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Digitally enhanced catalogs… A winning promise?

Des catalogues digitaux enrichis… Pour quoi faire ?
Publié le
16 Septembre 2019

Digital catalogs offer the promise of an enhanced customer experience. Yet what advantages do they truly offer? The topic has been researched through several studies in France and Belgium based on the digital catalog of a major furniture retailer. We share a few recommendations for brands.

What is a digitally enhanced catalog? “The idea is to offer additional information through 3D images, videos and product files. These increase the information available in a digital catalog,” explains Marion Garnier, a researcher and professor in the Marketing Department at Grenoble Ecole de Management and co-author of the studies in collaboration with Ingrid Poncin, a researcher and professor at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium.

What’s the added value?

The researchers first explored why companies digitalize and enhance their catalogs? What is the usefulness of virtual catalogs? What do they offer in terms of customer experience versus, for example, a customer experience on the brand’s website?

To analyze the value of creating enhanced digital catalogs, the researchers carried out four studies from 2013 to 2017, including two studies with French and Belgium consumers, which were published in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services in 2019. “The goal of these studies was to compare the website and enhanced digital catalog of a major furniture brand in terms of usefulness and customer experience. Our approach was to test various types of enhancements in terms of design, manufacturing, advertisement and experiential communications. This allowed us to determine their added value,” explains Marion.

Consumers expect useful information

The studies underline two factors that can help companies decide on the content of their enhanced digital catalogs. “Experiential information doesn’t garner a lot of interest. Consumers want useful information. This result goes against the common assumption that unique customer experiences are essential to stand out," highlights Marion.

In conclusion, the studies demonstrate that “while digital catalogs are immersive, the consumer experience is not very strong. However, if they’re well designed, enhanced digital catalogs can offer a real added value in terms of usefulness. In general, we can conclude that websites are considered to be much more useful than catalogs. The enhanced digital catalog offers a novel experience, but it is insufficient to make it worth more than a website. As a result, if a company’s only reason for creating a digitally enhanced catalog is to follow trends, then that’s not a worthwhile justification,” concludes Marion.

Rely on experience and usefulness

Creating an enhanced digital catalog doesn’t necessarily offer much usefulness. “Fashionable” technology has to also meet a strategy that provides a useful experience for the consumer. The primary questions to ask in preparation are:

  • Why are you creating a digitally enhanced catalog: to share practical information? Useful content? To stand out?
  • What does the digitally enhanced catalog offer that is not available on the website?

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