Digital Marketing Blog

15 Sep 2017

How Ecommerce Is Changing Online Catalogs For the Better

Catalogs have been a key element for B2B and B2C businesses for over a century. 

But global eCommerce turnover was $1.84 trillion last year and the fact is, more and more people are buying online in general.

That's to say that many industries that relied on print catalogs are finding it challenging to keep up with evolving buying behavior. 

Still it's not all doom and gloom. The fact is, that in many ways eCommerce is changing catalogs for the better and in today's blog we're going to go over how. 

We'll also look at how some companies are rising to the challenge, and what you can learn from them. 

#1 eCommerce makes product catalogs more accessible
#2 eCommerce makes online catalogs more engaging 
#3 eCommerce helps businesses sell more
#4 eCommerce gives consumers a better shopping experience
#5 eCommerce lets you update your prices faster 
#6 eCommerce makes your online catalogs cheaper and easier to distribute 
#7 eCommerce gives you greater insight into your readers' buying behavior

#1 eCommerce makes product catalogs more accessible

According to a 2018 study, 82% of smartphone users research purchases online before making a purchase, even if they're buying it in store rather on online.

And a whopping 94% of B2B shoppers do online research at some point in their buying process. 

That means the need for retailers to optimize their digital experiences is greater than ever.

Delivering a printed catalog in the mail and hoping orders will start to come in just won't cut it anymore  because the expectation that you'll find product information and inspiration online is just too great.

One of the big ways that eCommerce has met that challenge is that it's made product offers more accessible to potential buyers.




As an example of accessibility done really well, I'd like to highlight Mueller Company

Often, B2B companies have a really extensive product portfolios, resulting in a large number of catalogs.

This is complicates the problem of keeping information easily accessible but Mueller worked around this by using digital binders (one of iPaper's most popular B2B features, just FYI). 

What the binder does is organize catalogs into specific sections (like chapters in a book), so a reader can get an overview of catalog categories and quickly find the catalog relevant to them.

But more than that, the binders are searchable. So whatever product a shopper is looking for, in any catalog, all they have to do is look up the name.



One of the ways that eCommerce has really pushed online catalogs further is by highlighting shoppers' demand for engaging content.

People process images 60,000 times faster than text, which is why traditional catalogs have been so effective as a sales tool, but with online shopping catalogs you can take it to the next level by adding videos, animations and other interactive visual elements. 


Here are a few of our online catalog best practices, that have been proven to work with both extending time on page, capturing leads and increasing sales:  

  • Actionable CTA's
  • Video
  • Animations
  • Forms
  • Pop-Ups
  • Internal links
  • eCommerce shop integration



Online catalog technology has evolved a lot in the last few years.

These days eCommerce shop integration is becoming a crucial part of B2C and B2B multichannel selling strategies. (7)

By making it possible for shoppers to act on their impulse and buy directly from online catalogs, businesses have streamlined the buying process. 

And we all know, the fewer steps there are in the buying process, the higher the conversion rate.  

Meanwhile, many B2B companies use the eCommerce integration to allow customers to place orders directly from the catalog via email. Another way of simplifying the order process for busy purchasers.  


eCommerce is changing the shopping experience for the better.

When you can purchase directly from a catalog and don't have to leave it to find the product on a website it reduces friction. 

Making products easy to add to cart from all sources, across channels and devices ought to be top priority from anyone in eCommerce. 

Below you can see how furniture company BoConcept improve their consumers' experience by including things like, this video that shows something as simple (but crucial!) as unfolding a sleeper sofa featured in their catalog. (4)



Unlike print catalogs, eCommerce catalogs make it possible to quickly update prices, conditions and delivery dates.

Meaning any time your visitors read your online catalogs they always have the most up to date information on hand.

This is a win for both the buyer and the supplier because helps companies make their offerings more flexible. Whether that's adjustments to pricing, discounts, shipping costs or conditions, businesses can quickly react to market changes without the hefty printing or distribution costs 


Speaking of hefty printing and distribution costs, this is one way that eCommerce has truly changed catalogs for the better. 

Online catalogs are easily distributed via email, newsletters, and social media.

More over, the reader has the option of sharing the catalog link with coworkers or friends, just by clicking share in catalog or even by forwarding the email. 

As opposed to PDF's, there's no tedious wait for the catalog to download and the reader doesn't need any special software to open it.

Internet access is all an online catalog demands, which is great, given that over 4 billion active internet users have been recorded globally so far in 2018. 


An added edge that eCommerce has brought to catalogs is greater insight. After all, everything in an online catalog can be tracked and analyzed!

With print catalogs, you're canvassing an area, you hope people will keep the catalog, browse it and perhaps visit your store. 

But eCommerce has made it possible for suppliers to track and optimize their catalogs according to visitor data. 

Unlike in a webshop, where it's more difficult to get a quick overview of every single web page, iPaper provides a heatmap function to give you that full overview with a single click. 




This pinpointed click tracking makes it easier to optimize the next eCommerce catalog. Do you need to add bigger, or different shopping icons? Maybe even animated ones? 

Does your audience click on things you would never have thought of, such as your company name in a headline or body text? 

Improved tracking and analysis lead to improved catalogs, which in turn catalyzes into a smoother shopping experience for the end user.

With optimized presentation of goods, more visible shopping icons and the removal of visual clutter, the eCommerce catalog is more efficient than both printed catalogs and PDFs.  


The power and functionality of online catalogs have improved significantly since eCommerce integration became a reality. 

No doubt, the technology will keep evolving.

Making the most smooth experience for both creator and viewer will continue to be a priority and that includes greater focus on mobile-first commerce with more responsive online catalogs across devices.  

Shoppable content and shoppable catalogs will also continue to grow and a few, more digitally focused companies, will discard the printed versions altogether. 

If you're interested or would like to know if iPaper can change your catalogs for the better, try our 14 day free trial. 


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How To Improve Speed to Market as a B2B Distributor (iPaper)

Consumer Behavior Infographic (Big Commerce)

State of B2B Procurement (Accenture)

B2B eCommerce Product Catalog - How to Use it Actively for Lead Generation Today (iPaper)

Global Internet Population (Statista)

Designing for Digital (Free eBook, iPaper)


NOTE: This blog has been updated to include newer statistics and catalog examples. 

About the author

Bettina Oksen Bendorf

Bettina Oksen Bendorf

Bettina is an Inbound Marketing Specialist. I have a passion for creating relevant content with focus on the receivers’ needs. Always with the customers’ point of view in focus: “What’s in it for me?”. Chocolate lover and fitness junkie.

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