Catalog Trim Size and Paper Weight

by Stephen Lett

Varying catalog trim sizes or paper weights do make a difference to your bottom line. However, this difference may not be what you might expect. Always test before you take a leap of faith. A/B split testing various paper grades and weight is easy and inexpensive to test. At Lett Direct, we have conducted several paper tests over the years for our clients. If you are thinking about upgrading to a heavier stock to increase response, don’t make this change without A/B split testing it first. Don’t assume the heavier stock will yield a higher response that will offset the additional cost for paper because it just might not. Based on the actual testing we have done, I have not seen response increase enough to offset the additional cost for the paper. Here are two actual A/B split test results that I would like to share with you: We conducted an A/B split paper test using 60 lb. vs. 70 lb. paper. In this case, the lighter weight paper out-pulled the heavier weight stock. The 60 lb. paper was the control and this cataloger thought going to 70 lb. paper would increase response. See the results chart below. Based on our test, they continued using 60 lb. paper. [supsystic-tables id=4] We also conducted an A/B split paper test using SCB vs. SCA paper. The goal was to determine if our client could move from SCA to SCB for the savings without affecting the sales. The SCB has a lower brightness and gloss than the SCA. Typically, it is approximately $3 to $4 cwt less expensive. There can be big differences in the quality of SCB stocks. Our test was done on 30 lb. SCA vs. 30 lb. SCB (30 lb. SCA was our control). Here are the overall results for a B-to-B company – these are post-match actual: [supsystic-tables id=5] We did an A/B split on the entire mailing including the house file and prospects. Overall, response rate was higher on the SCB paper, but Average Order Value (AOV) lower. The Revenue Per Catalog (RPC) is about the same. CONCLUSION: There was no difference in the results of using SCA vs. SCB in our test. The company could reduce their paper costs by converting from SCA to SCB.

WORD OF CAUTION: Ask your paper merchant or your printer for paper specs and samples before you make this switch. Trim sizes are more difficult and not cost efficient to test. It would be costly to A/B split test two different catalog trim sizes to mail at the same time. Some catalogers feel odd-shaped or non-standard size catalogs grab attention in the mail box and therefore increase response. While odd and oversize trim sizes may increase response, it is difficult to sustain and therefore cost justify over time. What’s more, these non-confirming trim sizes cannot be included in co-mail pools and postage costs can become prohibitive. Again, consult your printer first. If your goal is to reduce costs and lower your incremental break-even point, you might want to consider optional standard catalog trim sizes.

Here are three examples:  

  1. Page Count: 96 + 4 = 100 pages
  2. Paper: 34 lb. body & 70 lb. cover
  3. BEP: (Incremental Break-Even Point): Assumes a gross margin of 60%

Above I am showing a 96+4-page catalog which is considered standard in three trim sizes: 8” x 10 ½”, 8” x 10” and 7 ½” x 10”. By producing your catalog using one of these three trim sizes, you can generate savings without sacrificing any product depictions in the catalog. Your printer can use existing page files and reduce to size.