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Your digital catalogue is one of your most important sales tools. How you design it will have a huge influence on your ability to convert interested parties into paying customers.

Good design is the difference between customers completing sales or abandoning your catalogue in search of competitor products. You can’t afford to get it wrong.

Digital catalogue design can seem like a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. We’ve compiled a list of design mistakes to avoid creating your digital catalogue.

Don’t change your brand design between catalogues

When creating a new catalogue, it can be easy to miss small changes to your brand design. Colour variations, font types and logo sizes.

Brand recognition is massively important when trying to build or maintain market share. It is through design repetition that you will build memory structures in your customers minds so that they remember your brand.

Make sure you keep a consistent brand design between catalogues to ensure you build trust and create instant recognition for your customers. You can do this by creating a distinct visual brand identity you stick with. While making sure your brand voice and messaging doesn't change between catalogue editions.

Avoid hiding your contact information

If your customers have questions about a product, or shipping, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to contact you.

With so many different products, information and design elements to consider, it’s easy to forget about making your contact information clearly visible. Consumers shouldn’t have to search long and hard for relevant email addresses, phone numbers, company website addresses, and e-commerce URLs.

Burying product codes in the detail

When we talk about product codes, we mean SKU numbers, item numbers and QR codes. These shorthand unique identifiers make it super easy for customers to find your products and turn browsing into a purchase. While also helping you yo track your internal inventory.

With so much data for each product – name, description, price, sizes, product image – it's an oversight for product codes to become buried in the listing. Make sure your product codes remain clearly visible – unique styling through colours, font size and bold typeface will help.

Avoid clutter at all costs

Don’t clutter your catalogue pages with a myriad of small pictures. Stick to your style guide (what do you mean you don’t have a style guide?) use your agreed fonts and don’t use too many different font sizes.

If the reader can’t figure out what text relates to what picture or where one section ends and one begins, they will either keep scrolling or, worse still, look elsewhere.

Also, don’t use busy backgrounds. If you do, there’s a risk your products won’t stand out. Each page must have its own internal hierarchy, not every product on a page can have the same prominence. Don’t overuse saturated colour. Customers with a psychedelic headache are less likely to buy!

Poor navigation costs current and future sales

Navigation is easily one of the most critical parts of your catalogue design. Good navigation makes it quick and easy for customers to move through your catalogue and find the products they want.

According to a study by Baymard, they discovered a poor interface meant users couldn't find the items they were looking for. Leading them to think items were not present, even when they were. Not only did this directly affect current sales, users said they were unlikely to return for future sales as they believed a product wasn’t available.

Make sure you design with navigation as one of your primary considerations. Here are some critical navigation elements to consider:

  • Including a catalogue index
  • Search functionality – including free text search, auto completion and advanced search features
  • Creating big and visually appealing navigation menus
  • Clear organisation of Parent Categories and Subcategories in the the navigation menu
  • Positioning of your navigation – vertical, horizontal, floating, drop-down

Hiding the deals and discounts

Special offers are a great way to attract new customers and keep recent buyers coming back for more. Discounts are great for driving quick short term sales and moving excess or outdated inventory. So, don’t bury the discounts, make them prominent and attractive.

This is where a digital catalogue wins hands down as it gives you the ability to activate special offers at a moment’s notice. Change discounts regularly so customers will want to return to check out what’s new. What might take months to percolate through to your print catalogue can happen almost instantly if your catalogue is online.

It's important to consider whether you discount a product. While there are a number of benefits, overuse of discounting can have an inverse impact. It can project a lack of confidence in your products and set a bad precedent for customers always expecting lower prices.

Jim Preen
Post by Jim Preen
August 21, 2023
Jim Preen is crisis management director at YUDU Sentinel where he provides client specific advice on all aspects of communications and designs and delivers simulation exercises via the Sentinel app. Formerly, he was a journalist working at ABC News (US) where he covered stories including the Gulf War, the Bosnian conflict and the Concorde crash. He won two Emmys for his work.