The Evolution of Product Marketing: From Print to PDF to Digital and Ecommerce Websites
With few exceptions, printed catalogues have become a thing of the past; ancient like rotary phones and bulky telephone books that companies used to reach customers at home. Besides the more obvious reach and distribution limitations of printed catalogues, they’re expensive to produce, cause nasty papercuts, and are static and stagnant: products can’t be updated and customers can’t immediately click a product to purchase. As more people grew attached to their smartphones and laptops, the shift to digital product catalogues and ecommerce websites made perfect sense and became the new “groovy.”
Let’s assume you already know this and that’s why your company offers your customers a way to view your products online. However, if you opted for a downloadable PDF catalogue instead of an interactive, ecommerce website, then you have made a serious misstep (and one we still see far too often).
Why invest in an ecommerce website? Isn’t being online enough? Well, not really. Here are 7 compelling reasons why you shouldn’t settle on a downloadable PDF to showcase your products:
Reason #1: You’re Too Good to Offer a Lame Shopping Experience
Downloading a PDF isn’t hard, even for people who aren’t that tech-savvy. But it’s not fun either. If someone is already going to your company website, then making them download a PDF catalogue is just adding an extra, boring step to their shopping experience—and this extra, boring step can make the difference between shopping cart abandonment versus customer conversion. It’s not modern, it’s not appealing, it’s not intuitive, and it’s not fun.
If instead you showcase your products on an ecommerce website, then your customers can access it easily from any devise, browse through their options, find exactly what they want and purchase it. There’s no need for your customers to re-download a static PDF. And they won’t be forced to page through it until they come across what they’re looking for—and then have to figure out how to actually purchase it from you. If you make buying from you this complicated, you’ll quickly lose customers to competitors who offer a more fun and streamlined shopping experience!
With an interactive ecommerce website, your customers can easily view, select and pay for products with a few clicks or taps on their laptops, smartphones and tablets. No muss, no fuss, and everything’s taken care of. And as a result, you now have a new customer in your database.
Reason #2: PDF Catalogues are Out of Date Like Your Uncle’s Sideburns
How many times has someone tried to order a product using last year’s printed catalogue, and the process is complicated by information being out-of-date? Either the sku-number of the product has changed, it’s currently out-of-stock, or you might not even offer that product anymore. If you’re making a PDF catalogue, then you’ve just created another version of all these problems.
Unlike a downloadable PDF, an ecommerce website is dynamic: you can easily change information on each product showcased. If something is out-of-stock, or if the price changes, you can quickly change the relevant information so your customers have the details they want and need to feel confident about making a purchase.
Reason #3: Your Shopping Experience Needs to Be Quick so Customers Can Shop From You (Even When They Shouldn’t Be)
Another advantage of ecommerce websites is that they come with an easy-to-use search function. Whether your customer wants to search by product category, or prefers to use a keyword, they can just click and find what they’re looking for. This accommodates time-crunched shoppers who want to get what they need and go (i.e.: before their boss or spouse catches them shopping when they really should be working or saving).
While it’s possible to make a PDF with the same searchability, that takes a lot of time and effort. If you’re going to clock more hours making your catalogue something that’s simple to navigate, why would you make it a static document that has no connection to the rest of your online presence?
Reason #4: You Want to Amuse Your Customers; Not Confuse Them
Another problem with static, downloadable PDF catalogues is that even if you make updates to the PDF on your site, everyone who still has the old file is going to be outdated. As such, all your customers will need to re-download the catalogue just to make sure the version they’re viewing is still current (and they probably won’t).
With an ecommerce website, all changes you make will be seen by all customers. Even those who bookmarked your site months ago will see the updates when they come back to make a purchase. No one is outdated, and everyone’s on the same page.
Reason #5: You Want Customer Conversion and Retention Features
The very best ecommerce websites include features that support client conversion and retention. By showcasing your products on an ecommerce website, you can:
- If something is temporarily out of stock, offer customers the option of entering their email to be notified as soon as the product they’re interested in becomes available again.
- Have a feature that suggests alternative or similar products.
- Allow your customers to tag products they’re interested in and save products to a wish list for future purchases.
- Let customers select two or more items you offer so they can compare them side-by-side if they’re having trouble deciding between options.
- Allow your customers to leave reviews for products they’ve purchased from you.
- Allow your customers to share products they like with their friends via email, Facebook and Twitter.
- By installing products like Zendesk, you can even allow customers to ask questions about the products they’re interested in without leaving your site.
- Connect your products to your instore inventory software so product availability is updated in real-time, and allow customers to see if the product they want is also available in your physical storefront within their area.
In an extremely competitive online marketplace, such features help keep customers engaged with your site instead of losing them to another, more accommodating competitor. You want to create an as-intuitive-as-possible online shopping experience, and you just can’t do that with a downloadable PDF catalogue.
Reason #6: You Know SEO and SERP Aren’t Just Celebrity Baby Names
What’s the point of showcasing products online if your target customers can’t find your website? If attracting customers to your website is part of your business model, then achieving a decent SERP rank is really important. You need your website to rank for keywords and keyphrases your target customers are likely to use when searching for the kinds of products you offer. Showcasing your products on an ecommerce website helps improve your organic SEO: it helps you rank for product keywords that are naturally used in each product listing. Whereas, keywords used inside a downloadable PDF won’t count towards your SEO score.
Reason #7: You’re a Geek. You Like Marketing Data and Trackability
Every smart business owner knows the value of being able to track what sells and what doesn’t. With an ecommerce website, you can track which products are viewed and purchased most by your customers. You can also collect data on where shopping cart abandonment occurs, and what other items on your website customers look at before they purchase certain products. This grants you the ability to continually improve your online shopping experience and ensure your most popular products are kept well stocked and front-and-centre.
You can also use this data to improve your email marketing by segmenting customers based on their interests, and reaching out to them with product suggestions that are likely to appeal to them as future purchases.
While downloadable PDFs are suitable for gated content and printable info sheets, they shouldn’t be relied upon for showcasing your products and services if your objective is to convert more customers via your storefront and website.
These are, of course, just a few of the important reasons you should showcase your products on an ecommerce website instead of relying on a static, downloadable PDF catalogue.
To learn more about how you can rock your online marketing and increase sales, reach out to our team at McAllister Marketing. We’re super easy to talk to, fun to work with, and we’re experts in online customer attraction, conversion and retention strategies.