October 5, 2012, 9:56 AM

Talking up tablets for e-catalogs


Tablet computers offer an important new venue for e-catalogs, an MMCF speaker says.

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Direct-mail catalogs are not what they used to be, but that can be a good thing for catalog retailers, says Mark Carson, president and co-founder of catalog, web and store retailer Fat Brain Toys. “As online commerce continues to grow, does that spell the demise of the catalog as we know it? Perhaps the opposite,” he says.

Online versions of traditional paper catalogs, complete with flipping virtual pages, have been around for years, but have not widely risen to the level of use of traditional catalogs or e-commerce sites, Carson says. But with the rise in popularity of the tablet computer, the online catalog is primed to emerge as a new armchair favorite of shoppers, he’ll tell attendees next week in a session titled “The new world of tablet catalogs—endless opportunities, new challenges,” at the Internet Retailer Mobile Marketing and Commerce Forum 2012. “With the evolution of the tablet computer, the once familiar shopping activity—sitting in your easy chair, flipping page by page through a catalog—is once again gaining popularity,” Carson says. “But add to this experience the important roles of online video, dynamic pricing, variable inventory, customer reviews and social media—and you’ve built a better catalog. A catalog for a new generation.”

Tablet computers, of course, are still in their early days, and it will take a lot of effort by retailers to learn how to best design e-catalogs for them, he says. In his MMCF session, however, Carson will share how he has dealt with the challenges of making Fat Brain Toys’ e-catalog complement the tablet “all with a focus on figuring out where tablet catalogs will lead us in the coming years,” he says.

The editors of Internet Retailer invited Carson to speak at MMCF because of his experience in e-commerce as well as his innovative approach to selling toys.

A self-taught designer, developer and marketer, he launched Fat Brain Toys nine years ago and has built it into multichannel toy retailer that is No. 454 in the Internet Retailer Top 500.

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