New research from Royal Mail has revealed that online retailers are increasingly relying on catalogues to drive new and existing customers online this Christmas. With a buoyant Christmas period for e-retail predicted – IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group) predicts £5 billion will be spent online in the run up to Christmas 2005- the survey of over 20 leading online retailers including John Lewis Direct and revealed catalogues as one of the most effective promotion channels for generating online orders. More than half of the retailers surveyed (60%)* currently send catalogues or brochures to customers to drive online sales and the use of catalogues by retailers has been multiplying over time, with over half of the retailers questioned for Royal Mail using them as a sales and marketing tool for upwards of five years.*

Attracting new customers and informing them about last order dates are two of the main ways that catalogues can be used to a retailer’s advantage. In addition, with 55%* of retailers planning to encourage shoppers to buy online earlier this year in order to extend the Christmas buying period, catalogues are crucial in enticing them online in a timely fashion.

Consumers are enthusiastic about using catalogues and a Royal Mail survey revealed that more than a third of consumers, 36%**, agree that having an online catalogue to browse through makes them more likely to purchase something from a retailers website. John Ashton, Marketing and Development Manager, John Lewis Direct comments: “For us specifically one of the biggest drivers without a doubt is the catalogue. What you are doing is flagging the final dates people can order, trying to take away some of this last minute demand by actually giving people an incentive to order early.”

Richard Roche, Head of Multi-channel Retail at Royal Mail, said: “Online retailers recognise the importance of utilising all customer communication channels at this key time of year. Catalogues are important as they provide an effective route to point of purchase and are key to attracting new customers online.” He continued: “We predict we will deliver 70 million goods ordered online in the run up to Christmas and have been working closely with retailers to plan for the festive period and ensure we provide a high level of service to their customers.”