In 1667, English gardener William Lucas published and distributed the first mail order catalogue. Since then, catalogues have remained one of the most valuable sales tools for your business.
After centuries of success in print, the ingenuity of even the most creative marketing professional has been exhausted. The evolution of technology and the switch to digital breathes new life into catalogues, opening up a realm of new opportunities.
In this guide, we will uncover simple and advanced strategies for driving sales with your digital catalogue.
Digital publishing software gives you the ability to add interactive elements to your catalogue to drive engagement and deliver new business.
Image: Pink Zebra's digital catalogue uses interactive hyperlinks to direct customers to their e-commerce site
The following interactive elements combine to create the vehicle with which you can drive that increased engagement through your digital catalogue. All of which should be available with any leading digital publishing platform:
Technology can accelerate and simplify the process of making catalogue purchases. While going digital also creates new and alternative channels through which you can generate sales directly from your online catalogue.
Below are some powerful ways you can drive sales directly from your e-catalogue. But we are only scratching the surface of what can be possible.
Once your catalogue enters the digital realm, connecting your digital catalogue with your e-commerce website will improve the customers buying experience and generate more sales.
Adding hyperlinks in your catalogue to SKU codes, product descriptions and images creates a seamless transition to the equivalent product page on your e-commerce website. A great way to provide additional information, or provide a convenient pathway to complete a purchase.
It’s also a great way to offer an alternative browsing experience for customers. Creating a splash page early on gives customers a choice of how they want to view your products. While many prefer the linear navigation experience and familiarity of browsing a catalogue, others would rather the process of browsing a website.
Screwfix offered this choice to customers in their digital catalogue - shop on the website or continue in the catalogue - and saw roughly a 50/50 split.
Another benefit of digital catalogues is the ability to add tracking parameters to any hyperlinked URLs. So, when you connect your catalogue and e-commerce site, it’s easy to collect analytics data and identify the sales driven by your digital catalogue.
Leading digital publishing platform providers - like YUDU Publisher - offer in-built functionality allowing you to add a digital shopping cart to your e-catalogue.
Customers can now browse and add products to a digital basket all with the click of a button. Once ready, they can complete their purchase all within the confines of your digital catalogue.
An alternative to shopping cart technology, you can deliver an online order form directly from your digital catalogue.
Customers can browse your catalogue and quickly add products to the form. When ready, customers have two options:
To get the most from your digital catalogue, you need to ensure it’s mobile-friendly. This is vital for a positive user experience for increased conversion, while also being a critical factor in helping your catalogue rank in modern search engines.
Especially with Google who operate mobile-first indexing protocols, where the mobile version of your website (or catalogue) content is primarily used for indexing and ranking.
Image: Mobile responsive design in Marshalls digital catalogue
Implementing a mobile responsive design ensures your digital catalogue will look great on all devices - desktop, tablet, and smartphones. Delivering a positive user experience for customers, with text scales that according to device and offering accessibility to those with visual impairments.
While indexing content, Google analyses similar design elements when deciding how to rank your digital catalogue in the search results. Using Google’s mobile-friendly test tool, you can test your own catalogue to ensure it meets the required standards, while gaining key design insights on what may need fixing.
Being mobile-friendly goes beyond design and into functionality. Page load time on mobile is also another critical factor that influences sales conversion and search rankings alike.
Fast page load times for your e-catalogue on mobile devices will help increase sales conversion rates and search rankings. Your customers will have a better experience through quicker access to your product content.
Touching on this topic elsewhere, focussing on improving server response times, compressing images, and caching files all combine to help accelerate your page load times.
With a digital catalogue, changes made to content are instantly available online once they’ve been published. Providing you with the freedom to make regular changes to your catalogue, without the need to consider time delays and additional costs associated with traditional print.
Explore the suggestions below to gain insight into how instant updates to your digital catalogue can be used as a mechanism to drive additional sales.
Instant updates make it quick and simple to run seasonal and spot discount campaigns. Within hours, you can create a campaign version of your catalogue complete with discount banners and updated product pricing.
The discount campaign version of your catalogue can then be easily shared through email and social channels. With changes reflected in search engine results the second your catalogue is spidered by web crawlers.
By implementing version control, you can even revert to your original catalogue with a single click of button. With the changes becoming instantly visible.
Instant updates also unlock the ability to create one-off versions of your catalogue that can personalised to specific customers. Creating a wide range of opportunities to improve sales conversion rates.
For example, you could create a catalogue tailored towards new customers, complete with a first-time purchase coupon. In addition, you can create an individual version for each established client to include personalised pricing and a layout that prioritises their regular product purchases.
Digital catalogues let you add brand new and exciting products as soon as they are released. Instead of waiting for the next print run, you can begin driving sales of the new product from day one.
On the flip side, you can also remove retired products just as quickly. Minimising the chance of selling products to customers that are no longer available and the friction that creates.
Instant updates can minimise the impact of inaccurate product descriptions and pricing errors which can cost you valuable sales.
Any errors in your digital catalogue content can be quickly removed to prevent the loss of revenue from underpricing a product, or losing a valued customer through the mis-selling of a product.
The same can’t be said for print catalogues, once on paper, you have to live with your mistakes until the next print run. Whether that’s weeks, or months, where the loss in resulting revenue or sales can become far more impactful.
The speed at which the pages in your digital catalogue load will directly influence your sales conversion rate.
The faster your catalogue loads, the more sales you’re likely to make. From the moment a customer starts loading your digital catalogue, every second counts. The stats that follow underpin the importance of page load speed:
If you’re looking to accelerate page load times for your digital catalogue, check out the following strategies:
Once your catalogue is online it can be crawled and indexed in search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Yandex and Baidu.
Applying well established search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy to your digital catalogue will help you to drive increased rankings, traffic, and sales from these search engines.
Implement the key practices I’ve outline below will improve the chances of your digital catalogue ranking favourably in search engines:
The first step in driving relevant search traffic to your digital catalogue lies in selecting the right keywords to target. Investing time in keyword research allows you to uncover, include, and optimise for the most relevant high volume search terms.
Effective keyword research can also be used to inform naming conventions for your products, including terms that correlate with increased conversion.
The following tools will help you in conducting effective keyword research:
Adding meta tags to the HTML content of your digital catalogue are crucial in describing your content to search engines.
Of equal importance, the title tag and meta description will influence how your result is displayed in search engine results. A well optimised title and description will act as a powerful advert for your digital catalogue landing pages. Helping to deliver increased click-through rates resulting in more traffic from search engines.
A quick trip to Metatags.org will offer you a comprehensive view of metadata you need to optimise for your digital catalogue.
Schema.org is a shared vocabulary you can add to the HTML markup of your digital catalogue. This markup ensures your content can be better understood by the major search engines: Google, Microsoft, Yandex, and Yahoo!
Also referred to as structured data, Schema markup helps to improve your search ranking. It also allows you to secure rich snippets in the search results.
Attaining rich snippets in Google can be incredibly beneficial. Ben Goodsell - a leading SEO consultant - reports a rich snippet feature page in Google increased resulting CTR by 300%, while simultaneously driving a 677% uplift in revenue from organic traffic.
The two types of Schema most useful to you when applied to your digital catalogue will be the Product and Offer mark up categories. Adding these types of structured data will be especially helpful if you wish to display your products in the Google Merchant Center.
Remarketing is a powerful strategy within PPC advertising to re-engage customers who’ve interacted with your digital catalogue. Remarketing gives you a second chance to reach visitors and close sales, even after they leave your catalogue or abandon their shopping cart.
Both Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising deliver remarketing functionality as part of their advertising platforms. In signing up, you will unlock the ability to cookie prospective customers visiting your catalogue. You can then retarget these visitors with personalised adverts across the millions of websites opting into Google and Microsoft's respective display networks.
An effective strategy within remarketing is to create segmented lists based on what stage a user is at within the buying phase. This will let you optimise and better target individuals for increased conversion.
Within remarketing, you can build individual lists based on the individual pages a customer has visited. Combining these lists lets you create customised audiences which you can target with personalised advertising.
Below are three common combinations to segment and target users in different stages of the buying cycle:
Dynamic remarketing is without doubt one of the most effective ways to advertise to and re-engage past visitors.
By combining your product feed, custom tags, and responsive display ads you can create a dynamic advert that will display the exact product a user has been browsing. We’ve all experienced it, looking at a new t-shirt on Amazon shopping, only to have that same t-shirt follow us around the internet wearing down our resolve until we finally return and complete our purchase.
These hyper relevant advertising experiences are a great way to drive sales. Netshoes, the world’s biggest online-only retailer of sports equipment, achieved a 30-40% sales growth with dynamic remarketing during the Christmas season. Similarly, Sierra Trading post drove a 400% increase in conversion rate with dynamic remarketing compared to regular remarketing campaigns.
Email should be a core marketing strategy to increase the reach of your digital catalogue. As a medium, email offers countless ways to direct traffic to your digital catalogue in both an active and passive capacity.
Below are some ideas to drive traffic and sales through email that can be applied to digital catalogues:
Drip campaigns are a series of automated emails that can be sent to users who perform a specific action. They are a powerful way to engage customers and move them through the sales cycle with a personalised experience.
For example, you could create a series of 3 emails to engage users once they subscribe to your catalogue. The first email thanking them for signing up, the second a few days later with your top-selling products, and the last with a discount coupon to encourage the sale. With automated triggers, the campaign could end if a sale is made before the final email. Or, divert and ask for a review specific to the product purchased.
The great thing about drip campaigns is that they are a ‘set and forget’ strategy. After putting in the initial legwork, automation takes over and does the work for you.
Make sure you include links to your digital catalogue in your email newsletter campaigns. If you’re talking about a new product, you can link them straight to the product page.
If you’re running a seasonal discount campaign, it’s a great topic for newsletters where you can link customers to the catalogue. You want to be informative and not overly salesy, so, consider the language tone you apply.
Email signatures are a great passive marketing strategy to increase the reach of your digital catalogue.
The process of updating your company’s corporate email signature to include a link to your digital catalogues is a simple and low friction way to boost exposure. Every email sent by your colleagues is a chance to entice a new customer to browse your product portfolio.
Make it easy to share your digital catalogue by adding email sharing functionality to convert customers and partners into promoters.
With a few quick clicks, customers can email a copy of your catalogue to friends, family, and colleagues via email. Ideal in the B2B world, helping speed up the process when customers need approval from a line manager or procurement departments prior to completing purchase. Equally useful in the B2C when sharing a potential gift idea or shared household purchase for feedback.
Alternatively, customers can simply email the catalogue to themselves to browse at a more convenient time.
Social media platforms are an excellent channel for increasing traffic to your online catalogue. When designing your catalogue layout and functionality, consider these suggestions use social media as an effective marketing tool:
Adding the share buttons for platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are a low effort way to increase catalogue reach. Making it quick and easy for readers to become promoters by sharing your digital catalogue with colleagues, friends, and family through social platforms.
The Open Graph protocol is a set of universal markup you can add to the HTML of any web page to become a rich object on social platforms.
Adding Open Graph markup to your digital catalogue gives you control how your catalogue is displayed when shared through social platforms. Allowing you to optimise the title, description, and image displayed when one of your catalogue URLs is shared.
This will increase click-through rates for shared links, improving the volume of traffic driven to your catalogue.
Remarketing, also known as retargetting, is a powerful marketing mechanism to re-engage customers who’ve previously viewed your digital catalogue.
Adding social media remarketing tags to your catalogue lets you cookie visitors and deliver targetted adverts as they browse social media platforms and the websites opted-in to their associated display networks.
With remarketing, you can create segmented audiences based on performed actions to alter your marketing approach. Delivering a different for converters, versus non-converters. It’s also possible to create dynamic remarketing campaigns, to display the exact product a customer has browsed within the advert for a hyper-relevant experience.
To find out more about the remarketing programs of leading social media platforms and how to include their tags, see below:
Setting up web push notifications for your digital catalogue creates a new marketing mechanism to instantly re-engage visitors with alerts direct to any device.
Once setup, visitors can subscribe to receive web push notifications about your digital catalogue. These are clickable messages sent by your website (or digital catalogue) to their browser. They are similar to mobile app push notifications, except they have the added benefit of being accessible through all desktop, tablet, and mobile devices.
Consisting of a small image, headline, body text, and call to action, web push notifications can be designed to capture subscriber attention and boost re-engagement with your catalogue. They’re most effective when used sparingly for exciting and timely updates - the release of a new product line, discount campaigns, or limited stock availability.
A well executed web push notification strategy will drive increased levels of repeat traffic and help convert said traffic into additional sales.
Conversion rate optimisation is the practice of increasing the percentage of users who perform a desired action on your website. Creating a digital catalogue opens the door to the opportunities presented by well established CRO strategies.
Moving online, you have the power to track user behaviour on your catalogue with tools like Google Analytics. Gaining a clear picture of key metrics like conversion rates across landing pages, traffic sources, and much more. Using analytics data and CRO tools, you can begin conducting experiments to improve the conversion rate of digital catalogue visitors to drive increased sales.
For example, you could change the font size of headlines, try a new page layout, test alternative product descriptions, change the colours of call-to-action buttons and much more. Thanks to the power of instant updates provided by online catalogues, you can begin collecting data on the impact of changes as soon as they are published.
Below are a series of tools to get you started on your conversion rate optimisation journey:
Creating a catalogue app opens up new ways to engage customers, along with a series of added benefits to help you increase sales. Once your catalogue is digitised, the additional effort to convert you catalogue into an app is less than you would imagine.
Below are some strategies and benefits of converting your catalogue into an app:
Building a catalogue app unlocks the power of mobile accessibility. You can put a version of your catalogue in the pocket of every customer, which they can access anytime, anywhere. Unlike print catalogues which can be left in the office, or misplaced, customers downloading your app will always have your catalogue to hand.
As an app, customers can download a static version of your catalogue for offline access. This gives the freedom to browse your catalogue and add products to a shopping basket without the need to be online. Any purchases made offline can then complete once your customer regains mobile signal.
You can build a feature into your app to ensure customers always have the latest version of your catalogue. Meaning they have access to any key changes like new product releases, pricing updates, or promotional campaigns.
Image: Using App Push Notifications for your digital catalogue
When building your catalogue app you can include push notification functionality to create a new mobile marketing channel for increased sales.
Push notifications are a powerful way to speak directly to customers without being caught in spam traps or cluttered inboxes. Customers who install your app and opt-in to receive push notifications, can receive mobile alerts direct to their device which appear similar to SMS text messages and mobile alerts.
Push notifications are a great way to capture attention and re-engage customers with your catalogue. It’s important to be smart about how and when you use push notifications. Relevance is critical, and overuse can lead to fatigue and customers uninstalling the app.
Below are a few scenarios when sending a push notification would be relevant and interesting to a customer. Creating the opportunity for re-engagement and a potential sales opportunity:
Going digital gives you unprecedented insight into how customers interact with your catalogue.
Whether you use a digital publishing platform with built-in software, or integrate a third-party solution like Google Analytics, modern analytics software lets you track user-interactions to create thousands of data points for analysis.
Using ready-made and customisable reports, you can use analytics software to unlock levels of insight that were previously unattainable. You can identify traffic from different sources, measure bounce rates, observe conversion pathways, and much more. Creating segments and cutting data points to look at data in all new ways.
This insight can be used to inform, adjust and optimise your marketing strategy to increase engagement and sales. If you’re just starting out with analytics, here are 3 processes to analyse your data and unlock key insight:
Start by looking at a high-level report of your traffic sources - paid, organic, direct, referral, and email. Focus in on those with the most traffic, highest bounce rate, and lowest conversion rate.
From here, you can drill down into each source to identify individual mediums for greater clarity. So, if you’re looking at the source of organic traffic, you can look at how each search engine contributes. Learning how the mediums of Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Yandex and even DuckDuckGo perform.
Looking at the following reports and metrics will help you identify the devices, operating systems, and web browsers suffering from responsive design issues.
First, you want to look at a high-level device report showing how your digital catalogue performs across desktop, mobile, and tablet devices. Look at key metrics like conversion rate, average sale amount, bounce rate, page load speed, average time on page and pages per session which combine to paint a clear picture of which devices perform best.
Diving deeper, you can look at reports (all available within Google Analytics) to see the performance data across different web browsers, mobile operating systems and screen resolutions. Adding secondary dimensions to these reports - like source or landing page - will provide deeper insight. For example, it may only be a single page or source that is causing issues.
From here, it’s simply a matter of focussing on optimisation and improvement. When you identify a problem page, tools like the Chrome browser inspect feature let you see how your catalogue is displayed across different devices and screen resolutions. A great way to observe issues with design elements.
Having a digital catalogue gives you the power to analyse the performance of individual pages. With Google Analytics, it’s quick and easy to identify underperforming pages that need attention.
Ready-made reports let you order by page view volume, supported with key metrics like average time on page, bounce rate, conversion rate, and entrance points. Once the problem pages become clear, you can splice the data further with segments like device types, traffic sources, and even heatmaps to zero in on the root cause.
Before you know it, you’ll have the problem pages identified, along with their causes and a plan to fix them.
Your digital catalogue is a ready-made sales tool for every type of pitch - from new client meetings to telephone sales, and site visits with existing customers.
With a digital catalogue, all you need is an internet connection, and you have a ready-made sales presentation. Add in mobile responsive design, and it will look great on any device or display, so you can use it anytime, any place.
Interactive features - like 360-degree product views and product videos - create unique experiences to engage prospective customers and display your product in the best light possible.
A digital catalogue also gives you the opportunity to close sales regardless of location. Built-in shopping carts and order forms allow you to create sales on the move, directly through the catalogues interface.