7 tips on writing copy for catalogs that sell
Catalogs are a different, sort of forgotten medium for selling products. You are supposed to promote multiple products in a single publication with short, attractive product descriptions. Similar to many things, technology has also influenced catalogs. Traditional paper catalogs still exist, but many companies now rely on digital catalogs to promote their products.
When using a digital catalog, your purpose is to get your customers to buy through different engagement means. They can either call the company via phone, submit a form, or place an order on the e-commerce website linked in your e-commerce catalog.
In what follows, I will focus on writing the best catalog copy, so if you want some tips on how to write a catalog, you’re in the right place.
Tips on writing the perfect copy
Just like any other form of copywriting, catalog copywriting comes with a specific set of rules. Sure, catalog copy is different than a blog article copy, or a landing page one, but the following guide can help you regardless of the medium you write for.
- Describe the benefits
- Write for your audience
- Use catchy headlines
- Write, edit, and proofread with online tools
- Use the active voice
- Keep it simple
- Tell a story
Let’s take a closer look at them in more detail.
1. Describe the benefits
Let’s face it. When it comes to buying a product, people are selfish. They are interested in what’s in it for them. They want to know how the product you are selling will benefit them, and your catalog copy should highlight that. Think about it. What do you think about when you buy something?
Chances are you think about the benefits the new product offers. How can it help you in a way that a different product can’t?
Let’s say that you are interested in buying the new PS5. You have a list of its features, such as the hard drive, processor, graphics card, and so on. That is great, but if you aren’t tech-savvy, the specifications might not mean anything. It might as well be a different language.
It is much more important to mention the benefits the PS5 brings. One benefit is that you will have access to the most recent games that might not be available on the previous console generation. Another advantage is that you will be able to play with your friends.
Of course, this example might not be the most suitable, since most people know about the console, and it is in short supply, so people are desperate to buy it.
However, the rule applies to any product. Instead of writing that the shoes have a particular type of foam, mention the benefit of taking long walks. Health, in this case, would be a selling point. Don’t mention the engine’s power. Mention that you can drive to your next adventure.
Don’t mention the iPad’s specs. Mention 1000 songs in your pocket.
With a digital catalog, that might be kind of hard to do. You only have so much space, but these item descriptions need to be noticeable, but not take up too much space.
With Flipsnack’s shopping list feature, you can activate an overlay that, once clicked, will display all the details about the item. All without taking up space on the page. If the description meets the needs of the buyer, they can instantly add it to their shopping list.
2. Write for your audience
This is probably the most essential tip to take into consideration. In general, regardless of the domain, it is imperative to know your target audience. Your style of writing copy for catalogs will largely depend on your users. This means that you’ll have to first conduct some research and understand your audience to know how they speak about your product, how they describe it. You could take a look at the reviews left by your customers, and use them as inspiration for your catalog copy. It’s best to talk to them using their words.
One good way of doing so is by developing user personas, which are fictional representations of your ideal customers. Knowing your audience will help you create messages which will be of high interest. Let me give you an example. Let’s say that you sell shoes through your product catalog.
One of your user personas might be a middle-aged person who enjoys taking walks. Just a random idea. Let’s call him Bob. He is primarily interested in the comfort a shoe can provide. So you could make comfort the selling point and create your message around that.
Another user is a younger person interested in the way the shoe looks. Let’s call this user persona John. So there you go, you have another selling point for John. The third one, Sue, is a sneakerhead, and she is interested in collecting the rarest pairs.
Keep in mind that these examples are pretty vague. A user persona requires more in-depth research, but you get the idea. Now, once you have the audience in mind, it is much easier to adjust your message.
Think about what kind of language would Bob use? How about John? Should you keep it more business or casual? What about the selling points? Would it be relevant to mention to Bob that a specific shoe is limited edition? Probably not. He is interested in comfort, after all.
Knowing the audience ensures that you will create a story that they find relevant.
3. Use catchy headlines
Headlines are one of the first things your customers see when they open a shopping catalog. This is why it is crucial to make an effort to write attractive catalog copy headlines. Headlines draw attention, and that is important. In addition, if people consider a headline interesting, their odds to keep reading are increased.
Most copywriters see titles as just another place for descriptions. That is not right. Your product descriptions should be awesome, so the headlines should be the same, but they serve a different purpose.
You should never describe products in the title. In the example of hair products, you shouldn’t say “Organic Olive Honey Shampoo”. This is boring and unimaginative, and on top of that, it will be evident once people start to read the description.
You should rather say something like “Let your hair shine like never before!” or “Volume that feels incredible.” However, the story you create is essential, as you will soon see.
4. Write, edit and proofread with online tools
Whether you’re writing a blog article, a newsletter, or copy for catalogs, the text you’ve written should be error-free. Unfortunately, nowadays, since most of us communicate online, we tend to ignore grammatical mistakes, misspelled words, and others.
Imagine browsing through a catalog and noticing that the text is full of slang you don’t understand. I know that I mentioned that you should write for your audience, but chances are that even if the catalog is aimed at teens, they won’t consider slang as something cool. Besides, what is popular online today might be obsolete tomorrow, so it is better to use a paraphrasing tool that will help you rewrite content that is better than the original and can stick to the common language.
Grammar is also essential. I don’t know about you, but if I see a catalog full of grammatical errors, it makes me think that they do not care too much. They don’t care about their company, their products, or even their customers. Sure, small businesses might not afford to hire someone to verify and edit their texts. Still, nowadays, there are many websites and applications one can use for such a task.
There is Grammarly, an online writing assistant. It has both a freemium and a premium version, and you can even use it as a Chrome and Firefox add-on. There is also Hemingway Editor, which is pretty similar to Grammarly, regarding what it can do. The payment option is different, as you pay for it once, not monthly.
So make sure that the text is correctly verified before printing it. In the case of digital catalogs, you can simply edit them at any time. Still, regular catalogs don’t offer this possibility.
5. Use the active voice
This advice might seem pedantic, but people respond better to text written in the active voice. The active voice is more direct and clear, while the passive voice slows everything down.
As a result, if you want to make your catalog copy more readable, use the active voice. For example, use “Our product offers reliability.”, not “Reliability is offered by our product.”
The mistake many do, myself included, is considering that passive voice is more sophisticated than it actually is. The truth is that It actually isn’t, so try to use the active voice whenever you can.
Of course, there are cases when using passive voice is the better option, but you will probably use the active voice more often. As you will soon read, there are different tools for verifying your copy for catalogs, and most of them have a tone checker.
6. Keep it simple
Which of these two examples sounds better to you? “Buy this car for more intense driving pleasure. Start your next adventure.” or “Purchase this automobile for more ardent excursion bliss. Commence your next happening.” Let’s see it as if it were in an actual ad.
I have to admit, the second example is exaggerated, no one actually talks like that, and I had to look up some synonyms for some words. However, I hope I managed to get my point across.
Simplicity is always the best way to go. You should emulate it in everything related to your product description. Avoid long, thesaurus words that aim to confuse and stick with simple yet powerful language to inspire your readers.
Don’t make your description overly complicated. Don’t be a sesquipedalian (I had to look up this word as well). Hemingway probably said it best: “Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”
There’s also this gem from Kevin from The Office: “Why waste time say lot word when few words do trick” but I think Hemingway said it better.
The idea is that there is no point in overcomplicating things. People should be able to understand you with ease, and your copy for catalogs should be simple. Sometimes less is more, and this is a case when the saying definitely applies.
7. Tell a story
Mastering the art of storytelling is powerful. You can use storytelling as an inspiration, educational, and influential tool. Robert McKee said it best: “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.”
Think about the last time you’ve read something that kept you on the edge of the seat. It might have been a book, an article, even a post on Reddit. Then, think about the “just one more page” moments which resulted in a finished book. This is what great storytelling does.
Now think about storytelling when writing your copy for catalogs. What would move and inspire readers more? An endless list of features and specifications, or a well-thought story of the product? Of course, I don’t mean writing as if expecting a Pulitzer award, but telling a story that the reader can identify with.
Related to the shoes I mentioned earlier, don’t write a dull and tired copy like: “Do your feet hurt? Why not use our new “Name” shoes. They are 15% softer than the other brand.” Write instead something like:
“It’s 5 PM, you just got home from work. Your feet are swollen and hurt, and all you want to do is lie down. However, Skipper’s been waiting all day for you to get back home, and it’s time for his walk. So you decide to put on your “Name” shoes and go out for a walk. Your feet no longer hurt, and more importantly, Skipper is happy.”
It might not be the best example, but the point is to make your personal goal to make the reader feel something. For example, make them smell the olive and honey from the shampoo, make them feel the silkiness of their hair, or see how shiny it is. Go beyond the plain and boring copy and tell a relatable story.
Take it to the next level with Flipsnack
Catalog copy is essential, but luckily, digital catalogs have created opportunities that regular catalogs simply cannot offer. Digital catalogs are cheaper to produce, easy to share and edit, and on top of that, they are interactive. Let’s take a quick look at the features that make catalogs awesome and how to use them in Flipsnack.
Sharing and Editing
When using a digital catalog, you can reach your audience faster and in different ways.
With Flipsnack, there are different sharing options to choose from. For example, you can share your flipbooks on social media, embed them directly into your website, or maybe send it regularly as a newsletter via email.
I mentioned that you should write copy for your audience. Still, it is equally important to promote your publications in the right spot.
Your audience might be more present on social media, so why not target them there? On the other hand, if you have more success via email, focus your attention on newsletters. Discover what your audience likes, and engage with them accordingly.
You can share the catalog as a GIF or as a 20-second video teaser. A sneak preview, if you will.
Another advantage: different privacy options to choose from. You could make your catalog public so everyone has access to it, including search engines.
Or you could make it unlisted. This way, only people that have the link will be able to access it. Why restrict the audience? You might have a unique catalog created for regular customers, for example.
Protect your publication even more by using a password or sharing it with specific people via email for extra security.
Writing effective catalog copy requires attention to detail, as I’ve already mentioned. However, in the case of digital catalogs, mistakes are easier to overcome. And let’s be honest, mistakes might happen, no matter how careful you are.
An undetected mistake no longer means extra costs, as instead of printing and shipping new catalogs, you can fix them with a simple edit. There are drastically reduced costs, as you no longer have to pay for paper, printing, and distribution.
Interactivity is probably the most crucial feature a digital catalog has because it offers engagement possibilities regular catalogs simply cannot reproduce. Here are the most important interactive elements you can use to drive more sales for your catalog. All of them are easy to use. Simply choose the element from the sidebar, place it in the catalog, then edit it to your liking.
Tag and Product Tag
These two interactive features are a perfect match for your product catalog.
The tag feature allows you to include a text and a URL. This element is great to use when you want to direct the reader to a website, either for more product information or for a direct purchasing option. It is straightforward, nothing complicated, and you can use the copy for catalogs tips I offered.
The product tag has more complex editing options. For example, you can edit the price, discount price, and even the call to the action button label. Probably the biggest difference is that you can include up to 3 images for a product. So if someone is interested in a product, they have access to the images with just one click.
The caption tag is the place where you can put your catalog copy to use. Similar to the previous two features, the caption tag is mainly used for offering extra written information about a product.
You can include a URL link and a piece of text. Use this as you wish; either provide technical details about the product or share some trivia about it. You can choose the font size and style to add a personal touch to it. You can also embed a video by placing the embedded code in any of the fields.
The popup frame is another helpful element for user interactivity. When the popup frame is clicked, it can reveal different types of information, depending on the choice. For example, it can display a video, map, virtual tour, photo slideshow, music, and others. The best part about it is that it doesn’t interfere with the catalog’s design.
You can set the element wherever you desire, set its opacity to 0, and it will be hidden. When someone hovers over the element, the call to action message will show up. When clicked, the content is opened in a popup window on top of the current page.
An extra feature worth mentioning: automation. Suppose your catalogs feature lots of products and want to eliminate the human error element and save some time during the process. In that case, the automation feature is perfect for you. You can read more about it in the link I posted.
Some final thoughts
Creating copy for catalogs might seem intimidating, but hopefully, you will find the tips I provided usefully. Try to follow them the next time you create your product catalog, and don’t forget to make it interactive with Flipsnack. Create a free account and start experimenting.