Re-Inventing the Catalog

Posted on by Dave Erlandson | No Comments »

Funny thing that happened on the way to ordering products online, it turns out most people still love printed catalogs. However the format is changing as consumers demand more content than old-school catalog descriptions provide.  Catalogs now aren’t just direct mailers. They’re magazines, often personalized to the recipients’ purchasing habits, their pages filled with artistically styled photography and expertly penned information. And catalogs have proven so effective in driving online sales in the past few years that a number of Internet-first companies have joined the ranks of lifestyle-inspired catalog producers.

New inkjet, finishing, and workflow technology are enabling the next evolution in the catalog and that is incorporating relevant merchandise and offers based on previous buying history (data). Up until now the image quality and substrate limitations have been insurmountable barriers for catalog printers and their customers. At drupa there were a couple of catalog applications on display.

At drupa 2016, Nic. Oud, showed how a printer can work with web traffic reports to allow catalog publishers to customize each magazine to the recipient, based on page visits and buying patterns.

Netherlands-based direct mail company Nic. Oud runs such a campaign for one of its customers, clothing company Olliewood. Selling children’s clothing via its website and printed catalog, it produces collections each year targeted at boys and girls of different ages. Previously, email and print communications would have been sent out without differentiation. The results were visible immediately to Olliewood, with consistently higher repeat purchases in the month following the catalog mailing – up to 300% – compared to a control group whose members all received the same catalog.

Also at drupa, Xerox debuted a hybrid catalog solution that combined static offset pages with personalized digital pages for the cover and for inserts. The catalogs were printed on the new Trivor 2.4 using Xerox’s new High Fusion inks. The personalized cover was printed on UPM Finesse Matte Coated (130 gsm). The digital inserts were printed on Sappi Galerie Fine Silk (100 gsm). Static interior pages were printed on UPM Finesse Gloss (90 gsm). Muller Martini Presto II Digital Saddle Stitcher was used to assemble and bind the pages. And Xerox FreeFlow, XMPie and Solimar software were used to handle the workflow elements.  The estimated price for this solution is about $3 million.

I grabbed samples of the hybrid catalogs. They are really what many would call a magalog as they are a combination of catalog and magazine. The four page digital inserts had variable content highlighting items for sales that matched the interest of the recipient. For one customer the inserts had fishing gear and for another it was outdoor furniture.

Personalized Catalog001 Personalized Catalog004 (2)
Personalized Catalog003Personalized Catalog002

I found the image quality of the hybrid catalog to be quite good. The digital pages were not a sharp as the offset pages, but they are certainly light years ahead of the traditional washed out look of inkjet images on uncoated stock. These images were vibrant and had great detail. The average consumer would not notice the difference between the offset and digital pages.  They would be too busy looking at the content.

You can see a nice video of the solution at Xerox Personalized Catalog Solution

This solution clearly demonstrates that digital technology is ready to be used for short run catalog production as it has good image quality on standard offset coated stocks. And the technology can help re-invent the catalog by making the use of relevant personalized offers practical.




Write a comment