A recent report by the Australasian Catalogue Association found that catalogues continue to grow in popularity and effectiveness, reaching more Australians than any other media.

 In fact, the research found that catalogues reach 19.7 million Australians – that’s more than Newspaper (16.4 million), TV (8 million), Radio (10.1 million) & Magazines (13.8 million).  Over three quarters of Australians aged 14+ have read a catalogue in the last month (October 2015) and 75% of Australians spend up to 20 minutes per week reading letterbox media. Importantly, catalogues continue to be the most useful media channel when making purchasing decisions, ranking in the top 3 across 17 market segments.

At Salmat we’re not surprised by the figures at all. Letterbox media is read and enjoyed by young and old according to Roy Morgan research from August. In fact, between 2013 and 2015, it has been the fastest growing media with Gen Z, while newspapers, magazines, commercial TV, radio and even Facebook have been losing traction with this generation. 

 Retailers know catalogues work, but some are more effective than others so we decided to conduct our own qualitative research to discover what creates an effective letterbox mailer and why catalogues continue to retain their appeal.

The science of letterbox media design 

Consumers are exposed to hundreds, if not thousands, of ads every week. If you want your letterbox mailer to stand out from the crowd, it needs to pass the “four second rule”. If your content doesn’t grab the reader’s attention immediately then it will end up in the junk pile. 

So how do you avoid the bin? First impressions count, so make your content eye-catching to ensure it gets noticed. Bright colours and interesting designs will help grab their attention and have them read further and making your mailer feel great will also improve readability. Remember that catalogues are a tactile experience, as well as visual.

Ensure you have clear cues that stand out to the reader and highlight why it is relevant to them. Most importantly, keep the content simple and straightforward. You want to make it as easy as possible for the reader to follow and take action.

 Design should differ across different retailer categories

If you are browsing for clothing, you would be turned off if the design resembled a supermarket specials catalogue.

How you design your mailer is very much dictated by the products you are selling and the reaction you want from the reader. As a general rule, clothing catalogues should be highly designed with a magazine style to generate a feeling of desire. Conversely, supermarket catalogues typically take advantage of creative designs, bright colours and highlight fresh food to inspire you to get cooking.

For a shopping centre mailer you should focus on visuals and showcase the variety of products available, food and beverage catalogues should utilise shapes and provide discount vouchers while pharmacy retailers should highlight their promotions with a clean layout and design.

Design for different audiences

It goes without saying, but your letterbox media needs to be designed to appeal to your audience first and foremost.

The content and design you use should depend largely on the demographic you are targeting. It’s likely you will be targeting one of three key areas – SINKs and DINKs, families or empty nesters – and each of these has very different needs and values.

SINKs and DINKs are typically time poor, have short attention spans are very image conscious. As such, your mailer should use visuals to stimulate them with an overall high quality design that meets their high expectations.

Families are also time poor, will usually be looking for assistance and are very budget conscious. Your mailer should emphasise how your products would make their lives easier and include coupons or vouchers that will provide tangible benefits for reading.

Empty nesters have more time on their hands and place more emphasis on supporting local business. As they have more time to read things thoroughly, your mailer should include more detailed information with insights and trends about your business and where it fits in locally.

Think closely about how your audience behaves and cater to their needs.

Why you should use catalogues

Roy Morgan research revealed catalogue readership has been growing since 2013, bucking the continuing downward trend in readership seen by newspapers. Today, catalogues reach over 600,000 more readers in an average seven-day period than metro papers, and around 4.3 million more than local and community newspapers.  

The benefit for advertisers is that Letterbox Media is cost effective and highly targeted. Where other print media can often have a lot of wastage, Letterbox Media can be targeted to ensure you are reaching the households that fit your target market in the relevant locations. 

It’s also a proven vehicle for driving sales. GfK found that while 80% of people reading printed catalogues are ‘just browsing’, 59% of those browsers are converted into buyers as a result of reading a printed catalogue.

Catalogues have a long, proven track record for Australian retailers, and now that retailers are beginning to blend print with digital, this media continues to go from strength to strength.

The big brands like Woolworths, Coles and Aldi continue to invest in letterbox media, but we are also seeing new players like Airbnb start to realise the benefits.

Competitive marketers who are already preparing for 2016 need to look at letterbox marketing as part of their overall strategy. Think big, think integrated and the results may surprise you. 

Sarah Pike is the Chief Marketing Officer at Salmat, a marketing services company.