Amazon is mailing out print versions of its "A Holiday of Play" toy catalog to "millions of customers" this month, with limited quantities available at its bookstores and Amazon 4-star locations, an Amazon spokesperson told Retail Dive in an email.
The catalog, featuring top toy picks from Amazon for babies, kids, tweens and teens, is also available in digital form through Amazon's Kindle devices, app and online, the spokesperson also said.
Amazon is among several retailers producing holiday catalogs, including for toys, a market with considerable space in the absence of Toys R Us.
Despite their massive design, fulfillment and production costs — the outlays come in at about 50% on postage, 25% on printing and 25% on paper, according to Greg Portell, a lead partner in the global consumer and retail practice of A.T. Kearney — paper catalogs remain an important tool, especially at the holidays. Amazon, more than most, has customer data to get its catalog to the most likely toy shoppers.
With a relative dearth of stores compared to rivals, a paper catalog gives Amazon the closest thing to an in-real-life experience for many of its customers. And they help stoke emotion, a key factor in most retail, especially at the holidays, which is difficult to evoke online.
"Online is fast, it's frictionless and it's probably cheaper," Bob Phibbs, CEO of retail consultancy The Retail Doctor, told Retail Dive earlier this year. "But brick and mortar can do something that online, by design, can't. Physical stores are still the drivers of revenue — the goose that lays the golden egg is the brick-and-mortar store. Maybe they start in the store and they finish it online, but it's in the store environment where there are about 15 touchpoints that happen, and those 'yeses' collectively make a sale."
Indeed, retailers, at least bigger mass merchants like Target, have plans for dazzling holiday experiences in stores, with that retailer setting up special toy sections this year that experts say will also help drive online sales.
"Consumers are turning to online retailers to make purchases, yet creating experiences in real-time that will resonate with consumers encourages them to bring that relationship online when they are ready to make a purchase," Adi Biran, CEO of space rental firm Splacer, told Retail Dive last month. "Brands have also realized that sometimes the social engagement generated from an interactive experience is more important than merchandise purchases in the moment."
With precious few stores, it stands to reason that Amazon would turn to a proven method to foster discovery.