New minimal user interface offers online catalogs a clean look

Online catalogs publishers looking for a simple but complete interface can switch to Dirxion’s new minimal UI. The interface design stores its tools and features within a menu that opens and closes with one click.

The interface was designed with online catalogs in mind, in order to give greater focus on the catalog pages and the product images published within. Publishers with an emphasis on image quality and art direction have shown the greatest interest.

A recent example is retail apparel company American Giant. Its online catalog interface uses Dirxion’s new minimal UI with a menu in the bottom-left corner. When the online catalog loads, only the catalog pages, side-panel page arrows and bottom-left menu can be seen. Products throughout the catalog are linked to American Giant’s corresponding e-commerce pages, in order to drive sales.

American Giant Online Catalog

 

Once the menu button is clicked, American Giant’s custom interface design is displayed. They chose to have a toolbar set at the bottom of the interface — for basic navigation features, a high-res thumbnail strip and a link out to the consumer’s shopping cart. American Giant also has three tabs on the left panel of the interface, where users can access previous catalogs, a table of contents and search results that can be requested through the search field below.

Dirxion is currently showcasing its minimal UI to new and existing customers to accommodate a variety of preferences. In addition to the minimal UI, customers can explore other custom designs, like Restoration Hardware’s modern look, Brady Corporation’s content library or Uline’s toolbar header.

Dirxion’s goal is to provide unique branding and interface design to all of its customers, through the manipulation and addition of templates that are built with HTML5, CSS and Javascript. No two online catalogs interfaces should look exactly the same.

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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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Georgia Local Search’s online directory given award by Cobb Chamber

We are proud to announce that one of Dirxion’s online directory customers, GeorgiaLocalSearch.com, has been selected as a Cobb Chamber of Commerce 2017 Top 25 Small Business of the Year. Dirxion and Georgia Local Search work directly together through Dirxion’s Local Search platform to provide its web presence, an interactive yellow pages platform that allows local businesses to attract consumers through business listings, advertising and search engine optimization.

Georgia Local Search

 

Local Search specialist April D’ippolito works with Ken and Donna Rae Adams, the owners of Georgia Local Search. She sees their dedication to their business and its many advertisers.

“Ken and Donna Rae are passionate about helping grow their advertisers’ business. They love Cobb County and its surrounding area and are proud to call it home,” D’ippolito said. “They are highly involved with their customers and it shows in their results.”

GeorgiaLocalSearch.com uses SEO practices and business listings to attract local customers. Once there, customers often find specific information on a page dedicated to a local business in Cobb County and the surrounding area. On this page, businesses list accurate locations and contact information, along with additional information like coupons, menus or videos. Premium listings are given preference on Georgia Local Search’s homepage.

For smartphone and tablet users, the site is optimized, providing a responsive experience. This way, Georgia Local Search’s advertisers receive exposure not just on desktops but also on smartphones and tablets.

On their website, the Adams credit the influence of God in their daily decisions and future success. They plan to remain privately owned to help continue their growth and provide job security to those who work with them.

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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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Online catalogs face loading problems with Adobe Flash, web browsers

It is no secret in the Internet world that Adobe Flash Player is slowly dying and that inevitably HTML5 will take over. The web browser companies continue to create compatibility issues for Flash that only seem to get worse. For online catalogs that are based in Flash, this results in users receiving error messages when trying to load the online publication.

Only recently have the browser companies become more aggressive in their stand against Flash, as pointed out by CSO (a research group that tackles online security topics). They point out that Internet Explorer is going to be the only major web browser with Flash enabled, now that Microsoft is taking some initiative in a recent update to Windows 10 that automatically blocks Flash content. The update makes Edge another browser that can be considered an enemy to Flash, with Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox as the most problematic browsers for Adobe’s platform.

The article continues to point out HTML5 as the successor to Flash’s streaming throne, considering the faith Chrome, Firefox and Apple Safari has placed in the newer technology.


Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari and Microsoft Edge require users to download Adobe Flash plugins, creating errors messages for many online catalog users.


Such changes began taking place for good reason. About two years ago, Firefox led the way by blocking Flash content after serious security problems arose from the platform. HTML5 grew in popularity as a supplementary option that had mobile capabilities; on the other hand, Flash was linked to a few critical online security breaches. It was not an ideal trade-off for Adobe.

There was already dissent toward Flash for not working on mobile devices — a defining blow delivered by Apple when its iPhone’s began growing in popularity — and when security vulnerabilities began to crop up, there seemed little reason to trust Flash. Last year, IAB guideline changes also set in motion the transition away from Flash, helping give reason to Google to no longer accept Flash-based ads.

The result for some online catalogs is a troubling scenario, the possibility that users aren’t receiving any content at all but rather a loading error and security risk message.

As the leader in online publications, Dirxion began a migration away from Flash toward HTML5 about seven years ago. Dirxion released its first HTML5-based product in 2012. Today, the online catalog is one of Dirxion’s most-reliable platforms, using HTML5, Javascript and CSS to provide a custom design for the user’s shopping experience.

Needless to say, these online catalogs load on all browsers and mobile devices. Dirxion also provides frequent product updates to support changes to browsers and operating systems.

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Great ways to promote your newspaper e-Edition

Newspaper e-Editions are becoming a necessity for newspaper websites. They act as an extension of the print version of the paper, broadening its circulation to the endless edges of the Internet. If not promoted properly, however, it will not be found by the newspaper’s target audience. Below are some practices that newspapers are using to promote their e-Edition.

Integrate it into current social media strategies
The online version of the paper is social-network friendly, which means you can easily create links to it from your favorite social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Actively integrating these publications into your existing social media strategy will offer visitors quick access to your brand and will help increase reader interest.Once there, users will be able to share your interactive publication on their favorite social networks by using various interface features. Use social media to circulate the paper to your readers, and then let your readers start circulating it for you.

Facebook — If your company has a Facebook page, then you can post a link to your newest digital edition on your wall or to the sidebar of your profile page. You can even integrate your entire digital edition into your page by utilizing an embedded Facebook app. Also, periodically include links to interesting print articles within the replica version to announce the latest issue in your status updates.

Twitter — Make sure to post an occasional link to your digital edition pages. It’s a great way for new followers to not only get the information they were after but also become more familiar with your company and your publication.

Deliver targeted email campaigns with a clear call-to-action
An interactive publication is an asset; promote it to your customers via email campaigns. Send an email prior to launch as a teaser and then send another to launch your digital edition to your targeted audience, making sure to highlight some of the hottest content to prompt clickthroughs.

Advertise on external sites
Create a banner ad that notifies people about your interactive, online version, and use the banner in an ad campaign on verticals, local businesses (news stations, chambers of commerce, newspapers, real estate companies), industry blogs, etc. You can also generate an Adwords campaign for additional exposure on external sites.

Provide above-the-fold visibility on your homepage
Featuring your digital publication in a prominent position on your home page will naturally grab the attention of your customers. Our research shows that displaying a thumbnail of the digital publication on your home page increases publication use by 21 percent.

Advertise in your printed publication
You’ll reach your entire distribution list at almost no additional cost to you. Be sure to let your print subscribers know all about the benefits of using the digital version — quick search, immediate access, direct click to order, easy to share with friends, video/audio for deeper product info, etc.

Provide the option to view your digital product in lieu of ordering a printed copy
This provides your customers with immediate access to what they wanted and could drive repeat traffic if they start using it. Additionally, offering a digital version of your publication will appeal to the increasingly “green” consumer.

Offer incentives
Everyone loves a discount. Encourage your customers to browse the digital publication and then reward them with a discount toward their next online purchase. Or, provide exclusive content in your digital version.

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