Web Technology

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?

When Speeding Makes Money…Online

“Speeding makes money?” – you ask. It does, if you think of the value of speed when it comes to online sales. Speed sells” trend marks the entire issue of Internet Retailer this month.  Simultaneously, the speeding comes in different flavors:

1) Speed of page load – the faster it is, the less you challenge your customers. At the same time, all those social media widgets and bandwidth clogging features (video, zoom, animated content) are also demanded by savvy online shoppers.  What to do? Regardless of this double sword situation, online retailers become resourceful and find new ways to accelerate site performance by:

      a) Exploring the caching resources of their ecommerce applications (from looking into internal applications, utilizing the web browsers capabilities to store commonly used elements of the page or opting for content delivery networks to do the job).

     b) Cutting on the “extra” (from multiple Java script libraries to style sheets that can be compressed and finally to slimming the images based on their performance).

     c) Using lower cost connections when possible with a flexibility to route traffic to the best performing pipe.

2) Speed of shipping – the more options you offer and the faster you can execute on the delivery, the more chances you have to close the sale.  Even Amazon, the online giant, recently started providing same day delivery. And if this offer becomes standard, imagine its effect on bricks-and-mortar stores. The instant gratification need is very much solved by this move and more companies will emulate this strategy in the near future.  So in sum, this is illustrated by:

     a) Providing same-day delivery option (as above). Will that make you buy today and now? It surely will!

     b) Backing free shipping through automating labor intensive transactions (returns) allows to keep the order volumes high enough to afford the free delivery benefit for end-customers.

     c) Managing efficiency of shipping carriers (through various software) and choosing the most cost-effective or customer-chosen option. This is especially critical in current times, when carriers stopped providing best rates based on volume.

3) Speed of making your shoppers decide to purchase now.  In other words, using all those “accelerate” road signs that put your customers into action – online discounts, coupons, groupons and all that turn that “recession-irritated” buyer’s remorse into a savings practice! The last tactic is very much enjoyed by smaller retailers that shine in creativity when it comes to promotions run to beat the big dog. Examples of the most common ones are:

      a) 110% price guarantee (a coupon valued at 110%  of the difference if your shopper reports a lower price within 3 days).

      b) 20 to 50% off retail prices, 10% off second orders within 60 days. Stimulates come backs (loyalty)!

      c) 100% low-price guarantee plus 10% on next purchase, 90-day “hassle-free” returns.

Indeed, online coupons and groupons make it easier for us, expense-conscious consumers, get to enjoy the luxuries we used to afford effortlessly before. A great many coupon driven marketing services have been growing to cater to this trend, providing marketers with clever promotional programs to drive both volumes through the actions of end-users (by making it enticing to share the coupon to get the great rate and onboarding 5 to 10 other consumers to enjoy a product or a service, implemented through Facebook or Twitter).

Thus, all in all, speed rules the online shopping today. So go ahead and speed up your site, your delivery or the purchase decision of your customers!

Why You Should Care About Re-Targeting AKA Re-Messaging Or Re-Marketing

Persistence, most of the times, pays off in life. The same applies to advertising. Your audience might be at various points of consideration for your product and it is only natural that it can lose its attention for some time due to other events happening simultaneously. A savvy medieval merchant always knew the value of early engagement and a continuous courtship of a potential patron. He knew that someday this fearless young boy that irritates his parents today with his fiery temper, would become a courageous fighter tomorrow…So the merchant let the lad play with the real sword today …seeding the wanted affiliation and desire to have it for the future…chances were very favorable that a matured gladiator would come back to this very merchant when the time was right.

Re-marketing to your audience, based on already known interactions (level of engagement) expressed through your online advertising analytics, represents a modern method of a future customer courtship. You track your site user through cookies and target him/her elsewhere with a content that speaks to the level of interest based on the latest point of interaction. In the industry, re-marketing is also known as re-targeting or re-messaging.

Why should you care about re-targeting?

1) If you are selling anything online, you battle with the wicked abandonment rate, trying to figure out how to catch the fleeting shoppers…and retargeting ads help you re-catch them! You will need to have a sizable budget to enhance your online advertising “nets”, on average of approximately 30K a month, as Adam Boalt shares with us in his post. At the same time, if your ads return at almost $10 ROI, you will accelerate your online sales not just cover the costs. Plus, if we choose to re-engage with the known average of 98% of your audience that leaves without becoming a customer, imagine the potential uplift in your other online marketing efforts – SEO, PPC & search!

2) Arm your customer loyalty program. Your product was already passing through the customer minds, so why not re-introduce yourself again. Or your own customers, who made a purchase before, but got distracted and then became exposed to competitive “apples of knowledge’, are now wondering in temptation! According to the article of Janet Hoffman and Eric Lowitt, Strategy & Leadership Journal, on “A better way to design loyalty programs“,”85 percent of the “loyal” customers are willing to shop elsewhere if properly enticed.” By supplementing your advertising mix with re-targeting, you have all the ammunition necessary to re-conquer your customers’ challenged loyalty. Remind them about the benefits they receive, provide them with appealing discount offers and your efforts will pay off in repeat business – Amen!

3) Your product/service requires longer purchase cycle -“…retargeting leverages sequential advertising to reinforce your message as the consumer goes through the research and consideration process prior to completing a purchase.” In other words, it helps you do the expected “white glove holding” online and be present at every stage of your customer consideration process, especially if it takes on average 7 different contacts (touch points) with the company for a prospect to convert (purchase).

If you are responding to either one reason above, you should revisit your online advertising budget to find a spot to drive return conversions. Again, like with display ads, complementing search, re-targeting only works best when combined with other advertising initiatives that drive traffic to your site. 

And the industry is opening up with opportunities for easy implementation. Though, re-targeting is a growing trend in online advertising, there are a number of well-established players that provide specifically this service.  At the same time, most online advertising platforms started to work on providing this solution or already doing so. Simultaneously, web analytics industry players are also getting into the space.  This, all in all, creates a healthy competition and a number of quality choices for online marketers, like you and I!

Use Demographic Segmentation Tools Not Only For Marketing

People always fascinate me: different lifestyles, different backgrounds, different races and different behaviors. I never get tired of observing more and more about what drives them, what makes them engage in certain activities and what happens afterwards once “the pot gets stirred” skillfully by social trends or sometimes by actions of fellow-marketers.  Simultaneously, this entire process serves my own purpose as a consumer of the environment I want to be in. What I find myself doing is segmenting the “market” of a social event or a city to see what experiences I can have as a consumer of a social interaction. Perhaps, all of us do that. And yes, nothing beats the hands-on approach of going into the “field” and actually experiencing all the combinations in that or this zip code yourself.  But, as they say, being forearmed is half the victory.

So, while thinking about potential move to a bigger city like San Francisco, Chicago or New York (with all the benefits we already know), I find it useful to utilize PRIZM or other demographic segmentation tools to see the degree of how those cities can be attractive to me based on the social crowd.  And it might not be the news as we all have learned about the stereotypes, and some, are, granted valid in describing what to expect, I still believe it pays extra to dissect the population into more statistically accurate attributes. By doing this, you can predict the quality of your social life, professional success and other experiences based on the patterns discovered. As consumers, at least here in the states, we became very sophisticated and educated at what we want, like, dislike and how it should be served. Sometimes, this thought scares me when I feel like I have to look for niche-services already since I know what works well.  Sometimes, I wish I were as open as a child – when simpler choices were of existence.

Going back to the segmentation tools, as an example, I wanted to first validate the accuracy of experiences I had in Seattle and only then quick-check the potential Chicago can provide. I also wish that US. Census got more up-to-date and more detailed reports, as most of the information is based on 2000 reports – Hello?! It has been almost a decade and people moved, changed in proportion due to natural causes considerably since then.  Thank God, we have commercial software that can solve those problems and allow us see the light or to be precise the stripes on the map.  What if you do not have access to this information through those tools? Again, US Census or city-data.com site can provide you with rough but workable ideas on the demographics (alongside some extra ads).  Example, for Bellevue showcases graphs on gender distribution, age, income and housing situation and I must say it is very close to accurate even if the site uses 2000 census data and 2005 projections. 

But, what I found most exciting is the information on foreign-born residents (remember, one of the attributes of the social mix I was looking for?), it provides a neat chart as well! It describes the following distribution of nationalities (hence potential social interactions flavored by cultural attributes): 

  • Mexico (13%)
  • India (10%)
  • China, excluding Hong Kong and Taiwan (7%)
  • Vietnam (5%)
  • Korea (5%)
  • Russia (5%)
  • Ukraine (4%)

Information like that can provide me with insights on how diverse the locality is and will the mix be appealing to my social taste?

Digging deeper, there is always PRIZM, a tool that can share the details on lifestyle preferences.  According to the report on my zip code, the groups are: 44% New Beginnings, 22% Young Influentials, 21% Gray Power, 19% Home Sweet Home and 8 % Executive Suites.   If we take Young Influentials into consideration, the tools describes the segment as ” Midscale, Younger without Kids yuppies that reflect the fading glow of acquisitive yuppiedom.  Today, the segment is a common address for younger, middle-class singles and couples who are more preoccupied with balancing work and leisure pursuits. Having recently left college dorms, they now live in apartment complexes surrounded by ball fields, health clubs and casual-dining restaurants. ” It also goes into the details of: median income ($47,976), lifestyle traits (plays racquetball, drives mazda 3), demographics traits (suburban crowd, midscale income, age < 35, mostly renters without kids, college graduates, mix of ethnic groups). Very neat tool! You can definitely learn much about your audience! How about a Lifestage group? “Young, hip singles are the prime residents of Young Achievers, a lifestage group of twentysomethings who’ve recently settled in metro neighborhoods. Their incomes range from working-class to well-to-do, but most residents are still renting apartments in cities or close-in suburbs. These seven segments contain a high percentage of Asian singles, and there’s a decidedly progressive sensibility in their tastes as reflected in the group’s liberal politics, alternative music and lively nightlife. Mainstream Singles segments are twice as likely as the general population to include college students living in group quarters.”  Each segment shares this level of granularity. Now, knowing all that does make a difference while making a decision where to live, work and play!

Too much information? If all that is too overwhelming, you can always turn to wikipidea that will outlay lightly some of the basics!  

 
 

What Are The Benchmarks for Conversion Rates?

Pondering upon the conversion rate made me wonder what the standard, normal conversion rates for various types of sites could be.  If I am entering online retail business, what should I strive for or measure against when I launch my site?

According to MarketingSherpa’s Ecommerce Benchmark Guide 2007, the average conversion rate on top tier search sites 2006 & 2007 was 4.3% for both years. In 2006, high end of normal range was 10%, most common rate was 2.5 % and low end of normal range was 1.0%.  In 2007, the average rate remained the same (4.3%), but the high end rose up to 12%, thus driving the mode (most common rate) to 3% and leaving the low end the same (1%). So, it is not 50% or 70% that we should expect seeing from online marketing and if we reach 12% – we are the winners! It make sense if we simply look at the formula for conversion rate (total number of outcomes (leads, orders) divided by the total number of unique users), with the former number being significantly lower than the latter.  Of course, these standards apply only to e-commerce sites, which assume purchases as a result of conversion.  Lead generation and content sites might enjoy higher rates since all they track would be of somewhat easier visitor engagement behavior (filling out the registration form, signing up for a newsletter, requesting more information or providing comments and viewing the content).

So what could you do to drive and truly impact your conversion rates? To do so, it is worthwhile to look at the conversion data on all acquisition channels that you employ (email, banners, SEM and organic traffic) separately and summarized.  Once you go through this exercise, it is easier to see where to invest to drive the right traffic to your online store and eventually see those rates go up!

What Is Your Conversion Rate? Plus Two Other Metrics That Make It More Meaningful

Posing this question to myself last week, brought me to a number of nuggets that I wanted to write down for reference and share.

Conversion rate is a percentage of your audience that was successfully “sold” to your message and engaged into a purchase to the overall audience that viewed your communications. Conversions come in various shapes: sales, leads, sign-ups for newsletters, information requests, linking to your site or blog, views of a certain page, downloads of a specific media material or referrals. In other words, it could be any action that you want your target audience to do as a response to your communications.

Conversion tracking becomes a very “magical” tool when you want to test the efficiency of your ads, copy or keywords in your online marketing initiatives. As an example: you can have 2 versions of an ad with a rate of 1.3% CTR (click-through) and 1.7%. If you just rely on the CTR, you will keep using the second version with a higher rate. However, even though more people clicked on the second ad, how many did actually register a purchase? This is answered by the conversion rate that might prove the opposite regarding the effectiveness of your ad. Perhaps the “catchy” headline in the first ad was very effective, but call-to-action copy failed to deliver. By having the conversion rate metric you can use the call-to-action copy from the second ad. And test.

You still need CTR! To calculate the profits you make from your ads. That’s where CPC (cost per click) comes in. Thus, you can see how much you spend relative to what you gain. But again, we are only using 2 metrics and can miss on the information. As an example, you might have an ad or a keyword with a lowest CTR and low CPC, but it can convert very well. Here you need to add another dimension – the amount of traffic which you can measure as well. How valuable all the traffic that this ad brings to your site? This way you need to calculate the profit each ad brings. To do so you need to calculate the total number of conversions (number of clicks multiplied by the conversion rate and divided by 100) and the value of a conversion (which you can assign (example your sale is $50 and you keep $30 after subtracting all the costs and fees, thus $30 is your conversion value). The value of a conversion helps you understand how much this action is worth for your business. The profit per ad = (conversion value X total number of conversions(profits)) – costs).

The Future of E-Commerce According to the Experts

Day One of the Online Market World Conference was opened up with a starter session that covered the upcoming trends in the e-commerce industry. I thought it was rather “short and sweet” in content and delivered a good overview that is worth sharing. According to Joe Chung (Allurent), Doug Mack (Adobe) and Michael Hines (Jones Apparel Group) there are a number of trends in the evolving e-business:

1) Rich media meets rich applications - the user experience becomes very engaging, interactive and “seamless” thanks to the latest and greatest in the web development apps that leverage the graphic user interface. Examples include Gucci watch and Teamwork Athletic Apparel sites that bring authentic interactive brand experiences right at your computer.
2) Increasing community involvement - plays a major role in creating relationships, brand recognition and promotion from the mere transactions. If they (transactions) were good, easy experiences – they become stories that people pass along and eventually translate into more revenue.
3) Back to the desktop - lots of $$ is invested into the desktop shopping platforms, “browser-free” online shopping – imagine that!
4) Content as the Interface - plays a great role in the new way e-commerce sites get content and “inventory” – see Zillow’s site where users can post their house info (pictures, videos, etc) on sale in 60 seconds and watch the bids come.
5) Online shopping to be successful must be: enticing + engaging + executional + pervasive + mobile.

It is interesting to see how the same principles and concepts are applied throughout various industries and disciplines: I see the basics of the social media concepts, user experience design, permission marketing, branding and CRM – all work in tandem to accomplish a simple goal. You hear all the time the same fundamentals: ease of use, emotion, relevance, experience, engagement = all in various combinations bring you to success, as they are the same needs expressed by the sophisticated consumer, online shopper, primarily the US-based individual. As Joe Chung says, “extensive increases in the software development are very well offset by increasing customer expectations”, – so viva the online shopper – as there will always be plenty of work for all of us in web applications and services development as well as online marketing!

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.

Web 2.0 Expo, Day 2 and Day 3, Experience Takeaways

It took me 2 days to get into my normal routine after such a whirlpool of knowledge sharing and social networking using traditional and web technology methods. Instead, I am still catching up with all the people I met. However, I thought I would quickly put my notes in this post. So what happened within those 2 days and what and who inspired my curious mind?

I. Behavioral Targeting, a session led by Basem Nayfeh, explored the world of web analytics and database marketing that allows to target your customers based on their behavior. It is not a new technique, but I was happy to see how pronounced the topic becomes. The complexity and at the same time, the solutions it brings are worth exploring by every marketer in any given organization. It allows to make a pause and ask a question where consumer attention is and follow it. Paying attention to customer steps on your page or online allows to be an effective marketer. An interesting fact that 60 % of content is posted by someone “we know”, “you know”, exemplifies well that our social behavior does not change dramatically on the web. Behavioral segmenting is intelligent segmenting and qualifying people based on their actions: (searches made, product interests, articles they read, navigation, geography, keywords, workplace attributes). Behavior is captured and targeted message is delivered, new knowledge about your product is discovered, etc.

II. Web Analytics and Internet Marketing Solutions session by Akin Arikan touched upon similar topic. He also shared a free whitepaper that illustrates well the major points on how to optimize your online marketing campaigns. The Web Analytics Recipe Cards provides an overview on how to maximize the number of qualified leads captured online, maximize online and offline revenue and increase brand awareness. Another document that is worth reading, shared by Unica, summarizes how today’s marketers can anticipate, understand, help their companies profit from the web transformation.

III. Social media discussions were quite popular and interactive. I am “delegating” this topic to Jeremiah and Mario, as lots of coverage can be found at their prominent blogs: Marketing Nirvana and Web Strategist.

IV. The best part of the entire event for me was meeting a number of brilliant people. The social aspect of the conference attendance left the most satisfaction. People who make a difference in this industry being in either big or small companies is the biggest asset of web.2.0 revolution and evolution. I had a lot of fun meeting people at the expo, at the after event parties and during live upstreaming opportunity with Podtech. The combination of knowledge and social capital gained definitely exceeds the projected ROI. Web 2.0 expo 2007 is money and time well spend.

V. (Added on April 29, 2007)
And I also wanted to express my joy and thanks to Marcelo Paiva who volunteered to help me fix my style sheet issue when I discovered it at the event. I still cannot help but smile every time I see my new blog design! People would point me out that due to some coding my blog content would show up crookedly in Firefox. This was rather embarrassing since most of the web 2.0 crowd uses Firefox and while sharing and introducing myself I had to make a disclaimer. Not any more! Social media got another outcome of connecting people that might never be due to geographies and other restrictions. If it were not for Jeremiah’s live blogging and video casting at the event, I would never have a chance to get fast help and collaboration right away. Moreover, we used Skype to do virtual collaboration and remote desktop access tool VNC to fix the problem! This was a very empowering experience, collaboration on the user level where you get the same results as if you work in big corporations with virtual teams, but here you use basic web 2.0 tools that enable individuals!
Marcelo also created my new logo, which I find rather a perfect fit. Talking about branding on one’s feet and Skype!
Finally, we discovered similarities in professional interests (user design, marketing, CRM, segmentation) that allowed both of us developing another value-add professional connection, which we completed via registering it at LinkedIn. :)

Web 2.0 Expo Day 1, Knowledge Nuggets and More Inspiring People

Day 1 was so good: the energy of people I met and the knowledge I got kept me so invigorated and excited throughout 18 hours of stimulation.  Before the next wave of events hits my “ship”, I wanted to set in stone the nuggets for Day 1 at web 2.0 expo.

I. Web Technology

Google Analytics and all the magic you can do with this free tool was shared by Brett Crosby. Get your web metrics into the order, get your data and make your site more effective, analyze your marketing campaigns ROI.(Example: Paris Hilton Commercial, was produced normally in a ad agency, but distributed through the web (YouTube). The effect is beyond what a TV ad of the same caliber can do. Due to the viral effect, people actually went online themselves (control of content/infomation consumption) and watched it on average of 6 times. Where else do you get such coverage, reach and ROI? It was cheap to place on the web!) The package is free, delivers on the promise and can make a difference in your web communications. Spend a few minutes and learn more how you can optimize your web site. You do not need to be a statistician to get the maximum benefit. (I am going to deploy it for my blog and once I have enough experience I will share my recommendations).

  1. Google Analytics = track your traffic and ROI on marketing campaigns
  2. Google Webmaster Tools = know your audience and optimize your site
  3. Google News = free way to make images searchable
  4. Google Maps
  5. Google Earth
  6. Google Catalogs = upload your catalogs, get the content out, make it discoverable
  7. Google Website Optimizer = great tool to track PPC, does not hurt organic search (was considered during the development stage), you can even start your free multivariate testing to learn more what your audience is doing on your site and how to make them do what you want them to do!

II. More Web Analytics

Avinesh Kaushik shared his insights on how you can test the effectiveness of your site, optimize your conversion rate based on real feedback from your customers! I must confess, it was the best session so far, as much as, Avinash promised at the start. Using Multivariate Testing, marketers and web strategists can expose their customers to variations of web site design (multiple pages produced automatically by a tool) and get feedback (behavioral feedback!) on what works and what does not to arrive at the site that generates sales or delivers what you want your audience to do on this site. Most companies do not know why their customers come to the site. Avinesh’s golden rule is testing, testing, and more testing. One cannot get the same information on what works through the traditional focus groups, surveys and interviews of the customer base. “Customers yell out problems and do not provide solutions”. At the same time, our bosses think that they represent the customers and know how the site should look like to deliver the best and their decision influences the final product that might not be user-friendly at all. Even if it does, it could be not as optimal in delivering to the bottom line. Even the userbility testing is not as effective. “They way we do userbility is isolating a sample of people in a room, putting a bunch of devices on them and ask them to act normal. People do not act normal in such conditions and they would be extra cautious, biased or wierd.” You can get the basic ballpark, (maybe, maybe not) on your testing. With multivariate analysis you are measuring the entire consumer experience, even when they are shopping on your site in their pijamas. Little Ajax script is all you need to get your testing set up. It creates variations of your site for further testing. You can test all the ideas you have, not just 2-3.

Avinesh is planning to publish a book in the near future, called “Web Analytics, An Hour A Day” (which I will definetely read!). You can even pre-order it at Amazon.com. All the proceeds (100%) will go to local charities.

III. Great ideas from the Keynote

Keynote was very well put together and this video called Digital Ethnography by Michael Wesch launched the discussion. I could not help but share this video, it illustartes so well the evolution of the web and though, I am not a geek, it stimulates my mind and heart. 

There was lots of fun speeches at the keynote and Richard MacManus covers it well on his blog.

My favorites were 3 launch pad ideas:

Spock.com = allows you perform human search! You can now get the full scoop! (My KGB roots make me so excited about this one! :))

Npower.com = finally, a web 2.0 application for intraverts! and people who care a lot about personal growth, allows to measure your actions towards your goals, incorporates training and coaching knowledge with a web 2.0 capabilities of interactivity and user content generation. Unfortunately, I have no URL for it to share.

IV. Social Mingle Afterwards

It was a lot of fun to explore web 2.0 social mingle scene and parties afterwards. The best part is to meet the personalities and simply personable people to close the day. Special thanks to Jeremiah, other Podtech crew and Mario for being hospitable hosts! Anytime, you are in Portland, OR, please let me know and I will show the city at its best and I am very good at it!

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.

Why I Love Skype and Happy Birthday Mom!

Today, I used Skype for the first time to call my mom to Russia. Yes, I am slow, but I had a call card for a long time and had to use it all up. However, it is the quality of sound and the overall atmospherics of the calling experience that finally made me buy a decent headset and use Skype for international calls. Even though the rates were somewhat closer, I had a hard time talking to my folks (always yelling for better hearing, which prompted me to find a secluded place (car) or something). The worst part was with calling through the card from my cell phone to my sister’s cell (the call dropped a few times, testing my patience). No more pain. Today, I called mom to tell her “Happy Birthday and do our weekly chat”. She was amazed: “I can hear you as if you are next to me!” :) I was trying to explain her that I used Internet, not a phone to do that and she was stunned. It takes an effort for me to explain to my folks how technology works, especially while translating it in Russian. Generationwise it is challenging for them to comprehend a new “computer-related”, which is the same as “web-related” in their minds, tool without illustration. For me, it is a task to translate new technology and words that describe it that I usually learnt and use in English into Russian. Sometimes, I have to check a dictionary as I learnt the new word for new application in English first.

At any rate, I highly recommend using Skype for the rest late adopters, because you would be amazed why you did not start before! Check Skype’s blog for unique stories on its application overseas.

People fascinate me!

So, I was bored with my Harvard cases tonight and reached to check out some fun videos on YouTube. Of course, saw some funny videos, mock ups on mac ads and then I found this video by Happy Slip. This was not just great. This is another reason, why I stopped watching TV these days, as there is so much you can find on the web. Independent, creative people just start video blogging and sharing their talents…I could not help but watch a few more videos by the same actor-producer-vlogger. Check her out, witness her talent, it might inspire you too to do something different with your ideas :) http://www.happyslip.com/category/videos/#vidarea

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.

Hura, Memesponge! Finally, I got my own blog going!

Hi, there…a blogosphere! It took me… lets say… 9 months to get my own professional blog going. I guess it is a legitimate timeframe for a project of that sort. :)

I named it “memesponge”. In my perception, a “meme” is a catchy idea that people cannot help but pass along and share.  A “sponge” part came from observing my own habits of learning new things and obsorbing information all the time.  Memesponge is a place where I would share my thoughts, interpretations and findings about creative marketing, web technology and reaching people’s hearts. I will also share my own learning experiences within a field of my passion = marketing a path that is growing rapidly in various directions, weaves into eurika-like patterns…This is what makes me stay long hours and read…it keeps me up at night…this is a way I connect my tendencies of creating stories and visions (dreams and fantasies) into the trade of profession that I can do best.

The idea was cherished for a long time, nurtured by my learnings about web 2.0, blogs, podcasts and all the new web tools that recently came into existence.  Once one starts watching and tracking all web developments, it is easy to fall in love with the possibilities web provides for marketers and end users and real people.  However, the major motivation for me to step in were the relationships with people who were already present in the space, whose posts I read almost every day and whose lives and passion became shared. And of course, once you start communicating and getting connected online and offline, a whole new world opens up before you!

Please welcome me officially into your world. In this blog, I am looking forward to sharing the creative ideas I run into every day, while catching up on the news of creative marketing communications that build relationships with customers.  Commucation, sharing ideas and connecting with alike and the opposite are the best life enriching  experiences a human being can get.

There is a saying, whose author I cannot recall at the moment. “The difference between the day today and the same day in a year are the people we meet and the books we read”…I would add and the blogs you read! :)

Finally, I would also like to thank Josh Bancroft, a Technology Evangelist and a Geek Blogger, for introducing me to the world of blogging that changed my life!

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