10.04.2010

Poll : Are Paper Catalogs Preferred Over Shopping Online?

I recently took a poll over at Fountain Pen Network, which is probably the most active discussion board about fountain pens there is, about the validity of paper catalogs versus shopping online when it comes to buying a new pen. The result was a small, but effective sampling with comments that I found to be very thought provoking and back up the evidence shown in the results.

 

The question I posed :
As an internet savvy person who loves to slow down the pace of life by writing with a good fountain pen, I often find myself living in a juxtaposition. I work for a company that sells writing instruments online, which is a communications platform build out of 1's and 0's, not paper and ink. The proliferation of the internet threatens the validity of the products we sell.

As an internet marketer and a fountain pen enthusiast, I find myself asking whether a paper catalog's validity is sliding due to the rapid rise of user feedback and reviews that can be found on nearly every item on the internet. I know there are a lot of folks out there that can appreciate turning the computer off and sitting down to enjoy page-flipping a real book in front of them. But is that where you really make your decision when it comes to shopping for a new pen? Or do you merely get the idea of what you would want to buy from a physical catalog, and THEN research it on the internet for reviews?
 Of course, to some degree, I am preaching to the choir. I have to know, asking an online community of pen lovers, that I was going to get an internet-friendly response. However, given that we are a pen store that exists in the same online ether, I have to take the results with a grain of salt.

My impressions from the results and comments:
  • We already get a lot of catalogs and other unsolicited marketing material in the mail.
  • Yet they are more pleasant to browse and absorb than the overwhelming internet.
  • However, when it comes to the final purchase, no one buys directly from a paper catalog.
Psychologically, I believe it comes down to getting a second opinion. When we know that we can research the company, the product and the service online and get other opinions before we pull the trigger, we believe that the best decision will be made, given the circumstances. I totally agree. The internet has given us the ability to prevent a lot of bad decisions. When we chalk things up to experience, we can let others know of our criticisms and inform future generations of shoppers before they make the same mistake. But how do we make a print catalog, which is a great format to relax, curl up with, bring to the john and doggy-ear, as informative as digging through the 'Net?

Anyone? Bueller?

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