digital cats

A Maker’s Guide To Digital Catalogues

All the benefits and drawbacks

What’s a digital wholesale catalogue?

It’s a brochure that shows off your work, just like a printed catalogue, except it’s made of pixels instead of paper. You attach your PDF catalogue to the pitch email you send to a store, or you upload to it a service like Issuu and provide the retailer with the link.

So what’s good about this catalogue format?

It’s inexpensive.

In one sense, every supplier has a digital catalogue. Even if you’ve got your heart set on physical copies, you still send a digital file over to your printer. If you have access to a computer and basic technical skills, it costs very little to knock up a simple PDF. It’s also free to make changes, any time you like.

It’s flexible.

You can easily add or delete pages from your digital catalogue, change colours, drop in new photos or revise the copy, whenever you want to. And since they’re so inexpensive to produce, you can have more than one. Using your main catalogue as the model, you can design mini catalogues for Christmas, Valentine’s Day or any other occasion.

It’s fast.

There’s no waiting around – if you want to make a change to your digital catalogue, you can do so immediately. This means you can respond to your stockists in real time. If a particular candle in your range is selling well, you can switch a couple of pages around to highlight it. If you win a prestigious award, you can add it to your credentials page with just a few clicks.

Your catalogue is always up to date.

Since it’s so easy to adjust a digital catalogue, you never have to worry about retailers making decisions based on an outdated version. If a product sells out or your carriage paid level changes, you can make and communicate those adjustments immediately. With printed catalogues, there’s always the possibility that a retailer will try to order an item that’s now unavailable, meaning you have to disappoint them.

It combines several documents into one.

Your digital catalogue functions as a catalogue, price list, terms and conditions page and, if you wish, an order form. When you approach a store about stocking your stuff, the fewer attachments the retailer has to open, the better.

It can be uploaded to a publishing platform.

As we just saw, you can upload your digital catalogue to a service like Issuu or Joomag. This means you’re not filling up a potential stockist’s inbox with large attachments. All the retailer has to do is click a link to enjoy a smooth reading experience, complete with flipping pages. One disadvantage, however, is that the platform isn’t a secure environment, which means you can’t control who reads your catalogue. If you still want to host your catalogue online but privacy is a concern, you can put sensitive information (like pricing) on a separate line sheet and send it to the buyer as an attachment.

Many retailers prefer digital.

Email is now the preferred form of communication for most indie retailers. Digital catalogues arrive faster than posted ones, and there’s no need to find space in our office to store them. They’re also more environmentally friendly.

And here are the drawbacks of a digital catalogue.

Some retailers prefer to have a hard copy.

Every retailer is different, and some will always prefer a physical catalogue to a digital one.

Some retailers prefer to be approached by mail.

Similarly, not every shopkeeper on the planet likes to receive submissions by email. If they’d rather hear from potential suppliers by letter, a printed catalogue is more required.

You need a workaround for trade shows.

As we saw earlier, buyers who visit you at a trade show want a physical reminder of your work to take away with them. Digital catalogues aren’t immediately helpful here but there are ways to make it work.

You can keep things completely paperless and just email them your PDF, although when shopkeepers are sorting through the sack of physical catalogues they picked up from your competitors, there’s perhaps a chance you’ll be forgotten.

A good compromise is to give out a simple line sheet, but also email them your full catalogue.

Next time: the ups and downs of printed catalogues.

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