Make Your Next Catalog a Work of Art

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This story courtesy of PaperSpecs.com.

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Catalogs are more than glorified mail. The two fundamental ways of acquiring sales are to generate traffic to a store or Web site (traffic generation) and to convert catalog readers or Web site visitors into customers (traffic conversion).

Thus, the catalog has a dual role -- to generate traffic and business.

1. The catalog is your identity.
The catalog should look like the store and the Web site. Customers should perceive the same brand experience whenever and wherever they shop. It is more than just corporate logos and colors.

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IKEA's catalogs reflect the store's brand.

Your retail, graphic, and web designs should be coordinated to ensure that they consistently reflect your brand personality. It is not your customers' job to remember you. It is your obligation and responsibility to make sure they don't have the chance to forget you.

2. Sales per square-inch are less important.
Many catalog companies determine the success of a catalog by calculating the sales-per-square inch on a page. This ratio provides some insight, but it should not be taken at face value.

Cramming more merchandise on a spread doesn't always add up to higher sales. We may find that overall sales will actually rise by featuring fewer items.

3. Think holistically.
Think across all media -- e-mail, direct mail, catalog mail, Web site and retail channels. The catalog is one piece of an integrated marketing program.

4. Include a method to respond.
Since so much actual ordering is done by phone or on the Web site, some catalogers believe that an order form is unnecessary. But, shoppers like to use the printed order form to list and organize their purchases. Find out how buyers buy and then cater to them.

5. Think magazine.
J. Peterman's chatty product descriptions and Willams-Sonoma's recipes are good examples of how one can integrate editorial content into a catalog and get the recipient involved. A common mistake is to focus on what goes on a page rather than the impact of the catalog as whole. This can lead to redundant and look-alike spreads.

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The Williams-Sonoma catalog involves readers in the art of cooking.

6. Size does not matter.
The most expensive product does not have to be the biggest object on the page. By making the editorial concept of the catalog more interesting, people spend more time with it. Thus, more products in the catalog tend to sell.

7. Keep it simple.
Most catalogs are busy, even eclectic, sometimes with eight to ten products-per-spread. When presenting complex photographs, limit the number used and make them large enough to be clear. Do not overdo the typography or even the color.

8. Know who your customer is.
Understand who you are selling to and select your merchandise, photographs and text for them with the right tone of voice.

9. Keep the quality high.
Catalog shoppers can't touch the merchandise, so they base their trust on what they can see -- the quality of the design, photography, paper and printing. Presentation communicates the integrity of the products.

Frank Romano is the author of 39 books, co-author of the International Paper Pocket Pal, as well as serving as chairman of RIT School of Printing Management and Sciences. Reprinted with permission from Designing 4 Digital online, Digital Printing Council, PIA/GATF, U.S.A. For information about the Digital Printing Council, please go to www.digitalprintingcouncil.com.

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