Posts categorized ‘Content Marketing’

Digital Content & eCommerce: The Perfect Partners

In this day and age, it’s paramount when creating and delivering content that it is available wherever your consumer may be, on whatever device they may be using. When done well, an engaging online Publication has proven to drive a higher engagement time, read-through rate and lower bounce than a traditional website.

Commerce and Content

The linear format and being able to browse through a magazine, catalog, or lookbook much like a physical publication, ensures you have your consumer engaged – so what better time to convert them to a buyer? Moreover, your consumer might be browsing content that they want to purchase – so let them!

The simple and more traditional way to do this is to link products from within a Publication to a webpage for transaction.  But what this tends to do is hinder the experience, drive them away from the content and ultimately destroy repeat purchases, or multiple purchases as well. If the user decides not to buy that one product, he/she might not return to the catalog if it’s necessary to leave it in order to purchase.

A more opportunist approach would be to marry your eCommerce infrastructure with the online content you deliver.  The beauty of online content is its transparency; so not only will you see users’ behavior, but now this will translate to users purchasing behaviors as well.

This is easily achieved when creating online content. Rather than linking to a product page, change that click to bring the shoppable content into a lightbox – front, right and center.  Furthermore, enable the customer to be able to “continue shopping” if they wish to do so.  Much like when you are browsing around a physical store, you may want to pick up a number of items and make a final decision on what makes the cut at the point of purchase. Online shopping should be no different.

All eCommerce stores have product pages – these pages can be launched on top of digital content.  So you browse a publication, see an item you like, click it and that product page appears.  The item is then added to your shopping cart directly on your website, and using existing commerce infrastructure couldn’t be easier.

The way Zmags does this is by either launching content into a lightbox, launching an existing quick view, or easier still, using one of the Zmags Commerce Plugins.

Marrying content and eCommerce has proven to significantly increase cart size and it couldn’t be easier to deliver a shoppable, engaging experience to your consumers wherever they may be. And should inspiration strike them, who knows, they may just be in the mood for shopping!

5 Ways to Enhance a Digital Catalog User Experience

It’s safe to say that brands (no matter how large or small) know and understand the importance of creating a unique user experience across multiple-channels. Consistency is key and customers take that into account when making purchasing decisions – be it at an actual store, on their phone or even on their tablet.

What really separates companies in terms of how beneficial their digital catalogs are, is how well they create a unique user experience. A publication that encompasses specific tactics and elements can be the difference between a run-of-the-mill publication, and a remarkably engaging publication that keeps users coming back for more.

To meet the needs of your users and create a unique experience that will keep them coming back for more, try utilizing these five tactics to enhance your users experience.

Create a catalog that tells a “Story”

In general, people love a good story, whether it’s through a book, movie, or a close friend – why not tell your users a story about your product line through your digital catalog. Think of it ask taking them on a journey – similar to what they would do in your store (your stores’ layout and set-up). For example, having a creative “table of contents” on your first page, you can set the users path right from the start.

North Face Contents

An enticing story is going to pull the user through the publication, with them wanting to see what’s next. Using internal links within your catalog is a great way for you to control where you want your users to navigate to.

 Keep It Short

Remember the catalogs you would receive in the mail around the holidays from various department and toy stores? Do you recall how long they were, and how overwhelming it was going through them trying to find inspiring ideas for gifts?

The digital world we live in now allows you to keep your publications short by showing ‘like’ products in the same window as the product your user clicks or taps on. Also, shorter catalogs increase the chance of your users making it through entire experience.

Your Brand, Your Way

Maintaining a consistent brand image across multiple channels is something brands do relatively well. Bringing that consistency into your digital catalog is easily attainable, and can even be taken a step further by incorporating the quick views you currently use on your website.

If you use Magento or Demandware as your eCommerce platform, your existing quick views can be incorporated as well. There might be a minor amount of customization work that needs to be done upfront, but once that is complete, you will have a consistent branded look and feel throughout your digital catalog.

Bring Products To Life

Giving your users with the ability to view your products digitally is one thing, but providing them with the ability to view your products through video or 360 views is game changing. By showcasing your products in this light, you’re giving your users the opportunity to have an in-store experience right at their fingertips.

The beauty of this tactic – especially when it comes to video – is that you’re keeping your users engaged for longer periods of time…longer engagements should most likely lead to more sales, if executed correctly of course.

Be Social

Having social share buttons in your digital catalog as well as within your specific product windows is a great way to add a social element to your publication. Ever think about taking that a step further and really engage with users? How, you ask?

It’s actually pretty simple. Here are a few different ways you can carry out this initiative:

  • Share specific items from your catalog or a page from your catalog, across your social media channels. This is a great way to showcase specific pieces of your catalog – by giving the users pieces of the catalog, there’s a greater chance they will eventually go directly to your catalog to shop.
  • Engage with users that have questions and comments on the individual products you posted. Giving them the opportunity to speak to a human (as if they were in a store) is a great way to engage and create a better overall user experience.

It’s all about user experience, period. The tactics outlined above are specific ways in which you can enhance the user experience with your customers and/or potential customers. What are some other ways you are engaging users and creating unique experiences through your digital catalog?

Bright Minds Convene at The Zmags Expert Forum

Perfect fall evening, perfect roof deck view of the Boston skyline, and the best group of Zmags customers and prospects that an expert forum could ask for. On September 19th, 2013 Zmags hosted it’s first Expert Forum – and it was a huge hit! So much so that the plan will be to continue these forums in other locations for customers everywhere to be able to participate in.


Boston Skyline 2


We invited our New England area customers and prospects to join us for a part strategic working session / part cocktail hour with our agency partner Kreber. Turnout was fantastic and about 40 attendees gathered to learn more from Kreber and socialize with other Zmags customers. Attendees learned some of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to a digital campaign and saw many inspirational examples like Dicks Sporting Goods, Lenovo and The North Face.

Jeremy Gustafson, SVP-Retail & Digital Strategy at Kreber, led the strategy session with a presentation focused on the shift to digital from print and the important best practices for all types of brands to follow. Some of the key things touched upon in the session:

  • Importance of Omni Channel - understanding that consumers are visiting brands from all different devices today. Materials need to be optimized for all screen sizes
  • Take Advantage of the Depth – in the print world its so important to get as much content on the page as possible to give a user everything they need. With digital, its important to offer an experience that allows for deeper exploration, such as lightbox use, internal/external links, interaction and animation

After the session, which lasted a little over an hour, the group headed up to the OpenView Venture Partners roof deck for cocktails and appetizers to continue the discussion. We all enjoyed snacks and drinks into the evening while mingling and discussing different digital approaches and uses of the Zmags platform.


Boston Skyline


The purpose of the Expert Forum was to get customers together and offer them insight and strategy for their digital plans. Instead of just listening to ourselves talk, we thought bringing in the experts would make the most sense. Kreber has been working with the Zmags Platform for over five years while executing robust marketing plans for major brands. The content was intended to help customers and prospects enhance and improve their digital campaigns. Everyone left a little more knowledgeable on the ever-growing digital space and with a few great Instagram shots of the Boston skyline.


Announcing Zmags Sponsorship and Attendance at JUMP London

Zmags will be attending some very exciting events during the Autumn period, and this blog is to inform of our involvement as a Platinum Sponsor at JUMP London on 9th October 2013. I first attended JUMP in 2011 as a visitor to the event, and the decision to get involved as a sponsor in 2012 and again this year has been an easy one to make.

Now in its fourth successful year, JUMP helps marketers like you embrace and profit from today’s multi-channel, multi-screen, multi-faceted world. It’s all about delivering more creative, more intimate and more consistent campaigns based on data and insight from every channel and touchpoint.

Naturally, this focus on the joined up customer experience makes the event a great fit for Zmags. In addition to our sponsorship, we will have a booth, and I personally will be taking part in a panel discussion called “Show me the money – the business case for better customer experience”. This will take place on the ‘ENGAGE’ track at 14.20-14.50 and involves other executives from EE, ExactTarget, and the RSA, and should leave those attending with inspiration based around the following key points:

• Why it is more important than ever before to forge a connection between ROI and customer experience
• Understanding the risk of failing to forge the connection
• Key benchmarks and strategies for forming a robust strategy
• Case study examples

Here at Zmags we carefully select the events that focus on educating marketers, and JUMP provided the right platform last year to have quality discussions and demonstrations at the booth detailing how Zmags is able to increase conversion and engagement online through the creation of linear content experiences. We will work to take visitors past what the website can show by helping to visualise what your brand could use our platform for right now.

We look forward to seeing you at JUMP this October. If you can make it you will be joining 1,200 senior marketers on the day and have access to over 60 sessions across 8 different streams. If you are serious about competing in today’s multi-channel world, you and your team need to be here, and to further guarantee your success please find the time to visit the Zmags booth and pick up some great information about what we can do to enhance your digital content strategy right now.

Please feel free to proactively arrange a meeting with myself or the Zmags team at JUMP by calling the office on 0207 420 4100, or by sending me an email at – look forward to seeing you there!

(Photo Credit: )


Zmags Webinar Series Provide Value, Support

Zmags launched a Webinar Series in early 2013 as part of a bigger Community Portal update.  The idea was to combine our industry knowledge with Platform capabilities to deliver relevant and accessible bi-weekly best practice webinars.

Within the digital space the relevant topics were identified as Design and Branding, HTML5, Online Analytics, E-Commerce, Online Deployment and API’s.  Alongside these industry best practice categories, we introduced a weekly Product Training session to showcase the best and newest features of the Zmags Platform (with our weekly releases, it is key to keep the customer up to speed with the latest features).


Design for Online

Click to view the Zmags Webinar “Design for Online”


All Zmags customers have access to the Customer Success Program, which offers 1:1 consultancy on all webinar topics for a personal deep dive into digital strategy and best use of Zmags.  The webinars in turn complemented this offing and allowed us to voice our knowledge and finding to all interested parties.  It’s a quick and easy for anyone to sign up to and a nice reason to interact and talk to Zmags customers and prospects.

Attendance has grown with awareness and the positive outcome is that it’s around a 50/50 split of customers and prospects signing up now.  Webinars have proven to be a great tool in customer acquisition and retention as well as enforcing our place as an industry leader.

Planning the 2014 webinar calendar will commence shortly but have a look if anything takes your fancy for the 2013.  The latest webinars are all on Vimeo and can be viewed from our Webinar portal’s “View Webinar” button.

Zmags Community Webinar Portal


mCommerce Marketing – Men vs. Women

It’s no surprise that the stereotypical shopping habits of men and women have carried into the world of Mobile Commerce as well. Men are still the no-frills, in-and-out shoppers while women still conduct research, want the opinions of others and are always interested in a bargain.

Marketers have spent the past few years diligently working to get a mobile solution out to the masses. Now that they do, the next step is to transform from “simply having a presence” to “meeting the needs of specific groups of consumers”.  A recent article from Mobile Commerce Daily drilled into the differences between how men vs. women use and shop on their mobile devices, helping Marketers think about how to provide content best suited to each gender. This got me thinking about the breakdown from the Zmags perspective and how that’s an area we’ve already begun addressing.


express menTargeting Men

Men are the simpler of the two and surprisingly more compulsive. When men are shopping on their mobile device they are looking for concrete direction and easy ways to transact. They are less detail focused and more end result driven. They want the experience to guide them to the end in as few steps as possible with minimal effort required.

Men are also not frequent shoppers- which is where the compulsive purchases come in to play. If men are committed to a shopping session then they tend to purchase more things on the fly- or more of something like clothes- because they don’t want to go shopping again anytime soon.


Targeting Women

Women are definitely more detail-oriented, emotional shoppers.  Women also care more about what others think. A mobile shopping experience for women should have an emotional message or connection and offer social capabilities for easy sharing and feedback. Women spend more time researching a product and analyzing their options than men do. Having reviews and recommended products readily available will help to solidify the conversion.


The Zmags Connection

Offering a digital experience, in the form of a Zmag cater to search as well as shopping behavior, and can easily fit the needs of both men and women. The functionality of the Zmag can tell the mCommerce story both ways.

For men, a linear digital experience in a Zmag will help guide them to their end result easily and efficiently. It’s also an excellent medium to showcase a series of products, or additional items, that can play into the compulsive purchasing behavior- i.e. showcasing an entire outfit and making it easy to purchase the entire look in one click, like Express does.

For women, take advantage of the immersive experience that a Zmag provides. Once you’ve got their attention, the more information you can provide, the better. Women are looking to spend time interacting with a brand, and Spanx is a good example of a brand that fosters that interaction with their digital catalog. They want a story or experience that they can relate to, with all of the information they need. Make sure it’s easy to find reviews, share the Zmag on all social channels and easily transact.

It was only a matter of time before the world of mCommerce would begin the shift to catered shopping experiences. Now, in addition to the traditional eCommerce site, there are other platforms that allow the flexibility to provide multiple experiences and tell different stories to your audience.


Travel Industry Digital Magazine Benchmarks & Trends

mobile travelerQ1 2013 online travel spending was up 8% year-over-year in the US according to comScore, with e-commerce sales exceeding  $28B.  This trend represents a ripe opportunity for Travel & Hospitality brands to strategically and creatively grow their customer base and revenue via digital channels.

Does it surprise you then that readers of Travel & Hospitality online magazines and brochures spent an average of 4 min 10 sec interacting with the content in our Q1 benchmark?

Travel & Hospitality online magazines and brochures tend to be longer, exceeding 70 pages vs. an average of 52 across other industries, so not surprisingly have strong engagement levels.  Typically, 1 in 5 visits accesses travel digital magazines/brochures from a smartphone or tablet–a significant increase since 2012 (when 15% were via mobile), which positions this marketing channel  as a compelling way to capitalize on travelers’ increasing reliance on e-commerce.

Travel brands’ primary use cases for online magazines and e-brochures fall into two broad categories:

1. Pre-travel inspiration and trip planning

2. Take-with-you vacation guides

Digital magazines and e-brochures designed to provide pre-travel inspiration and trip planning advice allow travel brands to broaden the reach of their overall marketing efforts.  Digital trip planners are easy to embed on websites, as well as feature in email campaigns, advertisements and on social media channels.  Several brands are experimenting on Facebook to generate interest in their vacation planners and destination guides, encouraging followers to share tips and their favorite experiences in each location.  Royal Caribbean Cruises is a favorite example, which uses videos and other interactive elements in its latest e-brochure that’s featured on Facebook.

Group Tour Planner from the Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau  features suggested itineraries by traveler type (e.g., student, weddings, eco-friendly), with convenient links to the websites of featured attractions, restaurants, hotels, etc. — making it easy to make reservations on the spot or find out more information.Virginia Beach Group Tours

Monetate recently released a great infographic on the ways to upsell and cross-sell travel offers, which includes some key observations on devices used to plan trips.  Logically, consumers who take 6 or more trips per year are a bit more likely to use mobile devices to plan travel than those who jet set less frequently.

Take-with-you vacation guides serve up relevant information to travelers while in transit.  Destination guides can be downloaded and viewed in offline mode – so maps, restaurant reviews and area attractions can still be referred to even when WiFi cuts out in remote locations.


The digital version of the Maine Visitor’s Guide, for example, includes resources for each region of the state, along with articles and stories from other travelers — all of which can be viewed online, printed or downloaded and saved on any device.

Ensuring search functionality is turned on is important for mobile viewers in particular, who may need to find snippets of information quickly.  For more tech-savvy travelers, online travel guides provide instant gratification, especially those that serve up even more information and rich content than can fit on the page with the click of a link.

Travel is one of two spotlight industries in the Zmags Q1 Digital Catalog/Magazine Benchmark Report, which can be downloaded here in full.  Or, check out last week’s blog for a quicker recap!

Getting On Board with HTML5

It’s a safe assumption that the majority of people have heard of HTML5, in some capacity or another, by now. Over the last year 63% of developers began actively developing in HTML5 with an additional 31% having migration plans ready to roll out. Technically, HTML5 is a markup language for structuring and presenting content for the web – but in layman’s terms it’s the latest way to develop with some surprising benefits that have never been available before.

Ok, so you’re not a developer – why do you care about HTML5? Well, for starters the biggest thing to grasp is the fact that HTML5 is allowing for a fundamental shift in the way code is developed as well as how much Flash is used in the process. HTML5 is helping to marry a series of key functionalities into one, seamless process, making it easier to deploy across the board. HTML5 is like a smart phone – it’s your do-it-all tool. Instead of carrying around a bag with a camera, music player, clock, phone, etc.., you have your smart phone. Instead of laboring through the development of web content, you use HTML5.

Surprising Key Benefits of HTML5:

  • Cross Platform, Consistent, Experience- with Flash unavailable on Apple devices, HTML5 is able to connect a visual experience across channels- computer, tablet, and mobile.
  • Cleaner, Neater Code- developing in HTML5 is cleaner and easier to maintain.
  • Easier Video/ Audio integration- no need for 3rd party players (like Flash or Java) anymore. HTML5 can include video and audio elements right into the code.
  • Local Storage Capabilities- think of it like cookies meets client side database with the ability to store data easier than ever before- and its been adopted by all major browsers.
  • Mobile- and probably most important, HTML5 is a stronger, simpler way of developing which makes it ideal for mobile devices. Quicker load times and functionality ensures for a better user experience.

The Zmags Benefit

Many web-based platforms, like Zmags, have also taken it upon themselves to release HTML5 product offerings. This ensures that their products work seamlessly across all channels.

In Early 2013, Zmags launched their fully supported HTML5 “Verge Viewer” allowing users to deploy digital publications that would work the same and look the same across all channels- web, mobile, tablet and Facebook. In addition, Zmags rolled out the ability to include HTML5 widgets and animations to the experience, allowing users to enrich and enhance their digital offerings that would function the same, regardless of device.

This type of adoption from developers and software companies is only going to increase as we head into 2014. Eventually, HTML5 will be the way websites and applications are created while other practices, such as Flash, will be history.

MITX Mobile Summit Preview: Why Tablets Will Outpace Smartphones

In less than a week, I’ll be attending and speaking at the MITX Great Mobile Migration Summit right here in Boston!  

Without giving too much away, the focus of my session, “Why Tablets Will Outpace Smartphones:  Trends And Tips To Optimize Every Customer Interaction“, involves recognizing tablets as more than just smartphones with big screens.

Consumers use tablets from different locations than their phones and in different frames of mind.  They are more likely to be on retail and e-commerce sites and view more pages while they’re there.   A mobile strategy that lumps smartphones and tablets together will inevitably fall short.  I’ll discuss tips on how to create a savvy tablet content marketing and ecommerce strategy that capitalizes on these different tablet behaviors, excites your customers, and sets you apart from competitors.

I’ll share examples from Zmags client PartyLite, a home fragrance direct selling company that got ahead of the curve by extending a core catalog shopping experience to the tablet.  


Event details:

Thursday, May 2nd

8:00AM – 4:00PM

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

If you haven’t already, click here to register!  Hope to see you there.

Tailoring Content for Products and Vice Versa

Content Marketing is the topic du jour for Marketers this year, but it only really packs a punch when the right type of content is delivered via the proper channel. One of the core goals of any content marketing plan is of course to build loyalty and drive sales—which can be achieved by using fun content right on product pages. When deployed in the right place at the right time, products and content can work together in a way that that engages, adds value, and helps customers along the purchase process.

If you try to force fit content, though, it can distract people from the purchase process and hurt your Marketing efforts more than help.

Tailoring Content for Products

This is a strategy to supplement your product line with content that will be of interest to potential and existing users of a particular product. It’s not, however, a game of match some existing content to the closest product. In  other words, not just any content will pair with a product – the strategy has to be in place from the beginning and it has to be created with this use in mind. There are two main types: content for during the purchase process and content for after the purchase process. 

1. As the customer is shopping and viewing product pages, related content can feed into the page and add value and perspective to the customer’s purchase decision. For example:

-User-generated reviews

-Studies and interactive graphics

-Product features in article/blog form, rather than static bullet points

-Case Studies

One of my favorite examples I’ve seen recently is from Crate&Barrel, which allows you to shop by “story”.  The “Shower&Shore” story, for instance, has images from an outdoor bridal shower that allow shoppers to easy by the featured products.  But the fun part is the extra content C&B incorporated, including a free iTunes playlist download, custom-designed Paperless Post invitations (also free!), recipes and more.  This provides extra value for C&B shoppers so they can enjoy the products even more.


product content

Crate & Barrel product lightbox

bonus content

Crate & Barrel additional content


2. Content intended for the existing user of the product. This is a way to keep customers engaged in your online community once they’re “out the door”. For example:

-How To’s & tips for the product


-Case studies with submit form for user generated content and reviews

-Seasonal features & promotions features an interactive magazine produced by Purina on the Cat page of the site and the target audience is cat owners who are existing or potential buyers of Purina products.  The magazine features links to purchase a few cat food items, but primarily provides creative content for cat lovers, including:  videos from the cat’s perspective, game ideas, quizzes and a form to provide feedback.  They also link to coupons for featured products.


The Vice Versa, Products for Content

This strategy does not require making new products based on the online content you are producing (might be difficult to get approved!), but means displaying products within your editorial content where applicable. A catalog with a spread that is more editorial focused can still link to products in images or text.

A dynamic product window makes that connection possible, and makes the transition from consideration to purchase seamless. With a DPW, the user can view the catalog, and click on a certain product for more images, more information, and an “add to cart” button within a lightbox. The lightbox can be closed and the catalog browsing can resume, with the item in cart.

Rue Magazine lets its readers shop directly through advertisements and articles, which link back to the sites of retailers with whom it partners.

Editorial Content

Much like a storefront might create a merchandising display in order to show how their individual products fit into a greater lifestyle theme, a digital catalog allows an editorial spread to integrate ecommerce seamlessly.


Whether you’re supporting your product pages with related content, or linking your ecommerce to your digital editorial content, the integration of content and commerce can have a major impact when executed properly.  Send us examples that have been working well for your brand, and we’ll feature them in a “best of content marketing” follow-up post !