Workflow Shakeup: Web First—Catalog Second

Web First: Andy James at the NEMOA Fall 2013 Conference from Catalog University on Vimeo.

Direct Marketers have traditionally selected product, photographed it, and written about it with one goal in mind: a printed catalog, with deadlines set to meet print needs. After a catalog prints, copy and photos are pulled from print and are re-purposed for the web. Because catalogs have to be prepared well in advance of the season (holiday, spring travel, etc.), this method has worked. By the time you need seasonal items for the web, they have already been shot and written about for print.

So that’s what you’re doing, and what’s wrong with it, right? Here are a few problems with a “Print First” workflow in today’s marketplace:

  • You get ready to load images to the web and find that something is missing that you wish you had shot on location.
  • You post similar items to the web were shot and written about in dissimilar ways. When these shots appear in different catalogs, the consumer doesn’t notice. But when similar items appear side-by-side on the web, the differences can make similar items hard to comparison shop.
  • 3rd party sites, like Amazon, require that individual shots be provided of all colors of an item. With the traditional catalog workflow, all items are not necessarily shot in all colors. Amazon is the number one driver for us to get all shots and copy done earlier.
  • The sooner you have a product up on the web, the sooner the “bots” can read it for SEO.
  • The web should not be your catalog on-line — it needs more: video, customer testimonials, product details, customer panels, research GRITTY v. GLOSSY looks that you pick up from print. The focus for depth is on the customer — what all do they need to know about this product? How do you make your website indispensable to your customer? Customers go to the web for depth, and product detail. If you have the same copy on the web as you do in print, you are not helping the customer.
  • Every product on the web needs depth. You can take parts out of your catalog when you know you have details about them on the web.

Now here’s the cool part, and the scary part, of Web First: all deadlines go away. The new goal is to have shots and copy ready so that as soon as a shipment of a product is cleared by QA in the warehouse, it is ready to go up on the web – regardless of when that item will be seen in print.

And your focus changes. You shoot all of the tiny product details, and write about each product detail when merchants turn over the product, keeping the bullet points in the same order for similar product. This makes it easier for a customer to scan and find the information they need, and to easily compare similar items. You may not end up writing about the product in the same way in print – that’s okay.

And, bonus: When you are ready to print, you still shoot the glossy shots you need to build your brand, but when you need copy detail, or want to do a call-out on a specific product detail, the photo and the copy exist.

We like different thinking at Cat-U. Let’s shake that box!

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The Catalog Blog covers opinions and information on all things catalog. Have something to add? Leave a comment below. Catalog University is devoted to helping you get ahead in the fun and fascinating world of catalogs. If you want even more information about cataloging, including FREE Pub Talks, be sure to sign up for the Cat-U mailing list. We will never share your name with 3rd parties.

Janie DowneyCo-founder Catalog University