Transforming Paper with Pixels

Posted on Posted in retail strategy

So the purveyor of the electronic Kindle has purchased one of the most revered newspapers in the United States – the 135 year-old Washington Post.  And the blogosphere is abuzz with what Amazon’s Jeff Bezos will do with such an institution. (Home ‘Kindle Printers’ anyone?) One thing’s for sure: it won’t be news as usual.

As reported via Reuters, “the man who transformed retailing will want to wean the venerable paper off its print edition; expand the Post’s real-time content for a Twitter generation; share Amazon’s near-unparalleled data on online buyers…he (Bezos) did tell employees…that they will have to “invent” and “experiment” as the Internet revolutionizes the news business.”

As I absorbed the coverage on Bezos’ $250 million purchase, I thought there were some clear imperatives for marketers in another medium; catalogues. Now’s the time to start moving paper to pixels, better integrating digital, using data smarter, and continually innovating. Do so and be rewarded. Ignore the call and be consigned to the dustbin.

It’s all about staying fresh and relevant, and providing a bridge between physical and digital. Which is what IKEA have done with their 2014 edition catalogue, about to hit Australian mailboxes very soon.

This time last year, the Swedish retailer made news with a level of interactivity not seen before in mass catalogues. Using smartphones or tablets and an app, readers could unlock short films or quirky presentations from designers, access additional product images and on the occasional page gain an x-ray view (just like the comic book specs I coveted as a kid). It was a little clunky, but relatively engaging, fun and useful.

This year, IKEA has harnessed the power of Augmented Reality (AR) to liberate furniture from the pages of the publication, and virtually place your chosen pieces in your own home. Once you’re happy with the size and position, you can “photograph” the finished article. Pretty cool stuff. Check it out.

If you can’t be bothered with the physical catalogue at all, toss it, and download the app for Apple or Android. But here’s betting many a consumer will keep the IKEA catalogue on their coffee table as per usual, and use it to virtually imagine a better coffee table in its place.

In itself, AR could be put to good use in many categories for catalogues. Jewellery stores could allow a bride-to-be to picture a diamond ring on her finger; fashion merchants could give shoppers the ability to try a dress on. But that’s just one use of technology, and one way to bring catalogues to life. The point is to challenge the way things have always been done, and re-imagine an old format for a new era.

Jeff Bezos is about to revolutionise an American institution. What would he do with the catalogue? What will you do?

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