Posts categorized ‘Marketing’

The Overflowing Toolbox: Are You Adding Platforms Without Adding Value?

Research firm Gartner recently made a bold claim by stating that by 2017, CMO’s spending on IT infrastructure, including software, analytics and marketing platforms, will exceed the salary of the company’s CIO—the traditional gatekeepers of the technology budget.

While we still have three years to see whether or not there is any truth to Gartner’s research, the trend of increased IT spending through the marketing department is clear. On average, we’re seeing 10-20% year-over-year growth in digital marketing budgets, 10% increases in “big data” investment, exponential growth in content development and dissemination, and a clear move toward Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) engagements.

This increased spending is reflective of the “Age of the Customer”, wherein consumers hold most (if not all) of the power. The question is now not where or when to reach customers (because the answer is everywhere and continuously), but rather how to reach and truly connect with those prospects on a different, more personal and more engaging level than the competition.

This shift away from the “one size fits all” ethos toward value-added, personalized content is also seeing major diversification in terms of the number of tools used by companies to achieve their particular digital goals. However, this tool expansion is often ad hoc instead of strategic. Note that I distinguish between a “tool” with a single or limited purpose and a “platform” comprised of many tools to serve multiple use cases. Tool expansion and their ad hoc use are representative of emerging software markets, whereas tools become platforms when market leaders emerge, either through growth or consolidation, and customer adoption shifts beyond the innovators and early adopters.

Too often, tools were picked up because they deliver a single, very specific piece of value—with little to no regard to how it will impact the larger workflow, or how well it will integrate with existing tools. Instead of working to find a holistic solution that addresses multiple issues in a single, unified platform, organizations have traditionally cobbled together tools that “should” work together, or (even worse) just used these tools separately, leading to slow, inefficient and tedious management.

In order to succeed, CMOs, CIOs and content creators are asking questions such as, “Is this new tool creating more problems than it will solve?”, and “How much time needs to be devoted to this tool in order to integrate it?” More importantly, “Is this just a tool or is it a platform?”, and “Where (and how) does this platform fit into my digital ecosystem? Will it help me architect a more complete digital marketing platform to fit my organization’s needs?”

As a business people and marketers, we are asking ourselves the same questions. Zmags takes a great deal of pride in our vision for integrating our digital publishing platform into a vast array of technologies—from content management systems to analytics to eCommerce—driving additional visibility and value with a single, trackable click, rather than simply adding another tool to an already over-crowded, overburdened toolbox.

These questions will take time for the marketplace to answer, but will undoubtedly require an unprecedented level of cooperation between CMOs and CIOs as roles and responsibilities continue to evolve. How has your organization started to make this shift toward balancing platform management and content creation? What strategies are you using to determine, measure and validate and integrate your indispensable platforms? Let us know in the comments—we’ll continue this discussion in future posts and will keep you up-to-date on the latest approaches we’re seeing.

Different Ways to Deploy Video in a Digital Publication

Zmags’ stance on video and rich media has been that videos should not only be part of the marketing plan, but should be fully integrated into the shopper’s purchase path, as they can add value and engage in a way that other types of media cannot. A Google Insights study done on videos related to TV purchases found that after viewing videos, a majority of shoppers researched more information, look up store locations, and took action.

The hard part is creating original, engaging video content. That’s the nut we’re all continually trying to crack. The easy part is that there are a number of different ways to implement video into publications, so that video content can be seen by different types of users in a variety of different formats.

Adding Video to a Zmag Digital Publication

Deploying a video in a Zmags publication is as easy as Drag and Drop. Most file types are accepted, and the Publicator has an automatic conversion process upon upload, so that the video file becomes useable for the publication, with no additional work required from the user.



Embedding a Video using a Widget

What’s meant by “embedding” is inserting a piece of code or series of letters into your publication so that a video appears on the “front end”, as opposed to uploading a video into the media library. Zmags’ HTML5 IFrame Widget allows for easy embedding of YouTube videos by combining the video’s unique YouTube ID with a url format for embedding.

Streaming from an external source

Instead of uploading a video or embedding one, the user can stream a video from an external source. In order for this to work, however, the external server (i.e. video source and owner) must allow the publication access to the media by installing a small .xml file to the root of the website. So while the owner of the publication does not necessarily need to own the video and source, he/she would at least need to have pre-arranged permission in order to create that connection.

This is sometimes the preferred route if a publisher has pre-existing videos and wishes to implement them in a publication, but the videos are too large to upload directly.

The best route for implementing a video into a digital publication will vary based on source and size, but it should always be straightforward using one of the methods shown above. Video cannot be overlooked or under-stated in today’s digital landscape, and Zmags wants to make it as easy as possible for retailers and marketers to show engaging videos to their audiences.

How are you integrating video into your marketing mix?

Performance Management No Longer Elicits Groans

The HR Team is really excited to have converted to an online performance management system.  However, for employees and managers alike, the mention of performance reviews draws a collective groan. Many argue that the process can be tedious, uninspiring, and intimidating. The new system solves many of these issues and when used properly, performance management evaluations are a critical tool in improving overall company performance. Not convinced? Here’s more on why the performance management process is so important and some ways that we’ve enhanced it here at Zmags.

Performance Evaluation


Comprised of a competency ratings section and goal setting section, our evaluation itself is a great tool to facilitate discussions and assess how employees are performing to goals and expectations. While our performance review process occurs on an annual basis, we encourage managers and employees to have collaborative dialogues about performance regularly and to revisit goals at least quarterly. That way, when the annual performance review process rolls around, there are no surprises as the employee and manager have had clear and consistent communication about performance throughout the year.


We’ve designed the Zmags performance evaluation to recognize strengths and achievements, identify areas of development, and set goals for the coming year. Having this information at hand makes employees accountable and puts them in the position to drive their own success.

Moreover, a key component to our performance review at Zmags is an employee self-assessment, which allows employees to remark on their own achievements and evaluate their own progress and performance. Rather than just being on the receiving end of one-way feedback, employees are an active part of the review process and contribute to the discussion.


We strongly believe that when employees understand how their personal performance impacts the company performance, they become more engaged with their work. We ask that where relevant, each of our employees map some or all of their individual goals to our company goals that are established at the beginning of each year. This exercise helps our employees see how they each contribute to the company’s success, creating a greater sense of ownership over their roles and responsibilities.

The performance management process might have its critics, but when communication is consistent and reciprocal and goals are clearly defined, actionable, and impactful, it’s a fantastic tool to boost productivity and engagement. That, in turn, can enhance company performance, and here at Zmags, that means that we can better serve our clients.



Photo Credit: frankrizzo805

Customer Spotlight: IFC

International Finance Company (IFC) has been a Zmags customer since 2009. Their primary use for Zmags is internal. They utilize the software in several departments for a variety of reports, brochures and promotional materials.  As one can imagine, a lot of these documents serve internal purposes resulting in  a text heavy, design-lacking experience.  That is, until recently…

IFCThe concept of omni-channel, or designing for digital, appears to be spreading like wildfire to all industries. IFC’s latest Zmag, which promotes FinNet- their annual knowledge sharing event, is an excellent example of really optimizing a digital publication. Some key things to note about the experience:

  • Complete HTML5 experience - the viewer, publication rendering, and animations are all done in HTML5. This ensures that the viewing experience is identical across all platforms – web, tablet, and mobile.
  • Designed for Digital - the design of the publication is optimized for digital, instead of print. The font is larger, the layout is cleaner and the experience is more immersive.
  • Richer Experience - you’ll notice throughout the publication that IFC has used lightboxes, scrolling text, animations and videos. All of these are key features that engage the user with the experience resulting in longer time spent and numbers of pages viewed.

As traffic from different devices increases for all industries, it becomes even more critical to ensure that users are being offered an optimized and ideal experience. Zmags, like so many other SaaS based solutions, is making this extremely easy for users. A lot of the core functionality- HTML5, widget support, video capabilities etc- are standard features that make it possible to create a comprehensive, engaging publication in an efficient manner.

Accessibility is Key for Online Magazines

online magazine tabletAn online magazine has to be at once constant and always changing.

Sounds simple, right?

A digital magazine must offer a consistent brand experience across all channels over which it is viewed, but it also must adapt to different formats and devices in order for that brand experience to reach its max potential. In this way, the online magazine must be adaptable in order to remain completely accessible. A chameleon of sorts, a good online magazine changes for its environment. One minute it’s in desktop format, the next it’s on mobile, and the next it’s integrated with Facebook on a tablet. The result? More engagement time, more content viewed per visit and increased repeat readership.

Three things to consider for complete accessibility:

1. Accessible on all devices

Today’s consumers are connected at various touch points. The same person might flip through several pages on one device and pick up where they left off on another. It’s important that there is no drop off in the magazine experience between devices. Tablet users are more likely to read more pages and in general have a longer visit, but mobile users will still be a part of the puzzle and hopefully will expand to other devices if their mobile experience is enjoyable.

Developing an app for an online magazine also can be an effective way to customize the experience, offer offline functionality so that consumers can continue to interact outside of WiFi areas, and set up other hardware functionality like push notifications and geolocation.


2. Accessible on different channels

Don’t just link to your online magazine from your website and hope your readers find it!  It’s no secret that many online activities are social.  By promoting and making it accessible via social media networks, you’re increasing the likelihood it will be adopted and shared with others.

audi magazine

When people have the opportunity to check out a magazine on their preferred social network, it is an environment where they are comfortable not only consuming content, but sharing it as well.

Audi Denmark partnered with Zmags in order to transform its magazine into a more user-friendly experience on Facebook. The results were staggering: readership increased by 1500%.

Audi Zmags Case Study


recipe fresh living3. Access to more!

The online magazine reader wants to interact with a truly digital magazine, not an online copy of a print one. So to simply convert a print magazine into a digital magazine and enable “page-flipping” would be a disservice to the magazine as well as the user…at the expense of their experience with your publication or brand.  Not only is it  important to utilize a publishing platform to design and optimize for digital in order to create an immersive experience, but an additional benefit of these web-based publications is that you can serve up even more content for anyone who wants it.

While the print version of a magazine is restricted to a two-dimensional, rectangular page, its digital counterpart can layer more on top – such as videos, lightboxes with additional HTML text and images, and links to past issues or advertiser websites.  Fresh Living does a great job at this with their digital edition, incorporating recipe downloads and a link to subscribe for the full print version.


While the look and feel of an online magazine must always remain consistent with your brand image, the magazine needs to be accessible in a variety of formats, devices, and applications.  That accessibility becomes vital in finding new readers and retaining them.


It’s All About “Plugging-In”

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.

couch browsing

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.

Zmags Plug-Ins

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?

Samuels 1The 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.

Pro Plug-Ins

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.


SEO Best Practices for Digital Publications

Search engine optimization (SEO) can be defined as the process of affecting the visibility of a website  in a search engine’s un-paid search results to drive more organic traffic to content. But how does this work with digital content like a magazine, lookbook, catalog, annual report, brand guide etc…?  These types of digital experiences are likely to be embedded into one HTML page, which means tagging the content for SEO is very important and differs somewhat vs. tagging a page to find something very specific.

Running Room 3A potential consumer or reader is looking for something you offer and SEO helps connect the right content (or best optimized webpage) to that customer.  In general, there are two types of search:

1. Narrow

The search is very specific and will often lead to an exact page that yields a quick result or return.  For example, I want to buy a specific brand’s running shoes so I Google “brand name”, “running”, “trainers” and possibly a website name.  I find the top search, click, the product and price point meet my expectation and I buy the shoes.

2. Open

The search is more open with an underlying need for education, research, inspiration, and more.  This is where more curated digital content like Zmags comes into play.  For example, I need to shed a few pounds and think a pair of running shoes would be a good place to start.  With anaerobic exercise being alien to me, I need to do a little bit of research on what to buy and I start to Google terms like “decent running shoes”, “running, trainers, sale”, and “new season running shoes”.  I don’t want to view a grid of products but want to find some material that I can journey through to gain the education and inspiration needed to make a sensible purchase.

Running Room Magazine

The key SEO distinction between the two is the keywords.   When optimizing digital catalogs or magazines for search engines, don’t try and tag all the content within it but think more about what your potential audience will be searching for when looking for it – as the search term could potentially differ from the text within your content.

Chances are your content or product is online somewhere else and would be tagged correctly for a narrow search. It is that open search opportunity that can convert potential consumers to new and loyal consumers.  The key here is to frame up and tag your digital content like Zmags catalogs and magazines for a search engine. This ensures that more inquisitive and inquiring search words are used to drive those curious, researching and potential new consumers to your most relevant content.

At Zmags we have worked with a variety of clients and have a collection of deployment best practices, depending on the strategy and use case.  Our Customer Success Program is tailored to work and partner with clients to ensure success with digital content.  The bottom line is you could have the most amazing online Publication, but if no-one knows about it or finds it, is it really there at all? (a philosophical thought for the day!)


Dads & Grads Season Presents Opportunity for Gift Retailers

It’s that time of year again for what marketers and retailers call “Dads and Grads”. With Father’s Day on June 16th and college and high school graduations happening throughout May and June, this is of course a big time for celebrating and gift-giving . And that means marketers and retailers will be competing to capitalize on these occasions by promoting relevant content and products during this time.  Think not only presents for Fathers and graduates, but also food and beverages, party supplies, apparel and new outfits for these celebrations (suits, dresses, etc.).


Fathers' Day Gift


How can online magazines and catalogs like Zmags helps your brand stand out?

Answer: By making it easy for kids, spouses, parents, friends and party planners to get inspired, and/or buy everything they need in one convenient place.

This type of immersive shopping experience lends itself nicely to shoppers that know they need a gift for Father’s Day or Graduation, but don’t yet know what that gift is.

Grant Coleman says it well in his post, Search is Not  Shopping. Expecting that online shoppers will stumble upon the right products, or ones they didn’t even know they wanted (!), is  like telling your brick & mortar customers to go in the back room and look for an item themselves.

These digital publications open up new merchandising opportunities for retailers as well. Via creative design and intelligent analytics, online catalog layouts can be tested and adjusted over time – in a way that’s not so easy for print catalogs or in-store merchandising displays.

Ecommerce brands and online publishers can take one of at least two routes for making the most of “Dads & Grads season”:

Lawncare Gift1.  Start From Scratch

Retailers can capitalize on the Dads & Grads period by quickly preparing and publishing new assets online.  Brochures, lookbooks, or flyers make sense for this seasonal content and promotion.  Any pdfs designed for print can be embellished online, with interactive elements like videos, widgets, quizzes, etc. added on top – to make the shopping experience that much more fun.


2.  Reuse or Re-Purpose

Tweak an existing catalog, magazine or collection of digital assets. This might mean pulling out relevant pages and products from a bigger digital publication, or combining imagery taken for other areas of the website and putting a holiday spin on it. This is a great option for those of you who are pressed for time or have limited resources to create new content.

For instance, even if you didn’t overhaul an editorial spread to say “Give Dad a Gift He’ll Love” (though that might be a nice idea), you could still feature products that skew towards males more prominently during the weeks leading up to Father’s Day.


A season so closely associated with gifts, such as Dads & Grads, offers tremendous opportunity for online retailers and merchandisers.  Zmags makes either project  possible and ensures that your brand comes out on top during this celebratory season.

Have you already put together a guide for Dads or Grads?  Please share your examples with us; we’ll post the best ones across our social networks!


The Catalog as an Online Engagement Tool

The primary qualitative  KPIs for any web/digital marketer typically involve engagement metrics (average time spent per visit, average page views per visit, bounce rate) and conversion metrics (form submissions, online orders, etc.).

tablet purchase


Here at Zmags we have shown outstanding results in improving these metrics when using a digital catalog/brochure as part of the overall website content mix.

Case Study – Laura Ashley

The 212 store fashion and homeware retailer has been using the catalog as part of the Direct Commerce mix successfully for many years, but as for most catalogers, the increased cost of distribution means expanding the channel has become very difficult — despite a healthy demand from their loyal customers to view new season collections via this format.

Zmags has been able to bridge this distribution gap, and we work with Laura Ashley to provide a rich and engaging digital version of their catalogs to their consumers. It is available to view instantly through homepage promotion, email subscribers, and offers consistent functionality across devices – supporting desktop, tablet and smartphones through the browser of the device. They have also included links to the catalogs with iPhone and iPad apps to further enrich the experience on those devices.

Laura Ashley SS2013 Catalogue

laura ashley catalog


This is helping generate 1000s of additional catalog views each week, with average engagement times at a huge 10 minutes, and on average each consumer gets through at least 100 pages per visit. Bounce rates for digital catalogs (those that do not navigate past the cover page) across the Zmags client base are below 15%, which validates that this is an option that consumers crave, especially with those retailers who have a long history in creating stunning and inspirational catalogs to engage consumers.

This performance actually reinforces the need for a catalog as part of the overall marketing mix for Laura Ashley as a direct sales tool.

With engagement and “experience” commerce becoming a key focus for most retailers right now, digital catalogs that help to harness the curated content format through a linear user journey can offer a huge ROI to those seeking to drive consumers to content, rather than discount promotions. This becomes especially important at new seasonal releases when consumers are figuring out the season’s trends, or at key campaign times such as Christmas or Valentine’s Day when consumers are seeking inspiration for gift ideas. It also allows various types of assets that currently exist separately to be merged together, for example, a product on the page of a catalog may have an associated video that can be viewed, or additional product details/technical specifications that could be important to bring into a light box over the content. This means that the investment made in those assets can go even further to help engage the consumer.

Customer Spotlight – The SR Group

The SR Group is a fully integrated firm of specialist recruitment consultancies that operate in niche business areas. Employing 185 people across 6 office locations including London, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Melbourne & Sydney. The brands working under The SR Group umbrella are:

Brewer Morris
Carter Murray
Frazer Jones
Taylor Root
SR Search

The SR Group have been using Zmags to create digital versions of various existing print marketing resources that include:

  • Salary Reports
  • Job Guides
  • Career Advice
  • Interview Tips
  • Working in Foreign country advice
  • City Guides

Recently, the marketing team at The SR Group have started to use rich media assets within these publications to make the content more engaging:

Market Update and Salary Survey 2012/2013

This means that the budget being spent to create these assets goes much further as they can be used with YouTube and other social media, as well as within their Zmags solution.

“Zmags technology is constantly striving ahead, enabling us to use this platform to not only showcase content that would have traditionally sat in a PDF brochure, but utilize it as a platform to integrate with our social media and digital strategies. By using this technology we are able to deliver our content in a new and exciting way, pushing this out to a wider audience.”

Zmags is working closely with The SR Group to ensure we support as many of their digital marketing goals as possible. Keen to reinforce their position as true thought leaders in their industry, having digital as well as printed media assets is increasing reach by 3x, whilst allowing both candidates and clients to access resources which enhance the credibility and reputation of the ever-expanding brands within the group.

“Zmags delivers innovation, guidance and expertise to myself and my team, acting as an extension of the team and digital advisor. Their support goes way beyond the remit that we would expect from a supplier. It is certainly a partnership.”

We are also helping deliver independence for the small but effective marketing team at The SR Group. Rather than reliance on expensive agencies, Zmags is allowing for campaigns to be turned around in days and controlled 100% in-house. The future for this digital content is certainly bright, and the results have been good enough to justify bespoke content built around digital best practice. Watch this space closely to see how corporate communications can be turned into compelling digital experiences using the Zmags digital solutions. These efforts will continue to generate leads and reinforce reputation for The SR Group brands.