Are Interactive Catalogues All Show But No Go?

One good thing about Christmas shopping is it toughens you for the January sales  
~ Grace Kriley 
This Christmas, like every before, retailers will be pulling out all the stops to get your present spending. From the usual ‘shout at you’ ads, through to some more elegant ways of pulling in the holiday dollars. 

The biggest hurdle for most shoppers is the actual experience of shopping during Christmas season. The crowds and carpark pandemonium are enough to deter most sane people. Hence, online shopping becomes an attractive option, even for consumers normally preferring the bricks and mortar option. Enriching the online experience and lowering barriers to purchase remain important factors in converting online browsers into sales. One format that caught my eye is the interactive retail catalogue. 

Farmer’s Interactive Christmas Catalogue 
Farmer’s have just released their latest interactive catalogue for Christmas. The first edition was pretty harshly received on Stoppress and I was interested to see what improvements has been made. 


The Good Bits…
1. The Christmas Section 
As a slight caveat I will admit I’m a Christmas fan. Yes I am that person that happily spends hours spent wrapping presents in matching ribbons, planning elaborate table decorations and my Christmas tree has a theme colour. That said, I experience the same gift purchasing stress and online shopping is a nice way to avoid the lunacy that is a Westfield mall during December.

  • Christmas countdown: The homepage/front cover features a real time countdown to Christmas in days, hours, minutes and even seconds. What a wonderfully panicking way to drive Christmas hysteria! 
  • The Christmas Gift Selector: The gift selector page is pretty clever – however it only selects from the catalogue items so if you want to spend $30-50 on a woman your only choice is a cupcake stand!
  • The “Wish List” Perfect for accidentally printing and leaving in obvious places around the house, such as on the fridge door… 

2. The Make Up Section 
When you click on the product it changes the make up that the model pictured is wearing. Quite cool especially for the nail polish, unfortunately due to the eye shadow and lipstick shades featured, every combo I tried ended up looking a little “street walker”.



3. Women’s Fashion Section

  • Sabine Range: The intro video introduces Farmer’s collaboration with New Zealand label Sabine. The catwalk style full ‘page’ footage makes this section feel more high end and ‘designer’. Only one shot of each of the clothes is shown though.
  • Standard fashion labels: More images are shown and a full 360 degrees video of each garment can be viewed. Some garments also have the option to ‘change the model’. Like with the make up section I expected that this would change the garment color but instead I could choose between a size 8, 12 or 16. A pretty clever feature, which will no doubt be popular with Farmers customer base. The clothes looked equally good on each model. All this effort is a big step towards lowering the barriers against purchasing clothing online. However, given that the viewer was going to have to go in store to buy (and try on) the items this seems like a lot of work for nothing! All show and no go!

4. The Men’s Fashion Section 

Handily organised into “christmas events” and then suggested outfits based on the situation. I’m imagining some awkward BBQ scenes with multiple men wearing the same “palm tree tee with canvas shorts” though. 

Other notable features
Also the catalogue deserves points for incorporating Facebook ‘like’ buttons (absent in the first version) and a feedback form on the back page shows Farmers is treating this is a learning process.   



The not-so-good bits… 
Still NO e-commerce!

As one of the comments on Stoppress’s article on the Spring edition so aptly points out, it’s like using golden cutlery to eat takeaways! You can click to see the product listing and price but need to go to a store to buy. As far as I can see the only link back to the website and store listings is on the last page. This is particularly disappointing when the fashion section has more imagery and footage than the average online retailer offers.


Chief Executive of .99 (the agency behind the catalogue), Craig Whitehead, said that while currently absent e-commerce will feature at a later stage (via Stoppress). Shame that this functionality wasn’t included in the Christmas edition.   

Farmers are currently asking a lot from their customers by excluding e-commerce. Imagine a consumer finds a dress they like in the catalogue, they watch the video and images and decide that they must have it. There’s no guarantee that when they get to their nearest Farmers store that it will be in stock, in their chosen colour and size. This has the potential to result in a very frustrating experience for a consumer!  

It’s built in Flash
Not as major as the lack of e-commerce but means it can not be viewed on iPads or iPhones, which is a shame as the catalogue is perfect for tablet viewing. 

Bouncing page arrows 
I am easily distracted and I know that the arrow on the page ‘corner’ turns the page. It doesn’t need to bounce constantly to get my attention. 

Reasons To Envy  
Despite the lack of e-commerce, hopefully appearing in coming versions, I still think that this there’s a lot to like. In the intensely competitive retail world any moves to stand out from the crowd have to be applauded. Also it seems that Farmers is working to improve each edition, many of the issues with the first edition have been resolved. The engagement level is high and Dean Cook, head of marketing at Farmers indicated that it’s being well received by customers.  

The how-to videos and layout makes Christmas preparations a little less daunting. I want to assume Farmers knows their audience pretty darn well and there’s hopefully a decent reason why e-commerce wasn’t top of the development list. I do hope it’s next on the list though. 

And just FYI, if they did allow e-commerce here’s what I’d be putting under the tree for myself! 

*Hint Hint* lovely hubby – I know you read my posts! 

Sears Baby “Cradle and all” 
The Sears Baby “Cradle and all” was built on the same platform as the Farmer’s catalogue (Ceros) but shows what can be achieved when e-commerce is integrated into this format. Previously Sears had just reproduced print catalogues in a digital format but wanted to transition to fully interactive catalogues. 

The aim was integrate  e-commerce and CRM to provide seamless purchase process. The enhanced functionality of this catalogue includes a shopping cart, product reviews and sharing through most social media networks. Purchases can be completed through the catalogue without needing to be directed to another website. 

Nice inclusions: Product reviews for each item, voting polls (aids engagement and gives Sears more valuable data), ability to set up a ‘baby gift register’ and cross-selling to less traditional baby associated product like digital cameras (for recording those precious memories).  



The Results 

  • Click-through rate of over 70% 
  • Engagement time of over 6 minutes 
  • Over 145,000 referrals to Sears.com 

The results achieved by Sears bodes well for Farmers and show that interactive catalogues have real potential. Look forward to seeing whether any other retailers more to develop digitally also. 


Photo credit – Christmas mall shot sourced from Lomography

Author Profile: Nicole Williams


Nicole is a self-confessed geek, obsessed with all things brand-related. When deciding on what career to follow she flip-flopped between law and graphic design, only to sign up for marketing (purely because they showed amusing TV ads at orientation!). Thankfully, it turned out to be a perfect fit. After finishing a BCA in Marketing and Commercial Law, she worked her way into the job of Marketing Manager for Mitsubishi Electric products in NZ (after starting a couple years earlier stuffing envelopes). You can find Nicole on Twitter


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