To Print or Not to Print? That is the Question

Since Tiffany & Co first printed their Blue Book, back in 1895, and said to be the first catalog printed, mailers have been vying for mailbox space and consumers dollars. Yet, is direct mail print is dead? Do we really need to be spending our dollars on printing catalogs, envelopes, requests for donations? To print or not print, that is the million dollar question.

Let’s look at statistics over the past few years for DM:

  • 2007 DM was at its peak with over 19.6MM catalogs mailed. By 2015 that # dwindled to 10.5MM. Rising postal rates, cyber retail and the economy (The Recession of 2009 we would all like to forget), all contributed to the decrease in circulation.
  • From 2007 to 2015 there was a decline in catalogs mailed on average of 1.9%
  • Online shoppers tend to live in a household with higher average household income (55% had income over $75k)
  • For every $ spent on producing a catalog, they anticipate generating $4 of additional sales revenue.
  • “Studies” show that a consumer who purchases an item online, they are more likely to be less loyal than one who has seen the item in the catalog and made the purchase.

Digital channels have been growing exponentially over the past few years. Mailers have gone through phases on how best to integrate catalog with online and retail and vice versa. Much research and analysis has been conducted to find out what consumers want and how the view the receipt of direct mail.

So what did we find out from talking to consumers, analyzing their buying behavior?

  1. Catalog is easy to track results. Period. With the use of key codes, the tracking of mail dates to purchase to the building of big data, we have a whole new component of datasets to be able to market to the right person at the right time!
  2. Social Media has taken over the world. From Facebook to Instagram to Twitter, consumers are seeing what their “friends” and “followers” are doing and making decisions to purchase based on similar likes. We are sheep waiting to be herded. While marketers are embracing social media with flash sales, promotions, etc., it is very hard to track results.
  3. Brand building. On average I receive 15 catalogs per day. I am on just about every decoy file to keep track of what catalogs are offering, any new products, new promotions, etc. For example, I receive Pottery Barn. I will go through the catalog numerous times to see how rooms are set up. The catalog gives me inspiration to decorate my home to look like Rachel’s apartment on FRIENDS. I will even go online to view the “store”, to see if there are any sales the catalog is not offering. However, I will more than likely not purchase via the phone or web, but go to the brick and mortar store to make my purchase and feel the product. This is a perfect example of MultiChannel marketing at work!
  4. Digital retailers have taken the plunge. Birchbox and Bonobos have jumped into the mix. Once only an online presence, they found that consumers want to receive a print catalog to peruse through. They found that while the purchase may be made online, the receipt of the catalog in their box has sent them to the digital store to make their purchase.
  5. Non Profit, like catalog, saw a surge in their online donations around the time of their mailings. The letter drove the donor to go online and research the company and make their donation. I am a regular donor to St. Jude’s. While I am not signed up to donate on a monthly basis, the simple reminder of a letter in my mailbox drives to be go online.
  6. With the continuous advancements in BIG DATA, catalogers are able to get the catalogs into the right hands and the right time. Databases are able to track consumers purchase behavior over years. They know if one is buying in different product categories and how much.

Sometimes taking AWAY the catalog shows a company how important it really is! Let’s go back in time to LL Bean. In 2000 they were looking for ways to cut costs, and catalog took a front row seat to those measures. What they saw was a $100 million drop in sales. What they concluded was even if a consumer was making a purchase online or in a retail store, they were still spending MORE with that catalog in hand!

So the answer to print or not to print? Our answer is PRINT. From the analysis we have surmised, consumers need to have access to their favorite brands with a print catalog in hand.