The Return of the Printed Catalog
In the past decade, considerable resources have been assigned to websites and online sales channels at the expense of traditional marketing print collaterals (i.e., catalogs). Retailers across the globe are experiencing a rebirth of the print catalog. Many businesses suffered sharp drops in sales after cutting their print catalogs. They came to realize that three-quarters of the customers that make purchases are still reviewing catalogs.
J.C. Penney, for example, had produced its catalogs since 1963, and became one of the largest catalog retailers after Sears stopped producing its catalogs. For the last five years, J.C. Penney has been absent from the catalog business and lost many customers. The company's chief executive, Myron "Mike" Ullman, mistakenly thought that catalog customers would migrate online. Like other businesses, J.C. Penney learned the hard way that catalog customers use the internet to place their orders, which is distinctively different from pure online shoppers. J.C. Penney's sales dropped a third between 2011 and 2014.
J.C. Penney recently surprised the market by announcing that its catalog is coming back, although not as a thousand pager but in a smaller format. The move is designed to drive online sales. While an increasing number of product categories are now sold online, even cars, consumers still enjoy browsing the pages of a paper catalog.
The growth of online shopping wasn't the only reason that led marketers to believe that cutting catalogs would be a good idea. A large percentage of households dislike receiving unsolicited books in the mail. In addition, pre-press costs for catalogs are notoriously expensive. This is where catalog automation steps in.
There exist a few solutions that allow for fully automatic production of catalogs. At the same time, the pre-press expense can be eliminated. Since the catalog has now been rediscovered as an important branding tool that drives sales, the changes in attitude need to be enabled with flexible catalog layouts that adapt to the branding requirements of a catalog's target audience. Catalogs can tell a lifestyle story about a brand that's beyond the reach of an e-commerce site.