Online retailing is booming. Yet it does so almost entirely without direct mail and printed advertising brochures. Providers such as the Dutch company, Publitas, enable retailers to publish dynamic and digital catalogues. The printing industry is nevertheless benefiting from the strong growth in e-commerce. The printing of packaging and a wide variety of inserts is worth its weight in gold.
The highest circulation printed product in the world, printed more times than even the Koran and the Bible, with an almost limitless reach: the printed IKEA catalogue was a legend. The end of the print product provoked a huge response when it was announced last year. At the time, it was said that changing customer behaviour and media consumption were the reasons. The Swedish furniture giant was thus following a trend that had also left its mark in Germany: the printed catalogue of the OTTO mail-order company had already been discontinued in 2018. On the Internet, the IKEA catalogue lives on – setting trends not only for bedrooms and kitchens, but also for digital marketing.
The software manufacturer Publitas, for example, is programming digital brochures: “With their dynamism, digital catalogues can hold readers’ attention for a long time,” says Julia Dahm, DACH regional manager for the company. This creates a strong association with the brand, she adds. In addition, “latent needs” of the consumer will be addressed. According to Publitas, about half of all visitors to a store do not initially know what they want to buy. At this point, digital lookbooks and catalogues are intended to encourage a purchase decision. Conversion is enabled “by integrating all information relevant to the purchase decision and add-to-cart functionality from the online store directly into the publication,” says Dahm. Data-driven detailed analyses of catalogue usage are also possible, in contrast to print catalogues.
But even in our increasingly digital world, anyone who wants to get their content out there has to keep in mind that not every use case can be digitized: If you’re in charge of your store all day, say in retail, you might prefer to have a flat brochure handy behind the counter instead of a monitor directly on the counter. The strategy for the best possible market penetration is therefore not based on the medium, but on the content: Content First is the motto. The focus is uncompromisingly on content. Channels are mere data carriers – regardless of whether they are published as audio, on the web or printed on paper.
For the printing industry, therefore, online retailing becomes exciting again when it leaves the digital world behind and takes place quite mundanely in analog life with its goods or advertisements. The printed intelligent packaging, delivery bill and invoice produced in transactional printing are only the tip of the printed goods: In the carton, there are usually other elaborately produced printed materials. Vouchers, operating instructions, (individualized) cards, labels, warranty certificates, brochures… and these are just the products that are printed on paper and cardboard. This means that the printing industry, with its traditional core business, is ultimately also benefiting from rising online sales.
The industry’s own sales structures are often already adapted to the “new normal” anyway: Online print is here to stay. One foot in the past, the other in the future – that is the reality for the printing industry. Software, such as WordPress with numerous add-ins, is the new angle hook for media designers. At its best, the constant balancing act between tradition and innovation ensures expertise and flexibility in all areas of the business. The position at the interface of digital and analogue doesn’t just result from the current market situation: We continue to live in an analogue, haptic world – no amount of digitization, no matter how profound, will change that.