Catalog-shopping seems to never go out of style.
Whether consumers receive their favorites via mailbox or, increasingly, via inbox or on their iPads, they like the page-turning experience, says Richard Linevsky, who is part of the husband-wife team who co-founded Weston-based Catalogs.com. Linevsky should know: Since 1996, Catalogs.com has aimed to be the go-to place to order catalogs and has evolved into much more.
Today, Catalogs.com is an online-shopping destination featuring hundreds of retailers. It’s part of the growing U.S. e-commerce industry that logged $225 billion in sales last year and is projected to draw $434 billion in 2017, according to eMarketer research.
Back in the 1990s, when Linevsky was selling artistic neckties, he noticed he was five times more likely to get sales from people who requested the catalog, rather than people who got the catalog through lists. That was the light bulb moment for him — he thought, why not build a portal where consumers can order the catalogs they want, and retailers will get much more qualified leads? In 1996, he and his wife, Leslie, sold that necktie catalog business to start Catalogs.com.
Back then, the “Wild West” days of dial-up Internet, most of the 25 company catalogs offered were on paper, he said.
Now Catalogs.com features more than 700 retailers — from well-known names such as Sears, Spiegel, Ralph Lauren, Warner Brothers, Mrs. Fields, Sky Mall and Neiman Marcus to niche brands such as Fairytale Brownies, Allen Bros. Steaks and The Children’s Place. All featured retailers have e-commerce stores, and each one has a Catalogs.com profile, which often contain discounts, special offers or free shipping for the consumer. About 30 percent still offer printed catalogs that can be delivered for free, while many provide access to online catalogs. “Whether it is paper or PDF, people enjoy the page-turning experience. It’s the discovery. You never know what’s next,” said Linevsky.
But that’s not to say the catalog couldn’t use an update.
Enter the company’s Dynalog, Catalogs.com’s newest product that the company says offers a quick, easy and more affordable way for online stores to create catalogs enhanced with imagery for a discovery shopping and sensory experience with a less product- and text-heavy look. It enables a brand to compile a catalog quickly, perhaps for one line of products or tailored to a special event, promotion or holiday. Sell out of a particular product? The store can delete and replace it quickly. Launched this summer, the product also is designed so online stores can easily email-blast it, put into a newsletter, or share on social media. Dynalog, or a “dynamic catalog,” might feature a particular dress, for instance, but it also gives people other choices in a similar style.
Up-selling is a key feature of the Dynalog, and each one tells a story for the brand, said Leslie Linevsky. Since the launch, more than 110 companies have created a Dynalog, which has a patent pending.
“Dynalog allows us to have the control to feature whatever products we want whenever is best,” said Joshua Jones, affiliate manager for Plow & Hearth, an outdoor products catalog company that has been offered on Catalogs.com since 2011. Although Plow & Hearth has only been offering the Dynalog for four months, the company is already finding that the engagement time is better with Dynalog than with its more conventional e-catalog, Jones said. And, although it is early, Plow & Hearth is already seeing a 5 percent better conversion to sales with the Dynalog.
“We are a catalog company; we grew up through the catalog market,” said Jones. “We were looking for a way to keep our roots but also stay up to date. Moving forward, I think the future of the catalog is going to be something like the Dynalog.”
Linevsky says that whereas a traditional catalog can take two months to create and cost $10,000 to $100,000, a 60-page Dynalog can be created in the $200 to $500 monthly range and take just 30 minutes to build. It can then be updated, changed or even replaced any time the store desires. Linevsky sees uses well beyond retail — such as a law firm wanting to publicize its top lawyers, a sales tool for a plastic surgeon, or auction companies able to have a catalog for every auction they do. Dynalogs can also be layered onto traditional e-catalogs. “The Dynalog gives online consumers an interactive and exciting way to discover products that a website just can’t provide,” said Linevsky. “We think we are onto something very big.”
The Dynalog is just one part of the services offered by Catalogs.com, based in Weston, a company of 28 people. Besides catalogs, the company offers lead generation and a customized package of e-marketing services on its website, where traffic averages from 650,000 to 1,100,000 million views a month.
The company has been growing at about 10-12 percent a year, but with the early success of the Dynalog, it expects growth this year to be about 18 percent, Linevsky said. Catalogs.com would not reveal revenues, although Florida Trend magazine reported in July its 2012 revenues were $5 million.
Although Catalogs.com does see a bump in traffic during this holiday season, it’s really a year-round season, said Leslie Linevsky. She has seen growing interest in catalogs for arts and crafts, vitamins, weddings, seniors and pets, for instance. Clothing, home decor, gardening and gourmet foods continue to be among the most popular.