Catalog Marketing – Meaning, Types, Advantages, Disadvantages & Examples

By | January 5, 2022

Studies show that consumers enjoy reading catalogs – which is why they spend time engaging with catalogs. In fact, the average time spent viewing a catalog is just over 15 minutes and consumers tend to keep catalogs for several weeks.

Despite the digital age, print catalog marketing continues to provide effective success for businesses by presenting information to customers – wherever they are. This is why catalog marketing can support your existing strategy and the benefits it provides.

What is Catalog Marketing?

Catalog marketing, in simple words, is a way of selling your products with the help of catalogs. The company makes a list of every item it sells and expects buyers to buy the product they want from that list. The list may be in paper or digital form (on an online platform).

The catalog sender provides contact information such as a contact number, contact email, or physical address on the catalog. The recipient of the catalog orders through one of the contact methods provided by the sender. For example, the recipient can order the product he wants by calling the sender.

Companies that manufacture multiple products prepare their catalogs and take orders from buyers directly. Otherwise, catalog marketers act as intermediaries between buyers and producers .

Catalog Marketing- How Does It Work?

Companies that follow catalog marketing practices create their catalog and specify a contact method such as an email address, contact number, or physical address. The recipient of the catalog then places an order using one of the contact methods provided.

Catalog marketing generally works in two different ways;

  • Sellers create their own catalogs and invite buyers to buy directly from them.
  • Catalog marketers act as intermediaries between producers and buyers.

How Does Catalog Marketing Get Growth?

The history of catalog marketing/sales dates back to the 17th century  when Benjamin Franklin offered a book catalog in 1744. Then, the Orvis Fishing catalog started in 1856, and is still in circulation (which makes it America’s oldest catalog).

Catalog marketing is becoming a growing sales practice due to changing customer preferences. Consumers are more open to direct and catalog marketing because it will bring so many options for them to choose from.

In addition, catalog marketing is gaining prominence in the B2B market as it is a more cost -effective option compared to personal selling calls.

Catalog marketing is a form  of direct marketing , and it allows companies to target specific groups of customers (targeted marketing). This allows businesses to target their potential customers in a better way and have higher acceptance among the customers as well.

Types of Catalog Marketing with Examples

In general, there are 4 types of catalog marketing and here is a brief description.

Single Company Catalog

Single company catalogs are quite common in businesses that manufacture multiple products. Generally, brands of this type create their own catalog. Typical examples of such companies or manufacturers include healthcare products, sports products, apparel, footwear, jewelry, kitchen accessories, cosmetics, etc.

Generally, sellers prepare their catalogs in different ways, such as;

  • Categorize similar or related products: Say a cosmetics company sells different products and offers different types of mascara, nail polish, lipstick, etc. The company will put all types of mascara under one name/head; nail polish and lipstick will be mentioned in different sections. Or, if there is a discount offer, the company will prepare a suitable catalog.
  • Sellers can also catalog and mention products scattered across different pages. This technique is useful for boosting impulse shopping.

Print Catalogs

In a printed catalog, the seller generally makes a cover as an announcement of the type of goods or products in the catalog and then mentions the goods to be sold. This catalog contains product images, prices and descriptions. The seller also mentions the contact method or ordering information.

Print catalogs can display one category of the same type of product, such as footwear, clothing, etc. Or it may contain a  different type of product category . Some sellers also attach an order form and a return envelope (postage paid) with a printed catalog. In addition, buyers can place orders via phone calls.

Print catalogs can be an expensive selling practice, and that’s why marketers use targeted mailing lists to reduce circulation and printing costs and increase sales. Print catalogs may sound like an old marketing practice to you, but they’ve become popular again since 2015, says the  Harvard Business Review .

Multiple Companies Catalog

Catalogs of multiple companies, as the name suggests, mention products from different companies in the same catalog. This selling practice involves middlemen and is especially useful for businesses that offer fewer products. This helps different companies to reduce their marketing costs and enjoy the benefits of catalog marketing as well.

Retailers or intermediaries distribute catalogs to final consumers. Apart from that, the catalogs of several companies are also the preferred choice of the customers as they have many options (same product types from different sellers) to choose from.

When a buyer places an order, the buying process takes place in two possible ways;

  • The mediator buys the product from the manufacturer and sells it to the customer.
  • Manufacturers sell directly to buyers, and intermediaries earn through commissions.

Online Catalogs (Online Catalog)

Online catalogs are just like print catalogs, but are actually digital catalogs. Catalog manufacturers use online platforms to make their catalogs available to customers. Online catalogs are the latest addition to catalog marketing, and have many advantages for both sellers and buyers, such as;

  • Online catalogs are a cost-effective option for sellers (saving printing and shipping costs).
  • Sellers can easily update online catalog information.
  • Buyers can directly buy the desired product.

eCommerce is the best example of online catalog marketing. For example, various brands like Flipkart, Etsy, Amazon, etc., provide online catalogs. Buyers can view multiple products and then make a purchase immediately  .

Advantages of Catalog Marketing

Catalog marketing helps businesses and customers in different ways; as

  • Catalogs have higher acceptance among customers, and they consider catalogs a trusted source of information. In fact, printed catalogs are easier to store for a longer time (future purchases).
  • It is a cost-effective option for businesses. For example, if a small business cannot afford to launch   its own catalog marketing campaign , it can use multiple companies’ catalog options to reduce costs. Apart from that, online catalogs are also a cost-effective option.
  • Catalog marketing results in higher ROI. Studies have shown that 8 out of 10 shoppers convert with the help of catalog marketing.
  • Instead of waiting for customers to come to your store, catalogs allow you to meet them at their doorstep. This way, they know what they want to buy.
  • This is a safer option in terms of security of funds. Generally, customers have to pay in advance when placing an order. This means your money will not be stuck.
  • A business can easily target specific customer groups with the help of catalog marketing.
  • Customers can see products, features, prices, specifications, etc., before making a decision.

Disadvantages of Catalog Marketing

  • Catalog marketing can be a slow process in terms of growth. You have to win the trust of your customers, and that takes time.
  • You need excellent copywriting skills to make a catalog work because it’s not easy to persuade people when there’s so much competition. In addition, a poorly crafted catalog can easily destroy your brand reputation.
  • Catalog marketing is not a great choice for customers who prefer a physical experience before purchasing a product.