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Printed Catalogues Increase Sales And Generate A Greater ROI

Catalogue Printing

It is no secret that catalogues are read and enjoyed by millions of people worldwide, but a study by Harvard Business Review has revealed just how much influence they can have on sales.

There was a curious list published online recently. For a medium that thrives on lists, this is nothing new. But this list was an inventory of digital retailers that currently use catalogues in their marketing. We will spare you a rundown of the complete list. Still, among the 57 largely US-based retailers, including 





Lands End 



These companies are successful market leaders who have built or expanded their retail empires with e-commerce.


Add the massive number of UK and European brands that continue to use catalogues as a central pillar of their marketing strategies, and you have a medium that’s bucking the trend of companies increasing their reliance on digital media. Not only has the number of catalogues increased since 2015, but response rates have also been growing – up 170% between 2004 and 2018.


Its secret? It works, and there’s an essential piece of research to back it up.

Catalogues: A Game- Changing Return on Investment (ROI)

This research comes in the form of a Harvard Business Review (HBR) study conducted just over a year ago. Designed to determine how much a print catalogue would impact sales, the study involved a large-scale field experiment with a luxury jewellery retailer sold exclusively online. With $60 million in annual revenue, this retailer is one of the largest in the US, with a loyal database of over 28,000 customers.


With the help of HBR, the company launched a new bi-monthly catalogue campaign featuring “professional and artistically rendered product photography with high-quality printing” sent to 40% of a random sample of customers. All purchases and product inquiries were tracked across this group and a control group that only received a weekly marketing email.


After six months of adding a catalogue to their marketing mix, they experienced


1. 15% increase in sales

2. 27% increase in enquiries

3. 15th increase in order size.


After crunching the numbers, the jewellers found that the 15% uplift in sales equated to a direct ROI of 600%. This is in addition to the increase in customer engagement from the rise in enquiries.

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The Vivid Medium

While an ROI of 600% should be reason enough for any brand to use catalogues, the study went further, surveying 500 random customers from the various groups to assess the perceived “vividness” of the catalogues versus the emails. They found that customers who received the catalogues found the product descriptions more vivid and could more easily imagine themselves wearing the product.


“Vividness is highly influential in consumer behaviour as it can increase consumer involvement and joy in the purchasing process, ultimately influencing preferences and sales,” wrote Jonathan Z Zhang of Colorado State University in HBR. “Vividness is especially important for hedonic products and services (versus utilitarian) that are purchased for fun, enjoyment and pleasure, and contain richer experiential aspects.”


Many studies and statistics illustrate the value of including printed products within the marketing mix; this is one of the few pieces of research that quantifies what effect adding a catalogue has on sales and, by extension, the ROI of a campaign. It’s a resounding vote of confidence for print catalogues and empirical evidence for the companies that already understand the power catalogues can have for their bottom line.



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