National Etailing and Mailing Organization of America
Spring Summit - Boston, MA
March 14-16, 2018
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The Evolution of the Catalog as Shared at the NEMOA direct XChange Conference


Recently, we’ve been reading a lot about the comeback of the catalog. With 90+ million Americans purchasing from catalogs on an annual basis with an average spend of $850 million on catalog purchases (American Catalog Mailers Association), the catalog is a lively and active channel.  The difference today?  It now goes beyond direct mail, has become more digitized and is delivered with an omnichannel strategy.

At the annual NEMOA direct XChange conference last week in Boston, I had the opportunity to connect with database marketing professionals and discuss the latest trends and strategies within the catalog industry.  Lily Kanter, CEO and Founder of Serena & Lily, hit home with her opening keynote remark “You have to unlock the joy of your customers. The catalog creates an emotional connection.”  The Serena & Lily marketing team designs their catalog to leave customers feeling “I want to live there” and inspiring them to purchase both the furniture and accessories displayed on the page.  The Serena & Lily catalog transports customers from their reading state to envisioning themselves sitting on the couch enjoying a cup of coffee. They feel the experience and develop an emotional connection that drives the desire of wanting to make a purchase. 

The catalog is complemented by Serena & Lily’s digital and retail storefront channels.  Lily shared with attendees that 38% of the interest in their products is coming from the mobile channel. Like all marketers, they’re constantly optimizing their email design and strategy while looking for new ways to innovate.  For example, they’ve mastered the ‘retail experience center’ strategy with the design of their ‘candy store’ located in San Francisco and the dreamy Hamptons Beach Market.
Catalogs are more than just a direct mail piece. They create an experience and are used for different purposes.  Susy Korb, Chief Marketing Officer of Anthropologie, recently stated in an interview with the New York Times, “We don’t call it a catalog; we call it a journal.  Of course we’re trying to sell clothes and accessories but our catalog is more to inspire and engage.”  Additionally, Felix Carbullido, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Williams-Sonoma brands, including Pottery Barn and West Elm, shared, “The company’s commitment to catalogs has not wavered but our view of them has changed. Years ago it was a selling tool, and now it’s become an inspirational source,” he said, likening catalogs to magazines. “We know our customers love a tactile experience.”

So, as you’re thinking about your catalog strategy in the coming months, be creative. Be an innovator. Be different, and stand out. And make sure to link your catalog to all of your other promotional channels.  Remember, your print catalog is the opportunity to create an interactive experience with your brand, which can drive online sales.  During a conversation with a UK based retailer who sells cashmere products, I asked them if they’d ever consider including samples of their fabric in their catalog.  They looked at me, gave me a firm head shake, and said, “that’s brilliant.”  People need to experience the benefits of your product. – The catalog is the best opportunity to fulfill on this hands-on experience.

Submitted by Stacey Hawes, Epsilon


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