Blog: promotional products
When you create technology products, you have to iterate, iterate and iterate some more to get them right. eBlox built the first “virtual sample” product in the promotional products industry about twenty years ago for Norwood Promotional Products. Many things have changed since then; Norwood is now part of Bic, and the kind of technology that was once popular for virtual samples—Adobe’s Flash—has been relegated to the dustbin.
But people still need to present ideas to their clients, so the need for virtual samples is as big as ever. Our longtime client 3M Promotional Markets decided a few years ago that they wanted a virtual sample tool where users could very quickly and seamlessly create sample Post-It® custom printed note pad designs, so we took to pen and paper —ok, not really; we used a bunch of cool programs and prototyping tools. But we made something cool, and you should check it out.
Our primary goal with the 3M Virtual Sample tool was simple: Instant gratification. Most industry virtual sample tools force you to load up popups and deal with a completely different user interface. We wanted something that was built into the existing structure, using the same look and feel as the web site:
Secondarily, we wanted it to be reasonably bomb-proof. Virtual sample and online design tools often turn into miniature versions of desktop graphic design tools—they’re loaded up with options, transformations, clip art and all sorts of other things that distract from getting the job done quickly. So, we stripped out everything we possibly could to simplify the process. Everything you see is what you can do. No hidden menus, buried features or tricky operations. No funky technology that has problems with different browsers or touch devices. Simple and effective.
We added some cool orientation controls as well, since you can take a Post-It® note and turn the adhesive side however you’d like for printing. You can also quickly swap pad sizes to see different layouts:
Finally, we wanted to make sharing easy throughout the process. Most virtual samples let you share them; ours has a one-click PDF spec sheet, with your full sample and all related product information. Each product has a unique ID that can be shared with anyone who needs to see or provide feedback on the sample. And an instant, drop-down Project listing makes it easy to copy and share new projects.
Please go check it out when you get a chance and let us know what you think!
While many company stores are open to the public, some clients require a more limited form of access. They may not want the general public viewing the store at all, or they may only want specific people to be able to place orders or see certain products. Your storeBlox CS Company Store includes a variety of methods for controlling access to the store itself, as well as the products within it. For access to the store as a whole, there are four different possibilities:
- Public Access: This is a normal, publicly available store with no restrictions on access
- Public Access – Registration not required to place orders: A variation on the above, this allows users to order products and check out without even creating an account (also known as Guest Checkout). This can be useful if you get mostly one-off orders.
- Closed Access: A visitor cannot access the store at all without a user name and password. This is a locked down site, with all user access managed by you or the client, by creating user accounts for authorized users.
- Limited Access: This is like Closed Access but allows for registration of visitors who have an Invitation Code. In general, this is going to be the preferred method of handling password-protected company stores, because it allows new visitors with an invitation code to register and gain access immediately. Unless you need airtight control (and don’t mind managing every single user in the store), Limited Access will be your best bet for a restricted store.
One other method of controlling overall access to a store is restricting by email domain. This can be in addition to other restrictions, or it can be on its own. If you restrict by email domain, a visitor cannot create an account without using the correct email domain, e.g. email@example.com. This is often a reasonably foolproof method for making sure that only the employees of your client’s company can register at the site and place orders (assuming you don’t have Guest Checkout enabled).
Finally, as we discuss in detail separately Building Mini Stores using Group Features, Groups are a fantastic way to restrict which products any given user in a store can view. Why would you want to restrict product visibility in a store?
- Private Categories: If your client has a public store but has a few items that are only available to employees, Group-based category restriction handles showing those restricted products to employees only.
- Department-specific products: Some companies have products geared toward specific divisions or groups within the company – for instance, the marketing department might be able to order sell sheets and signage, while the rest of the company can only order apparel and hard goods.
- Multiple locations: Sometimes different locations need different product mixes, but you don’t want to manage multiple stores and your customer doesn’t want to pay for them. Group-based access can create virtual “mini-stores” for each location.
Group-based access to categories handles all these scenarios easily; just assign a category to the appropriate groups, and storeBlox CS handles who gets to see what. For more detail on Group management, check out our Company Stores 101 post here Building Mini Stores using Group Features!
Sometimes you need to provide a different company store shopping experience for different groups of users, but you don’t want the headache and expense of setting up a bunch of different stores. Maybe some users need to see products that other users don’t see. Or maybe a department at your client’s company gets to pay with a purchase order, while everyone else has to pay via credit card.
storeBlox CS lets you manage all this with Groups. Splitting your users into groups enables much finer control over what users can view and purchase, and how they can pay for it. Essentially, you can create a “micro company store” for each group.
Using groups instead of multiple stores has numerous advantages over multiple stores (reduced cost being the most obvious one), but don’t sleep on the management benefits – you get to keep all your product management and reporting consolidated into a single place. With no product duplication or store switching, your management overhead is much lower.
For some stores, however, putting users into the groups is the most daunting task. Manually assigning each user to their appropriate group is a time-consuming task for company stores with many users. That’s where Group Landing Pages & URLs come in!
These features let you assign a user to a group automatically. When you send a user to a Group Landing Page, they are automatically assigned to the group you selected when you enabled the page. They don’t even need to know that they’re a part of the group; it’s transparent to them. From that point on, they will only see the products and payment methods that they are allowed to see. Orders they place that require approval will automatically be routed to their group’s approver.
A second option is a Group URL. This is a foolproof way to ensure that a user is assigned to a group even if they don’t register at that time. Once they have visited a group URL, anytime they register afterward, they will be automatically assigned to the group.
Either way, you’ve eliminated the need to set up users and assign them to groups ahead of time. It’s fast, easy and included with every storeBlox CS company store. Ready to learn more? Attend our monthly free Company Stores 101 webinar!