Design influences consumer decisions, important for online catalogs

In the highly competitive online shopping market, large corporations have made high-quality web design an industry standard. Because of the connected nature of the Internet, consumers are more likely to switch to a competitor if their preferred brand has a subpar web experience.

This is especially true for the younger, technologically-driven consumer who has become accustomed to a certain level of branding and company experience. These consumers are also vocal about their brand experiences to their social groups. According to a Forbes article, “(Young consumers) review, blog and Tumblr, update Wikipedia entries and post Youtube, Vine and Instagram videos. Often these posts concern their consumption activities, interests and aspirations.”

According to three studies conducted by Taylor & Francis Online, consumers take 50 milliseconds to form an opinion about a website. Within that time frame, consumers ask certain questions, such as “Who is this?” and “Am I in the right place?” Brand consistency across platforms factor into consumer decisions as well. An article on Crowdspring, a digital marketplace for creative services, outlined how Apple uses certain principles of design across multiple platforms to achieve brand consistency. Adobe’s 2015 State of Content report supports this claim by discovering 66 percent of web users would rather view something beautifully designed as opposed to something simple and plain.

Consumers also have what’s known as an “attractiveness bias” in which beautiful things are considered better. Beautiful things are also considered to be more functional, whether or not that’s actually the truth. With all things considered and equal, attractiveness of a design takes precedence for consumers over everything else. The article published by Crowdspringexplains creating an attractive experience and using design principles across all platforms and experiences can help businesses separate themselves from their competitors.

Top companies are leading with design. Others that aren’t willing to invest in design because they think it can’t be measured or tied to ROI will fall behind. — John Maeda, design partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

The appeal of good design transcends generational gaps. According to MarketingCharts, 80 percent of members of Generation Z and Millennials agree it’s important for businesses to focus on good design as compared to members of Generation X (87 percent) and Baby Boomers (84 percent).

In all touch points for consumer interaction, its important for businesses to remain on brand or risk potentially losing customer trust. Dirxion online catalogs have customized capabilities, which allow toolbars and navigational features within the catalog to match brand messaging. Additionally, Dirxion’s name or logo appears nowhere within the catalog, the navigation tools or the URL. Doing so eliminates the risk of consumers questioning the credibility of the catalog or wondering if they’ve ended in the correct website.

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Ulta Beauty showcases CRM, e-commerce strategy at conference

Dirxion customer Ulta Beauty spoke at the annual CRM Conference in Chicago earlier last week,as reported by TotalRetail. Ulta Beauty’s SVP of Marketing Strategy Eric Messerschmidt spoke on the company’s CRM and e-commerce strategies and how they increase customer loyalty.

The presentation focused on how retail businesses can adjust their customer retention strategies in order to attain loyalty membership and revenue growth. Such skills were emphasized in an era where e-commerce sites have been taking away some of the market share of physical stores. According to the article, Ulta saw a 24 percent increase in sales, a 28 percent increase in earnings and a 27 percent growth in their loyalty program. Messerschmidt revealed that their customers buy a third of their beauty needs from the company, partly in thanks to their strong commitment to a loyalty program. He then reveals the keys to achieving a high level of CRM:

Ulta Ultimate Rewards

1. Align on a trusted measurement methodology for your CRM program. Customers respond to transparency. According to the 2016 Label Insight Transparency ROI Study, conducted by Label Insight, 81 percent of surveyed customers would be willing to sample more of a brand’s products if they were comfortable with its level of transparency.

2. Implement a cycle of continuous learning. “If you haven’t failed, you’re not trying hard enough,” said Messerschmidt. Ulta adopted a trial and error mentality when it comes to trying new campaigns.

3. Employ a diverse set of offers and approaches. In partner with its brands, Ulta offers a variety of deals, offers and samplings. Other premium experiences, such as early access for new products, are extended to members of their Ultimate Rewards program.

4. Build and leverage a knowledge base. Ulta is constantly conducting market research and collecting data about their customers. By being in tune with the evolving habits and methods of their customers, Ulta can better market their offers and products. Often times, this is done through target campaigns on target audiences as opposed to a control group.

5. Staff consultative “account managers.” Certain employees are responsible for managing Ulta’s relationships with their brands to get the most out of their partnership. However, special attention is given to brands that “move the needle,” according to Messerschmidt.

Partnered with Ulta Beauty, Dirxion has provided Ulta new avenues to connect with their customers with Dirxion’s e-flyers. The e-flyer gives Ulta 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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Google and Facebook dominate market share of online advertising

In a recent article published by Business Insider, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) reported U.S. ad industries spent a combined $72.5 billion in 2016 on online advertising as compared to $59.6 billion in 2015.  But, of that growth, 99 percent of it was attributed to Google and Facebook combined.

Last September, Facebook announced it had reached 4 million advertisers after reaching 3 million six months prior. The greater majority of Facebook’s advertisers are small- and medium-sized businesses, who find Facebook’s ad program and business pages as easy to manage as regular Facebook profiles. “We’ve worked hard to make our ads very easy to use, very simple, low cost and high ROI,” said Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. Facebook first launched an ad program in 2004, where users could buy “Flyers” for approximately $10-$40 per day. Through different adjustments to their ad technology, such as lookalike audiences and regional data, Facebook has given more and more tools to businesses to reach their target audiences.

Comparatively, Google accounts for a greater share of the growth (54 percent). As is with Facebook, Google is in the business of selling attention. When users browse Google,it’s estimated roughly 10 percent of users will click on the ads and promoted links at the top of the page. Because those are paid links, these top positions are easier to obtain. The alternative is through search engine optimization (SEO), which pushes people’s posts to the top of the organic list. SEO is obtained by using branded and popular keywords that are popular among users.

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. Dirxion online catalog products can be integrated into existing Facebook pages to allow customers to browse directly from the business page.

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Online catalogs give businesses a way to meet generational needs

E-commerce creates a unique scenario for many businesses. The rise of the Internet in the early 1990s has divided generations and given way to various expectations, values and skepticism with regards to the online shopping experience.

The Pew Research Center discovered 77 percent of U.S. adults own smartphones. But when divided by age group, the data shows a much clearer picture. For instance, 92 percent of U.S. adults ages 18-29 own a smartphone, compared to 74 percent when looking at U.S. adults ages 50-64. How U.S. adults interact with those devices, especially with regards to e-commerce, can help explain shopping trends among different generations.

E-commerce is at a crossroads where consumers who grew up in the Internet era and those who were introduced to it in a later stage in their lives share a space within the online market. Studies conducted by BigCommerce, an e-commerce software development company, have revealed online shopping and e-commerce takes up varying degrees of shopping per generation. For instance, Millennials do 67 percent of their shopping online whereas Baby Boomers do 59 percent of their shopping in-store.

Despite this, across all generations, certain trends remain consistent. Large retailers make up a greater majority of the places U.S. adults shop (73 percent on average). What each generation considers “influential” in deciding to make online purchases follows the same pattern. With a commanding average of 71 percent, reviews have the biggest influence on a consumer’s decision to purchase, followed by friends and family and then advertisements.

In order to capture the attention and trust of customers across all generations, businesses have realized a strong and trustworthy online presence is key to meeting the values and expectations of each customer. Dirxion’s online catalog services provide a strong complimentary product to any business’s e-commerce site. Capitalizing on a familiar layout and easy-to-use format, the online catalogs create a hassle-free experience for any Generation X or Baby Boomer customer. Similarly, the fast-loading, integrated shopping technology meets the needs of Millennial shoppers.

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Rise in e-commerce exemplifies change in consumer habits

In this year’s first quarter, U.S. consumers spent a collective $106 billion and drove e-commerce sales up 14.7 percent from a year ago, according to a recent article published in U.S. News. The article includes the Quarterly Retail E-Commerce Sales report for Q1 2017, as published by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The study includes data from 2007, wherein retail e-commerce sales made up only 3.5 percent of all retail sales, having now increased to 8.5 percent in 2017.

Tim Stringfellow, president and chief investment officer of Frost Investment Advisors, is quoted in the U.S. News article: “the big winner (and more indicative of the health and mindset of the consumer) was the online retailing category.” Statista, a statistics and studies gathering website, estimates total retail e-commerce sales will reach roughly $354 billion dollars in the U.S. in 2017.


The article suggests consumers are changing the ways in which they spend their money. For many companies, this required a replanning of how much time and money they spend on the physical aspects of their businesses. In April of 2016, Victoria’s Secret announced it would discontinue producing its physical catalog, once used as a means for customers to buy items from the catalog via a phone call. Arnie Preston, the investor relations officer of the parent company L Brands, estimated Victoria’s Secret spent between $125-$150 million annually on the catalog.

As both retail and B2B companies cut back on print, Dirxion continues to be called upon to create a strong online catalogs experience. Dirxion’s online catalog services allow retailers to stay alongside consumer’s evolving online habits while delivering a seamless and on-brand shopping experience. This is done by integrating existing programming from e-commerce sites and hosting a catalog on a dedicated URL. This allows the catalog to live within the customer’s website.

A good example of this is through Dirxion customer David’s Bridal. Dirxion integrates programming developed by David’s Bridal’s website. When customers interact with linked products throughout the catalog, an iFrame opens within the catalog that is pointed directly at the URL where a product is hosted. This allows customers to look at available sizes, colors and even add that particular item to their shopping cart, all without breaking the shopping experience. Such practices allow for the publisher’s e-commerce strategies to take hold within the online catalogs, creating a common user experience and easier path to purchase.Davids Bridal Online Catalog


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Browser market shares show online catalogs where compatibility matters

In a world of devices that often creates a digital bubble, wherein users grow comfortable with specific browsers and operating systems, two specific players are managing to separate themselves from the pack. Chrome continues to grow its web browser market share (now 61.2 percent), and Android is even more dominant among mobile operating systems than before (65.19 percent).

Web developers pay close attention to market shares among browsers, operating systems and screen resolutions, in order to make the right compromises when two competing platforms can’t both be optimized. The browsers and operating systems come out with frequent updates that can change some of the compatibility that had already been established. This means features in web products like online catalogs might now need tweaking to function properly.

These discrepancies are often referred to as “bugs,” which can be easily created by browser and operating system updates. For the most part, however, a strong backbone to the developer code and the use of widely-accepted development language, like HTML5, can mitigate a majority of these potential problems. Developers who still rely on software like Adobe Flash run the risk of stumbling into significant problems with these updates because the code isn’t as flexible and browsers are not as concerned with its functionality.

Nonetheless, choices must be made and lines must be drawn as to where a web product claims it is compatible and where it is not. Dirxion’s online catalogs, for example, focus on the four major web browsers — Chrome (61.2 percent), Safari (15.9), Internet Explorer & Edge (8.2) and Firefox (6.3). This means that its product testing and QA teams check out the online publications performance and corresponding features on a variety of versions of Chrome, Safari, IE/Edge and Firefox. Dirxion’s products could still work fine on Opera (2.9 percent); however, that won’t be guaranteed.

Browser Market Share


A similar methodology is given to mobile operating systems. With Android and iOS comprising 96.25 percent of the market share, and Windows Phone only holding 1.59 percent, Dirxion’s QA team gets their hands on a variety of Apple and Samsung devices but does not test on Microsoft phones. Similar strategies are used by web developers throughout the Internet.

Operating System Market Share


Dirxion uses a mixture of HTML5, Javascript and CSS to create its online publications. This is the result of a full move away from Adobe Flash about five years ago. There will be some concern though for online publications companies who still rely on Flash for their browser versions. Chrome, whose market share is a significant majority, seems to be on the brink of disabling Flash entirely. This will break Flash-based online publications and leave HTML5 as the primary solution to Flash’s problems.

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Even online retailers are using the print catalog to attract consumers

For some catalog printers, Internet commerce is actually helping to create new business, a recent article in the Portland Press Herald points out. The story focuses on a major printer in Freeport, Maine — The Dingley Press — who now prints catalogs for many online retailers.

The message of the article is clear, that despite not having brick-and-mortar stores, online retailers still rely on print material to drive consumers to their digital storefronts. The influx of print catalogers has even encouraged The Dingley Press to expand, investing $17 million in a new press, robotics and other equipment.

The company’s president, Eric Lane, does consider the overall demand for printed catalogs to have declined over the past decade or so, but it is the new print catalogers entering the market that are dictating some growth.

Lane is quoted in the Press Herald article stating that, “in order to reach prospects, to bring them to your website, you need a tool for that.”

For many catalog publishers, not just printing but also postage can be a major cost in fulfilling the campaign, especially for companies who want their catalogs mailed directly to consumers (like many retailers demand). The article goes on to describe methods that printers have developed over the years to streamline postage and shipping and drive costs to a bare minimum. The technology employed is an impressive display of automation and organization that delivers pallets of catalogs to specific post offices, meaning only the mail carrier has to touch the catalogs in process of delivery.

Dirxion and other online publications companies offer an additional method of delivery, this method being via email, website links and advertising campaigns that link out to online catalogs. Some of Dirxion’s customers use this alternative method to mitigate some of the costs of printing and shipping, as well. Of course, Dirxion’s business is largely centered on the online publication of printed material. This creates a synergy between printers and online publishers.

A good example of this is the work Dirxion does with high-end furniture retailer Restoration Hardware. The print team works with its e-commerce team to find a balance between printing, shipping and online delivery. Today, RH’s online catalogs reach millions of consumers each year, providing a boost to its impressive print run for their large collection of source books. RH’s stock is up nearly 87 percent since the beginning of the year, and the company continues to focus on the production, printing and online publishing of its source book collection as it prepares for future releases.

RH Online Catalogs


Perhaps it is companies like RH, who is well known for placing high-praise and importance on its printed source books, that have inspired online retailers like Wayfair LLC, a Boston-based online retailer that sells furniture, housewares and other items, to embrace printed catalogs. In the Press Herald article, Paul Miller, vice president and deputy director of American Catalog Mailers Association, acknowledges that Wayfair has “gotten into catalogs quite heavily.”

“The catalog used to be much more of a self-standing mechanism than it is today, (whereas now it) serves as a springboard to get the customer to buy from that company,” Miller said in the article.

“The catalog still carries the identity of the company, of the retailer.”Dirxion Contact Us

Studies show manufacturers favor distributors with strong e-commerce

The message from manufacturers to distributors is to get your e-commerce up to snuff, according to recent surveys conducted by Modern Distribution Management (MDM). A post earlier this month summarized some of the findings and analyses that pointed toward the importance of online transaction practices.

Dean Mueller and Jonathan Bein of Real Results Marketing are quoted in the MDM article, and they believe manufacturers understand that “the path to sales growth includes offering products in multiple channels, with e-commerce at the forefront.”

Mueller and Bein state that manufactures want to partner with distributors who have a more-established e-commerce channel because they “don’t have time to nurture distributors without solid e-commerce options.” MDM supports this claim with statistics that show manufacturers are actually further along in their e-commerce development than distributors. According to MDM, the percentage of manufacturers who report e-commerce as less than 10 percent of total revenue is lowering (from 57 percent in 2015 to 41 percent in 2016); meanwhile, the number of manufacturers reporting 10-30 percent e-commerce revenue is growing (15 percent increase from 2015-2016).

Distributors, on the other hand, haven’t been as quick to shift from the nascent (fewer than 10 percent revenue) to the mature (10-30 percent of revenue) stage. There has been only a 7 percent drop in the nascent stage and a corresponding 5-percent gain in the mature stage. In other words, distributors aren’t growing their e-commerce revenue as quickly as manufacturers.

MDM also claims that manufacturers are deliberately looking for distributors that will help develop markets and drive traffic to online channels. “They want partners that will help sell product benefits through the online channel, such as adding short videos about the products to their websites,” the article states.

Dirxion has seen an emphasis placed on rich media among its online catalogs customers. This emphasis has resulted in new developments like the “Videos” tab that stores a library of videos within the online catalogs interface. HD Supply showcases 14 different categories in its online catalogs videos tab, which can be found on the left-hand side of its interface.

HD Supply Catalog

In linking product numbers to e-commerce pages, Dirxion plays a vital role in strengthening the distributor’s e-commerce results. One of the most notable examples of this is MSC, whose e-commerce revenues continue to climb. Please visit the previous link for more information on Dirxion’s work with MSC.

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B2B Online convention teaches us more about what online catalogs need

This week, B2B Online is taking place in Chicago, where leading manufacturers and distributors are meeting to learn digital strategies. Dirxion’s Mark Thomas, sales, is attending the convention to meet with prospects and customers while learning more about what online catalogs might need.

Thomas says that, overall, there is a lot of talk about using data to understand how buyers are interacting with your website. Specifically, B2B websites are tracking visitors using their analytics software and then combining that with CRM data. In turn, for example, Caterpillar can assign unique website experiences based on user types. Rather than leading with products, Caterpillar determines whether the user is in road construction, farming or, perhaps, building construction, and depending on their selection, serves up a more-specific set of products.

He also noted that B2B Online recognizes a fundamental shift in the way people buy. Both retail and B2B customers are doing their own research much earlier in the process. They want to figure out what features they want to buy, why they are good for them and will engage with chat or reach out to sales if the information they find is compelling.

Ryan Jenkins touched on similar points during his presentation, which addressed the different approaches generations tend to take when making a purchase. The following picture shows a chart that he displayed during his session:


Jenkins points out that each generation evaluates a pitch differently. Whereas Builders value recommendations, Millenials value co-creation; whereas Boomers consider credibility, Gen X’ers consider value (from a financial perspective) to be most important.

Ultimately, B2B Online places emphasis on high quality website content — videos, eBooks, white papers, blog posts, customer feedback — so that buyers can continue to do research themselves. Without this information, buyers are beginning to look elsewhere first before considering a sales call from your company.

As a distribution platform, Dirxion’s online catalogs can be a one-stop page for a lot of research to help inform buyers before making a purchase. Most of Dirxion’s clients are Boomers or Gen X’ers, and they do appreciate a consistent product that performs steadily as well as a platform that provides good ROI. Because of this, most customers require Dirxion to integrate e-commerce product pages directly into the online catalogs through iFrames, Quick Views or custom dialogues.

Overall, B2B Online affirmed some of the recent developments Dirxion has pursued, like MSC’s tab pull-out that provides instant access to the Big Book on every page of MSC’s website. The convention has also provided a few new ideas, like user-based content distribution, that could take online catalogs to the next generation.

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ESPN layoffs an indicator of shift toward online advertising

Today, ESPN continued to restructure its organization, laying off about 100 on-air personalities and writers, a huge chunk in personnel salary. Its problem is rooted in a deep investment in TV cable deals that don’t expire any time soon, even though sports fans are cutting the cable cord and finding other ways to watch live events.

Over the past few years, ESPN has lost over 10 million subscribers, according to the New York Times. That loss in subscribers in conjunction with big payouts for rights fees has resulted in an ominously shiny bubble. And one of the biggest revenue streams for any TV network is advertising revenue, something directly correlated with viewership.

Global Ad Spend


Consequently, advertising dollars are shifting toward online advertising. Last year, eMarketerprojected that U.S. digital ad sales would surpass traditional TV for the first time. It’s a massive shift in the way money is being spent and how advertisers want to interact with consumers. It’s something new that doesn’t return an investment in live TV events whose rights are bought through cable deals — ESPN’s bread and butter that is getting soggy and molded.

According to that same report, advertisers will have spent $72.09 billion on U.S. digital advertising by the end of 2016, while TV spending will account for just less, $71.29 billion. It gives digital a 36.8 percent share in media ad spending, which is 0.4 percent higher than TV’s share.

This makes sense because ESPN’s 10 million less subscribers have gone somewhere, and all signs point to online platforms that continue to grow. Consumers are streaming shows from mobile devices and consuming news on the subway rather than on the couch.

This development is good for Internet-based platforms, including online publications, considering a variety of advertisements can be plugged into such applications. As time passes, newspapers will be asked to provide interstitial ads in their e-Editions; online catalogs will be asked to provide cross-platform advertising between manufacturer and distributor; and interactive yellow pages will continue to squeeze out online advertising revenue through banners and videos.

It will be increasingly important to operate within platforms that are flexible and custom, in order to service the wide range of advertising networks served online. An HTML5-based solution will be more capable of this than anything still based in Flash.

ESPN’s story is hard to have anticipated when these major cable deals were struck; however, its certainly an indicator of why digital and online advertising has become so important.

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