Hey, Is That Another Holiday Catalog?

If you’re receiving more catalogs this year, you’re not alone!

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12/03/2021

Christine Dunne, Eve Padula

 

This year, I thought I noticed an uptick in the number of holiday catalogs I received in the mail. I wasn’t sure if it was just me or an actual phenomenon, so I conducted an unofficial survey among my co-workers. As is often the case with these types of surveys, though, the results were inconclusive: Some of my colleagues shared my sentiment, that they were in fact receiving more catalogs, but others didn’t notice much of a difference. Still, others weren’t paying much attention to volume because they were quick to recycle any printed catalogs that they did receive.

 

Here’s What the Data Tells Us

When an informal survey doesn’t provide the answers you’re looking for, it’s always helpful to consider the data. According to the Associated Press, some retailers completely stopped sending catalogs in 2007 due to the recession and a major US Postal Service rate increase. Catalog volumes suffered a decline from that time through 2018, but the future is not necessarily bleak.

 

There’s nothing quite like a global health crisis to change our world and everything we think we know about it. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we were all forced into a highly digital world with remote work, virtual learning, and video calls. Some might have expected this trend to serve as the proverbial nail in print’s coffin, but that didn’t happen. Likely because they were feeling inundated by digital communications, people began to use printed communications (including retail catalogs) to “unplug” themselves from all the newfound electronic noise.

 

Recent data from Keypoint Intelligence suggests that catalogs will continue to rebound through 2025. In terms of A4 pages printed, color catalogs are expected to experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in excess of 20% between 2020 and 2025. This was the highest projected growth of all promotional applications, and it can primarily be attributed to digital fatigue, new personalization capabilities, and the increased effectiveness of printed catalogs in driving online and in-store sales.

 

 

Catalogs See a Resurgence, Even Among Online Giants

If you think the resurgence in catalogs is primarily reserved to the more traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, think again! Major online pioneers like Amazon and Bonobos have been sending out printed catalogs to supplement their e-commerce experiences. That said, it is worth noting that the catalogs I’ve seen this season aren’t necessarily the same as the catalogs from past years. Many feature thicker pages as well as items that are specifically targeted toward my past purchasing behaviors. This year’s Amazon catalog specifically caught my attention because it included games and activities that my three kids enjoyed. Receiving the catalog was truly a family affair.

 

Because I work in the print industry, and also because the Amazon holiday catalog was among the first we received this season, I tweeted about its arrival at our home. Just two days later, I received a response from Amazon asking for more information about my kids and a request to “keep the good times rolling.”

 

 

I followed the link to Amazon’s website, supplied the requested information (my preferred phone number and Twitter handle), and was told I’d soon be receiving something special in the mail. Days later, I received some complimentary gifts for my children, as well as a personalized note.

 

 

I was impressed that Amazon took the time to reward me for my tweet and, perhaps, my past purchasing behaviors. I’ve never received free swag based on a Twitter post before, but this experience will likely play a role in my future purchasing decisions with Amazon.

 

The moral of this story is that printed catalogs don’t need to be just a tool that convinces consumers to buy right away—they can also be used to deepen a consumer’s connection to a brand. Rewarding consumers for their social media posts can certainly prompt word-of-mouth recommendations, increase brand recall, and generate additional purchases in the future. In addition, customers like me might feel even more compelled to do business with the same provider in the future.

 

What Does This Mean for the Print Industry?

Beyond the opportunity for continued direct mail business, print companies can learn from my Amazon example. It is more important than ever for printers to think about all the different ways they are interacting with their current customers and prospects, whether is through print marketing, digital marketing, or ideally a combination of the two. By creating a variety of touchpoints and exchanges with the customer that bring them true and differentiated value, print companies can foster loyalty while also encouraging future purchases.

 

Printed catalogs can encourage customers to engage with innovative content, fresh designs, and eye-catching print embellishments. Here are a few examples:

  • QR codes that bring customers to a product landing page
  • Coupons and promotional codes
  • Rewards program information
  • Product sustainability information and health labels
  • Stickers, color pages, activities, and stories for kids
  • Opportunities to help support charities
  • Opportunities to enter contests
  • Promotions of digital content and apps


Providing personalized content can also be a smart investment for brands and print buyers. It makes sense—customers that receive catalogs featuring products and information that are relevant to their specific interests are more likely to make a purchase from the retailer that supplied that catalog in the future.

 

Keypoint Intelligence’s Opinion

Regardless of whether you have noticed an uptick in the number of catalogs leading up to the 2021 holiday season, print companies and their customers have reason to give these items another look. An oversaturation of online content has sparked digital fatigue for many consumers, which may make them uniquely receptive to more traditional methods of communication—like printed catalogs. In addition, today’s catalogs can be enhanced with personalization, promotion of digital content, and links to online marketing campaigns to further engage and connect with consumers.

 

For more information about our most recent forecast information or survey data exploring the resurgence of printed catalogs, please contact your Keypoint Intelligence account representative or send an email to sales@keypointintelligence.com.

 

Related Reading

How Direct Mail Engages Multiple Senses

Engaging Consumers Across Generations with Print