B-to-B Insights: A New Toy to Play With?
Consumers are taking notice of digital catalogs. Many retailers have already experienced strong sales through their digital books, and some B-to-B companies are reporting the same thing. Shouldn't you be getting a piece of the action?
In the plainest sense, a digital catalog is an online PDF of your catalog. The pages digitally turn like a print catalog or they scroll; images and copy blocks are clickable. A digital catalog also links to the products on your website, enabling consumers to make purchases. Sophistication of the interface varies, including search, bookmark and zoom features. (If you plan to produce a digital catalog that's not clickable and not linked to your shopping cart, don't bother.)
Your digital catalog can be hosted a couple different ways, including via a third-party service that plugs into your website or a third-party tablet app that offers a variety of payment methods.
Many third-party web catalog services, such as those provided by Movada Media or printers, offer a fixed, per page fee for converting and hosting your catalog, along with other incidental fees. For most B-to-B catalog retailers, they're the best place to start. However, some of them don't fully support the Apple platform, so functionality such as the click and add to shopping cart features don't work properly on an iPad.
Finding the Right App on the Menu
Some tablet apps (e.g., Google Catalogs) are cross-platform, however, most tablet apps only accept B-to-B catalogs for products with consumer appeal, such as food, tools and uniforms. A few tablet apps are only available on the iPad, which dominates the tablet market. For payment models, Google Catalogs is priced right — it's free! Catalog Spree offers a couple of payment options, including a pay-per-click model; Coffee Table offers an affiliate, percent-of-sale approach.
If you're unfamiliar with catalog apps, download a few to your tablet. (If you don't have a tablet, it's time to buy both an iPad and an Android version for your office.) Some catalog apps are cross-platform for both types of devices. Depending on your tablet, you can download Google Catalogs, CoffeeTable, Catalog Spree and Catalogue by theFind.
A columnist for Retail Online Integration, George founded HAGUEdirect, a marketing agency. Previously he was a member of the Shawnee Mission, Kan.-based consulting and creative agency J. Schmid & Assoc. He has more than 10 years of experience in circulation, advertising, consulting and financial strategy in the catalog/retail industry. George's expertise includes circulation strategy, mailing execution, response analysis and financial planning. Before joining J. Schmid, George worked as catalog marketing director at Dynamic Resource Group, where he was responsible for marketing and merchandising for the Annie's Attic Needlecraft catalog, the Clotilde Sewing Notions catalog, the House of White Birches Quilter's catalog and three book clubs. George also worked on corporate acquisitions.