Product Photography in the Age of Smart Phones

Professional Product Photography? Why do I need to hire a product photographer? I have an iPhone!

The amazing technology going into smartphone cameras makes everyone believe they are now as good as any professional photographer. So, why would you ever hire a professional photographer for your product photography? Here’s why.

The key to professional product photography is not the camera, it’s the lighting. This secret is true across all forms of photography and any photographer who is being honest with you will tell you that. Today’s digital SLR cameras, and even some of the latest smart phone cameras, can detect lighting levels, auto focus and image stabilize. These things use to be the technical domain of the experienced photographer. While they still are at an elite level, it’s hard to argue at what point these become less relevant.

What is still 100% true is the quality of lighting makes or breaks your photo. And, when it comes to product photography, lighting is the critical factor that elevates your photos to pro level. You can try this on your own and see what I mean. Take you ultra-cool iPhone and photograph any ketchup, mustard jelly jar in your refrigerator. Do you best to set it in the best lighting situation you can. Then, Google that product online and compare the photo there with the one you took. You will see what I mean. The two product photos are like night and day. Why? Professional lighting. That’s why. Pros use thousands of watts of strobe lighting, soft boxes, reflectors, fill lights, Gaussian filters, flags and shadowing techniques to achieve that perfect product photo. And that becomes the visual standard we, as consumers, are accustomed to seeing and the standard by which we judge quality.

Yet, I often encounter startup companies that think their iPhone photos are good enough. Because, after all, Apple has told them they now have the power of professional photography in their hands. I often see startup product companies using their own pictures on Amazon and their own eCommerce sites and I truly believe they can’t consciously see the quality difference because they don’t have a pro-level product photo to compare it to. I can instantly spot them. And you can too, if you pause and evaluate your initial reactions to them when you see them. They seem…well…less-than somehow. Like mom and pop put them together. And, it erodes your trust in the quality of the products they are selling.

For all the time, money and passion you put into bringing your products to life, you owe it to yourself to hire a professional photographer to capture your blood, sweat and tears in the best lighting possible to ensure you sales match your expectations.

Catalog Design: The Art and Science of Press Checks

Hundreds of hours designing, thousands of miles traveled sourcing, and piles of cash invested into manufacturing, and it all comes down to this: CMYK color on paper that acts as the sales too your sales force uses to drive the bottom line. Does your catalog design deliver what you expected? Here’s how it can, with a photo example below.

Over the 20 years we have been designing catalogs for brands, it never ceases to amaze me hear how often I hear about the critical phase of press checking being neglected by others. I think it’s the nature of digital media taking over and replacing print media as the primary communications vehicle for product marketing.  The art and science of color on press is dying away. There are fewer and fewer quality print companies, but those that are still thriving are doing so because they deliver the highest quality of color you can achieve on paper. Of course, the designer need to be there to help push that catalog across the finish line. Here’s why.

When a catalog design goes to print, and after you have reviewed color proofs of the photography, illustration and catalog designs, those electronic files go through a RIP (Raster Image Processing) and get laser etched to printing plates. Those plates then fall subject to a 100% physical process of transferring inks to those plates and then the plates pass the ink to paper at high speeds. The layering of CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black – yes K stands for Black – don’t ask it doesn’t make much sense) requires an artistic finesse on press to deliver the color you expect. Quality press operators will do an excellent job at matching the color proofs. But then, that may not be enough. You see, CMYK color cannot perfectly match many of the inks, paints and dyes used in manufacturing for most product. Printing can get close, but it takes an artist’s eye to make fine tuned adjustments on press to pull up or down color intensities to more accurately match your actual product. Sadly, many designers and their clients ignore the press check opportunity and just assume the work is done when a job goes to print.

Case in point. We just finished the Summer 2018 Reef sandals and apparel catalog designs and sent them to print. I always supervise press checks for large jobs like this where color is so critical. I think about the teams of designers, sample makers and manufacturers that labor over nailing the perfect colors, textures and stylings. I feel it is our duty to honor their creative work with reproducing it as best we can. So, I always bring real product samples with me to the press check. I try to push the limits of ink on paper to accurately reflect the work of these professionals. During the many page forms I pressed checked for Reef, three of the forms had large color photos of products that were just not close enough to the real thing for my taste. Even after all the proofing and approvals that went on. So, I instructed the press operators to adjust the ink flows for the CMYK color decks in certain zones of the press sheet to bring those photos back to more closely represent the real products. Sometimes, we have to make adjustments 3-4 times to get it right. That’s the art of it. You can see what I mean in the photo below.

Closeup photo of catalog photo of woven shirt with real shirt next to it, and note explaining the two don't match

I know what it’s like to have your creative work turn out looking disappointing on press when color values are not what they should be. Buyers are making decisions for tens of thousands of dollars in many cases based on these catalog photos. I want them to be the best they can be. And, sometimes all it takes is an extra 15 minutes of adjustments on press to deliver that catalog design color that boosts sales through the stratosphere.

Catalog Design: 5 Strategies for Catalogs that Build Relationships with Customers

Make your product catalog do more than deliver sales information. Empower it to build a relationship with customers that, in turn, builds your brand. Here are 5 strategies for getting the most out of your product catalog design.

  1. Create a Brand Personality.

Just like people, brands have personality. If you haven’t thought of your company brand that way, chances are your brand’s personality is coming across as boring or non-existent. Or, you are forcing your personal image onto your brand. Like that waitress at the airport food court restaurant who is too tired, busy and trapped in self-loathing to muster anything that resembles personality during her 20 second interaction with me. And, just like that waitress, we are often too caught up in the frantic pace of running our businesses to stop and consider what our product catalog design says about our brand. In fairness, its often hard to see yourself through an objective perspective and very easy to assume customers “get it” because you “get it” clearly. That’s why relying on an experienced brand designer is so valuable. Creative communications professionals can interpret product brands in visual ways that are engaging, memorable and convert browsers to customers. It’s like getting a personal stylist for your outfit, hair, makeup and resume to help you nail that game changing interview. And every customer that views your product catalog is engaging you in an interview to win their business.

  1. Use Graphic Design to Communicate Your Brand’s Personality

The online shopping experience often lacks the personal touch that face-to-face interactions deliver. Even telephone conversations do at least a respectable job of establishing a personal connection between you (your brand) and your customer. But when so many consumers shop online and make their entire buying decisions void of human contact, the next best thing you can do is inject your brand’s personality into your catalog and communicate that personality through your catalog design. Elements like large lifestyle photography, emotionally-driven text, carefully chosen color and photos of your actual team members helps create a sense of knowing your brand, even without meeting or speaking to anyone. With knowledge comes a sense of trust. And, people tend to buy from who they know and trust. If your brand is fun and outgoing, your catalog design should be presented the same way: lots of colorful backgrounds and playful text layouts. Photos clipped out from boring white backgrounds and interacting with the pages and text. Photos of the products in action or in use by fun people and set in fun environments. You get the gist.

  1. Product Hero Photos

Hero photos are large, detailed and dynamic photos of your product or services in use or action. They are also sometimes referred to as glamor photos or beauty photos. The idea is to give the customer an up-close and personal view of your products where they can appreciate all the details that a thumbnail photo can’t deliver. This includes things like finishes, stitching, color, and controls that have to be examined in detail to be appreciated. Think of it this way. If a customer would hold your product and bring it closer to their face to study its details in person, then you need to deliver that kind of experience through your catalog design. When I say hero photos, I mean big photos. Really big. HUGE. They larger the better. You can usually fit a few products in one photo, or different angles the same products and display it at or near full page size, or as a two-page spread. (A spread means two facing pages are viewed as one wide panoramic page when your catalog is held open. Your products are the heros of your business. Give them hero status in your catalog by making them larger than life!

  1. Quick-Scan Features

In retail environments, packaging design has 3 seconds to deliver your product’s value and “why-to-buy” message. Catalog design needs the same fast-scan capability. Each product should have a quick-scan zone where a customer can see the top features, value and price within 3 seconds. If you accomplish this task, and they connect with your product or service, you earn the next step in their review process: a detailed exploration of your product page. Fail to deliver and they move onto another competitor that knew how to delivery quick scan details, and you’ve lost the sale. Other graphic design elements help drawn and keep attention in quick scan zones such as icons, mini-photos and detail photos that illustrate your features and benefits. Your catalog designer can help you with creative solutions for your quick-scan zones.

  1. Less is More

When it comes to catalog design, less clutter per page delivers more sales. We are so inundated with media information that experiencing a product catalog where the design provides ample areas of clear space, uncluttered pages, and easy-to-read and understand product experiences makes for a great buying experience and helps build your brand’s personality shine through. Catalogs like this also experience higher conversion rates (converting targets to customers) than catalogs that jam as much into each page as possible. It may be hard to accept for some people, but white space is your friend. White space allows out eyes to rest for split seconds that are undetectable to us in the moment, but result in happier, positive experiences for customers. Less clutter equals more sales.

Get an estimate for your catalog design

 

5 Guidelines for Naming Your Brand and Product

How to developing winning names that set you up for retail success

Creating a name for your brand and product is the first step to success. As a branding agency with almost two decades of experience in this arena, we are often asked how its done. Here is Deal Design’s 5 guidelines for naming success:

1. Make a Decision: Personal Brand or a Corporate Brand

There are two basic categories for brands: Personal and Corporate. Personal brands are built around an individual and his or her reputation. Corporate brands are built around a company and its mission. For example: Oprah, Tony Robbins, Martha Stewart are personal brands. Their products adopt the perceived quality and style of their namesakes. Google, Apple, Starbucks and Tide are corporate brands. It doesn’t matter that much who is in what roles within these companies, since the corporate name is what carries the promise of value. Often, we encounter people who are their brands, but don’t perceive the value their name and reputation carry. It may seem arrogant to name your brand after yourself, but if you are the reason for your product’s success, it may be the smart move. The flip side is, if you build your whole brand around you, you can’t sell the company because without you its worthless.

2. Shorter is Better

The shorter and simpler your brand or product name is, the better. Shorter names are easier to remember, make for bold logo designs, and are more flexible in application to product packaging, web sites and social media. We often run into confusion over names vs. tag lines. A Tag line can change as often as needed, based on your market positioning, product offering and market conditions. A name is forever. You never want to change your brand name unless there is significant damage to its value due to law suits, product failures or bad press. It is important to separate the two.

3. Create a Top 10 List

Chances are you will come up with many awesome names only to find out most of them are already being used by competitors. To save yourself from complete frustration, develop a list of at least 10 that you can research and eliminate those that are not usable. You will be left with one or more that still enable trademarking, domain name purchase and set you up for success. At Deal Design, we usually create 30 name options and then narrow list down to the best 10 to present to our clients.

3. Be Unique

While every State will allow you to register a corporate entity name that is the same as names in other states, or around the World, you want to select a name that is unique to your brand and/or product. This is the hardest part of naming: Being unique. Often the best way to be unique is to invent a word that is made up of other root words that say something about your product and brand mission. Here are some real examples along with the product’s description:

MiracleWipes™ – Specialty cleaning products that clean without smearing and are safe for skin

SkinMedica® – Professional skin care product

SniffRelief™ – Healthcare device that relieves sinus pressure and congestion

4. Research for Available  Trademark, Domain and Competition

The United States Patent and Trademark Office offers a free online tool (TESS) for searching existing and pending trademark names. Successfully earning a registered trademark means big value for your product brand and protection from other people copying it. After developing your top 10 name possibilities, start here to see if your name is already owned by someone in the same product class.

Google it! Google is the fastest and easiest way to see who else is using your possible names and determine if they are really competitors, or in unrelated categories.

Domain Searches are done through any number of web hosting sites like GoDaddy.com. You can search on your name, or variations of your name to find URLs that might work for you. Often, you will have to add another word or two to get an available domain. Again, this is where creativity and patience comes in.

Narrow your top 10 list down to the candidates that make the cut and then make a decision!

5. Logo Design

The final step in naming is creating a logo design for your product and/or brand. Use an experienced graphic design agency for this. An experienced brand designer will create many designs for you to choose from. We find that 10 is the magic number. Somewhere in those 10 logo designs will be one or more that you love, and will launch your brand into the stratosphere!

(Courtesy Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and Natural Resources Defense Council)
(Courtesy Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and Natural Resources Defense Council)

New Packaging Design Standards: “Sell By” Dates Finally Defined

When reading packaging design graphics, most people have no clear understanding of what “sell by” dates on food packaging are trying to tell them. But after 40 years of guessing, the grocery industry has decided to clarify the terms.

On Wednesday, the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the two largest trade groups for the grocery industry, released a statement that they’ve adopted standardized, voluntary regulations to clear up what “use by” date labels mean. Where manufacturers now use any of 10 separate label phrases, ranging from “expires on” to “better if used by,” they’ll now be encouraged to use only two: “Use By” and “Best if Used By.”

The first is a safety designation, meant to indicate when perishable foods are no longer safe to consume. “Best if Used By” is a quality descriptor — a subjective estimate of when the manufacturer thinks the product should be consumed for peak flavor.

Studies have shown that many consumers believe they signal whether a product is okay to eat. In fact, it’s totally fine to eat a product even after its so-called “expiration date”.

These dates typically indicate one of two things: a message from the manufacturer to the grocery store, telling the store when the product will look best on shelves, or a subjective measure — often little more than a guess — of when consumers will most “enjoy” the product. Methods for setting those dates have been left to manufacturers, rather like the phrasing of the labels themselves. But when consumers see a date labeled “use by” (or, even worse, not labeled at all) they often tend to assume that it’s a food-safety claim, regulated by some objective standard.

Professionals have been concerned for years that people interpret date labels as a sign that food is no longer safe to eat, resulting is huge amounts of food waste. An industry survey discovered, 91 percent of consumers have mistakenly thrown away food due to this misunderstanding, when the label only signals a guess at the date of peak quality.

While FMI and GMA are urging manufacturers and retailers to make the language changes on packaging graphic designs right away, they have until July 2018. Even then, the standards are voluntary, so there’s no guarantee they will be adopted by all brands.

Some states also have labeling regulations that preempt the industry standards. In Montana, for instance, milk must come with a “sell by” label. That means milk in the state will still say “sell by,” even if every other product gets the new labels.

Many manufacturers have signaled their appreciation for the changes, including Walmart, the largest seller of American groceries. And both FMI and GMA are hoping to see widespread adoption, since the standards were written by a group of active food industry professionals, not politicians.

According to NRDC, Americans throw $218 billion worth of food away each year. The anti-food-waste coalition ReFED estimates that 398,000 tons, or $1.8 billion, could be saved through standardized date labels. Let’s see how we do!

Logo Design for Companies

Logo design is to a companies what a signature is to a person. It’s unique to you, says something about your personality, and becomes your official seal of approval. Logo design is your company’s identity. And, it’s the most valuable thing your company can own.

In today’s corporate vernacular, if your company sells goods or services as its primary business, then your logo is actually a brand.  The distinction is important because many things can qualify as a logo such as a promotional offer graphics, an anniversary event design, or divisions within a company. All these may have a logo developed that represents them. However, a brand is used to designate a product or service’s company of origin and carries with it all the trust, recognition and value the company has built to validate its goods or services. A company may use multiple logos for various visual communications, and some of them may include the core brand logo, but it will have only one true brand logo that occupies the dominant position on packaging, advertising and marketing communications.

For example, below is a collection of HP (Hewlett-Packard) logos, compared to the HP brand logo. Note how many have the brand contained within them, but the core HP logo is the one we all recognize as the company brand HP.

HP brand logo design - blue circle with a lower case "h" and "p"        hp enterprise logo. All typography letter forms and a green rectangle        hp Jet advantage solutions partner logo design       25th Laserjet anniversary logo with text set in a circle around the number 25   hp partner program logo with white text in a blue rectangle

When engaging a graphic designer to develop a brand logo for your company, be sure to select one with a track record of experience in creating product brands. Brand designers understand the requirements of effective brand logos and will design many options for you to select from. The graphic designer will consider your target market, type of product or service, how the brand will be reproduced and in what mediums it needs to appear.

Here is an example of a brand logo design project Deal Design was engaged to execute for a new fragrance brand: Le Rêve. We presented 12 design options for the company to choose from.

logo design

Every brand logo must work well in 1-color black, so that’s we always begin. A 1-color black logo is required by the US Patent and Trademark Office for registration applications too.  After a logo design is selected, color palette options are developed to help express the brand’s personality to its target market. Logos should always be created as vector artwork. This enables them to be reproduced in any media and at any size, while retaining their visual design integrity.

Branding may also require the development of a brand or identity style guide to help other vendors and internal teams use the brand logo correctly to ensure consistency and preserve your brand’s integrity. The style guide may be simple or quite complex, based on the needs of the brand and how many other people or outside companies may be handling it. The style guide contains what to do, what not to do, color use, background use, typography and many other aspects of logo handling.

Below is an example of a style guide for Skin Medica, a skin care brand developed by Deal Design.

For help with designing a brand logo for your company, contact Deal Design.

 

 

Food Packaging Design – New FDA Labeling Guidelines for 2016

What are the new FDA guidelines for labeling on food packaging design? Here is a summary of the changes and how they will benefit consumers and impact brand manufacturers as they evaluate updated packaging design requirements for all their SKUs.

The FDA released new food labeling requirements in 2016 that must be applied to all food labeling. The changes make the Nutrition Facts box contents easier to read and understand for consumers. There is a noticeable shift in focusing on the calorie content of the food, actual measurement and % daily suggested value of vitamins and minerals and a new addition of “added sugars” as a separate line item and part of the total sugars content.

See a side by side comparison of the old and new FDA labeling here

According to Susan Mayne, Ph.D. and Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition for the FDA, the labeling requirements are being introduced for these 3 key reasons:

  1. Reflects updated scientific information, including the link between diet, chronic diseases, and public health
  2. Updated serving sizes are needed to reflect changes in amounts of foods consumed
  3. Format draws attention to calories and serving sizes, two important elements in making healthier food choices

See the full presentation on Nutrition Facts Label Design by clicking the link here.

Another important changes is what the FDA considers a serving size. What use to be considered 4 servings within 1 pint of ice cream is now considered 3 servings to accurately reflect the reasonable serving size people consume from food products. This change is intended to be more true in calorie reporting. The change has a cascading effect so that the total calories per serving will naturally go up, enabling consumers to more accurately evaluate their calorie intake and monitor their health more closely.

Time Line to Comply with FDA new labeling requirements
The FDA has given small businesses, meaning those with under $10,000,000 (ten million dollars) in annual sales, three years to comply. All other manufacturers have two years. This means all new SKUs going into production will need to have their labels updated to reflect the new FDA labeling regulations. This is good news for packaging designers who specialize in food packaging and FDA regulation compliance. We expect to see an increase in business as our current and new customers come to us for FDA food labeling compliance.

Catalog Design Strategies: 3 Keys to Success

Catalog Design is both art and science. In this blog post, we are going to reveal 3 key elements required for creating a successful catalog-driven product business where the catalog design acts as the primary marketing tactic.

The catalog business has experienced 3 major Advancements in evolution since its inception with the legendary Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog of the 1890s. Savvy marketers know how to leverage today’s digital advancements to drive catalog businesses into powerful brands that dominate online sales, which is the key to today’s product sales success.

catalog design example with magnified image showing the details of the photography

Catalog Design – Advancement 1: High Resolution Digital Color Photography
On the surface, stating the importance of color photography may seem elementary. After all, who wouldn’t think of showing their product offering with color photography. You can’t even begin with black and white photography anymore. You must shoot photos in color and then convert to black and white if you want that look. But, that’s not the point of this tip. The advancement that many online catalog businesses don’t take advantage of is the ability to inexpensively capture and deliver large, high resolution color product photos in their printed pages and on their web sites. When I say large, I mean huge. The kind of large where you can magnify the photo and zoom in on the product details to examine surface texture, finishing details, stitching, etc. Can you recall a time when you zoomed-in on a product in this way and how much more confidence it gave you in buying hat product? And, can you recall when you wanted to magnify a product photo and couldn’t? What did that do to your buying confidence? Did you then go back to your Google search to find a better web site? When you give customers the ability to examine the fine details of your products, you draw them into a rich sensory experience that is as close to holding the product in their hands as possible outside of a brick and mortar shopping. The more you draw customers into this kind of shopping experience, the more likely they are to appreciate the quality of your offering and buy.

catalog design marketing intelligence flowhart of logic that helps find the right customer prospects

Catalog Design – Advancement 2: Big Data Analytics
A critical key to a successful catalog business is your customer list. Established businesses can testify to the value of building customers over time that become the foundation for repeat business and drive the long-term success of their businesses. But, every business has to find that first-time customer and successfully convert them buying. In the past, a mailing list broker was your best bet for acquiring customer prospects. Hopefully, their target list works for you. You would specify the demographic makeup that you think matches your ideal customer and hope you were right. Today, big data analytics takes the guessing game out of prospecting. Now, marketing intelligence companies can access billions of customer transactions to find prospects with transaction history that matches your ideal customer. For example, your ideal customer may be someone that bought products like yours in the past 90 days in a specific size or quantity, spent a certain amount of money, live in a certain region, etc. Then the marketing intelligence digs in deeper to find other prospects that also shop at X number of other online retailers, donated to the same charitable organizations, get their news from these same news outlets and subscribe to these certain blogs to deliver a target-rich environment where many of the same ideal customers can be found. How can they do this? Because our transactional data is stored in shared co-operative databases that thousands of top retailers use and share with one another to enable a collective fine tuning of customer prospecting. This is what Omni-channel marketing is all about: allowing transaction data and behaviors to tell us who our ideal customer is and where to find them. As big data continues to evolve, we will continue seeing more customized offerings appearing in our physical and email boxes. Smart catalog marketers are stepping into a new golden age of catalog design and product sales. Imagine opening a catalog where every single product offering was selected for us based on our design tastes, fashion sensibilities, immediate needs and budget range. It’s coming, and coming fast!

Catalog design graphic showing digital marketing icons over several icon person heads which illustrates how each person's journey is unique

Catalog Design – Advancement 3: Digital Marketing
In the 1890s, the printed page was the only way of delivering advertising messages to customers, other than word of mouth. Today’s catalog businesses still understand the value of putting a beautifully designed catalog into the hands of customers. But, that is just the first step in the customer’s path to purchase. The goal of the printed catalog is to draw the customer prospect into your brand experience and transition them into an online experience with your web site. This is what really drives sales. Once you get them to your web site, they are opened up to your entire product offering and digital marketing tools setup for a Omni-channel (multi-channel) marketing campaign to continue interactions with that customer and dramatically increase conversion rates. In our experience, adding a robust digital marketing campaign of remarketing ads, lead nurturing (drip) emails and social media posts increases new prospect conversion rates by as much as 200% compared to direct mail alone. It can increase total dollar sales with existing customer lists by 25% year-over-year. The secret to this kind of success consists of understanding and leveraging two main factors: Repetition and timing.

Repetition: We all buy from brands we know and trust. After seeing a new brands’ advertising messages multiple times and over a period of time gives us the feeling that we now know that brand. And, since others must be buying from it (because it’s still around), we develop a greater sense of trust. Other factors positively effecting trust levels include the quality of the catalog design, photography, messaging and product details. The combination of these elements and delivering your offerings with repetition delivers the sales conversions that make businesses successful. We see many entrepreneurs venture into the catalog business with the unrealistic expectations that they simple need to “build it and they will come.” And, after the first mailing, when the windfall doesn’t happen, they decide that the catalog game doesn’t work. The reality is, success is found in the long game. And, it keeps building over time. If you can’t support a catalog business with 6-9 months of loss until you hit breakeven, then don’t step on the playing field.

Timing: Timing is about getting your product offering in front of the right person when they are ready to buy. The more your offer is visible to a prospect, the higher the chance they will be ready to buy while seeing your offering. New digital marketing tools within social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are ideal for retailers. You can now “boost” , “promote” or “advertise” your posts to appear in the feeds of people who match your prospect profiles. Lead Nurturing (drip) email marketing sends targeted messages and offerings to prospects over time to increase the chance of converting the sale. The cost-per-thousand (CPM) of these tactics is a fraction of the cost of mailing the physical catalogs so marketers are crazy for not using them. But, the real success stories come from those that do all of it: Print and digital combined. There is a reason mega-retailers like Pier One, Restoration Hardware and Victoria’s Secret still send high-budget catalogs to our homes every year. The multi-channel brand experience breeds success.

Catalog Design for Online Retailers

Catalog design has evolved into online retailing. If you sell products at a retail location, you must to have a strong online product catalog to experience to true potential of your business. I am always amazed when I meet a potential new client for catalog design that operates only from their brick and mortar retail store. With the fast switch to online shopping happening at warp speed, the fact that any brick and mortar retailer can be successful with a physical location only is actually music to my ears. It means their product offering is so good, the haven’t needed to rely on online sales to survive. If your products offering and customer experience is that good, I can’t wait to get your online catalog launched! This article focuses on catalog design for online retailers.

Here are 5 important strategies and “must haves” when creating catalog design for online retailers:

  1. Use Google-Optimized Product Information: Create a simple category structure with category names that are widely used. You want Google search engines to find your products and serve them up to people actively shopping for those items. To do that, you need structure your your product information in a way that is friendly to shoppers, and Google. Cute and original product category types may seem fun and cleaver, but to Google search logic, its confusing and won’t be served up to many people. (i.e. use “Bowls” not “Decorator items”. Use “Bags” not “Fashion Accessories”. Use “Blankets” not “Fuzzy Things”.
  2. Create Rich User Experiences: Google algorithms are so intelligent now that they can detect when you are trying to trick them, and users, into viewing pages that don’t really warrant attention. The best way to drive quality shopper traffic to your site is to build a rich and authentic customer experience. Use high quality color photographs that can be enlarged to show product detail. Use detailed descriptions of your products. Add quality videos that highlight the product quality, details and uniqueness of your offerings. Google sees the combinations of all these things as a quality catalog design that delivers a higher customer experience and ranks these sites higher in search results.
  3. Anchor Linking: The practice of anchor linking is selecting one or two key terms within a product page and making those words links to pages outside of your site that help define or clarify the term and general meaning of that word or phrase. (See, I just gave you one on the term “anchor linking”!) Google sees this as a great user experience and your products will rank higher. Don’t worry about linking people to sites that are not yours. Google wants this feature for users so give it to them.
  4. Leverage Social Media as Backlinks: Post products with ad “boosts” on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. The social sharing of products and back-linking click-throughs are seen a validating a quality experience for users and will result in higher organic ranking. Great catalog design is the fuel. Social media is engine that will drive your business across the finish line.
  5. Ask for Customer Reviews: Google sees authentic customer reviews as an important indicator of your product experience and quality. And Neilsen reports that 70% of users trust reviews. Don’t just hope a beautiful catalog design and good products will earn the reviews. Ask for them! Customers are usually happy to give reviews if they are asked. Otherwise, it’s usually just the angry ones that take the time to deliver a review and those are NOT the ones that help.

Deal Design has spent 17 years growing product businesses through catalog design, online retailing, brand development and SEO optimization of web site content. If you are looking to grow your product sales, ask us how we can help.

Brand Design Overseas for Cheap and The Familiar Feeling of Regret

The lure of cost savings for Brand Design by shopping internationally for branding and packaging design is hard to resist. The promise of quality work at a fraction of USA standard prices sounds too good to be true. And, like most things in life, you get what you pay for. So, don’t fall victim to it.

Many brand design web sites have appeared over the past 10 years that deliver access to brand designers around the World in a competition setting to earn the savvy marketer’s business. The promise is simple. Tons of creative ideas offered for cheap and you pick the winner. And, by cheap I mean, really cheap. For example, one of these popular sites is 99Designs.com. The site allows anyone to setup a design competition for their product’s branding needs (logo, packaging design, web site, etc.) And, the going rates for these services are discounted by 90% compared to the national average in the USA. No, that’s not a type-o. The average logo design competition fee awarded to the winning designer is about $300. For this fee, you get literally hundreds of designs presented to you by 20 or more designers from around the World. Need packaging design for your product? No problem. Pick from 50 or more design options and pay $400 on average. I’m not kidding. That’s how cheap it is. You can see how enticing this sounds. And, many startup brands flock to these international competition sites to take advantage of this bargain basement hunting for quality design. But, doesn’t this sound too good to be true? Well of course it does. And the truth is, you get what you pay for.

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