The retail catalog is back: why brands are reinvesting in print

With improved data analytics and advancements in high-volume digital print technology, printed catalogs are experiencing a resurgence.

A printed catalog arrives in your mailbox and beckons you to open it. You turn the page and browse, spending much more time looking through the product images than you would if you received an email. With ad blockers and spam filters, you probably wouldn’t even see an electronic offer to look inside the newest product catalog.

Catalogs are read. Quad/Graphics published a white paper entitled ‘Millennials: An Emerging Consumer Powerhouse,’ and reported that 34% of adults read catalogs regularly. For millennials, the coveted demographic that allegedly abandoned the printed page for an LCD screen, a respectful 30% read printed catalogs regularly. Millennials (born between 1981 and 1997) are now the largest labor force of any generation, surpassing Baby Boomers by 7.7 million. As this population segment grows, so may also the readership of printed catalogs.

Marketers are taking note on the growth in catalog readership. A 2016 study by MultiChannel Merchant reported that about 75% of marketers say they plan to prospect with a printed catalog in the next 12 months. Of those, 85% plan to maintain or increase circulation. Further, 88% plan to maintain or increase page count.

Catalogs are interesting. The Data & Marketing Association (DMA) reinforces the results from the US Postal Service’s Household Diary Study: Here, consumers say that printed catalogs are the most interesting type of standard mail, surpassing newspapers and magazines by 31%. Further still, this study reports a 23% increase in response rates to catalogs.

Last week (November 23, 2017), the Los Angeles Times dedicated a full article to the catalog topic in its Business section, entitled “The old-fashioned mail-order catalog is making a comeback.” Proof points were offered around Neiman Marcus, Sears, Toys R Us, and other brick-and-mortar retailers now reinvesting in the printed catalog to drive online orders.

All these data points are of course good news for print as a medium, but especially for the combo of “good data + digital print + creative + execution.”

For high-volume digital print, continuous-feed single-pass inkjet technologies enable the efficient production of data-intensive, graphics-rich catalogs. For many commercial print service providers, such as Well Corporation in Japan, the digital solution of choice is the HP PageWide Web Press T490 HD, combined with the MullerMartini SigmaLine and Alegro Digital, for maximum digital color productivity.

[source: David Murphy, Worldwide Director of Marketing & Business Development – HP PageWide Industrial Division –]