Home Articles Bringing the smarts to Australia’s catalogue industry amidst the COVID 19 pandemic

Bringing the smarts to Australia’s catalogue industry amidst the COVID 19 pandemic


COVID-19 has changed the world we live in. Decision makers across almost all industries have been forced to reevaluate even their most ingrained practices to keep up with the change of pace.

For brands and businesses of all sizes, one of the most conventional marketing staples is the print catalogue.

Unfortunately for this quaint relic from a bygone era, COVID-19 has accelerated the rise of eCommerce in Australia and shifted consumer habits, moving people even further away from a tactile reading experience onto a screen-based, digital experience.

In the past few weeks, we have seen some of Australia’s most prolific retailers like Kmart and Coles reassess their marketing practices.

They have been measuring this shift in consumer sentiment and preferences and taken the somewhat surprisingly controversial decision to prioritise digital catalogues over print.

I say surprisingly because for those working in marketing or media, we have long been aware of the obvious limitations of print media. But does this signal the end of the catalogue category entirely? 

What next for print media?

Many businesses are facing severe financial hardships and challenges in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as such, brands are searching for ways to scrimp and save by any means possible.

This has inevitably led to contractions in marketing spend, and every penny being accountable, and results driven. Traditionally, the beauty of the print catalogue was that it held a captive audience in the home.

A simple drop in the mailbox and you were certain to achieve many eyeballs on pages. Unfortunately, this scatter-gun approach will no longer cut it.

Personalised, planned, and measurable approaches to advertising are becoming more critical than ever and a more digital and integrated approach to catalogue marketing will have to be adopted to justify marketing spend and achieve impactful results.

At the end of the day there is no point advertising cat food to a dog owner!

One of the arguably positive side effects of Australians being confined to their homes and isolated during the pandemic was that we became more digitally literate, discovering more ways to accomplish daily tasks online, such as shopping, working, and communicating.

This accelerated level of digital literacy has dispelled the myth that many Australians are still offline and therefore cannot be reached through online channels.

This is also backed up by the increased popularity of online marketplaces like Amazon who get brands to pay for prominent media positions just as many retailers do in print.

With more Aussies purchasing and scrolling through these platforms than ever before, it is somewhat trivial for brands to try and compete with these marketplace giants through a static, printed, more-or-less untargeted catalogue.

 As these digital alternatives become more engrained in our daily lives, the future of businesses’ advertising efforts lay in digitised, clickable, shoppable and highly personalised customer experiences.

The rise of digital marketing

The inevitable shift to digital catalogues that will occur in the future will ultimately target more astute shoppers who are more likely to convert to sales.

Better offerings because of more measurable data will entice more repeat customers and in turn improve brand loyalty.

It comes down to having regular access to data and insights (for example Criteo’s Shopper Graph, containing 2.5 billion users), which paper catalogues do not provide, and bringing the smarts about their customers’ motivations, preferences and unique behaviours to provide hyper-relevant content at the moments that matter most.

The future of catalogues will rest on the back of measurable dollar spend, understanding the online marketplace and delivering quality, data-driven customer experiences. Aussie brands take note: “it’s the way we’ve also done things” is a mantra that will certainly lead to an early demise.

Colin Barnard is an experienced marketing leader with  more than 16 years in Digital. Skilled in Digital Strategy, Sales, E-commerce, CRM, and digital advertising. Strong business development professional with a Master’s degree and experience in senior leadership positions

Colin Barnard, Former Head of Retail & Google Shopping at Google & now Commercial Director, Criteo, ANZ
Colin Barnard, Former Head of Retail & Google Shopping at Google & now Commercial Director, Criteo, ANZ

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