Over the past five years, while people have debated the future of print media, retailers have developed an approach to direct marketing that balances multiple distribution channels, including web marketing, e-mail marketing and, of course, print media in the form of catalogs.

The decision-making is fact based: How much does it cost to acquire a customer through each channel and how much does that customer buy from me? The top-level conclusions are easy to see. Retailers still invest heavily in printed catalogs, along with creating e-commerce hubs on the web and using web marketing to drive traffic.

In an interview with eMarketer, Coy Clement of clementdirect, a direct marketing consulting firm, shares some of the insights he’s gleaned developing multi-channel strategies for retail clients.

Interestingly, behavior on the website is different on the part of people who used the catalog versus those who haven’t.

People who receive the catalog tend to use the Website differently from people who haven’t received a catalog. I’ve seen cases where people who’ve received the catalog buy the featured items. They know what they’re looking for, and they use the catalog as a guide to what the company is selling. People who show up through organic search or a corporate high-traffic site have much more difficulty navigating the Website because they really don’t know what the key items are.
points out that a multi-channel marketing strategy needs to be tailored to the behavior of the target consumers and adjusted for what you learn.

Interestingly, brand retention is higher on the part of people who have been exposed to the print catalog.

What is harder to measure, but still important, is the mindshare people have. This is particularly important for companies in fairly competitive fields. Let’s say you’re in a technology business and you look at people who don’t receive a catalog and people who do, and you do blind research, not telling them who the company is. You say, “Why don’t you tell me what you think of Dell or HP?” Researchers have found over the years that customers who receive catalogs tend to have a higher brand awareness and mindshare than people who don’t.

It’s as if the physical experience of the brand leaves an imprint.