Posts categorized ‘Retail’

Digital Retailers Already Prepping for Peak Season

I am based in London in the UK, and for the first time in a long while, we have been able to enjoy a great sun-filled summer. The retail press has been full of good news stories for a change, especially for the impact the heat wave has had on fashion retailers who have been able to delay their sales, and reduce sale discounts to show great year-over-year improvements in sales of summer lines.

But, we all know the summer will soon be over, vacations will be distant memories, and the real work starts in earnest as preparations are made for the key peak season.


joules-christmas shot


I wanted to use this blog to provide some inspiration for those currently finalizing plans for peak campaigns. Zmags digital catalogs were used by some of the world’s largest and most renowned brands last year to create stunning digital content experiences to provide gift ideas. And the good news is,  they worked!

Rocket shipHere are some performance highlights from brands using online catalogs and gift guides in Q4 2012:

  • Share of tablet/mobile visits 22.6%
  • Zmags ecommerce conversion rate 173% higher on average than website average
  • Average order value for Zmags shoppers increased by 18%
  • Average time spent on site increased by 144% for those that viewed a Zmag

Additional results from last holiday season can be found in our 2012 Digital Catalog/Magazine Benchmark report


Zmags has created a lot of statistical research to show how presenting product in a linear experience is leading to higher page views, product views, engagement times, and ecommerce conversion rates – these are amplified through peak season due to the pressure of needing to find gift ideas for family and friends. The Zmags format has proved a more engaging and inspirational way to allow consumers to discover your product compared to traditional website layout.

Here below are just a few examples of what our clients created last year (please note ecommerce links are no longer active):




If you are planning to send any print campaigns to your consumers this holiday season, then having a digital Zmag version that is fully shoppable and can be viewed in HTML5 across devices could be a great way to make your investment in the printed collateral go much further, whilst enriching your website to create a truly joined up campaign. You may also want to create something bespoke for the digital channel, and Zmags is well placed to help here too with best practice advice on techniques to build highly engaging and great performing digital marketing and ecommerce campaigns.

Whether you are bringing a print campaign to digital or starting fresh with a digital publication, consult the Zmags 2013 Holiday Playbook for  any e-commerce endeavor this Holiday season. Additionally, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a consultant in your area to find out more about the Zmags Commerce Edition Solution

Merchandising via Digital Catalogs: Your Online Storefront

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”.

traditional site

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.

Container Store Merchandising

-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!)

Digital Catalog/Magazine Benchmark Webinar Recap

Yesterday I led a webinar highlighting key findings from our first Zmags Quarterly Digital Catalog/Magazine Benchmark Report.  (That is a mouthful.  ZQDCMBR?  Not much better!)

zmags-ebookFor anyone interested who was unable to make it, not to worry!  You can still watch the webinar recording anytime.

This new quarterly research study defines digital publication benchmark performance on key metrics.  To stay within my allotted hour, the webinar  focused  primarily on the retail/ecommerce and apparel/fashion industries.  Key points covered in the session included:

1. Online catalogs and magazines are gaining traction with consumers, and mobile traffic to these publications is on the rise — exceeding over 1 in 5 visits to Zmags in 2012

2. Retailers with online catalogs see much higher conversion rates among this segment of shoppers.  In Q4 2012, the average ecommerce conversion rate for digital catalog viewers was 173% higher than website visits that didn’t include the experience.

3. Apparel/fashion digital catalogs performed even better on key metrics than other retail categories.  During the holidays though, competition for these consumers’ time is even stronger than during the rest of the year–so brands need to be creative in order to stand out.


The event had solid attendance and some great questions were asked at the end.  Two worth sharing:

1.  Is it possible to measure the impact of digital publications on in-store traffic?

Yes!  There are a few ways this can be done in Zmags:

a. Include links to your store locator page in your online catalog.  The number of clicks on these links and CTR are indications of the interest in seeing and feeling products in stores that your catalogs are generating.

b. Feature unique codes (discounts, QR), coupons or even products that can only be redeemed in stores.  Calculate total redemptions as a percent of Zmags visits to measure influence and success.  (Then, on shoppers’ receipts, feature a link to your newest online catalog in order to repeat the cycle!)

2.  Where can I find out more information about the benchmarks in my industry, which is automotive?

These and other detailed results are available in our exclusive whitepaper.   To see how Zmags performance varies by industry, see page 9 — which includes key metrics broken down by travel, auto, food and beverage, publishing/media, and more.


Looking ahead, it’s already time to start analyzing the Q1 data!  Our full webinar series schedule can be found here; check back soon to sign up for the Q1 2013 Benchmark webinar!


ShopBAZAAR Provides a Contextual Shopping Experience

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.

Harper's BAZAAR Online Interactive Catalog

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. also appears as a sub-domain of, 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 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.

Check out the full online shopping experience to get an idea of how BAZAAR has truly used digital publishing to their advantage.

How the User Interface Drives Sales

One of the crucial game changers in online commerce is the user interface. The merit of the product, the innovation of the marketing campaign or the size of the deal offered may all lure customers to the website, but it is invariably the interface they encounter that determine whether they proceed with the purchase or go away.

Marketers have always worked hard to make the user interface as attractive as possible. Successful marketers make sure that such attractiveness does not compromise ease of use. Now, with the advent of multiple digital touch points, marketers need to do more.

Today’s marketers need to offer a clean and intuitive interface that not only caters to seamless engagement and discovery for the customer but also allows the customer to purchase without leaving the catalog. While the focus has always been on allowing the customer to explore or share content-rich pages and dynamic imagery with a quick tap or dab, it is time to allow the customer to move the product to the shopping cart with equal ease. In short, the marketer needs to interpose engagement and commerce to the brand’s online content.

Again, marketers need to not just ensure that they provide a rich and enriching brand experience to customers, but also make sure that such experience remains consistent across all devices through which the customer accesses content.

The new Verge Viewer offered by Zmags facilitates this, as exemplified in the latest catalog of Serena & Lily, the seller of luxury home décor products. The company adopted Verve to provide the next wave of digital experience to its customers. The technology allowed the catalog to sport some intuitive features, such as arresting visuals using maximum available browser space, facilitating swipe based navigation wherein the customers search for products by keyword, accessing the required page with just one swipe or click, and more. The catalog also groups products, displaying the full suite of catalog page below the current page, allowing shoppers to browse or purchase items individually or collectively.

The Zmags Serena & Lily Catalog

Are you creating a user interface that drives sales?

Ensuring a Truly Integrated Experience Across Multiple Devices

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.

Little Tykes / Play Power, a seller of playground equipment has deployed Zmags Professional solutions to ensure all these, and more.

Little Tykes Zmags Verge

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?

How Online Catalogs Support Personalized Sales

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.

Online catalogs as a marketing tool facilitate this trend, which is evident from the experiences of PartyLine, a niche maker of candles, candle warmers, fragrances and premium home décor products.

PartyLine Zmags Catalog

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?

Why Marketers are Scurrying to Provide Video Based Content

Comscore reports that as of April 2012, almost 85 percent of US audience viewed online video. An adult viewer watches 21.8 hours a month on an average and this is double the corresponding figure in 2010.

How to use video in your digital catalogThe emergence of multiple digital touch points with enhanced multimedia capabilities has further facilitated the popularity of videos as a content medium. A 2012 study by the etailing group sponsored by Invodo revels that one in two smart phone users and more than six out of ten tablet users watch one or more product videos in a three month period.

Such a steep increase in the popularity of the video is forcing marketers sit up and take notice. The Social media examiner reports that 76 percent of all marketers plan to increase the space of video in their marketing plans in 2012. This is likely to yield good results, with the Internet Retailer reporting that 85 percent of the prospects who view product videos would most likely make the purchase. Those who view video are 17.4 percent more likely to make a purchase versus those who do not watch videos.

There are many reasons for such a high conversion rates:

  • Videos provide the most appropriate engagement medium for those who prefer visual or audible communications over written or verbal communications. Such people constitute about 60 to 70 percent of all shoppers.
  • Videos help consumers progress to a “ready to buy” state by educating them with product information and specifications. Evidence suggests that people who watch videos spend more time on the website and engage better. When they purchase, they purchase with confidence, with lesser cart abandonment compared to those who do not watch videos. After making a purchase they are less likely to return the product.
  • For the marketer, incorporating video provides an added benefit of improved SEO optimization, resulting in improved search engine ranking and thereby better visibility.

How are you using this medium to increase conversion rates?

Replicating the Actual Experience on Screen Through Digital Catalogs

The success of many enterprises depends on their ability to sell an experience rather than the actual product. This can be done through digital catalogs. In many cases, the actual product would be standard and undifferentiated among the many providers, and businesses would have to compete on providing their customers with a better experience.

Country Walker's online catalog by ZmagsDigital catalogs provide a good way to offer an interactive and engaging experience. Overlaying the dynamism provided by the catalog atop the functionality and the rich media of emerging digital touch points such as the tablets brings to life the content on offer, and is a marked improvement from the experience offered by other channels such as the print catalog, a bland PDF page or even the conventional browser based website.

Country Walkers, an adventure travel company offering itineraries around the world, is a case in point. The success of this company’s online marketing efforts depends on its ability to sell the “experiences” such as guided walking, safaris, biking tours and others rather than the basic tour products such as flights and hotel that anyone can match.

Country Walker’s online catalog, powered by Zmags Professional, engages adventure seekers who search for trips online with invigorating photography, videos, sights and sounds featuring activities, scenery, on-site interviews, cuisine and more, offering a near replica of the actual experience.

The underlying analytics provides rich insights on consumer behavior and trends, allowing the company to fine-tune their strategy. Analytics reveal that visitors to the catalog spend more time and have lower bounce rates compared to the company’s website.

Digital catalogs allow marketers to mesmerize the viewers by transforming a replica of the actual experience to the screen. This however is not the end of the marketer’s job. The marketer also has to ensure that the consumers have easy and seamless access to such content. The ZMags Professional powered Country Walkers catalog, for instance, is embedded into the brand page on Facebook, allowing the brand’s Facebook fans easy and convenient access without having to leave Facebook.

Overall, they’re doing a great job of creating a consistent experience for their customer through digital catalogs.

Enhancing the Brand Experience Through Online Magazines

Many brands understand the importance of digital presence and invest much effort in their online magazines. However, such efforts do not yield any perceptible results to either the bottom line or the brand image without a sizable readership base. To attract people to their digital magazine, merely replicating the print version of the magazine into a digital format and providing some hyperlinks are not enough.

Audi Denmark digital catalogToday’s customers are more demanding and seek to make informed decisions. They not only look out for an enhanced digital experience that would make their quest easy and seamless, but also require high level of access and in-depth information.

To provide a positive experience that would attract new consumers and make existing consumers come back, brands need to bring to life the imagery and editorial content of the digital magazine. One way to do so is by making the online magazine interactive and dialogue based. Most online buyers in today’s digital age consider the one-way monologues that characterize the traditional print magazines as drab and a drag on their efforts to seek relevant knowledge fast.

Seamless accessibility of the content across multiple touch points such as iPad and smart phones is a basic requirement. Brands need to go further and ensure easy accessibility and seamless integration with popular channels, especially social media channels such as Facebook, as well.

At the back end, the brand needs to power the online magazine with a powerful analytics engine that would allow them to monitor results and make tweaks based on what viewers prefer in real time.

Today’s consumers are fickle and spoilt for choice. If they do not get the experience they seek for, they waste no time in moving elsewhere. The challenge for the brand is to anticipate what consumers want and provide it upfront, or failing that make amends in double quick time before the consumer gets around to trying someone else.

Audi Denmark applied all of these to good effect using Zmags Professional. Audi launched a new refurbished magazine in November 2010 and embedded the same into Facebook, to provide consumers with an interactive and attractive brand experience through a medium to which they are anyway using. By November 2011, the magazine increased its viewership by a whopping 1500 percent, with three out of every four views coming from Facebook.

How can an online magazine help your brand?