The death of the catalogue? Not likely.

Shop Direct announced this week that it was scrapping its traditional mail order catalogues in favour of eCommerce. The decision has allegedly been customer-led, with more and more people transitioning online. Yet despite the march of digital there is still a place for the humble catalogue. Just ask Ralph Lauren and The White Company. Both brands offer their customers a paper-based magalogue – a cross between a magazine and catalogue. Where once the catalogue was employed as a direct response tool, crammed with products to maximise orders, it has evolved to become a much richer brand experience. With much of digital media being geared towards instant action, consumers have stated that they prefer to receive catalogues and brochures by mail, spending time browsing through their pages and keeping it around the home for weeks, if not months.  Only 21% stated a preference for eCommerce. 

Royal Mail research reveals that today consumers use catalogues for inspiration or browsing when they're in a more relaxed mood or have more dwell time. They then go online to explore further or to place an order. Research shows that 65% like to browse through a catalogue and look online before making a purchase. Catalogues have become the showrooms or window displays that excite and entice the reader, as opposed to the salesmen they once were.

Print is seen as the 'quality' medium. So as well as reading catalogues in a different way, consumers are judging brands by the quality of catalogue they send out based on everything from the photography to the paper. By scrapping its catalogues Shop Direct has served to eradicate its place in the home and its differentiator. It remains to be seen whether this change in strategic direction will prove successful for Barclay Brothers.

Royal Mail offers a catalogue critique service to help brands increase catalogue ROI: