I live on the Internet. Between the time I spend doing research, submitting work products, updating websites, and even finding time to play in a really cool role-playing game called Last Chaos there doesn’t seem like much time left for anything away from the computer.
And yet, I find time to raise a child, adopt an abandoned iguana, breed fish, crochet, play the violin, collect all the most unusual plants I can find (an arabica coffee plant is my current favorite) and any number of other things to fulfill my drive to discover something new and challenging.
You might think that having so many interests would make the Internet a fount of valuable information and products for me. It’s not. I spend so much time on it that I have developed the ability to see nothing outside the content I’m looking for (ads? what ads?), and am so tired of seeing the same script-based website catalogs that I crave for something new.
Enter the paper catalog. Yes, that tried-and-true, old-as-print form of advertisement that so many people find stuffing their mailboxes. Have you noticed that there are fewer and fewer of those many-colored glossy creations in your mail lately? There’s a reason for it, and that reason has a name: Information Superhighway. The cost of producing advertisements – catalogs included – is so much less when done digitally that many companies have completely done away with the costlier, time-tested alternative.
From one customer’s perspective (me), these businesses have cleanly sliced out a huge source of income. A degreed member of the design world, fully versed in advertising tricks, I recently fell prey to the oldest form of advertisement available. I happily turned out my pockets for a ton of crochet-related “things” that I’d never known existed and never would have looked for had it not been for that beautiful catalog with all the bright shiny photographs fitting neatly in my hands as I reclined on my couch … so many feet from my computer and its high-powered Internet connection that it may as well have been miles.
Direct Mail Statistics
When I first heard that USPS performed a survey on how direct mail affects e-commerce dollars, I was suprised. Not that I should have been, I suppose. They make their money when people actually mail things, and if we’re relying on the Internet for everything from simple correspondence to product advertising, we’re not spending money with them.
The numbers found by the USPS/comScore survey really are surprising, though. For instance, people who receive a catalog account for 22% of website traffic and 37% of money spent at those websites. That’s huge – seriously.
comScore surveyed the online shoppers to 40 different retail websites, including apparel, department store, home and garden, consumer electronics, and computer hardware and software “shops”. What they ended with was more than 6,400 responses … the most important one to any ecommerce site owner being this:
Shoppers who received a catalog from any given retailer were twice as likely to make an online purchase at that retailer’s online store.
And when they shopped online, they really shopped. They made 15% more transactions than customers who had found the website from a search engine, and their spending was 16% higher.
Catalogs as a Powerful Marketing Tool
Banner ads and other forms of web advertising are a great tool. But many web-savvy consumers have learned to tune even the best web ads out, meaning that the money spent developing the ad and placing it has been largely wasted.
Not only do catalogs help increase your sales – in a couple of ways, since customers can purchase directly via mail or head to your website to learn more – but the surveys have shown that catalogs also attract customers to a website in the first place. These customers tend to stay longer, view more pages, and make more repeat visits.
What this means, very simply, is that catalogs help develop a relationship with your customer. They introduce your customer to more products, increase brand awareness, and generally make them feel they “know” your company better. You’re no longer some website swimming in the digital pool, but you’re Company Name that has a great catalog and a cool online store.
With this comes a level of trust in your company that means more spending … the customer doesn’t feel so worried about spending money with you, because they know you.
Finding What You Need to Design a Catalog
A successful catalog doesn’t need hundreds of products. It doesn’t even need dozens. Think about the latest computer catalog you received from a big-name company. They offer a selection of about 10 products and a lot of information about those products, the company, and all the ways that a customer can go about learning more and buying their product.
In other words, don’t let a lack of huge inventories dissuade you.
Beyond that, there are a number of sources online that can get you designing a really spiffy catalog without having any knowledge to start with. Each of the resources listed here are free, and will get you going on the right track fast.
Catalog Forums – Forum to ask your catalog design questions.
Catalog Printing Tips – Ask yourself the following questions as you prepare documents to promote your business to customers or communicate important information to others.
Catalog Printing Glossary – Glossary of catalog printing terms.
Catalog Printing Methods – Listing of catalog printing methods.
Producing a Catalog – If you are new to the process of making a catalog this article is for you. It will walk you through the most important step to catalog production – planning. Planning who, when and how your catalog will be produced will ensure a smoother catalog design.
Rules of Good Catalog Design – As catalogs continue to advance in their design and strive to stand out in the mail-order market, the following design principals still prove effective in producing sound catalog design and selling product. Of course, with every design rule there can be exceptions, but these generally accepted design rules will help guide you in producing a good catalog.