Inspire Consumers Through Action-Oriented Catalogs

In the late ’90s, Scott Kerslake was working at an infotech company in California, while passionately surfing and cycling on the side.

During long bike rides with friends, Kerslake noticed a trend: women complaining about a lack of fashionable female sportswear. Women wanted durable athletic wear that also looked cute on everyday outings.

Kerslake didn’t hesitate. He quit his job, raised $700,000 in capital, and started a women’s athletic clothing company called Athleta. By early 2018, Athleta had been purchased by Gap and its sales grew more than 25 percent every year since 2012.

Athleta attributes this success to a thriving online and catalog-based business model: as early as 2007, Athleta was shipping out 21 million catalogs with $37 million in sales.

Catalogs may seem like an outdated way to grab shoppers, but Athleta has maintained retail footing by using action-packed spreads (ladies trekking up mountains, paddle boarding across bays, and demonstrating impressive flexibility in yoga pants) and by focusing on racial and generational diversity to inspire a wide range of women:

“We’re not like, ‘Oh, it’s all about millennials.’ We aren’t chasing them,” says Nancy Green, Athleta’s CEO. “We inspire [women] to keep living this full, healthy, active, rich life, no matter what her body type is, no matter her age.”

In the catalogs, this looks like leggings, swimsuits, hoodies, and capri pants. In sales, it looks like $1 billion in annual sales in 2018.

Why Catalogs Still Work

Ready to give catalogs or booklets a second look for your marketing mix?

You should.

Studies from the Data & Marketing Association have shown that the response rate for catalogs has increased in recent years partially because millennials enjoy catalogs:

“Millennials stand out a bit higher than other generations in terms of engaging with mail,” said Neil O’Keefe, the association’s senior vice president of marketing and content. “It’s unique to the generation that hasn’t experienced the amount of mail of past generations.”

O’Keefe says this curiosity drives a higher level of curiosity and sales than digital marketing.

“Millennials are very engaged by imagery, and the catalog really allows that to stand out. So, the response rate there is very different than what you would experience with a display ad, even an email. The response rate for a printed piece has been on the rise.”

Millennials may be particularly interested in catalogs, but they’re not alone. Hamilton Davison, president of the American Catalog Mailers Association, said half of all Americans order from catalogs even if they don’t immediately flip through them. U.S. Postal Service studies found that, after periodicals and bills, catalogs attract the most eyeballs, getting as much attention as personal correspondence.

“Catalogs come uninvited in the home, and yet they’re welcome,” Davison said.

To maximize your catalog impact, here are a few tips to consider:

Go Visual

The best catalogs are highly visual.

Environmental photography, imagery of products in real-life settings, and photos of people using your products are the most effective.

Organize for Sales

Place top-selling products on the outside edges of the page as readers typically start at the top right corner and sweep back toward the left.

Cross-sell between products with callouts, copy, or by putting products together on a page with companion discounts.

Simplify Ordering

Catalogs should give several options for purchasing, including toll-free numbers, websites, and even mail-in order forms that make it easier for customers to track preferences as they shop.

Highlight ordering options on every spread and make it easy for your customers to buy.

Catalog shoppers are often more valuable because they become brand enthusiasts that tend to spend more overall. Want to talk options? Give us a call or visit our website to get started!

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