December 05, 2011

Bolting A Catalog On To An iPad

You can't get away from it ... folks wanting to link catalog marketing and the iPad.

Now, of course I fully support experimentation in this realm.

But, as an industry, we are making a series of bets, aren't we?

  • We bet that Transitionals and Transformationals are looking for a modernized version of e-commerce, one that links the past (catalogs) to the future (undefined).  We are betting that these customers were not shopping with us because our business model wasn't advanced enough to meet their needs.
  • We bet that we can get existing Traditionals to spend more by offering these customers yet another purchase channel.
  • We are betting that, long-term, we can mail fewer catalogs, pushing customers into digital catalogs or following customers as customers migrate away from print into digital catalogs.
  • We bet that this type of shopping experience is better than our existing shopping experience.
We are also making a significant bet, one we don't often consider.
  • We are betting that it is better to bolt the iPad experience to the existing business than it is to create a new shopping experience using new technology.
This is a HUGE assumption.

Pay CLOSE attention to how non-catalogers monetize iPad Apps.

Pay close attention, for instance, to how the gaming community monetizes games on the iPad.  Here, mobile/social/viral elements are built into games ... there aren't technically "channels" ... instead, what we call "channels" are built into the fabric of the experience ... an inside-out approach that catalogers are simply not used to.



  1. Anonymous12:12 AM

    Thanks for lifting this issue! So how do these catalogs, this channel, relate to the web shop? You could argue that your web shop is the digital version of your "old" mailorder catalog. Does the customer really need two?

  2. Hi Kevin, in my point of view, bolting a catolog on to an iPad shows that the catalogers no longer understand their printed catalogs either. Think about the importance of the back cover. Think about cold and hot spot pages. Think about inserts. Think about sizes and formats, the importance of the order-form for this specific channel etc. As you bolt a catalog on an iPad, you not only forego the chances of creating a new experience, you also forsake the virtues of the old experience.

  3. Another thing to look it is how Google Catalogs is going the other direction. It is interesting to see them essentially create a shopping mall app using catalogs. And, if you're a fan, it takes away any desire to receive one via mail.

    It seems like a waste of potential functionality if you aren't adding something iPad-specific when you take the time to create an app.

  4. Three good comments, thank you!

    Now, dear readers, please think about this. Nobody is talking about customers. We love talking about "strategy", how different channels impact with each other, how old-school and new-school channels may impact each other.

    How about customers?

    As you know, I've created an algorithm that classifies customers into three segments.

    Segment 1 = Traditionals.

    Segment 2 = Transitionals.

    Segment 3 = Transformationals.

    It's unlikely that an iPad App will work among Traditionals, these customers aren't technologically savvy, and they love catalogs. So, if the cataloger has 70% of the customer file comprised of Traditionals, then promoting the app to this audience is likely to not work.

    Transitionals ... now this is an interesting audience, one where the app has a good chance of success. You have to convince these customers that a hybrid of old-school shopping and advanced tablet commerce is better than traditional e-commerce. We don't talk often about "how" you do this, we just talk about doing it.

    Transformationals. This is the audience that no longer shops via catalogs. We need to ask ourselves why this audience wants to be re-introduced to catalog brands. This is an important question. Why does the 26 year old Facebook-loving shopper want to use an app to shop a brand that is perceived as being worthy of an older generation? We seldom ask this question.

    We need to ask more questions, and strategize answers as they relate to customers. We don't do this often, do we?


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