This is a homework assignment for my Marketing 5000 class at Webster University. It has not been graded yet.
Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann
Dr. John Jinkner
20 April 2020
Name of the Article: “Catalogs Remain a Staple in Retailers’ Toolboxes”
Source: Multichannel Merchant
Author Lisa Henthorn in the article “Catalogs Remain a Staple in Retailers’ Toolboxes” first addressed the decline of printed catalog use by many retailers in the late 2010s during a recession that coincided with the rise of social media and the continued adoption of ecommerce (Henthorn). Some retailers who took the opportunity to cut costs also lost a lot of revenue. Land’s End, for example lost $100 million in revenue the year after ceasing printed catalog production (Henthorn). Other retailers returned to using printed catalogs after noticing that catalogs were still popular with many customers and influenced purchases in stores as well as directly from the catalogs (Henthorn).
It has been noted that the majority of millennials, consumers in the 21-35 year-old age group, have used catalogs to make purchases influenced by a catalog (Henthorn). Neil O’Keefe, senior VP of marketing and content for the Data & Marketing Association (DMA) believes that millennials enjoy catalogs because they have viewed less printed marketing material than past generations and the imagery in catalogs attracts them (Henthorn).
Catalogs continue to be part of the omnichannel marketing mix employed by many retailers today (Henthorn). The purpose of omnichannel marketing is to give customers a seamless and consistent shopping experience as they interact with the brand via the channels of their own choosing (Sopadjieva). A study published in Harvard Business Review showed that the majority of the customers surveyed in a 2015-2016 study were multi-channel customers and shoppers that used only a single channel were markedly in the minority (Sopadjieva). Multi-channel users were also found to spend more on average both online and in stores, as well as being more frequent and loytal customers (Sopadjieva).
Henthorn makes the case in her article for not only continuing to use catalogs along with other channels, but also leveraging technology and data from all channels to make the catalog shopping experience more personal for the shopper and relevant to seasonal campaigns (Henthorn).
How this Article Relates to our Course
Printed catalogs can be either a stand-alone shopping channel or part of a multi-channel or omnichannel mix (Pride and Ferrell, 473). I chose to write about the state of catalog marketing in the present day because I currently work part-time for a company that includes printed catalogs in the marketing mix and wanted information on how to use the printed catalogs more effectively.
L.L. Bean is a company that is featured as a case study in our textbook (Pride and Ferrell, 487-488). L.L. Bean began as a mail order company and now continues to use catalogs along with retail stores and online retailing. Unlike the previously mentioned Land’s End which reduced the use of printed catalogs and lost considerable revenue, L.L. Bean has thrived by retaining catalogs as part of its marketing mix while using technology to send a number of specialized catalogs to targeted customers (Ruiz) as suggested by author Henthorn. Henthorn mentioned catalogs being popular with millennials because they are more of a novelty to that generation, and author Ruiz picked up on a similar observation by quoting a customer named Melissa Berggren who felt that the trend away from catalogs during the recession years made catalogs seem fresh and interesting again. Ms. Berggren also appreciated the upgraded concepts and production values of some of today’s catalogs which she likes to use for decorating inspiration rather than just product listings (Ruiz). Rohit Deshpande, a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, notes that brands need to really work hard to gain attention from customers (Ruiz). When customers enjoy interacting with a brand in any channel, that company has a competitive advantage (Garnier and Poncin, 363).
IKEA is another brand that is using multiple channels to reach customers according to their preferences. Brick-and-mortar retailing dominates, but the catalog, apps, social media and e-commerce channels are still very important (Pride and Ferrell, 489-491). IKEA also put extra effort into making their stores into destinations with cafes and displays that are compelling and tailored to the clientele in the vicinity (Pride and Ferrell, 490). Researchers Garnier and Poncin studied the use of catalogs by IKEA because they are a company that still has a popular printed catalog even though they offer several other channels (Garnier and Poncin, 362). The researchers’ goal was to study the effectiveness of online catalogs as compared to e-commerce web sites and printed catalogs (Garnier and Poncin, 361). Although their findings suggested that online catalogs might not be a necessary investment if a company already has an e-commerce web site (Garnier and Poncin, 366), there are concepts in their paper that can apply to any marketing channel. Customers seek both utilitarian and hedonic value when they shop (Garnier and Poncin, 364). Hedonic value is the “search for pleasure, fun, and experiential stimulation” (Garnier and Poncin, 363). In the brick-and-mortar realm, L.L. Bean is giving customers a more compelling experience in its flagship store by including a cafe and demonstrations, making this location a tourist destination as well as a channel for engaging with the brand (Pride and Ferrell, 488). Like IKEA, L.L. Bean successfully added to the hedonic value of customer store visits. Catalogs that only repeat product listings that are on the company’s web site risk creating a negative impression on customers by wasting paper and the customer’s time (Ruiz). Printed catalogs that contain content that adds to the hedonic value, such as stories, are being used by many brands that know their customers like to be inspired by catalogs (Ruiz).
Marketers that do still use catalogs should take into account what their customers like or dislike about catalogs today to use them effectively. For example Patagonia prints its catalogs on recycled paper to reduce the environmental concern that customers may have about paper catalogs (Ruiz). Land’s End surveyed its customers and found out that 75% of online purchasers had used the catalog to review products, a finding that caused the company to reconsider the role of catalogs in its marketing mix (Ruiz). As we’ve been learning, all marketing should be centered on the customer (Pride and Ferrell, 5). The marketing environment is always changing (Pride and Ferrell, 12-13) and the same forces that influence the marketing environment in general also can cause older channels to be used by customers in new ways.
Garnier, Marion and Ingrid Poncin. “Do enriched digital catalogues offer compelling experiences, beyond websites? A comparative analysis through the IKEA case.” Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, vol. 47, March 2019, pp. 361-369. doi.org/10.1016/j.jretconser.2018.12.011. Accessed 19 April 2020.
Henthorn, Lisa. “Catalogs Remain a Staple in Retailers’ Toolboxes.” Access Intelligence, LLC, 2019, https://multichannelmerchant.com/blog/catalogs-remain-staple-retailers-toolboxes/. Accessed 18 April 2020.
Pride, William M. and O.C. Ferrell. Marketing. 2018 Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2016, 2018.
Ruiz, Rebecca R. “Catalogs, After Years of Decline, Are Revamped for Changing Times.” The New York Times Company, 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/01/26/business/media/catalogs-after-years-of-decline-are-revamped-for-changing-times.html. Accessed 20 April 2020.
Sopadjieva, Emma et al. “A Study of 46,000 Shoppers Shows That Omnichannel Retailing Works”. Harvard Business School Publishing, 2017, https://hbr.org/2017/01/a-study-of-46000-shoppers-shows-that-omnichannel-retailing-works. Accessed 20 April 2020.
Links to some of the resources I cited above and for some that I did not use are on a Pinterest board here: