Catalog/Publication Outlook: Print and Digital Still Offer a Perfect Complement
For all the digital doomsayers predicting the demise of print, a scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” seems relevant. When it comes to catalogs and publications, print has very coolly asserted, “I’m not dead. I think I’ll go for a walk.”
What’s more, in many cases, ink-on-paper is actually the preferred medium. According to “A Communicator’s Guide to the Neuroscience of Touch,” written by Sappi in collaboration with renowned neuroscientist Dr. David Eagleman, “Touch has the power to shift the brain into a deeper level of engagement, one more conducive to building lasting knowledge.” In fact, touch can often have a stronger impact than sight or sound alone.
Printed media is more intuitively navigable, he says. In other words, it’s easier for our brains to map out what is on the page versus screen. Most of the time, we are hunting and scanning for information on a screen. The way we interact with print is more focused.
A recent example that Eagleman cites from clothier Land’s End shows the importance of a tactile experience. Because the retailer’s online sales were doing consistently well, it decided to reduce the number of printed catalogs mailed out. As a result, it lost $100 million in sales. Later on, the company placed a pop-up survey on its website and discovered that 75% of online purchases came from consumers who had first reviewed its catalog.
Better Paper Quality, Better Retention
Dr. Eagleman has found that paper quality can even make a difference. In his study, participants were asked to recall information printed on high-quality, coated paper versus low-quality, uncoated paper. The more luxurious the paper, the better the participants were able to remember what they’d read on it. Paper types, therefore, have the ability to unconsciously influence our decisions.
As Dr. Eagleman explains, the largest sensory organ is spread across our whole body. Sight, sound or even smell must be experienced at a distance. “But you can’t touch something without being touched yourself,” he says.
American Litho is a web and in-line printer based in Carol Stream, Ill. Joe Bulgarelli, VP of sales, points out that although there are numerous media platforms a brand can choose from, print stands alone, waiting in the recipient’s mailbox. “Print alone is touched every day and guaranteed a decision of whether or not to be interacted with,” he says.
There’s something special about receiving a printed catalog at your home. In fact, a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) study found that almost 60% of online shoppers enjoy receiving catalogs. The same study also revealed that catalog recipients typically end up buying more items and spending more money.
“We feel that the combination of physical and digital starts the branding experience,” Bulgarelli explains, “but consistency on each channel leads to long-term, committed customers.”
In today’s world — with multiple modes of communication from email to text messages to video and more — messages can be rebroadcast through varied media without feeling overdone. And this is actually what consumers want. Repeatedly, studies have shown that today’s consumers are not looking for a single mode of communication that delivers all of their information; they have short attention spans.
Jay Mandarino, president and CEO of The C.J. Group of Companies., including C.J. Graphics in Toronto, concurs. He notes that the most successful cross-media campaigns his companies are producing have combined print and electronic solutions. The printed catalog drives the customer to the website to make a purchase — in some ways, its tangibility acts as a surrogate for the actual product. “A printed catalog will always be more successful selling higher-end items because customers want touch-and-feel,” Mandarino explains.
Catalogs Drive Online Ordering
Smart marketers know this, and that’s why many that dropped or reduced their catalog mailings are now returning to them. They’ve realized how valuable they are in the customer journey, notes John Coyle, president of catalog and retail sales at LSC Communications, the recent spin-off of RR Donnelley, in Chicago.
Coyle also sees another shift. “The trend of pure internet retailers turning to catalogs as a sales and marketing channel is a testament to the significance of this relationship,” he says, noting how Web-based companies Wayfair.com, Overstock.com and Bonobos have all started using printed catalogs to help market their brands.
This year, Quad/Graphics added business from approximately 50 new catalog titles from e-commerce companies that had not produced a catalog before, shares Tim Ohnmacht, president of marketing solutions at the Sussex, Wis.-based company.
“To believe that any marketing channel can go it alone is shortsighted,” Ohnmacht explains. His firm’s catalog customers are also increasing personalization based on data-driven marketing expertise and past buying behavior.
Likewise, LSC Communications advises its catalog clients to use targeted promotional card technology. “The ROI is in the personalization and the ability to tier offers based on demographics, customer history, annual spend, etc. Plus, the cards deliver results to both online and in-store sales.”
Challenge of Postal Rate Hikes
When it comes to rising postal rates for catalog and publication printers alike, the struggle is real. One way Quad/Graphics increases value for its clients is transitioning paper purchases from clients or brokers to a printer-supplied model that yields increased efficiencies and cash flow benefits.
In addition, some interactive solutions not only increase engagement and response, but they also qualify the mailing for discount programs and promotions through the USPS, Ohnmacht says.
Darrell Moore, president of Modern Litho, headquartered in Jefferson City, Mo., states that polybagging multiple pieces can help reduce overall postage, as can Delivery Duty Unpaid shipments, which can also speed up delivery times.
Co-mailing is another option, as is choosing lower weighted paper stocks.
Bartash Printing is a company in Philadelphia that sees 60% of its business come from publication printing. “The overall consensus is that we are seeing pages and circulations start to rise, and we have consistently beaten our projections month over month in 2016,” shares Helene Rubin, executive VP.
Rubin explains that many print advertisers that had moved to digital are returning to the medium that built their business.
However, she notes, the complementary role between print and digital is still key, as with catalogs. In fact, Bartash produces “Bartash eDitions” by taking the files sent by clients for print and producing digital editions from those very files.
Although many firms offer augmented reality, QR codes and the like, Rubin says Bartash has seen quite a few publishers move away from these digital verticals in favor of concentrating on their own printed publications. They simply are not seeing the ROI from the digital verticals, she says.
On the other hand, special interest magazines continue to flourish, as they have steadily been doing for the past few years.
“The media world has changed from one looking to have an audience of millions to one that is comprised of millions of audiences,” notes Rubin. She gives the example of hyperlocal newspapers, which specialize in reporting on a pinpointed community. Their popularity continues to increase year after year.
As Modern Litho’s Moore points out, print engages in a way that digital media cannot. In some ways, he says, it’s an escape from the overwhelming distraction from the digital world.
“It also offers a sense of permanency, which is attractive and compelling to special interest or niche audiences.”
In a world where change happens faster than the turn of a paper page, the permanency of print is certainly worth something.