Puzzle for publishers: catalog construction kit from SSI Schäfer Shop

Ulrich Gursky

For more than 40 years, SSI used a catalog of up to 1,500 pages to promote its extensive product range, which was published in various languages. Today, however, catalog production has changed from the "Big Book" to the modular catalog concept. In keeping with the times, catalogs are now created and produced on a customer-specific basis.

In his presentation "Puzzling for Publishers" Ulrich Gursky shares exciting insights, benefits and challenges of the pioneering catalog process. Dive into the world of modern marketing and learn how SSI is truly shaping the way forward.

In the former main catalog, the assortments, which were divided into different product groups, were shown one after the other. Although today's catalogs no longer cover the entire range, clientele are retained without any loss of customer satisfaction, product quality or sales.

But is the catalog still the timeless marketing force that inspires?

Despite the increasing shift of customer and article research to their web store, the print channel as an indispensable impulse medium for SSI Schäfer Shop remains of great importance.

A few years ago, part of the offline budget was transferred to the online budget. This optimized the online store, but traffic to the store declined. This clearly reflected that print advertising has a strong effect on the online store. Today we know: print fuels the online store. And without print advertising, the store undoubtedly suffers.

Catalog: A Guide to Product Selection and Research for the discerning Customer

Nevertheless, it is clear that customers today do not want catalogs in which products of little relevance are presented. So in order to replace the "Big Book," the catalog conversion was carried out in several steps. First, the purchasing behavior of customers was analyzed according to preferred product groups and assortments, and customer clusters were formed. On this basis, customers now receive individual offers.

It was therefore of elementary importance to compile the right parts or offers for each customer. Today, on this basis, catalogs with a volume of 276 pages are produced twice a year in 6 different variants that are precisely tailored to customer behavior and specific customer groups. This also means that there is no longer just one title, but different titles, such as office furniture, industry and consumables. This targeted segmentation means that customers' needs are better met and a more precise marketing strategy is implemented.

6 variants, differentiated approach, relevant product groups

Customer classification: individual assignment for excellent service!

Customer analysis at the highest level: For customer evaluation, SSI Schäfer Shop relies on an innovative scoring model and artificial intelligence. Each customer is analyzed on the basis of 3,000 score points, which enables the subsequent precise catalog compilation.

Well thought-out offers on 276 pages: tailor-made for the customer

Each product group is presented as extensive long section on 32 pages and as compact short section on 8 pages. If a product group is of particular relevance to a customer, he or she will receive the long section, and if it is of little relevance, the short section.

  • 4-page address carrier (4 cover pages)
    Tailor-made content and personal contact preferences - the address carrier as the key to individual approach. No clustering, but genuine one-to-one individualization, through which a 7-fold increase in sales could be achieved
  • 8-page service insert
    Identical for all target groups
  • Clustered module pages
    8 or 32-page module pages with customer-individualized content

Construction manual for catalog success

The graphic shows the briefing for the print shop: On the left side is information about the individual parts and an explanation of what needs to be printed. The right side shows how this is to be assembled. Each column represents a unique catalog, and the same modules can be found in different places to ensure that the most important elements are at the forefront. The 8-pager complements the catalog, completing it with the less relevant modules.

At a glance: The perfect composition of individual parts and instructions

Pros and cons: weighing up for the right decision


  • Favorable production costs (33% from the original Big Book)
  • Reduction of paper consumption due to lower number of pages
  • Relevant page share for the customer are significantly higher
  • Catalog address (title and entry) show productsthat are relevant products for the customer
  • Shorter production periods


  • Significantly more complex planning
  • More plate changes
  • Several processing steps at bookbinder and in the lettershop

Rummaging effect in flux: does the reduction in catalog size affect the appeal of discovery?

The catalog may have been reduced in size, but the catalog concept ensures that the appeal of browsing and the customer's joy of discovery are still aroused.
Thus, the catalogs are cleverly supplemented on the last pages with short modules that offer the customer a comprehensive overview of the entire range. This means that despite the condensed presentation, the entire range of products is still made visible.

What you need for modular catalog production:

  • Data
    Even without customer data, justified assumptions can be made and customer models generated in the first step.
  • Content
    If there is no content available yet, you can start with a whitelist that contains a certain selection of
    top articles.
  • Recommendation Engine
    Product recommendations for individualization are made on the basis of the recommendation engine. An online recommendation can serve as a start - clustering is not necessary in the first step.
  • Production know-how, internal or external

Print power: even more printed matter for significantly greater sales

In addition to catalogs, SSI Schäfer Shop also uses printed 32-pagers and mailings. Depending on the relevance of the customer, it is determined which advertising material is offered to him.

Recipe for success revealed: Requirements for the perfect breakthrough. Ulrich Gursky's call is clear: Do instead of hesitate - overcome hurdles and get off to a successful start!


A modular catalog concept increases sales: Customer individualization inspires. Now, SSI Schäfer Shop is aiming for the next level by determining the perfect time to contact each customer individually. One thing is certain: SSI Schäfer Shop will also solve this problem and continue to play at the forefront as an innovation driver.

More in our blog!

Do not miss to read the blog article "Print objects are still an integral part of the customer journey" with Schäfer shop!

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