Catalogs Continue to Drive Traffic to the Web

by Stephen Lett • December 6, 2016

 

Catalogs continue to be the main driver of shopper traffic to the Internet. Printed catalogs have stood the test of time and after all the buzz about the Internet and e-commerce, we are seeing a real growth in print media. Companies who started and/or only marketed their products online have expanded to print. Many of the catalogs I have been receiving this holiday season are new. More and more online retailers recognize that print catalogs are the single largest driver of traffic to the web.

We know from post analysis matching back order files to mail tapes that 70% or more of all orders and sales are the direct result of mailing a catalog. When a catalog mails, online sales spike across all web channels.  A typical catalog company will trace approximately 15% to 25% of their orders to a source code on the front-end before match-back. After match-back, this percentage will increase to 70% or 80%. The percentage will vary depending on house file vs. prospects. Let me give you an example. Let’s say that the total revenue from prospects is $100,000. $25,000 tracked to specific source codes, $50,000 matched to the prospect mailing and $25,000 came from prospect web initiatives.

Why is a printed catalog so powerful and important? There are several reasons why you shouldn’t stop mailing catalogs or why you should consider a print catalog program if you are e-commerce only. Here are just a few reasons why a print program is critical in a multichannel world:

  1. Print catalogs are a shopping experience. Consumers don’t shop the Internet the way they shop a print catalog. They enjoy thumbing the pages of a print catalog looking at every item. Many catalogs are coffee table pieces that get saved and reviewed again and again. They often “dog-ear” the pages so they can reference certain items of interest later. Internet shoppers are generally searching for a specific item. On-line catalogs have not had much traction and cannot be compared with a print catalog held in one’s hand.
  1. Life-Time-Value (L-T-V) is an important consideration. A buyer from a print catalog generally has a higher L-T-V than a web only buyer. If someone goes to a search engine for an item, they might buy it at the right price but it doesn’t mean they are ever going to buy from you again. However, if the buyer originates through the catalog, they’re often more loyal. You’re more of a “shopper” when you order from a catalog and an “item buyer” when you buy online. The cost to acquire a new buyer online can be less than acquiring a buyer from a print catalog.  That’s why the Life-Time-Value becomes so important. It is not about the initial order but rather the number of orders the buyer will generate over time.
  1. Catalogs are effective when prospecting for new buyers because they are more targeted. Prospecting via the Internet is more difficult. Rented e-mail prospect lists don’t work for catalog offers but direct response catalog buyer lists do work. Print catalogs target your specific audience, i.e., the exact market and prospective buyer you want to reach.
  1. The average order size from a typical catalog purchase is approximately 20% higher than an online purchase (this relates to point #2 above.) The following chart shows the average order sizes for a gift company:
         LETT Direct, Inc.
         Date: 11-29-2016                                                                    AVERAGE ORDER SIZES
                                                                                                            CATALOG                 ONLINE
        Gift Catalog Company                                                                   $71.38                         $62.02

 

  1. The catalog and its design, photography and layout create and reinforce your brand. A print catalog tells your story and leaves a lasting impression on prospects and customers. From a consumer point of view, a catalog is inspirational, exciting and fun. It presents a way of life, i.e., a lifestyle that consumers like to relate to. Fact is, the majority of consumers of all ages like receiving catalogs in their mail boxes.
  1. A print catalog increases PPC (Pay-Per-Click) and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) performance. Every time a catalog goes into the mail, the digital marketing programs benefit. That is why it is important to coordinate web based marketing programs with the catalog circulation plans.

E-commerce is another way to present your products and have customers order. What’s important is how consumers like to shop and place orders. Consumers want a choice to order via a toll-free 800 number, by fax, by mail, in-store, or via the Internet. Just like the catalog is what inspires a consumer to pick up the phone to place an order, it also motivates a consumer to go on-line to place their order.  The Internet is much more powerful for many things, but at least 70% of the time, it serves as an order channel which was initiated by a multi-page print catalog.

It’s important to strike the right balance between prospecting through print and web. The printed catalog is here to stay. It is not a matter of catalog vs. web. It’s the best balance between the catalog and web marketing that is going to prove to be the strongest approach to growing your business.

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About the Author: Stephen R. Lett is the President of Lett Direct, Inc., a catalog consulting firm specializing in print catalogs and digital marketing since 1995. Mr. Lett spent the first 25 years of his career with leading catalog companies; both business-to-business and consumer. He is the author of a book, Strategic Catalog Marketing.  He can be reached at 302-539-7257 or by e-mail at steve@lettdirect.com.

About the Author: Jim Gibbs

Vice President of Sales & Marketing at The Dingley Press. Jim has been with Dingley since 2002 and lives in Maine near our Lisbon, Maine plant location.