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Digital Catalogues – Getting Started
Digital catalogues are an important ecommerce marketing tool, even more so with the social sharing options encouraged by quality digital catalogues. Conversion expert Charles Nicholls of SeeWhy describes how to use digital catalogues effectively.
Digital catalogues leverage the tablet computing trend, enabling customers to browse through multiple brands’ catalogs, view products, share with friends, and click through to ecommerce sites.
Impressive conversions statistics are beginning to emerge from digital catalogues, for example:
- Significant increases in visitors – some sites report an immediate 30-40 percent jump in website traffic following the launch of their first catalogue.
- Catalogue referred traffic can make up a significant proportion of traffic – 25 percent of all website traffic is not uncommon.
- Double average time-on-site – visitors that have clicked through from digital catalogues have already researched products offline before arriving at the ecommerce site. Their interest is high.
- Increased AOV – some merchants have reported increases in average order value of 33 percent.
However, before we get carried away on a wave of digital catalogue euphoria, it’s worth noting that measurement of the true effects of having a digital catalogue is not straightforward. The tablet is not a conversion device. Tablets are primarily used for entertainment, exploring new things and for social networking.
Consumers feel most secure making e-commerce purchases on traditional desktop computers. Clearly, there is a usability issue as well: Entering in shipping and payment details on a touchscreen can be a pain.
We see this reflected in the shopping cart abandonment rate. In 2011, the average shopping cart abandonment rate for mobile devices was 97 percent, compared with 72 percent across all devices.
What this means in practice is that digital catalogues, just like their paper-based ancestors, provide a great platform for customers to shop and research potential future purchases at their leisure. The future potential purchase will often be in a different session and on a different device.
If you already have a print catalogue, then it’s an easy step to take a PDF of your catalogue and get it up on one of the digital catalogue applications such as Google Catalogs, Catalog Spree or Catalogue by TheFind. There’s even a catalogue category now in iTunes. It doesn’t make sense to try and build your own catalogue tablet application. Digital catalogue applications have aggregated many of the biggest brands into one app, which means millions of app downloads and lots of traffic. It is this traffic stream that you want to tap into. Many smaller brands talk of the ‘halo effect’ of being associated with these mega brands, which brings both credibility and new customers. Many brands, such as Sephora, are on multiple app platforms.
New to Catalogues?
If you don’t have a print catalogue, then there is some effort in producing a digital catalogue. You need to lay it out in a PDF format and be prepared to update it regularly — four to six times per year. If you are starting from scratch, then it’s well worth thinking about interactive content, video in particular, where it makes sense.
Digital catalogue applications regularly promote featured applications, and the apps are more likely to promote catalogues that have rich user experiences. An example of a rich user experience is Williams-Sonoma which has links back to recipes related to the products featured on its catalogue.
Getting featured is important in raising your visibility on the app itself. Catalog Spree has more than 100 catalogues; Google more than 200 with 100 more in the pipeline. So getting your brand’s visibility up is important. In addition, to be featured on Google, you’ll need to be on Google Product Search since this is used in the set up process to link your PDF product images to the relevant e-commerce pages on your site.
A good example of a digital-only catalogue is Dooney & Bourke. According to Google, approximately 15 percent of its merchants are digital only, and they anticipate this growing as more brands catch on, especially in some of the smaller categories where more of the merchants are niche designers unlikely to be able to afford a printed catalog.
The ability for a consumer to create their own personal ‘lookbook’ of items featured in different catalogues from different brands is important. Bookmarking items and creating a collage ‘Pinterest style’ is an important part of the buying process, as well as enabling customers to socialise and share items or complete lookbooks of items they like or are considering.
The tablet apps all enable customers to variously share on Facebook, Tweet, or Pin on Pinterest, so you need to have your social media act together as well to really leverage these pins, tweets and shares fully.
If you’ve already got a printed catalogue, then the process of going digital is really simple, and you are probably already looking at this. Undoubtedly, digital catalogues will secure you new customers significantly beyond your current subscriber list. The fact that this is essentially a free traffic source makes it all the more attractive.
If you are new to catalogues then you’re going to need some help to pull together a PDF version. However, this is worth the effort to test; having your brand in front of a high-quality traffic stream of buyers and basking in the reflected glory of association with some of the top brands makes this well worth trying out.
While the data is still hard to find, the early conversion and traffic numbers from digital catalogs are really encouraging. In terms of costs, with Google Catalogs there is currently no charge, while others, such as Catalog Spree, charge based on clickthrough traffic.
Seeking more information on how to get an online retail venture off to a flying start? See our complete A-Z guide, Power Up: The Online Retail Entrepreneur’s Guide.