Automate Retail Catalogs – From Conception to Completion
In a previous article, we noted four ways Comosoft LAGO integrates with Adobe InDesign and virtually any product information management (PIM) or digital asset management (DAM) system. For retail catalogs, this integration translates to enormous savings on the production side. For this article, however, we’ll focus more on the “front end” of the process – the cost of planning and managing these complex, often beautiful, and compelling marketing vehicles.
Retailers are facing potentially catastrophic shifts from the pandemic, as consumers turn increasingly away from in-store browsing and shopping and towards their online counterparts. This includes almost half of the Baby Boomers, with their enormous buying power, according to Forbes. In addition, it may spell disaster for retailers’ investments in large shopping facilities. But it also poses unique opportunities – and challenges – for retail marketers.
The biggest challenge, of course, is the proliferation of marketing channels and the resulting “noise” that makes it difficult for retailers to get their message across. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and the targeted use of consumer data can be effective, but the more everyone uses such tools, the less effective they become.
The printed catalog is a distinctive, visually rich channel—one that can be targeted to regions, demographic groups, and even individuals.
The solution is to deploy a distinctive and visually rich channel that can bypass all the digital noise – preferably a channel that readily targets regions, demographic groups, and even individuals. Such a channel has existed for many years: the printed catalog.
The pandemic itself may have given the catalog a new surge in popularity. A November 2021 NBC News Report noted the preference among many shoppers – even Millennials – for full-color printed holiday catalogs over digital media. Besides the pleasurable sense of nostalgia, the report noted other advantages of print over screen media:
- The catalog experience is conducive to leisurely browsing and discovery, contrasted with the hectic, fast-paced mobile experience. As one shopper said, “I get frustrated looking for stuff online. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you don’t know what’s there. You can’t just flip through and look at things.”
- The large, full-color catalog “screen” provides a richer visual experience than most smaller device displays.
- For Millennials who are constantly in front of digital screens, browsing through printed catalogs does not feel like work.
Customers acquired through catalogs are more loyal (and thus likely to buy more) than those obtained through online channels.
Catalogs have evolved. The same data that benefits online advertisers can be used to produce a catalog with compelling, “just for you” qualities.
To be sure, the large, general-purpose catalogs of the Sears & Roebuck era are gone for good – eliminated by e-commerce and crippling increases in printing costs and postal rates. But catalogs themselves have evolved. They are much slimmer, better designed, and more focused on critical themes and product categories.
Above all, today’s catalogs are highly customizable. The same consumer data that benefits online advertisers can be combined with a retailer’s PIM and DAM data to produce a catalog with compelling, “just for you” qualities.
The Challenge and the Solution
All that sounds like a retail marketer’s dream come true, but there’s a catch. Creating compelling and customized print catalogs requires precise control of the underlying data, from the initial planning stages of a campaign through the production and distribution of these marketing masterpieces. This means selecting the right combination of products (those with high margins, sufficient inventory, and successful sales history) and placing the right PIM and DAM data on the page with the ability to customize and measure the results. No pressure.
Fortunately, there is a proven way to wrangle all that data effectively. Comosoft LAGO allows retailers to normalize PIM and DAM data input from their myriad manufacturers and suppliers, eliminating duplication and error potential. More than that, LAGO’s whiteboarding capability also brings together merchandisers and planners, allowing them to draw from all data sources. This includes regional inventory, pricing, and customer purchase history to create and manage effective, measurable catalog campaigns.
LAGO brings together merchandizers and planners, allowing them to draw from all data sources to create and manage effective, measurable catalog campaigns.
LAGO Whiteboard is the central module for the efficient and effective production of print advertising materials, with which pages can be quickly designed and populated even without layout knowledge. The results are made available to the creative staff (graphics department), whether internal or external, in InDesign as a layout document. Here, the pages can then be professionally prepared for printing. In addition, the whiteboard is also the perfect bridge for involving or integrating product or category management in the marketing production process.
Once the marketer’s conception of the campaign is complete, LAGO is still at work, automating the catalog production process. For example, the production designer is automatically provided each product’s PIM and DAM data as a “block” of related info. They, in turn, use a LAGO-generated Adobe InDesign template to exercise their creative talent – not wasting time manually searching for and placing bits of separate SKU-related data.
One advertising medium – many variants. LAGO Whiteboard also supports planning, even for many regional or market-specific variants. Even at this production stage, the system displays whether individual variants have already been fully loaded. This way, regional exchangers can be efficiently planned in a controlled manner without losing the overview. This dramatically reduces costly errors. In addition, LAGO maintains a live link between the PIM and DAM data sources and the InDesign layout. So, changes in the data – such as a price change or updating the product image – automatically updates the catalog layout, right up until printing.
However, the marketing production managers’ ultimate benefits LAGO’s ability to handle complex versioning. This can range from region-specific catalog versions to detailed customization based on demographic data or purchase behavior. As a result, what would otherwise be an enormous expense of time and money (and greater risk of error) becomes a highly manageable, data-driven process.
The LAGO Version Optimization module makes it possible to reduce the generation of print variants to the number of variants that have to run through a production and reconciliation process. It does not matter at which level you produce a variant. The entire range of country-specific, regional/market-specific, and customer-specific variants is covered.
Lastly, even though the benefits of well-designed, data-customized catalogs cannot be overestimated, LAGO also facilitates the non-print side of the marketing equation. For example, complex product SKUs and special offers contained in a catalog campaign can be automatically exported for use in web and mobile applications.
LAGO Digital Output is an advanced module for managing and outputting content for publishing online interactive digital brochures and digital catalogs. The module creates JPEGs or PDFs from LAGO InDesign pages and an associated XML file with overlay coordinate data, plus data about the project, project variants, and product details. Digital Output can be configured to automate the creation of overlay coordinates fully. It is also possible to handle the assignment of gallery content automatically.