Catalogs: Converting browsers into buyers
Catalogs are an unusual blending of copywriting and visual merchandising. Like most content, catalog copywriting gets a little lost with all the technology factors. Rather than filler content, online catalogs have a number of challenges you may not have considered.
For example, is your catalog set up for "shoppers" or "buyers?"
Bed, Bath & Beyond's window treatment shopping guide is information, not a typical catalog page. Not everbody is ready to buy -- but that's the traffic everyone is competing for.
What Bed Bath & Beyond targets people who are shopping, before they buy. If people research your product or service on some other site, you are leaving it to chance who they eventually buy from. If you can capture traffic of people who are getting ready to buy, you are competing for a segment of the market fewer competitors are targeting. But there is another reason for targeting this early.
Once you are ready to buy, you're pretty much locked on course. When you are "shopping" you are persuadable. That means you have the potential of selling a whole window treatment, not just drapes.
So, do you have to design for buyers or shoppers? No. Tiger Direct has the traditional feature blurb and a buy button. However they also have more text after the buy button ... and lot's of it. Stick another buy button at the very end and you are supporting both buyers and shoppers.
Apple gets catalog copywriting, judging from this example page. Visuals work with text to explain the offering. Subheads and layout support scanning the copy.
While I dislike the color scheme the DAK electronics catalog offers an enthusiast's view on copywriting. Far different than an engineer wallowing in features and specs, Kaplan translates feature speak into benefits.
You get the idea these are products Drew Kaplan lives with, not just the front end of an ecommerce package. There is a difference between populating a database and writing to convert shoppers into buyers.
Most catalog websites are set up like a vending machine, not a catalog. You put in money, and out pops a product. Catalog copywriting has to support the shopping cycle -- not merely the transaction at the end.