Will Shopping Apps Replace Print Catalogs?

A recent article in eMarketer was headlined, “Are Shopping Apps Taking the Role of Catalogs?” The article discussed some of the findings of a December 2012 research study by Adobe . One focus of this research was the attitudes of smartphone and tablet shoppers toward mobile shopping apps. Here’s part of what the research revealed about how mobile shoppers are using shopping apps:

Two of these findings stand out to me. First, about 40% of both smartphone and tablet shoppers indicated that using a shopping app strengthens their connection with a brand. Second, 21% of both smartphone and tablet shoppers said they typically download a shopping app to become familiar with a new brand. These findings clearly show that mobile marketing in general and mobile e-commerce in particular are growing in importance. The second finding indicates that a sizeable percentage of shoppers are using shopping apps for discovery or browsing purposes in addition to actually making purchases. When used in this fashion, shopping apps perform the same basic function as online or print catalogs.

So, are shopping apps destined to replace catalogs, particularly print catalogs? I don’t think so, especially in the near future. For many companies, printed catalogs are still an important part of the marketing communications mix. Research commissioned by the United States Postal Service has shown that catalog recipients are more likely to make a purchase than shoppers who don’t receive them, and catalog recipients typically buy more items and spend more money.

It is also clear, however, that marketers must find ways to make print catalogs more cost effective. One tactic that is working well for many companies is to use technologies to automate catalog production and thereby reduce the fixed design and pre-production costs that are associated with print catalogs.

A robust technology solution for automating catalog production will contain two core components.

  • A product content management system (PCM or PIMS) that provides a central repository for the product information (images, descriptions, prices, etc.) that will be used in the catalog. For global enterprises, the product information management system must be capable of managing multiple versions of the information assets, such as multilingual product descriptions and prices in multiple currencies.
  • dynamic publishing engine that enables catalog designers to create templates for catalog pages and include “tags” that create links to the data contained in the product information management system. The dynamic publishing component uses these templates and links to automatically “build” the catalog pages without further human involvement.

In addition to reducing the fixed costs associated with print catalogs, catalog automation technologies will significantly shorten the time required to produce catalogs, thus enabling companies to keep catalogs current and fresh.

If print catalogs are an important part of your marketing mix, these technologies are worth a serious look.

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Author:Jan Dejosse

CMO - ADAM Software

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