How to Design a Superstar Catalog

11 03 2009

Catalogs mean different things to different companies. Online companies might produce a print catalog to give their business a more legitimate feel. Other companies use catalogs as their only selling vehicle and rely on catalog sales alone. Many companies like Victoria’s Secret, IKEA and JCPenney have both a brick-and-mortar store and rely on catalogs to boost sales.

No matter which of these categories your business falls into, one thing is certain: a catalog is designed to sell. A “blah” catalog with boring copy, blurry photos and an unorganized layout is surely doomed. To create a catalog that will make people want to buy just takes some simple design elements that anyone can implement. Here are ways to make your catalog shine like a superstar:

1. Entice readers with exciting copy
Many amateur catalog copy writers think that all it takes to make copy exciting is exclamation points!!! That just isn’t true. (You should never use more than one exclamation point, by the way.)

The best way to excite readers is to promote the benefits of your products, rather than focusing on the features. Which is more exciting: “Twice the cleaning area of a regular carpet cleaner” (feature) or “Clean your carpets in half the time” (benefit)? Use your text to communicate how your product will benefit the reader and use language that will get the reader thinking about how she would use your product.

Another copy tip: talk directly to the reader. Use “you” a lot rather than “our customers.” Using “you” engages readers and creates a relationship between you and the reader.

2. Break up your copy into small chunks
Small paragraphs look much easier to read and are actually easier for people to digest than long paragraphs.

3. Use high quality photos
Photos are the main reason people look through catalogs. Photos are what sell your products; the text is more of a “closer” while a photo is more like a “lead.” Photos draw people’s attention and show your product better than any text can.

Invest in a professional photographer and ensure your photos are clear, crisp and vivid in color. A dull photo can’t sell the most beautiful piece of clothing, but a spectacular photo can sell something as dull as a kitchen chair.

4. Create a consistent layout
If you have 8 product photos on one page, 5 on the next, 10 on the next and so on, that means your photos are probably all different sizes. That makes your catalog look like a mess! Keep photo sizes and placements consistent throughout the catalog. If you want to spotlight a certain product, you can make that photo larger, but keep it in proportion to the others. For instance, if you generally have four photos across the page, one large photo should either be the same size as two photos side-by-side or all four photos side-by-side. Keep things proportional to look neat and consistent.

5. Choose a best-seller for the front cover image
Use your front cover to entice readers to open the catalog. Use one of your best selling products and include any kind of sale info on the cover as well. Be sure to use short words and numbers when possible on the cover—both lead readers to open the catalog in a short time frame.

Once you find a catalog design that works for you, stick with it. Readers like consistency and they like finding categories of goods in certain places. If you always have shoes in the back section, keep them there. It’s comforting for customers to be able to find what they’re looking for right away every time. A comforted customer is a repeat buyer!