Mobile Commerce Forum Report: Consumers take their time with catalogs on iPads

The average visitor to Catalogs.com on a tablet spends more than five minutes.

Don Davis

With 18 billion catalogs mailed last year, the printed catalog is far from dead. But if catalogs are going to stand out from the crowd, they need to be fun, fast, well organized and engaging—all of which can be accomplished on the iPad, Richard Linevsky, president and co-founder of Catalogs.com, told attendees today at Mobile Commerce Forum 2011 in Houston.

Catalogs.com hosts catalogs for more than 700 retailers and a year ago launched a version of its site and a mobile app optimized for Apple Inc.’s iPad tablet computer. More than 100 merchants now offer their wares through the company’s iPad site and app, says Linevsky who spoke in a session entitled “How iPads create new opportunities in digital catalogs.”

Those retailers are seeing higher conversion rates from the iPad site and app, though he did not disclose actual rates. What he did disclose was the average time consumers spend with the iPad versions of these retailers’ catalogs: 5 minutes and 37 seconds on average. And that, he said, includes consumers who leave after a few seconds; some sessions last 30 or 40 minutes.

Many of the participating retailers do not have printed catalogs, he added. That’s not necessary because the iPad version of a catalog is not a scanned version of a printed catalog. Instead, Catalogs.com takes a product data feed from each retailer—including product information, pricing, the product page URL and other data—and creates what looks to the iPad user like a catalog.

Linevsky showed attendees the iPad catalog created for apparel retailer bebe stores inc., with a variety of image formats, related products across the bottom and areas on the page where the retailer could offer coupons and free shipping. Consumers can also share products that interest them with friends.

The advantage of the product data feed approach is that the retailer can update the feed daily, allowing the catalog to add new products and delete products that are sold out. What’s more, products can be tagged so that the consumer can see only the products she wants. For example, she can open the bebe catalog and search for dresses, and see pages that only have bebe dresses. Bebe is No. 325 in the Internet Retailer Top 500.

Creating the Catalogs.com iPad site and app wasn’t easy, Linevsky added. He said it took five programmers, six developers and a patent attorney—and the original version had bugs that took a while to fix.

But now that the site and app are working well, Linevsky says tablet computers like the iPad could prove to be a highly effective marketing medium, combining the engagement of a glossy catalog with the flexibility of a web site.

 That presents a unique opportunity for deeper customer engagement that makes the shopping experience much more interesting, much better for discovery and much more interactive.”



Bebe stores, Catalogs.com, iPad, MCF 2011, Mobile Commerce Forum 2011, Richard Linevsky