• on Jun 2nd, 2014 in Products & Services | 1 comment

    If your favorite catalog looks more like the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition or even an issue of Life magazine, there’s a good reason. These high-end photo displays and glossy spreads help retailers sell products online. Retailers are pouring more money into catalog design, including expensive photo shoots, because they find this drives online and in-store sales. Catalogs and other hard copy advertising act as bait to lure the customer into online or brick-and-mortar shopping.

    So it would seem that physical stores and hard-copy ads are not dead; they are evolving to complement a retailer’s digital presence. As a Wall Street Journal article noted, the catalog is like “a store window display, and a source of inspiration, the way roaming through store aisles can be.” Bonobos, a menswear store that advertises better-fitting pants, started to dabble in catalog mailings and found they had a significant impact on sales. The company found that 20 percent of its new customers had received a catalog, and those that do get catalogs spend 1.5 times as much as new shoppers who don’t receive a catalog.

    But the convergence of digital and physical shopping goes beyond the continuing popularity of catalogs. Retailers can no longer view online sales and sales at physical stores in isolation. Customers are browsing and shopping using both mediums jointly. These days many consumers use online research before they make a purchase in a physical store, what is known as webrooming. They also browse physical merchandise in stores before buying an item online, a practice called showrooming. According a report by Accenture, 78 percent of survey respondents have used webrooming and 72 percent of respondents have used showrooming.

    Clearly, the Postal Service benefits from more catalogs in the mail and ensuing parcel fulfillment. But it would also benefit from a surge in advertising directed at both the physical and online presence simultaneously. For example, at the most recent PostalVision 2020 conference, retailers showed how they are embedding digital advertising into physical objects. Marks and Spencer is producing a catalog that customers can scan and go directly to the company’s online catalog where they can make purchases. Ikea has a catalog that allows customers to see what furniture would look like in their house. Advertisers could embed digital coupons into advertisements that allow recipients either to use the coupon in the physical store or scan it and go directly to the website with the discount code activated.

    What do you think? Will embedding digital advertising into physical mail help to maintain or stem the decline in advertising mail? What other opportunities could the Postal Service benefit from related to the convergence of digital and physical shopping?

  • on Feb 8th, 2010 in Strategy & Public Policy | 23 comments
    Courtesy of Apple

    Last August, Pushing the Envelope ran a topic on e-readers — devices designed for portable book reading. Two weeks ago, Apple unveiled the iPad. The iPad offers multiple functionality including the ability to read books, surf the Internet, and use computer applications. Unlike most e-readers, the iPad does not have virtual ink technology, which is intended to mimic paper and make reading more pleasant, but it has one key difference from other widely-used e readers — a color display.

    Newspapers and magazines have particularly expressed interest in a portable device that would electronically display their content in color. They hope to sell electronic versions of their traditional product — stories and advertisements that are easy to read anywhere. Is the iPad the answer? Will magazines and newspapers migrate to color devices like the iPad? What about catalogs? If people can easily read, view, and order items from a computer tablet on their couch, will retailers start sending digital catalogs? Or is the immediacy of receiving a physical paper catalog irreplaceable? What do you think? This topic is hosted by the OIG’s Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).