Last month, Amazon sent out its first catalog to shoppers. But the question on most people's lips has been, why now?
The children's toy catalog called "A Holiday of Play", was sent out to millions of customers and is also available online. But having been predominantly online since it began, it seemed strange for the eCommerce giant to now produce a physical print catalog.
I decided to put my investigating hat on and have put together some thoughts on why Amazon has taken this step into the catalog world, and why you should consider following in its footsteps.
#1 Gap in the market
Catalogs have always had a tight hold on the Christmas season. Whilst the digital shift saw most brands halt their print catalog production, some continue to persevere. One of those was Toys 'R' Us who produced a toy catalog for children every Christmas.
However, after announcing its US and UK businesses were entering administration earlier this year, there was going to be an empty Toys 'R' Us shaped hole in the American and British catalog selection this Christmas.
Amazon saw this and decided to raise the bar.
They swooped in and have produced not just a physical catalog, but an online version too. "A Holiday of Play", is 70 pages long and includes a curated collection of the latest and greatest Christmas toys for children of all ages.
Posted to loyal customers and available online, the catalog is filled top to bottom with a mixture of colorful and vibrant product and lifestyle images. The printed copy also comes with stickers and a wish list. Not only does this carry on the nostalgic childhood tradition of browsing for toys you so desperately need, it also creates an intimate one-to-one experience with brand and customer.
In December, our email inboxes overflow with emails. But, at least for me, the one box that has remained relatively empty, is the letterbox. Receiving physical mail from brands has significantly reduced so when you get that golden letter, it's even more special.
Whilst the thrill of flicking through the catalog will be the same for the children, not one to miss a trick, Amazon added a modern twist to the catalog, giving the buyer a whole new experience.
#2 Introduce shoppable Content
Shoppable content is the inclusion of webshop links so customers can scan or click on products within a catalog and be taken straight to the product page to purchase them.
Rather than display prices, dotted throughout Amazon's printed catalog are QR codes. Parents and family members can then scan a QR code with their smartphone and be taken to that product page with price, delivery information, checkout and more.
In the online version, each product is lettered and when you click on the letter, you're taken directly to the product page on the usual Amazon webshop.
Christmas can be chaotic for parents, so having the ability to let your children choose what they want and buy it then and there provides an incredibly smooth shopping experience. It's hassle-free and easy.
This kind of catalog shopping is on the rise and Amazon has certainly made its mark in the shoppable content arena. However, there is one step above shoppable content; inspirational commerce.
#3 Aspire to inspire
Inspirational commerce focuses on providing an inspiring and memorable experience for customers that's also convenient.
If, like Amazon, driving traffic is your goal, inspirational commerce catalogs can create a more straight-forward customer experience.
You can animate the basket icons to catch the reader's eye and once they've clicked through and added the product to their basket on your the webshop, they can then go back to the exact same catalog page they left from.
It goes that step further by using the catalog as a selling and traffic driving platform.
Here's how it looks in action with Swiss department store giant Manor,
By using animations to catch the reader's eye and a more traditional sliding rather than scrolling page design, Manor's catalog encourages customers to interact with the holiday catalog as they go.
With a growing segment of shoppers now browsing on their smartphones, it's even more important to make the mobile shopping experience a priority.
Even the most incredible catalog falls flat on mobile if it's still in PDF format. By using iPaper (*coughshamelessselfpromotioncough*), Manor have mirrored the desktop experience for mobile users for a more convenient and easy mobile shopping experience.
By cutting out the need for a smartphone to scan codes, adding animations and bringing the reader back to the relevant catalog page Manor have bypassed any added hurdles to the customer's buying process.
So what have we learnt?
What we know for sure is that catalogs are here to stay. Be they print or online, they are an effective marketing tool that brands can harness to appeal to their customers.
With Amazon taking on the challenge of being the next go-to Christmas catalog for kids, it's carrying on a long-standing tradition of Christmas catalog browsing.
Adding shoppable content and, maybe next year, taking that step towards inspirational commerce, Amazon has shown that catalogs are still powerful and relevant.
What do you think of Amazon's leap into the catalog world? Let me know your thoughts, I'd love to hear them!