Catalog Doctor: The Page-Smart Catalog
PATIENT: Doc, last visit you gave me a prescription to help turn my sick catalog well again. This economy’s so bad, I think I need an additional prescription. You got anything?
CATALOG DOCTOR: Last issue’s dose of catalog fundamentals to combat “lazy cataloger syndrome” boosted copy, eye flow and scannability. Now try this shot in the arm for pagination and product selection.
Putting catalog fundamentals to work takes effort. Your whole team needs to think more and work harder to implement them. But when you do, expect to see good results. Ask yourself these questions and follow our prescriptions to get started.
1. What products do customers want to buy together? Take advantage of every opportunity to increase your items per order. It’s a benefit to your customer, too, because natural affinity products can make life easier and help them enjoy the main product more.
Prescription: Make it as easy as possible for customers to find items they might buy as a group. There are three ways to present these groupings:
- Organize your book to keep affinity products together. Most fashion catalogs use this technique, selling outfits rather than grouping all pants, then all blouses and so forth.
- Double expose appropriate products. Show the hummingbird food by the hummingbird feeders. Also show nectar along with birdseed in the food section.
- Cross-sell instead of just selling. Have text or a small photo with a caption telling where to find the book that shows how to use those tools.
Depending on your company’s product mix, you can employ all these techniques in the same catalog. But it takes focus and detailed analysis of the products on each page to do it well.
2. Adding a new product? Look for something “proven” about it. Buyers live with product lines day after day, so it’s easy to grow tired of old products, and it’s fun and exciting to experiment with new ones. But experiments are risky in down times.
Prescription: Analyze the elements that make your proven products successful. Only test a new product if it includes one or more “proven” elements. Example: You’ve found a gorgeous new print fabric for a blouse; introduce it first on your best-selling blouse body style. Similarly, if you want to test a brand-new body style, introduce it in your best-selling colors.
3. Replacing a best-seller? Don’t stray too far.
Prescription: When a best-seller’s discontinued, search for a replacement that’s as close as possible to the product you’re replacing. For example, your supplier no longer stocks your best-selling Snowman Gift Tower boxes. But the supplier has a really cute Santa Tower box it suggests as a replacement. Should you say yes? Not before searching for another snowman. The snowman was a proven motif for you. Abandoning it altogether is risky — customers might abandon you for some catalog that still has their snowmen.
4. Testing a new line extension? Include elements from a “proven” line. When sales are down due to a poor economy, adding a new line extension can make up lost sales by giving customers more reasons to buy. But how do you minimize the risk of a bomb?
Prescription: Analyze the reasons your customers buy a proven line. Then give them as many of the same reasons to buy your new line as possible. Do you specialize in hand-decorated, all-natural candies and are thinking of adding a cookie line? That means your cookies also should be all-natural and hand-decorated. Moreover, for your cookie launch, apply the same decorations you use on your best-selling candies where possible. If your cookies take off, then you can test ones with new decorations.
Susan J. McIntyre is founder of McIntyre Direct, a full-service catalog creative agency and consulting firm based in Portland, Ore. She can be reached at (503) 286-1400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan J. McIntyre is Founder and Chief Strategist of McIntyre Direct, a catalog agency and consultancy in Portland, Oregon offering complete creative, strategic, circulation and production services since 1991. Susan's broad experience with cataloging in multi-channel environments, plus her common-sense, bottom-line approach, have won clients from Vermont Country Store to Nautilus to C.C. Filson. A three-time ECHO award winner, McIntyre has addressed marketers in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, has written and been quoted in publications worldwide, and is a regular columnist for Retail Online Integration magazine and ACMA. She can be reached at 503-286-1400 or email@example.com.