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Taking Aim

Print Catalogs Make a (Targeted) Comeback

billardsThey’re back! Print catalogs are making a comeback. Familiar names like J. C. Penney, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, and Saks Fifth Avenue that once eliminated their print catalogs are bringing them back in the form of more targeted, specialized versions— and for good reason. Consumers love them.


We see this anecdotally, but we see it in new research as well. In its study “Direct Marketing Production Printing & Value-Added Services: A Strategy for Growth,” InfoTrends found that . . .

  • 64% of consumers “regularly” or “almost always” read printed catalogs
  • 74% of consumers like catalogs and consider them useful tools to learn about products
  • 90% of consumers use catalogs to learn and get ideas about things that interest them
  • Consumers spend an average of 8.1 minutes reading a catalog
  • 62% of consumers who receive catalogs made a purchase within the past three months that was influenced by the catalog.

It’s not just consumers who love catalogs. Increasingly, marketers, including those who once eliminated print for e-catalogs only, are finding they can’t live without them.

In an interview on MSNBC, Paul Trible, cofounder and CEO of Ledbury, a manufacturer of high-end, luxury shirts, noted that customers they acquire via catalog buy 1.5 times more than e-commerce customers they acquire online.

Nordstrom found that customers with a multichannel relationship with the brand spend 4 times as much as those who are online only. In fact, 20% of the website’s first-time customers place their orders as a result of having received a print catalog in the mail. Not only this, but they spend one and 1.5 times more than new shoppers who didn’t.

Print-to-mobile technologies like QR Codes are becoming a critical part of the mix, as well. According to the InfoTrends study, 23% of consumers who received catalogs with QR Codes have scanned these codes, including 34% of Millennials (those between the ages of 25 to 34), the highest percentage of any age group.

Even if you don’t use printed catalogs, the lesson for print is clear. There is something about print, whether direct mail, catalog, or marketing collateral, that compels interaction with the brand in ways that digital alone cannot.


This article drawn from coverage of InfoTrends’ “WhatTheyThink” study (December 17, 2015).