Image: USPS

Are Paper Catalogs Making a Comeback?


With companies turning to email and social media marketing to drive business to their websites, there is a quiet revolution happening in good old mailed catalogs.

With the number of catalogs being sent through the mail down nearly in half over ten years, it was 19.6 billion in 2007, and for this year USPS estimates consumers are receiving 9.8 billion, the mailbox might be an opportunity for some sellers.

There was a time when consumers just threw out the “junk mail” because it was so overwhelming. Now the same shoppers are being bombarded with emails and social media advertising, that there is a real threat of oversaturation.

To some extent, this forced marketers to turn up the volume, more mailings, more advertising, more attempts to get the consumer’s attention.

But with fewer catalogs showing up through the mail, more people appear to be paying attention to the “novelty” of a printed catalog.

The Data and Marketing Association (DMA) reports that response rates on mailed catalogs have increased by 23 percent in 2016 versus the previous year.

Image: Sears

Sears, for the first time since 2011, is mailing it’s Wish Book again for 2017. The company is sending it to select customers, and they are also making electronic versions available, but Sears had people asking for it, they saw an opportunity to reach consumers that still like to hold a tangible catalog in their hands.

Obviously, newspapers, magazines, books, and other physical media is changing to digital versions, but there is still a large population of consumers that want the feel of the physical newspaper, magazine, or book.

Catalogs are still a thing and with many companies abandoning them and going only digital, and rising response rates on catalog likely due to less mailbox clutter, for some small business retailers there could be an interesting marketing opportunity here.

USPS may have a self interest to promote mailing pieces, but the DMA embraces all media. And one should not discount their findings. My Ikea catalog is still on the coffee table 🙂

What do you think about paper catalogs? Could this be an additional marketing channel for your business? Drop us a line in the comments section below.

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