Catalog Doctor: Prescriptions for Profitable Pagination
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PATIENT: "Doc, my old print catalog staff have retired, and the new young staff don't know catalog techniques like pagination. Can you give me a road map for pagination to share with my staff?"
CATALOG DOCTOR: "I'd be glad to. Pagination is the science of which products go where in the catalog, how to group them and how much space to allocate to each. The goal of pagination is to help guide your customers and prospects to a buying decision. Therefore, keeping your customer in mind while you're building your pagination is crucial, and will help maximize your catalog's sales. Here are definitions and prescriptions for different types of catalogs."
Your Mailing Plan is Key to Pagination
This surprises some people, but it's true. Do you print only once a year for fall/holiday, but with multiple cover changes? If so, you need a single pagination, optimized for holiday giving. Do you mail year-round with frequent changes to the catalog "guts"? If that's the case, then you should vary your pagination seasonally. Do you mail the same catalog to all your lists, or different catalogs to prospects than to customers? You'll find guidelines here common to all, plus tips for each catalog type.
What Are ‘Hot Spots’ and Why Do They Matter?
Hot spots are those pages in your catalog that are seen most easily. Products in hot spots will sell better than they will elsewhere. That means, in most cases, your best-selling products should be on your hot-spot pages. The sales lift you'll get from placing best-sellers in hot spots will maximize your overall revenue. Primary hot spots are the opening spread, back cover, inside back-cover spread (pages that folks who are quickly glancing at the catalog will see even if they never flip deeper inside), center spread (where the catalog opens most naturally to) and the pages facing any insert (the insert will make the catalog fall open to those pages).
Pretty-good-selling pages are those that follow the hot-spot pages. "Desert" pages fall the furthest from the hot-spot pages. "OK" pages are in between.
Unit Drivers, Revenue Drivers and Heroes
A unit driver, as the name suggests, is a product that sells lots and lots of units. Unit drivers appeal to a broad audience, thus why they sell so many units. That also means you'll get better response from prospects if you make unit drivers easy to find by putting them on the hot spots in your prospect books.
Revenue drivers usually sell fewer units, but they drive a lot of revenue. They're usually higher priced than unit drivers, sometimes substantially. Put these in hot spots for customers (make unit drivers easy for customers to find, too). A few precious products are both unit drivers and revenue drivers. Keep these products easy to find in the hot spots or nearby.
A hero is a product that you make larger or more eye catching on a spread. Past sales per square inch determines which products deserve hero treatment. You won't be able to fit all unit drivers nor all revenue drivers on the hot-spot pages, but you can give them prominent positioning on other pages to grab a viewer's attention. Doing so helps slow viewers down enough to look at more products on each spread.
Catalogs for Functional Products
Function buyers are shopping with particular tasks in mind. Grouping products by type of task makes it easy for this segment to find what they want. For example, for a gardener catalog, all pruning tools go together; all watering solutions go together; all composting solutions go together; etc. If you mail year-round, change the order of groupings seasonally — e.g., put planting products up front in the spring and clean-up products up front in the fall. Let your seasonal best-sellers guide you.
Catalogs for Fashion, Decor, Gifts
Buyers here are usually shopping for a particular look, and will often purchase companion pieces too. So room groupings for decor and outfit groupings for fashion work well. These buyers are often more aesthetically aware than function shoppers, so style groupings work well (e.g., a group of Asian-inspired gifts). Color groupings work well, too (e.g., a blue-themed room, a tan-and-black outfit). However, be cautious with color groupings that also mix styles, unless those styles mesh together.
By showing specific products together, you're letting your customer know it's a mix she can be proud of. Your pagination becomes a guide for the unsure.
Food Catalogs and Other Renewables
Many types of products, like food, flowers and apparel, get used up or worn out. You often find customers buying the very same products year after year. My great aunt Belle sent the same Christmas box of Mrs. See's chocolates every year for 30-plus years. Keep these invaluable products in hot spots or nearby. Food gift catalogs, especially, rarely need major pagination refreshes.
Paginating for Buyers vs. Prospects
Fill a catalog targeted to prospects with best-sellers. Use a combination of unit drivers and revenue drivers, with a focus on unit drivers to encourage that first purchase. There's no need to include unproven new products since all your products are "new" to prospects. Prospect catalogs are normally a lower page count than buyer catalogs, so you have to carefully pick and choose which products to include. If you offer a broad product range, try to include a sprinkling of most product categories to give a hint of what more they'll find. This strategy helps to maximize brand interest.
For customers, new products add excitement and encourage them to look at each catalog you mail them. The key is to not hide new products. Customers don't want to search for new products; many will give up after a short search through the first few pages. Call out new products on the front cover. Feature some new products early in the catalog, either as full sells or cross-sells to later pages. When new products are in the interior pages, be sure that "NEW" is clear and pops out to the page-flipping reader. In most cases, new products in the same category as past best-sellers should be given the most prominence — spread heroes or in the hot spots. Balance new product features with best-seller features.
When to Sell No Products at All on Your Intro Spread
If you have an important or interesting story to tell about your brand, products or services, you can sometimes skip selling any products on your intro spread. This technique works best on large-page-count catalogs, and only when done sporadically.
Important stories can include the following:
- The story behind a new catalog launch and what that means for customers.
- The benefits of buying from you instead of your competition. Your buyers get lots of catalogs in the mail, probably many from your competitors. A powerful message reminding them of why you're their best choice can help foster brand loyalty.
- A new product concept introduction. For example, if you sell power tools and have just added hand tools, making a big splash about it can capture customer interest.
- A big service change (e.g., a switch to free shipping) that you need to communicate in a big way.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.