How to Reduce the Fixed Costs of Print Catalogs

Despite the rapid growth of online shopping and buying, print catalogs are still an important marketing tool for many companies. In the US alone, over 20 billion catalogs were mailed in 2010. Even companies that sell primarily online can benefit from using print catalogs. Research commissioned by the United States Postal Service has shown that catalog recipients are more likely to make a purchase than shoppers who don’t receive them, and catalog recipients typically buy more items and spend more money.

Nevertheless, marketers are facing growing pressures to make print catalogs more cost effective. Shorter product cycles, new product releases, and changing market conditions can require more frequent catalog updates to keep the information fresh and accurate. And, frequent revisions will obviously increase the costs of using print catalogs.

Most of the costs associated with print catalogs fall into one of three broad categories:

  • Design/pre-production costs
  • Print manufacturing costs
  • Delivery costs (postage)

Print manufacturing costs and postage are variable costs. They will increase or decrease depending on the number of catalogs that are printed and mailed. Marketers have used a variety of tactics to reduce these costs, including reducing catalog circulation, reducing the number of pages in catalogs, and changing manufacturing specifications (less expensive paper stock, etc.).

In contrast to manufacturing costs and postage, catalog design and pre-production costs are primarily fixed expenses. Most design and pre-production costs do not vary based on the number of catalogs that are printed and mailed, although some will vary based on the number of unique catalog pages that are created. To reduce these costs, a growing number of companies are implementing software technologies that automate many catalog design and pre-production processes.

A robust technology solution for automating catalog production will contain two core components.

A product information management system (PIMS) that provides a central repository for the product information (images, descriptions, prices, etc.) that will be used in the catalog. For global enterprises, the product information management system must be capable of managing multiple versions of the information assets, such as multilingual product descriptions and prices in multiple currencies. In the ideal scenario, the product information system will automatically obtain current product prices directly from the company’s financial management (ERP) software.

A dynamic publishing engine that enables catalog designers to create stylesheets or templates for catalog pages and include “tags” that create links to the data contained in the product information management system. The dynamic publishing component uses these stylesheets and links to automatically “build” the catalog pages without further human involvement.

Automating catalog pre-production will dramatically lower the “fixed” costs associated with print catalogs. In addition, catalog automation technologies will significantly shorten the time required to produce catalogs, thus enabling companies to keep catalogs current and fresh.

If print catalogs are an important part of your marketing mix, these technologies are worth a serious look.

This post was previously published on the Adam Software Blog.

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Author:Jan Dejosse

CMO - ADAM Software

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