With even small retailers having an online presence and shopfront these days, it might seem like an unusual decision for a major retailer to revive print catalogues as part of their marketing strategy. However, that’s just what J C Penney have recently announced.

Reason n.º 1 – Engage Customers

Traditional retailers have never stepped away from printed catalogues, and for UK firms such as House of Bath, where the average buyer is likely to be older and therefore less comfortable with shopping online, this has always been an intelligent strategy to keep the target market engaged with the products. Surprisingly, a few digital retailers without a physical shopfront – such as Bonobos and Birchbox in the USA – have taken the decision to start mailing catalogues to target consumers.

Just to take the USA as an example, 2013 saw catalogue mailings grow to a staggering 11.9 billion units distributed to existing and potential customers. An astonishing rise, if taken in the context that the previous year had seen the lowest distribution levels since data collection records began in 2001.

Reason n.º 2 – Empower your customer’s engagement

Aside from the fact that retail sales were rising again after a global recession, what else could be a factor in the resurgence of paper-based and catalogue marketing? The simple answer is that customers who are targeted with multiple streams of marketing materials have greater engagement with the brand – in fact, on average, they spend up to four times as much as those who are simply online customers.

Reason n.º 3 – Track the effectiveness of advertising

Additionally, print marketing media makes it easier to track the effectiveness of advertising, as mail out dates and catalogue codes can be tracked directly into orders. This gives it the advantage over a Twitter hashtag or Facebook competition, as even though there may be a temporary significant spike in customer base engagement, the die-off is pretty rapid.

Print what your customers like

The catalogue doesn’t need to be ‘the catalogue’ – the beauty of online sales database tracking means that the retailer has the option of mining that data for specifics. The customer exclusively buys homewares from the company? Easy. Just send them a targeted small brochure of 20 pages or so of homewares, rather than hundreds of pages filled with items they aren’t interested in. Not only is this cost effective, the customer – consciously or subconsciously – feels that the brand ‘knows’ them, thereby increasing their brand loyalty. Although it’s just as easy for a smart algorithm to pinpoint the shoe or shirt-buyer from a few banner clicks, there’s something personal about receiving a printed brochure full of things the company knows you are likely to be interested in.

And that could be the answer; no matter how online and worldwide our lives and our shopping experiences become, there’s still an appeal in opening a catalogue and browsing by turning pages rather than clicking a mouse. Printed vouchers and discounts combine with high quality printing to encourage orders. Hard copy print material also makes it easier for a brand to sell a lifestyle through staged photographic campaigns and advertorials. Print still has a part to play, even if the customer then orders online!