Guide to product catalogs

Guide to product catalogs

by: Kaz Weida

Once upon a time, it seemed product catalogs, especially print versions, were headed towards the dustbin of history. While booming e-commerce sites made paging through a glossy product spread seem passé, digital and print product catalogs are now making a big comeback for a variety of reasons.

Digital product catalogs put a wealth of information and interaction at your customers’ fingertips, while print catalogs remain useful tools to elevate your brand. Product catalogs of both varieties continue to be a cornerstone of successful marketing campaigns by teasing new product lines and shaping a better shopping experience.

Our guide to product catalogs will help you determine the value to your business and decide how to create a product catalog without breaking your budget.

5 reasons your brand needs a product catalog

If you’re worried a product catalog isn’t worth the investment, consider a few statistics from the USPS. The results of a study conducted by the US mail service determined that 92% of households take time to sort through the mail specifically to keep catalogs. And on average, a person will spend as long as 30 minutes paging through a single catalog of interest.

Those compelling stats indicate product catalogs hold their value and can provide a captive audience your brand doesn’t want to miss out on. Here are a few other reasons both digital and print catalogs are compelling marketing tools that offer much more than product eye candy.

Already convinced? Skip over to our catalog creator to try some templates on for size.

1. Catalogs are a chance to show off your style

Pulling together stunning visuals for glossy full-page layouts is also a chance to reshape your brand’s style. Product catalogs can help you branch out into something new, show off cutting-edge items from a new line, or demonstrate how your product fits into consumers’ everyday lives. Both digital and print catalogs offer a chance to put your brand’s style, voice, and values front and center.

2. Catalogs are a tactile approach that pays off

Don’t underestimate the value of putting something tangible into people’s hands or getting them into the driver’s seat of the shopping experience. There is still an advantage to seeing products in print or being able to click through for more details. It can also propel prospective customers to seek out your retail or online stores for more information. This is especially true for millennials, who have an affinity for old-school, traditional print catalogs.

3. Product catalogs can be data goldmines

Both digital and print product catalogs can be a fantastic opportunity to get more data about your customers. Gather email addresses for mailing lists or embed QR codes to track how and where customers are learning about your products. Create social media campaigns in concert with catalog launches to increase conversions and demonstrate which channels are effective platforms for your brand.

4. Catalogs help consumers commit

Product catalogs are like one-on-one window shopping. They offer a glimpse into a lifestyle or an experience that customers can try on for size. And they can be effective marketing strategies provided they offer a simple path towards purchase. Research shows product catalogs can shorten the buying journey, leading to increased brand loyalty and customers who come back for more. 

5. Product catalogs aren’t just for potential customers

And last but not least, product catalogs aren’t just for customers. They can assist in improving the sales process and act as a reference and training tool for new employees. This is especially true of B2B businesses who utilize product catalogs to shape new product offerings and pivot clients toward upgrading to the new lines of products.

How to create a product catalog

Creating a product catalog doesn’t have to be a costly creative endeavor. And where you start in laying out the pages for your catalog depends on where you want to end up. What do you want your product catalog to accomplish? What do you have to say to customers? 

Once you’ve brainstormed the marketing goals of your catalog, consider taking the following steps to flesh out your pages and help your product line put its best foot forward.

Don’t start from scratch. Seriously.

While there’s something to be said for ingenuity, you don’t have to start from scratch to create a compelling catalog concept. Grab customizable catalog templates like the ones Lucidpress offers and start tinkering. 

You’ll find basic components in most product catalog templates like cover and product pages, but you also don’t have to rely on traditional layouts to make an impact. Dynamic product catalog templates let you mock up something basic and then add or drop elements as the project comes into focus.

Define the basics before you begin

Customizable catalog templates offer a lot of flexibility, but you should define the basics before you dive into the details. Ideally, you want a template that meets specific parameters you have in mind for dimensions, length, and quality of the images for digital catalogs. All those components can have consequences for mailing costs and page-loading times. 

Making sure you’ve dialed in the basics keeps you from having to head back to the drawing board later when your template doesn’t quite fit your specifications. If those details sound a little overwhelming, stick with standard sizes or call your printer to clarify expectations regarding product catalogs.

Gather the details

Product catalogs don’t get conjured out of thin air. You'll need to define what’s going into the catalog and start gathering product details. In addition to item numbers and cost, consider compiling some extras like reviews, dimensions, pictures, and testimonials so you have everything handy in one place.

Some details that shouldn’t get left by the wayside are colors, fonts, and other branding elements that are consistent with your existing marketing materials. If you don’t have a brand style guide, it’s worth developing one before you dig into your product catalog.

Professional photography is a must

The entire purpose of a product catalog is to highlight your products in splashy, full-color digital or print spreads. That means high-quality, professional photography has to take center stage in your catalog. Keep in mind that a variety of images will be needed, from sharp close-ups of products to larger lifestyle photos that set the mood.

Professional photography doesn’t always mean carefully staged images. Decide if highly stylized photos fit your brand or if your customers prefer more relatable images. Depicting your products in luxurious, pristine settings may make your brand seem out of reach or unattainable to some customers.

Make the most of character counts

Product catalogs are at their best when they let the photography do the talking. Plan on keeping product descriptions as concise as possible and set your character counts in advance. Use some descriptive language selectively to enhance the vibe of your catalog, but make sure every word is pulling its weight. 

While it makes sense for most catalogs to use words sparingly, that’s not always the case for every brand. The infamous J. Peterman Company’s lavish catalog product descriptions are a great example of how wordiness can become your forte. If your brand has a long-winded tradition that sits well with customers, find a template that makes room for the verbose.

Say something about your brand

A product catalog should speak volumes about your brand’s story. Every choice you make about what goes into it and how it looks reflects what you want customers to feel about your products. The difference between a Tupperware catalog and a luxury clothing catalog lies less in the layout and more in the images, colors, and style choices.

Shoot for lofty goals that elevate the lives of consumers or a more down-to-earth strategy that strives to make products a seamless part of your customer’s day. Once you decide what you want people to feel when they thumb or click through your pages, look through the catalog and make sure both the layout and every image deliver on that expectation.

Make it easy to navigate and share

A pretty product catalog doesn’t do much for your bottom line if nobody sees it. Consider how your catalog will be consumed and how you can make it easier to share. Who is your audience? Where will they be engaging with your product catalog, and how can you make it easier for them to make purchases?

For print catalogs, that means providing an easy way to scan the catalog and find products online. Digital catalogs make it easy to make online purchases, but consider how you might help customers who need to try an item on or make sure it will fit their space before they purchase.

Product catalogs can be a cornerstone of a brand's marketing approach, but they don’t have to be a huge investment of creative capital. Get organized, find a template, and start customizing a catalog to help your product line put your brand’s best face forward.

Download our free catalog templates and get started.


Kaz Weida

Kaz Weida is a freelance journalist and photographer who is passionate about crafting content that helps entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes tackle challenges. When not at her keyboard, Kaz can be found in the kitchen indulging in a little craft cocktail inspiration.

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