With high street catalogue retailer Argos announcing the phasing out of its printed catalogue, this is just the start of the transition from print to digital..
News that Argos now views its printed catalogue as obsolete is indicative of the shift going on across the print industry. Retailers and publishers alike are finding themselves burdened with the costs of printing and distributing everything from printed catalogues to magazines, and are looking for ways to trim those costs back.
Furthermore, with the growth of digital platforms people are becoming more and more used to having the content they want delivered directly to them or being able to browse the products they want online when they want to. From an ecommerce perspective this also means that they are demanding the sort of instantaneous experience that the online ecommerce world provides; powerful search, recommendations, similar item listings and easy purchase have all become prerequisites of modern shopping. Printed catalogues just can’t deliver this.
Although I have seen some sensationalist headlines around this story pronouncing this as the death of the catalogue, the reality is far from it. Catalogues will always fulfill an important role in providing inspiration to purchase, it’s just the way they are produced that is changing.
And as can be seen by M&S’s recently released Home Catalogue app, online and app-based catalogues are becoming incredibly powerful. They don’t just need to be flat pictures that you flick through, replicating the offline catalogue experience, but instead they can be a highly engaging and interactive journey that allows the user to get more information on products at the tap of a screen, seamlessly share products across social networks and ultimately purchase items directly from within the digital catalogues.
For retailers, the shift to digital is not only a logical step, as it provides a much more powerful medium through which to communicate with the consumers, but it is also essential if retailers and publishers are to remain competitive and trim costs back. In essence, digital catalogues are measurable, instantaneous and massive.
And mobile is becoming an increasingly important channel within this sector, with global mobile users set to exceed desktop users by 2014 and mobile commerce predicted to be worth $31bn by 2016. This shift is being driven by the continued rise of the tablet and people’s changing attitudes towards mobile, with consumers using mobile platforms increasingly for ‘me’ time. Add to this the fact that ecommerce basket sizes on tablets are on average 20% higher, it’s clear that retailers like Argos absolutely need to be looking seriously at mobile as a place to inspire.
Yes, it is big news that Argos is planning to phase out its catalogue, which has been a high street stalwart for the past 40 years, but the reality is that this is a shift that has been going on for some time. Argos is just the most high-profile catalogue-based retailer to publicly come out and say what much of the industry already knows: print as a mass media for communicating with consumers is not the force it used to be. Of course, on that point I should add, it’s not that print is dead, it’s just digital is now the new broadcast media – there is still a big place for print in retail but I can see it being more associated with luxury or niche products.
Argos’ announcement underlines that is a hugely exciting time for ecommerce. The great thing for digital agencies in all of this is that we have an important role to play now in helping companies and brands effectively manage the transition from print to digital.