Harmonizing digital and print marketing

As part of its harmonious multichannel customer experience, Musician’s Friend recently debuted a digital, interactive catalog. The musical instrument Internet retailer aims to use the catalog to propel e-commerce and build customer engagement.

“This is an interactive, commerce-enabled portable catalog. Within it, it’s connected to our commerce platform so you have a shopping experience available to you within the catalog itself,” says Musician’s Friend’s director of brand experience Ryan Villiers.

According to Villiers, the built-in commerce component separates the publication from other digital catalogs.

“Any other form of a digital catalog that you might have seen actually takes you out of the experience if you want to purchase a product. The interesting thing about this experience is that it keeps you in the catalog while you’re going through the shopping experience,” Villiers says. “As you shop within the catalog, it collects that data, makes a call to our shopping cart, adds the item to the shopping cart, and then allows the user to continue to shop within the catalog or to pass through to our payment processing system to finalize the purchase.”

By teaming up with Zmags’ Verge platform for the interactive catalog, Musician’s Friend is providing its musician customers with the personal, hands-on experience of shopping for a guitar through the inclusion of 360-degree photos, video, static imagery, audio samples, and swiping action,Villiers says.

“One of the challenges that we continually have in the digital space is the need for musicians to actually pick up, feel, and interact with these very unique, very beautiful instruments in a way that can only be satisfied in the brick-and-mortar space,” he says. “We wanted to give our customers the ability to hear these guitars…to interact with them, to see lush, rich photography, to really be able to dive in deep and inspect these instruments in a way that nobody else is doing in the digital space right now.”

However, Musician’s Friend is not planning a curtain call for its monthly print catalog.

“It’s not our intent that this would ever replace the hard-copy printed catalog. In fact, we feel it’s going to enhance its experience,” Villiers says. “What we can do in the digital space surpasses what can be done in print just because of cost and real-estate. You have a finite amount of room when designing for a print catalog. It’s much harder in the static space to bring a lot of these instruments to life.”

In fact, Villiers says that print and digital provide a harmonizing experience for customers. “I think they both have a very different expected interaction from the customer. Our print catalog is definitely a more commerce-driven piece and does a very good job at that. The digital catalog is more about being engaged and creating that engagement and excitement around the product. That’s why I think they really enhance each other.”

Yet fine-tuning the digital catalog was no easy feat, says Villiers. “This was a labor of love,” he says. “This was really about pulling multiple technology platforms together to accomplish this very unique task from looking at how we would shoot the instruments, both traditional and 360 photography,…getting everything integrated with our commerce platform,…and keeping a high level of design standard behind it were all very real technical issues.”

Villiers says that sharing news of the digital catalog’s release via Musician’s Friend’s social community, which includes more than 300,000 music fans, and other outside communities, such as Harmony Central, has helped spread the word. Additionally, Villiers says that the company is promoting the catalog on the Musician’s Friend website and plans to launching its mobile and tablet sites in the upcoming weeks.

“We want to be there for [our customers]. We want to allow them to shop and interact with us on demand, in their space, by their selected channel, wherever we can.”

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