Catalog marketing is a form of direct marketing in which consumers or business customers select and order products from a printed or online catalog, rather than visiting a retail outlet. Retail catalogs offer customers a variety of products from different suppliers; manufacturers use catalogs to market their own products. Almost half of U.S. consumers shop by catalog or online, according to Chief Marketer.


Research firm IBIS World reported that the top three categories of mail order catalog purchases are: drugs, health and beauty aids; clothing, jewelry and accessories; and furniture and household goods. For business-to-business catalogs, the top two categories are office and school supplies, followed by computer hardware, software and supplies.

Target Audience

Catalog marketers create mailing lists to distribute catalogs to prospects and existing customers. They refine the lists based on response from customers and their subsequent purchasing behavior. The high cost of producing printed catalogs encourages marketers to remove names of prospects that do not buy over a period of time, according to Catalog Marketing Economics. This enables them to reduce printing and mailing costs without affecting top-line revenue.


Following the initial distribution of the catalog, marketers maintain contact with prospects by mail or email to make special offers or provide details of new products not included in the original catalog. Marketers build profiles of customers based on their purchase history. They use the profile information and customer preferences to create targeted offers for individual customers or groups of customers with similar characteristics.


The response mechanism is one of the most important parts of the catalog marketing program. Marketers aim to make the ordering process as simple and convenient as possible. Printed catalogs include a number of order forms that customers complete and return by free business reply mail. Catalogs also include a toll-free telephone number or website address that customers can use to place orders

Multichannel Marketing

Catalog marketers who combine printed catalogs with online can improve sales results, according to research by the U.S. Postal Service. Customers who received a printed catalog purchased 28 percent more items online than those without a catalog. More than 80 percent of respondents claimed that they found it easier to have a printed catalog open when ordering online.