Your guide to digital catalogs

What is a digital catalog?

A digital catalog is an online document used to present products or services. It can be publicly accessed through a link or shared privately via email. A digital catalogue allows for interactive elements such as product tags, photo slideshows, shopping lists, and wishlists to be a part of it for a shorter buyer journey. It’s the most efficient way to turn potential customers into paying, returning clients.

Digital catalogs come in many different forms, based on what you’re looking to achieve with that e-catalog. The most popular are product catalogs (for retail or wholesale audiences), fashion catalogs, and holiday-themed catalogs. The possibilities are numerous with digital catalogs, they just require a clear objective and an even better understanding of your audience to reach their potential.

The history of catalogs - from the Middle Ages to the post-pandemic age

A long, rich catalog history of what the first looked like in 1498 to how customers interact with a digital catalog in our day and age. Here are the most important moments:

1498 - The first catalog created by Aldus Pius Manutius
1667 - Seed catalogs appear, first published by William Lucas, an English gardener
1744 - The mail order is invented by Benjamin Franklin, who published a catalog of science books
1845 - The very first mail-order catalog in the USA, made by Tiffany & co.
1861 - Pryce Pryce-Jones created the first contemporary mail-order catalog business (selling products at a larger scale)
1980s - 1990s - The rise of lifestyle catalogs created by retailers, they showcased basic clothing as well as seasonal items
1982 - Victoria’s Secret’s catalog drove 55% of their annual sales
1990s forward - The catalog enters the digital medium, when published the first digital book in 1995
2007 - Apple introduces the iPhone, that enhances the digital shift in virtual catalog browsing and shopping
2014 - The rise of digital catalogs on social media platforms transforms the way products are showcased and marketed to a global audience
2020 - The COVID-19 pandemic boosts the adoption of online catalogs, due to lockdowns and social distancing measures
2024 - Virtual and augmented reality technologies shape the future of catalogs

The benefits of electronic catalogs

Digital catalogs are an effective marketing tool when used correctly. Include interactive elements in your wholesale catalogs or retail catalogs and truly create an immersive shopping experience for your customers. There are a lot more benefits that cover the creating, sharing, and updating processes of an online catalog:

Interactive product catalog created with Flipsnack


Add interactive elements to your virtual catalogue, such as product tags, buy buttons, and photo slideshows to better present your products.

Easy sharing

Online product catalogs can be shared in a lot of ways. Distribute digital catalogs via a direct link with individuals or larger groups.

Easy update

A digital catalog is easily updated with new prices or product descriptions via a click in real-time. No need to resend the catalog’s link.

Trackable catalogs

There is a way to track digital catalogs: with built-in catalog software statistics. Check views, clicks on products, and interactions.


Send personalized offers to potential customers privately: use a password-protected link, publish as unlisted, or send it via email.


Work together with your team to create digital catalogs. Assign different roles to design on-brand product catalogs each time.

How to make a digital catalog

Creating an e-catalogue is fairly simple. It involves some key steps that remain almost the same regardless of what catalog software you use.

  1. 1. Upload PDF, create from scratch, or choose a template

    The first step gives you three options to choose from: upload a PDF catalog, create from scratch, or choose a catalog template. Whichever option you choose, you can easily follow the next steps.

  2. 2. Add branding & interactivity

    Once you have the layout of your virtual catalog, add branding elements such as logo, brand font, and colors. For interactions, a catalog would benefit from product tags, buy buttons, or a shopping list if the tool has those features available.

  3. 3. Publish and share everywhere

    With your branded interactive catalog ready, publish it publicly or privately, depending on its purpose. Unlike printed catalogs, you can reach your audience wherever they are with just a click. Embrace the digital world of catalogs to keep in touch with your customers easier.

  4. 4. Track your catalogue

    This next step is all about tracking your catalog once you send it. It’s crucial to see how people interact with it, and ideally, you’d be able to track orders that come directly from this catalog.

  5. 5. Update with new prices & products

    When the time comes, you don’t have to create a separate catalog to include new prices, products, or descriptions. Do that in just a few minutes, republish it, and the changes will be visible to your audience without resending the catalog.

How to make a digital catalog in Flipsnack

The creation process of a digital catalog in Flipsnack is very similar to what we mentioned already. Flipsnack’s digital catalog maker helps you include your brand and interactions before sharing the catalog however you like.

Make a catalog in Flipsnack

Retail catalog templates

There are a lot of retail catalog templates ready to be personalized. Have your pick, depending on the layout, interactions used, and if your brand colors would be easily applied. Adjust the design to fit with your brand identity, and make sure to create an appealing, highly interactive e-catalog for your customers.

Create a retail catalog

Wholesale catalog templates

Choose from our category of wholesale catalog templates that are easily customizable. With a built-in shopping list, you can replace the existing products with your own in just a few clicks. Create personalized catalog offers starting from one template.

Create a wholesale catalog

Automated catalog templates

To make your catalog design process even more effortless, automate catalog creation with an existing template. Save a considerable amount of time and effort by personalizing automated catalog templates with product tags, photo slideshows and using them in your marketing strategy.

Create an automated catalog

Learn more about digital catalogs

Your retail or wholesale catalogue needs to be SEO-optimized in order to reach more customers. Check out these videos to improve your overall marketing for the catalogs you create.

This video section is dedicated to e-commerce catalogs, a valuable sales channel. Discover different interactions and an introduction to the shopping list in Flipsnack. Check out our other video resources on this subject and use them to sell more products with interactive catalogs.

Catalog creation & management

Find out more details about how to create your own electronic catalog, starting from a PDF, a template or from scratch. You can also see the automation feature in action and how much it simplifies your design process.

More related topics

Here are more resources to help you grasp the world of digital catalogs, categorized by different marketing objectives or by use case.


These articles go into more detail about retail catalogs, starting with how to create a product catalog that you can later on optimize.
How to create a product catalog
Catalog optimization techniques
Guide for creating electronic catalogs
State of digital catalogs (study)
Shopping catalogs - master storytelling and selling
How to make a catalog like Ikea
7 tips for crafting catalog copy that sells
Boost sales with Shopify integration
How to create holiday themed catalogs

Feel encouraged to read our blog articles that talk about wholesale marketing, how to create B2B interactive catalogs and other relevant topics.
B2B reinvented through digital product catalogs
Best fonts for brochures and catalogs
Increase sales with interactive catalogs

Enhance catalogs

In these blog articles, you find out how to make the most of your product catalogues, and practical ways to use them in elevating your business.
How to increase sales with a product catalog
Top digital makers to elevate your business
How to create a catalog in InDesign

Start creating your digital catalog with Flipsnack

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