A Blog by Jonathan Low


Nov 7, 2013

Why the Analog Catalogue Still Drives Digital Sales

Is the web just too efficient?

That may explain why a majority of online shoppers say that their purchase was inspired by something they saw in a catalogue - the old-fashioned, printed on glossy paper that clutters your mailbox and coffee table kind.

The issue seems to be context: people think of purchases in terms of how they are going to use it and what might be around it, whether it is a sofa with table, a sweater with skirt or a pot with ingredients stewing inside of it.

The web is really great at pointing shoppers towards precisely what they want: running shoes for an experienced size 11, six foot, overpronator who logs 20 miles a week. But until recently it has not been quite so effective at suggesting all of the accessories - socks, tights, gloves, rain gear, et al that might well go with it - and more than double the bill while doing so.

Catalogues, if cleverly targeted, can help customers find not just what they want or need, but what they didnt realize they wanted or needed. The larger point is that we remain a convergent economy: we will never go back to being entirely bricks-and-mortar-bound, but neither will we surrender entirely to the internet. Just as retailers are coming to understand the advantages of melding those two options in ways that benefit the consumer and themselves, so they are recognizing that we are going to continue to get our information from multiple sources depending on our desires and inclinations. It may be complicated, but it will be effective. JL

Kyle Stock reports in Business Week:

More than half of online shoppers said they browse catalogs and almost one-third of people making an Internet purchase have a catalog on hand when they click “Buy,” according to a new survey by Kurt Salmon, a global retail consultancy. A whopping 86 percent of the survey’s respondents bought an item after first seeing it in a catalog.
Holidays bring out the traditionalist in all of us, and old-fashioned page views—the glossy paper kind—will be big for retailers this season. In spite of Web stores, shopping tools, and apps, paper catalogs are still surprisingly effective at selling stuff.
When it comes to browsing, or looking for inspiration, catalogs outdo the Web, especially for people who like particular stores or brands, says Michael Dart, head of Kurt Salmon’s private equity practice. The Internet can actually be too efficient. Someone in the market for a coffee table, for instance, can immediately find a wide range of options—without flipping past pages of rugs, vases, or bookshelves. It encourages shoppers to buy what they want, without inspiring them to buy what they didn’t know they wanted. Without catalogs, scores of backyards would be lacking a lifelike Garden Yeti Statue ($125).
Catalogs are also effective across a range of ages. Shoppers between the ages of 18 and 24 are just as likely to use one as those between 45 and 54. Artemis Berry, vice president at Shop.org, the digital group of the National Retail Foundation, says catalogs are staying relevant in part because retailers are getting better at distributing them. Deep data have ensured that Victoria’s Secret isn’t canvassing the homes of single men, for example. Catalogs have also gotten more interesting: Williams-Sonoma includes recipes; so does Crate and Barrel.
Anyone who remembers Sears or Spiegel knows that catalogs are not what they once were. Last year, about 12 billion catalogs went out in the U.S.—roughly 100 per household, but down drastically from recent levels. In the past decade, the share of people who intended to shop for holiday gifts via glossy paper slid from 21 percent to 13 percent, according to the National Retail Foundation. Of course, one no longer needs a mailbox to harvest a pile of product porn; there are apps for that


Unknown said...

Thank you so much for sharing all of the good info! I am looking forward to checking out more posts!Linder Surveying

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