ShopFully: The Future of Digital Catalogues

Ally Feiam By Ally Feiam | 23 May 2019

We chat with ShopFully Australia Manager, Dean Vocisano, about digital catalogues, changing consumer habits and why sometimes, simplicity is key.

According to new research from Roy Morgan*, 93 per cent of Australian consumers enjoy reading catalogues, with 3.8 million consumers exclusively relying on digital catalogues rather than physical versions to hunt for new sales.

ShopFully is a ‘mobile to store’ platform, with more than 50 million users and partnered with more than 650 retailers. Through its own properties and partner properties, ShopFully displays the latest catalogues and weekly ads from a range of retailers across various categories. As consumer habits change, ShopFully has stayed ahead of the curve and developed new proprietary technology which leverages on first-party data of its app and partners with third-party networks to finds ‘look-alikes’ that enables its retailers and brands to reach more than 11 million Australian shoppers based on real-time analytics.

How have consumer habits changed in the last two years? Was it expected to change in such a rapid time?

“Speaking from our experience with ShopFully globally, the habits of consumers are shifting to places where they can pull content they’re interested in and want, as opposed to being pushed content that can be irrelevant. This is apparent in our app download growth and our high active user rate. Being able to receive alerts on new content only for those categories you are interested in is just one of the reasons that makes this shift from physical to digital a simple transition for many Australians. We believe the shift is a natural next step, as everything else has gone digital. The pace at which it is turning is somewhat of a surprise, however, for this market, given our assumption we were much further behind our global counterparts e.g. Europe is approximately 30 per cent digital consumption but highlights an important fact – that Australians are unpredictable and mass change can occur within the blink of an eye. This leaves retailers with the need to focus on the right balance between physical and digital catalogue distribution and always review to ensure the shifts they make a match that of Australian consumers,” explained Vocisano.

Do you see physical catalogues remaining a popular option for retailers, or do you think the traditional platform is on its way out?

“Like all things that have seen a progression from physical to digital, there is still always an element of physical that remains. We would be lying if we said there would be a complete switch off from the ‘traditional’ catalogue, but we do believe that as we begin to see the shift increase, the traditional channel needs to evolve too. It is a volume game, as we see volumes shift (paper circulation decline vs. digital consumption increase) it is important that the industry continues to innovate to ensure the channel maintains a high level of deliverability with fewer volumes. It is a challenge we don’t face in digital given the high transparency the channel has and a lesser reliance on people to circulate the content,” said Vocisano.

Have the recent concerns regarding the environment influenced the change in consumer behaviour?

“There will always be a segment of our audience that has shifted due to environmental factors but I wouldn’t say that is the biggest reason the shift is happening. Sure, retailers being more vocal about the steps and initiatives they are taking to be more environmentally friendly will no doubt place pressure on them to find alternatives to printing so many catalogues, however, I don’t think the same trend or mindset is being adopted by the majority of consumers. We believe it is more about the ease in which the content can be found – real-time, geo- localised to them, and interactive. These are the main reasons this change is happening and also the reason almost all other physical to digital shifts have happened – consumer-led change or consumer demand. There is no denying that we are becoming more time-poor and less reliant on brands and retailers pushing content our way. As consumers, we want content available to us, in our hands, at a time and location that suits us, not at a time or place that suits others. Hence the birth of ShopFully, an aggregator of content that is available 24/7, relevant to your location and in your hand.”

ShopFully’s digital catalogues have circulated with some of Australia’s largest retailers. What’s next?

“Our focus is retail but we have had a large appetite from brands and manufacturers on how they can promote their products and push traffic back to their retail partners. With an ecosystem that is built on serving ads to consumers, they see this as the perfect place to remind consumers about individual products, or even high-level brand awareness. As a result, we have now built high impact ad-units that do just that – brands such as Unilever, Snackbrands, Microsoft etc. all use our app to create mass awareness of products and drive footfall to select retail partners. In addition to this, we are working with retailers on the overall ‘drive to store’ marketing strategy. This includes those retailers who rely on physical catalogues as a driver and those who are adopting new digital formats with the intention of driving consumers to store. Catalogue was a just a natural starting point but ‘drive to store’ is evolving, and with that, so are the ad-formats, technology and platforms we use to deliver these campaigns for our partners,” explained Vocisano.

How does ShopFully adapt and transform their strategy along with the shifting consumer habits?

‘I think it’s the same as any other tech start-up, we saw a problem at a point in time and created a solution that solved that problem. Now it is about ensuring we remain close to our consumers, with more than 50 million on our app globally, and over 650 client partnerships, being able to understand changes to engagement behaviour with ad-formats or brands, as well as frequency of retail visitation is easy for us. We are in a unique position to always be at the forefront of ever-evolving consumer habit changes. Couple this with our ability to communicate directly with our users and gain real-time feedback on product and feature updates, or be selective about who we roll out changes to (loyal app users vs. sporadic users) again, places us in this unique position of ensuring our change is relevant to the current problems,” said Vocisano.

Personalisation plays a huge role in consumer’s buying habits – do you see a future where catalogues have personalised content?

“Personalisation is the hottest topic in the industry at the moment, with so many retailers focused on trying to create, what looks like, a unique experience to each individual. What we need to remember is that of all the things that have shifted from the physical world to the digital world, UBD maps, Music, Newspapers etc. it wasn’t about changing the user experience but shifting that experience to a place where consumers are spending more of their time and making it easier for them to access at a time that suits them. Therefore, stripping back to what we are really doing, it is as simple as that, providing the same experience but on a mobile device, where consumers now spend the majority of their time. Just like Google Maps, Spotify or even News publishers, as time passes the amount of data we collect on a consumer helps us create an even better experience and within that, personalisation becomes easier. So yes, we wouldn’t rule out building a technology that allows the current format of a catalogue to be personalised, however, what we are seeing globally is a shift towards other digital formats that still allow retailers to show a depth of range, products and prices that updates in real-time based on consumer engagement. Whilst this isn’t the true meaning of ‘personalisation’ it allows retailers to ensure the products with the highest impact on footfall are being served first to increase the chances of converting consumers. I know this doesn’t answer the question directly, but reflecting on all things that have shifted over the past five to ten years, it isn’t driven by the need to advance technology or even enhance an experience for a consumer, it was about shifting because consumer’s behaviours shifted and therefore a whole industry or product has to shift to remain relevant. It is no different in the case of catalogue, they are still relevant, and we believe they will continue to be relevant, but consumption habits are changing and therefore the need to focus on how to progress with that change is becoming increasingly important.”

As the technology behind digital catalogues becomes more advanced, where do you see the future of catalogues going?

“The biggest opportunity we see is being able to provide an integrated solution with our retail partners. Pulling real-time loyalty data on past product purchases and adding that to what we already know about the consumer and look to provide a personalised experience for each consumer. As previously mentioned, though, to provide a truly personalised experience to each of our 50 million users, it will take a number of years to collect enough data about them, as well as build an integration with our retail partners, to really evolve the way in which we, or any other
marketplace, distribute digital catalogues. That is really futuristic, though, for now, just like those that have already been on this journey (music, maps and news), the future is supporting the shift of consumer behaviour in a way that sees us using our own ecosystem, our partner ecosystems, and the traffic that falls directly on a retailer partners sites/apps, to form a holistic view on the overall digital catalogue distribution to ensure we are making any future decisions on the full customer journey, and not just on our own user base,” explained Vocisano.

A final note from Vocisano: “Whilst there is this initial ‘fear’ to change what is the biggest media spend in a retailers marketing budget, there is an even bigger reality that 18.5 per cent of consumers have already begun the shift and ShopFully has global experience in helping retailers make that shift gradually. Testing each percentage shift and ensuring the process does not impact the current role the catalogue plays in a marketing program but rather makes it more efficient. The fear shouldn’t be that of change, but that on missing out on an audience that no longer engages with physical catalogues. The role of catalogues remain the same for now, only the distribution channel is changing.”

*Roy Morgan Online Catalogue Survey conducted for The Real Media Collective, November 2018

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