Catalogs Aren’t Dead…Are They?

Retailers have an amazing challenge to solve in today’s shopping world. They need to know where their customers are and what they want.

The question isn’t because customers are absent or not buying, but it’s the challenge of identifyingCatalogs Aren’t Dead…Are They? image 273671 l srgb s gl 300x199Catalogs Aren’t Dead…Are They? segments and finding out where they are shopping and how they want to shop (remember, the power is within the consumer). Back in the day, the big old JC Penney’s and Sears catalogs were delivered via USPS. The long-awaited arrival of the big stylish books was something shoppers were excited about and couldn’t wait to receive to find out the latest trends and sales. Now, we open our inboxes on any given day, at any given time, and instantly access the latest styles and deals from retailers before we even know that we want them!

But, don’t count out the catalog. It isn’t dead…

Nowadays, retailers are focusing on the digital world through online selling and the on-the-go shopper through mobile sites, location-based marketing, and text messages. But the retailers that seem to be knocking it out of the park are those who are focused on a multi-channel approach and are using data and analytics to determine how to best integrate all their potential outlets.

Take IKEA, the Swiss-founded company that many perceive as the place to purchase home accessories such as lamps, rugs, and bowls, but not the place where customers would buy full furniture sets or a new kitchen. IKEA previously grew their earnings by opening new stores, but realized that it was running out of real estate and had to shift focus to increasing each sale of their existing customers. Why not purchase cabinets and a countertop instead of just bowls and plates?

It was about changing perception and understanding how IKEA’s products fit into their lives.

IKEA used various data sets – demographic, in-store traffic, and product trends – and came to the conclusion that a paid, owned, and earned media campaign was going to best accomplish their goals and increase earnings. They launched a witty PR campaign focused on making life “easier” through the design of their products and launched an online space where shoppers could share their experiences, designs, and uses for their products.

But one of their most innovative ways of helping to change perception, was to bring the products to life through a technology known as augmented reality. That means, they issued an interactive catalog, which invited readers to use their app and smartphone or tablet to scan the products and actually place them within their room. So if you were looking at a couch and wondering how it would look under the far window of your living room, you could simply scan the product and position your smartphone or tablet to focus on the space and you could [virtually] see how the product would look in the space, rather than purchasing it, putting it together, and then realizing that it’s too big. Amazing, huh?

In this case, the shopper may even see the product in the catalog, test it via augmented reality, then purchase directly through the app, or go into the store to check it out in person. What is that three or four touch points and an elongated brand interaction? Close that circle as the the shopper reviews the product online and instagrams photos of their new, happily place furniture (that is, once it’s put together).

Now, if only IKEA would compile a crowd-sourced video channel of the trials and tribulations (and successes) of using an allen wrench to masterfully create functional furniture, they’d be set!

As the retail industry is changing and it’s becoming increasingly important to keep up in real time and react in the moment, keep an eye on the technologies that are fostering the multi-channel approach and are leading to better decision making…because the catalog isn’t dead, it’s just interactive.

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