Catalog Circulation Best Practices

Whether you have an existing catalog channel for your business or are seeking to start one to complement your e-commerce strategy, developing a plan for circulation is a wise move. We will share some catalog circulation plan best practices that have helped our clients.

Six Steps for Catalog Circulation Management
What might seem like a daunting task becomes routine with a bit of planning and practice. We recommend having a plan that includes the following steps:

1. Decide who should receive your catalog. Consider the mix of house and rentals lists that you plan to use for each mailing. Your ratios will differ based on the purpose of your mailing. Catalog start-ups and established businesses that have low customer retention rates require a higher percent of prospects in their circulation plan.

2. Catalog circulation specialists use RFM (Recency, Frequency, Monetary Value) segmentation as part of circulation planning. RFM segmentation allows you to extract the top performing buyers from your customer file. More advanced circulation techniques include incorporating other variables such as email opt-in status, transaction channel preference, customer scoring, product, customer type, etc.

3. Develop a forecast for orders and revenue. Once you have basic metrics from past catalog mailings, it becomes easier to develop an annual circulation plan that accurately forecasts revenue by segment. Use the same RFM logic in every mailing. When you are consistent, you’ll be able to group and track the performance of like segments year over year.

4. If you have an existing online business and a high % of your new customer acquisition is sourced via online digital programs, then you need to calculate your organic sales rate.  Hold-out tests are an important component of catalog strategy and will help you understand what % of match-back sales should be attributed to print catalogs.

5. Track results from each mailing. Some things to look at include:

  • percent response
  • average order
  • dollars per catalog
  • seasonal influences
  • acquisition cost (if prospecting)
  • signs of list fatigue

6. Refine future catalog circulation planning and develop a customer contact strategy based on prior campaign and test results. The idea is that you can improve catalog circulation in a way that optimizes target customer reach and grows your brand.

  • How frequently should each customer segment receive a catalog from you?
  • How many catalogs should you print?
  • Is there an opportunity to mail deeper into your customer file?

Need help getting started? Contact us for a consultation about catalog circulation management or marketing. We have extensive experience integrating catalogs with digital programs.


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