Drive Web Traffic with Catalogs

May 19, 2008 6:31 PM  By

Most consumers feel like they’re on the receiving end of an endless bombardment of spam, pop-ups and other nasty online assaults. So its no wonder well-intentioned marketers have seen declining e-mail open and click-through rates.

Consumers have been conditioned to delete, look away and just carry on with their day. Online marketing can be a tough business, especially when other channels aren’t being used in concert.

People love getting catalogs in the mail—heck, Oprah even devotes an entire show to them. Catalogs support merchandise with rich photography and engaging editorial. They tell a brand story and stir up a desire to purchase. But with more transactions finishing online, the primary objective of catalogs needs to evolve to driving web traffic.

The direct marketing industry has a long history of stamping out sterile calls-to-action: 800 numbers, Web sites, and words like “today,” “now” and “hurry.” Does this give the savvy customer any reason to take action, other than finding the nearest garbage can?
Developing innovative online drivers with strong calls-to-action is key to increasing customer engagement. Here’s a few ideas.

Limited quantity specials. Let your customers know your site has hot deals they can’t find anywhere else. It’s hard to resist access to up-to-the-minute inventory, especially when given “exclusive access.”

Product demonstrations. Catalogs give a front view of your product, but what about the rest? Try a 360˚ photo tour or a video of your product in use. Enhancing your customer’s product consideration experience today will pay off tomorrow.

Customer ratings. If customers rate and review products on your site, tell your catalog audience about it. They can find out which products have the best reviews, and give feedback on prior purchases.

Sourcing stories. It’s the colorful details that stick in your customer’s minds. What are the sheep fed to make your wool extra-warm? How do your green initiatives help the environment? Start the story on the catalog page and tease the full version online—an excellent tactic.

Loyalty programs. Customers sign up for your loyalty program to be rewarded for being, well, loyal. Catalogs are a great place to encourage customers to visit your site and track points, redeem gifts, and get information on exclusive offers and events.

Personalized URLs (PURLs). Drive your catalog audience to PURLs—Web pages filled with merchandise based on the individual’s past purchase behavior. PURLs have proven to engage customers at a higher rate because of this level of personalization.

E-Catalog. A hybrid vehicle, e-catalogs mix the page-flipping catalog experience with the click-and-buy ecommerce experience. Customers find the end result to be familiar, easy and fun. Additionally, the e-catalog can incorporate multimedia to enhance the customer’s product consideration experience.

Microsites. Microsites drive customers to specific areas within your website, exposing them to offers, new products, events, etc. Catalogs are a great vehicle to expose a large, active audience to a special page on your website.

With these elements in place, catalogs can be remarkably effective at driving Web traffic and increasing sales.

Jeff Haggin is president and CEO of Mill Valley, CA-based Haggin Marketing. He can be reached at jeffh@hagginmarketing.com.