Is Your DTC Brand Catalog-Ready? The 5 Essential Elements of Success

Direct-to-consumer brands are always looking for innovative ways to stand out from the competition. For many established brands today, the channel with the most potential is one that’s been around for decades: catalogs

Catalogs can help DTC businesses attract new customers, increase average order values, test offers, and drive overall brand awareness. Customers love the tangible, immersive experience of catalogs. 

“I've seen a lot of brands that are e-commerce only and get to a certain point and plateau,” said Rick Binger, an industry legend who was responsible for the ongoing strategy, design, and production of catalogs such as Design Within Reach, Nickelodeon, Benefit Cosmetics, and Restoration Hardware. 

“They can't figure out why they're not continuing to bring in new customers, increase their AOV,” he said, on a recent episode of the Nerd Marketing podcast. “Getting out in the mail can be a very effective strategy for almost any brand.” 

Producing a catalog can be fun and profitable. But it’s also a considerable undertaking. Catalogs generally take about six months to produce and require an up-front investment of marketing dollars. 

Binger shared the 5 factors that determine whether a brand is ready to make the leap—and that will set them up for catalog success. 

1. Wide Product Range

A catalog needs enough products to display—not just to create a rich customer experience, but to drive enough sales that the book pays off. Ecommerce brands should have 50 to 100 unique products, excluding variations or color options, to consider creating a catalog, Binger said. 

“That allows for an average of two to four products per page, with a minimum of 24 pages,” he said. “Even better is if they’re products that aren’t available anywhere else.” 

Smaller catalogs—eight or 16 pages—can feel flimsy given normal catalog paper weights. Brands with fewer products should consider a Cardalog, a trifold postcard that feels substantial and offers enough space to show off a selection of products. A selection is especially important for acquisition campaigns.  

2. Substantial Customer List 

Binger advises having at least 5,000 to 10,000 shoppers in your house customer file. Brands that want to prospect with catalogs need to rent mailing lists from data aggregators. Those aggregators build lookalike files based on your existing customers, and need enough volume to identify potential customers with similar attributes. 

3. Cohesive Brand Experience

“You really want the catalog and the website to feel unified and to have the same look and feel,” Binger said. 

That creates a seamless transition from catalog browsing to online purchasing, and strengthens the brand image. The cohesion might come as you’re designing the catalog; brands should review their website's design elements to align with the aesthetics of their print materials.

4. Sufficient Budget

“Printing and mailing a catalog isn’t cheap,” Binger said. Ecommerce brands should expect to pay $1 to $2 per catalog, with an initial mailing of at least 50,000 catalogs to gather data and achieve desirable response rates. Businesses should also be able to finance multiple catalog releases rather than treating it as a one-time endeavor. 

“If I had a client come to me and say they wanted to do that, I would tell them not to even do the first catalog,” he said. 

Cardalogs let brands get many of the benefits of catalogs without the huge upfront investment. They have lower costs—prices start at 79 cents each—and no minimums.

5. Dedicated Staff

“Brands should have at least a bare-bones team that can handle this new channel,” Binger said.

Creating a catalog is usually a six-month process that involves conceptualizing, designing, producing and mailing. There will be covers to mock up, photo shoots to organize, copy to write, and paper decisions to be made.

Even if you’re working with an agency, it’s important to have an internal liaison who can oversee catalog-related tasks and make sure that samples go out for photography and the executive team proofs the final product. 

Cardalogs require far less bandwidth, especiall with PostPilot's concierge service. We can handle everything from strategy to design to stamp-licking.

Is your DTC brand catalog-ready (or Cardalog-ready)?

Direct mail is a valuable marketing tool for DTC brands to engage customers, showcase products, and inspire purchases. Having these five elements in place will give your ecommerce brand the highest chance of success with catalogs. If you're not ready for a catalog, Cardalogs are a powerful alternative—or even a complement to an existing catalog strategy. They blend the space of catalogs with the speed of postcards, delivering high engagement and conversions without the need for a long lead time, huge investment or dedicated team.

Get started with your Cardalog today.

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