This weekend, I was interested to read that Next clothing sales have overtaken those of ailing retailer M&S for the first time ever. Business analysts are putting this success down to better design, the success of the company’s online business but also, intriguingly, to its printed catalogue (the Next Directory). In fact, directory sales between November and December 2013 were a staggering 21% higher than the same period for 2012 and 12% higher for the year as a whole.
Who would have thought that, in this age of online shopping, a trusty old catalogue would play such a critical role in the success of a high-street chain?
Like many women (and men), I’ve been a Next customer for years. I like their clothes and most of them are fairly reasonably priced. I also really like their catalogue. Buying groceries online may be ok but, when it comes to clothes, I enjoy browsing through a proper catalogue. Call me old fashioned but, judging by its recent success, this is a view shared by many other customers.
Anyone who has ever ordered a Next catalogue will know that it’s a weighty tome – this year’s summer catalogue is 750 pages long. Sending out a brochure of this size may not be particularly environmentally friendly. However, there really is no replacement for thumbing the pages of a well-designed, professional and attractive brochure.
This got me thinking about my own business and the needs of my customers. Unsurprisingly, the focus of my work has been online copywriting rather than print marketing in recent years. This isn’t a decision I’ve taken: it reflects the changing needs of my customers.
However, in the past year, I’ve received an increasing number of requests for printed leaflets, brochures and other documents from some of my larger customers. This includes FTSE companies and large public sector bodies. Could it be that we are seeing renewed interest in print marketing?
There is little doubt that online marketing is one of the fundamental drivers in business success in the 21st century. You only have to look at a company like Morrisons to see what happens when you ignore online marketing. This supermarket chain has struggled to keep up with the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury’s in recent years and this is partly due to its lack of a website (until 2013).
I firmly believe that there is still a place for printed marketing in our online world. In my view, most businesses need to find the right mix of old-fashioned online and print marketing to help drive business success.