“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.” -Walt Disney
As with any project, online content is only as good as the number of users that it reaches and the impact that is has on those users. It’s not just about engaging, inspiring content (though that’s a good start). It’s about ensuring that all of your efforts are easy to find and use. The promotion and placement of any online content will significantly impact results.
The beauty of an online catalog, or any online Publication, is that you can guide end users through a linear experience from a single webpage.
When it comes to placement, there are a few best practices to follow:
Embed the Publication into a significant page on your website. For recurring publications use the same page and use something that is easy to identify with.
Drive traffic to that page from banners, campaigns and promotions.
Talk about the Publication on social sites. Pages can be deep linked so a single piece of content can be used for multiple talking points.
Move from offline to online. Anything offline can be directed to online – use a QR code, online promotions or offline content to drive traffic online (where it can be measured).
Use inspirational search engine tags. If your consumer needs or wants something specific, tag your page accordingly and they will find that page – use open SEO tags to drive those looking for inspiration, guidance, or just browsing to the online Publication.
Keep the end user entertained. Once you capture the attention of your end user use rich media and animation to drive read-through rates. HTML5 animations and videos are great for reducing bounce rates and increasing engagement time.
Current online Publications drive higher site engagement time, and they should be front and centre. An online Catalog/Publication embedded in a homepage is far more interactive and effective than a banner – tell a story that can be shopped from or interacted with. The North Face do this well when navigating the Holiday Tab on the homepage.
Existing Publications should be accessible – creating archive pages works really well and gives instant access for potential, new, and old customers. Here is a nice example by Robert Allen.
Browsing online content might not convert immediately or be directly measurable, but what it will do is increase time with your brand. Much like walking around a shop and not buying, an online experience is developing time with your brand and fostering loyalty. Catalogs and online Publications house content that has the potential to drive brand loyalty – but proper placement will deliver on that potential.
Are you an online retailer? Do you have a desire to publish exciting content in conjunction with your product line? If you’re not familiar with the capabilities of a high quality digital catalog, such as those enabled by Zmags, here is a primer of what you can accomplish in today’s e-commerce landscape. Hint: it’s more than a print catalog converted into PDFs…
1. Editorial and eCommerce Are On the Same Page
Traditional e-commerce layouts consist of clickable product thumbnails set against a white or plain background. Such platforms might have an editorial spread or photo gallery, but those would be distinct and separate from the product pages. Digital Catalogs allow for a blend of both: editorial layouts and themed spreads. The individual products placed within are clickable for more information and add-to-cart functionality.
The convergence of content and commerce mentioned above is made possible by plugins and integrations from different platforms. Marketers that have an eCommerce platform don’t need to face the tough decision of overhauling their operation just to create engaging content. Plug-ins allow for publications to be embedded into different sites and channels, and plug-ins allow for publications to be synced with eCommerce infrastructures. This integration makes it easier on the publisher in that:
All tools from different platforms are on one dashboard
Content creators don’t need to manage e-commerce initiatives or infrastructure
Inventory and pricing can feed in automatically
Content can be edited on the fly based on what’s selling and what’s not selling
3. Content Sized to the User’s Liking
An issue that digital retailers often stumble over is “how much information is enough? How much information is too much?” The desire to at once keep it simple but also deliver every selling point can feel irreconcilable.
Expandable content in digital catalogs addresses that problem. Within a digital catalog, a two-page spread can feature images prominently with little text. But, should the user want to learn more, he/she can click on any product or image within the spread and bring up a lightbox that offers extensive information in addition to shopping features. Expandable content gives power and choice to the user. This feature allows users to shop entire looks, but also explore individual products in vivid detail, therefore experiencing the brand and merchandise in ways that will inspire purchases. Essentially, the retailer gets to paint a pretty picture AND tell a great story.
When you’re delivering content on a channel users are already comfortable on, the users are more likely to linger and shop around. That’s what social integration accomplishes. Digital catalogs can be embedded on social media channels, so that the user never needs to leave Facebook or another network to view that content. Catalogs can even be integrated with social functionality such as commenting, seeing what friends like, and sharing pages and products.
5. Every Device. No Problem.
Today’s online shopper sees each device as only part of the usage matrix – he/she will rotate between laptop, tablet, and mobile with great frequency. As such, the best shopping experiences will address that multi-faceted shopping approach. Digital catalogs can be viewed on any device, addressing the following:
Consistent Brand Experience – when a shopper begins shopping on laptop and later wants to purchase on tablet, there will be no drop-off or disparities in the two shopping experiences.
Expandable content – Mobile users can move through pages at their own pace, instead of being inundated with text that becomes microscopic.
On The Go vs. On the Couch – Mobile users want information and products quickly, while tablet users want a more engaging visit. Catalogs can offer content for both at the same time.
The above points in the Digital Catalog Primer are not five completely separate features, but different factors stemming from the same principle of creating an engaging experience for a savvy user. These capabilities are, in fact, all connected. Integration allows for content and commerce to blend seamlessly, and exist on social channels and multiple devices with a number of engaging features. If you’d like to learn more about digital catalogs and what you can accomplish, send Zmags a note to get started.
There is no recipe for successful digital content. It takes creativity, strategy, data analysis, synthesis, and probably some luck too. In today’s multi-channel, social media driven climate, however, we’ve identified 4 characteristics that will help provide a framework for success:
This may sound funny at first. You’ve heard “easy user interface” or “slick design”, but when the standard for easy usability informs the design process, the result will be better. The relationship between all elements of content – text, images, video – must be easily understood and move the user toward his/her next action.
Another consideration in easy design for digital content is easy viewability across all channels and devices. If the call to action is buried or diminished because it doesn’t translate well from one device to the next, then the content will be hindering its own success.
To engage is to “attract and hold attention”. In today’s cluttered digital world, this seems as hard a proposition as any. But content with this power to attract and retain attention will be content that offers more than reading. Successful content has a mix of text, video, and image, ideally that they can contribute to in some way and share via social networks. Video, for one, has been proven to increase the likelihood of a purchase.
Consider these two commercial videos on YouTube: Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” and Mercedes-Benz “What Is Performance?” The latter video has just under 40,000 views, where the former has approximately 46 million. The difference between the two is that the Old Spice offering has something – in this case a funny man whose location and props seem to change instantaneously – that people want to consume repeatedly and share with other people. The characteristics of “share-able” are hard to identify, but if the goal for content is for it to be share-able in this way, then that will better inform all decisions along the content development and publishing process.
Successful content will add value to the user’s experience. Adding value will round out the other 3 characteristics, because without adding value, the other elements are almost nullified. A value-add piece of content will help the user make a decision – for example a telling infographic, a product review, or a demo video. A video can be engaging, but if the connection is not clear and it does not offer something palpable for the user, the video won’t be played for more than 10 seconds. If the goal of content is to “attract and hold attention”, adding value is one way to accomplish that.
Of course there are more characteristics of good digital content than the ones listed above, but checking off some or all of these means that your digital content is headed in the right direction.
Even though school just ended for a lot of kids, the next school year is already top of mind for marketers and retailers across the country. Additionally, discounts and promotions for back to school continue to roll out earlier, according to Advertising Age, because marketers are trying to reach the consumers who are spreading out their purchases over the summer due to a tighter budget. Dads and Grads season is over and, like it or not, Back-to-School season is upon us!
Though classes typically don’t resume until late August or early September (and may vary depending on the country), now is the time when digital assets are being developed — as marketers are in scramble-mode to publish compelling content and merchandising displays across all channels and ultimately get the highest possible share of BTS wallets.
At Zmags, we hold true to the belief that ‘Search is not Shopping’. This is especially true for Back to School, where what kids want and what parents think they need to purchase will likely change over the course of the summer and buying process. It’s therefore important to provide a dynamic shopping experience and keep website content and inventory fresh to maintain the attention, and capture maximum SOW, of these shoppers.
Retailers that make it easy to buy a variety of items at one place/website and provide value-add ideas (for instance, ways to save money while stocking up, how to extend the life of your child’s wardrobe, etc.) are likely to come out ahead of competitors.
Another key driver of the digital shopping experience and likelihood to purchase is convenience, especially during BTS season. A variety of preparations are being made for the upcoming school year, all while families are trying to enjoy summer vacations. Tablet commerce becomes a desirable option for parents that don’t have entire afternoons to go out to the mall. Some brands, such as Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, and Elmer’s Glue, have recognized this convenience driver and developed mobile strategies around it, including SMS-delivered coupons and Back-to-School displays for shopping on the mobile site home page. Back-to-School shopping, bolstered by mobile, was on an uptick: between 2003 and 2012, online spending for BTS quadrupled , and these shoppers spent 27% more than average ($874).
We have yet to see how the 2013 season will unfold, yet retailers that sell school supplies, kids’ clothes, and accessories are wise to deploy digital catalogs and other online collateral early. One in the Southern Hemisphere that has gotten a head start and has enjoyed success already is the Good Guys NZ.
Retailers selling products for school are not the only marketing professionals that will leverage online content during this time of year. College course catalogs, school calendars, event flyers, and more can be published and circulated online with interactive features and sharing capabilities.
When these collateral pieces are in digital format, it ensures that they can be viewed by a wide audience and across all devices. Schools can position themselves as new-school and tech-savvy by putting a great interactive piece of content in front of their recruits and prospects. Additionally, they will never get lost in the mail or in the shuffle of papers on the kitchen counter!
Be sure to follow the Zmags blog throughout the summer as Back-to-School season comes to life.
In today’s digital society people are used to installing upgrades, downloading the latest versions and even installing plug-ins. The whole concept of a plug-in is really genius when you think about it. There are more types of “software solutions” on the market then one could even fathom. The evolution of plug-ins has allowed for multiple types of solutions to “play nice” in the same space.
For those of you who don’t know what a plug-in is, the technical term is: a software component that adds a specific feature to an existing software application. In layman’s terms it allows for customization to take place between applications for better usability. So every time you have a Google search bar in your Firefox web browser or install a social media plug-in to your WordPress CMS you are participating in this level of customization. It may sound a bit extreme, but plug-ins are the glue holding together a world with millions of applications and solutions. Without them, efficiency would be near impossible.
Most recently, Zmags joined the world of plug-ins for their Commerce solution. Instead of reinventing the wheel and building an application that would rival or complicate the integration process with existing eCommerce platforms we built plug-ins that alleviate the pain and allow the two tools to work together.
What do the plug-ins do?
The plug-ins were built for the Demandware and Magento eCommerce platforms. Now, users of either of these platforms have the ability to create and easily deploy shoppable, digital catalogs. The plug-ins remove the need for heavy integration with the existing eCommerce provider. These plug-ins help streamline the shopping initiative without having to manage several different experiences in different tools. Instead, everything can be done within the eCommerce site and easily deployed in a purely self-service model by the customer.
The best way to explain it is to see it in action. Samuel’s Jewelers implemented a shoppable, digital catalog with our plug-in and their Magento eCommerce platform. The product windows pull directly from their existing product database and no data feed or implementation is needed within the Zmag. Everything down to the previewing and digital catalog management is done within Magento.
Without the ability to “plug-in” to other applications, this type of synergy wouldn’t be possible and the simplest of tasks would seem daunting. So the next time you are asked if you want to install that plug-in or optimize the software solution you are using- choose “yes” and know that most solutions have your best interest in mind when partnering with others to streamline the overall experience.
Online merchandising is a less-talked about part of ecommerce that, in theory, should achieve a similar goal as its in-store conterpart: to “display products in such a way that stimulates interest and entices customers to make a purchase”.
However, the layouts of most traditional ecommerce websites look more like image libraries (organized by item type, size, gender, etc.), rather than well-thought out displays or showcases! Despite good intentions, even website features such as ”You may also like”, “Recommended for you” and “Related products” just don’t have the same effect as in-store merchandising — where products often pack more punch in combinations than each would individually.
Why are websites so far behind?
And how can online catalogs help? By enabling the creation of orchestrated e-commerce experiences.
In other words, if done well, online merchandising within digital catalogs blends tactics from both traditional offline and online sales channels — bridging the gap between stark websites and creative brick&mortar window displays. While print catalogs allow for the same kind of curation, they don’t give you back the same kind of data to learn from! Digital versions can be rearranged and segmented based on analyses of user behavior within the catalog, such as which pages are attracting the most attention, which products are clicked on most, etc.
Some ways to make the most of your digital storefront:
-Start with traditional merchandising tactics: Product groups or displays used in stores can provide the basis for website layouts, before in-catalog web analytics comes into play.
-Experiment with creative combinations: Look at recent sales data. Which types of items are people often buying together? How can you encourage them to purchase additional items? One great example, below, from The Container Store, places shoe storage containers alongside mothballs and air fresheners.
-See what’s attracting attention: Heat maps (or in-page analytics) show what your site visitors are clicking on most; shopping cart funnel data reveals which items are carted but for some reason not checked out.
-Look at other key performance metrics for your digital content: Analyzing what works and what doesn’t work over time (test, adjust, retest!) can paint a clearer picture of how to combine your online content and merchandise for optimal performance.
-Vary merchandise combinations by segment, such as website entry point: Where a visitor came from can help predict what they’re looking for. Product images or combinations shown could be served up differently for users who come from social networks vs. search engines vs. particular referral links (etc.).
The results will be better sales, higher conversion rates, and better engagement metrics for your catalog. (Recently, a kids’ toys and apparel brand saw an increase of over 300% more dollar spent, and 250% more items carted, when they featured related items on the same online catalog pages!)
The fourth topic in my series of Top 5 Metrics when evaluating digital catalog and content performance is the Shopping Cart Funnel — which is really a related group of metrics rather just one (sorry, I cheated a bit!).
For brands using online catalogs with a goal of driving incremental revenue, understanding the shopping cart funnel is critical when assessing the ROI of these marketing and ecommerce efforts. Where to begin?
Look at all metrics in the online catalog shopping cart funnel:
- Catalog cart creation rate = percent of total visits (desktop and mobile) that created a cart divided by total catalog visits. This means a shopper added at least one item to their cart from the online catalog.
- Catalog check-out rate = percent of totalvisits that checked out a cart directly from the digital catalog (i.e., clicked on the button to go to checkout).
For the segment of visits that went through to checkout, you can also see:
- average cart value
- number of items per cart
- total cart value
- total number of carts
It’s important to keep in mind, though, that these metrics all represent shoppers’ behavior within the
catalog – so are really measures of its revenue potential. From there, your 3rd party web analytics tool (e.g. Google Analytics, Omniture, Coremetrics) can help round out the story (which I’ll dive deeper into next week in my post about KPI #5!).
The example above highlights most of the data that’s available on in-catalog conversions. For instance, here you can see that 1 out of every 10 visits to this home goods retailer’s online catalog added at least one item to their shopping cart while in the catalog (averaging 2.5 items per visit); over 6% of total visits went to checkout.
How can you use this information?
1. Assess whether your Zmags online catalogs are driving incremental revenue based on shopping cart conversion rate and total value of orders through the catalog. How does the conversion rate compare to your standard ecommerce site?
2. Look for any blockages in the funnel. Are certain products getting a lot of exposure but not converting? Why?
In 1867, Harper’s BAZAAR became America’s first fashion magazine. The magazine has now achieved another first with the launch of ShopBAZAAR, a breakthrough online store that allows the viewer to complete the purchase without leaving the magazine, closing the gap between seeing and buying. The readers, inspired by the items on display, can purchase in a fully integrated and seamless experience.
Unlike conventional ecommerce stores where business managers decide what to sell, the editors of ShopBAZAAR handpick items for sale. This brings to life an authentic content-to-commerce preposition, allowing viewers to experience special one-of-a kind products inspired by editorial features and enjoy contextual shopping experience to the fullest. ShopBAZAAR showcases about 1000-1500 products at any given time, with global brands like Saks Fifth Avenue, Salvatore Ferragamo, Derek Lam, Hirshleifers, Les Nouvelles, and Donna Karan Cosmetics.
In March this year, Harper’s BAZAAR embarked on a brand transformation exercise that started with a redesign and culminated in ShopBAZAAR. The BAZAAR Book app provides the monthly mag-alogue and the contextual shopping experience to iPad users. ShopBazaar.com also appears as a sub-domain of www.harpersbazaar.com, accessible as a “Shopping” tab on the home page. A tab on the Harper’s BAZAAR Facebook page takes the users directly to the BAZAAR Book on harpersbazaar.com. The innovations are poised to continue, with Digimarc watermarks that allow readers to shop the pages using smart phones. Expect that in early 2013.
ShopBAZAAR was launched in collaboration with American Express. American Express card holders receive exclusive perks and benefits, including access to specially-produced pieces from key designers, special gifts and private shopping events.
Consumers now access content through multiple devices. The diversity of touch points is not just limited to devices such as desktops, tablets or smart phones, but also to mediums such as web browsers, dedicated apps, Facebook and others. The challenge before marketers is to not just ensure that their content remains optimized across all these multiple touch points, but also ensure that the content presentation, and by extension, the customer experience, remains consistent across the diverse channels and devices. Side by side, the marketer needs powerful analytic capabilities to understand what works and what does not work, and the extent to which the popularity across content, segregated by touch points, actually translates to revenue.
Apart from ensuring a consistent brand image across devices and channels, Zmags Verge spruces up the catalog and facilitates slick, tablet-optimized navigation. The attractive visual representation of the playground equipment complete with descriptions and pop-ups to relevant links apart, catalog viewers can configure the playground equipment in different colors and settings, visualize how kids interact in different equipment, mix and match different equipment, read social media reviews, and do more, all without leaving the catalog.
Zmags also provides for a truly integrated experience by allowing the consumer to complete the shopping within the catalog itself, meaning that the consumer can complete the entire marketing lifecycle right from initial product enquiry or curiosity to actually making the purchase and even providing feedback, without having to stray from the catalog at all.
How can you improve your customer lifecycle marketing with digital catalogs?
Today’s customers are highly informed and access information about products through various digital touch points (like online catalogs!) by themselves. The role of the marketer is now to guide the customer through the buying process, to provide them with a good experience in whichever channel or medium they choose, rather than dictate terms. This requires a shift from the product centric marketing campaigns to customer centric campaigns, and this, in turn rests on the marketer customizing the engagement with the customer. At the same time, the marketer also needs to ensure a consistent voice and message across the different channels.
The company’s online catalog, powered by Zmags Verge, retains its almost one hundred year old reputation of providing personalized service and striking a lasting relationship with customers. The company managed to create lasting relationships by delivering top quality, sustainable and durable lifestyle and home décor products.
The Verve powered catalog, slick in design and optimized to provide the perfect medium showcase such strengths. The rich imagery that radiate the beauty of the products takes on from where the glossy print catalog left and even improves the experience for the consumer.
The catalog, instead of listing each item on stock, lists only a few products with bigger images, and a curative experience when the consumer browses the catalogue. The company merchandises the products exactly the way they want online shoppers to find them.
A preview tab allows the consumer to see the product coming up next, allowing them to delve into it or side step it to some other product.
The rich, in-depth, flexible and engaging experience offered by Zmags PartyLine catalog gels perfectly with at-home parties where the sales agent connects with the potential clients.
How can you use an online catalog to engage your customers?