Customer Experience, Industry Trends

Successful Catalog Marketing Comes Down to the Data

Catalogs have been an effective means of engaging customers since Tiffany & Co. mailed the very first U.S. catalog in 1848. In the years since, catalogs became a sales and marketing powerhouse, combining the aesthetic appeal of a ‘coffee table book’ full of engaging visuals and clever product descriptions with the convenience of shopping at home. And even as online shopping has increased over the past decade, instead of fading into the background, catalogs have made a comeback.

Catalogs are 'in' once again

In fact, not only has the number of catalog mailings risen, but catalog response rates have increased 170% since 2004, according to Harvard Business Review. In addition, the USPS reports that consumers spend an average of 15.5 minutes looking at a catalog and keep it on their coffee tables for an average of 20.3 days. But do they buy from it? Yes, they do – 84% of consumers report making a purchase after seeing an item in a catalog according to the USPS. And surprisingly, catalogs seem to be exceptionally popular with Millennials despite their digital habits.

The reason for the appeal and success of catalogs? According to past consumer behavioral research done at INSEAD Business School, “Catalogs increase the vividness of a product by enhancing consumers’ ability to visualize and imagine product usage experiences; vividness is highly influential in consumer behavior because it increases consumer involvement and joy in the purchasing process.” Further, Tim Curtis, CEO of direct mail consultancy CohereOne, says catalogs work because, “We know from neuroscience that this medium is extremely effective at building an emotional connection with customers and thus driving demand.” A better customer experience gets them every time!

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Building on the idea of emotional connection to products, the hot catalog trend of the past two years has been toy catalogs for the holiday season. Several large retailers have produced and mailed high-quality holiday toy catalogs with big, bold and colorful graphics -- appealing to both kids and the adults buying for them. In November 2020 we wrote about the release of Amazon’s second-annual toy catalog, which will allow the e-commerce behemoth to combine the convenience of online sales with the emotional appeal of mail catalogs for the foreseeable future.

How to make sure your catalog efforts are a success

It’s clear from the research that both consumers and marketers have bought into the resurgence of catalogs. A recent joint USPS/Forrester survey reports that retail marketers say they are using catalogs to drive purchases, awareness and interest.

However, a few things are needed to ensure successful outcomes when using catalogs as a key marketing and sales tactic. One is to recognize that catalogs (and direct mail in general) should be part of an overarching cross-channel marketing strategy. Effective marketing requires that all your channels -- direct and digital -- work together to send your customers down a path to purchase.

The second is data. Specifically, first-party data (information your business collects about its customers). Retailers who have mastered catalog mailing know that clean, organized customer data is a key component to gaining actionable insights about what, who, when, where and how to mail your catalogs so that you can effectively integrate your digital and catalog/direct mail initiatives.

Customer segmentation leads to more effective catalog usage

Targeting your catalog to the right customers requires the ability to identify customer segments that respond favorably to their use. Grouping customers based on their similarities helps marketers prioritize the key segments of their customer base and focus their efforts on customers that will provide positive lifetime value. Segmenting customer data is invaluable for creating personalized mailings that make your customers feel recognized and appreciated.

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To identify your segments, you need the ability to examine your customers’ interests, preferences, purchase behavior and socioeconomic characteristics in order to determine their patterns of consumption and how they’ll respond to your mailings. You can segment on demographic data (such as age, income, gender, and education level), geography (such as region or state), and behavioral data (such as past transactions, online activity at your website or app, loyalty and frequency). All of this information can be uncovered through the collection and analysis of the first-party data your organization collects from your email, social media, web, phone, and in-store marketing and customer engagement efforts.

Sounds complicated, right? Well, it isn’t when you have a customer data platform (CDP) that makes collecting, unifying, analyzing, and managing customer data for use in catalog mailings simple and intuitive. But while there are many CDPs on the market today, only the QuickPivot Customer Data Platform is built with direct mail and catalog as a priority. With QuickPivot, you can build complex, segmented direct mail marketing campaigns, adjust and update your house list, and change priorities, split, and rekey on the fly all from within the platform. And thanks to a recent integration with fellow Vericast business Direct Mail Manager, QuickPivot now offers on-demand printing capabilities that allow you to send targeted, personalized postcards with the same level of targeting, personalization, and speed (48 hours or less) that you have with email campaigns.

The QuickPivot Customer Data Platform is specifically designed to help marketers build and execute effective cross-channel marketing campaigns that truly integrate all of your online and offline channels. So, if you’re interested in learning how to boost the effectiveness of your catalog mailings to drive sales and ROI, or want to branch out into catalog marketing but are unsure how to fit the process into your current marketing strategy, reach out today to learn how the QuickPivot CDP can help.

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