The thirst for analogue experiences extends to a range of areas, not least retail.
“Digital is one dimension of modern retail and it underpins it all, but it’s only one aspect,” observes Ian Johnston, Founder and Creative Director of UK-based retail experience consultancy Quinine. “Humans have five senses and not all customer experiences translate well to digital – and people are starting to realise this. Post Covid, we’re all likely to crave analogue experiences and catalogues could well be part of this package,” he says.
Catalogues show increasing response rates
“Brands have to figure out ways of presenting themselves in people’s homes – and this is an opportunity. The catalogue could play a part in this relationship-building exercise,” says Johnston
Even before the crisis hit, surveys conducted by the likes of Harvard Business Review showed that catalogues were enjoying a resurgence with increasing response rates. Post Covid, it’s paramount to be able to connect with consumers inside their homes, as this is where many will have their only physical retail interaction.
“Brands have to figure out ways of presenting themselves in people’s homes – and this is an opportunity."
“Brands have to figure out ways of presenting themselves in people’s homes – and this is an opportunity. The catalogue could play a part in this relationship-building exercise,” says Johnston. “One of the charms of the catalogue is that it takes you away from browsing, inviting you to create your own narrative without distraction and being told ‘what other people bought,’” he says.
Argos caused a consumer outcry
When major UK retailer Argos decided to go digital in July 2020 and drop its famous product tome – loved by all ages for generations – a consumer outcry followed.
From a branding perspective, Johnston finds this move incomprehensible. “When Argos decided to digitalise its catalogue, it became clear that they hadn’t recognised the attributes and characteristics worth holding on to. It was such a missed opportunity not to bridge the gap between online and offline, bringing in a tactile element in some way. Why not digitally replicate the analogue experience, perhaps by exploring the notion ‘the way I use the Argos catalogue’? Even in a fully digital format, they could have let the catalogue live on in some way, perhaps by including the sound and visual experience of flipping pages and adding in the ability to mark up and rip out pages to create your wish-list,” suggests Johnston.
"Find a use for it"
Commenting on the retail paper product more widely, the consumer behaviour expert stresses the importance of finding a secondary use for it. “Be inventive – how can the catalogue be given a second life once the consumer has finished reading it?” he asks. “Find a use for it in the home – be it wrapping paper or decorative origami – and your brand will continue to have a presence in people’s everyday lives – as far as branding opportunities go, it doesn’t get better than this”, Johnston concludes.