May 11, 2004, 12:00 AM

E-Catalogs help to woo customers new to web shopping, study says

Among e-retailers who deploy an e-catalog, 87% find it brings value to their customer relationships – especially for new customers uncomfortable with the retail web shopping environment, The E-Tailing Group reports.

Among e-retailers who deploy an electronic version of their paper catalog in a "Shop the Catalog" feature, 87% find it brings value to their relationships with customers – especially for new customers uncomfortable with the retail web shopping environment, The E-Tailing Group Inc. reports.

"Today the industry is looking to transition more newbies who are not yet comfortable with the web’s non-linear landscape," Chicago-based E-Tailing Group says. "’Shop the Catalog’ is an ideal vehicle to entice this untapped shopper base."

Among the benefits e-catalogs offer merchants are sales conversion rates equal to or higher than conversion rates attained through other web sales or paper catalogs; a familiar buying format for luring traditional catalog shoppers; and a relatively low-cost method of distributing catalog material, through e-mail, compared to the cost of sending print catalogs, E-Tailing Group says.

Among the advantages E-Tailing says are perceived by customers: images that are typically sharper than those appearing elsewhere on a web site; the ability to find a particular item by flipping through the e-catalog’s pages if a site search function is inadequate; the ability to view product displays that appeared in a discarded print catalog; and the option to e-mail an e-catalog product listing to a friend.

The study, which covered 52 catalogers, found that 58% described online catalogs as "valuable" or "very valuable," and another 29% described them as "somewhat valuable." The study also noted that 40% of the retailers in the survey offered a Shop the Catalog feature, up from 32% last year. In addition, it noted that 90% of respondents offered an online catalog-request form, up from 86% last year, and that 81%, the same percentage as last year, offered an online catalog quick-order feature.



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