From the moment the first catalogue went digital, there has been long-standing debate over printed catalogues versus digital catalogues and which is better.
As a business, deciding whether you launch a print or online catalogue is no simple choice. This one decision influences every other facet of your catalogue. From how it’s designed and laid out, to how it’s distributed and ultimately how successful it is in driving sales for your business.
You will need to consider a wide range of factors, some of which are complex. Especially when print and digital mediums offer benefits that compete or are in direct contrast to one another.
To help you make the best decision for your business, we’ve created this comprehensive guide to printed catalogues versus digital catalogues. It covers an exhaustive range of consideration factors, combining detailed research with our expertise in the catalogue publishing industry.
Data forms the basis of analytics and making informed decisions. With more data, you gain greater insight. With greater insight, you make better decisions.
It is much easier to collect large volumes of detailed data on users and their behaviours in the digital world. So, when it comes to analytics, online catalogues can have a significant advantage over print catalogues.
Of course, it’s possible to collect valuable analytics data and track performance of print catalogues. The process is just a bit more complicated to execute and you have to factor in a greater number of unknowns. Let’s take a closer look:
While it’s not possible to get the level of detailed data available through online catalogues, you can still track the performance of print catalogues.
Having accurate and up-to-date content influences the success of your catalogue.
There are few things more frustrating for a customer, or embarrassing for a salesperson, than discovering outdated product information and prices. Especially if a product is out of stock, or has been discontinued.
New and accurate beats old and outdated every time. When it comes to having up-to-date catalogue content, digital will always have the edge over print.
Print catalogues don't offer up to the minute accurate information in the way that digital catalogues do. Once your print catalogue is published, it’s immediately out of date.
It is a very different process signing up and receiving a digital catalogue versus a print catalogue.
Each offers its own unique benefits which vary depending on your audience.
A well-designed catalogue is one of the most powerful sales tools you can provide your sales team.
Catalogues are a mobile store front, allowing sales to present your products in the best possible light. They act as a gateway to closing immediate sales while attending client visits. No member of the sales team should leave the office without your catalogue in tow.
The different attributes of print and digital will influence the benefits and how your catalogue is used to drive sales. Let’s compare.
If you’re factoring the carbon footprint of your catalogue into the decision-making process, it’s tough to argue online or print having the least environmental impact.
While digital is often claimed to be the greener option, to date, we have not uncovered a single reputable research study that provides a definitive answer. On the question as to whether print or digital is best for the environment, the jury is still out.
Instead, we’ve highlighted the areas you should consider when reducing the environmental impact of your chosen medium.
There’s a lot less to consider when looking at reducing the environmental impact of digital catalogues. You don’t need to think about printing, paper, distribution and disposal. It’s really all about hosting.
As a provider digital catalogues, you should also factor in how your content is consumed. The explosion of tablets and e-readers is an increasing concern for environmentalists who are seeing these discarded on mass in developing countries.
A study cited by Huffpost highlights a tipping point. With the production of an average e-reader equivalent to 50 books, you need to consume that many in a digital format in order for it to be a greener option. As a concientious company, you should consider where you factor into this equation.
Shamel Naguib, president at Paperless Productivity, which helps large companies go paperless, thinks the rush to digital has little to do with being green and much more to do with the bottom line.
He said: “For 99.9% of projects, the green initiative has nothing to do with it. It has everything to do with saving money. Money is so tight with organisations and costs are such a critical part of the puzzle”.
No company wants to be accused of greenwash by promoting green credentials that don’t exist. By the same token, claiming to be offering an environmentally friendly service when in reality your actions are all about cutting costs might be an unwise move on the part of the marketing department.
The inclusion of interactive elements will have a direct influence on how customers engage with your catalogue. Interactivity invites your customers to explore and has the ability to trigger interest and emotional responses which convert into sales.
When it comes to interactivity, there is a big difference between how print and digital catalogues operate. With each medium offering its own set of unique attributes and benefits.
The dynamic nature of online catalogues allow the inclusion of interactive features which cannot be replicated in print. Let’s explore the different types of interactive elements unique to digital catalogues.
You can't deny print catalogues invoke a greater emotional response from customers thanks to the physical touch element. An experience digital catalogues simply can’t replicate.
Here’s just a few unique interactive elements offered by print catalogues:
Distribution will have a big influence on the sales success of your catalogue. Getting your catalogue seen by more of the right people will increase the likelihood of you selling more product.
The inherent characteristics of print and digital catalogues creates vast differences in how they are distributed.
Taking a high level look, digital catalogues are typically easier to distribute to a wider audience at a lower cost. While print catalogues offer greater control and a more targeted distribution, ensuring the right people see your catalogue.
Let’s explore print catalogue vs digital catalogue distribution in more detail.