The Year Ahead for Catalogs and Magalogs

By Elizabeth Gooding / Published:

The catalog and magazine segment is an interesting one, both in terms of inkjet potential and the demand for catalogs overall. Given that this has been a market in overall decline, the future looks unexpectedly bright. Between 2006 and 2016, U.S. catalog mailings dropped by somewhere between 35% and 46% according to the American Catalog Mailers association. Much of that downturn was due to the worldwide financial mess that ran into the early years of this decade, but current trends are looking up – particularly for catalogs.

You may have read about major web retailers like Amazon and EBay launching print catalogs for the 2018 holiday season. The catalyst for the catalogs was the $6.5 billion hole in the market left by the bankruptcy of Toys R Us which had a tremendously successful catalog fueled business. Amazon’s foray into catalog sales essentially turned the model on its head by offering no prices, limited descriptions and instead using pictures and QR codes to drive consumers online.

Then there are the “Magalogs”

Brands may be moving more of their retail online, but they don’t want to lose the connection with consumers that brick and mortar sites allow. Hence the mix of magazine and catalog that allows brands to tell their story while selling their products. Some companies like Jetty make the magalog a premium gift with purchase rather than, or in addition to, a prospecting tool. The 2018 Jetty Magalog is mailed free to customers who order $75 or more.

As online retailers embrace the potential for print they are also leveraging data to customize the amount and type of content. They may target a larger catalog or magalog to a new prospect and a shorter version, or teaser, to customers who already shop with them online. This type of flexibility is where inkjet shines.

This is why I’m excited about inkjet and catalogs, magalogs and even magazines in the coming year. At the same time that retail brands are rediscovering the value of catalogs and direct mail, the inkjet industry is stepping up to close the gaps in commercial print productivity. The post Inkjet for Catalogs and Magazines – What Matters? talked about challenging production requirements for these applications such as thinner, lighter weight papers for inside pages and coated stock for covers. The double whammy requirement for thin paper (60 – 70 gsm) coupled with heavy ink coverage has been a challenge for inkjet. Until recently, printing on offset coated stocks was not feasible. Now printers have several options to consider:

  • UV Inkjet devices: For short run catalog applications with lower price sensitivity, sheet-fed UV inkjet can support thin substrates, glossy covers and other substrates in the mix such as plastic.
  • Continuous Aqueous: For longer runs, aqueous pigment ink, drying and paper transport on several devices have advanced to allow printing on necessary substrates without curl or cockle at higher coverage limits. (Check device finder and filter by application – Catalog and Magazine)
  • Inkjet/Offset hybrid: For long runs, companies are investing in custom-built inkjet/offset hybrid devices to enable versioning and personalization at high speed.
  • Mixing it up: Some companies have had success with printing portions of the catalog or magazine on offset or toner devices and a portion on inkjet blending personalization, speed and cost considerations. For an example, check out Inkjet and Offset Magazine at Print’18.

Maybe some of your clients pulled back from print in recent years, but now is a great time to talk to them about catalogs or magalogs. You can share great statistics like the fact that 42 percent of people say that they read the catalogs they receive in the mail and another 25 percent at least scan them. Also, according to the DMA Statistical Fact Book 2018,  90.9% of merchants cite catalogs as a primary marketing tool and 44.4% reported that their circulation increased in the past year, meaning more catalogs sent.

Keep in mind that print can’t be an isolated channel in this context. Successful catalogs designs must lead the buyer to easily complete the transaction using another channel, typically the web or a mobile app and possibly by phone. Supporting your print capabilities with design, augmented reality, app design and or web marketing can also help to make your 2019 a great year for catalogs.

About the Author

Elizabeth Gooding


Elizabeth is the Editor and Co-founder of Inkjet Insight. She has a rare ability to see print related issues from many perspectives. She has managed creative teams on complex design projects, selected outsourcers for major brands and helped print organizations to retool operations, focus their market positioning and educate sales teams to accelerate growth. She works with a team of top analysts to translate experiences into tools, data and content to help print organizations evaluate the potential of inkjet, optimize their operations and grow pages profitably. She is a founding member of the Inkjet Summit advisory board, the co-author of an award-winning book on designing for inkjet and a curious consultant constantly seeking innovative ways to drive new pages onto inkjet presses.

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