How to Integrate a Physical and Digital Catalog

We’ve been thrust into a digital age, where interactions, information retrieval, and most basic tasks can be completed in an online format, whether that’s through a website or on an app. At the same time, we still rely on the physical world for most of our needs. Some companies leverage the power of traditional, physical marketing and advertising methods while catering to a growing digital audience.

Sometimes, a great approach is to combine these somewhat counterintuitively linked realms. Here are some ways joint marketing strategies apply to product catalogs.

Why Traditional Marketing Still Exists

First, you may be wondering why companies aren’t going all-digital, but there are a number of motivations to preserve a traditional marketing strategy:

  • Affordability. Online printing centers like Printing Center USA are able to offer discounted printing services due to their large customer base, making it more affordable for businesses to take care of their printed and physical advertising needs.
  • Tradition. Some companies, like Oriental Trading, have built their entire business on principles associated with physically mailed catalogs. To abandon them would be a deviation from their established brand.
  • Customer preference. In some cases, business customers actually prefer mailed catalogs to digital ones, such as with older populations or more conservative customers. In fact, according to Harvard Business Review, the popularity of mailed catalogs is seeing a pronounced resurgence.

However, these motivations don’t prohibit you from also linking your physical strategy to a digital one. In the case of catalogs, it’s almost essential that you keep your physical and digital strategies working closely together.

Strategies for Integration

If you want to get the best of both worlds, you’ll need to rely on at least some of the following integration strategies:

  • Cross-promote. Your first strategy is the most obvious, and also one of the most effective; your goal here is to make each segment of your audience aware of all the options available to them through cross-promotion. You can go as simple or as complicated with this as you’d like. For example, you could include the URL of your website, or a QR code on all your catalogs, and offer free opportunities to sign up for printed catalogs on your website. Or you could develop more intricate marketing campaigns designed to encourage participation in both areas simultaneously.
  • Use similar images and wording. This is a solid principle for adhering to your brand standards, but it’s easy to lose sight of when you’re developing material for two different mediums. When possible, strive to use similar imagery, layouts, and wording in your printed catalogs and digital ones. This will allow for a smoother transition for customers trying to toggle between these options. You can still make each one unique – more on that in a moment – but you can’t make any customer feel alienated, or give the “wrong” impression of your brand to avoid losing customers.
  • Consider augmented reality. You could also take extra measures to get your physical audience participating in a digital way. We mentioned QR codes already, but any bridges you can build between physical and digital realms are a good idea.
  • Offer medium exclusives. Finally, you can offer exclusive incentives for each medium, to appeal to customers who have chosen that primary medium and attract more people to take advantage of both. For example, you could offer an exclusive discount to people who subscribe to your mailed catalog, or you could include some digital-only products. If you do this, be sure to advertise the incentives to encourage more people to take advantage of both forms.

Every brand is different, so every business will need to rely on a different combination of tactics to make these marketing strategies work. It’s not about fulfilling a requirement, and it’s not about abandoning one marketing method in favor of the other; instead, it’s about guaranteeing a seamless brand experience no matter what medium people choose to use to interact with your brand. Do this, and you’ll secure your audience’s loyalty for years to come

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.