Are Catalogs Dead as Sales Enablement Tools?

Are catalogs dead? Some think that. And it may be true if your idea of a catalog is one of those six-inch-thick tomes that weighed a ton and did their best work raising you to the dinner table when you were 5. That kind of catalog has pretty much disappeared. But make no mistake—printed catalogs are enjoying a renaissance as sales enablement tools.

I’ve read quite a bit about this lately., for one, presented a strong explanation for the resurgence of catalogs. And it turns out this catalog comeback is happening not despite modern trends and technologies, but largely because of them. The ability to access and apply more sophisticated customer data has enabled marketers to create catalogs that are more economical, more targeted, more adaptable, and more compelling. Let’s look at a few reasons for that.

  1. Catalogs Add Impact

Those who have totally embraced digital technologies are prone to dismiss catalogs. And the economic downturn in the last decade forced many companies to discontinue traditional catalogs. But facts don’t lie. A Kurt Salmon survey found that 86 percent of women in that precious-to-marketers 18-30 age bracket, have bought an item after seeing it in a catalog. A print, hold-it-in-your-hand catalog is what piqued their interest in the first place.

No media vehicle compares to a printed catalog in presenting a product to its maximum advantage. A catalog photograph captures beauty and drama “up close and personal.” And today’s catalogs provide the opportunity for brand storytelling, surrounding the product with text that resonates. The catalog works on a more emotional level. It simply looks (and entices) better than on an electronic screen. Your brand never looked better.

  1. Sales Enablement Tools That Hit the Target

You’ve heard the term “big data.” Well, it can make a big difference in your catalog success. Today, customer information collected from various sources enable a marketer to develop catalogs customized for particular prospects or audience sub-segments. A home furnishings maker could easily create one catalog with compact, contemporary furniture that would appeal to downtown condo dwellers. It would also include settings and environments these customers would find appealing, along with storytelling copy that would enhance the presentation.

A second catalog could feature furniture that suburban customers would likely find more appealing and more appropriate for their homes. Again, especially chosen room environments and “storytelling” would also help tailor the catalog to this audience. Bottom line? Catalogs today are “smarter”—so they work better.

  1. A Strong Addition to a Multichannel Sales Approach

Today, a marketing campaign must hit on all cylinders to reach consumers who are distracted and bombarded by messaging. Catalogs provide a solid, tangible component that helps feed and reinforce email, websites, digital advertising and more. Statistics show that people who have first looked through a catalog, buy 50 percent more when they do order online, versus people who used only web resources.

This works for retailers who are online only, or those who also have brick-and-mortar stores. The catalogs drive shoppers to the website or to the store to complete their purchase. The Salmon study revealed that 64 percent of women 18-30 who first saw an item in a catalog ended up completing the purchase in the store, while 32 percent purchased through the retailer’s website.

  1. Flexibility—and Profitability

Catalogs are also less expensive to print today. New printing and production technologies allow for the customization I mentioned earlier to be handled with great efficiency.  The “warehouse” mentality of showing everything to everybody has given way to the more selective lifestyle presentations. “Show me everything you’ve got” takes hundreds of pages. But an emotional bond using carefully chosen products, appealing environments and compelling text takes far fewer.

There are new mini and micro catalog formats that save production costs. Other new formats stretch the borders of the traditional catalog’s mission. One is the “magalog” that blends the presentation of a manufacturer’s products with content created to appeal to the target audience.

Catalogs Are Back. Let Us Help Them Work For You.Sales Enablement Tools From Superior Business Solutions

Denise Lee Yohn, writing for the Harvard Business Review, spotted the catalog comeback early on, and discussed many of the things I’ve mentioned. I especially enjoyed her summary comment:

 “Catalogs may seem old school, but their increased capabilities and the brand-building potential suggest they’ll remain a staple in retailers’ toolboxes—and consumers’ mailboxes.” — Denise Lee Yohn, Harvard Business Review.

For business-building potential, let us look into ways your business could benefit from this new respect for catalogs. For almost a century we have been providing sales enablement tools, including catalogs, that work to increase sales. Contact me today or reach out to one of our sales reps to find out how they can help to increase yours.

Share this article: