Creating Holiday Catalogs With PDFpen

The way we shop may have changed, but Christmas and seasonal traditions such as holiday window displays and holiday catalogs are still strong. The fact that Amazon publishes a holiday catalog every year is proof. 

“Joy Delivered,” Amazon’s holiday catalog, can be downloaded online as a PDF. The catalog captures the essence of holiday gift guides, combining beautiful design, seasonal accents, holiday promotions, and a large selection of toys for kids to marvel at.

So what is it about holiday catalogs that makes even an online retail giant want to use them?   

Why holiday catalogs are still a powerful marketing tool

The answer is simple: We’ve all become numbed to conventional marketing emails and online ads, so getting something in the mail—or being directed to online content that feels special—is refreshing. Beautifully designed catalogs spark our curiosity and make us feel nostalgic about Christmases past. 

“You’re playing on the heartstrings so to speak,” Ken Morris, principal at Boston Retail Partners, told RetailDive. “They smell the fire—it brings them back to their childhood. When we were little we used to take the catalog and go through the toy list, picking out the things you wanted and leave the hints around for your parents, and I’m sure kids still do that today.”

Also, the amount of gift options available online is overwhelming. Choice overload makes our lives harder, not easier, so having a curated list of holiday gift suggestions is actually helpful. 

That said, some high-end brands don’t focus on selling products through their holiday catalogs. Like department stores that turn their Christmas windows into attractions rather than displays for actual products, they use catalogs to provide inspiration and generate buzz around their brand.

Traditional, yes. Old-fashioned? No way.

Holiday catalogs are traditional—they’ve been around at least since 1933, when Sears published their first Christmas Wish Book. But they’re not old-fashioned. Modern-day holiday catalogs are perfectly integrated with online shops, so the transition between print or PDF to online is seamless.

Customers scan items in print catalogs with their cameras, or hover over them with their mouse when viewing the online version, and be taken immediately to the online store.

Online Holiday Catalog

Holiday catalogs: best practices

Holiday catalogs come in all shapes and sizes. Williams Sonoma’s is a big production, with 80 pages’ worth of stunning photography. With 48 pages, Amazon’s Wish Book is less ambitious and mixes product photos and illustrations. 

Small businesses that are short on resources—including time—can opt for mini holiday gift guides comprising just a few pages. Here are some best practices for creating good holiday catalogs:

1. Rely heavily on holiday imagery

A holiday catalog isn’t a holiday catalog if it doesn’t bring up those warm, fuzzy feelings people associate with Christmas. Dazzle customers with beautiful holiday-themed imagery and copy that gets them giddy and nostalgic.

2. Turn your catalog an “experience”

Amazon does an incredibly great job of this with “Joy Delivered,” which is more than just a holiday gift guide. The catalog is jam-packed with fun, beautifully illustrated content which includes activities for kids, recipes, stories, and DIY guides.

A page from Amazon’s 2020 holiday catalog
A page from Amazon’s 2020 holiday catalog.

3. Integrate it with your website

The experience of perusing holiday catalogs in PDF form or in print should be integrated with, not excluded from, shopping online. Do like Amazon and create an app that customers can use to scan and shop, or, if you’re low on resources, simply link to your website.

A page from Amazon’s 2020 holiday catalog
A page from Amazon’s 2020 holiday catalog.

4. Offer Christmas specials, or holiday-exclusive products

Customers perceive products offered only during the holiday season to be special, so they are more willing to buy them. If you provide boxed and ready-to-give options, you’ll give them as extra incentive to buy.

A page from Young Living’s 2020 holiday catalog
A page from Young Living’s 2020 holiday catalog.

5. Encourage self-gifting

Typically, people spend more on their loved ones than on themselves. But consumer behavior is changing, and self-gifting is a rising trend. When you encourage self-gifting through copy, images, and products through the lenses of  self-care, you give customers an incentive to treat themselves.

A page from Young Living’s 2020 holiday catalog
A page from Young Living’s 2020 holiday catalog.

6. Curate collections

During the holiday season, people are desperately looking for gift ideas for relatives and friends. Help them by creating curated collections based on price point, recipient, and other ideas. A “Gifts under $50,” for example, helps consumers on a budget quickly spot suitable gifts and has the added benefit of enabling you to group unrelated objects. Don’t be afraid of showing a high density of products on one page—people are scanning for ideas, so it’s okay to show a bunch in one glance.

A page from Target’s 2020 holiday catalog.
A page from Target’s 2020 holiday catalog.

7. Create promotions

In addition to creating holiday-exclusive products, you should also create limited offers or promotions. Many customers will hold until a sale comes along before buying. According to Think With Google, promotions will be a strong influence on purchase decisions in the 2020 holidays.

9. Clearly communicate shipping deadlines

Let customers know if the products they are buying will be delivered by Christmas. Amazon does a great job of making this information clear for each product on their website. 

10. Optimize for mobile

Make sure your PDF holiday catalog is optimized for mobile. People use their mobile devices more than they use their computers these days, so it’s crucial that their experience of viewing your digital catalog is positive.  Also, consider making your holiday catalog findable by optimizing it for search engines.

11. Add a table of contents

Help customers navigate your holiday catalog—particularly if it’s a lengthy one—by adding a table of contents

12.  Show that you’ve been good

Customers want to buy from socially-responsible companies. So if your company is giving back in some way, or if the process of bringing products to life takes communities and the environment into account, add this information to your catalog, as Young Living does—see image below.

A page from Young Living’s 2020 holiday catalog.
A page from Young Living’s 2020 holiday catalog.

There’s still time to create and send your holiday catalog

Creating and sending a holiday catalog doesn’t have to be a big, time-consuming production. Good-quality photos and clever copy—both heavily holiday-focused—can go a long way into turning readers into buyers. 

Consider starting small and seeing how sending out a mini holiday gift guide impacts your sales. And if the holiday catalog you’re sending is a PDF, make sure you use a good PDF editor. Download a free trial of PDFpen.