Printed advertising

Customer communication: With or without a catalogue?

The end of the printed Ikea catalogue shows that digitalisation is progressing even faster than expected. Nevertheless, advertising messages in traditional form by no means lose their justification - examples show that.

Apr 30 2021

The cover shows a wing chair, next to it a quality seal with a quality guarantee: when Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad had his first catalogue printed in 1951, he could not have imagined that it would one day become a symbol for the rise of the Swedish furniture retailer - and for the transformation of the global furniture industry.

70 years later, however, Billy, Pax & Co. can no longer be viewed in the catalogue: Ikea has discontinued its catalogue. The end of the printed advertising message thus came more quickly than expected: Around 214 million of these colourful Ikea brochures were still distributed worldwide in 2014, it was the strongest year for the catalogue. Since then, it has gone steadily downhill: in 2019, there were only 124 million. 

In Germany, 23 million copies were still distributed in 2019, compared to only around eight million the previous year. The Corona crisis has once again intensified the trend towards digitalisation worldwide and thus also accelerated the end of the catalogue: Various lockdowns and other restrictions made it necessary to look for furniture and accessories on the internet - and many Germans have developed a taste for it and will in future look for their furniture on the internet even more than before and often buy it straight away.

In this respect, it is not surprising that the Swedes have done away with their print catalogue. After all, a book with the best memories from 70 years of print history is to be published this autumn.

The haptic experience of a print magazine cannot be replaced by digital browsing.  © Pixabay

Print at the end – but not quite 

Away from print, towards online - a logical development. Even large mail-order companies like Otto are already doing without printed catalogues. A similar trend can be observed in the media: Daily newspapers are becoming thinner, magazines are disappearing from the market. So does print no longer have a chance? We shouldn't rush into anything: print media will always have an importance: More than half of Germans are convinced that such media will still be important in ten years' time. 

What does that mean for the furniture industry? In the battle for attention, printed information will remain relevant in the future. One example is Ikarus: the furniture retailer specialising in designer pieces has been publishing a printed catalogue since 1994 - and will continue to rely on this way of reaching potential buyers in the future.

Initially published with a print run of around 100,000 copies, Ikarus now produces 650,000 design catalogues. This is proof of the growing fan base, says the company, which thus manages to combine offline and online: today, the entire range with more than 20,000 articles can be ordered on the internet. 

Print can therefore be used for a broad distribution on the one hand and for addressing specific target groups on the other. Thus, voucher booklets or the combination of content and marketing (such as home magazines of furniture retailers with useful content, but also product presentations) will be important in the future. In addition, the fewer brochures end up in the mailbox due to the general decline of print media, the greater the chance to attract positive attention with one's own message. This can be exploited, for example, in the form of so-called on-demand media.  

The tour operator FTI wants to say goodbye to printed catalogues, which are costly to produce and often no longer up-to-date when they appear. E-magazines are to replace them on the internet, but travel agencies will also be able to have extra print catalogues printed for their customers - with customised travel suggestions and ideas. There will also be quarterly mini-catalogues with current offers from FTI. The motto: less print, but more up-to-date and more targeted. A strategy that could be interesting for the furniture industry.

Print lives, because print media achieve high attention values. © Unsplash / Amador Loureiro

Standing out in the crowd 

In principle, it is sometimes easier to attract attention with print media than with digital media. In the mass of digital messages, furniture retailers could easily get lost with their offers. The hundredth e-mail and the thousandth Facebook advertisement are all too easily ignored. Reaching for the catalogue, on the other hand, is a conscious decision and has an emotional character as well as a haptic one.

This feeling of looking at ideas in a relaxed way is something that online shops and other web presences have only partially achieved so far, even if there are promising approaches. This is why, for example, the Munich furniture retailer Kare still sells a print magazine in Germany and Austria in which it presents its products - but it can also be viewed on the internet. This combination of offline and online world is typical for the optimal use of different media.  

In addition to the above-mentioned furniture catalogues or magazines, personalised messages, such as individualised mailings, are another way of not getting lost in the digital noise - and these are certainly also available in printed form. For example, participants in a loyalty programme can receive customised offers and vouchers for their next purchase. Here, attention must be paid to data protection (keyword DSGVO) on the one hand and cost-benefit analyses on the other. The fact is: print will continue to play a role for the furniture industry.

Author: Robert Prazak

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