A growing number of retailers have released app and digital versions of their printed catalogs, in an effort to reach a wider audience of shoppers.
Late last year, Neiman Marcus introduced a number of its apparel, accessory and holiday catalogs online and on the iPad. By making the digital versions identical to the printed ones, Neiman Marcus is enabling anyone to have a similar experience as its most loyal, big spending customers who typically receive the catalogs in the mail, says Michael Crotty, SVP, marketing, advertising and PR at Neiman Marcus Group.
“We didn’t think it needed to be different, at least in the beginning,” he says. “A year from now maybe we’ll have
digital versions that have things that the printed versions don’t, but we wanted to crawl before we walk.”
Crotty says the company is happy with the download and traffic figures to date.
Neiman’s strategy reflects the approach of many forward-looking major retailers, which is to say they’re treading carefully in terms of the mix between the printed version and emerging digital catalogs.
“Retailers are viewing it as different channels and they are measuring them as different channels,” says Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, a national retail consulting and investment banking firm. “The new formats will be huge, and there will still be a more limited role for the printed versions. Both will be strong revenue producers.”
Richard Linevsky, president and cofounder of retail aggregator Catalogs.com, says retailers should be using an e-catalog to augment their existing website. Catalogs.com recently created an iPad app for its partner merchants, including Foot Locker, Home Depot and Little Tikes.
Understand e-catalog best practices
Retail aggregator Catalogs.com has about 750 different
merchants. President and cofounder Richard
Linevsky shares his best practices for success.
Make e-catalogs different from the print. “A printed
catalog has to communicate both the visuals and
product description on one page,” Linevsky says. “An
online catalog can focus fi rst on product display and
images, and then provide a full-product description
should the customer click for more information.”
Allow for interactivity. Digital catalog versions open
up new opportunities for marketers and offer unique
benefi ts that print doesn’t, such as virtual gift lists
and building outfi ts through drag and drop functions.
Promote wherever you can. Reach customers through
Web, social media and e-mail communications.
“Most people go to a website to search, maybe purchase a product and then go,” says Linevsky. “But an online catalog, when done correctly, gives retailers an opportunity to push the product they want to push. The customer is really saying, ‘I like your brand, I like what you do, so show me what you got.’”
He says that’s the same formula that has made the catalog such a successful direct-selling vehicle in print format. “Retailers need to replicate that experience online and in fact, enhance it, by leveraging technology and getting into new platforms,” he says. “They can drive higher sales per customer because the customer is seeing so much more product.”
Sears made its holiday Wish Book gift guide available on Facebook, iPhone and as an iPad app last year. In addition to driving online sales, Eui Chung, who oversees social media at Sears Holding, says the launch of the digital Wish Book versions was about reaching new customer segments.
“We feel by going through mobile and iPad we’ve hit a new demographic that may not have been interested in Sears before,” says Chung. “By allowing these digital capabilities, we can interact directly with customers and that allows us to socially connect with them through the feedback channels we offer.”
Chung says Sears will measure the success of the online Wish Book through traffic figures as well as engagement and customer survey metrics. However, he says the company had not yet decided whether to ultimately release additional enhanced catalogs through mobile and social media channels.
*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that Catalogs.com works with 50 merchants but in fact it works with 750 merchants. Direct Marketing News regrets the error.