Online Catalogs Poised to Surge in UK

Adoption of online catalogs by UK multichannel merchants trails those in the United States by two years, according to RichFX vice president of marketing Christophe Cremault. But Britain is poised to catch up quickly, the executive for the online catalog solution provider said this week.

Of the top 200 U.S. catalogs, 50 percent to 60 percent have an online catalog solution. Cremault expects penetration to reach 80 to 85 percent in the next year. After that, the rate of penetration among midsize and smaller catalogers should pick up.

The adoption rate grew much faster a few years ago. The number of print catalogs replicated online rose more than 60 percent from 2002 to 2003, according to Oxbridge Communications Inc.'s 2004 edition of the National Directory of Catalogs.

By comparison, 10 percent to 15 percent of the top 200 UK catalogs now have an online catalog, Cremault said.

Multichannel merchants put their catalogs online because benefits are quickly discernable, according to New York-based RichFX. These include the ability to increase conversion rates as much as 25 percent and average order values up to 30 percent. Also, as many as 25 percent of Web site visitors view interactive catalogs.

What's held back the United Kingdom is that the whole area of Internet shopping isn't as far along as it is here, Cremault said.

“Businesses have finished the basic blocking and tackling of their Web sites, and now they need to add more advanced features,” he said.

One factor that should help the online-catalog market develop faster in the UK than it did in the United States is that RichFX and other providers won't have to explain what an application service provider is, Cremault continued. Several years ago, businesses were still used to technology providers supplying a software disk and weren't yet accustomed to interfacing online in business-to-business situations.

“The UK is OK with ASP solutions,” which will make adoption more seamless, Cremault said.

Other reasons that the UK is a good market for online catalogs include that it is a country of 60 million people and the population generally has a high income and is well educated. Scandinavia has a higher level of Web penetration, but the UK experiences the most e-commerce in Europe, Cremault said.

RichFX, which already has several international clients, announced an alliance July 11 with UK-based e-commerce solutions firm Screen Pages. The deal should help RichFX built its presence in Britain, where it has helped retailers such as Craghoppers, Party Pieces, Business Bump and Isabella Oliver develop online catalogs.

RichFX is also looking at continental Europe for further expansion, Cremault said.

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

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