Are Print Product Catalogs Dead?

Michelle Lawrence Picture

by Michelle Lawrence | Last Updated: Aug 30, 2023

As a kid, I loved to pick out back-to-school clothes in a physical catalog.  But as I  (and technology) grew up, I found that I preferred “Adding to Cart” rather than taking the time to flip through a physical catalog. The experience is easier and I don’t have to save the physical catalog for when I’m in the mood to shop. 

Physical product catalogs are dead, not only from the consumer’s point of view but from a marketer’s outlook as well.  Let’s explore why.

Challenges of Print Product Catalogs

If you’re still printing product catalogs, you’ve likely felt the following frustrations at one point during the process. Here are the many challenges that are associated with printed product catalogs. 

Production Costs

If your company uses printed product catalogs as one of its primary ways to generate revenue and brand awareness, you likely are using a large portion of your marketing budget to do so. 

Shipping and printing costs can vary a great deal with brands spending anywhere from  $10,000 to millions.

I admittedly am a part of Ulta Beauty’s mailing list and seem to get a new printed catalog in my mailbox at least once a month. Your company might not be sending out that many catalogs, but if you’re sending at least one catalog per season, that’s $40,000+ just on printing and shipping costs alone. 

Even worse news - if your product catalog is going unopened by consumers, that’s a ton of money and paper being wasted.

Long Timelines

Creating printed catalogs takes significantly more time from start to finish than digital product catalogs.  

It’s safe to assume that brands that are still using printed catalogs have not invested in a Product Information Management (PIM) solution to organize and store their product data. This means the product catalog team needs to track down the disparate product data and assets they’ll need in the catalog - which could be an unsolvable task.

Once the team has gathered the product data, the creation of the catalog can begin.

After weeks (or even months of creating) the catalog, the team is looking at four to six more weeks to properly review the catalog once it’s ready to be printed (which could take up to 10 days). 

There’s a reason why they call it snail mail. 

Measuring ROI

After you launch and send out your printed product catalog how are you tracking its success? 

How are you even sure consumers opened your asset? How do you know what page customers spent the most time on? Where did they get stuck?

These are the types of items you cannot track with a printed catalog. 

Your measure of success for product catalogs should not be “it's done”.  Sure, it feels good to cross it off your to-do list, but if you’re not tracking and constantly iterating on your asset, how is that benefiting YOU as a marketer in the long run (let alone your company)?

Takeaway: print catalogs need to be phased out for these reasons:

Why Digital Product Catalogs Are More Beneficial 

Digital catalogs propel your brand into this next phase of consumer behavior. Whether you sell skincare to a target audience of Gen Z or construction equipment for professional teams, your brand needs to transition to a digital catalog if you wish to remain competitive in your industry. 

Here are five reasons why you should consider transitioning to a digital product catalog to highlight your brand’s product offerings. 

Better User Experience

After just two bad experiences, 86  percent of customers would ditch a brand they previously trusted. A clunky, printed catalog counts as strike one.

Digital product catalogs offer so much more functionality to wow shoppers than a static printed catalog. Print catalogs add steps to the buying process by requiring the customer to look up a company’s website, search for the product, then purchase it. Digital cuts down on the amount of steps and friction for customers. 

Customer expectations have risen over the past several years. The status quo no longer cuts it when purchasing products. When shopping for products customers want:

Printed product catalogs can’t deliver on that wishlist. 

Look at J.Crew’s newest announcement for how interactive a digital product catalog experience can be executed. 

It’s not what you think of a traditional product catalog - it’s better. It appears as a virtual beach house that displays products for shoppers to view in a new way.  It tells a story for the shopper and makes the customer idealize the place in the catalog. 

While staying at this digital cottage may not be obtainable (seeing as it’s a fictional cottage), consumers can definitely try to reach that level by purchasing the products featured in the digital experience. 


With digital catalogs, you eliminate all of the shipping, printing, and distribution costs. Your organization likely already has some sort of email solution where you can deliver your digital straight to your customers’ inboxes. Or you can highlight a QR code at trade shows or even on social media for users to activate and save the digital product catalog experience right on their smartphones.  

Expedited TImelines

When using traditional methods to create print product catalogs, it can take weeks to months to create. But when using a Digital Experience Platform (DXP) with PIM capabilities, it only takes hours to create, leaving you with more time to accomplish the rest of your to-do list. 

The heaviest lift of creating a digital product in a DXP with PIM capabilities is loading your product data into the system. Once that’s complete, it’s smooth sailing.

What would have taken months now takes only hours. 

Ability to Update

Product information changes all the time, therefore physical product catalogs are out-of-date almost immediately after they’re created. 

For instance, pricing on a grill may change, leaving your customers viewing inaccurate data within the marketing asset you’ve spent months and hundreds of thousands of dollars on.   

You may notice that there’s a discrepancy with pricing information if your company doesn’t use a  PIM solution.

When using a PIM solution you can go into the product record and update the data. if there are any changes to product information. The catalog will then be instantaneously updated with the latest information without the need for a reprint or sending out incorrect information. 

Drive Revenue

The nature of shopping has changed. Consumers want instant gratification. You can make the shopping process more seamless for shoppers by placing CTA near products on a digital product catalog that can help speed the buyer’s journey and increase revenue.  

Plus, you can link to related products within the catalog further increasing the shopper’s basket size. 

Actionable Insights 

With UTM parameters, access to analytics, and more,  you can prove to leadership the impact your product catalog can have that can move along your own career. 

With digital catalogs, you can track things like: 

Plus, you can cookie individuals who read your digital catalog to track their behavior and retarget them with ads. 

Are Print Product Catalogs Dead?

We are living in a digital-first world. Digital transformation hasn’t only shifted consumer behavior, it’s increased expectations.

Printed catalogs simply cannot meet these high expectations placed on brands by consumers, nor does it make the lives of marketers creating these assets easier. 

Print catalogs are obsolete. If you want to get the return on investment you’re expecting from your product catalog, you need to go digital. 

Want to Go Digital? 

Want to future-proof your marketing strategy and start yielding results thanks to your product catalog? Book a demo with us and we’ll walk through how you should be thinking about your digital product catalog. 

See Lumavate in Action

Meet with one of our experts to see how easy it is to centralize your product data, manage digital assets, and create digital product experiences. Trust us…you’re going to be wowed.