What Is a Digital Catalog?

On an abstract level a digital catalog is simply a collection of products. Usually, the products are on sale and therefore something the retailer wishes to highlight. A digital catalog aims to make an inspiring experience to put focus on a collection of products.

There are many benefits of digital catalogs, and based on our own research from our popular shopping apps where we ask more than 500 people who read digital catalogs, digital catalogs can convert up to 70 % from online to offline.

Digital Catalog

Example of a digital catalog from Danish retailers, Bilka.

Digital catalogs are unique because of how they visualize products in a very inspiring way that makes it engaging. A digital catalog is an experience just like watching a TV show. It differs from traditional webshops with endless "next page" clicks, tedious product displays, and more.

Retailers usually create catalogs used as both direct marketing in a physical mailbox and as online catalogs so that people can consume it no matter what their preference is.

It’s Not Just a PDF Anymore

Ever since the inception of catalogs, digital catalogs have been synonymous with a PDF. In recent years, as technology has matured, digital catalogs have become more than that.

For example, some retailers make their own proprietary digital catalogs on their own websites. We've even made a new breakthrough technology for making digital catalogs that isn't a PDF:

That means a digital catalog is either a PDF or 100 % digital using e.g. HTML.

No matter what kind of digital catalog you make, there are some universal rules that make a great catalog. Let's explore what makes a digital catalog work.

On Brand

It's important that a digital catalog is in sync with your brand. You should be able to zoom in to a small portion on a page and quickly know you are the messenger. That means fonts, logo, color style, tone of voice, image and icon style, price boxes etc. should be in line with your other marketing efforts. Digital catalogs should emphasize your brand.

Every Page is Different

To make a digital catalog an experience, it's important every page is different. Or at the very least every page set. Page 1 should be unique, pages 2-3 should be unique, pages 4-5 should be unique etc. This way, you can maintain attention from readers. Here's how you can make every page unique.

Different Colors

Colors

Digital catalogs use lots of colors. Usually, the colors support a theme on each set of pages. Maybe you're selling vegetables, and page 2 + 3 are colored green. And perhaps the green is combined with your own brand color. Colors define the vibe of the page and they are crucial. You can also use colors to signal whether these products are extra cheap, high quality etc.

Use of Many Images

Just like colors, images define the vibe of the page. Great digital catalogs don't just show product images. Great digital catalogs know how to balance product images with other types of images. That could be environment images of a sunset because you're selling wine or a picture of a woman riding a bike if you're selling a bike. You need to communicate a feeling more than just a use-case of the product.

People read digital catalogs because they are looking for something specific and want to be inspired. For the people who want to be inspired, it's important you try to set a context with non-product images.

Use of Many Images

Many Different Grids

To make every page different, you need to use many different grids to show your products. If you show the same 3x3 product grid, every page is going to be boring. Shuffle it around, and make sure your primary product is larger than the secondary products.

Usually, digital catalogs have an A product, B products, and sometimes C products. The A product is the largest, the B products are smaller and are usually complementary or supplementary products of product A, and C products are tiny compared to A and B. Here's an example of 1 A product and 2 B products:

Product Grid

Less is More

Research on digital catalog eye-tracking has shown less is more when it comes to digital catalogs. If a page has more than 7 products, they start to cannabalize on each other. And if you utilize the entire screen width, you also cannabilize. You need to reduce the zig zagging of people's eyes. With the rise of responsive design where some webshops go edge to edge on desktop, you are actually hurting your conversion as people see fewer products.

It's Finite

Just like a TV show, a digital catalog needs an ending. You need to strike a balance between too short and too long. Digital catalogs - compared to a webshop - are not endless. People know there's a start and ending, which also means they usually read through the digital catalog.

The digital catalog is your chance to show a set of highlighted products, and if you use the above rules, you'll be sure to grab people's attention to the end.


Want to read more about digital catalogs? Try checking out Incito.

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