Catalog marketing is an important tool for many businesses, helping them advertise their products and services to consumers directly in their homes or places of work. In fact, according to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), US catalog mailings grew to 11.9 billion in 2013 propelling over 90 million people to make a purchase, making catalogs the most effective driver of online and in-store sales. And while it's true that many businesses are spending more money on websites to meet the growth of online shopping, it's clear that consumer brands, retailers and B2B companies continue to rely on direct mail catalogs to increase brand appeal, promote products and drive sales.
Odds are we all grew up receiving some sort of catalog marketing to our home, but times have changed, and brands are looking to broaden their appeal to stay current in a digital world. While catalogs are great way to get people interested in products, it's also true that mobile is becoming our device of choice, which begs the question - how can marketers bridge the gap?
With a digital catalog, brands can reach mobile audiences virtually anywhere they go with the same great content from their print version and even add additional features to support storytelling and increase user engagement. When combining a digital catalog with a mobile app, marketers can also benefit from savings on mailing costs, access to more customer data, ability to engage across email, social and push notifications, and the freedom to share updated content immediately to you customer's mobile device.
Here's how you can give your catalog marketing strategy new life with a dedicated mobile app:
What type of catalog will you design?
When it comes to digital publishing and deciding how to design your catalog, it's important to differentiate between two types of publications, Replicas and Reflows. Replicas are simple, flipbook-style PDF versions of your catalogue which reduce full magazine pages onto each screen, requiring users to zoom in and out to read content. Publishers can also include interactive elements like video, additional popup content, audio and links to enhance storytelling and drive traffic to an eCommerce site – which for many circumstances gets the job done.
However, if you're looking to meet the demands of digital natives, you may want to explore Reflows. Unlike replicas, reflows are responsive - meaning that text, images and other interactive elements are enlarged to comfortably fit the screen of a device, resulting in a superior reading experience.
Also, reflows use "vertical swipe” to allow readers to swipe from one section to the next and scroll down to explore. This can make browsing through product categories quicker and more intuitive. Reflows will require a greater investment in terms of design time but, whether you're using inDesign or DPS, the files (.folio or HTML/HPUB) can be imported into a mobile app management tool, like Paperlit. Which brings us to our next step...
Building a catalog app
When it comes to building your app, there are tons of app publishing solutions to choose from, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. With Paperlit, for example, you can build a fully branded newsstand style app to distribute your catalogs on Apple's App Store, Google Play and the web.
You may also want to include other content in the same app - like supplementary publications or even a live feed to share content from your website, blog or other RSS. For example, if you're selling high tech products to B2B customers, you may also want to share product documentation alongside your catalog, or a feed from your blog with the latest product updates or recalls.
While it's tempting to jam pack a lot of content into your app, it's important to keep your target audience in mind and stay specific to their buyer journey by asking yourself "Is this useful for my customer at this time and place".
Promoting your app & engaging users
Once your app is up on the web and the stores, you'll want to shift your focus to app promotion and user engagement to get the most out of your investment. Unlike direct mail, digital catalogs give you the unique opportunity to track response in real time and engage users with messaging based on their actions. But first, you need to get your digital catalog app into people's mobile devices!
App promotion is all about user acquisition, which can generally be divided into three strategies:
1) App Store Optimization (ASO): ASO is all about improving your ranking and visibility through activities like keyword optimization, improving your ratings and increasing downloads.
2) Paid: Paid acquisition is as you may have guessed increasing app installs through advertising, like Facebook Install ads or through the Google Ad network.
3) Viral: Viral acquisition takes into account any way you can promote your app through word-of-mouth, which can include but certainly isn't limited to in-app referral, in-store promotions, website promotion, event marketing, etc...
For more on how to promote your digital catalog with specific tactics check out our free guide!
Once you have app users, you can then track their behavior with analytics and engage them with tailored push notifications, in-app messages or email. You'll want to develop a mobile CRM strategy to nurture usage and purchase. For example, people who have just downloaded your app could be welcomed with a friendly message that also directly them towards the next step (like downloading your latest catalog), while those who have viewed certain content can be directed to specific product that may be of interest.
The key point to remember is that you need to engage users to make sure they continually find value in your app, otherwise you may risk that they delete your app. For more tips on crafting messages that will keep users coming back to your app check out this post on push notifications.
Are you ready to launch your digital catalog? Learn how Paperlit's digital publishing solution can help you go mobile!