Amazon Renovates Home Improvement, Tools Catalogs

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Amazon.com is building its inventory of catalogs. The online mega-merchant mailed three new catalogs this month to consumers, professional contractors and woodworkers to replace two books that were discontinued last fall.


Amazon.com Home Improvement is the spiffier, feminized version of the Bob catalog. Whereas the previous book targeted men who were hardcore tool hobbyists, Home Improvement reaches out to both genders with a selection of lighting, organizational items, shelving, tools and landscaping items, said Monica C. Smith, president/CEO of Marketsmith Inc., a Montclair, NJ, multichannel marketing agency that worked with Amazon to develop its catalog strategy. Item prices range from $10 to $1,000. Though the catalogs have a toll-free number to call, they're mainly to drive traffic to the Web site.


Amazon also has catalogs in the kitchen and electronics categories.


Home Improvement's design is "friendlier" than that of the earlier consumer book, Smith said, with hero spreads spotlighting a specific product in a large photo showing the item in use. To the right are six related items presented in a similar fashion with smaller images. Spreads in the previous catalog were divided into three columns with five or six SKUs listed in each.


Useful information is included: If the featured product is ceiling fans, for example, there will be information on how to mount them and the braces required to do so.


"It's all of the things necessary to be able to install the ceiling fan yourself without having to ask someone," Smith said.


Matt Shapiro, director of Amazon's tools and hardware division, liked the easy-to-use aspects of the reformatted catalogs and their greater selection of targeted merchandise.


"Millions of people visit our Web site every day," he said. "We have identified our core audience as three distinct markets and created strategy to speak to each of them."


The 52-page book mailed to a list of names from Amazon's in-house database. The number mailed across all three titles is in the millions, Smith said.


"Amazon is using their customer database to mail to customers who have bought tools from them before and other Amazon customers who it thinks are likely to be customers of tools," she said.


On the professional side, Amazon had one catalog, Tool Crib, for the past few years to target two distinct markets: contractors and woodworkers. Starting this month, the merchant pursues each segment with separate titles: Amazon.com Contractor and Amazon.com Woodworker.


The 72-page Contractor book supports the general contractor and those who use tools for a living, Smith said. Catalog design firm AGA, New York, designed it. As with Home Improvement, this catalog also tries to be more consumer friendly. It is organized by tool instead of manufacturer, as in the past. This lets readers view various prices, sizes and other product variations from one category on the same page.


Another consumer-friendly addition is more informative content, Smith said. The book also pushes harder to drive readers to the Web site, which has 10,000 tools. Only several hundred of these are in the catalog. Readers are encouraged to visit the Web site through various means, including calling out the site on every page, a free-shipping offer on most orders over $25 and a 110 percent price guarantee.


"Amazon feels that they have the largest selection of tools," Smith said, and it wants the target audience to know that.


The book mailed to Amazon customers who have purchased the types of items included in the catalog in the past as well as to prospects from Amazon's database. The modeling is broad-based because many contractors tools go across markets, she said.


The 56-page Woodworker catalog, on the other hand, went to a more tightly segmented and smaller list of craftsman. Most of the changes made to Contractor will be visible in Woodworker as well. Pricing in both professional books is similar to that in Home Improvement.


All three books are to mail monthly, though Amazon awaits results from Woodworker to decide whether a less-frequent schedule might be more appropriate, Smith said.


Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM News.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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