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Redesigning Your eCommerce Site?

 

New year 2013, new look, new horizons? If redesigning your site is on your roadmap this year to boost conversion and generate more sales, consider these examples from my latest review of Top 100 sites (top, because Internet Retailer, nominated them as such, as they seem to stand out in shoppers’ experience).

Yet, 100 is too many and chances are high that most might not apply to your site. Lucky you, as I selected 20 from that list and from my own recent online shopping as the nominees in the Golden Globes of eCommerce Design 2013, (if there were such an event), as the examples that can inspire your own team.

1) Best cart and checkout experiences 

Simple, sleek and easy checkout experience, goes to Bonobos.com and Speck.com. Both, carry minimal steps to complete a buy (3-step or 1-page), use auto-complete functionality and please shoppers with the clean UI.

  •    – with Bonobos, note the consistency in useful links and messaging throughout the checkout flow. Top features “Need help? Get a real person with a phone number”, while bottom – “feedback” only.  (They do the same in global navigation across home, search, product and cart pages with a free shipping message, account & help links, feedback and social (on/off)). Note, how it focuses us on 1 step a time, cleverly using tabs to display minimum info, while also showing the progress that indirectly motivates us to complete the process of checking out. 
cart page bonobos.com

cart page bonobos.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

  •  – with Speck, notice the integration of cart and checkout as the one page experience. I loved the way how, while I put my shipping info, the billing section autofills itself. I also enjoyed the non-intrusive suggestion box to create an account and an invitation to share the purchase joy on Facebook and other sites, or even make a video out of it. 
  • More importantly, when I return to the experience to buy again, all info is saved (besides the credit cart, of course) and there is even a secondary call to action button to reorder the same product again and again.
screenshot cart speck.com

speck.com cart and checkout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) Best product pages 

When we are shopping for an item, product page content, functionality and design help us make the decision to buy or keep searching 50% of the time, if we think from the ballpark traffic volume for any given site. As a key page on a site, its goal is really to showcase well the product and yet not to overwhelm the potential buyer with all the qualities it has. Though, attribution to conversion by feature might vary for each site and only AB testing and site analytics can tell you the truth, yet, its key elements remain the same: well-positioned add-to-cart area, common sense recommendations with an element of surprise if needed, ratings and reviews that speak for themselves and images or videos that visually make a point.

- TigerDirect.com made its add to cart module follow the user as he scrolls down the page. So, at every point, when you are ready you know what to do.

floating add to cart on tigerdirect.com product page

floating add to cart on tigerdirect.com product page

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Rei.com has a clever design of find in store button, which likely drives equal if not higher number of orders as its electronic neighbor, add-to-cart.

clever design of find in store call to action button

clever design of find in store call to action button

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Underarmour.com brings shoppers attention to key page elements with a use of yellow marker? Why not! As long as it does the job.

yellow marked key messages on product page underarmour.com

yellow marked key messages on product page underarmour.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Firebox.com strikes us with creativity and humor in recommendations modules.  Who can resist a laugh while seeing – “WTF” message for unique products suggested or “You gonna love these“, or “James Bond would be proud of..“.It is much easier to be that creative and spunky if you are a niche site, but it would be a challenge if you are a mass merchant with dozens of categories. Yet, you still can go creative with a voice in those messages and see to what your shoppers respond most. What language charms your customers most?

creative, humorous recommendations messages firebox.com

creative, humorous recommendations messages firebox.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Casa.com makes its recommendations go an extra mile and become part of the add-to-cart experience, you can add the suggested items right there with the main item – going beautifully into a cart. Way to increase AOS via smart design.

add to cart imbed of recommended items casa.com

add to cart imbed of recommended items casa.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Amazon.com, Chacos.com, Modcloth.com use customer images well to add to the product page experience and boost its SEO. While the first two capture those within their own image area, the third embeds customer images in reviews. Better yet, the aforementioned Firebox folks also respond to customer reviews with comments, which makes you see they care about each distinct experience (way to differentiate a small site, could be not feasible for a mega site though).

email your photo prompt, chaco.com

email your photo prompt, chaco.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

customer image imbed in reviews, modcloth.com

customer image imbed in reviews, modcloth.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

respond to reviews inline, firebox.com

respond to reviews inline, firebox.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 3) Best search pages

When search page is one of the top contributors to orders, and if backed up with a good back-end algorithm, you might want to make it hard to miss. How about making it floating and sticky? No matter how far you scroll, and especially if you have persistent scroll on, make search follow the searcher.

- Shoplet.com approaches this right from the home page. No messing around!

 

persistent, floating search, home page, shoplet.com

persistent, floating search, home page, shoplet.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Americanbridal.com combines the same strategy with promo messages, and boasts to have increased AOS by 24% within a year from $85 to $105.

persistent floating search bar with promo, americanbridal.com

persistent floating search bar with promo, americanbridal.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Macys.com integrates social into search experience with a floating sidebar. I am still deciding and if need a girlfriends’ feedback, there is a fast way to do so.

floating social shopping bar, macys.com

floating social shopping bar, macys.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Brookbrothers.com is smart to capture preferences discovered by shoppers via search with a “remember this” button. That is a much more scalable approach to collecting customer intelligence for personalization vs. relying on item pages interaction only to weigh in.

"remember this" - button on search, brookbrothers.com

“remember this” – button on search, brookbrothers.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Fab.com shines with signaling number of items left in stock in search results already vs. item page as we are used to, to prompt making a choice.

"x" items left icon on search, fab.com

“x” items left icon on search, fab.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4) Best home pages

There is no place like home page that makes it or breaks for new business impressions or re-delighting return visitors. This is the place that gives each of us (hopefully with good targeting), what we want and becomes the reason why we come back…ideally!

- Cuttingedgeknives.co.uk steals this nomination by simply telling a new shopper what it is all about with vivid imagery, and yet ready to be explored as a potential buy if you like, right there without directing to a product page. You can hoover over the main POV and see item details for each peace in the spotlight.

item info on hoover, home page, cuttingknives.com

item info on hoover, home page, cuttingknives.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Casa.com welcomes home, no pun intended, with an inspirational discovery and promo within an interactive POV.

inspiring, interactive discovery POV, home page, casa.com

inspiring, interactive discovery POV, home page, casa.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

- CVS.com wows with clean tabbed display of key information, playing up the rule of 4 things at a time. It does so well that clearly there is no reason for a left navigation – a “design element” from the past.

no left nav, tabs of 4, home page, cvs.com

no left nav, tabs of 4, home page, cvs.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Google play makes it tidy with icon segmented personalization modules, delivering similar peace and clarity when we shop in color coded retail stores for clothes – nothing is overwhelming then!

icon segmented home page, google play

icon segmented home page, google play

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Booksamillion.com achieves similar compactness within a home page slider, using tabs.

tabs in home page slider POV, booksamillion.com

tabs in home page slider POV, booksamillion.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, these are the sites that peaked my interest in page experience design. Hope you get inspired too and wow more shoppers on the way to buy.

View all screenshots and experiences in larger size and as one page.

5 Trends in eCommerce Marketing in 2011 from Top Retailers US

Three weeks ago on March 15, 2012, I gave a speech at eCommerce Search and Sales event in Sao Paulo on trendsetters in eCommerce marketing in the US and Europe.

Over the last year, I observed through my research from 3rd party industry publications, sessions attended at various search marketing events and personal experience what leading retailers do. I singled out 5 key patterns, which cover natural search, conversion optimization and leveraging new traffic sources or emerging shopping channels. Most US retailers that enjoy steady growth do:

  1. Grow organic search visibility, to enjoy free traffic
  2. Reduce noise and steps pre-checkout, to boost conversion
  3. Tap into impulse buys of “on the go” last minute markets, to leverage emerging shopping situations and trends to bring new sources of traffic or to expand shopping experience for loyal customers (multi-channel)
  4. Tap into discovery buys to capture leisure, commute shoppers
  5. Cater to local needs, but deliver by local means, while expanding global coverage, yet capturing one country at a time.

I am going to expand on each strategy, the rationale behind it and implementation examples (download the deck to follow the takeaways.)

1. Grow organic search visibility

It is a no brainer what good SEO can do for your bottom line, at times at a fraction of cost of paid search. Natural search if done right and from the beginning is there for you to perform consistently and will not run out due to budget overspend. For new, small, upcoming merchants, natural search helps to level the field while competing with big guys. And for large retailers it can provide tons of savings and healthy ROIs and a potential for world domination in search rankings.

It is no wonder that smart retailers, big or small enjoy healthy shares of traffic from natural search. And when, I say healthy, I mean more than 25 % of total traffic. And when I think about organic search, I think of Google as a real estate broker for marketing of your goods & services free of charge as long as it is of value. For good value, you get customers or share of traffic, for sloppy job you get nothing. Natural search is free traffic, but you still have to work for it, especially in lieu of ongoing algo updates. Just for the last 12 months, only Google had about 11 Pandas, 1 freshness major update and many more, while for last month of March, it went through 50 search quality changes! A load full of stuff to consider! Yet, those changes are opportunities to spot, not mere changes to deal with.

To do be present in search engines effectively and even diversify your traffic sources, trendsetters leverage new emerging and current evolving opportunities: rich snippets, universal search, integrating social behavior into site experience, producing fresh, unique content that is worth a share, or a pin or a tweet and making site mobile friendly, all of those are key drivers of micro conversions, which ultimately result in more buys.

Rich snippets are an amazing way to increase click through rates by drawing attention to your listing. It is a low hanging fruit too. Google and Bing support product, prices, events, persons, and recipes.

  • For example, Best Buy implemented rich snippets mid last year and enjoyed 30 % CTR from Google within the a few weeks. Others, as shared at SMX 2012 in San Jose, implemented rel=author & rel= publisher tags, and enjoyed 5-10 % traffic lift within the first 2 weeks, while aggregating 15-30 % total. Though, rich snippets are not a novel idea, not everyone in ecommerce leverages them.
  • For universal and blended search, Advance Auto Parts comes to mind with its videos (product and how-to’s) on product pages, YouTube, Facebook, beautiful video map, as it enjoyed increased conversions for product pages, especially for 1st time visitors, and extended its reach & sound sharing engagement of how-to-videos. I am sure these efforts considerably reduced their costs per leads. You can even scale it up to enterprise level with video publishing platforms available in the market.
  • Or a small retailer, Oyster.com launched its business with SEO and quality content as key ingredients of its product strategy. It has a solid site architecture, quality, original, engaging content, creative copy and great linking & social media integration. Just look at their traffic, which is 50 % free. Brilliant!
  • Fab.com, though behind the subscription site, has a beautiful integration of social into the experience, incentivizing its customers to share and get cash within 2 clicks as simple and as smooth as part of the shopping experience. No wonder, Fab.com enjoys 61 % traffic from Facebook vs. 6 % from Google. It also leverages well its blogs, and has lots of viral links. 40 % are actively engaged with their favorite brands via Facebook and say they are actively shopping on the social network. Bing also favors twitter links and authority signals quite a bit in its algorithm, so tweeting links up, makes a difference.

Differentiating your current content through rich snippets on SERPs, leveraging universal search & making your content worth sharing or part of social discovery allows capturing more traffic into the store. While, making your site SEO friendly and focusing on fundamentals can potentially double your total traffic within a few months; going the advanced route in resonance with algo changes from SEs might bring opportunities to dial up the effectiveness of other traffic sources: direct, social and mobile and even boost your other demand generation initiatives.

2. Reduce noise and steps pre-checkout

Once you got all that traffic to your pages, you want to waste no time to get them buy. Reducing noise and steps pre-checkout is the second best practice that distinguishes top performers and results in more orders.

The speed and simplicity of how you go about your funnels makes a difference. The less steps you have, before the checkout and within, the more captured traffic is to be converted. So remove extra steps, pages and clicks.

When shoppers landed on your pages, chances are very likely they know what they want to buy and now dealing with “which” one to choose dilemma. Your job to reduce the steps & thinking process for this part and provide enough information upfront as needed.

As needed is key here, that you will want to test, while “as much as possible” can overwhelm people and even concern search engines. Studies have been done that proved too many choices thrown at the customer slow the decision making process.

Some SEOs in the industry, also claimed that reducing the number of search results/product options might boost search results pages quality in terms of traffic and visibility.

  • Evo.com found that customers have to compare products while still in search for a perfect item, hence high abandonment of shopping carts. So they added a compare tool and color swatches right in the search result pages, which both increased conversions and sales.
  • Shopstyle.com, a lead generation site, converts people within 2 clicks on their category and search results pages. Implementation via the vertical slider is awesome from the user experience and friendly for SEO. It also addresses well pagination and duplicate content issue. Moreover, it has no product pages. You convert through the quick-look hoover. Love it.

Simplicity drives the highest profits. It also delivers joy while shopping. Polish your funnels, check if you have too much info and too many links, and streamline those as well for bots so that they do not waist time either. Go many times through your funnels to understand how much time it takes to buy. The less time users and bots spend on your pages, the more cash your estore generates, working like a money making machine.

3. Tap into impulse buys of “on the go” markets

Once you have customers flying through your funnels and placing orders or sharing deals on your site, don’t you wish to have them literally fly and shop at the same time?

With 49 % of all smartphone users researching and actually buying on smartphones, going mobile is necessary not to lose even the sales of loyal customers. It is also a great channel for new users and opportunity to steal competitor traffic:

  • 51% more likely to purchase from a retailer when it was mobile friendly,
  • 40% would visit a competitor’s site instead due to a disappointing mobile experience.

Yet, smart retailers study even deeper what mobile shopping can be all about. Travel category sites dominate mobile. 85 % of frequent flyers use smartphones and adopt mobile shopping, per Internet Retailer.

Mobile shopping loves travel. It thrives on the conditions occurring in travel situations; we might have to make last minute reservations, change of plans, experience airplane delays.

Mobile also syncs well with a spontaneous shopper, who happens to get free time or wanting something right there and now, thus playing up on the instant gratification we all are used to.

And, lastly, retailers that have been active in this channel early on, also saw some synergies among the channels, or marketing initiatives.

It is also noted that email coupled with mobile works like magic. It triggers the attention of shoppers on the go to act on the impulse to take care of that. A beautiful pairing.

  • Hotels.com, which I am a good customer of, doubled their mobile bookings in 2011. They also tapped into the specific segment that only shops last minute on the go. So, now, they feature deals that are exclusively available on mobile app in situations when minutes matter. Last week I was in New York, and got plenty of emails, 4-5 on last minute deals during my stay, just in case. Noteworthy, if we look at the email marketing effectiveness for Hotels.com on Compete, we can confirm the high growth rates from 71% up to 255%, and stellar performance in driving traffic.
  • Last minute booking is highly desirable and growing segment, in such a way that entire app businesses is showing up. Example, here with HotelsTonight, providing deals on that given night only and yet, you still get a deal. Isn’t that great, you are stuck in a city and do not want to pay high rates at the hotel you stayed in or go wherever the airline that messed up sent you? You have a place where offers bid for your business right here, right now.
  • Fandango, a movie reseller site, benefited from a single feature on its app, “Go Now” that allows to make a decision to watch a movie within mins if you happen to have an urge and the time, nearby.

Mobile and last minute offers exemplify the reality that lots online shoppers became very savvy in finding deals, comparing prices and will not settle for less. Mobile, plus instant consumption also reflect the reality of on the go lifestyle. So, if you keep waiting on how far those trends go, without engaging today, you will potentially miss on a new kind of a shopper or even lose a bunch of loyal customers that happen to add mobile to their options to shop for your brand.

4. Tap into discovery buys

Discovery buys are usually the opposite experience with users, shopping in a cozy place vs. on the go. They are also not planned, known; yet if you can engage the user fully in the experience and provide proper tools and merchandising, you can cash in and draw a significant share of all purchases.

Discovery buys emerge in situations when customers cannot engage into searching for the right item as it might be new to them or hard to do, like shopping for art. Or they have to defer the process of buying it, given its high price tag. Or they simply have no time, but have a general idea what would be best and would act on it if matched per expectations.

Tapping into discovery buys requires creativity and it allows finding new ways to shop for your audience, discovery buys can lead to marginal adds-ons to sales.  Some retailers already doing that by exploring curated merchandizing, also known as breaking their inventory into collections, themes, or make me a match site features, and also exploring coach commerce, or tablet shopping, with about 63 % of US retailers planning site redesigns to benefit from the trend, as eMarketer claims.

  • Art.com launched “Inspire my discovery” and “Find my image” visual search feature, and noticed that customers that use those, spend 2X more and convert 75 % faster.
  • Wine.com gets 6 % of all traffic from iPad and enjoyed increased spends from tablet shopper and even 20 % of revenue on the last day of Xmas.

Other retailers start paying attention to a common 50 % share of iPad in relation to all mobile traffic, a growth worth cultivating.

Tapping into discovery shopping experience is an ongoing trend, with ample room for creativity from the user experience and art of merchandising. Tablet shoppers are enthusiastic and happy about shopping.  With the number of tablet owners expected to skyrocket over the next few years, these shoppers are among the most important market segments to merchandize for.

5. Cater to local needs, deliver by local means

In a situation when you conquered your home base and ready to cast a wider net at international markets, you better be ready to spend lots on infrastructure to build it for each country. That is what top retailers from US do when they have their sights on shoppers of Europe.  You have to be an early entrant there to succeed. You also have to look deeper, segment by country.

There are specific needs and conditions for each country that must be met to be relevant there. Trendsetters focus on a hot category around a very specific niche and take over, or win over one country at a time, building custom marketing, merchandising, and fulfillment.  They also understand that the time and investment needed to build trust and break adoption barriers, because the payoff eventually will be much bigger due to the 1st comer benefit.

  • I was in Toronto, Canada in February and was amazed how condensed the city is and how many people are in the downtown. No one drives in the city and it gets rather crowded, there are thousands of great restaurants, you do not need to cook. I could live with that! Yet, it is perfect for grocery delivery business or restaurant delivery, Justeat.ca. UK, especially, London is also displaying the same conditions. In fact, Tesco, a UK retailer already dominates that hot category and is expanding it to Eastern Europe.
  • Easter Lauder also targets by country, yet providing global inventory, yet it still markets differently and is honoring country specific payment options to foster adoption.

In the past, some retailers tried to scale and approached Europe as one whole market, quickly learning that only country specific segmentation; country specific demand and shopping preference by category will work with all that fragmented infrastructure. And once you are in and accepted, you are there to rip the benefits of expansion.

So, to do effective eCommerce marketing, you can leverage natural search, new traffic sources and new shopping behavior trends & conditions by:

1. Investing into content production of items, worthy sharing every day

2. Reducing noise, barriers to buy

3. Feeding impulse buys, convert the always connected shopper: on the go, coach, in transit

4. Tapping into discovery buys, make your shoppers a match in heaven

5. If expanding markets (segments, countries), thinking and delivering local (as Romans do).

The list of strategies identified is not exhaustive; yet, some retailers only focus on 1-2 and make a difference. Imagine if you get all five strategies on the roadmap within your team!

Bonus:

Online Marketing Opportunities With Google Plus

Google Plus launched with fireworks as exemplified in tweets and blogs lately, posing questions to brand marketers, social media folks and SEOs on what it means as a new tool or marketing channel. Its scalable integration with other Google products allows for many ways to easily expand its user base. Though, it still has to resolve the issue of having various accounts for various services. Still even if a small percentage of all active customers from each Google product is converted, the total sum might pose a sizable competition for Twitter and Facebook within the next 1 to 2 years. To which, its early rapid adoption rate of 10 million within 2 weeks of its launch validates this thought. So, it is better to start getting familiar with it today and there are plenty of guides and how-tos and face offs available to do so.

Mashable media site alone has a handy article with 19 resources to start with Google Plus (and also serves as a good sample of smart and timely internal linking optimization).

Among the early adopters of this technology are social media sites and various SEOs from Search Engine Land and beyond. What also is intriguing how aggressive the mainstream media has become to respond to this new technology. Journalists use hangouts right on air time and test audience engagement rates on Google Plus and other networks to get a measurable idea of its value as a channel.

So what are the emerging benefits Google Plus is likely to provide to marketers?

1) It is excellent for SEO and if you have a site and a Facebook like button, make sure you add a Google Plus button to enter the game. Also, I find it only applicable to pages where you have quality content, or already have a Facebook Like button. Adding it to all pages, might be excessive and not useful since there should be a good reason to Plus One the page. It can become a good proxy for you to take stock of your unique content and see how it performs with users: a very good metric given Google Panda updates that gave more weight to sites with quality content.

SEOs also speculate that Google Plus statistics will factor in your site search visibility as much as the clicks to your site from Google SRPs. It especially makes sense with the recent stop of real-time search feature on Google, given its contract expiration. It is very likely that Google will substitute this functionality, previously delivered by Twitter API by Google Plus. See Rand Fishkin’s SEO test on how Twitter and Google + interactions play out in Google search results.

What I also noticed is if you already have writtent about a specific topic and have some presence on Google Plus, your picture and name will show up in the right next to the related post of Google search results. Which has a huge potential for influential experts to stand out and market themselves more effectively. Now, with a face against the search result to aid recognition. So, think first what picture you want to use on Google Plus profile!

There are probably more SEO benefits that are easily visible at this stage. I could see external linking opportunities and use cases to surface within the platform.

2) It is well-suited for targeted messaging. With its massive intent data, and already advertised user base statistics for Google +,  Google is working on a powerful ad platform. Meanwhile, using circles you can communicate with topics very relevant to the custom segments within your circles and enhance your influence on those folks the way you want it. Facebook does not make it easy as of now to custom message to your audiences without making selective messaging so obvious.

3) It is mobile friendly. Google Plus is already on Android, and will be available on iPhone, which will allow you to engage with your audience outside the desktop. Techcrunch provides a brief overview of Google Plus mobile presence, covering what works and what is yet to come.

4) It is integrated in web and search analytics tools. Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and some 3rd party search analytics tools (Link Research Tools) already show reports on 1+engagement metrics (search impact, activity or what pages invoked Google plus acts and audience (number of unique users doing those), so you are at a good start to measure your content attractiveness and user engagement.

5) It might provide opportunities in brand management. Though, company profiles are not favored yet, given its testing period, it is likely that company pages and profiles will be available. It could be fantastic for public announcements, virtual conferences, while connecting various audiences without needed IT setup.

6) It can be excellent for product management. Getting in touch with potential users of your new product or collecting feedback on the existing service using hangouts functionality makes it a good tool to collect insights directly from your audience on what works and what does not. It also allows you to capture body language and clues from the environment of your conversations to enrich your learnings about a topic at hand. Though, limited to 10 parties to participate, it can still foster a quality focus group session.

7) It can be benefit your people search. If you are new to some aspect of internet marketing and trying to get into the new area, finding and connecting to experts becomes somewhat personal and more engaging via Google Plus directory. You can find people who joined the network. It also allows you to find experts in various fields based on the provided statistics and much eye-eappealing UI than Twitter search. It might even become a people search filter on Google in the future. How exciting!

It is likely that more applications of Google Plus are to come within the next few months, and using them early in your marketing campaigns might very well provide some first entry advantages.

I am playing with it rather lightly as of today myself. Are you?

15 Trends of How We Prefer to Shop Today

Being part of a human nature, the way we shop continuously evolves around new tools that we create, which accelerate the way we make decisions and expand on our wired tendencies how to hunt for a good piece of game or a bush of berries if you wish. There are 15 common trends of how we prefer to shop these days that I collected from my recent readings and some educational sessions from the latest Shop.org event. Some you will definitely find typical of your current behavior and some may help you connect with your audience that you are selling to.

1. Shopping is social. Who does not love shopping? It is almost embedded into every day of our lives. If you do not shop, you definitely engage into bartering with your fellow homo sapiens or homo neanderthals (if that is your preferred social crowd). Thus, shopping is a very social experience. It does not stop being social even if you live in the mountains with goats as your only companions, as you will still have an internal evaluation dialog with your own self on which hill to drive your herd towards to.

These days, we share our “likes” with our Facebook friends, show them what we buy and require their feedback. Or we might be simply feeling exhilarated in the actual store, when we find a great item and wish to show it before we buy. I did that with my recent Ann Taylor dress, after my girlfriend approved my choice and shared my joy. In the end, I got more stuff! Coincidentally, the same Victoria Secret experience was not supported by the staff on the floor, as they strictly said: “You are not allowed to take pictures here”, when I tried to snap a picture of my precious find into my SnapTell app! I explained my innocent try to validate my purchase decision, but was rejected again with a “That is why we have catalogs!” response. “Well, I do not have your catalog right now and do not wish to see it and I cannot share it easily with my friend to decide to buy it or not”, I retorted. But, no luck, as my response was met with a blank face of a sale associate with a cold, “your-behavior-is-not-welcome-here-and-your-money-too” look.  That drove me towards a competitive store right away and followed by my immediate returns the day afterward. Embrace the evolution, VS and see how other stores make extra buck on it. Stop punishing me for shopping at your store! (A tip to the online marketers of VS: make sure your efforts of driving traffic to the stores are not killed at the time when your customers are about to part with their money by old-fashioned strategy of your sale staff. Talk to them often, or sometimes maybe?)

2. Shopping is everywhere, anywhere, even in the private restroom time. So be sure you are present online, mobile, on Google maps, on Yelp and every desktop or mobile application your customers might be using. They will not reward your absence at the point of their utmost desire to purchase if you do not show up where they are because you have a different web strategy. “Your customer will not stop if they find nothing on your establishment on Yelp and go home to research about it on their desktop.” The odds are they will spend their dollars elsewhere. Do you really want that?

3. Fast shopping is rewarded by more shopping. I mentioned Amazon Prime in my prior post (see 9), but it is still the best player that capitalizes on the core truth: the impulsive nature of buying. They made buying so fast, that it becomes as natural as breathing. It is not a process, but 1-2-3 click action of mine, as natural as my urge to buy this book right now. Another example is iPad. “It is on right away as electricity, as opposing to your common PC experience of turning it on, going to take a rest in the bathroom, coming back and logging in and going to put on some tea and coming back when it is finally on.” Make your product consumption or shopping process as fast as instant gratification and you will have my soul, my money and my all! This is how all of us think on the reptile brain level and behave accordingly.

4. People talk about their shopping, so make use of those talks. 75-85% of online shoppers read online reviews, as was the latest stat reported by Bazaarvoice folks. If your product, company or even your name is not surfacing via online conversations, I would be more hesitant to be the first one to experience “whatever-mystery-experience” other buyers might have had.  Turn your online reviews on! Follow online conversations pertaining to your products and brands. Monetize your reputation!

5. People buy based on reviews of strangers, not friends and family necessarily. We used to believe that only closer social circles would allow us to sway a buyer into our shop. As it stands today, people buy based on reviews of strangers (“wisdom of crowd”) very easily, so more support for point 4 above.

6. Negative reviews convert faster. How so? We all are unique and our preferences are so specific, that we need context to make a better comparison. If you find a good deal for a hotel, a 4 star, as an example, but see a negative review, you want to dig in and see what’s going on. You find out that the only thing that the person did not like was that at 7 am, there was no chocolate mint on his pillow, all else was superb. My bet you will book that room right away. The qualitative piece of human context in those reviews allows to decipher where you are at the multi-dimensional relativity of product experience within unique perceptions on what is great and what is bad.

7. People do not shop for just the cheapest thing. (Even if you are a mass retailer, the cheapest deal is not what everyone wants. Yes, Expedia, I am talking to you!). Most of us are very brand loyal and base our preferences on our experiences and perceptions of a product. Or similar experiences, not even connected to the product that are communicated to us via advertising that is as old as the hammer and works every time. So, make sure you learn those emotional triggers that describe and visualize how great it is to have your product in our lives and how miserable it could be if we do not have it. Only then, you will know how to promote them effectively and make us buy again and again.

8. We are 95% slaves of our habits. Do not make me leave my daily-rewarded conditioned experience and place, like Facebook. So, if we are used to spend our mornings and afternoons on Facebook, publicizing our personalized “me-celebrity” lives, please do not make us leave it. Why would I leave my comfortable, ego-stroking environment to buy? Can I buy while I am there, with all my fans, real and “not-so-real friends”? Start selling your products to my majesty where I am, that is Facebook, at least for the next year.

9. Consumers create their own experience and content, which sells better than yours! Various contests that companies have run exemplify how customers can be very innovative with producing great, engaging content. Craftsman brand lately launched the ultimate picnic contest on Facebook and had the most creative ideas generated by their customers based on this principle of crowd-sourcing. The winning option became a staple and a popular selling product.

10. Real interactions with real people do deliver vs. a pretend presence. If you are present online, make sure you engage with your customers via Twitter, Facebook or some other form/app as a human being and help them promptly if there is a problem vs. passive web screening. If there is a great contribution by your customer to promote your product that he or she has done on her own and delivered numerous sales to you, please reward them, acknowledge the same way as you would, if you were a small town baker. Do not just say: “Cool, great job!” on the Facebook wall. Do something about it as a human would. Otherwise, people do see your one-sided fake presence and eventually tune out. How would you feel if you brought $$$ to your favorite brand or store and they simply and cheaply thanked you?

11. Consumers create audience pools, followers & tribes around their consumption. Hall videos, as Mitch Joel shared in his speech, are a growing powerful trend. A 16-year girl shops and posts videos of her shopping finds. She describes her experience and the rationale behind the buy. She has million subscribers and does it religiously very frequently. Perhaps, it is not long till she gets an endorsement contract from a “faster” brand or a few of them to capitalize on the sizable audience. She might as well does it as a natural way to express herself, but what a find she could be for a smart marketer!

12. Powerful bloggers can create a havoc for your product promo or inventory management. Another story shared was about some powerful blogger that got a reference from his friend about a good travel bag (he had issues with his prior product). Well, the endorsed brand delivered so much to the relieved blogger that he created a video and a demo with love and posted it on his blog. He happened to be one of the top 150 Power bloggers and the item sold out very fast. Do you know your power bloggers?

13. Great marketing comes in simple forms. The evident success of Woot, Groupon & similar sites/apps lies in its simplicity to deliver one value a day or at a time. Could you deliver greatly on one claim vs. promising the sky and the earth? See, if you could simplify your marketing and a new business model might be very well born!

14. Checking in with you = professing their love for you = contributing to your sales. As we see with Foursquare and similar platforms, customers are willing to share their consumption stats with the whole world at times. By doing so, they profess their love for your brand.  So, reward and make them check-in for more. Starbucks does a great job “loyalising” its customers, while utilizing the same conditioning principle of a reward for a check-in as smart wife does for her husband!

15. Selling online without ecommerce. This happens when some brands really get their customers and engage very effectively with them on various channels on a daily basis without the ability to sell. They still drive them later to the stores to buy, but invest more into cultivating the brand loyalty and the urge to be on the top of their audience minds every day. Koji trucks hunt on Twitter created mass popularity for that restaurant. “If the truck can do that, you can do it too!”

That is all for this month, enough to ponder and act upon for you, a smart marketer!

Respective credits to:

|1) Shop.org 2010 Keynote with Mitch Joel, Social Commerce and Emerging Trends (that inspired this post! many thanks!); 2) Buyology, Martin Lindstrom; 3) Habit, the 95%  of behavior Marketers Ignore, Neale Martin; 4) Neuromarketing, Patrick Renvoise & Christophe Morin.|

Top 5 Evolved Online Behaviors & Consumer Appealing Internet Experiences

Do internet technologies shape our behavior or our online patterns allow for their emergence? Similar to chicken-and-egg argument (which was recently resolved), there are new developments in how companies interact with customers or how our web habits and all the accumulated data reform they way we do things. The top 5 evolving trends worth noting and expanding on are as follows:

1) Companies integrate social networks more aggressively and transparently into the user shopping cycle or online behavior. Today, it is pretty much expected, not shocking to social savvy online audience to have the ability to integrate with their favorite brands online.

Ex.A: Amazon recently launched its product reviews feature with Facebook, providing a new social shopping experience that allows people see what their friends are looking for, buying, wishlisting and indulging into. That makes us all so much more connected and closer to each other! If that functionality catches on, it can truly change how we associate with each other, in regards to how fast we can screen each other in and out, or get to know as social human beings. It also has a potential to enrich our relationships since all that info will be available and easily accessible.

Ex.B: SimplyHired similarly showcases job leads with LinkedIn/Twitter/Facebook connections on its pages  (which is visualized via the UI) to help its users to succeed with their job search and prompt them reach out to the people they already know. That site feature makes it easy for us to accomplish our tasks, get what we are searching for. If the A was “social shopping”, B would be “social sourcing”?

Ex.C: Groupon encourages us to buy in groups and share the benefits of discounted pricing, gently conditioning us to be always aware of “collective bargain hunting” and capitalizing on our natural tendency to share rewards with special folks in our lives. So many intrinsic benefits are interwoven into the experience!

2) Loyalty programs and applications grow in popularity with rewards focused on users sharing publicly/checking in into the stores and services, broadcasting those “visits” to their social networks of friends and contacts. Game element is also very much a must and present there. It works perfectly to keep the interest alive for a while, which is also backed up with tangible rewards and providing users the ability to feel important, accepted and happily justified about their purchases.

Ex. A: Popularity of Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite, Loopt and similar applications exemplify this trend. On the marketers’ side, imagine the possibilities of growing LTV of each person with all that available data! It is a win-win situation for both marketers and consumers.

3) Most web products provide a simplified multi-network status update, catering to the newly evolved need or “common behavior” of an average person to check in online in various places. So even if the application engages you on the company specific content, this standalone feature develops a closer “bond” and provides you with another reason to engage.

Ex. A: Hot Potato now trains us openly into sharing our statuses beyond consumed services and attended events. It allows us being more social and expressive within our micro worlds in real time!  Here, we are experiencing exponential social engagement that definitely transcends our physical reality of engaging with only a limited number of folks at a time.

Ex. B: Yahoo! email allows users to respond to status comments via email. No need to login to Facebook now.

Ex. C: Seismic web, more of a professional application, now allows to manage multiple Twitter, Facebook and + accounts in one spot. It could very much spread into the adoption by consumers of a specific kind, i.e social media heavy users with multiple identities or roles.

4) Nearly all types of businesses now offer mobile versions of engaging with the brand or consuming their products: a growing mobile-ization of anything that was desktop access or print only before.

Ex. A: Digital couponing and mobile scanning are taking off.

Ex. B: Mobile web and apps are becoming a traditional, a given channel for many stores, sites, networks.

Ex. C: Sending postcards goes mobile too with an element of game with SwingVine (a Seattle start-up! Yay for the city!).

5) Companies empower its customers and prospects with a choice to have control on what to be served, personalize preferred content/advertising; or engage with its users on a more interactive, personal level, i.e. one-to-one marketing.

Ex. A: Our all times favorite Old Spice campaign actively engaged its audience with personalized videos and tweets. It did have two other success variables: hard to resist all-muscle body (sex appeal) and clever humorous creative! But, clearly, the biggest contributor to its success was the interactive element that allowed its audience to experience being personally addressed within the campaign. Customers and prospects now could become part of the campaign, not through the contest of touting the product, but through being in the spotlight, with a personal attention from the brand!

Ex. B: Shopping cart saver application, Olark, utilized on some ecommerce sites, catches its shoppers right when they are about to abort/not complete the purchase with the live person (via IM widget) that simply offers to provide human help! All that is based on the data tracked throughout the checkout process that also becomes useful to the other side of the IM to deliver personalized service when your converting customers need it!

Ex. C: Integration of clickstream analytics into the CRM tool, which also automates the creation of lead profiles, will surely scare off some of us. On the other side, how much more easily could we transfer our leads and prospects into the customers based on already “expressed” interest. From the potential customer perspective, how pleasant would it be to get approached by the company which seems to be capable to sense your emerging needs?

Ex. D: Groupon also lately launched the functionality to choose your deals of the day content based on your interests, which will definitely skyrocket its conversion based on all the relevancy and condition us, users to consume our favorite products more often and sometimes in a good company!

How fascinating, isn’t it?

Top 3 Online Marketing Channels That Influenced My Purchase Decisions This Month

Usually, I write about ideas and experiences from the 3rd party perspective, but this month was very much consumed by my own online shopping, searching and finding the basic necessities of an urban lifestyle, driven by my recent move from Seattle, WA to Dallas, TX. Thus, my only observations of what got me sold in ecommerce are derived straight from the source – my own experience as a customer. So, what drove my purchasing decisions and resulted in my smooth transition from NW to SW?

1. Retargeting (re-messaging) online display ads that appeared “miraculously” on various online destinations that I went afterwards – Facebook, Google Maps, Reader, email, news sites – kept my attention sharp on the items I wanted and got me to buy them within a week from the point of initial search to a purchase. Granted, I did abandon the cart a few times (intentionally and not), but it was followed up with  coupon discount offers in emails and re-messaging ads, thus overstock.com managed to win my business.  To get the fundamentals of its effectiveness, see my prior post -“Why Should You Care About Retargeting“.

2. Online reviews for apartments, furniture and local area services and neighborhood amenities very much influenced my choice of the zip code to live, an apartment complex to choose to shortlist and large furniture items to consider.  Shopping for something like your new place to live without visiting is almost comparable to getting married before going on a blind date. It is all good and fancy on the perfect website – the pictures are stellar, the web copy is all flattery and a price seems to be within the range. But, I still have a cold feet feeling.  So, I asked for the photos of the actual products – in this case, an apartment unit available. And, I did have to ask for those twice, because on my first request, I got the same photos I had seen on all websites where this product was shown. The lesson was to remain beware and careful. So, I went digging and searched for reviews, not just on those sites – but everywhere online. And, this is where the bits of true customer experiences started to come out, warning me about some features that I would not even think of or confirming my prior research. Thus, online reviews influenced roughly 80 % of my buys, which is pretty much close to the standard rate of online reviews reliance by US customers, according to the study (April 2009) by Opinion Research Corporation [”The survey revealed 84 percent of Americans say online customer evaluations have an influence on their decision to purchase a product or service..”].

3) Social networks – namely Facebook, allowed me to bounce back my shopping and searching questions through my friends in Seattle, who knew people in Dallas, who I trust! It always intrigues me how our social affiliations and friendships influence our purchasing behavior. But, it would be not wise not to utilize this time and experience-tested well of information.  I asked and I got my questions resolved.  Imagine of there were an app that would advise my friends on the things in Dallas I would be interested in – as a fresh local? Could some piece be triggered in Facebook settings that noticed the change from Seattle to Dallas and prompted my friends on either side to recommend new places, granted that most people enjoy giving recommendations? As we know, the core enjoyment of being social derives from those mini information trades!  Still psyched about Facebook and all it has to offer?  Then, check “Facebook Marketing Bible” by Justin Smith or a comprehensive list of “300 Social Media Marketing Case Studies” by Wendy Tarr.

In sum, I had limited time, resources and attention like any other average consumer. But, my needs were destined to be met after a through mix of intelligent personalized advertising that I did not mind (as my brain was set to pay attention to the items in demand), availability of online “usage stats and opinions, aka reviews” and referrals from my social capital.  Overall, my shopping process resembles a pretty mainstream buyer behavior pattern that is easy to utilize these days. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and replicate!

Online Lifestyles Are a Norm? Yes, They Are!

December is always a special month for me as it is a time when all the checks and balances occur, when all the moments of the year are revisited in memory again – relived, pondered upon and signed off as lessons and discoveries. It is also a time for predictions, wish lists and anticipation! So with the respect to my passion for marketing, I am contemplating on the passing year with a reflection on online lifestyles or call it digital lifestyles that became a norm. Little by little, our activities move online: online shopping, online banking, online dating, online networking, online socializing!

According to the Stanford University study on Internet Usage Report, published in internet stats, “the longer people have been web users the more hours and the more activities they report engaging in. While self-selection may be playing a role with early adopters, the data strongly suggests a model of social change with not only a growing number of Internet users, but with web users doing more and more things on the internet in the future.” Though, I am not sure about the number of respondents and who they were, since according to the chart -if you have been online for 5 years, your average usage hours per week can be close to 9. Well, I totally can see myself spending 30 hours per week, excluding business hours, though I discovered internet in 2000 only (yes, I know it is late, but try to keep me from it now!)

Paid search is getting on the top hot list and though it is not a new way to reach our customers, it is the most profitable and on the target! Why not to love it? You pay for actions, purchases or performance. Besides it is so interwoven into everyday’s consumer behavior – no wonder it works! If I think about all the new things I want to buy, learn and get to know – what do I do? – I go online and search. And if before I was only paying attention to unsponsored results, now if it comes to the specialized services in the area– I prefer paid links. My rationale comes from the following – those folks might be mature and sophisticated enough to advertise online, thus the service /or business they are in – is taken seriously. What did people do before search engines? Yellow pages…did work well then with the phones. Now, we want to do everything online – as the majority of us is there 24/7.

Peer reviews, consumer reviews and any bad experiences – I look for those as well before I buy. This brings us to the second nominee on the list – social networks where people interact and recommend stuff. Social networking became so everyday-vital – almost like email. And even though for online and “everything internet” skeptics it =(being online 24/7) might seem too over the board or a sign of no life (remember, second life – no life cartoon?) – Online lifestyle is a norm. On the contrary, the majority of people on social networks are the most extraverted –social folks that stay in touch with far more people at a time than one could imagine long time ago before internet. It is also a great opportunity for the introverted to express more, to share more and to be surrounded with the personalized attention without the overbearing voice of extraverts! And thus, with the increase of time we spend in our networks, with the ease we express our wishes, share the knowledge – we bring our lives online and plant very obvious patterns of our daily consumption. What are the greatest opportunities are those for online advertisers! They can cater to us personally – with all the data that has been collected about our daily habitual interactions.

Rich media would be the third favorite of mine – acquiring hearts, eyeballs and attention span of millions of people. Sharing videos, audio files and such became so easy and fun. You can become a TV star, a radio star and an international celebrity thanks to all the rich media capabilities internet offers.

With that, I wish you all Happy Holidays (be that Christmas, New Year, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or Eid-al-Adha) and more fulfilling online experiences in your digital lives!

Top Ten Interactive Marketing Trends Observed Throughout 2007

I have been thinking about the top ten interactive marketing trends that I can name on the top of my head that are still pursued by the fellow marketers. I came up with a list of those that was not as surprising as I wanted it to be. At the same time, it reminded me how long marketing as a profession has been around. Reading and tracking various industry publications (Brandweek, AdAge and NYT) as well as googling the term “Interactive marketing trends 2007” for value-add opinions in the top marketing blogs, brought me to the following top ten list:

1. Advergaming
2. Online video
3. Consumer generated media
4. Social networking
5. Mobile social networking
6. Interactive TV
7. Relationship marketing
8. Evangelism marketing, or word-of-mouth marketing
9. Paid search marketing
10. Community-powered search

Regardless of the research executed on the topic, this list does represent somewhat subjective professional judgment. Simultaneously, the top ten list is not necessarily prioritized by significance of the item.

Advergaming has been on the market for two years and according to Zodiac Interactive’s EVP-Sales & Marketing Rick Howe noted, “Advergames are compelling, sponsored interactive content that enables leading brands to attract large, targeted audiences and effectively promote their brands across multiple platforms. Custom branded Advergames and contextual in-game advertising are considered to be one of the most effective and stickiest vehicles to engage consumers in deeply engaging online experiences. Similar to product placements or ad placements in movies, in-game advertising is subtly placed throughout the gaming experience in a form of banner ads or fictional placements to make a game more real. It is almost surreal to live without advertising! Internet games are filled with products like Cheetos, Mountain Dew and Laffy Taffy. Advertisers know that tomorrow’s consumers are today’s children and they utilize this knowledge in shaping brand loyalties like gardeners growing an orchard.

Online video is very popular these days thanks to its captivating effect as a medium and a number of easy-to-use online applications that fully support its production, sharing and editing. YouTube, Jib Jab and the rest became so common that everyone knows how to use those and does it on regular basis. Online accessibility provides for wide consumer coverage and the interactive video effect allows for better envisioning for potential customers how the product can be used and what the actual benefits are. One of the best examples would be the animation effect in email marketing that a chocolate provider used. According to Amy Johannes from Chief Marketer, the marketer was able to boost its sales by 49% by utilizing animated images in the promotional emails. They also ran a Valentine’s Day promo. “Clickthroughs on an animated e-mail were 203% higher than those showing just a static picture, the study found.” Consumers are used to rich media applications and they expect messages directed at them to be animated, interactive or some sort of participatory.
Finally, it is almost a fact that every strong marketing team is able to produce or to induce the production by customers of humorous online ads and distribute them virally through social media channels, where YouTube is one of the players. According to the eMarketer article on Online Video: Seeing the Whole Picture, “it projects that the number of online video viewers in the US alone will rise from 114 million in 2006 to 183 million in 2011. “
As B2B April article states the point of view of Matt Ross, president of McCann Worldgroup San Francisco,” Entertainment engages, and entertainment sells. People will grant you a tremendous amount of time if you make it rewarding and worthwhile.”

Consumer generated media, or in other terms user-generated content was a very loud marketing term in 2006. Everyone in the marketing community was thrilled at the opportunities and effects it provided. According to Jeffe Juice, one of the marketing bloggers, “Everyone from Doritos to Mentos, MasterCard to Panasonic, Chevy to Oreos, offered user generated content programmes. And not without good reason. Consumers really responded. The UGC programme that Renegade created for Panasonic was great for engaging the action sports community. Mentos’s effort to ride the wave of consumer interest in watching Coke bottle geysers has created a corresponding explosion in sales (up 17% over the previous year). Looking ahead, however, marketers will need to raise the stakes if they hope to get consumers involved in such campaigns. One way will be to offer cash (or other incentives), not just for the winners as Doritos is doing, but for all UGC that other consumers end up watching. This “pay for play” approach is certainly gaining traction with the emergence of Current TV (which is paying for ads) and Revver.com (which is paying for content). Creative consumers will undoubtedly follow the money.” These days every third American has a blog, or knows how to produce a video and get paid for it. A lot of small businesses and specialty agents started using YouTube channels and blogs for self-promotion and business development due to the interactive intimate touch this medium provides.

Social networking showed its popularity especially with the techies (early adopters) and the young teenage audience that grasps every new online tool at the speed of light. At present one can see the movement goes mobile, when social networking sites get support through mobile applications. “I do not use email any longer; just use Twitter that is incorporated on my Facebook page.” says Jeremiah Owyang, one of the online top web strategy bloggers. eMarketer digested the research on attention measure in social network sites done by Complete and suggested that “the top six social networks all saw increased attention, and the top 20 social networks received over 15% of all attention in June. MySpace consumes an outsized share of Internet user time overall.” There is a potential for marketers to engage the audience and utilize this attention on those sites.
The UK is similar enough in Web usage that it can serve as a directional guide to Internet behavior in the US. In the study, 68% of UK social networkers said they had visited another Web site after seeing something on a friend’s social network page. Just under half used a search engine to learn more and 35% had forwarded the space, ad or link to a friend. Behavior targeted advertising is believed to be a solution for richer engagement of this audience towards products and services that their friends are using or referring to.

Mobile social networking provides a great opportunity for location-based marketing. According to eMarketer and Juniper Research’s “Mobile User-Generated Content: Social Networking, Dating and Personal Content Delivery” report, “Mobile end-user generated revenues worldwide from social networking, dating and personal content delivery services will increase to more than $5.7 billion in 2012 from $572 million in 2007.” Mobile phones become the main means of online access and communication. There is a great potential for integration of location-based marketing and mobile social networking to make it for a rich customer experience. Imagine with what ease decisions could be made by consumers when they socialize and get instant notifications from the social networks sites and simultaneously they are presented with the service/product offerings that can continue the social experience. The best example would be someone who just arrived to a new city and gets a notification from a friend to meet in an hour for a dinner in a certain area. Simultaneously, a listing of context-driven places is displayed to allow the parties agree fast on where to meet. The whole interaction can take 5 minutes, which usually might have taken 20 provided that one of the parties was familiar with the location or was thinking about it in advance.

Interactive TV proves to be much more effective than ads, as the level of audience engagement brings significant results. The audience interacts with the content displayed and gets engaged into purchasing decision-making process. According to the May article in Television Week “DirecTV Hawkeyes Interactive Spots”, “viewers are responding to interactive ads about 11 percent of the time, exponentially higher than the response rate for Internet ads.”

Its effectiveness might be due to the multitasking behavior that expands in all levels of an average user. The most recent example is Nike’s interactive campaign, “Quick Is Deadly” for its Zoom training-shoe line. “It would include more than 20 minutes of interactive content accessible to Dish Network subscribers with DVRs.” This is about 30% of the network’s 13 million subscribers — will be able to click into 30- and 60-second TV spots starring San Diego Chargers running back LaDanian Tomlinson and other fleet-footed Nike athletes. Nike gives them the option to view interview footage of the football star discussing his exhaustive training regimen. The footage of Mr. Tomlinson’s signature spin move in different speeds. The Nike-branded game designed to test viewers’ remote-control reflexes and a three-dimensional demo of the Zoom shoe. Using ZIP-code information in each Dish unit, users will also be able to find stores carrying the shoe at the click of a button. The campaign does not give users the option of buying the shoe from their set, although the technology does enable that function.”

Relationship marketing has it origin from direct marketing and is evidenced to be relevant in the current environment where consumers became sophisticated enough to demand personalized service tailed to the individual needs. Customers today are demanding more in their expectations of how they are serviced and the levels of service they receive. More often than not, a level playing field between many businesses today means the only real differentiation and competitive advantage we can develop and sustain will be the relationships we forge with our customers. Obviously, the more personalized the catering, the more engagement marketers would receive from their customers. Amazon, as one of the leaders in the transparent customization process, illustrates the benefits that relationship marketing can bring in order to retain its existing customers and acquire the new ones. As an online retailer, its audience and markets is very broad and diverse. It is segmented by geo regions, however its demographics is not clearly defined due to the scope of retail industry. However, the total online shopping market comprises over 26 billion people. Clearly, Amazon utilizes behavioristic approach to segmentation, using database marketing. Its acquisition strategy starts with Level 1 (mass marketing), it is not discriminated but slightly targeted based on searching, browsing space and search words, which is an appropriate acquisition strategy for an online retailer. Amazon’s marketing programs follow the pattern of customer differentiation process matrix in its communications and benefits to the users. It comprises of 4 levels:

Level 1: Beginner (Free Super Saver)
Level 2: Purchase patterns captured (Buy 4, Get 1 Free)
Level 3: Heavy user, hooked (Amazon Prime)
Level 4: Heavy user is rewarded by savings (Amazon Visa Card)
Obviously, Amazon’s strategy is reflected through its marketing programs where it moves along the entire quadrant in the full new user transfer into customer circle, while utilizing its mass customization capability that is transparent to the end user. From the standpoint of current customers, most of its programs imply the development of 1:1 marketing, while upgrading services and offering for the loyal customers.

Evangelism marketing or word-of-mouth marketing keeps its relevance in the marketers’ tool kit. Word-of-mouth marketing often targets influencers — people who are passionate about a product category, and who are perceived as credible sources. The theory is that reaching more influencers increases the odds that they will spread the message. The interactivity piece comes into play in the ability of those individuals to build credibility and relationship easily due to expertise or their own investment into the service/product they promote. There is also some sort of role-modeling that those individuals exercise that allows for effective promotion. According to the Bridge Ratings/University of Massachusetts study published in August 2007, getting just about anybody else besides advertisers to convey the message would seem to be more effective. The study also revealed that 93% of respondents said they were moved to take some sort of action by WOM influence. eMarketer estimates that 20% of US adults will be WOM influencers in 2011, up from 17.5% in 2007. Web sites, blogs and other technology are making it easier to spread the word on a favorite topic.


Paid search marketing
is continuously growing according to David Wigder from the FutureLab, Marketing Strategy and Innovation Blog, as a core tool for online marketers. There are several reasons for search’s continued dominance as an interactive online activity. Search allows marketers to:

1) Engage consumers as they actively seek information in market, thus providing them with relevant content during the selection process of the buying behavior when they need it.

2) Connect consumers with relevant content based on self-identified interests.

3) Pay only when consumers click on a sponsored link, no waste in marketing expenditures.

4) Scale spend in the channel (to a point).

5) Enhance the productivity of other channels, while integrating other communication channels.

It is almost a fact of life that prospective buyers receive information from a variety of channels and do engage into online search before they purchase. Paid search provides for easy-access, relevant information based on the messages communicated through TV, radio, print and word of mouth.

Community-powered search finds its relevance in interactive marketing when “consumers are hungry for relevant content, but prefer to trust their peers, friends or expert community. More relevant consumer experience is of value that community-powered search engines provide. Customized search engines such as Eurekster Swicki, Rollyo and Yahoo Search Builder are likely to become more popular as search results are informed by the collective experience of the community.”

In retrospective, there has to be something else, something new in the marketing tool box that is not there yet publicly known. My gut feeling and overall assessment says that all the top ten “trendy” things already reached the masses or to be precise the mature crowd. The early adopters are up to something new and hopefully I am about to run into that in the near future.

Attending Workshops at Web 2.0 expo – Community Evangelism

I started my Sunday morning with a workshop at Web 2.0 expo on Community Evangelism with Deborah Schultz and Anil Dash. I thought I can get away without much effort of focus on a Sunday morning and I did not bring my laptop. Well, once you see Jeremiah Owyang running around with a camera video-streaming live the event and Mario Sudhar liveblogging, one cannot get away from the energy those folks generate.

What are the takeaways from this workshop? Why should we care about community evangelism? Here are the ideas that Deborah and Anil shared with us.
Community Evangelism is an ideal customer referral program made feasible to execute via various web technologies like blogs, forums, podcasts and other social sites. It allows companies reaching their customers and transform transactional customers into loyal ones through building the relationship, making an emotional, personal connection.

Persistence and awareness are the key to maintain relationships online. If you ventured a blog for your company, you engage into a social contract, a sort of committment to ongoing conversation with your customers. This implies a continuous sharing of value content. You expand your relationship with a customer into a more enriching experience.  Continuity of a two-way communication process provides for creating meaningful life moments that your customer records in his/her memory. A good example would be books, CDs, movies that we buy or get as gifts from other people and might never read, watch but keep being attached to them as they connect to someone we care about. Connectedness, continuity and non-disposability = all due to the value of a relationship that carries it through.

Awareness is not just about notification. Providing your customers with a control to chose how they get information about the product and services – this makes your communications effective. Why? Think about products people absolutely love: iPod, TiVo, Wii. They empower consumers to be in control when to consume content, service, product. So, do the same with your marketing communications to make them more effective – provide those in RSS, blogs or other format that your customer can choose to control both in the reception phase and content scope.

What’s Evangelist? He/she is a

  • customer advocate
  • educator
  • among the people interacting with the community where they live
  • human face of the company
  • cross-functional, not just a marketer
  • a foil for the company

Human skills needed to be successful as a community evangelist:

  • listener
  • connector
  • catalyst
  • critic
  • partial geek
  • detective
  • diplomat
  • juggler
  • driven by relationships
  • approachable
  • intuitive
  • inquisitive

Pursue evangelism with passion, be present where your customers are mentally and physically. Use what you got and have fun!

P.S. I just found out how messed up my blog looks like in Firefox! Tried to contact technical support and it is temporary closed! What do I do? I have to fix it, otherwise it is simply embarrassing.

A Word on Trends in Brand Management

It is very exciting to see big brands engaging with the customers through social media to carry the brand message. South West Airlines had a recent contest on the best video ad for “Wanna get away” campaign, while Frito Lay gets free market testing/product testing info on a new chip flavor. Apple does not have to ask, its users engage themselves into creating ads and parodies for brand characters. I wish the same contest started for Geiko “Caveman” campaign (my favorite!).

Another cool application of interactive web or social media, whatever its best description, is when bloggers can test brand value on a high level like “If this product/company drops from the face of the Earth tomorrow, would we care?”.  Brand Autopsy blog recently posed that question for Wells Fargo in the “would you care series” and hopefully someone from Well Fargo managed to pick up the feedback. Even if they did, would they try to ignore it or deal with it?  Sears got the best remarks and one can see how much experience matters in brand perception.  You have pleasant experiences while consuming the product or being in the purchasing decision process, you flip those like a favorite photo album. You have a bad experience (customer service as in the Wells Fargo example), you care less and perhaps try avoid experiencing any transaction at this point with such a brand. Thus, emotion and ambiance are tied into the brand perception as well. The examples with South West Airlines and Frito Lay add a community aspect.

So what are the top 5-10 aspects/parameters of a solid brand? Any literature on brand management that is fresh and at the same time timeless?

No Time to Stay Up-To-Date on Web Marketing Trends? One Click Solution – Jeremiah’s Blog

Again, Jeremiah, web strategist, treated his readers with some web marketing nuggets, that he patiently collected through his passionate blogging. Being under the impression and current influence of business case readings for weekly commercialization and enterpreneurship class, I was inspired to write an elevator pitch for Jeremiah. Main reasons: to practice the newly learnt skill and share my respect for Jeremiah’s content.

“FOR busy web marketing professionals WHO have no time to read books and articles and check in with 100 + feeds, while joggling work/family/school or any other type of “life”, Web Strategist Blog is convenient one-click/one-post alternative of web industry catch up THAT provides such benefits as a reservoir of fresh ideas and well-thought online strategies.  UNLIKE currently available books, online publications with premium content and implied time investment, Jeremiah’s blog PROVIDES FOR free, sound, corporate friendly, web marketing advice on demand in single post. “

The elevator pitch formula source: Randy Dipner & Mark Henry, PBC Inc

 

I tend to like talking in pitch mode, helps to make communications efficient and explain complex stuff faster!  Jeremiah, call me if you need to hire an agent. :)

Magic Happens when Internet Serendipitously Connects the Right People!

What an interesting find Jeremiah, the web strategist, shared with us tonight. A beautiful ( I can afford to say that) ;)), talented guitarist singer Mia shares her creativity on YouTube, very sweet piece. Then, another user adds drums to the composition and the third contributes bass! You can view the genesis of a new band that is proven to be successful and those people never met in real life..yet! I am sure Mia will be approached by conventional agents/record dealers now! I would even recommend her for American Idol…perhaps there should be a web version of it with all the web rules, users and viewers would be judges and so on! Opportunities, opportunities. This is another great application of web…just share your talent and the right people would flock to you and in the end you have a group set up…How social it is from the web to provide such a good “relationship” management job! Learn more and actually go and view the videos at Jeremiah’s blog.

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