February 4, 2014, 10:56 AM

Germany’s Metro Cash & Carry goes digital with its catalogs

The wholesaler says it already has three million shoppers that browse 150 million of its digital catalogs each month, helping to drive up traffic—and sales—on its linked e-commerce sites.

Lead Photo

A Publitas mobile app

To wholesaler Metro’s multichannel marketing chief Elisabeth Aiello, e-commerce sites may be just too efficient by themselves at getting shoppers to buy more things.

In contrast, she says, digital catalogs get shoppers to browse through pages and come across promotions and products they’d be likely to skip over while making a beeline on an e-commerce from site search to checkout.

Digital catalogs, she adds, engage customers in ways atypical of a web site. “Catalogs provide another emotional touch in the customer’s shopping journey, says Aiello, who is head of multichannel marketing at Metro Cash & Carry, a unit of Germany-based Metro Group that sells a range of merchandise in bulk to businesses as well as consumers in more than 700 stores across 29 countries. “They’re a great way to discover deals and promotions, and this is reflected in the number of people using our digital catalogs.”

Metro Cash & Carry is already selling through digital catalogs in 14 countries in Europe and Asia, including Belgium, Portugal, Spain and Turkey, and plans to launch digital catalogs in three more countries this year: Netherlands, Italy and Ukraine.

Metro’s digital catalogs, developed by Amsterdam-based Publitas.com, link to Metro’s e-commerce sites, where customers check out to complete a sale. Publitas.com develops the e-catalogs by converting a client company’s PDF versions of paper catalogs, which are often the same as weekly advertising circulars, into interactive online catalogs that let shoppers click a product image to view additional details and descriptions, including videos showing a product in use. The digital catalogs are designed to be viewed on mobile devices as well as desktop computers.

Publitas charges annual fees starting within a range of $5,000 to $7,000, depending on a client’s number of catalogs and the level of features, Publitas CEO Guillermo Sanchez says. The most costly and sophisticated deployments, he adds, can include  automated ways to add products to a digital catalog and built-in Google Analytics for producing reports on customer activity.

"To us, digitizing paper catalogs is just the first step in reinventing the way retailers connect with customers," he says Sanchez. “We see an enormous potential for digital-only catalogs in the form of personalized, targeted promotions, and we’re working hard to show the world our version of the ideal catalog.”

Sanchez says Publitas has a client base of some 300 retailers using it for their digital catalogs, including the Hong Kong-based retail conglomerate A.S. Watson Group and the London-based mobile phone and wireless services company Carphone Warehouse. Combined, its client retailers have 14 million catalog visits and 265 million page views per month, he says.

Metro Group is No. 23 in the Internet Retailer Europe 500, a ranking of merchants by their annual web sales.

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