With many, many extra hours to spend indoors and a sudden need for everything from at-home exercise equipment to reading material, online shopping has increased dramatically since 2020. eCommerce saw a 31.8% year-on-year growth in the 12 months to 30 June 2021.
And while I wait impatiently for an update on the delivery status of my latest impulse buy, it’s clear that the inexorable rise of ecommerce has given brands plenty of opportunities to be there for their audiences in ways that are helpful, engaging and beneficial for both the business and the customer.
Despite the clear rise of online shopping, the most successful businesses aren’t going completely digital. There’s still a place for offline marketing that helps you reach your audience in different formats, at different times. Take catalogues, which remain popular with Australian customers. But the opportunity to also take catalogues digital means you can offer customers an integrated shopping and browsing experience that lets them easily interact with your products, and improves the customer experience, a major brand differentiator.
The digital difference.
When you think of a digital catalogue, you might imagine whacking a PDF of your print catalogue on your website and calling it job done. The reality is that digital catalogues offer many benefits, and to get the most out of them, you need to be using them to their full extent.
The best digital catalogues are self-hosted so that you can collect important data and analytics insights that help you to create content that resonates most with the target audience. Beyond a full range of your products, they should also include helpful content designed to give customers support about what products are right for them.
Digital catalogues should also fully integrate with a brand’s ecommerce platform, which means that they only ever feature products that are held in stock. And prices are updated in real time, so there are no nasty surprises for your customers when they find out a product is no longer on sale.
Much like physical catalogues, you can arrange products in a setting that gives them context. Think about gaming mice, keyboards, and headphones shown alongside high-end gaming PCs. Or feature related products that can be bought as a bundle to cover all a customer’s possible needs without them having to search for them.
Streamline the purchase journey.
Let’s look at a typical purchase journey for a catalogue reader.
You’re reading a print catalogue and find a great deal on something. You either have to head out to the bricks and mortar store (impossible in lockdown) or jump online and order via the retailer’s digital presence.
It’s not available on every online store, but you find the product in an online catalogue hosted on a third-party aggregator. Clicking on the product, you’re sent through various redirects and additional tabs that, rather than taking you direct to the product to purchase, confront you with a list of disorganised products to navigate, even though you already found it in the catalogue in the first place. Cue banging your head against your keyboard – or more likely, exiting the website, never to return. It’s a poor interaction with the brand and will isolate customers from continuing the purchase or shopping with you again.
Retailer hosted digital catalogues streamline this journey, while offering customers a more enjoyable experience. Haptic elements, like ’pinch to zoom’ on a touch screen, or rotating images, create an interactive shopping experience that increases a customer’s likelihood to purchase.
After all, the easier it is to shop with your business, the more likely a customer will be to stick with you. Interactive, connected digital catalogues offer a lot more value than a separate print catalogue created in isolation from your brand’s digital strategy.
Innovating on tradition.
With a turnaround time of as fast as 48 hours, it’s easier to take advantage of a timely opportunity or create a flash sale event.
Digital catalogues are also dynamic – changes are possible even after they’re published. And smart AI functionality will make it easier to keep things updated. For example, if there’s a disconnect with pricing or a product is out of stock, you get an alert so it can be corrected straight away. With the pressure placed on product availability and delivery times due to the current COVID-19 lockdown measures, the ability to make quick updates based on stock availability is a major benefit to retailers.
With quicker turnaround, you’re also saving on time and costs. Automation technology built into a self-hosted digital catalogue means your team can spend more time on the creative aspects of catalogue work to get the attention of your customers, instead of some of the more… let’s be honest, boring tasks, like endlessly checking details or cross-referencing SKUs.
Self-hosted catalogues give your brand and your customers more visibility and more control. They complement both your physical catalogues and your other marketing efforts – from social media to online retail, display and promotional offers.
Customers can engage with support or browse for other items in the catalogue, rather than navigating to a new channel to get in touch.
And they connect the dots with all your other marketing. For example, you can run social campaigns that link straight to the catalogue on your site. Interested buyers can purchase on the spot, removing extra clicks and speeding up the path to purchase.
Digital catalogues aren’t just another arrow to add to your bow, but one that’s genuinely solving problems for brands. Agile, interactive, automated and innovative, digital catalogues let you live and breathe the creative process, giving you the room you need to deliver the best UX and CX possible.