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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MSC Industrial showcases online catalog with tab pull-out

MSC Industrial is one of the largest distributors of metalworking, repair and operations (MRO) products and services for manufacturers worldwide. They take pride in having over 1 million product offerings, many of which are itemized in their annual Big Book, a master catalog that is over 4,000 pages.

One of MSC’s primary goals is strong customer service, hoping to ensure supply purchases are fast and easy. That poses a challenge for the online version of the Big Book, a challenge that Dirxion helps MSC overcome every year.

msc website

In order to create a fast online catalog experience, Dirxion uses custom processes to provide an optimal experience. Because of the scope of this project — a few thousand pages, hundreds of thousands of product links — our production engineers fine tune page outputs and set up a unique linking algorithm to connect the Big Book to MSC’s e-commerce pages.

Every time someone visits the MSC site, the online catalog is available through a tab on the left-hand side that opens an embedded version of the Big Book. Once opened, pages click through effortlessly with minimal loading time through unique compression settings. Thousands of pages, hundreds of thousands of links, all loading for MSC’s customers near-instantaneously.

From here, you can search for specific items, add to cart and check out. If you need to come back to a page, simply bookmark the page. There’s a variety of features available in the MSC online catalog, and no features were compromised in creating this custom display.

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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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Google changing online advertising landscape through ad blocking

Following a released study conducted by the Coalition for Better Ads, Google announced a new feature coming to their popular browser Chrome that will block certain types of online advertisements. The study concluded that pop-up ads, flashing animated ads and auto-play ads with sound “fall beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability.”

“Tens of thousands of consumers have made their opinions clear through this robust research,” said Bob Liodice, CEO of the Association of National Advertisers. “Consumers in North America and Europe have similar views on online ad experiences they find annoying and disruptive.”

The research conducted by the Coalition for Better Ads was intended to identify which methods of online advertising push consumers to adopt third-party ad blockers to their browser. Business Insider estimates 236 million desktop devices and 380 million mobile devices have some form of an ad blocking software downloaded.

Ad Block

 

Websites have tried to combat ad blocks before by locking out content from people who have ad blocking software installed and active. According to the official AdBlock “Solutions” web page, a website usually tries to download a resource commonly used to serve an ad, and if that resource is blocked or hidden, the site detects an ad blocker is present. However, most ad block users prefer to simply move onto another site rather than “white list” a site or completely disable their software.

Alternative solutions have been varied across different sites. The Guardian displays a pop-up at the bottom of their webpages asking ad block users to donate to the site directly, whereas Forbes waits until users click on articles to lock out their content. In response, software called “Ad-blocker blockers” has surfaced, tricking websites into thinking a user doesn’t have any ad blocking software active when they actually do.

 

Google’s filtering tool, which is scheduled to be implemented in early 2018, will automatically block the top 12 ad formats that are deemed below the standards of the Coalition for Better Ads. Google is attempting to push third-party ad blocking software companies out of the picture who run varying degrees of white listing programs. For instance, AdBlock Plus has an “Acceptable Ad” program that allows advertisers to pay extra fees to pass through the AdBlock Plus filter. Because of Chrome’s dominance in the browser market share (59 percent on desktop computers, according to NetMarketShare), advertising companies that use any of the 12 threatened advertising forms will have to reconfigure or lose access to almost half of the potential online market.

Dirxion’s advertising widgets have typically passed online advertising standards in order to ensure they’re displayed properly. The alterations to Chrome’s rules will require attention and potential changes to the way Dirxion delivers advertisements to its interface. Consequently, this is being monitored closely by Dirxion’s development team.

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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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