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Product Catalog – 14 Things to Know about Content & Design

When you need to present your product portfolio to your clients and potential clients you must consider the design. Think about how the product catalog needs to look and feel to be as pleasant and convincing as possible so that people choose your specific products.

Before starting the design of the catalog, some things must be clear:

All of the aspects mentioned above will help you answer the next questions:

In the following we will detail each aspect. You will have a checklist for making a good product catalog.

1. Who is it for

  • a) For the end-user
  • b) For an intermediary
  • c) For a specialist
The reader of the catalog is the one deciding what category of information you will include in your catalog, the wording you choose, the images you use, and overall the whole editorial process. Here are some useful examples:
a) Example of a product catalog designed for the end-user or a large audience
In this case, the product catalog needs to include all of the products you want to sell to the target market. If your product portfolio features many categories, it is recommended to sort them depending on their relevance to your specific public. Therefore, relevancy means what problem does your product solve. Here is an example:

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If the products are in high number, then it is useful to add a table of contents. This way, the information is easily accessible. A comparison table can also be very useful for the customers, as it helps them with their decision.

Depending on the industry you work in and how well known the products from your category are, it may be necessary to include some useful information such as:
  • applicability domain (i.e. indoor or outdoor)
  • how to install/use the product
  • what other additional pieces/accessories/services should your client consider during the buying process
  • useful tips for long-term use (extra warranties, maintenance, etc)

b) Example of a product catalog designed for a sales intermediary
When you use this kind of distribution for your products, either exclusively or at the same time as direct sales, the product catalog must also contain specific information such as:
  • product codes for easier identification in the database or stocks
  • terms of delivery or other conditions that need to be met (i.e. stock products or on-demand)
  • dimensions, sizes, colors
  • terms of use
  • purchase order form

c) Example of a product catalog designed for a specialist
A specialist already knows the product category. Specialists already know a variety of suppliers who offer similar products. The thing that will help them in the decision-making process is the specific information that can make the difference between “right for my project” or “non-viable”. Here are some examples of useful information (depending on the sector):
  • technical blueprints
  • graphs, 3D renderings
  • sections of the product
  • technical agreements, state standards, and other such information
  • technical performance (i.e. the maximum board size a CNC machine can process and the work speed)
  • conditions of installations

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2. What is the purpose of the catalog

A product catalog needs to have a clear purpose. Depending on your audience (see previous mentions), your product catalog can target:
  • identify customer’s needs for which your products are a viable option (i.e. 7 models of office chairs that can accommodate weights of up to 160 kg); in other words, what specific problem does your product solve
  • inform potential clients that you offer the products they need
  • get your client to consider your products throughout their purchase journey
  • include promotional coupons that can be used for a discount
  • user manuals
  • active promotions during a specific time of the year, etc

3. Which products from your product portfolio should be included in the catalog

If you have a wide and varied range of products, it is recommended to take into consideration if all of your products cater to the same targeted audience. If you have many product categories – i.e. some for professional use and some for domestic use -, it is useful to either part them into two different catalogs, or to highlight them accordingly in one single catalog.
The same process is applicable when listing products only in a specific shop network (i.e. only in DIY shops, exclusively online, etc)

4. Presentation order

For presentation order, start with your customer avatar. What primary need or problem does your client have and which products are best fit to solve that specific problem. The customer avatar is the tool that tells you the criteria, in order of significance, which your client uses as a foundation for the purchase decision.
Here are some examples:
  • If one specific performance characteristic is the most important attribute of a product, then the catalog’s first pages will present the products with the best performances or specifications.
  • If the price is the most important criterion, then you can dedicate the first pages of the catalog to the most accessible price-wise products.
  • If related services are the most important ones, then make sure to present them on the first pages.

5. Relevant information

“Relevant information” means what your customer considers important and searches for. For example:
  • warranty
  • technical specifications (sizes, colors, capacities, functions, etc)
  • number of installs
  • complementary products
  • additional necessary or optional accessories which contribute to a better user experiencey
  • contact information or online/physical locations where people can buy your products, etc

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6. Pre-sales and/or after-sales services

If your products can not be installed by the buyers (i.e. thermic station, electrical installation, elevator), then you should include in your catalog information about the authorized people or companies to do this job. Help your client undergo the whole start-to-finish process. The one you’re addressing has a problem to solve. Offering them a partial solution can make the difference between a potential buyer and an actual buyer.
If extended warranty or service are important for your product category, you should dedicate a page in your product catalog to only address these topics.

7. Other information

Depending on the domain you operate in, the type of client (a private person or a company), and context, the product catalog can include numerous other information categories. Here are some examples:
  • your company’s presentation
  • certifications, authorizations
  • number of clients/installations (let’s not forget that social proof is one of the 7 principles of persuasion)
  • potential promo codes
  • other product categories or related services you offer
The necessity of including other information results from the analysis of the previous steps. The given examples are not exhaustive. The purpose of this blog article is to provide you with a structure and to help you in the process of designing a product catalog.
If you are now in the process of creating a product catalog, our agency’s team can help you.

8. The format of a product catalog

Again, think about who is it for. If it’s a B2B sector, an intermediary or a specialist, or if you have many products, a big format (i.e. Letter) is a right fit. If we target a broad audience and we want everyone visiting our store to pick up a catalog and take it home for an in-depth examination, then smaller formats (B5 or flyer) are a better choice.
The only right answer is: it depends. And that is because it depends on the purpose and the reader. We’ll talk about cost-related aspects below. You can promote a single product and choose the Letter catalog format because it is a premium product or it is necessary to educate the target market about the product category. Just like you can choose to do a 32-page catalog in a B5 format because the space where these catalogs will be distributed are in pharmacies, meaning that the display area on the counter is extremely limited.

9. Should the product catalog be full-color or black&white?

This decision is based on two main reasons:
  • the need for a full-color version for easier identification of certain product elements
  • the cost of printing a full-color catalog is higher than the black&white version
In addition, consider the impression you want your catalog to have on the reader. Whenever possible, we recommend the full-color version, because it is more visually appealing and more familiar. We, as people, see in colors.
Whatever small detail that can contribute to that familiarity is helpful.

10. Online product catalog or printed catalog?

Yes.  Of course, there are situations where a product catalog is preferred in physical format, for easier browsing. Example: products for which the purchase decision is made in-store, or catalogs that contain sketches and drawings.
We again must focus our attention on the customer. More specifically, how do customers prefer to browse a product catalog in your specific field? Here lies the answer to the above question.

11. Text and product descriptions

Whenever you write texts for your product catalog, go through the customer avatar and see how they prefer to be addressed. Focus your attention on the company’s brand manual and follow the guidelines regarding the tone of voice.
The catalog’s content must be useful and relevant to your customer. The texts must be clearly formulated. No speech or grammar errors are allowed. The language of your catalog depends, again, on the target audience.
  • How do you phrase the titles?
  • What about the subtitles?
  • What are the questions that your clients may have and to which they will find answers in the product catalog you are designing?
The main information in such a catalog is the products descriptions. Therefore, make sure you include only real, correct, verified information, that is necessary for your customer in the decision-making process. Sometimes, a comparative table can be extremely helpful.

12. Product images

Regarding product images, the most important aspects are the quality of the images and their relevancy. Use only high-resolution photos, especially if you choose the printed version of a catalog (in this specific case, high resolution means 300dpi).
Show the context in which your product can be used (i.e. a living room table placed in a cosy space), but also product pictures taken from different angles. Detailed images can also make the difference (i.e. a particularly smooth finish, an image that shows how slim a smartphone is, etc).

13. Catalog distribution

Before moving on to printing the product catalog:
  • Make a list of the locations where you will make these catalogs available to customers.
  • How much space do you need for them to be in handy?
  • Can you obtain the necessary space or does it have to be negotiated?
  • How many catalogs will you distribute in every one of these locations?
  • Will they be delivered through mail or by courier?
  • Catalog weight and distribution costs it involves
Answering these questions will provide you an estimated number for printing and a calculation basis for the total production cost.

14. Costs

By “cost” we mean the cost of design, copywriting services, professional photos, and the cost of actual printing for a printed version and, subsequently, their distribution.
As an agency, Premiere M can help you with the entire process: from structure to catalog design, content creation, and online printing or publishing.
Contact us if you have any questions or need support in designing your product catalog.

What can we do for you?

Let’s use creativity that works.