Printed vs digital catalogs – from paper to online success

By |Published On: April 16th, 2024|Last Updated: May 7th, 2024|Categories: Digital Publishing|

In the world of B2B selling, finding the right way to engage your audience is a challenge across multiple departments. However, you want to make sure that whatever is in your deposit aligns with what the marketing, sales, and operations teams communicate to the world. There are multiple ways to do this, either through printed or digital catalogs. But which is the most efficient?

With all the rapid changes in the B2B world and the fast digitization of processes, manufacturing and wholesale businesses need to adapt to keep up with how the future evolves.  

In this article, we will examine the way catalogs evolved and how efficient switching from paper to digital was for some of the biggest companies in the world, like Electrolux and Melissa & Doug. Moreover, we will list the primary obstacles in B2B selling and the difficulties in transitioning to digital for wholesale and manufacturing companies. Finally, we will take a look at the complexities of integrating new digital tools, but also at how easy and intuitive bringing some in-house tools can be, alongside real-life examples. 

1. The shift from printed to digital catalogs

For over a century, product catalogs have been a staple for various industries and companies. Despite their long history, they have remained largely unchanged, aiming to provide essential product information in a user-friendly format with straightforward ordering systems.

The journey towards digitalization began gradually, but the recent pandemic accelerated this shift, particularly in the wholesale industry. For manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers, and distributors catering to B2B clients, embracing digital catalogs has become not just a choice, but a necessity. Today’s digital catalogs offer interactivity and engagement, doubling as efficient ordering systems.

80% of B2B interactions will be digital by 2025.

With 70% of American consumers now shopping online and Gartner’s projection that 80% of B2B interactions will be digital by 2025, the importance of digital wholesale catalogs cannot be overstated. They are essential for staying competitive and reaching B2B clients, including businesses, trade partners, retailers, and contractors. Whether you’re already engaging in B2B sales online or looking to expand into this realm, understanding digital product catalogs is key to navigating the evolving landscape of the wholesale industry. 

Until recently, the most popular ways of spreading the news about one’s products were through printed catalogs or static documents. Over the past decade, however, digital catalogs have gained more and more popularity thanks to their distinct advantages in engaging with consumers. 

Let’s examine the different characteristics of these two mediums to understand their unique roles in contemporary selling processes.

1.1 Dynamic engagement for printed vs. digital catalogs

Printed catalogs, though acclaimed for their paper feel and touch, fall short of fostering dynamic engagement. Their static nature limits interaction. This makes consumers passive observers of curated content that can’t be updated in real-time and requires constant reprinting. 

In full contrast, digital catalogs offer the possibility of immersing into a dynamic publication while maintaining the look and feel of a printed catalog. Through immersive videos, interactive maps, and personalized product recommendations, digital catalogs push the limitations of print. They invite consumers on a virtual journey of exploration and discovery. By empowering users to engage with content on their terms, digital catalogs forge deeper connections and drive efficient conversion.

1.2 Global reach and accessibility for printed vs. digital catalogs

Printed catalogs, while nostalgic in their appeal, are shackled by the confines of physical distribution channels. Their reach is limited by geography, constraining the potential audience and impeding scalability.

On the other hand, digital catalogs transcend geographical boundaries, offering global reach and accessibility. Consider the digital catalogs of Electrolux

With an expansive online presence, Electrolux’s digital catalog extends its reach to consumers and partners worldwide, transcending borders and time zones. They manage to deliver curated shopping experiences tailored to individual preferences. 

Electrolux maximizes exposure by harnessing the power of digital platforms, driving traffic and conversion across diverse markets with unprecedented efficiency.

1.3 Real-time updates and personalization for printed vs. digital catalogs

Once you print a physical catalog you can’t change it unless, well, you print it again. Any revisions or updates will amount to costly reprints, stifling agility and inhibiting responsiveness to evolving consumer trends.

Update and personalize a digital catalog with automations.

Digital catalogs, on the other hand, offer the advantage of adaptability and personalization in real-time. Through dynamic content updates and seamless integration with other tools, the digital catalog evolves in lockstep with consumer preferences and with the business’ offer. 

Let’s say you’re a worldwide wholesaler looking to keep in touch with your sales representatives and partners across the globe. You have a product offering of 500 distinct products and variations. You’re communicating with ten different countries that speak ten different languages. You release product updates regularly, and it often takes months for a single update to be made to your printed or PDF offering. 

With a tool like Flipsnack that allows you to turn PDFs into interactive catalogs, you can make these updates in seconds. The provided automation feature lets you import all the information from your products in the form of CSV, Excel, or spreadsheet and automatically populate your catalogs. 

Moreover, if you create a catalog from scratch inside the tool you can automatically translate it into any language you want. Using the Flipsnack AI translation capability you can translate everything in seconds.

Lastly, one feature that no printed catalog offers is the option to order straight from the catalog. Flipsnack offers shopping list capabilities that allow for creating an engaging shopping experience for your customers and partners. Use the shopping list features to enable customers to place in-catalog orders and receive these orders in an organized format in your inbox.

2. Why should you make the switch from printed to digital catalogs?

To recap, a digital catalog is an online document used to present products or services. Customers can publicly access it through a link or receive it privately

A digital catalog allows for interactive elements such as product tags, photo slideshows, shopping lists, and wishlists. This helps with shortening the buyer journey. In a B2B context, this proves to be the most efficient way to turn potential customers into paying, returning clients.

Digital catalogs come in many different forms, based on what you want to achieve with that e-catalog. The most popular are retail product catalogs and B2B ones for manufacturing and wholesale audiences

The possibilities are numerous with digital catalogs. They just require a clear objective and an even better understanding of your audience to reach their potential.

2.1 Understanding modern B2B selling dynamics

As stated above, the shift to B2B buyers preferring independent research over engaging with salespeople poses a significant challenge. To name just one other statistic, it’s estimated that 68% of the buyer’s journey is done digitally. Not being present where your audience is would be a missed opportunity.

Moreover, the alignment between sales and marketing teams is critical in delivering a consistent and compelling customer experience online. It is, therefore, without a doubt that businesses should adapt their strategies to engage with these empowered buyers effectively.

This sounds great on paper, but when we look at wholesale and manufacturing companies, we see resistance to adopting more digital tools. We know CRM systems, e-commerce platforms, and cloud computing are vital for modern businesses, but the truth is harmonizing them can be difficult. 

Garphical representation of the modern B2B selling dynamic, from product release to sales meetings.

Across B2B companies, the process often goes like this. When there’s a new product release, some PDFs, product sheets, or Excel spreadsheets are created and distributed to salespeople and the marketing department. Then, they forward those to partners, collaborators, or even end-users.

More often than not the selling process happens over long email threads, phone calls, and in-person meetings. This makes it difficult to keep track of everything. Customizing offers, updating collaterals in real-time, and measuring the impact of your business efforts also become a hassle.

How can you do this easier?

2.2 The importance of digital catalogs in B2B selling

As highlighted before, interactive product catalogs help engage with customers wherever they are. They also help you cut down on production and distribution costs. Digital catalogs serve as a powerful tool in supporting the digitization of selling processes in the eCommerce landscape.

Offering immersive shopping experiences through interactive features and multimedia content, these catalogs effectively showcase products and facilitate seamless transactions.

2.3 Advantages of digital over printed catalogs

  1. Enhanced market presence, customer engagement, and sales performance through digital catalog optimization capabilities.
  2. Cost reduction through online catalog production and management.
  3. No cost for printing and distribution, whether it’s public or private.
  4. Analytics and tracking for your digital catalogs to better understand your customers, their needs, and interests. This leads to better-informed sales strategies based on valuable insight into customer behavior.
  5. Simplified selling processes and all orders in one place through direct shopping features. 
  6. Automations that simplify and optimize workflow by streamlining production.

To capitalize on these benefits, wholesalers must fully embrace the digital paradigm shift and use digital catalogs as a strategic tool to engage customers, enhance market visibility, and drive sales performance.

Adopting digital catalogs aligns seamlessly with the eCommerce ecosystem, offering businesses a dynamic platform to promote products, engage customers, and drive sales.

3. Digital catalog success stories of Electrolux, Melissa & Doug, and Newell Brands

But let’s see some real-life examples of how digital catalogs can enhance your marketing and sales efforts. 

Big wholesalers and manufacturers like Newell Brands, Electrolux, Melissa & Doug deal with a large selection of products. This requires them to create stuffy catalogs with multiple options for each product. 

Digital catalogs make this feasible because you can include multiple products on each page without making the result hefty. While these companies had multiple reasons for choosing digital catalogs as their solution, this was the most important for their digital transition.

Please flip through the case study below, which examines how Newell Brands, Electrolux, and Melissa & Doug enhanced their eCommerce efforts and drove sales growth using a reliable online catalog maker. 

What challenges were they facing, why did they choose digital catalogs, and how was this solution used by them? 

4. Switch from printed to digital catalogs with Flipsnack

Considering the importance of efficient marketing efforts, more and more wholesalers and manufacturers are switching from print to digital catalogs. The main reason for this as shown in this article is their flexibility, user-friendliness, and cost reduction. 

There’s only so much you can do with a printed catalog before it becomes costly and unsustainable for your business. The lack of interactivity, difficulty in distribution, and no visibility on its effectiveness can leave businesses shooting in the dark.

The easiest solution is to turn from print to digital and enjoy all the benefits a digital catalog provides. Of course, there are many online tools you can choose from to create a digital catalog. 

However, lead wholesale and manufacturing brands Electrolux, Melissa & Doug, and Newell Brands chose Flipsnack

Flipsnack helps businesses create digital catalogs that convert. Your business can turn away from print to digital and create an interactive experience for your partners and end customers. This can be easily done with Flipsnack’s digital catalog solution. 

Wholesale catalog with shopping list feature.

Join other manufacturing and wholesale businesses that:

  • Receive orders and quotations directly from their catalog
  • Distribute catalogs privately or publicly
  • Measure the impact of catalogs with real-time statistics
  • Keep up-to-date and on-brand easily

With Flipsnack you can turn product catalogs into a memorable buying experience with interactive features. Reduce the back-and-forth of B2B selling by adding a shopping list to your publications and simplify your order management process.

Stay on-brand and share personalized links to your catalogs and design brand-locked templates with your team.

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