Chronicles Put the Rooster Tile Near the Chicken Towel
By Susan J. McIntyre
Secrets of successful pagination.
Pagination, deciding what products go where in your catalog, is both an art and a science. Paginating can be complex and confusing. But understanding some basic principles can help unravel the mystery.
Easy to Find = Easy to Sell
A product on your catalog's back cover is easy to find, because the customer will see it without opening the book. Let's say a product will sell 30 percent better on the back cover than on a random inside page. Which product would you prefer to get a 30 percent lift: a $1,000-revenue product or a $10,000-revenue product? Top-selling products on your back cover will maximize sales. If top-selling products should go onto easy-to-find pages, then your first spread (pages 2 and 3) always should show bestsellers, right? Not necessarily. In fact, there's no right answer.
Aunt Belle & Mrs. See's
Every Christmas Aunt Belle gave us the same sampler box of Mrs. See's chocolates. Next Christmas, when Aunt Belle got her new Mrs. See's catalog, where do you think she'd look for her "regular box"? Some easy-to-find page, like 2 or 3.
Do you have a best-selling product line (e.g., gift chocolates, support hose, toner cartridges) that generates repeat purchases? Is your audience older (or business-to-business, which often shares seniors' impatience)? Or maybe this edition of your catalog mails primarily to prospects, so you want top products pictured front and center. That first spread (or other easy-to-find pages) is a good place to showcase your perennial best-sellers. Should bestsellers always be on pages 2 and 3? Not at all.
New, New, New
Elise's catalog was beautifully merchandised with tree-themed gifts. All shared one theme, but in many styles: Renaissance-look, cartoon, contemporary, etc. Loyal cartoon-tree-loving customers buy every cartoon tree item offered, then run out of products to buy. These collectors wanted new versions.
When Elise found new products, she featured them on the first spread to grab those customers' attention and excite interest in the latest catalog.
Does "new" matter to your customers? If your product line is like Elise's, probably yes. Yes, too, if you sell fashion merchandise. And yes when your customers get a lot of your mailings. A fresh catalog featuring new products on pages 2 and 3 is a good way to get customers to say, "I'll look at this," instead of heading for the trash can.
No Products Whatsoever
If the first spread is such a revenue-producing spot for new or best-selling products, why do some catalogs show no products there?
George's company had developed a unique product line, but as his catalog gained prominence, cheap knock-off catalogs appeared, cutting into his sales. But George's products truly were better than the knockoffs. Better materials, more benefit-laden features, hand-crafted quality. His service was better, too. He wanted to tell that story.
He told it on pages 2 and 3 — and it worked. It beat the control every time. The story version of his catalog became the control that was mailed to prospects, lapsed customers and at least once a year to loyal customers just to keep in touch.
George had a sales-increasing story to tell. Do you? Maybe you've just switched all standard shipping to second day. Or all your products are organic, or you've lowered prices. When you have an important story to tell, one that may make customers say, "Wow, I should order," put it on pages 2 and 3.
Form or Function?
What's the best way to organize products on your inside pages? Is it by function (e.g., bathroom items together), or like Elise's catalog, all the Renaissance-style products regardless of function?
Chris was the marketing manager for a uniform catalog. Taking the lead from fashion catalogs, he repaginated by outfits. Every product presentation would now show a jacket with a coordinating top, pants and shoes. The hope was to increase average order sizes.
The result? Lower sales and gripes from customers. "I'm confused." "I can't find the shoes I usually order." "Can't you put all the lab coats in one place so I can compare?" His customers shopped by function, and needed to see the products in functional (not fashion) groupings. When Chris repaginated by function, sales shot back up.
To contrast Chris' experience:
Brenda was director of a catalog of mixed apparel, gifts and décor. When she came on board, the catalog's pagination grouped all the apparel, jewelry, home décor, etc. Simple, functional, easy to find.
But Brenda thought she could do better. She reorganized the catalog by theme, color and style. She grouped, for example, animal-themed products and sophisticated-style merchandise. And she created beautiful, color-coordinated spreads of mixed products. Sales rose.
Brenda's customers shopped for aesthetic and emotional reasons. Her new pagination caught their eyes and their pocketbooks.
The Inside Back Cover
One catalog mantra goes like this: "30 percent of people read a catalog from back to front, so put top sellers on the inside back cover (IBC) spread." True? Most of the time, yes. Ah, but true for you? Well, not for Bill.
Bill put a great-selling product on the IBC. Its sales fell. He put a medium-seller on the IBC. Its sales fell. Big photo, small photo, themed-product spread, mixed-product spread — none of that mattered. The gift audience of older ladies apparently read the catalog only from front to back. For Bill's catalog, the IBC was never more than an OK spread.
If your catalog is like Bill's, don't waste your best products on the IBC. Otherwise, take advantage of this usually great spread by featuring high-revenue products there.
This Page Left Blank
The cataloger's new agency did everything right. The design was beautiful, the files were perfect — all 62 pages. Trouble was, the catalog was supposed to be 64 pages. Oops!
No one noticed that a 64-page, press-efficient print job had morphed into a 62-page, press nightmare. What to do with two blank pages? The cataloger and agency scrambled, repaginated and redesigned enough pages to get 64 total. Moral: Communicate page count clearly to everyone. And let everyone know that, in most cases, page count should be evenly divisible by four.
Susan J. McIntyre is president of McIntyre Direct, a full-service catalog agency and consulting firm based in Portland, Ore. She can be reached at (503) 286-1400 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.