Use Your Catalog Know-How Online

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The formula for any cataloger's success online is delivering a branded shopping experience while using only tools that are essential to enhance one's product, intrinsic to one's category and supportive of one's multichannel efforts.


Here's a review of elements unique to the cataloger's Web use as well as elements that can influence the execution of every merchant's Web experience.


Catalog photography. One of the cataloger's greatest assets is photography. Beyond the product itself, a reason many of us still enjoy shopping via catalog is that the images transport us to another world, inspiring us to buy. J. Crew presents an excellent example by teasing us with cover photography and key catalog lifestyle imaging, truly leveraging its investment across channels.


Browse by Catalog. This tool serves as a natural extension of the catalog. I tend to favor the functionality that lets consumers clearly find their catalog page of interest with direct links to the product page. Hot spots on the photography then let the shopper zoom into particular areas of interest for greater detail, increasing the likelihood to buy. Technology enhancements where merchants have the ability to e-mail prospective customers should serve as an excellent transition vehicle for older shoppers who are easing into the Web experience.


QuickShop. Eighty-one percent of the 57 catalogers we surveyed as part of our fifth annual merchant survey used QuickShop or QuickOrder functionality. Along with Browse by Catalog, QuickShop is a mainstay of shopping online. Shoppers get excellent catalog photography, a quick-flip format plus an efficient option to buy online. It's a time saver by any account.


Multiple item entry on a single page provides the optimal format. We suggest that merchants highlight their QuickShop as part of a first-timers' guide and display the feature in a prominent site location. Cross-promote this element in all print vehicles.


Branding. In our second annual merchant survey, which received more than 200 responses from a cross-section of merchants, many of whom were catalogers, we asked merchants to rank using a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being very critical) how crucial a series of issues were to their site's growth. Branding scored 3.89. With much of catalog site functionality now in working order, there is renewed emphasis on branding. Reinforcing the cataloger's image online through visual e-mail, text and communication is top-of-mind for merchants.


Cross-promotion among channels. Lately, I've begun tracking the real estate dedicated to Web selling within the catalog. Sephora and Saks 5th Avenue both have had excellent visibility for the Web, including ways to shop online, available tools and real estate dedicated to their QuickShop tools.


Also, I have noticed catalogers testing in their catalogs a 10 percent discount for placing your first order online. These elements promote use of the Web as a cost-effective channel, taking advantage of the catalog audience as the key driver.


One cataloger with whom I am working has successfully tested sending a follow-up e-mail to visitors who request a catalog on its site. The e-mail teases them with messaging that suggests why wait to get the catalog, when they could save 10 percent by shopping online within a specified time period.


Best-in-class merchandising. Catalog merchants know their products, have identified appropriate upsells and cross-sells and have contributed to smart implementation of upsells and cross-sells currently found on-site. The relevance of these cross-sells continues to improve, which also bodes well for conversion.


Regardless of channel, smart selling is based on the location-location-location premise. Relevant merchandising in strategic online locations boosts the average order, always a critical metric but even more so when growth in the catalog business is tough.


Timing and consistency. Catalog drops can be the impetus for site changes and on-site promotions. Ideally, consistency can be established through branding, promotion of the catalog cover, photography and communication elements. Wise catalogers focus on establishing consistency among all their channels. For example, e-mails drive traffic to pages that reflect the branding and messaging they promote.


Flexibility. Be open to change as the Internet was built on speed, efficiency and convenience. As a merchant, one always should be willing to adapt in support of bettering your own multichannel strategy.


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