Blog - Virid: People-Powered eCommerce

Cross-Channel Catalog Integration

Catalogs are making a comeback. But instead of exclusively sending out catalogs as in the days of yore, retailers are now integrating their catalogs with their online storefront. So how exactly are they doing this? And more importantly, how can you get in on it? Our friends at Compu-Mail put together a guide for designing direct mail for cross-channel success, and if you read on we'll tell you how to integrate that catalog online.

Optimize your website for catalog shoppers.

Ensure that the IDs that you are using for products in your print materials are also associated with the online version of the product. Customers will often search for the terms or the specific catalog ID as a shortcut when ordering online. Make sure that your website search indexing includes catalog IDs as searchable fields. One of our clients was forced by their inventory system to use one product ID for print catalogs, and another for online sales. We worked with the client to make both product IDs searchable on their website, greatly improving their catalog shoppers' experience. The same technique can be used to give flexibility for alternative descriptions in different channels. While consistency is ideal, there are often space constraints in print that aren't as applicable on the web. The 'catalog' version of a product description can be added to an additional field on a product and indexed for search, but not displayed.

Expose your online shoppers to catalogs.

Highlight new catalog subscriptions and allow ongoing subscription management. Customers are used to signing up for email lists online and expect the same level of control and access to catalog subscriptions as well. Make sure your catalogs are uploaded to your website in a timely manner and are easy to browse. Create clickable catalogs that allow customers to go right to the product to purchase directly from the online catalog page. This allows online shoppers to experience your catalog but also supports existing catalog subscribers, by allowing them to access your catalogs any time and any where.

Create a cohesive cross-channel experience.

Linking online and offline channels has been notoriously difficult for retailers, but catalogs offer unique opportunities to connect those two different customer experiences. One way to tie the channels together is to create custom landing pages for catalog audiences. If you have a specific collection in the catalog, mirror it online. You can create a custom URL to track traffic to that collection and publish the link only in the catalog. This can create a more cohesive cross-channel experience and also helps track sales attribution back to the catalog. More advanced targeting and attribution is available through single use coupon codes tied directly to the catalog recipient. Creating unique codes helps prevent fraud, but it also provides a direct tie between an order and a specific catalog sent to a specific person. The order information can be exported out of your eCommerce platform to your central CRM system, closing the loop for a true cross-channel customer view.

Empower your call center to support mail-in catalog shoppers.

Catalog shoppers create unique needs in your order management system. Call center agents will often need to call for follow-up information if a product is out of stock, but this often won't come up until a mail-in order is partially entered. Your call center cash register application should allow in-process orders to be saved, then easily retrieved and updated once a customer calls back in. It should also allow for the use of cash, checks or money orders as payment types - typical for mail-in catalog orders, but rare for online shopping. Call center agents should also be able to look up customer profiles from the online user base to tie new orders to those profiles. Customers see no distinction between orders placed online and those placed via the phone or mail-in channel, and expect to be able to access all of them in one place.

Catalog shopping is far from obsolete, and integrating the catalog and online experience will be more crucial than ever to building loyal customers. For information on designing an engaging catalog, check out this article from our partners at Compu-Mail.

Topics: catalog, cross-channel commerce, direct mail, General

Written by Rachel Hobble