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Print Catalog Strategy: How to Modernize the Traditional Catalog with Digital Technology

first-print-catalog-tiffanys-artisan-colour-268x300In 1845, Tiffany & Co. released the first-ever Blue Book catalog. For the first time, customers could shop for goods without stepping into a store.

This retail revolution changed product accessibility and drastically improved the customer experience. Other retailers were quick to catch on to Tiffany’s innovative concept of mail-order shopping.

In 1872, a traveling salesman named Aaron Montgomery Ward printed a one-page catalog featuring 160 items and ordering instructions for his customers in remote areas. Inspired by the Montgomery Ward catalog, Richard Sears and Alvah Roebuck printed the first Sears Roebuck catalog in 1888. Initially focusing on watches and jewelry, it soon expanded to include a vast array of goods and became one of the most famous print catalogs in American history.

Today, print catalogs continue to thrive–but with a digital twist.

Here’s how modern businesses leverage the trusted tradition of print catalogs with the flexibility of digital technology to create a customer experience that's as memorable and enduring as Tiffany & Co. jewelry.

> From Page to Screen: 3 Ways to Integrate Print Catalogs with Digital 
> Tailoring the Narrative: Personalized Catalog Printing Techniques
> Picture Perfect Catalogs: Color Consistency Across Mediums

From Page to Screen: 3 Ways to Integrate Print Catalogs with Digital 

QR Codes  

QR codes have evolved from simple scanning tools to powerful interactive platforms, seamlessly blending print catalogs' tangible appeal with the digital world's limitless possibilities. By leveraging QR codes, catalog recipients can access a variety of content–videos showcasing 3D experiences, product demonstrations, and live customer support chats ready to answer questions in real-time.

For instance, IKEA allows customers to visualize furniture in 3D within their own spaces, significantly elevating the shopping experience and boosting sales.

QR codes offer a wealth of opportunities for businesses to engage with their customers in a more targeted and effective manner. Here are three examples of how:

> Dynamic Content Adaptation: QR codes can redirect to dynamic content that changes based on time, location, or consumer behavior. For example, imagine a print catalog where a QR scan in the morning shows breakfast products, but in the evening, it displays dinner-related items.  
> Boost Consumer Trust and Transparency: By linking to detailed product stories, sourcing information, or ethical practices, QR codes can build a deeper level of trust and transparency between brands and consumers. This is particularly effective in sectors where product origin and sustainability information are key purchasing factors.
> Enhanced Tracking and Analytics: QR codes that link to unique URLs allow for precise tracking of user engagement and conversions. By analyzing the traffic from these scans, businesses can understand which products or pages in the catalog are capturing the most attention and tailor their marketing collateral accordingly. 

Informed Delivery  

The USPS offers a service called Informed Delivery® which bridges the gap between the physical allure of print catalogs and the instant gratification of digital communication.

Here’s how it works.

Informed Delivery provides recipients with a digital preview of their incoming mail–including catalogs. The standard digital preview is just a basic black-and-white scan of the mailpiece; however, for a small fee, USPS allows businesses to amp up the standard scan with vibrant, full-color images and banners, known as “ride-along” content. 

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Example of a standard black-and-white scan vs. scan enhanced with ride-along content.

Ride-along content turns a standard mail scan into an exciting and interactive preview and reignites the excitement traditionally associated with receiving a printed catalog in the mail. To maximize the benefits of Informed Delivery for your catalogs, here are three highly effective strategies to consider:

> Tease key highlights or new product launches featured in the catalog. The goal here is to strategically reveal just enough to spark interest and excitement.
> Promote exclusive offers through Informed Delivery that can only be accessed in the printed catalog. This encourages customers to thoroughly explore the physical catalog while also increasing its perceived value. 
> Highlight interactive elements, such as video demonstrations that can only be accessed through a QR code in the physical catalog. 

Email Marketing 

The teaser strategies used with Informed Delivery also work extremely well with email marketing. In fact, e-commerce businesses that sent a sneak peek of their catalog contents via email saw a 15% increase in sales. Here’s how.

Use email marketing as a teaser to highlight key features or new products that will be available in the upcoming catalog to build anticipation for its arrival. After the catalog has been delivered, follow up with personalized emails that offer customer reviews or limited-time discounts.  

Tailoring the Narrative: Personalized Catalog Printing Techniques 

Modern print catalogs are a far cry from their one-size-fits-all predecessors. Businesses are now creating personalized shopping experiences and tailoring catalogs to align with specific customer preferences.

How does personalization work with print catalogs?

Variable data printing allows for unprecedented personalization by leveraging customer data to customize individual elements within each printed piece–such as text, images, and graphics.

While personalized marketing has been one of the biggest print marketing trends of the past few years, personalized catalog printing comes with some additional business-boosting benefits.

Personalization allows businesses to use marketing resources more effectively, enhancing ROI by sending fewer catalogs to low-intent prospects and delivering more personalized ones to customers with greater purchase interest.

Here’s how.

> First, do a deep dive into your customer data to identify specific niches and verticals. This allows you to hyper-target catalog content and ensures it hits the mark every time.
> Leverage short-run catalog printing services to produce limited batches of hyper-personalized catalogs without compromising your ROI. 
> Use digital catalogs for their wide reach and complement them with targeted print catalogs to provide different audience segments with the products and catalog content that resonate best with them. 
> Reference data from digital catalog interactions to shape both your digital and print catalog content. 

Picture Perfect Catalogs: The Importance of Color Consistency Across Mediums 

Color consistency is the backbone of brand integrity and customer trust. However, multi-channel marketing strategies come with one major challenge.

The challenge lies in the inherent differences between digital (RGB) and print (CMYK) color models. This disparity can cause significant variances in how colors are perceived, leading to potential customer dissatisfaction and harm to brand reputation.

Whether for print or digital catalogs, understanding the distinct technical aspects of each medium, such as color profiles, is essential for ensuring the product images in a catalog are represented accurately. 

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Catalog images before and after color management to showcase the product's true colors.

Capturing the true essence of a product's color requires expertise in catalog printing, editing, photography, and color management techniques.

For most businesses, it’s best to partner with a catalog printing and production company that specializes in color management since they will utilize sophisticated color-matching systems and calibrated workflows to achieve accurate color representation across all media. 

Catalog Printing Excellence with Artisan Colour

Many of the nation’s top brands entrust Artisan Colour to produce their catalogs–and your business can, too.  

With comprehensive catalog production and printing services under one roof–including in-house photography, on-site photography, image retouching, color management, and digital asset management–businesses across all industries have relied on Artisan Colour for over 25 years.

Sundance has been lucky enough to partner with Artisan for nearly two decades. In that time as technology has changed, so has Artisan. They have grown prudently, but always on the cutting edge of technology. The strong, steady leadership they have in place allows customers an assurance that their projects are in good hands. We consider them a valued and trusted partner.” –Director of Creative Services Production, Sundance Catalog

Connect with Artisan Colour today to learn how our expertise can transform your print catalogs into powerful marketing tools.