E-brochures are cheaper, greener and more flexible than traditional paper brochuresHoliday brochures will probably be around for as long as there are trees. But as the green debate resonates through the trade, and pressures on operators’ margins dictate increasing cost reduction, it’s timely for operators to consider alternative ways of producing and distributing brochures – particularly digitally.

There are tangible benefits for operators: reduced brochure and distribution costs better conversion rates and return on investment and content viewing analytics.

For the agent, the benefits are less wastage and a more personal client service. And for the consumer, there’s instant choice and convenience, and the digital option is more environmentally-friendly.

As more brochure content is fed dynamically from an operator’s brochure content management database system to its website, the ability to create online personalised brochures by searching content is the next step towards removing the need to print brochures at all.

Here are a few solutions and benefits.


Brochure production

The first is pre-brochure production. The page make-up costs from £50 to more than £100 per page from external design agencies, and probably half of that pays for in-house designers’ time.

The solution is to get brochure information into a content management system or database. When all data is held centrally, it’s more manageable and can be exported to a web server.

Review the design process. A £50 charge for page make-up is no longer value for money. Get your designer to design templates, but consider using applications to automate the page make-up. Using Quark or InDesign desktop publishing software should reduce the page make-up charge.

For PDF creation, consider an application that can create high-resolution PDFs straight from a database or CMS.


Brochure distribution

Printing costs vary from 75p to £1.50 for mainstream brochures and from £3.50 for perfect-bound, upmarket brochures.

Bulk distribution to agents costs about 6p per brochure, and between £1.25 and £2.50 to post. These costs can be reduced by making them available as e-brochures. It is worth making printed brochures available online in PDF format.

Choose an application that includes page selection, page searching, embedded video, pdf and local print, and e-mail-to-a- friend functionality.

Sending a brochure link to thousands of customers in an e-mail database on the day it is published, with no print or post costs, will make huge savings.

At a production cost of £15 per page, or less for volume, and at minimal distribution cost, a digital alternative offers a better potential return on investment. It compares to print, postage and distribution costs of traditional brochures – probably close to £20 per passenger based on industry ratios of printed brochures distributed to convert to one confirmed booking, which range from 12:1 to 20:1.


Personal e-brochures

There is an option for personal e-brochures either as a plug-in or integrated into the site. This allows web visitors to create their own online brochure by making a personal selection after browsing the database of brochure content.

If dynamic packaging continues to expand as predicted, the scenario of mixing and matching accommodation and flights from separate inventory databases sits well with creating a dynamic personalised brochure.

All e-brochure applications are available, affordable, and work for agents. And a word of advice for operators not using these applications: look at how much you are paying and how long it is taking staff to deliver brochures. Then evaluate the alternatives.

A campaign to stop spreading ink on so many dead trees is timely. And it could work wonders for your brochure distribution budget.

by Ian Champness

Ian Champness is founding director of online affiliate marketing firm Travelwhere