In this guest piece, Kellie Northwood (Pictured below), CEO of the Australasian Catalogue Association (ACA), discusses the future of letterbox marketing and where catalogues will fit in the changing landscape.
Digitalisation or ‘phigitalisation’ – what is the future of letterbox marketing and what will a letterbox look and feel like in 2050? With digital disruption, the role and relevancy of catalogues, a strong letterbox player, could be questioned. Good thing that catalogues, both printed and online, offer much more than the mere product lists found within retailer’s bricks and mortar or virtual stores.
Catalogues curate and organise information for customers, they present offers and special deals and they show products in context and in association with each other. Most importantly, they have taken the current marketing challenge to reinvent and strengthen their role and position on the path to purchase.
With an audience reach of 21.8 million, Australians read printed catalogues. However, with digital seeing two million readers and 62 per cent of Australians reading at least one online catalogue a week, they too have an audience. Perhaps our letterbox of the future will be a virtual one? Some predict the letterbox will be larger to hold parcels. Others question, ‘Will our letterboxes have barcodes to identify the content that is to be distributed into the household?’ ‘Will the postie or distributor print a personalised catalogue by household address at the point of delivery?’ ‘Will they scan specific vouchers and sales offers based on your letterbox code?’ ‘How targeted is too targeted?’
We can only make predictions on what the future letterbox will look like, but one thing we know for sure is that data will have a big role to play. Retailers can now use a variety of data inputs and catalogue platform outputs to collect weekly updates and adapt their in-store marketing, product display and stock levels according to product popularity and trends. With research showing that seven out of 10 readers make a purchase (71 per cent actually buying in store) as a result of reading an online catalogue, 60 per cent of consumers that are ‘just browsing’ end up making a purchase, and 77 per cent of Australians read a physical catalogue every four weeks, the ability to leverage data and drive sales to virtual and physical in store retailing via catalogues is more effective than ever.
From the marketer’s point of view, catalogues are cost-effective, sought after and allow flexibility within a weekly delivery schedule. Further, they offer a goldmine of customer engagement and behaviour data: most popular categories, bestselling products, best page performers and sales drivers.
For customers, catalogues offer a range of features that take them closer to their purchase – they can compare products and prices, search across hundreds of offers and have direct access to shopping triggers. Studies show the pivotal role of catalogues for comparative purposes in the process of making a purchase decision. The 24/7 availability of catalogues in the home and the fact that there is no geographical discrimination make them the ultimate tool for an optimised comparative process.
Online catalogues are certainly great performers. However, customers still express a clear preference for printed ones. Roy Morgan’s Single Source Survey (2015-2016) shows that 69 per cent of Australian consumers across all ages prefer printed catalogues, while only 9 per cent prefer digital ones. This shows that the physicality and tactile in-home relationship shoppers have with catalogues dominates preferences. This is consistent with the ACRS Survey showing that Australian shoppers prefer printed catalogues and flyers because they are easy to read (35 per cent) and more convenient to plan one’s shopping (21 per cent). Further, shoppers understand specials and product information better in print (26 per cent). Evidence the printed catalogue is here to stay.
We know catalogues have a presence in both brand equity and path to purchase. We also know that digital and physical catalogues are demonstrating strong sales results and brand loyalty. With every Australian household having a letterbox and catalogues outperforming other retail marketing channels, the letterbox is here to stay – however, in what form will it be within our future? The think tank remains open as we continue to review and explore international trends.