Thought Leadership

Are catalogues still a marketing powerhouse? Amazon thinks so…

Account Director

Catalogues have had their day. At least, that’s the way most retailers were thinking once digital marketing started chipping away at catalogue revenues. Now, print is seeing a resurgence. Some retailers who saw sales drop off after they abandoned their catalogues have brought them back. Others are happy to seize the opportunity for even greater standout.

Perhaps the most telling sign of all is that since the end of 2018, even that paragon of online retail, Amazon, has been publishing catalogues of its own in the US.

Attention, retention, intention

On average, according to research by the United States Postal Service1, we keep a catalogue for 20.3 days. Catalogues get picked up again and again, thumbed through, handed on. Typical read time: just over 15 minutes.

Whereas in the past, we measured effectiveness on cost versus revenue, things aren’t so clear cut. Instead we need to look at incremental value. Take the example of a popular retailer of men’s clothing. The business saw 20% of its website’s first-time customers order after receiving a catalogue; they also spent 50% more than new customers who weren’t sent a catalogue2.

Digital didn’t kill the catalogue. In fact, they’re the best of friends.


My brain made me do it

The USPS study also revealed notable neuroscience at work when we pick up advertising in physical form. The experience stays in the memory longer than something seen only on-screen – prompting easier recall of product messaging when making a buying decision later.

That’s not all. Holding a printed catalogue and turning the pages triggers activity in the ventral striatum, the part of the brain we use to evaluate and register desirability.


Still a force to be reckoned with

The key insight here is that digital may have changed the marketing landscape, but it’s not the only way to reach your buyers or grow your market. Your catalogue isn’t competing with your online activities, it’s amplifying them. Today, as ever, print can still deliver as no other channel can.

1Catalogs: Trends and Updates, USPS, Presented at the National Catalog Forum hosted by the American Catalog Mailers Association, May 3, 2017.
2Denise Lee Yohn, “Why the Print Catalog Is Back in Style,” Harvard Business Review ( article), February 25, 2015.

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