The holiday season is a great time for print. I know that for our family it’s the peak demand for purchasing printed products. We give photobooks and calendars full of family photos as gifts. And we send out Christmas cards featuring photo of our family. We really like to receive Christmas cards with photos and a (often cheesy) family letter. We’re doing our small part to participate in the photo merchandise and related industries which is now, according to Shutterfly, $30 Billion in the U.S. alone and a great market for digital printing.
As industry leader Shutterfly states, their business is all about capturing the memories from life’s most important events. The way memories are now being captured and printed, due to the ability of digital printing combined with online composition and ordering, has led to the creation of the photo book and photo merchandise industry.
Since photo merchandise is primarily a B2C market garnering success in this industry requires huge investments in marketing and automation. Advances in Cloud and mobile technology are driving the industry forward as producers like Shutterfly are creating and adapting their platforms to make ordering easier and help drive growth in the industry.
Also running hot in the holiday season are catalogs. Catalogs have proven so effective in driving online sales in the past few years that Internet-first companies have joined the ranks of lifestyle-inspired catalog producers. Some retailers evolved their catalogs beyond simple product shots and SKUs years ago. Now many other companies are following suit, leveraging the content marketing power of catalogs to offer customers ideas and inspiration extending well beyond a brand’s product portfolio. 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.
Technology innovations have also helped prolong the life of catalogs since print technology also enables those catalogs to be personalized. U.K.-based clothing retailer Boden, for example, sends millions of catalogs globally every year. Shanie Cunningham, head of U.S. marketing for the company, told the WSJ that consumers typically spend 15-20 minutes with a catalog before turning to online. Boden also has the ability to tailor the content, size or catalog type, and even the discounts offered to each consumer based on their shopping habits with the retailer.
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. The result is a great looking catalog that will drive higher response rates.
The bottom line is consumers really still love looking at catalogs. And even purely online companies are starting to experiment with printed catalogs. With production costs averaging $1 to produce and send, the return on investment can be high since catalogs can bring in $2 for every prospective customer it reaches and $10 for every returning customer.
As I say each year in our Christmas letter to our family and friends – Get your mail, open it, and buy something.