Amazon created a print catalog for the holidays without a single price listed for any products. And no, it wasn’t a mistake.
This seems a bit uncharacteristic for a company focused very heavily on deals. But it makes sense because print catalogs can be a great avenue for building a brand’s image. They aren’t designed to drive the next quick sale, but rather to create customer loyalty through engaging content.
These bundles of glossy paper cut through the usual marketing clutter and boast “open” rates 4x as high as email. Modern catalogs showcase products in a way that delights and engages their target audience, without having to rely on price.
The email channel is one of the best ways to stay in direct contact with your customers and a whole lot less expensive than producing a catalog. But with the pressure to hit sales goals, it can be tempting to send an email (or several) focused solely on driving an immediate conversion today – and not on what the customer is interested in. Subscribers begin tuning out from the emails you most want them to open when the content is not relevant or engaging to them.
How can email marketers replicate the experience of getting a print catalog in the mail to the email they receive in their inbox?
Here are 3 lessons gathered from print catalogs that you can use to win back the attention of your subscribers and turn them into lifelong supporters of your brand.
Catalogs Are Content Driven
Catalogs are being geared more towards content over product. It’s very much about the styling and the lifestyle and the connection to the brand.
-Bridget Johns, Head of Marketing and Customer Experience at Retail Next.
The most effective print catalogs don’t come stuffed with coupons, discounts, or promotions. A modern print catalog represents the ideal vision of a brand. They are meticulously crafted to capture the reader’s attention with a blend of content that tells a story.
Bridget Johns, Head of Marketing and Customer Experience at Retail Next, explains that “catalogs are being geared more towards content over product. It’s very much about the styling and the lifestyle and the connection to the brand.”
Nordstrom’s, for example, showcases their brand identity by featuring the newest styles fresh off the runway in their catalogs.
The content in the Nordstrom catalog is much more important than the price. They use their catalog to strengthen relationships with customers, increase loyalty, and reinforce their position as the place to purchase the latest fashions.
There’s a lesson here for email marketers.
Email Insight #1: Mix & Match Products, Content, and Promotions For Every Subscriber
Email marketers could replicate the print catalog experience by focusing on content that resonates with each subscriber.
That doesn’t mean promotions should be cut out altogether. There’s an optimal mix of promotions, product, and content that’s unique for every single customer. Some customers will have a stronger reaction to promotions while others prefer a content-rich email “diet”.
So how do you find the ideal mix of content, products, and promotions for any given subscriber?
You need customer data and machine learning software that gets smarter over time. With these tools, email marketers can discover each subscriber’s unique relationship to promotions and product, and automate the delivery of content that’s both relevant and engaging to their personal taste. Whether that is promotional, editorial or product focused content.
With the right tools, email marketers can emulate those curated ‘catalog pages’ while delivering the right balance of content for each customer.
Would you put an email on your coffee table?
Of course we’re trying to sell clothes and accessories, but it’s more to inspire and engage.
-Susy Korb, former CMO of Anthropologie & TOMS
A staggering 80% of all traditional mail, including print catalogs, is opened. That’s almost 4x as much as the average email open rate.
Stunning artwork and design, ideas that inspire and delight, and the novelty of having something physical to hold – these could all be reasons why people enjoy browsing through a catalog they have received.
Brands are willing to invest the high costs necessary to produce a quality catalog because they understand the value it adds to building their brand, even if it is less transactionally focused. In an interview with The New York Times, Susy Korb, former CMO of Anthropologie, said of their print catalog “Of course we’re trying to sell clothes and accessories, but it’s more to inspire and engage.”
A high-quality print catalog may end up on the coffee table next to a favorite magazine, while emails remain unopened or even deleted. Many consumers have grown weary of email promotions and irrelevant content so even the most compelling, beautiful, and responsive email won’t increase engagement if it never gets opened.
You can increase your email open rates by replicating what print catalogs do well – focus on the quality of content for each subscriber, not quantity. Here’s how:
Email insight #2: Get Your Emails Opened by Remailing Your Highest Quality Content
Emails don’t often end up on a coffee table to be browsed and looked at. The majority of emails remain unopened, with an average email open rate of 21% based on research from Mailchimp. So standing out in the crowded inbox space is the goal of every email marketer. Here’s what a typical inbox might look like for some of your subscribers:
Some take the approach of sending more email to be at the top of the inbox, and hopefully to the top of the subscriber’s mind. But instead of just producing more emails, you should use your analytics to resend the email content that is most likely to perform well for each unique customer.
For example, email subscriber “Beth” has an affinity for cashmere products. But Beth didn’t open your last email which featured the newest cashmere knits. Maybe the email even had a discount for cashmere sweaters.
It is hard to know why Beth didn’t open the email. It could be because she couldn’t find it in the sea of email promotions, or perhaps the subject line wasn’t compelling enough. Either way, the end result is that the perfect email for this subscriber wasn’t seen and a potential conversion was lost.
Email marketers don’t need to miss an opportunity to get the right email in front of the right subscriber. Today, predictive analytics software can measure the predilection of a subscriber to click on a given email so you can identify which content is most likely to drive engagement, before you even send it.
Catalogs Tell A Story That Resonates With Your Audience
Print catalogs are carefully crafted stories with captivating visuals that help convey a brand’s personality. Catalogs are often broken into ‘chapters’, each with their own unique theme and message.
By bringing together a curated assortment of products that fit a specific theme, readers gain an understanding of what a brand is like. For example, here’s a ‘beach’ theme page from Bonobos’ print catalog:
Bonobos positions themselves as a “clothing brand focused on delivering great fit, excellent customer experience, and a fun approach to menswear.”
Whoever you’re targeting, use your data to predict which themes will resonate best with your audience.
Email Insight #3: Delight with Data
Every page of a print catalog is crafted to tell a story about your brand, intended to delight and engage your target audience. The goal is to build a strong connection by showing stories and products that are in sync with their individual tastes and preferences.
In the email channel, you can learn about these preferences with the data from every campaign. Reacting to the data, and delivering curated campaigns that show you understand their unique tastes and preferences, is important to building brand loyalty.
With modern email automation and machine learning software, it is possible to delight and engage your audience with emails that feel just like they are browsing a catalog.
Time to Take a Page from Print?
Today’s digital marketing efforts can be overwhelming for the consumer. Ads are everywhere you browse, shop, eat, and inboxes are filled with brands all competing for attention. To stand out from the crowd, email marketers need to inspire and engage their audience. One way to do that is to replicate the tactics that make print catalogs effective.
Emails filled with relevant, curated content show that you understand the unique tastes and preferences of your subscribers, and that’s the key to long term loyalty from customers.
Want to see more email marketing insights? Download our latest eBook “Adventures in Email Marketing” to discover the patterns behind successful email marketing campaigns. You can click here to get it.