Linotype Library – E-commerce in practice – June 7, 2000

The Linotype Library font company has completely revamped its business strategy through the Internet:the long-standing company is transforming itself from a specialty provider of font software into a global player in electronic software distribution.This was made possible by an innovative online concept for product marketing that is completely Internet-based.

"It was predicted in 1995 that,if our sales continued to decline, we would be washed up by the year 2002", explains General Manager Bruno Steinert. His company, the Linotype Library font house, is more profitable today than ever before and achieves double-digit margins.The decline in sales has been halted and even turned into growth.This turnaround was accomplished by way of a strict and innovative strategy for selling and distributing the company’s software products in digital form using electronic business solutions.In doing so, the company broke completely new ground in order to achieve its ambitious goals.

The primary goal of the new strategy was to improve profit margins through global direct marketing,while simultaneously supporting resellers worldwide, who in no way become superfluous as a result of online marketing. Distribution costs previously represented the greatest cost factor and can be reduced considerably by online marketing.The products are available at all times. Another goal was to tap into new markets and potentials – primarily also in the USA – and reach ot only typographers, but also designers and general computer users as new customer groups.

Faster and more agile in the market than the competition
Steinert is expecting Linotype to gain an advantage by using the online system to substantially reduce the time-to-market. The company also had to reposition and distinguish itself in the field of competitors. As a result of cross-licensing,which has been growing for many years, competitors are now in possession of similar or even identical products. The e-commerce system developed by Linotype Library offers essential USPs and additional benefits for Linotype and its customers. The key aspects are:

Cost and error minimisation through automation of the business processes.
The products are available around the clock.
An innovative database application (known as FontExplorer@Web)helps search,find and purchase a product,which is then delivered online in a matter of seconds.

The latest Internet technology makes it possible
For years now, fonts from Linotype Library have been sold on CD-ROM and opened directly by the customer by entering an access code. The FontExplorer, which was introduced at the beginning of 1998, offers a helpful navigation system for selecting the more than 4700 font products. However, the production and distribution of the CD-ROMs take a lot of time and money and the handling is still not simple enough. The idea of using the FontExplorer as the heart of an e-commerce solution on a web server led to the breakthrough.

A solution that is presently unique in Germany and Europe was elaborated for the technical realisation of the idea. It is based on Java applets together with Oracle and Intershop software. Intershop currently only offers the option of making transactions online. Product delivery, however,is handled by the usual transport routes – the postal service or a freight carrier. "After more than a year of development work, we are now capable of not only offering our products online, but also delivering them online", summarises Michael Haut, Head of IT at Linotype Library. Accordingly, the response to the introduction of the e-commerce system at Internet World in New York and Systems in Munich was very positive.

The programming and adaptation of FontExplorer@Web was based on the premise of offering maximum benefit and maximum ease of system operation. »Even users who don’t have any experience in online buying can easily find their way through the clear structure and online help of FontExplorer@Web and benefit from the convenient purchasing options", summarises IT Director Haut. According to him, users confirmed in the FontExplorer@Web test phase "that purchasing fonts is a lot of fun, because you can either get some inspiration or also immediately find what you’re looking for".

Payment options greatly expanded
One highlight of the e-commerce solution from Linotype Library is the newly developed modules for payment transactions and resellers. In addition to online clearing for all common credit cards, payments can also currently be made in three currencies (US Dollar,Euro and Deutschmark) and another 64 currencies are in preparation. You can pay with a customer card, pre-paid card or customer account, and a discount system is in preparation. In order to expand the distribution channels, the system has an online key generation function for resellers. The commercial partner generates access codes for his customers via a private,secure web site. This eliminates risks relating to warehousing and product obsolescence and ensures around-the-clock product availability.

The first statistics following the system launch in autumn 1999 clearly indicate its success. The number of hits quintupled as soon as the product was announced and even before advertising activities could get started: just under 300,000 page impressions a month and more than 1,200 user sessions per day were registered in the first month. "Although that’s not a lot compared to the visitor figures of portal sites on the web, a high percentage of our users bought something", explains Haut. After just two months, online font purchases already made up about 10% of consumer sales, a further 70% of which are still being generated by the FontExplorer™ CD-ROM with the online access function. Another important aspect is that the online offer is being well received internationally: over 60%of users are from the USA and just under 25% from the German-speaking countries.

The use of an innovative e-commerce system and the latest Internet technology has made a change of paradigm possible: Linotype Library has transformed itself from a font producer into a digital publishing house involved in the licensing of independent font designers. The company has also expanded distribution activities in its traditional market to include broad distribution by way of information technology. In other words, Linotype Library is into e-business and has shifted its core competence from the production of fonts to the worldwide distribution of virtual products and licenses.

Background facts
Search,find and buy fonts online!

At, Linotype Library presents its innovative e-commerce system for font software, offering functions for searching, selecting, advice, purchasing and delivery. Over 4700 original fonts and other products in a newly designed Linotype Library one-stop shop are thus available to all users who have a PC with Internet access. The offer addresses not only professional users from the fields of design, publishing, corporate communications and advertising, but also all newcomers to typography in the office or home-office sector who are interested in fonts.

The system, which is known as FontExplorer@Web, is based on the latest Internet technologies and enables simultaneous access for up to 5000 users in the search engine and 1000 users in the shopping area. For the first time, FontExplorer@Web now makes all the functions of the over 700,000 copies of the Linotype FontExplorer sold on CD-ROM available on the Internet. Accessing and using FontExplorer@Web is child’s play: after going to the start page, you can register as a user and then click the start button. FontExplorer@Web starts immediately and takes you directly to the font selection menu.

About the company
Linotype GmbH – a member of the Heidelberg Group – offers not only the latest in font technology,but also one of the world’s largest font libraries with original typefaces. The company was founded by Ottmar Mergenthaler and began to market the world’s first typesetting and casting
machine and its own fonts in 1886. The perfected systems were not replaced by computer systems until 1975. The desktop publishing revolution led to a dramatic slump in prices on the font market. The acquisition of the Linotype-Hell corporation by Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG was followed in 1997 by the establishment of Linotype GmbH with headquarters in Bad Homburg.The company currently has 40 employees.

Linotype GmbH – a subsidiary of the Heidelberg Group – offers one of the largest font libraries of original-cut typefaces using today’s state of the art technology.
To date there are more than 4700 PostScript and TrueType fonts available for Mac and PC and the Linotype FontExplorer, on CD or on the Internet, makes them accessible anytime, anywhere.
This press release is available as pdf file. Please download:
English version (165,9 kb)
German version (203,2 kb)