28 Dec

Posted by rogerm

You may or may not know that we are one of the major providers of 3D page flip brochures in the corporate market space, and experience and analytics has shown they do work really well for established brands in complementing their offline marketing material and their web assets.

However, like any technology, this has been around in it’s simplest form for a number of years, and with the advent of free Flash based plug-ins the basic page turning facility has become something of a me2 product in the general marketplace. Pricing points have been pushed down, and all of the online Porterian forces have kicked in, including in a number of instances the classic ‘free’ service.

Buyer beware though, it ain’t always free. Often you’ll have the company brand plastered all over the page skin, and the hosting quality can be decidedly dodgy if the ebrochure or ecatalogue is going to get a lot of traffic. In most cases the free version is limited to a few pages, and you have to ask yourself “how do these guys plan to monetise this service, is continuity of service going to be there?”

OK, we’ve been at it for years, and we do charge a fair price for a fully managed suite of services. Our XML structured systems allow us to exercise a huge amount  of control over the look and feel, we can switch functionality on and off and do bespoke coding.

So you’d think that the majority of our clients would integrate customisation and rich media in their brochures. Well no, actually the majority keep it real simple. Why is that? Well, like Steve Krug says, keep it simple. And I think the majority of corporate marketers know this. The current market space for the digital brochure or ebrochure technology is in the ‘quick win’ of getting the corporate brochure or catalogue online quickly.

After all why create a whole load of work for yourself once you’ve spent all that time creating the offline marketing materials? Plus you’ve probably already got an ecommerce site, so you can use the digital brochure for ‘flick to click’ right?

Well yes, if you use a ‘push’ vehicle to let people know about the brochure, or you have a heavily visited web page that can promote the ebrochure it would work well.

But our key learnings have shown the need to create appended URLs for ‘flick to click’ brochures that go right to the product page within the ecommerce site and allow you to track the sales outcomes back to the brochure. Most marketers miss this one, or see it as unnecceasry. These days an ecommerce sale isn’t always down to one medium. It’s going to be likely that the customer received their offline brochure and flicked through it at home or work, then a week later they may have received an email with a link to the ebrochure, then a piece of direct mail, they may have seen a TV ad, heard a radio ad or gone on and clicked on some display or ppc on Google. All of these triggers should be designed to get the prospect onto the web site, and the ecatalogue is part of that marketing mix. Just using the appended URLs will give you an indication of the ROI that you can attribute to that part of the mix assuming ypou have conversion tracking codes applied to your sale outcome page. Want to know how to build them? Checkout the Google URL Builder Tool

OK, so what about using the medium just for straightforward brand awareness? Well depending on your product, and again the method of promotion it can be very effective. Putting the ebrochure into a page on your web site with sensible url and page title along with an analytics tag will give you valuable information on thenumber of visits and time spent on catalogue. Using URLs to link out to further relevant or detailed content can all be tracked and provide more valuable customer insight.

But this still begs the question – Why are so few people using the rich media options open to them with this technology? Well to be honest, if they did they might as well build a rich media web site, as currently that’s how people expect to see rich media, in a web page.

I think it will come to pass that 3D page turning or page flip technologies will begin to see more rich media as standard, but full flash integration on 3D pages? I think most of the smart marketers out there will at best re-purpose their existing SWF files in the ebrochures, and then only if they think that it is the most appropriate channel to use .

Video is becoming more popular, and I can see a time when brands will probably create product ebrochures that contain their latest TV ad. But on the whole we know that the average web user doesn’t stick around on intermediary content such as an ebrochure, but like a normal brochure or cataloge sees it as a conduit to more information or the abililty to make a transaction. (our tests and studies have shown that onbrochure baskets and checkout confuses users and results in dropped sales vs links to product pages)

So the landscape for 2009? With the credit crunch smarter marketers will create ebrochures in partnership with their offline and email marketing activities, reducing overall print runs or print run frequency in favour of digital channels. They will look to bureaus to put the brochures together for them, removing the need for in-house technical support or frustration with complicated ASP control panels, and they’ll demand full white branding and integration into their brand assets with the ability to measure results from within their own web analytics systems to get an integrated view of their campaigns.

The cost effective nature of ebrochures will see a continued uptake by marketing departments, and a wider acceptance of the technology amongst consumers. But believe me when I say that over 90% of them will be clones of the offline material, as that’s what the consumer expects to see when presented with a page tuner online. And of the hundreds of thousands of pages we’ve created for our clients that’s whats worked up to now.

So remember, keep it simple, use the ebrochure or ecatalogue as part of the overall marketing mix and measure its effect. Test its effectiveness at eliciting clickthrough to your ecommerce site and then the number of conversions it produces. Then you can take your learning and redesign the brochures to work better on screen and modify the marketing communications strategy. Used properly digital brochures can pay dividends over time. But beware the bullshit, web 3.0 and all that. The ebrochure alone isn’t going to be the magic marketing bullet that saves you during the recession…

I’m going to write a piece on the Flick to Click direct marketing concept in the near future which will outline how digital editions can really influence consumers, and provide excellent analytics.

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