Catalogs may seem like an outdated way to grab shoppers.
But not if your target is millennials.
Studies from the Data & Marketing Association have shown that the response rate for catalogs has increased in recent years in part because less mail is being sent and millennials happen to like catalogs more than other age groups do.
"Millennials stand out a bit higher than other generations in terms of engaging with mail," said Neil O'Keefe, the association's senior vice president of marketing and content. "It's unique to the generation that hasn't experienced the amount of mail of past generations."
O'Keefe says that a higher level of interest in catalogs is better at driving sales than some other forms of digital marketing. "Millennials are very engaged by imagery, and the catalog really allows that to stand out. So the response rate there is very different than what you would experience with a display ad, even an email. The response rate for a printed piece has been on the rise as of late."
Millennials may be particularly interested in catalogs, but they're not alone.
Hamilton Davison, president of the American Catalog Mailers Association, said half of all Americans order from catalogs even if they don't immediately flip through the mailers. He said U.S. Postal Service studies had found that after periodicals and bills, catalogs attract the next most eyeballs, getting as much attention as personal correspondence. "Catalogs come uninvited in the home, and yet they're welcome" Davison said.
The Dingley Press prints catalogs for businesses from companies selling such things as seeds for gardening and home furnishings.
"Catalogs are a successful marketing tool because it forces consumers to make an active choice: 'Do I throw it away, or do I look at it?'" said Jim Gibbs, Dingley's vice president of sales.
He also said a catalog shopper is often more valuable: "Web shoppers are price-driven. A catalog consumer is generally an enthusiast of your brand and will spend more."
"While we use online sites to search for products, the typical consumer won't scroll past the first page of results," said Greg Portell, lead partner in A.T. Kearney's consumer and retail practice. "That creates an efficient shopping transaction but not necessarily a good experience. While not a perfect analog, catalogs get closer to an experience."