5 Reasons to Ditch Your PDF Catalog… Sorta

People often ask how using Dirxion to publish a digital catalog is different from publishing a PDF. The answer is: Dirxion is beyond a PDF. 

PDFs are useful for some things, but it’s important to understand their limitations. 

Introduced in 1993, Adobe and the PDF (Portable Document Format) revolutionized the way we view and share documents. Today, the PDF is still a widely popular format for distributing read-only documents in a way that preserves the overall layout of the page. 

But is the PDF the best format to use for publishing your catalog online?

PDF is about displaying content. HTML5 is about interacting with content. Imagine window shopping versus stepping inside and holding a product. 

In this post, we evaluate the differences between a PDF catalog and a Dirxion catalog to help you determine if it’s time to upgrade your catalog.

What PDFs do well

PDFs continue to serve as a trusted, easy-to-create file type. Anything from spreadsheets to photo albums to scanned receipts can be saved in PDF format.

Conformity and Reliability: A PDF stores every detail and piece of formatting within the file itself, including spacing, pictures and fonts. This removes one of the largest obstacles to sharing documents, as most other types of files require the document recipients to already have the proper fonts installed and may lose formatting when they are opened in a different program. PDFs appear the same on any device that reads them, including Windows, Mac OS and mobile devices.

Lock-Down: Adobe Reader, the free program created by Adobe to open PDF documents, cannot edit the file. Reader allows users to fill out forms in PDFs, but they can’t change any existing text or formatting without help from a specialized application.

Safe and Secure: PDF increases the security and confidentiality of the entire document by using applications such as watermarks, passwords or digital signatures.

Copy/Paste: Native PDFs are flexible in that you can copy information, such as text, and paste it elsewhere.

Indexable: PDF files that contain good content and are available on websites can be made visible in search engines. 

What PDFs don’t do well

PDFs make it easier for people to distribute documents without the need to print them. But it doesn’t come without its drawbacks.

File size: While it’s possible to convert just about any file into a PDF without sacrificing quality, something the size of a catalog cannot be easily sent through email without bogging down servers and filling work email inboxes.

Single URL (bad for SEO): A catalog PDF can contain hundreds of pages, but even a single lengthy yet content-rich PDF file will be equal to one URL in the eyes of the search engine. So, while a search engine result might display a PDF catalog, the user would have to start at the front page and work their way to the page where they thought that product exists. 

Dirxion’s HTML5-based catalogs are developed to be crawled and indexed, page-by-page, by search engines. An HTML5 search result would take the user to the most relevant page of an HTML5-based catalog where that product exists without forcing the user to start at the beginning of the catalog.

Absence of any Tracking Mechanism: In the general sense, tracking stats like open rate cannot be applied to PDF files. Downloads of that PDF from your website can be tracked through programs like Google Analytics. But you won’t learn anything about your reader’s interest and purchasing behavior, how they move around within your PDF once downloaded.

Enter Dirxion.

Where PDFs lag, Dirxion picks up the slack, taking the best of the PDF and making it a richer online experience.

Unlike browsable PDFs or even digital flipbooks, which lack interactive capabilities and responsiveness, Dirxion transforms your existing PDF files to an HTML5-based online publication that has the look and feel of a real, page-turning publication along with some additional features that aren’t available with a stand-alone PDF catalog.

Using HTML5 (Hyper Text Markup Language) technology, your digital catalog will work in all modern browsers and devices, regardless of screen size. 

HTML5 enables Dirxion to enhance the user and/or shopping experience. Components can be added to an HTML5 catalog to better promote the items on the page to encourage purchasing. HTML5 catalogs can house functionality like video, audio, and button rollover functionality, making the user interaction a favorable experience.

With Dirxion, you can even publish your catalog in the Google Play and Apple iTunes stores to reach a broader audience and push notifications to your customers.

If you’re still unsure why your PDF catalog is no longer getting noticed, here are five ways Dirxion improves digital catalogs beyond a PDF:

Dirxion’s Bookshelf feature
  1. Easy content navigation: Many of our clients have product catalogs that are hundreds, even thousands, of pages long each.

    Dirxion’s catalog software uses three features to improve content navigation within each catalog as well as the complete library:

    Bookshelf: Present your content marketing in a multi-publication interface equipped with advanced search features like language filters and cross-publication search.

    Tear Pages: Enable sales and marketing teams to select and create their own custom collections and presentations with your print pages.

    Product search: Use our robust search feature to search for something specific, either within the catalog or within the entire bookshelf.
Brandon Mitchener from Dirxion touches on accessibility and ADA compliance.
  1. Accessibility: Making a digital catalog that is accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities, is important and more visible than ever. Not all digital catalog solutions get this part right, so it’s important to evaluate this carefully to avoid a lawsuit.

    Dirxion adheres to W3C and WCAG recommendations, while many in the industry are slow to adapt, favoring complacency over compliance. In fact, many catalog solutions on the market today still do not pass ADA requirements.
  1. Search engine visibility: With a fully-digital catalog solution, your content can be easily searched by Google and found by your customers. Customize keywords, extract the text of the PDF, and adapt page titles to maximize search engine visibility.

    Dirxion’s HTML5-based catalogs are developed to be crawled and indexed, page-by-page, by search engines. An HTML5 search result would take the user to the most relevant page of an HTML5-based catalog where that product exists without forcing the user to start at the beginning of the catalog.

    Although the publication is hosted outside your website, data shows that off-site SEO-related factors likely carry more than 50% of the ranking factor weight. And the backlinks found in your Dirxion-hosted publication pointing back to your website are healthy for your site’s SEO.
  1. Easier to share: Integrate your digital catalog directly into your website, blog or email campaign or easily share your catalog on social media to boost reach.
  1. Deep analytics tracking: PDFs lack the ability to collect data about your users and you won’t be able to measure specific actions like click rates or read-time. But each Dirxion online catalog is supported with Google Analytics, and customers can provide tracking codes from their own analytics platforms to compile transparent and comprehensive results. This tells an ROI and conversion story that won’t let you down.

As you can see, your PDF catalog is the starting point to creating a digital catalog that provides an amazing experience for your customers and delivers profitable ROI.

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Search engine optimization helps e-commerce websites meet their goals

Search engine optimization (SEO) has become increasingly important for e-commerce businesses as a method of increasing organic growth and traffic to their site. SEO, as described by Search Engine Land, is “the process of getting traffic from the ‘free,’ ‘organic,’ ‘editorial’ or ‘natural’ search results on search engines.” SEO is seen as an alternative method from paid online advertising that delivers a higher return on investment.

Every search engine uses web crawlers to scan websites and determine the contents of the site. This information is used to rank websites based on user preferences. In a video produced by Search Engine Land, the process is explained within a library analogy. If search engines are a library containing all of the world’s knowledge, they need a system to determine which books (websites) are important to readers and answer all their questions. SEO is the process of a website including aspects that best meet a search engine algorithm’s requirements.

Google and other major search engines have made the SEO market more competitive over the years, in order to increase the value of achieving a high-ranking website. They sometimes make decisions as subtle as decreasing the number of organic blue links displayed from 10 to 8.5 on average in 2016,according to Searchmetrics. However, ranking highly on Google has become increasingly competitive due to their growing share of the search engine market. As of 2016, Google accounts for 76 percent of global desktop search traffic whereas Bing, Baidu and Yahoo make up for 22.5 percent of the market combined, according to NetMarketShare.

All major search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo have primary search results where web pages and other content such as videos or local listings are shown and ranked based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users. — Search Engine Land

E-commerce websites benefit especially from SEO by driving organic traffic to their sites, increasing the probability that certain key performance indicators are met. The return on investment for SEO is higher than purchasing an ad campaign through Google AdWord, AdSense or online advertising space purchased on specific websites. Still, EMarketer forecasts estimated U.S. digital ad spending reached $72 billion in 2016. By prioritizing SEO, businesses are meeting the search needs of consumers and increasing the probability of higher traffic without having to overly spend on advertising.

Dirxion online catalogs offer SEO guide pages that involves a process of indexing every page of the printed catalog. This practice helps boost the overall SEO of the online catalogs site, as well as increase the likelihood of someone finding a catalog page when searching for specific products. Such is the case for Dirxion customer Aviall, whose online catalog pages can be found on search engines like Google and whose primary site (catalogs.aviall.com) shows up at the top of Google when searching for “aviall catalog” or similar terms.

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B2B spending on online advertising expected to rise in 2018

Estimates from eMarketer calculate B2B companies spent $4.07 billion on online advertising in 2017. In 2018, the spending is expected to increase 13 percent to 4.6 billion. Across the board, companies are pouring more money into technologies that allow them to place advertisements where their customers are. While traditional media still has a place in advertising, consumers have transitioned an increasing portion on their lives online and businesses have followed.

While the 13 percent increase in online advertising spending is in the double digits, 2018’s predicted spending growth is the lowest in recent history. The percent change in spending from 2014 to 2015 was the largest with 19.7 percent. However, the B2B industry has maintained an online advertising spending growth of roughly 16 percent since 2013.

US Digital B2B Ad Spending 2013-2018











When compartmentalized by technology, desktops/laptops and mobile have similar shares of the online advertising spending from U.S. B2B businesses. According to a study conducted by eMarketer, desktops and laptops took up $2.54 billion whereas spending for mobile devices was $1.53 billion. When analyzing B2B online advertisement buying budgets, AdWeek discovered they’ve grown by 111 percent over the last five years.

However, while online advertising has had double digit growth for years, many B2B businesses still prefer other traditional and time-tested methods of advertisement. Ytel, a communications company, conducted a survey which asked 2,000 B2B businesses their preferred outreach tool.

Online advertising was the least popular answer tied with direct mail at 7 percent each. Email was the most popular answer with 39 percent.

Dirxion online catalogs give B2B businesses another avenue in an omnichannel marketing approach and allows them to capitalize on the rise of the B2B e-commerce market. For B2B businesses with many catalogs spanning multiple departments of their company, Dirxion’s bookshelf feature organizes the individual catalogs on a central landing page and integrates cross-catalog searching. Existing e-commerce platforms can be integrated into the catalog or B2B businesses can employ the Dirxion order form feature to generate a request for a quote.

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Retailers who developed an omnichannel strategy thrived in 2017

Many retail businesses experienced growing pains due to the market’s shift towards e-commerce and the omnichannel shopping experience. Some businesses are facing massive closures and potential bankruptcy. Many others, however, thrived through 2017 and can expect success in the months ahead.

The holiday season provided an indiction for many market analysts which retailers would survive well into 2018 and which would fall. For instance, Sears and Kmart both saw sales drop somewhere between 16 and 17 percent while announcing plans to make multiple cuts worth $200 million in the near future, according to CNN. The company accrued up to $10.4 billion in losses since 2014 and currently has 1,400 stores.

Many market analysts and those within the company feel as if Sears may not make it through the year before declaring bankruptcy. But multiple legacy retailers have already done so in markets that traditionally thrived in brick-and-mortar locations. For instance, Toys R Us declared bankruptcy in September of last year and Payless ShoeSource Inc. did so in April.


Other retailers haven’t fallen to the same fate as companies like Sears and Toys R Us. Target, who may be within Amazon’s sights, saw sales from November to December rise above expected levels to 3.4 percent. In addition, Target’s online sales grew by 25 percent. The company has a new focus on e-commerce as they purchased Shipt in December to bring same-day delivery to a majority of their stores by this year’s holiday shopping season.

“We will also remain focused on rapidly scaling up new fulfillment options including Same Day Delivery, which will be enabled by our acquisition of Shipt, and our recently launched Drive Up service.”
Brian Cornell, CEO and chairman of Target Corp.

New technology and business methods have allowed many companies to create an optimal omnichannel shopping experience for customers while at the same time boosting sales. Walmart recently built online order kiosks in some of their stores which allows customers to pick up their online orders in-store. Mobile payment options have also been popular for many retailers and customers alike. The platforms allow customers to pay for their products in-store from their phone. By capitalizing on the rise of m-commerce, retailers have put preference into the hands of the consumers to make payments in the method of their choice.

Many companies are attempting to reach the same destination: a complete and comprehensive omnichannel for their customers. But such a business model isn’t exclusive to large corporations. Dirxion online catalogs give both retail and B2B companies a tool to create an omni channel approach for their businesses and aids any e-commerce operation. Both versatile and optimized with HTML5, Dirxion online catalogs ensure cross-platform and multi-browser performance standards are met.

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Email, aided by online catalogs, can be an effective advertising tool

Consumers have made their mobile devices a more integral part of their daily lives, using them at higher frequencies for a wider variety of tasks. Plenty of data has been collected which established a connection between higher smartphone usage across the globe and the proliferation of m-commerce. As a side effect, consumers have taken other services and shown an interest in taking them mobile.

Email has seen one of the biggest changes as consumer are becoming more mobile-friendly. In 2012, 29 percent of emails were opened on a mobile device, according to eMarketer, with desktop and webmail collecting 34 and 37 percent respectively. In 2017, 55 percent of emails were opened on a mobile device as compared to 28 percent on webmail services and 16 percent on desktop.

In 2016, there were an estimated 238 million email users in the United States, according to Statista. In a different set of data, the United States is tied for second in weekly mobile email access rate globally alongside Italy and Japan. The data indicates 65 percent of mobile users in the U.S. accessed their email through a mobile device on a weekly device. Which means roughly 154 million users in the U.S. checked their email on a mobile device on a weekly device in 2016.

Email marketing has become a popular method of engagement for many companies. In many instances, email marketing provides a direct avenue to customers via highly-visible push notifications. According to data from Statista, 48 percent of companies surveyed indicated they planned to expand spending on email marketing in 2017. The same amount of respondents said they plan on maintaining their current email marketing budget while only 2 percent planned on decreasing.

Marketing SpendingThree-quarters of companies agree that email offers “excellent” to “good” ROI, according to a 2016 survey from Econsultancy. Dirxion online catalogs can aid a business’s email marketing strategies as the familiar layouts and designs give a campaign an additional layer of depth and interactivity. Printing and shipping charges are eliminated with Dirxion’s services, which give businesses a new and engaging method to attract customers.

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Confidence returns to mobile application market followed by sales boom

More companies might compete against online advertising duopoly

Google and Facebook have long held a dominant share in the online advertising market. The two companies have some of the largest user bases in the world. Google now processes over 2 trillion searches per year and Facebook passed 2 billion monthly active users earlier in 2017, according to Statista.

But many ad buyers see that large user base as a disadvantage. Both companies dealt with controversy surrounding how advertisements are managed on certain sites and daughter companies. In response, many customers have adjusted their advertisement buying strategies. Many companies outside of the duopoly are seeing their revenue growing year-over-year.

Google and Facebook still account for 63 percent of all U.S. digital ad revenue. Of the remaining revenue, companies such as Microsoft and Oath claim nearly 12 and 11 percent respectively, according to eMarketer. Looking at the same piece of data, it’s apparent the majority of companies tracked by eMarketer have experienced some sort of growth in the share of online advertising revenue. For instance, Snapchat had a 0.2 percent share in 2015 which is expected to grow to 6 percent by 2019.

Amazon has also recently made a push into the online advertising market. Estimates from eMarketer predict Amazon currently holds a 7.3 percent revenue share of companies outside of the duopoly and is expected to reach 9.3 percent by 2019.

US Digital Ad Revenue










Reports from CNBC allude to Amazon making expansions on both their e-commerce searches and video services. EMarketer estimates Amazon is the 5th largest online advertiser in terms of revenue, right below Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Verizon.

Amazon currently allows businesses to promote their products in related searches but hopes to eventually give advertisers better data to allow for more precise demographic targeting. Outside of paid promotion search results, Amazon is exploring mobile advertisements, video advertising and their newly-released “Transparent Ad Marketplace” which allows customers to bid on ad space across the web.

“Amazon likes to talk about how 56 percent of product searches are coming through Amazon. It’s definitely a stat that causes advertisers to stand up.” –Diana Gordon, senior partner at Mindshare.

For e-commerce businesses, growing their websites through organic traffic is sustainable in the long-run, cuts costs that would be used to purchase advertising space and raises traffic at a higher rate than a PPC program would. Dirxion online catalogs offer SEO guide pages that involves indexing every page of the printed catalog. This practice helps boost the overall SEO of the online catalogs site. In addition, Dirxion online catalogs offer a variation of ad platform services for customers through widgets. The widgets, which come in a variation of sizes and implementations, can be either integrated into an existing advertising program or the customer can sell space directly to customers without having to use an external advertising service.

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Post-holiday shopping breaks records in retail and e-commerce

With the holiday season having concluded, market analysts can now look at the data as a whole in order to make predictions for both the next holiday season as well as e-commerce in 2018. While pre-Christmas sales surpassed expectations, both physical retail locations and e-commerce sites saw increases in traffic and revenue. According to data from Salesforce, Dec. 26 saw a 19 percent increase in traffic, 5 percent higher than the year before.

Retailers are seeing the beginnings of a new trend arising. Many Americans now utilize the day after Christmas to shop while still on break from work. During what was previously known as a “retail lag” in which stores would attempt to get rid of outdated inventory, stores are now flooded with post-holiday shoppers. 40 percent of consumers shopped the day after Christmas, according to a survey from Deloitte.

“This week has, over the years, been gradually assuming more and more importance in the overall mix. Retailers want to get a second bite at the apple.”
– Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners

E-commerce continued to outpace retail in volume and growth. Amazon recently announced over 4 million consumers started a free trial or began paying for an Amazon Prime subscription in one week alone during the holiday season, as reported by Digital Commerce 360.

There was an unexpected rise in traffic during the New Year’s as well. For instance, e-commerce traffic across the top 25 retailers in the U.S. rose by 15 percent on New Year’s Eve and 32 percent on New Year’s Day, according to data from Verizon Communications Inc.

However, e-commerce and physical retail locations have shifted into a mutualistic relationship of sorts. Many consumers use physical retail locations to make returns on items that were purchased online. For instance, Kohls began accepting returns of certain Amazon items at 82 of their stores.

Christmas Returns


Dirxion online catalogs offer businesses the ability to tap into shopping trends and habits during both the holiday season and throughout the year. Dirxion online catalogs also serve as a complementary product to any e-commerce operation. Both versatile and optimized with HTML5, Dirxion online catalogs ensure cross-platform and multi-browser performance standards are met.

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E-commerce giant Amazon may set its eyes on Target

Ulta Beauty’s e-commerce continues to grow

Ulta Beauty’s investment in their e-commerce platform paid off. Earlier this year, it was reported the beauty salon company’s total traffic to their website increased by 74 percent with a 104 percent increase in mobile traffic alone. The result: Ulta Beauty’s online sales for Q3 rose by 62.8 percent from the same point last year. Online accounted for nearly 9 percent of all sales for the quarter.

Ulta Ad

Improvements in the company’s supply chain lead to a 10 percent cost reduction to complete each online order, according to CEO Mary Dillon on an earnings call. Such improvements lead to the expansion of other programs, such “store to door” which allows customers to order items to be delivered to their house at no extra cost if they can’t find it in-store.

“We rolled out this capability chainwide at the end of the third quarter, and while this initiative is still fairly small in terms of demand, it’s proving quite useful and satisfying guests looking for hot brands that are not available in every store, such as MAC or Morphe,” – Mary Dillon, CEO of Ulta Beauty

M-commerce continues to be a focus of Ulta Beauty’s expansion efforts. Having re-launched their mobile application in Q3, the company saw their mobile traffic increase by 92 percent year-over-year. Ulta Beauty’s mobile app has been downloaded over 4.4 million times and has an average 4.8 stars out of 5 across the Google Play and iTunes stores.

Dirxion has partnered with Ulta Beauty to provide the company with new avenues to connect to their customers. This is done by utilizing Dirxion’s integration technologies and e-flyers within Ulta’s mobile applications. The e-flyer gives customers a new way to browse and purchase Ulta’s products in a format that can be sent to their customers at anytime from anywhere. This format also increases the efficiency in which Ulta can interact with and extend new deals to their customers. Integrated into their Google Play and Apple iTunes store applications, Ulta’s e-flyers receive a high level of exposure to their mobile customers.

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