message. These are times when you can do highly targeted campaigns and do them well.”

2. Seasonal changes

Seasonal catalogues are staples in the fashion industry, with retailers keen to show off the latest product. IKEA is another big proponent of the seasonal catalogue, putting out a massive, thick book every year full of new products.

Walker says this strategy is primarily for those companies that are very brand-driven.

“The brand should take a very prominent place in the catalogue in this instance,” he says.

3. Product events

Got a new product range coming out? Then send out a catalogue. Walker says a little self-promotion never hurt anyone, and can give old customers the chance to walk back in the store – especially if they have some sort of loyalty reward they haven’t used yet.

“New product launches, new ranges, and those sorts of things, are great for catalogues. Especially if you’ve opened new stores in a particular area.”

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