Currently Available Methods of
Online Product Presentation

Currently, there are five primary methods of presenting catalogs on the internet:

  • 1: Layout constructed from a database, like Amazon.com. This is the most popular method, and it's a good one. It can be expensive to set up and maintain, but is instantly updatable and items are clickable. It is a totally separate entity from a physical catalog, but it has proven itself to be a good method of allowing customers to order your products online. As this is the method that most sites use, it can give your product presentation a "cookie cutter" look.

  • 2: PDF file. This displays the exact print catalog, but it is bandwidth-intensive for users and servers. It is a static document; you can't change prices or offerings in real time. Also, embedding links in pdf files is very difficult to achieve so these are rarely (if ever) shopping-cart enabled. This method effectively limits your customers to broadband subscribers. If anyone knows of a shopping-cart enabled PDF file, please tell us about it, as we have not yet been able to locate one.

  • 3: Scanned pages, showing images of each individual page . Google is doing interesting things with this concept. It does not support click-through ordering, can not update prices using a database, and usually is not as legible as HTML or PDF pages. However, the catalog is searchable and browsable page by page, which is the way that people are accustomed to using catalogs.

  • 4: Macromedia Flash Catalogs. RichFX has recently started to do these. This is the latest attempt to re-create the print catalog shopping experience, and has certainly captured the attention of the marketing departments of the high-end mail-order companies. The interface ties in to the retailer's existing back-end, and these are to be used as an alternative to the standard database presentation. The fact that the major mail-order players are investing in such an augmentation to their web-commerce sites clearly indicates a perceived shortfall in the standard cookie-cutter product presentaion. The Flash interface is still bandwidth-intensive, effectively excluding all but the most patient dial-up users from viewing your catalog. Another serious deficiency with Flash programs is search-engine optimization. How do search engines catalog Flash content? They don't. But, the recent proliferation of Flash-based online catalogs proves the existence of a serious demand for web product presentation based upon print catalogs.

    And now...

  • 5:Zenscript. This new approach shows each catalog page rendered in HTML with all text and images from the original print catalog source; each item is clickable to add to a shopping-cart, it is low bandwidth and preserves the presentation including the look-and-feel that your customers are used to seeing in your catalogs. For small to mid-sized mail-order businesses, this is an affordable and cost-effective way to leverage their existing investment in their print catalogs by creating a parallel Web presence, one that will repay the investment in a very short time. It has the additional benefit of being a very search engine friendly interface. The entire text of your catalog will be archived by search engines, to offer your catalog pages to potential customers searching for your products. We can provide a password-protected secure interface for allowing real-time price updates for most catalogs, and we can integrate with most existing back end ordering sites currently in use.