Retail Marketing

Reshaping the retail catalogue

As the world of retail becomes more and more digital, there doesn’t seem to be much room for the humble retail catalogue anymore. The far-flung days of flicking through Argos’ laminated book of wonders, or browsing the latest fashions on offer from Sears, feel like a lifetime ago.

Indeed, as online shopping’s grip on modern consumers continues to tighten, in recent years major brands, notably ArgosIKEA and H&M have shut down their magazine budgets and hopped aboard the eCommerce express. And there’s a lot of data backing this decision.

So, is it time to officially lay the retail catalogue to rest? Absolutely not. We have previously discussed how print still has a powerful role in retail, and the catalogue is a prime example. 

The tactile experience of flipping through page after page is something that is hard to replicate online, and helps brands engage customers in a way they can’t digitally. Where some brands like IKEA have moved away from catalogues, others have successfully doubled down.

Below, we explore why catalogues remain go-to collateral for numerous retailers, and the steps you can take to maximise the effectiveness of these assets moving forward.

The enduring relevance of retail catalogues

The retail catalogue has been with us since the 19th century and Tiffany’s Blue Book, enabling customers to browse a retailer’s range without having to step into a store. 

But, with the potential to contain all of this information – and much more – on the Internet, there are many who feel this novelty has worn off. Not to mention the potential problems caused by catalogues:

  • Once printed, they can’t be updated in real-time, meaning they can go out-of-date quickly
  • They can cost a substantial amount to write, design and print, depending on the catalogue’s reach
  • The environmental impact of printing catalogues can be heavy

However, flaws aside, there are many reasons why brands continue to rely on retail catalogues.

Physical and psychological sensation

Modern consumers are enticed by experiences, rather than cluttered inboxes of ads and sales pitches. While we wait for VR and AR technology to mature, the simple process of reading through a catalogue, touching and feeling what’s in front of you, can be a powerful pull for consumers.

Rather than be separated by a digital screen, customers play an active role in transitioning from one page to the next. For example, if you’re picking out furniture for a room, trying to drag your computer or laptop into the room to visualise the product in situ may not be feasible.

This helps you see yourself enjoying the products on offer at a deeper level. These experiences are more memorable, and therefore more likely to stay with customers.

Standing out in a digital landscape

While we can all appreciate the convenience and connectivity that the digitisation of retail has delivered, this online noise can become quite overwhelming. We can be left exhausted by streams of emails and social posts on a daily basis, with the opportunity to flick through a physical catalogue a welcome escape for many.

So, although the rise of eCommerce will continue, being able to move beyond the abundance of online content can help retailers stand out among their customers.

Appealing to particular demographics

For those actively shopping in the decades before digital took over, retail catalogues are as familiar as a childhood home. The power of nostalgia should never be underestimated, and it can help transport consumers to a simpler time in their lives. This is a feeling more and more people are craving, and catalogues can allow retailers to harness it to their benefit.

Yet, it is not only people with fond memories of browsing catalogues that can feel this pull. Millennials and Gen Z,who have grown up with digital as the norm, can also grow attached to retail catalogues, either as a brand new experience, or as an appreciation for something “retro”.

Holds customers’ attention

Compare the above asset to the number of digital ads or sales emails that are immediately closed or overlooked by people online each day. Customers feel compelled to read through a catalogue – it is a more personal, engaging experience. As such, this increases the amount of time a customer engages with a brand and their products.

Unlocks opportunities for omnichannel marketing

Finally, as more retailers seek to create seamless transitions between the physical and digital for their customers, catalogues offer a great way to achieve this.

By incorporating QR codes, social media tie-ins and other ways to link catalogues to the online world, modern retailers are providing the omnichannel experience that today’s customers crave, helping everyone enjoy the best of both worlds.

How 3 brands are still harnessing retail catalogues


C&A has embraced the blending of print and digital in their catalogues, delivering personalised magazines to customers linked to their individual Facebook account. This meant that, as people browsed their catalogue, they could hit a like button beneath a product, and this would account for an actual like on a corresponding Facebook advert.

While this was a fun quirk for customers, it also gave C&A invaluable digital data on products that were most popular with their audience.


Gadget and gifts retailer Brookstone has actively used QR codes within their catalogues to empower their readers to seamlessly transition into their digital world. With each code, customers can access more information and imagery on a desired product, as well as customer reviews to help reinforce their purchasing decision.

Condé Nast

As the home to some of the most popular magazines worldwide, including Vogue, GQ and Vanity Fair, Condé Nast’s analytics program within their digital catalogues offer crucial insights, such as:

  • How often catalogues are viewed
  • The number of visits received
  • The time of day catalogues were accessed
  • Which products were viewed and purchased online

What can you do to unlock your retail catalogues’ potential?

Embrace omnichannel

As the examples highlighted above demonstrate, retail catalogues offer an excellent opportunity to cross streams between the physical and digital.

Whether it is akin to Brookstone’s inclusion of QR codes to allow readers to immediately locate and purchase items online, or C&A’s clever Facebook integration, catalogues allow brands to prolong the journey their customers take with them.

This both ties in with the unstoppable rise of eCommerce, while giving customers escapism from the digital realm through a physical magazine.

Lock down data accuracy

One of the biggest problems in producing retail catalogues is, if they are printed with typos or inconsistent branding, the cost of rectifying this can be huge.

Software such as BAM by Papirfly™ can help ensure that catalogues reach the printers in pristine conditions, with no mistakes and no discrepancies. Easy-to-use, pre-set templates make it virtually impossible for users to produce something that doesn’t reflect your brand values.

Furthermore, PIM and ERP system integration guarantees that all product information and data incorporated within your catalogue is up-to-date and accurate.

Target your audience

Another criticism of catalogues is that they were a scattergun approach – costs to produce and distribute these could be high, and reach people that were completely uninterested with them.

If you have access to clearer data on your customers’ preferences and commitment to your brand, you can target who are most likely to appreciate the arrival of a catalogue.

When Amazon started producing holiday toy catalogues, these were targeted to children’s parents based on the children’s age groups and the TV shows they viewed. This tailored approach helped ensure that the catalogues were relevant to their audience, leading to more successful conversions.

Use sustainable materials

Finally, with an increasing appreciation towards the future of the environment and sustainability, it is beneficial that retailers focus on producing catalogues out of recycled materials.

This removes the concerns customers and others may have surrounding the sustainability of retail catalogues, while your brand can still reap the benefits that these resources can offer.

Revamp your retail marketing with BAM

We hope this has illustrated that the catalogue still has a meaningful role in any retailer’s marketing mix. In a world that is rapidly growing dependent on digital, these printed assets can provide customers with unique, powerful experiences, which may keep them engaged far longer with your brand than a flurry of online ads and emails.

If you would like to focus more attention on catalogues and other printed collateral, but are concerned about how this could affect your budget, BAM by Papirfly™ makes asset creation faster, more cost-effective, and more secure.

  • Produce all assets from a single platform, including campaigns, POS signage, digital marketing and more
  • Increase turnaround times by bringing all production in-house – anyone can use BAM successfully, regardless of design expertise
  • Create sizes tailored at store level, allowing you to proactively respond to localised demands
  • Effectively organise your in-store promotions, briefs and timelines in an intuitive campaign planner
  • Establish a central, global resource for teams to view, share, edit and reuse assets

Accelerate your retail marketing like never before – speak to our team about the full benefits of BAM, or discover them for yourself by booking a demo.