June 5, 2003, 12:00 AM

Catalogers’ online advantage doesn’t extend to content

Catalogers gain an advantage on the web by using customer service and fulfillment assets, but they can’t do the same with product information.

One of the advantages over other retailers that catalogers bring to web-based selling is that they already have the infrastructure to handle customer service, shipping, returns and other issues related to remote selling. And while some think they also have creative that they can simply migrate to the web, that is not always the case, a group of catalogers told the Annual Catalog Conference in San Francisco this week.

Coldwater Creek, for instance, which works hard in its catalogs to create a strong emotional pull or to evoke a setting, limits its web descriptions to 180 words. “It’s pretty nuts and bolts,” Jeri Wentz, copy vice president of Coldwater Creek, told attendees at the breakout session “This Works, That Didn’t,” on Monday. “We had considered the whole-story option, but decided not to, although the copy is derived from the catalog.”

Cataloger Travelsmith is changing its approach of using catalog copy online, Mark Danzig, creative vice president, said. “Online, the pages just get enornmous,” he said. “No one is going to read it all. We’re in the process of chopping it.”

The same is true for images, Jon Deaner, senior CRM marketing manager for Godiva Chocolatier, told the same session. “We use seven boxes in one image in the catalog, but that doesn’t work on the web,” he said. “We needed to shoot each box individually for the web.”

Long copy doesn’t work on the web, numerous speakers noted at the conference, because customers who shop online are in a hunting mode, not a browsing mode; they want their information fast so they can make quick decisions. Group product shots don’t work because they don’t communicate to the shopper that she can click on one item to buy it.

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