Don’t underestimate the humble catalogue as a marketing tool

Brendan Straw - Chief Sales Officer, Ovato

It’s easy to consider the paper catalogue as a bit of a throw-back. Many see it as an old-school marketing tactic, and one that’s easily ignored. However, catalogues continue to maintain a special place in Australia’s collective hearts. Recent research conducted by Roy Morgan shows that catalogues are still a viable and impactful marketing tool, with appeal that carries across multiple generations. Millennials surprisingly lead the charge when it comes to consuming catalogues (3.2 million readers), ahead of Baby Boomers (3.16 million), Generation X (3.15 million) and Generation Z (2.5 million).

An unexpected shopping tool

The research also found that catalogues aren’t just reaching more people, they’re having a huge impact when they do. More than half of those who read catalogues find them more useful than other types of advertising and 70 per cent of the 13.4 million people who read catalogues in Australia say that they find them a helpful shopping tool.

These might be surprising statistics to many, especially considering the shift towards digital marketing. However, the increase in catalogue consumption goes hand in hand with a rise in book sales and Millennials’ love of reading.

A surprising secondary market for catalogues

According to Michele Levine, CEO, Roy Morgan, “catalogue readers are avid consumers of content and close to a third read catalogues cover-to-cover and spend an average of six minutes reading catalogues. An added bonus for advertisers utilising the reach of catalogues is that over a third of catalogue readers share their catalogues with friends and families and over two-fifths have emailed or texted a picture of a product to a friend or family member.”

It's all too simple in the age of the smartphone to take a photo of something and upload it to social media or send it directly to a friend. Your printed marketing is no longer just relegated to the letterbox – it can extend to new audiences in unexpected ways, as the lines between digital and physical media consumption blur. Sharing bargains and interesting buys via word-of-mouth provides an unexpected secondary circulation that extends the reach of catalogues even further.

Turbocharged purchase power

Catalogues don’t just have an incredible reach. When they land, they have an impact on the reader. The Roy Morgan research shows that close to half of all people who read catalogues (47 per cent) have made a specific trip to a shop to buy a product, after seeing it in a catalogue. Catalogues also often trigger unplanned purchases on expensive items – 20 per cent of consumers who spent “over $1,000 on their most expensive catalogue purchase in an average six months purchased an item they were not intending to buy before they saw it advertised”.

It’s why online giant eBay recently released its first print catalogue in Australia. Julie Nestor, chief marketing officer at eBay Australia, said in a statement: “We wanted to find a way to showcase our fantastic range of products. We know retail catalogues have long been the way Aussie shoppers prefer to browse and purchase the best deals.”

And with increasing access to customer data and trends allowing for a better understanding of your audience, the marriage of digital marketing principles with traditional printing is driving unique opportunities for catalogue design and use. Armed with transactional, locational and behavioural data, you can limit distribution to only the households you know will purchase from you, or trial different catalogue designs in different areas to measure the impact on sales.

Another example is Ovato customer Myer, who wanted to deliver a personalised Christmas catalogue to its highest value customers. Using variable printing technology and customer data and insights, the catalogues were made with first name personalisation that appeared on the front and back covers, along with Myer’s Christmas message and details regarding the location of the member’s local store. As a result, the catalogue drove an increase of spending in the campaign period, giving Myer a strong point of difference in the saturated retail market, and turbocharging the sales power of its catalogue.

Massive reach, high impact

The humble catalogue continues to deliver results for Australia’s biggest brands. While digital marketing is rightly a key foundation of many business strategies, it would be a mistake to ignore the reach and impact of more traditional techniques.

Find out how Ovato can help you reach more of your audience and have a greater impact with your catalogues.