Bringing Catalogs Into the Digital Age With PMI

By Rick Chavie

In recent years, product catalogs have been rumored to be a dying breed, but as the digital age rolls on, one thing remains clear: Catalogs are far from dead. In fact, considering the importance of an omnichannel marketing strategy, they may be more relevant than ever.

Marketers see value in catalogs as Multichannel Merchant reports that 84 percent of respondents to the 2018 MCM Outlook survey say they plan to continue to use catalogs as a channel for reaching their customers, and 88 percent of marketers plan to maintain or increase the page count.

Still, an ineffective catalog campaign can be a costly mistake without the right product information management (PIM) strategy to back it up. In this article, I’ll present three key strategies to bring your catalogs into the digital age.

1. Connect Channels

Catalogs have taken on a crucial new role in multichannel marketing. In addition to their traditional job in direct sales, they now serve as "valets" that guide customers to digital sales channels. According to the Quad Graphics report titled “Millennials: An Emerging Consumer Powerhouse,” 30 percent of those who were polled report that a catalog recently drove them online to shop, with millennials and Gen-Xers reporting in at 38 percent! The goal is to immerse your customers in an environment of seamless purchasing opportunities.

Catalogs can be a great resource for driving shoppers online when e-commerce or social sites are intertwined throughout the publication. Once online, customers often find additional merchandise to purchase. Upselling and cross-selling opportunities are more easily presented, especially now that the iOS Camera app can natively recognize QR codes within iOS 11 as rolled out in 2017.

The key to this strategy lies in the ability to provide consistent product content across channels, with capabilities to connect and track relationships between products, customers, locations and more. A PIM solution enables organizations to compete with content that is centralized, synchronized across channels, and easily syndicated. 

2. Curate a Brand Experience

Catalogs have long been a fixture of the consumer and buyer experience—from their most practical purpose of placing an order to the emotional connection that certain catalogs conjure.

Retail leaders agree that successful catalog strategies focus on inspiring customers with product ideas, visuals and curated brand experiences. For example, Restoration Hardware stands out as one of the most inspiring and curated brands today with its variety of Source Books for home furnishings. And business-to-business (B2B) sellers like W.B. Mason and Johnstone Supply are well-known in their industries for catalogs that have become the "go-to" sources for product ideas and purchases.

Effective catalogs must tell a cohesive brand story and inspire customers. Utilizing a PIM solution enables retailers to deliver compelling content that goes beyond basic product specs and pricing by offering images, reviews, videos, descriptions and even virtual 3D and augmented reality experiences.

3. Analyze Results to Better Understand Your Customer

Determining the ROI of your catalog campaigns can be a difficult task. Many track performance in terms of response analysis and matchbacks, though that provides a limited view of effectiveness.

To get a complete picture and make adjustments, retailers must really understand their customers and how they interact across touchpoints. Knowing your customer helps you push the right content to the right channel at the right time. Utilizing PIM and multi-domain master data management (MDM) can help connect the dots between data domains—including the product, customer and more—enabling organizations to analyze results, nurture customer relationships and ultimately boost ROI.

Incidentally, you can also leverage PIM to impact your ROI by reducing the inefficiencies of catalog creation. For example, one EnterWorks B2B customer leveraged its PIM solution to shorten production for a 2,200-page catalog by 70 percent, reduce resource requirements by half and cut inaccuracies from 25 percent to less than 5 percent.

Seeing Catalogs in a Different Light


Ushering catalogs into the digital age requires a fresh approach based on mastering the underlying product information to strengthen its impact at every touchpoint.

The New Catalog Approach

The key to extracting the most value from catalog content today is to leverage a PIM platform to:

  • Manage product content in a central repository with data quality tools, business rules and enterprise workflow to ensure consistency and accuracy
  • Repurpose valuable information across all print and digital channels
  • Streamline and automate tasks involved in catalog design and production

With PIM, product data, attributes, descriptions, images and other digital assets are associated with one another so that all elements needed for a product are always together. 

Content from the PIM repository is dynamically linked to catalog templates so that content is always current and correct. Workflow automates key steps in review and approval of catalog artwork. Because all content comes from the repository, information stays consistent across all print and digital media and includes feeds to dealers, retailers and other marketing channels.

The Benefits of PIM-Powered Publishing

A PIM solution helps retailers achieve cross-channel integration, as well as collect and manage the data necessary to better understand customers and how they prefer to shop. Retailers are able to reach customers with the complete product assets and details they desire to make informed purchases.

Further benefits and efficiencies arise from having a single repository available to all business users, including marketers, store personnel, logistics, trading partners and customers. A shared view reduces content errors and inconsistencies, as well as the labor involved in creating quality content and publishing catalogs. This also leads to faster product launches and promotions. Ultimately, improved customer satisfaction reduces return rates and generates brand awareness and loyalty.

For catalog publishing, since all content lives in a single repository, the publication process becomes faster, more collaborative, highly automated and less error-prone. Organizations can leverage compelling content to drive traffic across channels, with the ability to monitor and track customer data and performance for a better ROI.

Catalogs today must support traditional sales channels while helping foster marketing and sales lift across emerging touchpoints. For companies looking for a fresh approach, a PIM solution can play a powerful and transformative role.

Rick Chavie came to EnterWorks from his role as a Senior Vice President at SAP Hybris, having led Hybris eCommerce solutions before their acquisition and previously served as SAP’s global leader for retail and wholesale. He also brings industry experience as a retail executive at The Home Depot and C&A, a technology leader in NCR’s retail and hospitality business, and partner roles at Deloitte and Accenture, focused on retail and brands.

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