Companies have been printing catalogs since 1845, and there's no sign of it slowing down.
In fact, the Data and Marketing Association report that 44.4% of retailers have increased catalog circulation in just the last year.
But most marketing and sales managers are still figuring out how catalogs play into the buyer's journey and how to make online retail catalogs relevant in 2018.
So, today I'd like to go over 5 actionable steps you can take to improve the relevance of your online retail catalogs and help you reach the audience you want.
#1 INSPIRE YOUR READERS TO BUILD TRUST
Whatever style your retail catalog takes, it needs a clear brand identity. That not only makes the catalog more recognizable, but also increases likelihood of purchase because strong brand identities build trust.
Danish electronics retailer, Power, identified this early on and uses this insight throughout their messaging.
From the name, Power, which immediately makes you think of electricity.
To their sleek black, grey and orange color palette that matches their website. Power is making sure their customers get the same visual experience across touch points.
More than that though, because online retail catalogs have more visual flexibility than PDF's - Power regularly add product videos, animations and photo galleries to their catalogs to boost engagement.
Which is important when you consider that four times as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product than to read about it.
For Tips on how to design for digital eCommerce catalogs, check out my last blog.
#2 mAKE YOUR CATALOGS SHOPPABLE
According to a new study, 33% of online retailers stated that the improvement of customer’s digital shopping experience was a top three priority this year.
Something Norwegian furniture retailer Kid Interior have done by making their Instagram-worthy catalog pictures shoppable with just a click.
Since 82% of Millennials and Generation Z prefer consuming content with visuals throughout, shoppable catalogs are one of the best ways to stay relevant and introduce younger audiences to new brands.
By allowing readers to buy a product seconds after discovering it, online retailers increase the likelihood that they’ll make a purchase.
As the shoppable content trend grows, turning your catalogs into a revenue channel is - in my opinion - a pretty crucial way to stay relevant in 2018.
According to Google's Zero Moment of Truth research, consumers will on average look at 11 online touch points when considering a given purchase. The more expensive the product, the more points of reference there are.
Meaning to stay relevant in 2018, you need to make sure your retail catalogs aren't simply uploaded to your website as a PDF, but actively working for you as part of your multi-channel marketing strategy.
The table above is a great place to start identifying which online touch points are most relevant to you.
By uploading your online catalogs to several touch points (for example, your social media, or your blogs, and ads) you get your brand and proposition front of mind wherever awareness arrives.
#4 make your online catalogs part of your seo strategy
To stay relevant you need to rank.
But explaining how to get your pages ranked to the top of the search results is complicated enough.
Here's a good checklist from Moz, which dives deep into this specific issue.
But for the sake of this article I'll stick to how converting your PDF to an online retail catalog can impact your SEO strategy.
First of all, Google favors any content that is informative and helpful.
And online catalogs are by no means the only way to inform customers what you have to offer. It could be a blog, article, app, a tool, a video, a product or service page.
Having said that, the advantage of the online catalog is that it becomes part of your branded URL.
Unlike other touch points like Facebook posts or YouTube videos you've uploaded, your catalog sits under your branded domain.
Plus, Google can crawl the text in your online catalog as well, so if you've fulfilled step one and inspired your reader with helpful and informative content, you'll be adding to your Google rank too.
#5 TARGET YOUR CATALOG DISTRIBUTION
To stay relevant you obviously need to get your catalog in front of people. That goes without saying.
However targeting the distribution of your catalog will enable you to publish it where your audience lives and is most able to find it.
Outside of embedding the catalog on your website (though that's obviously cool, just check out how Flying Tiger do that, above), I recommend sharing your catalog to your social media.
From there you can segment your audience and boost the post to get the catalog in front of specific buyers.
If direct email marketing is also a part of your overall strategy, add direct links to your catalog in your newsletters.
Consumers who subscribe to you are far more likely to buy from you than new leads, so keeping previous shoppers up to date on your current offers is a no-brainer.
It's really hard for online retailers to stay relevant in a digital landscape where promotional channels have become highly competitive.
And, as a result of that, both more expensive and less effective. After all, shopping behavior evolves and now more than ever consumers shop around for the best deals.
Fortunately, there are things we can do about this.
So long as you are proactive with your catalogs, you can extend the reach and relevance of your retail offerings.
The customer is king, right? So design for digital readers, to make it easier for them to read and shop from you.
Make your brand identity clear so it's instantly recognizable and more trustworthy.
If your retail catalog is shoppable then you not only add a digital revenue channel but you also make the buying experience easier and quicker for the consumer.
By distributing your catalog to several online touch points you keep on top of mind and stay relevant by being in the spaces your customers spend their time.
Basically, if you follow the steps above, you should be in pretty good shape.