The catalog’s reign as a dominant force in marketing is over, but advertisers are still desperate to harness its power. And, Facebook has a new ad format intended to do just that.
The number of catalogs sent every year in the US has halved since 2007, dropping by nearly 10 million, according to the Data & Marketing Association. In 2016, retailers mailed out 9.8 million catalogs, down from the 2007 peak of 19.6 million.
Despite the decline, retailers still spend an estimated $21 billion to create and distribute print catalogs every year. With almost half of respondents in a Xerox survey reporting that they immediately discard catalogs if they don’t think they’re relevant, advertisers need to find a way to make that money worth it.
And, Facebook wants to be the platform to do just that.
On Monday, the social network rolled out a new ad format called “lifestyle templates.” The format attempts to replicate the look of a print catalog, with the added bonus that customers can purchase items directly from the Facebook ad.
“There are elements of the catalog which are really unique and certainly worth replicating,” such as their “storytelling potential,” Graham Mudd, director of monetization marketing at Facebook, told Business Insider. “But, I think there are some elements that we’re bringing to the experience that are really specific to mobile and to Facebook.”
According to Mudd, catalogs typically play a different role in marketing than most mobile and digital ads.
The typical Facebook ad is intended to get someone to click to buy a specific product. Meanwhile, catalogs have traditionally been a source of inspiration – something that customers can look through, get ideas for assembling an entire outfit or redecorating a room, and maybe place some orders later online or over the telephone.
With the lifestyle template, Facebook wants to provide inspiration while also making it more convenient to actually buy the products – something you can’t do with a print catalog.
“It’s fairly widely known that circulation and response rates for catalogs have been declining, but it’s still a really important channel for them, so they’re looking for a way to sort of bring that to the digital world, and specifically the mobile world,” Mudd said.
Facebook also has the data to target and personalize the ads based on what it knows about Facebook users.
Here’s how the new ad format works:
A lifestyle format ad will show up in your newsfeed like most other Facebook ads. Once you click on it, you can click on different items in the photo to get more info.
Scrolling down brings you to another “page” in the “catalog.”
If there’s something you like, click “shop now,” and you’ll go from Facebook to the advertiser’s online store.
Basically, it’s the lifestyle approach of a catalog, mixed with the convenience and reach of mobile ads.
“The Williams-Sonoma, Inc. brands were built on a legacy of storytelling through beautiful catalogs, inspiring customers and helping them to visualize their personal style in their homes,” Felix Carbullido, the CMO of Williams-Sonoma, which partnered with Facebook in the creation of lifestyle templates, said in an email to Business Insider.
“Given the shift to digital, and as e-commerce accounts for more than 50% of our business, innovation is at our core to ensure we continue to tell our brand stories in new formats,” Carbullido continued. “The lifestyle template for collection is an exciting opportunity to unify our heritage in catalog with a new lifestyle digital format designed to inspire our customers to discover new products, all on mobile where we know they are spending their time.”