Tips for Finding the Right Product Density for Your Catalog
"How Do I Know How Much Space My Products Need?"
Look at your square inch reports (covered last month). If a product is earning enough revenue to generate profit on a full page, give it a full page. If it earns enough to only generate profit on one-ninth of a page, only give it one-ninth.
"But How Can I Be Sure My Sqinch is Telling Me the Optimal Space?"
Study each product. If you think that a top-selling item would do just as well in less space, test it in less space and see if sales hold up. How about that great product that just never seems to sell as well as you think it could? Does it need more photos, more copy, call-outs, etc? Give it a test. If those changes don't help, drop the space back down or dump the product.
"Should Every Page Have the Same Density?"
No, that's boring. Many users will lose interest and never see the whole catalog. It's better to shake up the look throughout the book. One way to do this is to alternate high-density spreads with low-density spreads. Another is to put a dense page opposite a full-page product. Or combine both methods.
"I Can't Afford Much Testing, Are There Any Rules of Thumb Instead?"
Yes. Is your brand upscale? Lower density will help to communicate quality and higher price points. Do you sell budget-conscious products? Higher density will help communicate great value for lower prices.
Remember to vary density both to maximize square inch profit and to keep the catalog interesting. Even a luxury catalog can support a few high-density pages. Likewise, a low-priced catalog can support a low-density spread or two.
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.