The Who, How, and When of Online Catalog Usage (2016)

Aug 24, 2016 by Joost Buijs

Graph on a blue background, report about online catalog statistics.

With the greater half of 2016 behind us, we decided that it’s a good time to revisit the who, how, and when of catalog usage. We took a deep dive into a huge pool of data from January 1st to June 30th and compiled a list of the most compelling facts surrounding online catalogs. Read on to find out who are reading your catalogs, when your catalogs are being read and how different devices affect your catalog performance.

So, how many catalogs are we talking about?

Before we start looking into the who and what, here are some high level statistics about the 6 months of data that we’ve analyzed.

Catalogs created58,519
Catalogs published53,280
Catalogs published with link hotspots38,008
Catalogs published with product hotspots1,647
Catalog reading sessions (visits)127,173,012
Unique catalog readers (unique visits)91,521,027
Pageviews1,669,849,094
Average pages per session13.13
Average session duration00:02:43

The rest of this report is based on these numbers and to us, they are quite impressive. So, let’s find out who these people are, where they come from and how they browse through your catalogs.

Fun fact: The Netherlands has about 17 million inhabitants. So, with roughly 21 million monthly views, we’re getting more monthly views than the population of our home country!

Gender distribution of catalog readers

The last few years, the larger part of our audience has been female. And now with 60.8% of catalog readers being women, they have clearly won the race again.


Roughly 6 out of 10 catalog readers are female.
Roughly 6 out of 10 catalog readers are female.

Catalog sessions based on age and gender

Clearly our most avid readers are women between 25-34 years old. Our male catalog readers are a bit older, with the peak being between the age of 35-44. For both our female and male readers, the number of readers slowly decline with age.

The number of catalog readers in 6 months, distributed by age and gender.

Top 3 interests of catalog readers based on gender

Besides age and gender, we wondered what catalog readers are mostly interested in. While interests vary wildly - from horror movie fans to jazz enthusiasts - here are our top 3 interests for both men and women:

Female:
  1. Home Decor Enthusiasts
  2. Shoppers
  3. Movie Lovers
Male:
  1. Technophiles
  2. TV Lovers
  3. Movie Lovers

To summarize, your catalogs are most popular amongst female home decor enthusiasts aged between 25-34. For men, it’s technophiles aged between 35-44. TV and movie lovers have a considerable share amongst both women and men, so together they form a large part of our audience as well.

Geographics

The largest source of readers is still from our home country, the Netherlands. However, we’re excited to see that the number of readers from other countries in Europe and from the United States is growing fast.

Fun fact: we’ve had traffic from over 200 different countries in the world.
The top 10 countries with the most catalog reading sessions in 6 months.

A clash of devices

In the past, desktop computers sat safely on their throne, indisputably having the largest number of users. The last few years however, the usage of mobile devices has been growing fast. Let’s take a look at how each device category (desktop, mobile and tablet) is performing in 2016 so far.

Device preference of catalog readers

It’s safe to say that catalog readers still prefer their desktop computers. However, the growth in mobile usage has been remarkable since the last time we shared statistics on this topic. For this graph, we have included the numbers of our previous report to illustrate how much smartphone usage is growing.

Device preference of catalog readers: 2014 vs. 2016. Mobile usage has nearly tripled!
Device preference of catalog readers: 2014 vs. 2016. Mobile usage has nearly tripled!

While tablet usage has stagnated, mobile usage has nearly tripled at the expense of desktop usage - almost 20% of our audience has shifted from desktop to mobile. This re-emphasizes the importance of mobile friendly catalogs, and we’re interested to see how this trend continues.

Average visit duration on a catalog

To us it’s interesting to see how engaged people are with your catalogs. Looking at the graph below, you can see the average visit duration on a catalog per device type, which we’ve also segmented in 5 page tiers. This way you can see how the average visit duration is affected when more pages are added to a catalog. The second graph shows the average visit duration per page, to help further understand the relation between number of pages and visit duration.

The average visit duration on a catalog, segmented by number of pages and device type.

The average visit duration per page on a catalog, segmented by number of pages.

The main takeaways are:

  1. Adding more pages to your catalog increases the total average visit duration, but quickly has diminishing returns per page.
  2. For a catalog with 41-80 pages, the average visit duration per page is almost 45% shorter than for a catalog with 0-10 pages.
  3. Tablet users spend roughly 29% more time browsing through a catalog than smartphone users and 21% more than desktop users.

Average number of pageviews per catalog visit

We’re also interested to see how many pages people browse through on average and how each device category affects that. We’ve again included the same page tiers to see how the number of pages in a catalog affects the number of pages that people browse through.

The average number of pageviews per visit, segmented by number of pages and device type.

The main takeaways are:

  1. Adding more pages to your catalog increases the total amount of pages people browse through, but quickly has diminishing returns per page.
  2. Desktop users view roughly 35% more pages than smartphones users and 5% more than tablet users.
  3. The desktop performs better for large catalogs with 80+ pages, whereas the tablet outperforms the desktop on small catalogs with 0-10 pages.

In summary, looking at both the visit duration and the average pageviews per visit, it seems more efficient to create smaller catalogs of around 10-20 pages, rather than creating large catalogs with 40+ pages. Another observation is that tablet users take more time per page, whereas desktop users click through the pages a lot faster. The smartphone users have the lowest average in both visit duration and pages viewed. We believe this has to do with when and how the devices are used, which we have detailed below (“When are catalogs visited most”).

It’s important to note that all of these findings vary highly per industry, but can be used as a starting guideline when measuring the effectiveness of your catalog.

When are catalogs visited most (Europe)

Note: For this section we’ve only included data from Europe. For other areas of the world the data is still inconclusive.

We’ve discovered a clear pattern when people read catalogs, which might be interesting information to take into account for your marketing efforts. Take a look at the graph below to see what an average day of catalog reading looks like.

The average number of catalog readers on a day, distributed per hour and by device type.

As you can see, desktop computers are especially popular early in the day, while mobile and tablet traffic get their largest spike around 21:00. Here are some other interesting discoveries, which are not clear from the graph above:

  • On Sundays, tablets and mobile devices are used significantly more than on weekdays;
  • On Sundays, tablets and mobile devices get a traffic spike around 10:00 PM;
  • Desktop traffic peaks on Mondays.

These findings can be explained because a lot of our customers publish their new catalogs every Sunday. The reason why desktop traffic peaks on Mondays instead of Sundays, is because the desktop is mostly used at the office, during working hours. The tablet and mobile devices are used more during leisure hours, at home and after dinner.

We believe this could also explain the difference in average visit duration and pages per visit. The tablet is mostly used in a relaxed environment, where users take more time to browse through each page. The mobile is often used during the commute or otherwise on the go and the desktop is often used at the office. In case of the mobile and desktop, it’s easy to see why - on average - people take less time to browse through a catalog.

Online catalog hotspot interaction rates per device category

One more interesting topic to look at is how well hotspots perform on each device and how link hotspots match up to product hotspots. For this topic we asked ourselves the question:

“For active users that click on a specific hotspot type, how many hotspots of that type do they click on average?”

DesktopMobileTablet
Product Hotspots2.92.52.6
Link Hotspots2.42.42.2

The main takeaway here is that on average, active users click product hotspots 12,5% more often than link hotspots. This supports the idea that people prefer product hotspots when browsing through a catalog. The reasoning is that when a user clicks a product hotspot, they stay inside your catalog, whereas with link hotspots, they are sent to a new tab, which interrupts the user flow.

It's important to note that product hotspots do require more work to use effectively. Product hotspots should deliver value to your users, otherwise, you might be better off using links. This is a topic we will cover in a later blogpost.

We’re interested in hearing from you which other statistics would be valuable for you to know, so we can dig into those in the future. Feel free to leave your comments below.

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