The print catalogue era is over -- but Facebook wants to revive it on your iPhone

Girl reading magazinehistorymiami.orgThe iPhone has beat out the catalogue as the best way for advertisers to reach consumers.

The catalogue’s reign as a dominant force in marketing is over, but advertisers are still desperate to harness its power. And, Facebook has a new ad format intended to do just that.

The number of catalogues sent every year in the US has halved since 2007, dropping by nearly 10 million, according to the Data & Marketing Association. In 2016, retailers mailed out 9.8 million catalogues, down from the 2007 peak of 19.6 million.

Despite the decline, retailers still spend an estimated $US21 billion to create and distribute print catalogues every year. With almost half of respondents in a Xerox survey reporting that they immediately discard catalogues if they don’t think they’re relevant, advertisers need to find a way to make that money worth it.

And, Facebook wants to be the platform to do just that.

On Monday, the social network rolled out a new ad format called “lifestyle templates.” The format attempts to replicate the look of a print catalogue, with the added bonus that customers can purchase items directly from the Facebook ad.

“There are elements of the catalogue which are really unique and certainly worth replicating,” such as their “storytelling potential,” Graham Mudd, director of monetisation marketing at Facebook, told Business Insider. “But, I think there are some elements that we’re bringing to the experience that are really specific to mobile and to Facebook.”

Facebook ad formatFacebookHere’s what a West Elm ad in the lifestyle template looks like.

According to Mudd, catalogues typically play a different role in marketing than most mobile and digital ads.

The typical Facebook ad is intended to get someone to click to buy a specific product. Meanwhile, catalogues have traditionally been a source of inspiration — something that customers can look through, get ideas for assembling an entire outfit or redecorating a room, and maybe place some orders later online or over the telephone.

With the lifestyle template, Facebook wants to provide inspiration while also making it more convenient to actually buy the products — something you can’t do with a print catalogue.

“It’s fairly widely known that circulation and response rates for catalogues have been declining, but it’s still a really important channel for them, so they’re looking for a way to sort of bring that to the digital world, and specifically the mobile world,” Mudd said.

Facebook also has the data to target and personalise the ads based on what it knows about Facebook users.

Here’s how the new ad format works:

A lifestyle format ad will show up in your newsfeed like most other Facebook ads. Once you click on it, you can click on different items in the photo to get more info.

Scrolling down brings you to another “page” in the “catalogue.”

If there’s something you like, click “shop now,” and you’ll go from Facebook to the advertiser’s online store.

Basically, it’s the lifestyle approach of a catalogue, mixed with the convenience and reach of mobile ads.

“The Williams-Sonoma, Inc. brands were built on a legacy of storytelling through beautiful catalogues, inspiring customers and helping them to visualise their personal style in their homes,” Felix Carbullido, the CMO of Williams-Sonoma, which partnered with Facebook in the creation of lifestyle templates, said in an email to Business Insider.

“Given the shift to digital, and as e-commerce accounts for more than 50% of our business, innovation is at our core to ensure we continue to tell our brand stories in new formats,” Carbullido continued. “The lifestyle template for collection is an exciting opportunity to unify our heritage in catalogue with a new lifestyle digital format designed to inspire our customers to discover new products, all on mobile where we know they are spending their time.”

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.