A marketing catalogue, or catalog, lists several of the products that a merchant sells to its customers, and this list often includes short written descriptions of each product and pictures of the product. The merchant traditionally mails catalogues that have a book or magazine format, although some merchants also provide online catalogues on their websites. Catalogue marketing is relatively expensive compared to postcards, fliers and other types of direct mail advertisements.
The large size of a printed catalogue requires the marketer to use a lot of paper to produce the catalogue. Some customers don't like to receive catalogues in the mail because of this paper consumption. A marketer can print the catalogue on recycled paper to reduce the amount of resources catalogue creation consumes or use biodegradable ink to make the catalogue easier to recycle.
Catalogues can fill up a customer's mailbox, especially when several marketers send catalogues on the same day. There is a do not call list that prevents marketers from making phone calls to potential customers, but there is no comparable list for catalogue mailers. A customer can send an opt out request to the marketer, which tells the marketer not to mail any more catalogues in the future.
Because of the high cost of catalogue production, the marketer usually sends a catalogue out infrequently, such as once a year or once each season. The information may become out of date if the company changes its product line during the period or it runs out of an item. When a company has a short term sale, it can send out a smaller mailing, such as a flier.
Market segmentation reduces the expense of catalogue production. A department store can send out one catalogue that lists men's clothing and another catalogue for women's clothing. A large retailer may separate product types, sending out one catalogue for work tools and another for home appliances. Targeted catalogues typically use broad classifications because production costs would be too high to make a custom catalogue for an individual.
The store can also keep a list of customers who have purchased products directly from the catalogue in the past and send out new catalogues only to customers on the list or customers who request the catalogue. According to the Federal Trade Commission, creating customer lists is common in catalogue marketing because mailing a catalogue involves the cost of postage and the cost of printing the catalogue, unlike marketing methods that consume fewer resources such as phone calls and electronic mail.