3 reasons online-only retailers shouldn’t ignore print marketing

Brendan Straw - Chief Sales Officer, Ovato

Online retail continues to grow in Australia, with purchases made online accounting for 10 per cent of total retail spending.

In 2018 alone, Australia Post delivered more than 3.3 billion items to more than 12 million addresses throughout Australia and more than 73 per cent of Australian households shopped online.

Fashion and overseas sales events largely drive the continuing surge in online retail, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday delivering the biggest week in Australian eCommerce history in 2018.

Obviously, online-only retailers such as THE ICONIC or Appliances Online do their marketing through digital channels and rely on these kinds of ecommerce events to reach new customers. It’s the ecosystem that they exist, and thrive, within. However, savvy online retailers are also starting to consider print as a viable marketing channel, such as eBay Australia publishing its first paper catalogue in 2019.

Here are three reasons online-only retailers are including print in their marketing plans.

1. Print is still big in Australia

Most Australians – 80 per cent - believe the Internet is the most useful media for finding purchase related information. This is unsurprising, considering just how deeply connected we are and the popularity of online shopping. What might surprise many is that catalogues come in second place, with Roy Morgan research showing they are the preferred source for purchase information for 56 per cent of Australians.

Print leads the internet and all other advertising channels in the groceries and alcohol categories, as well as other household and children’s items. “Catalogues are rated highly by consumers for information about selecting children’s wear, purchasing toys, selecting clothing & fashion, purchasing cosmetics & toiletries, purchasing small electrical appliances and purchasing large kitchen/laundry appliances,” says Michele Levine, CEO at Roy Morgan.

Creating a compelling catalogue that tells a story and shows your products in context – such as homewares within a living room setting or clothing in a streetwear scene – offers another avenue to win over potential customers.

By ignoring print marketing, ecommerce stores are potentially missing out on a huge untapped audience that may not come across the brand online.

2. Print advertising works

While we exist in a digital world, it would be a mistake to underestimate the impact that catalogues have on readers. Approximately a third of Australians read catalogues from cover-to-cover, and of those 13.4 million catalogue readers, Millennials surprisingly rank as the largest reading group – over 3.2 million.

Catalogues are also extremely effective at initiating unplanned purchases, as close to half of readers (47 per cent) have made a special trip to a store to buy a product after seeing it in a catalogue. While this obviously relates to bricks and mortar, it’s hardly a stretch to imagine similar results for an online retailer inserting a QR code to direct a reader to the specific item on the website. After all, 20 per cent of first-time buyers on a website shopped on it after getting the company’s catalogue, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Not only are a lot of people reading catalogues, but 35 per cent of them are sharing the catalogues they read with friends and family when they’re done, creating an intriguing secondary market of readers that reaches even further into the population.

“There’s little doubt that if you are looking for a way to reach hard-to-find and time-poor consumers that catalogues offer a direct route to the ‘eyeballs’ of over 13.4 million Australians”, Michelle Roy said.

3. Print is effective when combined with digital marketing principles

The abundance of customer data collected by retailers is powering a deeper understanding of audiences – location, spending habits, income and more. Thanks to this kind of data, its possible to combine print marketing practice with digital marketing theory to gain access to audiences that otherwise remain uncovered.

This data can feed all kinds of creative print marketing ideas, such as a highly personalised campaign that targets a segment or even individual customer. For an online retailer like ASOS or The Iconic, this could be a catalogue with a tailored front page based on the products in a customer’s wish list, or products selected from the customer’s most bought brands.

And it’s not just about the letterbox. Online streaming platform Spotify made a huge splash in 2018 with its billboard campaign based on listening data, turning it into memorable facts and insights about its customer base. Finding out that 3,445 people streamed the ‘Boozy Brunch’ playlist on a Wednesday or that someone put 48 Ed Sheeran songs on an “I Love Gingers” playlist may not immediately inspire a sign-up to the platform. But it definitely sticks in customers’ minds and helps to position the brand as quirky, fun and inventive, building awareness and share of voice.

Online retailers can combine customer data with all sorts of offline marketing techniques, whether it’s event banners, flyers or custom magazines, to create hyper-relevant content for their audience.

Digital isn’t the only way

Digital marketing is here to stay, and that’s doubly true for online-only retailers who live and breathe ecommerce. But it’s not the only game in town. For a savvy online retailer, adding a print element to existing digital marketing efforts could reward them with significant penetration into new customer segments, building brand awareness and bringing customers to their site.