Monday, December 14, 2009

In Digital Era, Marketers Still Prefer a Paper Trail

An excerpt from the Wall Street Journal - Friday, October 16, 2009 - By Jeffrey Ball

"Never is the elusiveness of a paperless world more evident that at this time of year, when mail boxes overflow with catalogs and holiday cards.

More than 17 billion catalogs were mailed in the U.S. last year - about 56 for every American. So why does the catalog, which helped Richard Sears launch his eponymous retail empire more than a century ago, continue to thrive in the electronic age? Because glossy catalog pages still entice buyers in a way that computer images don't. Catalogs, marketers say, drive sales at Web sites, making them more important than ever.

Among retailers who rely mainly on direct sales, 62% say their biggest revenue generator is a paper catalog, according to the latest survey by the Direct Marketing Association of its members. Only a fifth of those retailers say they draw their biggest sales from their Web sites.

That is why virtually no one expects the mail-order catalog to go away - even though only 1.3% of those catalogs generated a sale, a survey found.

Internet retailing has environmental consequences, notably energy-consuming Web servers. The catalog industry says it is working hard to reduce the environmental impact of its mailings by pushing retailers to increase their reliance on recycled paper and by making it easier for consumers to opt out of mailings they don't want to receive."