Posts categorized ‘Social Media’

How to Enable Online Consumers to Immerse Themselves in Your Brand

The most memorable and engaging online shopping experiences deliver more than just a simple listing of products. They provide a complete a complete, cross-platform system of content and context to create a compelling story about how those products look or how they can be used in the real world.

Let’s take a look at what you can do to get consumers to immerse themselves in your brand.

Getting Social

Brands go to great lengths to give the same experience to consumers whether in store or browsing through a lookbook online. They give consumers options to share product information through various social media channels and make certain offers available (both in store or online), which enables consumers to feel as though they are a part of your brand.

PartyLite - social

Zmags makes it easy to add social share buttons to your online publications, and even to your product windows so you can give your users the ability to share specific products with their friends and followers.

Bonus Tip: Offer a discount if a purchase is made through your online publication for those consumers who share your publication. 

Getting Visual

The more senses you engage, the greater the chances are that your consumers will purchase a product or products. For example, captivating videos can add a level of engagement and excitement to the shopping experience. Allowing users to see the products in use can really give them the ability to visualize themselves using your brand.

mobile video

Adding video to an online lookbook is quite simple and can add a unique element of engagement within your brand. Longer engagement times in store, on your website and in your online publications increase the chance for purchase or the chance for more purchases.

Bonus Tip: Keep your videos to 30-45 seconds in length, at most. ‘Vine’ style videos (6 seconds on average) are also effective in an online publication setting as well. 

Getting Out

This might sound as if I am contradicting myself given what I have been speaking about so far in this post, but give your users a chance to get out…and by get out, I mean checkout. A seamless check-out process in which consumers don’t have to leave the platform or device they are shopping from to complete their order will delight the customer, as well as increase your rate of completed transactions.

PartyLite - checkout

If you’re users are on a tablet or mobile phone, chances are the publication is taking up the entire screen which means checking out requires an additional step in the process. By adding a checkout button to your publication, you can eliminate that extra step that could be the difference between completing the process and leaving the items in the cart believe it or not. Give your users the chance to get out, and they will most likely look to get back in sooner rather than later.

Bonus Tip: Having the option to continue shopping or check out while your users are in your publication is another great way to give them the options they are looking for. 

Collectively, these features will enable you to deliver a rich, immersive brand experience that is consistent across all digital touchpoints, and give that experience more of a ‘scene’ as opposed to a ‘screen’ feel. How are you enabling your consumers to immerse themselves in your brand?

Social Commerce: What’s Real and What’s Noise?

“Social Commerce” is a phrase-de-jour that gets tossed around a lot in tech and digital marketing circles. It’s exactly like it sounds: the convergence of social media and e-commerce, blending the behaviors associated with both. It seems like an inevitable fit given today’s landscape, but does it hold any weight?

Social Word Map
(photo: WikiMedia Commons)

Let’s be clear what we are focusing on: social media behavior that includes a purchase, OR a purchase process that includes a component of social behavior (commenting, interacting, sharing, etc…)

So what’s truly impactful and what’s just clouding our vision in the digital landscape? It’s hard to tell, but here’s some of what to watch for (and what to avoid) in 2014.

The Noise

For starters, seemingly everything is noise today with social commerce. There are thousands of social commerce apps and sites, but there’s a reason why none of them are becoming household names like Google, Facebook, or Square. While it seems like such a natural fit, it’s still very difficult to capitalize on that fit in a way that will boost revenue.

Likes, favorites, and re-tweets, while exciting for any social media marketer, do not indicate a purchase or increased intent to purchase. These actions require very little of the user, and don’t return much information.

Social action as a whole is considered dubious by some when trying to connect it to dollars and cents. Just consider this: social media drove just 1 percent of all black Friday online sales two weeks ago.

The Signal

Despite doubts about the impact of social action on commerce, opportunities exist for those that take the right approach. Here are a few social networks and strategies to keep an eye on as we move into 2014.

Targeted Facebook Product Displays based on previous behavior offer real opportunity. If you view a product on a brand’s site, you might see that product pop up on your Facebook news feed (as long as your cookies and log-ins are not cleared). Stats suggest that about one third of all conversions occur 30 days after online research began, so feeding them a product page or display that they’ve previously viewed makes sense. This might be more targeted advertising than it is true social commerce, but it can actually move the dial and be effective.


Targeted Photo


Another interesting Facebook tactic is embedding a shoppable publication into that channel or any other channel that makes sense. It’s a great way to first increase viewership and then encourage purchases. Essentially, a catalog, magazine, or lookbook lives on the social network page, retaining all of its functionality of page-flipping, zoom in/out, and add-to-cart. Using social as the “canvas” upon which to present your own digital content allows the user to experience that publication on a channel with which he/she is already comfortable and prefers, increasing the likelihood of engagement and conversion.

Pinterest is another channel presenting an interesting opportunity to link social and commerce. It is a tangible way to link the social “pinning” experience with product & e-commerce infrastructure. Product photos and brand photos can be shared on pinboards while they are linked directly to the product page from which the product can be purchased. So the inspiration happens on Pinterest, and the purchase process is enabled right around the corner. With Pinterest recently opening up its site to e-commerce giants like Zappos and Walmart, the connection looks to be growing stronger moving forward.


Pinterest Capture


Much like a Zmags digital catalog, Pinterest works well for the shopping experience because users (or brands) can build outfits, themes, and collections, crafting the experience for customers in a way that a product page could not.

What does the future hold for social commerce? Considering how hazy the present is, no one should pretend to know exactly where it’s headed. Still, a strategy like embedding shoppable publications into popular social channels and enabling sharing and commenting feels viable moving forward. As does social behavior on Pinterest, with its direct link to product.

Will digital catalogs become more social, or “pin-able” moving forward? At this point, we must not rule anything out. We also must be cautious in declaring the “next big thing!” in social commerce, because there is so much noise around this topic today.

4 Steps to Better Social Commerce

What’s the secret to building a successful commerce channel across Facebook and other social platforms? Well, there’s no secret, really — with the right approach and the right tools, you can quickly build a captivating digital experience for your target audience. Here are four tips to get started:

1. Enable consumers to immerse themselves in your brand.

The best online shopping experiences deliver more than just an index of products.
They provide a complete, cross-platform ecosystem of content and context to create a compelling story about how those products look or how they can be used in the real world. Such an experience will hinge on two characteristics: engaging and seamless:

  • Captive video, dynamic audio effects and clean animations can add a level of excitement to the shopping experience. The ability to customize product views and features such as “buy the collection” buttons can drive more items into the shopping cart. Imagine a customer who says, “I want everything that model is wearing” — and purchases all of the items with a single click.
  • A seamless check-out process, in which consumers don’t have to leave Facebook or whichever platform or device they’re shopping from to complete their order, will not only delight the customer, but also improve the rate of completed transactions, and very likely the return rate as well.

Collectively, these features will enable you to deliver a rich, immersive brand experience that is consistent across all digital touchpoints — more like a scene than a screen.

2. Build a commerce presence where your best customers meet to browse, discover, and share.

Facebook is the largest social network, but certainly not the only one. As a brand, it’s important for your marketing team to identify other platforms that have a large contingent of your target audience and consider setting up storefronts on these platforms. Emerging 
social bookmarking services 
such as Pinterest and The Fancy, 
for example, are gaining large contingents of followers who gather, share (“pin” or “fancy”) and discuss items of common interest.

Encouraging a Pinterest “pin” from your fans on your own “pinboards” will expose your products to a broader audience. Building a community increases brand affinity, and will smooth the path to purchase. By using an experience 
that delights customers and
 engages all of their senses, they
 will be eager to pass their findings
 along to their larger network.

3. Maximize every touch point.

Increasingly, consumers are using multiple types of connected devices throughout the course of their day — and sometimes simultaneously.

Clearly, web browsing and shopping activities are extending more frequently across desktop and mobile devices.  Retailers have yet to catch up with these trends. A 2013 report by the Search Agency states
 that 44 of the Fortune 100 companies still do not have a mobile optimized version of their website. The rest are relying on their standard websites to deliver an “adequate enough” tablet shopping experience.

Tablet Shopping

Adequate enough for whom, however? Shoppers need to be engaged and delighted wherever they are shopping: in a store, online, or through a catalog. The online experience breaks down even further, across platforms (website, social media) and device type (desktop, tablet, smartphone).

To capture the full commerce opportunity — and rise above an increasingly crowded pack of competitors — companies will need to optimize their product catalogs, storefronts and back-end transactional systems for multiple media.

4. Measure the impact of relationships, not fans.

Yesterday’s Facebook metrics were about engagement.
Today’s are about conversion. Tomorrow’s metrics are about relationships (with the brand and with other people).

How will businesses capture this “relationship” metric? Sales is the ultimate measure for social commerce, but there are many elements of consumer behavior that will help you determine the most effective tactics and channels for driving conversations and conversions. Heat map analytics, for example, can help you understand how shoppers respond to all elements of a digital publication — and make adjustments on the fly, across different platforms.

When measuring the impact of social media campaigns, it’s helpful to segment your relationship metrics across four categories: Awareness, Engagement, Acquisition, and Commerce.


In order to ignite social commerce by engaging users in a seamless experience on every touch point, enter our world of products and solutions today.


(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Facebook Like )

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.


The Future of the PC as a Content Source

The August 2012 Abode Digital Index study “How Tablets are Catalyzing Brand Website Engagement” reveals that consumers are showing an increased preference to tablets. The study also highlights the fact that tablets are all set to displace the smart phone as the most popular mobile digital touch point by 2013. Smart phones, however, will continue to increase its share in the total web traffic.

So where does this leave the traditional desktop or laptop?

Browsing online on a PCAs of now, the PC generates the lion’s share of web traffic. As on December 2011, there are six PCs for every tablet, but web traffic through PCs is 19 times greater than web traffic through tablets. For each brand website visit made using a tablet device, there are 3.2 visits made through the desktop or laptop.

Consumers still prefer the PC owing to the larger real estate, convenient access to desktops at work or home, the nascent stage of the tablet app industry as opposed to the all-pervasive nature of web browser and websites, and the limitations of the tablets in accomplishing many tasks that are easier on the desktop.

These inherent advantages of the PC will continue in the near future, and while the tablet and smart phone would nibble away at the PC’s market share, the desktop or laptop would still retain its dominance in the near future.

However, the ability of the tablet (or any other mobile digital touch point) to upstage the traditional PC would depend on:

* Tablets leveraging the cloud to access services that now requires the memory, storage and software of a PC

* Developers adopting HTML5 and other technologies that deliver platform independent solutions. This will provide consistency when accessing content across devices.

* Brands competing to leverage the enhanced functionality and benefits of the tablets to engage with customers better

* Enterprises adopting the tablets in a big way for their routine day to day operations

Regardless of device, you need to have a seamless experience across all touch points.

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?

The Need to Sync Content Across Multiple Devices

In today’s multi-touch point world, the content matters more than the device. People no longer use specific devices to access specific content, but use multiple devices. For instance, they may watch a video or browse a website through the desktop, the tablet or the smart phone. In this scenario, only the content that remains resilient enough to adapt to the multi-touch point world stand a chance of widespread acceptance.

syncing data across multiple devicesOliver & Ohlbaum (O&O)’s annual survey on media consumption trends corroborates this view. The survey reveals that almost half (48%) of all tablet users use the device to watch TV. The corresponding figure last year was 33%.

A bulk of the multi-screen viewership for television is for content strongly linked to apps. 12% of the survey respondents actively use companion apps when watching TV through tablets, and 65% of those who did so felt that it as an engaging way to add value to the TV viewing experience.

However, popular demand is for  free catch-up services rather than subscriber video-on-demand services (SVoD). The former is growing at a rapid pace whereas the growth of the latter has flattened out. The survey also reveals that the three most popular video channels viewed in tablet are BBC’s iPlayer, ITV Player and 4oD in that order. YouTube takes the fourth place.

For marketers and content creators, success depends on not just optimizing the various inherent features of the device to provide a truly immersive and enchanting experience, but also on syncing content across various devices to provide consmers with a consistent and integrated experience.

E-Retailers Made Merry During the Holiday Season

E-retailers expected increased sales during the peak holiday shopping days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and their expectations did come true.

e-retailers statistics 2012Among the top performers during the just concluded holiday season was CVS Caremark Corp, who recorded a 30% increase in traffic compared to the 2011 holiday season. Mobile commerce through tablets and smart phones accounted for a significant chunk of this increase, as evident from the 300% growth this segment enjoyed compared to the 2011 holiday season.

Many retailers wound up with more mobile traffic than expected. American Apparel Inc., for instance anticipated four times the mobile traffic from Cyber Monday 2011 and actually ended up with 20 times more traffic from tablets and smart phones.

Apart from the obvious reason of customers wanting to shop in comfort of their homes, avoiding holiday crowds at the streets and the brick and mortar shops, what made mobile ecommerce succeed this shopping season was many online retailers offering online only discounts.

The range of discounts offered by many online realtors this time extended to innovative and imaginative promotions that invoked the curiosity of the customers. This included, among other promotions, mobile-only “door buster” discounts early morning, “mispriced mystery products” that allowed shoppers to go on a treasure hunt, “FreeFall” offers where customers could buy as much as they wanted for a limited time frame during which time the prices kept on dropping. Many retailers also went aggressive with referral programs, offering gift coupons and discount vouchers to their customers who persuaded non-members to register and purchase from the e-retailer.

The increasing use of tablets for shopping also has a significant impact on when people did their shopping. The bulk of the mobile shopping was in the evening, and with mobile sales now a significant chunk of the total sales, the overall peak shopping period during this holiday season was between 8 P.M. and 11 P.M.

Overall, if you’re a retailer, you need to become an e-retailer to really compete in the space.

Why Marketers are Providing Video-Based Content

Video consumption has soared over the past couple years. Comscore reports that as on April 2012, almost 85% of the US audience has viewed an online video. A standard adult viewer watches 21.8 hours of video a month on an average, and this is double the corresponding figure in 2010.

Video-based content in digital magazineThe 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 reveals 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 has made marketers sit up and take notice. The Social Media Examiner reports that 76% of all marketers plan to increase the pace of video in their marketing plans in 2012. This is likely to yield good results, while the Internet Retailer reports that 85% of the prospects who view product videos would most likely make the purchase. Those who view video are 174% more likely to make a purchase versus those who do not watch videos.

Videos provide the most appropriate engagement medium for those who prefer visual or audible communications over written or verbal communications. These people constitute about 60 to 70% 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.