How digital catalogs can work alongside their print equivalents

Are print catalogs outdated? A recent Advertising Age article by Michael Fernandez suggests exactly that. As digital catalog software providers, you’d expect us to agree entirely with this sentiment, but in our experience it’s not as simple as Fernandez suggests.

Fernandez’s argument that “we live in a digital, eco-conscious world” is indeed a strong one. Companies are increasingly embracing green policies, not just for good PR, but to save money too. Green policies offer attractive subsidies now in virtually all developed (and a few developing) economies, moreover, shedding unnecessary print surpluses is highly desirable if the marketing results can be replicated at a digital level.

He then goes on to say that “companies need to quit hiding behind false claims and old ways and adopt more creative and sensible ways to reach and influence customers”, a questionable statement. At the recent Annual CatEx Conference, digital catalogs were a hot topic. People were intrigued to hear e-commerce success stories and had endless questions for the ‘experts’ regarding apps, browser editions and how they can increase their digital exposure and ultimately their revenue. One thing was certain – retailers are more than willing and eager to embrace the ‘digital revolution’.

Of course, we’d encourage any retailer to offer a digital catalog.

In today’s age all consumers, who are frustratingly unpredictable, need to be catered for. You have to be everywhere, at anytime and that strategy generally means a solid, responsive e-commerce website alongside supplementary materials such as digital catalogs, specifically designed to drive customers to it. Not only that, expectations in terms of digital design are increasing. Customers want pages to sing and clothes to twirl and dance – all of which is possible with digital. Retailers are up against an enormous amount of competition, especially in the online world. You need to stand out and effectively become a digital runway, for your customers to enjoy on the go.

But we’d be naive to dismiss print completely.

Print is not dead and never will be, for the foreseeable future at least. Print and digital compliment each other, with neither seen as the ‘better-half’. Direct marketing catalogs have brand exposure value, which is often more effective in print, a point proven in a recent Wall Street Journal article. It was found that “shoppers spend more money buying online after they’ve browsed lavish print ads”.

It also stated that the amount of printed catalogs are declining, with “12 billion mailed in 2013, far below the 2007 peak of nearly 20 billion”, which suggests retailers are moving to more modern, online methods of reaching consumers. What’s most surprising is many online retailers, such as Bonobo’s, a men’s clothing company, “are now experimenting with print catalogs”. They found, that “roughly 20% of first-time customers now place orders after receiving one of the companies catalogs and spend 1.5 times longer shopping on their website, than those who didn’t receive a catalog”.

Print’s future is strong.

There is undoubtedly overcapacity in the print industry, but consolidation will likely see this overcapacity diminish over the next few years, and with it, print rates will increasing stabilize, it’s then that we will be able to talk maturely about digital and print working together, rather than digital and print as cartoonish antagonists.

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