Print Catalogs Still Rule, Survey Shows

If you think the print catalog is a dying channel, you better think again.

Of 106 merchants polled by the Direct Marketing Association, 62% consider catalogs their primary sales channel. In contrast, only 20% cited the Web and 6% indicated retail.

“Most of our respondents continue to use catalogs as their dominant or secondary channel of marketing and sales,” said Anna Chernis, senior research manager for the DMA, in a statement. “And our data suggests a consensus among successful marketers that there are consistent and integrated standards across all channels, as virtually all use some form of Internet marketing to supplement their catalog channel.”

The survey also reveals that the print catalog is still the largest revenue generator among all channels, accounting for nearly 50% of all multichannel merchant sales in both 2007 and 2008. (The report notes, however, that Web sales are expected to continue to grow.)

And despite buzz to the contrary, the number of print catalogs in circulation has actually increased since 2003–mostly as a result of companies using their books to drive customers to their Websites. The survey estimates that total annual house file circulation reached about 15,463,891 in 2007, while the total annual prospect circulation reached about 5,536,424. That’s up significantly from the total annual house file circulation of about 5,169,011, and total annual prospect file circulation of 3,423,389, recorded in 2003.

In addition, 59% of total respondents indicated that they increased circulation, while 15% reported no change; and 44% indicated that they increased page count, while 42% reported no change.

In another finding, 90% of respondents say they track response rates for online buyers separately from offline buyers, compared to around 60% in 2006. And 32% use search marketing in addition e-mail promotions and Web offers to cross-sell offline buyers online.

The findings are also based on a detailed analysis of billions of transactional records from 100 million households in the Abacus Alliance database, maintained by marketing firm Abacus, a division of Epsilon, which helped underwrite the report.

The DMA also reports:

–Most catalogers experienced sales increases in 2007 and expect to do the same this year.

–Of those polled, 50% have fully integrated their marketing functions. Between 60% and 70% have integrated their operational, consumer facing functions, the DMA continued.

The survey results are broken into three segments based on expertise (survey participants rated their own level of expertise in multichannel practices: beginner, intermediate, or expert); revenue (three revenue subgroups were created); and type of market (three primary market break outs: businesses, consumers, or both equally).

To download a copy of the report, “State of the Catalog Industry, 2008 Edition,” click here.