So you’ve been through all the opening stages of starting your online business and you’re ready to sell, sell, sell. What next?
According to Psychology today, one of the major driving forces behind consumer behavior is cognition in the form of reading, writing, discussions, and videos.
An online catalog of your products can make use of all these elements to sell your merchandise and services. It’s how you put them all together that counts.
After all your hard work, don’t let your catalog design let you down. Follow our guide for fail-proof methods to make sure your online catalog does its job.
Determine Your Aims
Establish how you will determine the success of your online catalog. Will you be happy with an increase in sales or is your aim to increase brand recognition by means of social media shares?
This will affect your design considerably. A sales approach will emphasize the products. A recognition-based approach may focus more on what makes your brand unique and interesting.
Give Your Customers What They Want
Know your target market intimately before you start working on your brochure design and don’t get sidetracked in favor of the latest gimmicks.
Check out what your competitors are doing to appeal to your shared market or how they are showcasing their products. Studying their tactics could provide you with inspiration for your own great ideas.
Are they using image-rich content, videos, and animation to reach out to the consumer, or do most of them use more straightforward product lists and descriptions? Which approach is the more successful ones using?
Remember, what works for a major well-known brand will not work for your small online business. Be unique.
Your target audience will affect everything about your online brochure from font size to the images your use. For example, if your client base comprises ladies over the age of 50, they will appreciate a larger, easier to read font. They won’t relate to bikini-clad beauties advertising your products.
This is the kind of information you can glean from competitors online catalogs.
Once you have a clear objective in your mind, sorting out the nuts and bolts regarding your online catalog is the next step. These involve the basic format that your publication will follow.
Types of Online Catalog
Will you be creating an online Pdf or a flip book? PDF’s are downloadable so that your customers can save them to go over at their leisure, while flip books are more interactive.
Both of these can be designed in 3 different ways:
Structure Driven Format – Adopts a fixed design for each page.
Content Driven Format – A strong emphasis on detail such as figures, charts, and comparisons.
Lifestyle Format – Emphasizes high-quality glossy images similar to a magazine.
While the lifestyle format always looks more attractive, it is not suitable for audiences who require a lot of detail. For example, if your online catalog is aimed at carpenters, they want details about the wood, not pretty images of where to use it.
First Things First
Design your cover page at the outset. Make it instantly recognizable as part of your brand. Your design should entice the reader to want more.
A catchy slogan and appealing image work well for a retail-oriented audience. More technically-minded consumers may want some detail about what is inside. You can add a theme to your cover page if it is seasonal or holiday edition.
An introduction or ‘how-to’ guide can help consumers to navigate your online catalog and avoid frustration. An introduction or message from the CEO is a nice touch and a great place to highlight any promotions.
Getting Around the Layout
Even if you decide on a structure driven format, you still need to choose which products to place on each page, and in what order.
Your first priority should be making it effortless for the consumer to find what they are looking for – online shoppers are notoriously impatient.
There are several ways to achieve this:
- Group your products by functionality, name or product code as applicable. List your best sellers at the top of the page.
- Within each group, order items by category or topic.
- Keep complimentary items together.
- List your best sellers at the top of each page.
Eye tracking studies show that our eyes automatically go to the top right-hand side of a page first – that is where you want to place your high-profit items. Alternatively, you could use this spot for an appealing image that encourages the reader to inspect the rest of the page.
Look for opportunities to cross-sell items or make connections between related items. For example, paint brushes are related to paint and mineral turpentine comes in handy when you are painting. This tactic can increase sales by up to 15%.
Likewise, you should use every opportunity to link back to your website for more information, product news or customer reviews.
Think of your online catalog as a 24-hour salesperson. The way in which you describe your products here can make or break a sale.
Selling With Words
Customers want useful information before they buy. They also want to know what benefits your product will bring them. Without the ability to use their senses to judge your products they are relying on your copy to help them imagine what it is like. Use words like ‘silky feel’ or ‘tingles on the tongue’ instead.
Beware of obvious sales pitches in your products. Consumers are wary of ho-hum claims like ‘the best’ or ‘highest quality’.
Weave a story around everyday items. Describe the scenario of creating wonderful family meals with your saucepans, or having more time for fun thanks to your awesome dishwasher. Tell the consumer how your product will make their lives more enjoyable and easier, or save them money.
Speak to your customers in a language they can understand. The writing style for Millennials is vastly different from the way you would address an older client base.
Keep your descriptions to the point and don’t be overly technical. You only need to include details that are relevant to your client base.
Check and recheck your copy for grammatical and spelling errors. Grammarly is a good online tool for checking your copy if you are unsure about any of these issues. Spelling and grammatical errors can affect your credibility with clients.
Carry the creativity through to your headings. Provide descriptors in the heading such as ‘Cuddly Teddy Bear’ instead of ‘Teddy Bear’. Headings are a good place for SEO keywords like ‘cost-effective’ too.
Make use of SEO keywords sprinkled in a natural way throughout your product descriptions and headings. Getting an SEO audit done after completing your online catalog will help you to fine tune this process.
Getting the Balance Right
You know what they say about all work and no play, right? The same applies to text and images.
Gorgeous clear lifestyle images will attract customers to your online catalog.
Just like you did with your copy, use images that sell the dream to the consumer. Let them imagine themselves in these happy scenarios you have woven.
The images of your actual products are best placed alone on a white background so that potential customers can view them in detail. Galleries that allow the item to be viewed from all angles and in every available color are great too.
Try to get good, clear images from your suppliers, and ask for permission to use them. If this proves impossible, you will have to take your own photographs.
Taking Your Own Shots
You don’t need a top of the range camera to take product photos. An iPhone or a point and shoot camera will do the trick. Using a tripod to prevent blurry photos is more important than an expensive camera.
The only other equipment you will need is a brightly lit room (sunlight is best), a sturdy table and some sheets of white cardboard. Place your product on one of these as a background. Use another sheet of white cardboard to bounce light from the side opposite the light source to help diminish shadows.
Take a few shots of each item from different angles and save these on your computer. There are many free online editing tools which you can use afterward to edit the images until they look just right.
Have a look at Shopify’s detailed guide to taking our own photographs for more tips and hints.
Calling in the Professionals
If you don’t have the time or can’t get the hang of it, a professional photographer is your only other option. Consider asking around colleges and universities for photography students who may help you out for a cheaper fee than the pros are asking.
Play around with copy and images on your pages so that they complement each other and create a pleasing overall impression. Too many images can look unprofessional, while too much copy is off-putting.
Don’t underestimate the power of white space. A clean, clutter-free layout is very appealing to the busy reader and creates an organized, classy, and efficient appearance. You don’t need to cram every last inch of the page with information and images.
Adding snippets to your online catalog can increase its appeal. By providing a break in the continuity of the design, these bits of information, news or client reviews add interest to your design.
Another nice-to-have feature is allowing the consumer to custom-make their shopping experience. This could take the form of interactive aspects such as mixing and matching outfits on a virtual model or building up a vehicle ‘from scratch’ with optional extras in the case of Volkswagen.
Consider using a pre-loader which displays your logo while the brochure is loading in the background. It makes sense to use these extra few seconds to ingrain your brand in the client’s mind and it’s bound to more attractive than a spinning circle.
Shopping Carts and Sales
Keep your purchasing process as simple as possible. As many as 27% of US online shoppers abandon their carts at the last moment because the whole process becomes too long and complicated.
Many people are still highly suspicious of entering their credit card details online. Provide an alternative email address or order form for these clients is a great alternative, provided you respond promptly.
Test Your Online Catalog
It takes a huge amount of time and effort to put together and appealing online catalog. Don’t let poor user experience ruin it all for you. Once you have done all the work, test the functionality of your catalog by mimicking the consumer journey.
Try out as many scenarios as you can think of and make sure everything is working perfectly before going live.
It doesn’t end there either. Pay attention to your customers’ comments with regard to your catalog and act on them. Do everything you can to make shopping with you a pleasant experience.
One of the major joys of an online catalog is its flexibility. If an item is out of stock you can simply remove it. Errors can be fixed quickly, prices amended in a flash, and you can change your design as fast as new e-commerce marketing methods evolve.
Getting the News Out
As soon as your gorgeous new catalog is up and running, let your existing customers know by sending them an email marketing newsletter, sharing a link to it on your social media pages and featuring it on your website.
You can use a pdf version of your catalog to mail to any leads you gain or print hard copies for trade shows.
Reporting and Monitoring
Keep tabs on the performance of your online catalog to determine which sections could do with a revamp, and which are most popular. This will allow you to keep your content fresh, engaging and appealing to your audience.
What methods have you used to make sure your online catalog works for you? Or are you just starting out? Either way, we can assist with every aspect of growing your online business.
Please get in touch if you would like any expert guidance and advice.