TIME FOR A NEW DESIGN? OR JUST BORED?
First published on MyTotalRetail.com blog May 2015
© 2015 Susan J. McIntyre
By Susan J. McIntyre
PATIENT: “Doc, I am so bored with my catalog design. I see familiar photos and lookalike layouts daily until I'm sick of them. I thought I'd spice up my workdays by having our creative team do a completely new look. What do you think?”
CATALOG DOCTOR: “Being bored with your catalog design is a really terrible reason for redesigning (although more companies do so than you'd imagine). Frankly, your feelings don't count. What counts is customers' feelings. To help learn your customers' feelings, start by asking yourself these questions...”
- Are overall sales trending up, down, or flat, on similar circulation?
- Are buyers repeat buying or not?
- Are prospects still converting well, or has prospect response slacked off?
- Is your 12-month buyer count remaining steady? Growing? Shrinking?
Yes, do freshen the look for each print run, to keep customers opening each new catalog they receive in the mail. Yes do have new front and back covers and intro spreads for each issue. Yes, do try out new ideas on pages here and there. But do all this in an evolutionary, not revolutionary way.
Happy customers like the “familiar” things about your brand and your catalog. Familiarity is comfortable, and helps build confidence. And they also like some freshness, and fun interesting new products and new photos...within the context of overall comfortable familiarity. A big shift can turn happy customers nervous.
True sad story (that ended happy). A successful cataloger had a bright, sunny look that customers loved. The company got tired of the old look and changed it to a rich, moody look...and sales tanked so fast that the company had to do a quick design rollback and get an “old style” catalog in the mail fast, fast, to keep the company afloat.
True sadder story. Another successful cataloger had great merchandise, but decided to target a younger audience, basically turning their back on their loyal, profitable audience. The new merchandise and new look lost the old audience and didn't win them the new, hoped-for audience. Within a short time the catalog went belly up.
True happy story. A successful cataloger wanted to reach out to a broader audience age range. So they tested a new, trendier design versus their old, classic design. Surprisingly, there was no measurable difference in response from their old customers. So they were able to confidently roll out the new design to both old and new customers.
So, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." But even a successful catalog needs to gradually evolve its design to stay successful. These steps will help:
- Keep track of changing design and color trends, especially in your own arena. Watch what your competitors are doing. Also watch the trends your audience is seeing in other areas: for example, if they're reading Architectural Digest, they'll be imprinting on a different design style than if they're reading Western Horseman.
- Watch for new competitors in your arena, especially if they seem to be copying you. You may need a somewhat-more-than-evolutionary design revamp to keep a jump ahead of copycat competition.
- Track not just your competitors' design, but also their products, prices and service. If what you really need is a product reboot, a new design won't help much.
- Even if all indicators are good, if competition is under control and sales are growing, do keep freshening and evolving your catalog's design. But do so in baby evolutionary steps to align with your customers' evolving design perceptions, while also staying inside their comfort level.