I believe the future of the catalog industry is straight up — I think it will continue to grow. There is no question that the Web has enhanced the catalog industry. It generates more business for catalogers.
I would say that the smart catalogers will continue to adapt and exploit the capabilities of the Internet. It’s a great way to reach new customers and it’s cheaper than mailing a book. The future is going to be in multichannel purchases — Amazon is mailing catalogs to customers who go online to purchase. Most of the stuff we see in retail is multichannel.
Dahn A. Johnson
The future of the industry will be to use individual channels to increase sales in all of the other channels. The catalog industry is an integral part of multichannel sales. The Web helps enhance the sales of catalogs. I don’t see the catalog going away.
Vice President, Direct E-Commerce
I think that catalogs will play an increasingly important role in a multichannel marketer’s communications mix. I think catalogers will continue to improve targeting to reduce the number of mailings. No one wants to ship catalogs to people who don’t want them. It’s good business to reduce the number of catalogs — over 90% of people who receive catalogs don’t use them. In some cases, that is simply a more efficient use of prospecting.
President and CEO
AGA Catalog Marketing & Design
New York, NY
To process orders online costs 30% less than mail-in orders and 50% less than phone-in orders. Web orders are more efficient. Also, the demographics are affluent people or young people. Companies like Amazon.com and SmarterKids.com that used to be pure-play are sending out catalogs. They’re not saying they are catalogers, they’re saying sending a catalog is a way to advertise.
They all see catalogs as a channel. The channels are converging. Years ago, you had companies like J.Crew that used to be catalogers; now they have retail stores. Being able to acquire the customer is the future. The best marketer will win.
San Francisco, CA
We’re definitely driving toward more Web-based business. This year, with the downturn in the economy, we’re scaling back our mailings and sending more e-mails. I see that probably continuing into the future, because the Web is a convenient medium.
The other challenges facing the industry right now are shipping, fulfillment costs, and getting products to customers in a timely fashion. The whole postal service situation is going to be a challenge the industry faces over the next couple of years until the postal service gets back in the black.
Sundance Catalog Company
Salt Lake City, UT
I don’t think that the paper catalog will ever go away. Catalogers will have the opportunity to learn more about customer preferences: “Don’t send me a catalog, only God can send me a tree.”
We may want to look at our customers’ preferences. How do they want to buy from us? How do we meet that need? You may choose to drop fewer catalogs over time. There is no doubt that the online channel will continue to grow, but I don’t believe the catalog business will ever go away.
Jill M. Leigh
Initiatives Three, Inc.