To say that Amazon is the modern-day digital version of the Sears catalog might be extending the metaphor just a little further than it was meant to go. But in some ways it’s true. For years, people would sit down with a paper catalog and thumb through the pages looking for the perfect gifts, or back-to-school clothing, or home electronics. Now they do pretty much the same thing, but instead of thumbing through pages they click (or swipe) through them on Amazon.
The first Sears catalog was released in 1894 and had 322 pages of products you could buy. Amazon hasn’t been around for even half of that time, but it has millions of pages of products. But now they have one thing in common: Amazon is sending out catalogs.
Last week, I wrote about how Amazon’s holiday toy guide was a kid’s best friend and a parent’s nightmare. This week, Amazon is apparently sending out the grown-up version, featuring fashion and clothing. According to a CNBC reporter who shared photos on twitter, this catalog features both Amazon brands as well as J Crew, Calvin Klein, and Goodthreads.
Got an @amazon fashion catalog in the mail. Influencers among the models. Variety of brands featured incl. its own, ie Goodthreads, and @jcrew @TheFryeCompany @LeviStraussCo @CalvinKlein No prices, “scan and shop” photo recognition tool instead pic.twitter.com/WL1xquFknn
— Courtney Reagan (@CourtReagan) November 13, 2019
We have four young children in our home, which explains why we got the toy catalog. I assume that the fact that I work from home and have no sense of fashion explains why I haven’t gotten this version, but that’s not really the point.
The point is this: for a company as invested in digital, it turns out that an old-fashioned paper catalog might be its secret weapon this holiday season. Of course, it’s Amazon which means that even an old-fashioned paper catalog is high-tech.
For example, QR-codes placed throughout the catalog called “smile codes” allow you to jump right to additional products and gift ideas on the website. Of course, the catalog doesn’t have any prices, which makes sense considering Amazon is notorious for constantly changing prices based on a range of factors.
Instead, simply scan items with the Amazon app using the camera on your smartphone for more information about sizing, price, and availability. What’s brilliant about this is that the online retailer is sending out physical catalogs to people’s mailboxes to drive traffic to its digital storefront in a way that is about as Amazon-like as it gets.
Of course, one of our favorite features of the toy catalog is actually next-level genius–even for Amazon. That would be the page on what to do with all of those cardboard boxes that will inevitably be arriving soon. The catalog actually includes instructions on turning a box into a wearable costume. I’m not kidding.
Sure, that might seem like a trivial detail, but in a holiday shopping season that is expected to be as competitive as ever, details like that which show why Amazon’s catalog is likely to be a killer strategy.
While there is no doubt that Amazon is a huge–if not the biggest player–in holiday shopping, it still has a weakness. That weakness is that it doesn’t have stores in every town, which means it’s harder and harder for the company to create experiences that draw customers in.
This is a perfect example of a creative strategy to think outside the box–in this case the mailbox–and deliver something personal and new. And they did it with something as old-fashioned as a catalog.
It only took 125 years.