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Understanding the impact of online catalogs in retail

Jan 17, 2021


  • Online catalogs will increase your brand awareness, reduce printing costs and increase time spent on your store
  • They can be used across your marketing channels to keep shoppers engaged
  • And, they inspire browsing shoppers to buy

Print catalogs have long been successful in retail. The format is appealing to consumers and it's a primary asset to stay top of mind in a highly competitive and price focused market space. 

They're a popular tool to drive customers to brick and mortar stores and a well-known and successful format that helps promote your products and increase your audience.

But creating these catalogs is incredibly costly and time-consuming. It's a long process that requires weeks of planning. Yet, there is another channel where your print catalog can thrive. It's cheaper, can be updated within seconds and if you've got your print catalog as a PDF ready, you can start right away.

Yep, I'm talking about online.

So other than the obvious production benefits, why should retailers put their print catalogs online?

Online catalogs will increase your brand awareness

Print catalogs allow you to put something directly in the hands of your customers. But what about your online audience? In today's retail market there's so much competition around that it's hard to stand out from the crowd.

Understanding the impact of online catalogs in retail - CP

Gaining online traction and building awareness around your brand can seem like a huge task. But with online catalogs you can increase audience reach and interaction to really get your name out there. Activate those potential buyers by sharing your catalog on social media, with your email newsletter list, create ads and embedded it on your website.

There's huge potential for your catalogs. You just need to make sure you know your audience and what channels they're using. By creating a shareable shoppable catalog that's out there for all, you'll showcase your brand, your messaging and the experience you offer.

And, you can target your audience on every device. Online catalogs are adaptable for your mobile, desktop and tablet customers so you can truly grow your brand. Once your catalog is ready it's really up to you how far you push it.

Make it easy to find, easy to navigate and easy to understand.

Online catalogs will increase time spent exploring your products

When produced well, print catalogs are a sure-fire way to engage your audience. Like I said before they're a well-known format that has been used for years. If you're given a catalog, you know exactly what to do with it and exactly what it's for.

The format just appeals to people. In fact, for 93% of shoppers, visuals like images and videos are a key deciding factor in the purchasing process. We process images 60,000 times faster than text, and 90% of the information that's sent to our brain is visual.

So, we all love a good image heavy catalog. This means that when it comes to putting your catalog online, your audience will immediately recognize the format and functionality. But as we're now all tailored to the internet and our devices, we're more inclined to spend time reading materials online than offline.

Online catalogs can be enriched with videos, GIFs, pop-ups, iframes, CTAs and more. By enhancing and tailoring it to your online audience, you'll increase the amount of time spent in your catalog and with your brand.

You'll encourage your audience to learn more. And, unlike print, you can actually track your catalog performance. You can see exactly how your customers interact with your catalog. How long do they spend reading it? What pages do they spend more time on? Have they been inspired to buy?

Not only will you be able to increase time spent, but you'll actually be able to see that it's working. Your online catalogs will offer valuable insights that allow you to act on your findings. You can make informed decisions about performance, design and engagement.

So surely it's a no brainer right? You can take your print catalog, put it online and actually get useful statistics from it. I know, I'm not sure why you haven't done it already either!

Online catalogs will convert browsing shoppers into buyers

Whilst print catalogs work, they haven't quite kept up with the demands of our modern world. They offer no intuitive push towards the next step on the buyer's journey. And, we need that next step ready for us. We need to know where to go next.

From a print catalog your shopper has to either go to the store or search themselves online to buy a product. In that time they could easily get distracted by another brand and you'll lose out on their interest.

But, yep you've guessed it, online catalogs can offer that intuitive next step and more. Through your online catalog you can convert browsing catalog readers into website traffic. And, more importantly, you can convert them into customers.

With website and product links in your catalogs, your readers can immediately act on their inspiration and checkout either in the catalog itself or your website within seconds. Don't leave them to take the initiative themselves. Make it so easy that they can't ignore it. Make your catalog experience second to none so they can't resist their desire to buy.

Jo Molloy

Jo Molloy