Industry Case Study

Purchases Made By Catalog Shoppers in the U.S.


At least 80% of catalog shoppers make more than one purchase over a lifetime. The response rate for print catalogs is 8.8% and the customer acquisition cost is $47.61.

Number of catalog shoppers in the US

  • According to Hamilton Davison, president of the American Catalog Mailers Association, “half of all Americans order from catalogs even if they don’t immediately flip through the mailers.”
  • “U.S. Postal Service studies had found that after periodicals and bills, catalogs attract the next most eyeballs, getting as much attention as personal correspondence.”


  • According to Neil O’Keefe, Data & Marketing Association’s senior vice president of marketing and content, “millennials are very engaged by imagery, and the catalog really allows that to stand out. So the response rate there is very different than what you would experience with a display ad, even an email. The response rate for a printed piece has been on the rise as of late.”
  • According to a Quad/Graphics Customer Focus 2016 research study, “41% of millennials and 53% of Gen Xers” enjoy catalogs.”

Customer Loyalty

  • According to Steve Lett, owner and founder of Lett Direct, Inc., a direct and digital marketing consultancy, research suggests that “a catalog shopper is a ‘Customer’ that has ‘Lifetime Value‘ whereas an online shopper is classically an ‘Item Buyer,’ or onetime purchaser.”
  • “Lett Direct estimates that 15-20% of sales are generated from the internet, while about 80% of sales are generated because someone received a catalog in the mail.” (2013)
  • Statistics indicate that catalog shoppers are loyal customers “who return over and over again, they love the brand and they love the products and they’ll share it with their friends.”

Customer Segmentation


  • According to a study of catalog shoppers by Alix Partners, the top customers (10%), loyal customers (50%), and infrequent customers (20%) accounted for 80% of all customers in a given period.
  • The 15% of lapsed customers are those who didn’t make any purchases in the period of the study (conducted by Alix Partners). However, they could have made more than one purchase over a lifetime.
  • Therefore, it can be said that at least 80% of catalog shoppers make multiple purchases over a lifetime and at most 15% of shoppers make a one-time purchase.

Response Rate

  • In 2018, the response rate for print catalog/direct mail was 9% for house lists and 4.9% for prospects. As 5% of recipients are prospects, the overall response rate was 8.8% (9%*95%+4.9%*5%)

Number of Purchases

  • “The lifetime value (LTV) of a catalog buyer is higher than other channels. For example, if a consumer goes to a search engine for a particular item, they might buy it at the right price, but it doesn’t mean they’ll buy again. However, if the order originates via a catalog, the consumer is more inclined to make repeat purchases.”

Customer Acquisiton Cost

  • According to Printing Industries of America, print catalogs carry an average cost per lead of $47.61, whereas the average cost per email lead is $53.85.” (2015)
  • However, Bonobos “new acquisition sourced from catalog prospecting spend 1.5x more than customers acquired via digital prospecting.”

Circulation and Trend

  • Catalog circulation in 2017 “was half what it was at its peak, estimated to be around 9 billion annually from more than 19 billion in 2007.”


  • “Brands continue to report the mailing catalogs as a way to drive web traffic, followed closely by customer retention and brand building”. “90.9% of merchants list catalogs as a primary marketing tool.”


  • 9% of marketers send print catalogs daily, 3% send them weekly, 3% monthly, 10% quarterly, and 43% annually.


Types of Catalogs Produced


Recipients Reading Catalogs

  • 42% of catalog recipients reported reading catalogs with another 25% glancing through or saving catalogs for later.”


Return on Investment

  • While sending an e-mail only costs a couple of cents, “mailed catalogs can cost 35 cents on the low end to over $1″ on the high end.


  • “Retailers are using demographic and spending data to optimize when to send catalogs, focusing on key times such as holiday or life moments that spur spending like moving.”

Other Statistics

  • 86% of consumers have bought an item after first seeing it in a catalog.”
  • 78% of consumers react to direct mail, immediately taking one of two actions: 44% visit the brand’s website and 34% search online for more information.”
Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at Simple Manifestation with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.

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