November 20, 2016 David Deal

Catalog Design Strategies: 3 Keys to Success

Catalog Design is both art and science. In this blog post, we are going to reveal 3 key elements required for creating a successful catalog-driven product business where the catalog design acts as the primary marketing tactic.

The catalog business has experienced 3 major Advancements in evolution since its inception with the legendary Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog of the 1890s. Savvy marketers know how to leverage today’s digital advancements to drive catalog businesses into powerful brands that dominate online sales, which is the key to today’s product sales success.

catalog design example with magnified image showing the details of the photography

Catalog Design – Advancement 1: High Resolution Digital Color Photography
On the surface, stating the importance of color photography may seem elementary. After all, who wouldn’t think of showing their product offering with color photography. You can’t even begin with black and white photography anymore. You must shoot photos in color and then convert to black and white if you want that look. But, that’s not the point of this tip. The advancement that many online catalog businesses don’t take advantage of is the ability to inexpensively capture and deliver large, high resolution color product photos in their printed pages and on their web sites. When I say large, I mean huge. The kind of large where you can magnify the photo and zoom in on the product details to examine surface texture, finishing details, stitching, etc. Can you recall a time when you zoomed-in on a product in this way and how much more confidence it gave you in buying hat product? And, can you recall when you wanted to magnify a product photo and couldn’t? What did that do to your buying confidence? Did you then go back to your Google search to find a better web site? When you give customers the ability to examine the fine details of your products, you draw them into a rich sensory experience that is as close to holding the product in their hands as possible outside of a brick and mortar shopping. The more you draw customers into this kind of shopping experience, the more likely they are to appreciate the quality of your offering and buy.

catalog design marketing intelligence flowhart of logic that helps find the right customer prospects

Catalog Design – Advancement 2: Big Data Analytics
A critical key to a successful catalog business is your customer list. Established businesses can testify to the value of building customers over time that become the foundation for repeat business and drive the long-term success of their businesses. But, every business has to find that first-time customer and successfully convert them buying. In the past, a mailing list broker was your best bet for acquiring customer prospects. Hopefully, their target list works for you. You would specify the demographic makeup that you think matches your ideal customer and hope you were right. Today, big data analytics takes the guessing game out of prospecting. Now, marketing intelligence companies can access billions of customer transactions to find prospects with transaction history that matches your ideal customer. For example, your ideal customer may be someone that bought products like yours in the past 90 days in a specific size or quantity, spent a certain amount of money, live in a certain region, etc. Then the marketing intelligence digs in deeper to find other prospects that also shop at X number of other online retailers, donated to the same charitable organizations, get their news from these same news outlets and subscribe to these certain blogs to deliver a target-rich environment where many of the same ideal customers can be found. How can they do this? Because our transactional data is stored in shared co-operative databases that thousands of top retailers use and share with one another to enable a collective fine tuning of customer prospecting. This is what Omni-channel marketing is all about: allowing transaction data and behaviors to tell us who our ideal customer is and where to find them. As big data continues to evolve, we will continue seeing more customized offerings appearing in our physical and email boxes. Smart catalog marketers are stepping into a new golden age of catalog design and product sales. Imagine opening a catalog where every single product offering was selected for us based on our design tastes, fashion sensibilities, immediate needs and budget range. It’s coming, and coming fast!

Catalog design graphic showing digital marketing icons over several icon person heads which illustrates how each person's journey is unique

Catalog Design – Advancement 3: Digital Marketing
In the 1890s, the printed page was the only way of delivering advertising messages to customers, other than word of mouth. Today’s catalog businesses still understand the value of putting a beautifully designed catalog into the hands of customers. But, that is just the first step in the customer’s path to purchase. The goal of the printed catalog is to draw the customer prospect into your brand experience and transition them into an online experience with your web site. This is what really drives sales. Once you get them to your web site, they are opened up to your entire product offering and digital marketing tools setup for a Omni-channel (multi-channel) marketing campaign to continue interactions with that customer and dramatically increase conversion rates. In our experience, adding a robust digital marketing campaign of remarketing ads, lead nurturing (drip) emails and social media posts increases new prospect conversion rates by as much as 200% compared to direct mail alone. It can increase total dollar sales with existing customer lists by 25% year-over-year. The secret to this kind of success consists of understanding and leveraging two main factors: Repetition and timing.

Repetition: We all buy from brands we know and trust. After seeing a new brands’ advertising messages multiple times and over a period of time gives us the feeling that we now know that brand. And, since others must be buying from it (because it’s still around), we develop a greater sense of trust. Other factors positively effecting trust levels include the quality of the catalog design, photography, messaging and product details. The combination of these elements and delivering your offerings with repetition delivers the sales conversions that make businesses successful. We see many entrepreneurs venture into the catalog business with the unrealistic expectations that they simple need to “build it and they will come.” And, after the first mailing, when the windfall doesn’t happen, they decide that the catalog game doesn’t work. The reality is, success is found in the long game. And, it keeps building over time. If you can’t support a catalog business with 6-9 months of loss until you hit breakeven, then don’t step on the playing field.

Timing: Timing is about getting your product offering in front of the right person when they are ready to buy. The more your offer is visible to a prospect, the higher the chance they will be ready to buy while seeing your offering. New digital marketing tools within social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are ideal for retailers. You can now “boost” , “promote” or “advertise” your posts to appear in the feeds of people who match your prospect profiles. Lead Nurturing (drip) email marketing sends targeted messages and offerings to prospects over time to increase the chance of converting the sale. The cost-per-thousand (CPM) of these tactics is a fraction of the cost of mailing the physical catalogs so marketers are crazy for not using them. But, the real success stories come from those that do all of it: Print and digital combined. There is a reason mega-retailers like Pier One, Restoration Hardware and Victoria’s Secret still send high-budget catalogs to our homes every year. The multi-channel brand experience breeds success.