Online vs Paper catalogs: What’s better for your company marketing?


Catalogs can help to show the product and price range, provide information on the company and its services. Company catalogs aren’t new to the market. In fact, they have been a strong part of the business marketing campaign for a long time. Naturally, you start wondering if catalogs became an outdated tool by now.

What is a product catalog?

The product catalog is a list of store inventory, products or services. It contains important details and data on the items like price, images, description, specifications. The main purpose of a product catalog is to present the information necessary for a potential customer.

What information should a company catalog include?

The product catalog usually consists of information on various individual models, versions or configurations. It becomes a repository that is useful not only for a customer but also for a company’s salesperson, manager, technician, etc. Special codes or model names can be used to simplify navigation through the catalog.

Some company catalogs do not contain all the products or services provided but only specific parts of them. This is used to cut down the volume of the catalog, typically for customer’s convenience or to present only specific items of an inventory that the audience is interested in.

A catalog can also include items from different businesses connected through certain common criteria like application, material or participation in a trade show.

What is the purpose of a catalog?

While describing a decision-making process, 88% of customers mention how important it is for them to have decent information about the product. Without a detailed description of the product, they are more likely to decline to buy it.

On top of that, catalogs are widely being used to connect with potential partners to demonstrate the company’s capabilities. Some businesses use company catalogs and brochures for announcements of new products, sales, special offers or as a sole channel of making deals.

What is a digital catalog?

Digital or e-catalog simply reflects a specific format of a company catalog. Such a catalog is made, stored, and shared in a digital form contrary to printed versions. This can be:

  • PDF
  • Word document
  • Table sheet
  • Digital brochure
  • Graphic presentation.

Despite common belief, digital catalogs aren’t necessarily published and accessed online. They can be exchanged through the Internet but some formats allow catalogs to be downloaded and checked even with no network connection. Such catalogs require being re-uploaded or updated after editing.

What are online catalogs?

Online catalogs are a key part of businesses operating through the Internet, also known as eCommerce. Catalogs build the core of such businesses becoming both inventory list, online shop, and promotional tool.

Generally, these are the digital catalogs published, spread, and checked online. Most of them do not require downloading and can be interacted with in a cloud through devices connected to the Internet. For convenience, online catalogs can be created using a programming language to be presented in a custom form.

Compared to company catalogs uploaded as documents, online listings can be analyzed and rated by the search engines. As a result, the business gets more chances of appearing in results for various queries of potential customers.

What are the benefits of an online catalog or brochure?

  • First and foremost online catalogs are a way of converting leads into customers. Site visitors will explore catalogs to retrieve critical details on products and services before a purchase. Moreover, they are likely to compare the data with competitors. If more information is presented in an online catalog, visitors would be more familiar with a product and confident in their decisions.
  • Some customers also prefer checking catalogs to contact sales representatives or visit stores and showrooms. Thus, limitations of time and distance have less impact on a business.
  • Another benefit of online catalogs is the ability to share it with others easier. Many brands noticed the opportunity and started engaging customers in sharing catalogs or certain products through social media and emails. Chances that friends, family members or other followers of a person have the same interests, needs, income, and preferences are becoming valuable prospects.
  • In online space, it’s much easier to track visitors' interest in the content. Catalogs can be analyzed to determine which positions are more popular or underperforming. This critical information helps to understand and plan stock and inventory, marketing targets, and sales.
  • Compared to conventional catalogs, online ones can carry much more information. They allow providing a broader range of product images, which is crucial for customers. 66% of shoppers indicated that they want to view at least 3 photos of the item before purchasing it. Additionally, in online space, other owners of the item can add their reviews and photos of the products. These elements are marked by 82% of users as a necessary part of their preliminary product research.
  • Digital company catalogs or brochures, especially online ones, are much more simple to edit. Generally, it only requires connecting to the site backend and updating the information almost immediately, so visitors have the most accurate details. Taking it further, CRM systems or other software can be integrated with a catalog to automate processes like inventory management, order processing, re-stocking, etc.

Are paper catalogs outdated?

69% of companies reported that they plan to stop using printed catalogs within 5 years. Instead, the surveyed businesses aimed to take online analogs on board. However, the mentioned survey was conducted among B2B companies.

Surprisingly, printed catalogs and brochures still find their way in B2C business as well as trade shows or events. Some companies can’t easily abandon offset materials simply due to their audience being not quite familiar with the Internet. Research also shows that printed materials remain a good format for local marketing campaigns.

Also, the technology used for conventional catalogs is changing in order to provide greater opportunities for making the materials more informative and outstanding. Finally, it isn’t necessary to choose between the two: online catalogs can be added directly to the printed ones in the form of QR code. This allows to include many more details than printed media can carry as well as provide a variety of information to prospects.

How can we showcase a product catalog online?

  • There are different solutions for creating online catalogs and brochures depending on the company’s preferences. For smaller businesses, it will be more convenient to explore platforms and apps that allow them to create and host shops or product catalogs. There are free and commercial solutions with different options they provide for companies.
  • Many social networks such as Facebook or Instagram allow creating business accounts to help promote and place products. In case if potential clients are frequent users of specific social media, creating an online catalog would be a successful move.
  • Creating a custom online catalog or shop will cost much more than using a ready solution. But the perks of owning an independent web catalog are better insights, flexibility, and customization.
  • An innovative solution for online product showcasing is a VR showroom. It can carry text, images, videos, links alongside 3D models. Such a way of product demonstration allows customers to interact with items, rotate them, view units in volume, and gain a realistic impression. Apart from being a lively experience for users, such a showroom is a powerful tool for increasing website performance and gaining statistics on customer preferences. Additionally, VR showrooms are available in formats for companies on a low budget.

Learn more about VR Showrooms

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