Catalogs are essential sales and marketing tools—either digital or print. Whether you’re promoting a passion project or it’s for your main line of work, a product catalog can help you acquire new customers and inspire repeat ones. By providing product and purchase information in a clear, attractive way, you make it easy for people to connect with your products and buy them. Creating a catalog may seem overwhelming if you’ve never done it before, but don’t worry! Here’s what you need to get started creating and designing your product catalog.
Content and Design
All product catalogs have certain sections in common, like a magazine. Each issue of your catalog should have a theme—a color scheme, a location or situation that harmonizes your design and photographs. For clothing sellers, this is usually a particular season and location. For jewelry sellers, it might be a holiday or gift-giving occasion.
You might also theme it around a story or fantasy. Having a theme ties everything together and reinforces your branding. Plus, changing the theme or design gives you a reason to get attention with an updated issue—even if your products haven’t changed much. Serial updates to catalogs can make greatest-hit products seem new.
Your product catalog will need a spread or a section that explains your brand—who you are and why you do what you do. This will sit near the inside of the front cover. You’ll need a section that displays your products (which will be the bulk of the pages) and you’ll also need information about ordering, purchasing, and your return and customer satisfaction policy. This should sit near the back cover. Your cover needs to have an attractive design as if it were a magazine, introducing the theme. You can use the back cover as a promotional space with an offer to encourage people to open and leaf through it.
This can be the most tedious part to collect and organize, but once you’ve created a spreadsheet or database with all of the product info you need, updating it is easier. Group your products into categories to streamline repetitive information. The good news is that once you’ve created a database, it’s useful for both digital product listings and print editions. Each featured product should have the following information, listed in a consistent format:
- Product name—go for a branded but clear, memorable title.
- Catchy description—this is where you explain the appeal of your product. Make it customer-centered, and give them a reason to buy. Write this like advertising copy, and keep all your descriptions close to the same length.
- Product ID# or SKU (or any other identifier for ordering)
- Product specs and details (size, color, weight, assembly, materials, place of origin, variations available, etc.)
- Shipping or delivery details
You may not use all of this templated information on your product detail pages in a print catalog. This will depend on how you’ll use your product catalog and its particular design. Does it stand alone or drive people to the website to order?
Layout Templates: 5 Essential Layouts
Your product catalog template needs to have a recognizable visual rhythm to communicate with your customers and guide them through a product selection. Most catalogs choose a few layouts and repeat them. It’s both efficient, and it communicates with customers without having to use words.You’ll want variation between the number of products per page. Some pages might feature one showstopper product, others might show a couple of products with beauty shots, and some, in true catalog form, display a grid of products, prices, and details. Remember, when designing your catalog layouts, the more space something takes on the page, the more important it is. Here are 5 types of layouts you need:
- The showstopper layout: a full-page image featuring one main product and maybe a couple of secondary ones. These are the products that are new or featured in this campaign.
- The category collection layout: one large image that shows all types of the same products next to each other, with consolidated product descriptions. (2/3 image, 1/3 text)
- A marketing layout: a highly visual layout with pull-quote style descriptions or marketing copy to “advertise” a particular product or brand ideal.
- The listing layout: a dense layout with an obvious grid that efficiently lists your products and their details on one spread for a whole category.
- A comparison layout: placing products with like presentation in a line or grid so their individual attributes can be compared. Think one skirt in four lengths. This visually involves your customers in a choosing and buying decision whether they intended to do it or not.
Product photography is the power of the product catalog. This is what sells people on the products that they aren’t holding in their hands. Your photography needs to be top-notch, and showcase your product in an inspiring way. It also needs to be uniform in presentation for customer clarity. Again, product photography might seem tedious, but if you do these shots well, you’ll be using them over and over again, in print and online.
- All photos should be well lit with clear details. View the same product from 2-3 angles.
- Shoot collections of products, relating to each other. Creating visual relationships between products encourages people to buy them together.
- Shoot lifestyle uses for your product—people or situations where your product is in use or being worn, so you can trigger an emotional connection relating to your product.
- Shoot all your products with the same lighting and with zero distractions in the background. This minimizes confusion, leaves you with more layout options because products will have matching highlights, and you’ll achieve that pro look.
- For more complicated products, shoot the different parts and pieces and inner workings disassembled, in close-up.
- Shoot tight, close-up detail shots of your products. Focus on the details that distinguish that product from others in your line or its competitors.
Even if you don’t use all these shots in one product catalog, by shooting all these options up front at the same time, you’ll have more to work with later in the rest of your sales and marketing materials.
How you print your product catalog will depend on who is going to see it, how you’ll distribute it, and how many editions you plan to do. If you’re an architecture firm, your catalog may take the form of a hardcover coffee-table book. If you’re a jeweler or some other craftsman, your catalog might look more like a magazine. Catalogs that will be printed by the dozen can be more lux than if you need ten dozen.
Don’t forget you can have multiple versions of your catalog. You might do a seasonal product highlight on an economy magazine, but your full version for vendors might be something longer and last a couple years. Maybe you could even change-up the quality of the printing. You might print economy for a leave-behind, but print standard color for something more permanent. Whether your product catalog is designed like a book that people would want to peruse and keep, or a longer brochure is up to you, your budget, and your intentions for it. The beauty of print on demand is that you can print one, twenty, or two hundred in any format. Once you have your product photography done and your copy written, the possibilities are endless.
Ready to create and design your own product catalog? Whether it’s a collectible brand book or a seasonal leave-behind, share and show off your products on beautiful, custom pages. Get started today.