After declining precipitously during and after the Great Recession, catalogs are enjoying a resurgence.  Some companies which had previously discontinued their catalog (like J. C. Penney) are relaunching them, and others, including Anthropologie, J. Crew and Restoration Hardware, have significantly improved their offerings.

Even if your company is not one for whom a catalog would be appropriate, there’s a lot you can learn by studying these marketers’ results.  Most importantly, catalog marketers are proving that multi-channel marketing can be incredibly effective:

  • Nordstrom reports that the customers with whom they communicate in multiple ways spend four times as much as those who don’t.
  • Lands’ End discovered that 75% of customers making a purchase on their website have looked at a catalog first.
  • According to InfoTrends 2015 Direct Marketing Production Printing & Value-Added Services: A Strategy for Growth report, 79% of customers have visited a retail store after learning about a product in a catalog.

All of these benefits could be accomplished by an appropriately-targeted, personalized direct mail piece.

Another thing we can learn from catalog marketers is what speaks to today’s consumer.  Many of the most-successful catalog marketers have moved far beyond offering a Sears Roebuck-style directory of products.  Patagonia, for example, incorporates essays and inspiring photo spreads into their catalogs, while Williams Sonoma has started including recipes next to the products consumers need to cook them.  In other words, stories, beautiful imagery, and useful information sells.

If your direct mail isn’t working as well as it could be, consider spending a few minutes looking through a few of your favorite catalogs for inspiration.

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