Why wholesale ordering platforms are replacing print catalogs

Jane Mc Arthur
September 15, 2017
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As you move your business online, you'll need to digitize your print product catalog. But is that a smart move or should you stick to the print one?

Technology is rapidly expanding to transform most areas of our lives: from our everyday chores to our professional tasks. This digital revolution may be challenging you in many ways in order to adapt your old ways of doing business too.

Need an example? Online sales show that B2B eCommerce is now twice the size of B2C eCommerce, with sales expected to reach $1.13 trillion by 2020. So it is only a matter of time for any wholesaler to take the leap and make the switch to online. In other words, the B2B industry is gearing up and fast evolving. In fact, these new and emerging trends force B2B companies to change their well-grounded strategies. For one, B2B ecommerce is driving change even in how B2B companies manage their product catalog.

The puzzle question: Do online product catalogs work?

So you may have just decided to switch to B2B ecommerce. One of the main questions you may be faced with is: should you stop printing product catalogs? You may actually be more inclined to keep this “old” part of your business alive for many reasons.

#1 Prospecting like you used to

Moving your business online means that you need to re-think your business strategy. Digital marketing, with all its main components (email marketing, social media marketing, SEO, etc.), is starting to become more and more integral to closing your sales and to the revenue you generate - even more than training your sales reps or keeping an up-close-and personal contact with your clients.

Yet, when it comes to reaching new prospects, you may actually feel that mailing your print catalog to targeted businesses is already a proven B2B customer acquisition strategy you don’t need to shake off. You can send your print catalog and reach the exact prospects you want to reach by industry, geographic location, company size, etc. And with a compelling introductory offer, you know from experience that these prospects will be willing to give you a try. So why use an online catalog instead?

#2 Your customers interact better with a physical catalog

Yes, the physical presence of a catalog demands more attention and facilitates engagement more effectively than an easily-deleted email or electronic file. An inviting cover design can get prospects to start browsing.

Even more, analog always wins in terms of searchability. Imagine your customer doesn’t know the exact product name or code they’re looking for, so how will they find it online or in a digital document? This search in vain may make your customers feel frustrated. On the other hand, a printed catalog features an index through which your customers can browse through your entire offering. So an offline catalog may seem to you as much safer bet to keep placing.

So here is a fact: today,  sales and marketing teams across many B2B wholesale industries are spending loads of money on printed catalogs. But are they really worth it? Research reveals that offline catalogs may not be quite as effective as you might think.

#3 Today’s buyers are looking for a more efficient and quick shopping experience

Up until a few years ago, print product catalogs and phone orders may have worked for B2B buyers, yet today’s tech-savvy buyer is different and craves a better and more efficient shopping experience. So yes, print is kind of out of fashion.

In fact, the number of B2B buyers who spend 90% or more of their budgets online doubled from 9% in 2013 to 18% in 2014. And there’s another reason why a digital catalog is super integral to your business success: according to B2B e-commerce, 94% of B2B buyers do research online before making a purchase, while 71% of them prefer this process to having a salesperson explain their options.

#4 An online catalog is more cost-effective and accessible than the offline option

Did you know that 69% of B2B companies say they expect to stop printing a catalog within the next five years? Online catalogs are replacing print.  And there are a few good reasons for that.

First off, an online catalog is much more cost-effective not to mention environmentally-friendly. Between design, printing, and shipping, creating a catalog is pricey. Also, an online catalog is much more accessible to your customers. It’s very hard to go through a huge printed product catalog. Imagine how your retailers have to go back and forth between catalogs, cost lists, and their own prices just to provide a customer with a quote.

On the other side of this, your customers can go through your online catalog whenever they want, read reviews, or zoom in your products. Added bonus: they can do that at any time or place through their tablet, desktop, or smartphone.

Making the efficient choice

Yes, it’s time to re-think your product catalog strategy.  And while you know how to use your printed catalogs for marketing and sales purposes, with the B2B wholesale paradigm shifting, it’s a fact that technology has helped us digitize the entire B2B sales process. So, when it comes to presenting your offering, there is a more efficient way to achieve the same goals.

Apart from saving on expenses and making your offering more accessible to your customers, a digital catalog can even prove to be a powerful tool for your sales reps too: a tool that allows them to instantly showcase your offering anytime, anywhere and from any device.

And if you dread that your customers will not have enough time to go through your digital catalog, you can opt for a B2B ecommerce platform or tool that will allow them to export it as a file (whether Excel or pdf), save it on their device of choice, and revisit it at their own time.

Is digitizing your product catalog as easy as it seems?

Click here to sign up for a free trial account on B2B Wave and see how quick and easy it is to create your online catalog, organize your products and inventory, and gear up your wholesale business for growth!

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