Why digital catalogues are an essential piece of the customer experience puzzle

Tim Cavanagh, New Business Lead, Ovato

For retailers, printed catalogues have long been a marketing staple. And they’re still a thriving channel – recent research indicates there are 13.4 million people reading catalogues in Australia, and 70 per cent say they’re a helpful shopping tool. At the same time, there’s no doubt that ecommerce is critical for business success, with global online sales expected to reach $4.5 trillion by 2021.

Joining the dots between these offline and online channels is the key to delivering customers what they want from your brand. Today’s shoppers expect a seamless, consistent experience during every interaction with the brands they buy from – and they can switch to a competitor in seconds if they don’t feel satisfied. When it comes to the crunch, customer experience is critical. 73 per cent of buyers point to experience as an important factor in purchasing decisions.

You need channels that deliver a frictionless experience online (and on mobile), while also enhancing your print and offline marketing to give customers a full, interactive experience. That’s where digital catalogues come in.

A true multi-channel experience

An interactive, click-to-buy digital catalogue should be a no-brainer for any retailer producing catalogues – yet they’re too often a missing piece in the puzzle. They connect your different marketing channels, and, most importantly, allow customers to shop however they want, whenever they want to.

Consider a customer – let’s call her Jane - flicking through your print catalogue in the evening. It’s outside of your bricks-and-mortar store hours but Jane has spotted a great deal on a laptop and she wants to take advantage of the sale offer before it expires tomorrow.

When looking for the product to purchase she finds your catalogue but is unaware that it’s on a third-party aggregator, so when she clicks on the item, her experience is broken by unwanted redirects and additional tabs. When Jane is then faced with 32 pages of non-alphabetised products to navigate, she abandons the process altogether. The overall result is a poor interaction with your brand.

With a retailer hosted digital catalogue, this process could be done and dusted in minutes, within a more immersive and engaging experience than simply scrolling through pages and pages of standalone items.

As an example, Harvey Norman’s range of online catalogues, updated weekly, don’t only showcase products but also provide helpful content, like tips for choosing the right product for you, and a direct link to purchase pages. Integration with its ecommerce platform ensures the catalogues only ever promote products in stock, reflecting the current selling price.

Your catalogue can be designed to place products in context, such as showing bed linen within a bedroom setting, or displaying a series of related products that could be bought as a bundle. With haptic elements like pinching to zoom, or rotating the image on mobile, it’s a fully interactive shopping experience that increases a customer’s likelihood to purchase. Importantly, it doesn’t do any brand damage by providing a broken UX that infuriates and alienates a potential customer.

An integral part of your digital strategy

Digital catalogues provide a seamless experience for your customers, but they also deliver data and efficiencies that help you to get the most out of all your marketing channels.

A catalogue hosted on your own website ensures you’re maintaining control of your traffic, so consumers can directly engage with customer support or browse for items while they’re there. You can run social or digital ad campaigns in conjunction with your prospecting and remarketing, to build awareness of specific offers or deals, linking straight to the catalogue on your site so relevant and interested buyers can purchase on the spot.

Connecting the digital catalogue to your ecommerce inventory systems also allows the most up to date product pricing to be displayed, to give you peace of mind that it’s always accurate. Unlike static print material, the online version of the catalogue is a highly flexible and dynamic marketing tool that can identify potential issues around product availability and protect the customer journey.

Applying measurable insights

With a digital catalogue hosted on your own site, you gain a range of useful insights that can be used to improve not only your digital activity, but also your print activity. Build a deeper understanding of audience behaviour with data on what products are clicked on, where your traffic is coming from, and what type of users are abandoning their cart. Equipped with these insights, you can take a more strategic approach to both your printed and digital catalogue design. For example, maybe you draw more attention to certain high-revenue products on the cover or get smart with the catalogue images used in digital ads targeted to different audience segments.

At the end of the day, today’s retailers are in a competitive market that is increasingly defined by experience rather than price. To get in the game, you need integrated channels that offer customers the simple, streamlined UX they’re looking for.

Find out how you can effectively create and manage digital catalogues within our end-to-end advertising production suite or contact Tim on 0409 464 521 to learn more.