The Popularity of Catalogs: Why it Fell and How it’s Rising Once More

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When you think of catalog marketing, some of the older generations would think about the Sears catalog. It was that one catalog that was packed with all sorts of products from toys to clothing and even household items.

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Last Updated on April 11, 2023 by Packoi Team

When the digital age happened, printed catalogs took a backseat. Digital marketing was everywhere and businesses prominently used it.

That’s no longer the case.

In this article, you’ll learn more about catalog printing, why they fell, and how it’s making a comeback in today’s market.

The Fall of Printed Catalog Marketing

Printed Catalogs

To say that printed catalog marketing fell may seem like an exaggeration. But if you think about how much businesses and consumers relied on it in the past, you’ll understand why it seems like it fell.

Before the digital world exploded, catalogs allowed businesses to showcase their products in detail. Physical catalogs were sent to people’s doorsteps to provide them with a list of new collections and staples to buy.

But printing and sending actual catalogs through direct mail seemed unnecessary with the start of digital and social media.

The Rise of Digital Catalogs

With online catalogs, businesses can save a lot of money. They can create a digital copy of their product catalog instead of having it printed. They can send it through email or post it on their social media accounts.

This would mean customers would get their catalogs faster. They can access it through e-commerce sites or mobile apps.

It seems like a very convenient way to sell products.

But can a digital catalog completely replace the physical version?

The Truth About Product Catalogs

Although the printed catalogs took a backseat, they never really went away. The physical world still needed to have a catalog that they can touch and browse through.

While looking at catalogs through mobile apps seems convenient, it seems to lack authentic connection. No matter how much we believe technology improves our lives, some things can’t be completely taken away.

That includes printed product catalogs.

It may seem like the physical version of catalogs fell, but it didn’t sink. A lot of companies still spent billions of dollars printing product catalogs and sending them to their customers.

Whether it’s still effective or not, research has shown that it still is.

Proof that Direct Mail Catalogs are Still Powerful

printed product catalogs

No matter what form, catalogs allow businesses to inform their target market about current and new offers. While digital versions of these catalogs are growing in popularity, that doesn’t mean the printed ones aren’t just as powerful.

Research about “why catalogs are making a comeback” published in Harvard Business Review showed how printed catalogs increased the sales of a luxury watch and jewelry e-commerce retailer.

The online company doesn’t have a physical store so all transactions and marketing efforts were done in the virtual world. And they admittedly thrived through repeat purchases, resulting from their email marketing efforts.

But to test the power of printed product catalogs, they randomly chose from their US customer base and divided them into three. One group received a weekly email. The second group received weekly emails and bi-monthly catalogs through direct mail. The third group got nothing.

This went on for 6 months and both the emails and mailed catalogs showed 90% of the same products and information.

The results showed a huge increase in sales for the group that got both emails and catalogs. It was even higher than those that only got email marketing every week.

What does this mean?

It means printed product catalogs are still effective and are still powerful enough to increase retail sales. The research also showed that it didn’t just improve sales, but also increased engagement.

3 Reasons to Invest in Printed Product Catalogs

Printed Product Catalogs

Based on research, catalogs still reign supreme no matter what form they take. You don’t have to choose between the two. You can use them both to grow your sales and strengthen your connection with your target market.

You see, having your catalog available in digital channels would mean it’ll reach a wider audience. But sending a product catalog through physical mail would increase the chances of actual purchases being made.

The moment you understand how these two types of catalogs work, it should be easy for you to fit them into your overall marketing strategy.

While it may seem more cost-efficient and convenient to stick to online catalogs, it won’t help you smash your revenue goals. You need to invest in printed product catalogs.

Here are 3 specific reasons why this is a must.

It’s More Influential in the Buying Decision

Although you can see digital ads everywhere, seeing it won’t make you want to buy them immediately. You get too distracted by everything else that you see online. The same is true when you’re browsing a digital catalog.

It’s not the same when you hold a physical product catalog in your hands. There’s enhanced product vividness when you’re looking at something and holding it at the same time. It may not be the same as looking at products in physical stores, but the connection is there.

It’s easier to imagine holding the actual product.

That’s the key influence that pushes people to make a buying decision in favor of the business.

It Allows A Deeper Level of Engagement

It’s not hard to imagine why printed catalogs offer a deeper engagement level than their digital alternatives.

Multiple senses are triggered when you look at a product catalog in your hands. That means your brain is more focused on what you’re doing. Both your sense of sight and touch are active.

This makes it easier to create stronger brand associations while you see and read what’s in the catalog. It can stir deeper emotional connections that’ll help strengthen a customer’s perception of a brand.

That type of engagement is harder to achieve when you do it online. Even if you use emotionally compelling photos that resonate with your market, it’ll still feel a bit detached.

It Compliments Digital Marketing Methods

Having a physical catalog doesn’t take the limelight away from its digital version. Product catalogs can bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds when you’ve done and promoted correctly.

It allows businesses to implement a multi-channel marketing strategy. It gives customers the option to do purchases online and offline.

This flexibility provides convenience. It also means people are more likely to buy your products.

The connection that they get from holding a product catalog can push them in that direction.

How to Determine if Your Target Market Will Prefer Print Catalogs

If you’re an Internet retailer, do you think your target market would want to get printed catalogs from you?


If you go back to the research earlier in this article, you should notice that the company that sent product catalogs through the mail is solely an online company. Despite not having a brick-and-mortar store, they printed catalogs and sent them bi-monthly.

The results led them to increase sales in a couple of months.

This means you can use printed product catalogs and send them to your customers. Add it as an insert when you send the products they ordered. It’ll be a great way to convince them to buy more of what you offer.

But if you want to be sure that this will benefit your brand, study the buyer’s journey that your market goes through. Have a survey conducted to see if they are open to getting product catalogs as a part of the delivery.

Tips to Design An Effective Product Catalog

printed product catalogs

Before you start sending product catalogs via postal service, create one your target audience wants to receive first. Otherwise, it might end up in the trash as soon as your customers get it in the mail.

But how can you be sure that your product catalog mailings will be received and opened with the same excitement as the actual product the customer bought? You need some tips for your next catalog printing project.

Here are 3 design tips that could help.

Be Creatively Specific

Being creative with the design and layout of your product seems like a given. But here’s how you can step it up.

Get to know the demographic data of your market thoroughly so you can make a specific catalog for them. When they open the catalog, it has to speak to them.

Design the layout to capture your target market’s attention from cover to cover. If you can make them go through every page of the catalog, there’s a higher chance that they’ll decide to buy something.

Be Authentic Brand

While you want to design your catalog to please your customers, you want them to get a connection with your brand.

This means you have to make sure your brand shines through in the product catalog. That should be easy since it contains all your products. But you also want to inject actual brand elements that’ll increase recall.

This will psychologically help strengthen your loyalty and connection with your market.

Be Empathetic

A product catalog is a powerful marketing tool because it allows you to create an emotional connection with your market.

But you have to put the right design elements in it.

Don’t just put product photos. Photograph your products in such a way that shows the life aspirations of your target market.

Make them believe that they can achieve it if they use your products. That’s one way to encourage them to buy it.

Are You Ready to Give Print Catalogs a Try? Packoi Printing Can Help Design It For You

Without a doubt, using a printed product catalog is still an effective marketing strategy. Despite being in the midst of the digital era, there are just some things that you can’t replace.

Physical catalogs are one of them.

Of course, to make it effective, your catalog should go through high-quality printing methods so every photo stands out.

That’s something that Packoi Printing can offer. If you want the best product catalog, give us a call.

Tell us your ideas and we’ll get back to you with a fair quotation.

Request Free Quote Now!

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Hey there, I’m Shelly!

I really enjoy the packaging and printing industry because my work makes my clients’ products more beautiful and enjoyable. If you have any questions about packaging and printing, feel free to contact me!

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