According to women’s clothing company Boston Proper, print isn’t dead.
The Florida-based company has been mailing out catalogs since since 1992 and has had an online presence since the early 2000s. The catalog is still a big part of Boston Proper’s marketing, but in the last 18 months, the company has been setting up a digital marketing strategy to reach its female customers over 40 beyond the pages of print. The company had social media accounts prior to that, but had done little in the way of paid digital ads.
While a lot of companies turn to Instagram to drive sales among Gen-Z and millennial shoppers, it’s not the best tool for reaching Gen X. Boston Proper, leaning on its two data scientists (who help analyze customer and sales data to better target customers) and growing marketing department, is investing more in email, paid search and Facebook. And it’s still printing 11 catalogs a year. The company said its estimated annual revenue is around $100 million.
“We love the catalog,” said Sheryl Clark, president and CEO of Boston Proper. “We mail the catalog and we see sales happening, but as the world is changing, as our customer is changing, we definitely have to evolve. Now we’re focusing on how to use digital marketing to grow sales and acquire customers who don’t get a catalog.”
Direct mail and catalogs have recently become popular with direct-to-consumer brands looking to expand their marketing mix. Companies like Away, Cuyana and Naadam have all launched their own versions of the product catalog. But many DTC companies encounter challenges with the medium. Mainly, it’s difficult to attribute sales back to the catalog when a customer receives it in the mail and then places an order online.
Roughly 40% of Boston Proper’s sales come directly through the catalog, Clark said, noting that doesn’t account for customers who receive the catalog and then go online to place an order. Attribution has been a big challenge for the company and one that Amy Larson, Boston Proper vp of marketing and e-commerce, is thinking more about as digital marketing becomes a bigger focus.
“We’re working in ways that are allowing us to implement and think about attribution and channel attribution in a completely different way,” said Larson. “We’re really getting into incrementality and understanding when each channel is providing [specific sales].”
Beyond attribution woes, catalogs are also costly to make.
Clark did not share how many customers receive catalogs each year but said circulation has been scaled back slightly in the last year. While the catalog will still be an important part of the equation, paid search, paid social, display ads and email will start to play a bigger role in the marketing mix, Clark said. She said the company is spending less money on prospective customers to send the catalog to and is instead sending catalogs to repeat customers.
The budget to acquire customers was shifted to channels including Facebook and email. When a customer visits the Boston Proper website, a coupon pops up offering 15% off a purchase, but it can only be collected by entering a valid email — a tool many DTC brands, as well, use to collect emails.
Facebook will likely become a bigger tool for finding new customers in the coming years, Larson said. For now, Facebook makes up only about 10% of the company’s overall marketing spend.
Currently, Boston Proper has nearly 270,000 followers on Facebook, and in July, it set up five private Facebook groups for VIP customers where they could connect with other customers and get styling tips from the Boston Proper team. The groups are focused on key cities for the company including Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, Miami and Phoenix/Scottsdale. In terms of paid efforts, the company is using Facebook to target women over 40 who aren’t necessarily customers yet, but who, based on their age, location and other brands they follow, might be interested in Boston Proper.