Posts categorized ‘Strategy’

Life of a Retailer: Examining the Schedule of a Retail Publisher (Part I)

The holiday sales have come and gone, the after-holiday returns and exchanges have been made, and now retailers have a few months to catch their collective breath before diving into the next big promotional period…right?

It may come to a surprise to many, but retailers actually never get a break when it comes to producing the next publication or planning for a promotion that is months away. For certain promotions and seasons, the planning starts three, four, even six months out in some cases.

In part I of this two part series on a ‘Schedule of a Retail Publisher’, we’ll take a deeper look into the schedule of a retail publisher and how the production of digital magazines fits into the schedule. (Note: This is not an exact schedule for all retailers.)

The Good Guys Catalog 140114


During the early part of the year, retailers are assessing the holiday season – did they hit their sales target, how did their promotions perform, were their catalogs effective, and so on. However, there is no rest for the weary as discussions surrounding this Summer’s look and feel begin to happen.

While all the products might not yet be available on a retailer’s eCommerce site just yet, it’s still a good a good idea to start planning the layout of your digital magazine. Pre-planning a layout can help retailers determine what products they want to feature and how they want to tell their brands story.


There is quite a bit that starts happening in March. The Spring fashions preview comes out indoor/outdoor décor ideas come to light, and retailers start gearing up for an Easter push. In April, the Spring clean up and home improvement products start getting added to weekly flyers and circulars, Mother’s day is no longer an afterthought and the Spring apparel season is in full swing!

With the constant change in products on a weekly basis, retailers are under immense pressure to plan and produce their flyers and circulars. Zmags’ Publicator tool makes it possible for retailers to easily upload and produce their online catalogs with ease and efficiency.

PartyLite Catalog 131219


As retailers approach the half-way point in the year (sounds scary, but it comes up on us rather quickly), May serves as yet another busy month with the Spring season coming to a close, the focus on Summer starts to take shape, Father’s Day is right around the corner as well as High School and College graduations, and 4th of July discussions begin a this time as well.

Weekly flyers and circulars still play a huge part in these final two months of the first half of the year, but leading into June the…wait for it…holiday planning starts. Yes, I said holiday planning. It may sound like it’s too early to start planning the publications and promotions, however since the holiday sales last so long and are the most important to many retailers revenue for the year, the focus and planning needed takes time.

Some of Zmags clients start uploading mockups of their online catalogs and lookbooks to determine if visually they layout and structure make sense within a Zmag. Linking and overall production will not start at this time, but having the ability to see your publication structure in the format in which it will be distributed is extremely beneficial for retailers.


As you can see, there is no real ‘lull’ time for retailers. Being strategic and proactive can save time and money in the end, and with the retail environment being so competitive, it’s critical for retailers to get a jump on the competition. As a retailer, how are you being proactive with your online catalog strategy?

Keep an eye out for Part II of this series where we will discuss the second half of the year in the life of a retailer. 

Zmags HTML5 Viewer – A Speedy Vision for the Future

HTML5 has become increasingly important in cross-platform deployment of digital shopping experiences. Sure, you can see a published experience on an iPad, an Android phone, and a desktop computer; however, some of these devices cannot run Flash! With the ever-rising use of smartphones and tablets, this could eventually cause an issue for retailers trying to connect with their users through those channels.

Multi Device Branding


Foreseeing the issue and anticipating a movement well in advance, Zmags quickly worked ahead of this industry and consumer-driven trend of transitioning from Flash to HTML5 based web-experiences and shopping. And now, we are excited to announce that our HTML5 viewer for Zmag Publications now loads faster than our Flash viewer!



The Zmags HTML5 viewer allows for consistency when communicating your brand image (regardless of device), has a robust iFrame widget to bring HTML5 animations and webpages into your shopping experience. It also has a full and robust API to embed your experience with your existing web infrastructure, making it quicker and easier for you to publish your digital catalog or lookbook.

As more and more consumers view & shop for products on tablet/mobile devices, as well as upgrade to modern browsers, we believe this is an important step forward for the Zmags platform for our customers! I’m sure at this point you’re thinking, “Well, how fast is it.” Try it for yourself and experience the future of digital shopping experiences.

Photo Credit: WikiMedia Commons )

Placement Strategy for Optimal Digital Catalog Viewership

“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”  -Walt Disney


Tablet UseAs with any project, online content is only as good as the number of users that it reaches and the impact that is has on those users. It’s not just about engaging, inspiring content (though that’s a good start). It’s about ensuring that all of your efforts are easy to find and use.  The promotion and placement of any online content will significantly impact results.

The beauty of an online catalog, or any online Publication, is that you can guide end users through a linear experience from a single webpage.

When it comes to placement, there are a few best practices to follow:

  • Embed the Publication into a significant page on your website.  For recurring publications use the same page and use something that is easy to identify with.
  • Drive traffic to that page from banners, campaigns and promotions.
  • Talk about the Publication on social sites.  Pages can be deep linked so a single piece of content can be used for multiple talking points.
  • Move from offline to online.  Anything offline can be directed to online – use a QR code, online promotions or offline content to drive traffic online (where it can be measured).
  • Use inspirational search engine tags.  If your consumer needs or wants something specific, tag your page accordingly and they will find that page – use open SEO tags to drive those looking for inspiration, guidance,  or just browsing to the online Publication.
  • Keep the end user entertained.  Once you capture the attention of your end user use rich media and animation to drive read-through rates.  HTML5 animations and videos are great for reducing bounce rates and increasing engagement time.

Website Placement:

  • Current online Publications drive higher site engagement time, and they should be front and centre.  An online Catalog/Publication embedded in a homepage is far more interactive and effective than a banner – tell a story that can be shopped from or interacted with. The North Face do this well when navigating the Holiday Tab on the homepage.
  • Existing Publications should be accessible – creating archive pages works really well and gives instant access for potential, new, and old customers.  Here is a nice example by Robert Allen.

Browsing online content might not convert immediately or be directly measurable, but what it will do is increase time with your brand.  Much like walking around a shop and not buying, an online experience is developing time with your brand and fostering loyalty.  Catalogs and online Publications house content that has the potential to drive brand loyalty – but proper placement will deliver on that potential.


(Photo Credit: Flickr )

Q3 Digital Catalog/Magazine Benchmark Report

As digital catalogs, lookbooks, and interactive experiences as a whole are becoming more critical to a brand’s overall content marketing strategy, it is becoming more and more important to track and evaluate the performance of these experiences.

To help you get started, Zmags publishes a quarterly benchmarking report compiled from the performance data of thousands of our customer’s digital experiences – both commerce enabled catalogs and non-commerce enabled catalogs.

Webinar Graphic

Our Digital Catalog/Magazine Benchmark Report, which will be featured in an upcoming webinar,  allows you to compare your interactive catalog or magazine’s performance to thousands of others in and outside of your industry.

Some of these important key performance metrics include:

Brand engagement: visit duration, page views, and boucne rates
Total reach: visit levels overall by mobile device
Commerce: ecommerce conversion rates and average order sizes
Impact on website: share of visits and revenue driven by shoppable online catalogs

Join us on Thursday, Dec. 5th for an exclusive look at our most recent report that covers digital experiences published in Q3 of 2013.  Our upcoming report will also include a deeper dive into the performance metrics of the automotive and education industries.

So, if you haven’t registered already, sign up now to reserve your seat!   We’ll be reviewing the results at two convenient times, 9:00am ET and 12:00am ET. We hope you don’t miss out!

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


Homepage Optimization Tips from Percussion Software

Zmags is honored to feature today’s guest post by Alexis Karlin. Alexis is the Digital Marketing & Operations Manager for Percussion Software where she uses her digital marketing techniques to help drive high quality leads to the sales team. Percussion Software is a Zmags Partner.


I don’t need to tell you that your homepage is the most essential asset to your entire marketing strategy. But the truth is, sometimes marketers forget. Why?

We are busy, right?! Well, it’s time to buck up, take the bull by the horns and learn some tips on how to optimize your homepage. This will help you grow your search engine rankings, convert better targeted leads, and generate brand awareness.

Here are a few simple things you can do to help optimize your homepage:

Conduct Keyword Research

Using Google’s keyword research tool, spend some time researching the top 5 keywords you want people to use to find your homepage. Don’t select keywords that are competitively too high or too low. Select keywords that are right in the middle, to obtain a good amount of targeted traffic. From here, work on incorporating these keywords onto your homepage. Implement a few of these keywords into your meta-description, meta-tags, and Title tag. And finally, make sure that the most important keywords are referenced through the use of an H1 tag on the homepage.

Keyword Tool


Review Your Image Alt Tags

Not only is it important to spend time reviewing and improving the alt tags of all images on your homepage, but make sure those 5 keywords are used in your images’ alt text. Also try to keep the size of your images small so the load time doesn’t kill your homepage load time.

Incorporate Social Sharing

Lately social is becoming more and more important to search engine optimization. Make it possible for visitors to share your website by implementing Add This icons. Please note this should be in a visible location so the user doesn’t have to spend time searching for the icons.

Provide a Clear Call to Action

A clear call to action is just as important as conducting keyword research and implementing SEO throughout your website. There really isn’t a reason to spend all of your time doing keyword research and implementing SEO, if you don’t allow your visitors to easily convert to a lead or customer on your website.

Do you have any tips of what has worked for your homepage? If so, feel free to add them to the comments section below or message me on Twitter, @akarlin.

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!)


Zmags Gives Back to Boston Community Through Greater Boston Food Bank

Here at Zmags, we are an organization built around teamwork. It’s no secret that we collaborate every day to help our clients win, but it might be lesser known that our teamwork also extends outside of the office as part of our commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility.

When our Boston team began thinking of ways that we could make a social impact, we decided that the best place to start was in our own back yard. According to the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB), one in nine people in eastern Massachusetts is food insecure, meaning that they have had to choose between buying food or paying for heat, rent or even medical care.

With that heartbreaking statistic in mind, our Boston office held a canned food drive for the GBFB to help them meet their goal of providing one meal each day to those who need it in eastern Massachusetts. This week, Zmags delivered our collected canned goods to the GBFB, which provided 482 meals for those in need.  While this is only a drop in the bucket, every contribution counts.  We are proud that our employees support local charities.

corporate social responsibility

The Greater Boston Food Bank depends on food drives, financial contributions, and volunteers. To find out how you can help, please visit their website at

As part of our continued Corporate Social Responsibility efforts, our Boston office will be running the 2013 Boston J.P Morgan Corporate Challenge in June which benefits the City Spotlights Summer Leadership Program and The Emerald Necklace Conservancy.   In addition, we are planning corporate volunteer days for each of our offices to participate in local community service projects.

Stay tuned!

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.

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.