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By David J. Mastervich, manager of catalogs, periodicals, and saturation mail at the USPS®

Direct mail catalogs are hardly a thing of the past. In fact, they’re more relevant than ever in today’s online shopping world. Catalogs tell a brand story, support merchandise with rich photography and stir a desire to purchase. Although there’s no question their role in traditional paper form has changed, nowadays they’re a way for retailers to entice customers to visit their Web sites.

And it’s working.

The Key Catalog/Multichannel Issues Survey conducted by Vovici EFM late last year shows a whopping 96 percent of respondents agreeing that their printed catalog generates online sales, and more than 60 percent say it influences half or more of those sales.

And we’re not talking small numbers here: The majority of respondents saw a 20- to 50-percent increase in online sales immediately following a catalog drop.

That’s likely because print’s tactile nature makes it easy for people to carry a postcard or catalog to their computer when they’re ready to respond — something they can’t do with a radio or TV spot. And with so much online competition, sending catalogs and other direct pieces motivates customers to visit your site more often, stay longer, and get to know your brand better.

In fact, research commissioned by the U.S. Postal Service® and conducted by comScore shows direct mail and catalog recipients are more likely to make an online purchase than shoppers who do not receive them. In addition, they typically buy more items and spend more money, with sites supported by catalogs seeing a 163-percent revenue lift compared to those that aren’t.

Catalog companies repeatedly tell us that customers who come to their site through a catalog stay longer than customers who arrive through an online search. That’s because while online searching is typically a one-time event, shoppers with a catalog are more likely to make repeat purchases and become loyal customers.

And catalogs don’t just influence shoppers to visit a site; they also discourage comparison shopping and can boost per order sales.

So if you’re looking to jump-start online sales, don’t overlook the power of catalogs and other direct mailings to push customers to your site. And make sure you mail regularly so that your brand is top of mind.

---Source: Deliver® Magazine October 2009 issue (www.delivermagazine.com). Deliver is a USPS® publication. David J. Mastervich is manager of catalogs, periodicals, and saturation mail at the USPS.

 

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