Serving up electronic catalogs, commonly in PDF format, is a great way to save on printing and shipping expenses. However, improper formatting can actually lead to higher costs.
A client recently updated his company’s 50-60 page PDF catalog and sent an email blast to tens of thousands of loyal customers. The click-throughs started almost immediately, more than 1,000 downloads in the first hour. Only one problem – the catalog, which previously came in around 20 megabytes (MB), was saved at a much higher resolution and not optimized for web viewing. The file size? Just over 200 MB.
Keep in mind that hosts commonly charge monthly fees based on the amount of bandwidth used. Even if you are allotted hundreds of gigabytes (GB) of data transfer each month, large files and large numbers of downloads add up fast.
Lets say the client goes over on their allotted amount this month. How much did that first hour cost?
At just over 200MB, five completed downloads would result in transfer of 1 GB; 1100 downloads were completed. Based on this, with an average billing cycle of roughly $1.25 / GB, one could easily rack up charges in excess of $16 per hour. Imagine, you send out a link to a catalog, and day one the cost is over $300. That’s a pretty hefty investment, especially since the entire goal was to significantly cut costs.
When serving up PDF documents, or other digitally “printed” media, keep a few things in mind:
- Most people don’t need the document in high resolution. 150dpi is sufficient for most printers. If you are preventing printing, you can use a smaller resolution.
- Should any customers request a high-res document (let’s say they need to print it out on a high-end color laser to pass across the big guy’s desk), you can serve such a file via a password-protected link.
- If you must provide large files (more than 20MB), either compress them (creating a downloadable .zip file) or serve the PDF from an ftp location so the user must download the file. Trying to load a large file in the browser can really slow things down on the user’s end.
- Most users load PDFs directly in the browser, and many prefer to do it this way – all the more reason to keep file sizes smaller.
- Your competitors are probably downloading, too. All the more reason to produce documents in a format that makes it more difficult for competitors to lift graphics and type. Remember, the print-screen button circumvents any password protection on most file types. By requiring registration or request for hi-res documents, you make them jump through hoops.
- If you’re catalog is tremendous – more than 75 pages – consider segmenting it so users can download only what they need. This can save a considerable amount of bandwidth.
Of course, all solutions should fit your business model. Use discretion when you take cost-cutting steps to ensure they’re actually cutting costs. This will not only save you money, but also cut down on your customers potential headaches as well.
You might also benefit from allowing customers to create their own catalogs. Services like Catalog-On-Demand works with various shopping carts (they’re adding more all the time) might be your answer.