Computer and High-Tech Equipment and Software

GOLD: Print Channel

Crutchfield, Winter/Spring 2009

Crutchfield has earned a reputation for selling cutting-edge products, for having expert knowledge in consumer electronics, and maintaining peerless customer service. This edition is a glittering example of a catalog hitting all the right notes.

WHY IT WON A GOLD AWARD: The cover is “tasteful and conveys the serious brand image,” one judge said. It also promotes the benefits of shopping with Crutchfield with callouts for “fast, free shipping” and “free lifetime product support,” while conveying that an even broader selection of products can be found on Crutchfield’s Website.

Judges were also thrilled with the customer reviews throughout the catalog. “Love the customer profiles,” one panelist said. Given the breadth of product categories, the compelling copy is nicely complemented by having real people talk about the product benefits.

IDEA TO STEAL: Even if you sell technical products, don’t overuse bulleted copy. Crutchfield does a great job of making technical information accessible, one panelist said. “I commend the writers on not defaulting to bullet copy — and on making that catalog readable and shopable.” — JT

SILVER: Print Channel

Black Box Network Services, 2009

Black Box is the bible for IT professionals. The catalog takes fairly boring material — networking products and services — and electrifies it through expert copy, great photos, helpful graphics, tip boxes and a comprehensive index.

WHY IT WON A SILVER AWARD: With its 622-page Network Services 2009 book, Black Box Corp. again proves it is the authority in this field. An insert at the beginning of the catalog explains Black Box and its merchandise selection.

Various chapters cover new products, cabling, testers and tools, power and surge protection, interface and protocol converters and servers and storage. And that’s barely scratching the surface.

Catalog copy is “feature forward,” said one judge, in that it explains the use of products and how to select from the vast inventory. “Headlines are factual, which fits this genre.” The combination of a large number of products with an authoritative presentation “gives the sense that these guys know what they are talking about,” a panelist said. “This book goes the extra mile.”

WHY IT DIDN’T WIN A GOLD: The catalog should do more to reinforce the products available online and promote the online tutorials and tips. “And the callout for the free tech support on the inside back cover is lost in the gutter,” said one judge. — JT

SILVER: Web Channel

Crutchfield.com

Computers and electronics merchant Crutchfield takes highly technical, potentially confusing merchandise and presents it on its Website in a way that makes it easy for the average consumer to understand and purchase.

WHY IT WON A SILVER AWARD: Crutchfield does an exceptional job of serving both visitors and existing customers with a clean, crisp layout and all the desirable bells and whistles. It includes effective carousels, category headings and product links.

“This is a solid Website with many best practices,” a judge said. “Many elements on the site are done well, including the site structure, navigation, offers, technology integration, flash, excellent product copy and site offers.” Crutchfield lets users know not only which items are not in stock, but also the products it is running low on. The judges felt this gives consumers a sense of urgency when it comes to making a purchase decision.

WHY IT DIDN’T WIN A GOLD: Crutchfield limits its cross-sell opportunities by pushing its “signature” suggestions over name products. “The funky way they lock you into their signature products area takes a lot away from overall usability,” a judge said. — TP

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