Thursday, April 17, 2014

The New Era of Catalog Marketing

Think printed catalogs are so last century? Not so! It's not just catalog-driven companies like IKEA and L.L. Bean that stubbornly refuse to drop print--many marketers rely on the multichannel, complementary nature of printed catalogs and online shopping to involve customers and encourage browsing and buying. In fact, when L.L. Bean cut back on mailing catalogs, sales suffered.

A recent Wall Street Journal article points out that some online marketers have expanded into catalogs to take advantage of this complementary effect. Bonobos, once an online-only marketer of mens wear, tested catalogs last year. The VP-marketing explains that "we're constantly testing new channels—even ones that may be old to others."

Originally a web-only business, Bonobos branched out into retail stores with personalized sales attention but no inventory--customers try on clothing and order directly at the store. Then it added Nordstrom as a distribution partner, putting Bonobos products into dozens of the upscale retailer's units from coast to coast.

The catalog strategy enhances the multichannel effect and adds to Bonobos' results by allowing customers to choose their shopping method. New Bonobos customers spend one and a half times as much when they receive a catalog first, compared with consumers who don't receive a catalog before clicking on the website. Naturally, Bonobos is highly social, with 355,000+ Facebook followers, plus active Tumblr posts and other social media involvement. The company even has specialists known as Bonobos Ninjas to expedite customer service via Twitter.

What happens to catalogs as postage rates rise? Some are trimming size, but remaining active in catalog marketing because of the benefits of putting full-color photos and detailed product descriptions in front of customers via mail.

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