October 18, 2000
It's the catalog shopper's ultimate dream: hundreds of catalogs in one database for simplified shopping. Only it's not a dream anymore; it's MyOnlyCatalog.com. Unlike shopping portal sites like Yahoo! Shopping that allow users to search for all kinds of products then send them off to different sites to make purchases, MyOnlyCatalog gives its shoppers the convenience of buying from many different catalogs in one transaction. It's simple and efficient.
Currently, MyOnlyCatalog has more than 100 catalogs in its database and has agreements with more than 600 other catalogs to be added in the future. Users can shop by category, catalog or type in keywords and search for products.
MyOnlyCatalog can make shopping easier, but it has yet to live up to that. Right now, there's room for improvement of the site's organization. If customers choose to search by category and then select jewelry, they are given the option to choose fashion jewelry, fine jewelry or watches. If they choose fine jewelry, they can then choose bracelets, charms and pendants, earrings, necklaces and rings. So far so good, but the nice organization ends there. If users select necklaces, they get a screen with six images of jewelry pieces along with the name, catalog and price for each. There's no way to narrow the necklaces down to a smaller category like pearl necklaces. Also, there's no way to see a list of all the necklaces. Instead, users must click through pages of six items at a time. Once more catalogs are added, that process could take more time than any consumer is willing to spend.
The organization for the search by catalog section is about the same. Users choose a catalog, and then they can choose from a few categories of items. It isn't too difficult to click through the pages of products when browsing through a catalog because there aren't as many products as in the search by category section. However, on the product pages, there are buttons for the previous and next pages, and in many cases, these buttons don't link anywhere. Instead they just confuse customers, leaving them wondering if there's more.
The search function can help simplify product searches, but again, it has room for improvement. A search for "diamond necklace" brought back 96 results, only 5 per page, and most weren't even diamond necklaces. Instead, they were products with either "diamond" or "necklace" in the product description. Many search engines work this way, but they at least give you advanced search options or hints for searching. MyOnlyCatalog offers neither.
As for customer service, MyOnlyCatalog offers a toll-free number for questions and orders, online customer service chat and a frequently asked questions page. It offers most options customers would need, that is if they stick around long enough to buy something. MyOnlyCatalog is a nice site and a great idea. It only opened its virtual doors at the beginning of October, so it will probably improve as it goes along. If it makes the site more customer-friendly and improves the navigation, MyOnlyCatalog can become a big force in online shopping because it is, after all, a catalog shopper's ultimate dream.
- by Julia M. Duncan