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Catalog Commerce

bonobosOld-fashioned catalogs are playing "a crucial creative role in modern e-commerce," reports Elizabeth Holmes in The Wall Street Journal (4/17/14). Catalogs are "bait for customers, like a store window display, and a source of inspiration, the way roaming through store aisles can be." Bonobos reports that about 20% of its website’s "first-time customers are placing their order after receiving a catalog" and "spend 1.5 times as much as new shoppers who didn’t receive a catalog first."

"A catalog gives us a bit more breathing room to grab folks’ attention," says Bonobos marketing vp Craig Elbert. "We’re able to tell a bit of a fuller brand story." Done right, says Williams-Sonoma marketing chief Pat Connolly, catalogs give shoppers "ideas for things they didn’t even know they wanted before they got there." Producing catalogs is not without challenges. Long lead times make it difficult to stage seasonally-appropriate photo shoots and it can be hard to coordinate what’s in the catalog with what’s in the stores.

However, producing and mailing catalogs typically cost "much less than a dollar" all in, but "each catalog mailed results in about $4 in sales," according to Polly Wong of Belardi/Ostroy, a consulting firm. Shanie Cunningham of Boden says shoppers "spend up to 15 to 20 minutes with a catalog … compared with an average of just eight seconds for a Boden email and about five minutes with the Boden iPad app." Boden catalogs include "sticky tabs that can mark pages with sayings like, ‘Must Have,’ and ‘I Need This Now’."