Are Catalogs Making a Comeback in eCommerce?

April 28, 2015
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Catalogs were all the rage for big box stores before ecommerce evolved into what it is today. But are they still effective in today’s online driven world? At first you might not think so, but many online retailers both big and small are finding success using catalogs.

The Harvard Business Review commented on the reemergence of this marketing trend, noting the following:

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eCommerce merchants are starting to turn to catalogs in an increasingly digital world, but why? To discover that, we should first look at why a merchant would want to avoid catalogs before considering some key benefits.

 

Two Reasons to Avoid a Catalog

There are only a handful of cases where catalogs wouldn’t be a good fit.

Less Than 3 Products

You shouldn’t be using catalogs if you sell less than 3 products with little to no variation. Different marketing materials that cater to smaller collections (letters, flyers, and postcards for example) would be a better option for you and your brand.

No Specific Target Market

You shouldn’t be using catalogs if you don’t have a target market in mind.  In fact, you should hold off on all marketing until you figure out who your market actually is! This last point is really important. Ecommerce stores that haven’t defined who they’re targeting are usually the ones scratching their heads when they see low sales.

catalongs tommy walker quoteIf you don’t know who those people are, you won’t know how to make them happy.

 

Three Reasons to Consider a Catalog

If you feel your brand doesn’t fit into either of the previously mentioned categories, catalogs could add an interesting element to your brand experience.  The following are three different reasons you could benefit from a brand catalog - which suits your brand best?

1. You Want to Improve Sales

Brands looking to improve sales should use catalogs in their most traditional sense, using product images and descriptions in print to try to generate sales with a retail catalog. You can do this by sending a catalog with every package you mail out, sending them seasonally to past customers, or mailing exclusive catalogs to only your best customers.

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In each instance, customers are given the chance to browse offline before you direct them to purchase online. Sending customers who already trust you a beautiful catalog is a great way to continue building the trust you have established with them and grow your sales at the same time.

Alternatively, if you’re interested in keeping print costs low you can create online seasonal and holiday-based catalogs and send these to your past customers via email.

2. You’re Interested in Wholesaling

If you’re in the wholesale process already or just starting out, you will quickly find that having a linesheet of your current collection is a necessary tool in the wholesaling process.

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A linesheet is effectively a “barebones” technical catalog that gives the wholesale client a quick preview of your products, prices, materials, and minimum order quantities along with your terms and contact information.

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You can send a linesheet to your client via email as a pdf. or go the tried and true old-fashioned way and present them with a paper copy instead.  This decision should ultimately be made based on what you think will provide your customers with a better experience.

3. You Want to Improve Branding

Shops interested in advancing their brand equity should consider creating and mailing lookbooks. Unlike a retail catalog or linesheet, the primary purpose of a lookbook is to create a story around your brand.  This story is what helps to elevate your brand’s image and increase future sales as a result of that persona.

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No matter what industry you’re in, a lookbook takes your product and makes it look sexy and desirable. Some creativity and great photography will highlight the best aspects of your line, and the finished product will help customers visualize your brand as an addition to their lifestyle. Like other catalogs, lookbooks can exist physically or digitally, giving you many options for distribution.

 

Cashing In On Catalogs

No matter what type of business you run, catalogs give you a great opportunity to refresh your marketing strategies.  From digital to print and everything in between, a well-designed and perfectly branded catalog can help increase sales, reinvigorate your brand image, and provide an outstanding customer experience.