“Target will open its doors at 6 PM on Thanksgiving Day. Best Buy stores will open an hour earlier at 5 PM and Walmart will start a Black Friday event at 6 PM on Thanksgiving and most stores are open 24 hours.” This was a CNN News feed in Facebook on the eve of Thanksgiving. It indicates only one thing – Welcome to the holiday season folks. 2016 is coming to an end but the grand shopping season is just beginning.
It’s that time of the year when people head out to their old folks, meet up with their buddies, watch their favorite movies, travel like never before and most importantly spend on shopping like crazy. The National Retail Federation expects American consumers to spend an average of $935.58 during the holiday season. That’s like $650 Billion worth of sales opportunity for retailers in just a time span of 50 days or so.
Now comes the big question to retailers! How do you capture the most of this opportunity?
A single marketing or promo video embedded in your email campaign for the holidays holds the key to winning consumer hearts this holiday season. Video is the best way to bring out your marketing messages to consumers in all forms of digital media be it mobile phones, computers, television screens or even on city billboards and movie screens. Need some confidence boosters? Check out some interesting statistics about video marketing below
- And Adobe study pointed out in 2015 that 51.9 % of marketing professionals worldwide selected Video as the form of content that had the best ROI.
- Revenue growth rate of video equipped marketing strategies outran non-video strategies by nearly 50%
- Nearly half of internet users search for videos about a product or service before making a buying decision
- Consumers who view videos are 1.81 times more inclined to spend on a purchase when compared to non-viewers
Using these stats as a base, we clearly believe that email campaigns for the holiday season from retailers should definitely carry a video message embedded in it. Today there is enough tech available in the market that offers the best video experience in each medium after identifying the email client you consumer is using. Sometimes all you need to do is include a static image in your email with a play button on top of it which directs the user to a YouTube or Vimeo channel where the video is uploaded.
And you don’t have to shoot a professional ad of your offering to embed in a promo email. Even a smartphone with a pretty good camera would do the job for you. The video may be a tip on how to use your offering in a better way or hidden benefits or comparisons or anything that users are required to know about your product or service.
Videos in emails have created some fantastic results for marketers globally. Some have reported as high as 65 percent increase in click-through rates and lowered unsubscribes by as much as 26 percent. Your Thanksgiving emails may be already out but the holiday shopping season has just begun. So there is enough time to shoot some fabulous videos and use them in your email campaigns. Do share your success stories as well to inspire more marketers to follow this trend.
Buyer Personas are an essential part of both digital and conventional forms of marketing. As a marketer, creating a buyer persona is the first major task that needs to be on your to-do list when you are entrusted with marketing products and or services for the brand or company that employs you. If you take the case of any successful organization in any business domain, they would have executed at least one strategy based on buyer personas. If you are still not convinced, then have a look at the following statistics about buyer personas.
- Targeted persona strategy increases sales leads by 124%
- Email campaigns using buyer persona targeting has witnessed twice the open rate and 5 times more click through rate
- 55% growth in organic search traffic
We can publish even more statistics but assume that you are already convinced with these. The bottom line is that buyer personas enable you to think from a customer’s mind and identify what is the best way to connect with them. No more guesswork and assumptions but a solid set of 3 or 4 buyer personas that will define more than 90% of your consumer base. So far we have been speaking about getting more leads or closing more sales with perfect buyer personas. The question now is how do you select the perfect buyer persona for your business? The answer lies in another marketing arsenal – A/B Testing.
If you thought A/B testing was just used for deciding on the perfect landing pages or email campaigns for promotions, then you are mistaken. A/B testing allows you to take data supported decisions on how incremental changes can improve performance of an entire system be it landing pages or email campaigns or in this case even the selection of your buyer personas.
With A/B testing you can steadily improve the quality of your buyer personas. In simpler terms it will help you to fill areas of your buyer persona where you experienced uncertainty. Let us take an example to point out the real benefit of using A/B testing for your buying persona.
Consider yourself to be in charge of marketing for a new digital product launch for a commercial bank. The product is a new insurance package for which the bank wishes to see a good number of subscribers in a short month. You start with building the ideal buyer persona for the product. Assuming that all studies point out to fear as the number one motivation of your potential customers to buy the product. Fear for their lives or for their loved ones who might be affected due to lack of insurance facilities, etc. Your buyer persona is created with fear as the central theme and you decide upon a marketing campaign centred on this single reason. If it clicks then you will receive a tremendous amount of positive response and lead generation becomes a piece of cake. However if your perception of customer’s priority is wrong, then your efforts have a big chance of ending up in vain.
Here is where A/B testing comes into picture. Take the above scenario or persona as A and consider another scenario where buyers are willing to spend on insurance products for another cause say for tax savings as B. Now you have 2 valid cases to test. A proper A/B testing can give you tons of info to arrive at a decision. The information includes but not limited to
- A or B, Which is their main motive?
- Positive language or negative language! Which clicks best with your customers?
- Does promo schemes such as discounts or coupons or limited deals draw their attention?
- Do they react more to the benefits of A or to the benefits of B?
The list will go on but the ultimate result is that you will get quantifiable information on whether Plan A or Plan B is the perfect marketing campaign for the product. The one that witnesses more sign-ups or subscriptions will answer each of the above questionnaire and you can quickly summarize your results to arrive at an informed decision.
So there you have it folks, the perfect way to build your buyer persona. A/B testing can surely create drastic changes in your efforts and prevent marketing budgets from skyrocketing as it helps to avoid wrong decisions at the right time.
For more than a decade, marketers have exploited the World Wide Web to bring out the best of brands. Their biggest challenge or should we say the biggest focus area was visibility in search results. Hence Search Engine Optimization or SEO became a household name and every website owner starts to think about it the moment they are live on the internet. But then comes the question! How do smaller websites or newer entrants compete with established websites for search engine rankings for similar business interests?
Before we go into the tips, let’s check out three main parameters that make established brands so attractive for search engines:
With years of providing quality services to their customers, established brands have their own fan clubs and also have folks who regularly search for products or services with their brand name along with it to get results from only them. This rakes up a huge advantage in search rankings.
Big ticket marketing
With their size and bank balances, biggies can afford to spread word about them in a multitude of channels be it print, TV, web ads, search engine ads, social media advertisements and several other mediums. It is easier for customers to notice at least one of their popular ads in any of the different communication mediums. Marketing draws up user searches and that too with a huge proportion of organic search traffic. This translates into higher SEO rankings.
When established sites post content, there would be several sites that would backlink to them including sites that have higher rank authority like for example famous media portals or news portals. This increases contextual importance of the content and these pages would hence be a darling of search engines.
Now moving onto the advantages of small sites, well you have a pretty long list. Let’s just break it into a few points here. The advantages of smaller sites or newer sites in terms of SEO are:
- Ability to experiment with ideas
- Easier to integrate more tech since business starts from scratch
- Able to focus on niches
- More personalized consumer interactions due to smaller user base
Now let’s answer the question we discussed in the beginning. How do smaller websites compete with bigger ones for SEO?
Choose keywords that bigger brands do not often care to target
When a bigger brand does its SEO it takes into factors such as generalised domain of operation, the associations they have with partner brands or selling channels, audience demographics, globalization of products/services and much more. But as a newcomer, you have all the luxury you need in terms of keyword focusing. Choose long-tail or editorial or comparison or any other type of keywords you may wish. Since bigger brands need to strict to generalization and global or national operational areas, you can focus on localized keywords to grab more attention. You are free to target neighbourhoods or localities, create content that may or may not create conflicts between associated brands( because you will not probably have them) and can easily draw attention from search engine users.
Be as specific in your niche as possible
For example if you are competing against TripAdvisor for travel or accommodation arrangements, then you could focus on niches such as City specific packages, or localized travel options, local attractions, etc. to gain more unique site visits. These would add up to organic traffic which would further boost your rankings.
Educate your customers more than showcasing your ability
For users to navigate to your new site, there needs to be some take away or value addition they would get. The bigger brand names will already be registered in their minds and the best way for you to garner some interest would be to educate them with tips and tricks or how to articles for your domain of operations. Write great content that educates users on how to make the best selections in your business domain and in the end you could put up direct sales or contact links to specific pages.
While you create great content on your social media channels, make sure you respond more actively to engagements you receive. People may share your content, comment on updates and link back to your pages. In all cases, try to keep up the conversation so that search engines are able to trace active engagements. This will automatically translate into higher rankings. As a smaller brand, it will be easier for you to interact with responders as they would be limited in number. But it is a great way to start building trust with your customers. You stand a greater chance to convert them into brand advocates in the long run.
That sums up our tips for small website owners to grab some serious share in search rankings. Size is never a constraint and the smarter you work, greater will be the results you will gain.
Checkout is perhaps the most decisive area in an eCommerce website. It is the place where people buy and retailers get paid. In other words, it is the area where the most crucial data interchange takes place. The data includes financial credentials, personal data of shoppers like address, telephone numbers, emails and much more as prescribed by the retailer’s delivery information norms. Retailers need to make this experience as smooth, simple and secure as possible for shoppers and win their confidence. From our experience in helping some of the most prolific online retailers, we have created a list of 6 most coveted essentials that an eCommerce Checkout process should have. Let’s have a look at each of them:
In a majority of cases, a visitor at checkout is a genuine buyer who wants to buy the product at the listed price. He or she might have already put in a considerable amount of thinking before arriving at the purchase decision. Their only aim now is to finish the checkout ASAP. This is where the Checkout forms need to be as simple and flawless as possible to enable a quick completion of the transaction. As a retailer, your success lies in the ability to offer a Checkout process that requests only the bare essentials needed to complete the transaction and deliver the product. Having a single page checkout process is the best option. No unnecessary buttons, information fields, surveys, recommendations, etc. should consume the time of shoppers.
Many eCommerce companies employ some of the best financial security policies during checkout to ensure that financial or personal data of shoppers are not compromised at any point of time. However it has been repeatedly proven that displaying certificates of your safe shopping framework like the verified payment options, trustmarks or trademarks of recognized security providers and merchants, etc. will increase confidence in buyers and accelerate the checkout process.
Enclosing the Checkout
By enclosing, we meant to isolate the checkout page from the rest of the website’s navigational features and other tabs to give only a bare essentials view of the checkout process. This adds up to the simplicity parameter we mentioned above and relieves shoppers from having to focus on too many options and ultimately guide them to a faster checkout.
Guest/Express Check out
Guest checkouts are fast catching up with shoppers today. After all you only need an email address to continue your association with a shopper after they have made a purchase. This logic translates into guest or express check out where you do not force people to create an account on the website to shop. Of course you get less of their data, but there are other ways to gradually collect them. When a shopper is at the checkout page, the primary objective is to get them to complete the purchase and not get them to divulge more of their personal data which could lead to loss of the sale.
We have already pointed out earlier that it is best to have a single page checkout process to better serve shoppers. But in case you prefer to have a multipage checkout process or multiple tab check out process in the same page, it is vital to let the customer know how much ground they have covered in the checkout. A single progress bar on top or an indication of the percentage they have completed in the checkout will be of great use to shoppers.
This is one piece of information you should not leave out on any stage of the checkout process. Make sure you have a persistent area of the checkout screen dedicated to showing the cart. This will allow the shopper to have a crystal clear idea of what they are going to pay for right from the initial stage in checkout. They will not have to abandon the checkout process midway after realizing they missed out on buying something.
This is our compiled list of essentials that every eCommerce site should have on its Checkout process. The whole concept behind all of these is to help the shopper complete the transaction in as fewer clicks as possible. If you are an online retailer, it is highly advised to follow these footsteps and ensure that you satisfy buyers by offering the most user friendly checkout experience they can imagine.
A recent research by Forrester revealed that the US alone is projected to record $523 billion in annual sales from eCommerce by 2020 and 270 million people would prefer online shopping over store purchases in the same period. So how do online retailers draw in digital shoppers to their eCommerce sites? Search Engine Optimization is a major factor that contributes to increased traffic to online stores. So for folks who manage SEO at eCommerce sites, today we look at 5 major trends that you need to focus on while optimizing your eCommerce website for better traffic.
Content in Long-form
Marketers and content creators have traditionally focused on creating crispy and short form content on eCommerce sites. But that has to change because to drive search results, it has been found that long form content with greater detail and with more conversational tone has a greater affinity for search engine bots. Conversational sentences form a good portion of search queries and hence long form content in reviews, product descriptions and other content pieces should be encouraged on eCommerce sites.
Social media centric content creation
Social media marketing is one of the trumpcards for eCommerce companies and surveys have pointed to increased ROI on such marketing campaigns. So while creating content for your site, writers can be advised to create content that would entice readers to share on social media. The greater the number of authentic shares you receive on social media, greater the search engine friendliness of your ecommerce site.
The record growth in eCommerce sales globally will be driven primarily by users who shop from their mobile devices and hence when you focus on SEO for your website, make sure you keep special focus on making your online store search friendly on mobile platforms as well. Make sure your site is lightweight, meets minimum standards for mobile search friendliness as recommended by search engines like Google and create consistency in the experience you render to users across devices.
Optimize for Voice search
It’s the era of digital assistants and voice search. You have Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, Alexa and many more intelligent digital assistants available in the market today for devices. Keyboard browsing is slowly starting to pass on some load to voice based searches and SEO gurus have already taken measures to grab their share of the voice search traffic. Better colloquial phrasing, long-tail content, reviews and answers tailored to suit digital assistant searches are now a key focus.
Online stores are making every effort to penetrate new markets and a huge factor driving their efforts is the ability to localize their offerings. No longer do you target a global or national level audience for search optimization. The more you are able to optimize your website for regional specifics, more the traffic flow. Localized names, demographic nomenclature of products and integrating location details courtesy of wearable tech to define search preferences are some of the ways you can aggressively localize your SEO efforts.
It is hard to count the number of eCommerce websites that exist today and there is every chance of being left out in the race if you are not competitive. Driving differentiation through multiple areas is the best way to stay ahead of the pack. If you are planning to make it big with your SEO efforts in online retailing, make sure you keep a close eye on these 5 trends.
Clearly retailers need to understand what are the best and most effective methods to consider driving their loyal customers to their site during the holiday season.
SEM and email marketing are some of the ways retailers are trying to hook into visitor intent and cultivate profitable and lasting relationships. This is away from the traditional price-based promotions as a method to cultivate customer loyalty. Holiday season campaigns are measured with metrics that segment and identify customers across demographics to ensure successful sales. Some of strategies one can look at how to implement an effective holiday season are:
Countdown for shoppers
Time-tailored promotions and specials help shoppers count down to the holiday season. Campaigns like ’12 days for Christmas’ helps shoppers start planning and finding the right gift before the season and these early purchases helps retailers plan more repeat buyers’ incentives.
Give shoppers a sense of urgency with taglines like ‘offer of the day. Gone tomorrow’. These prompts the shoppers to make their purchase decision today knowing that tomorrow it might not be the same offer.
Most of the consumers definitely would come to your site during the holiday season. but equally inviting would be to throw in some offers like free shipping with a certain amount of purchase, free gifts, or even special repeat buyer discount to fuel repeat purchases from existing customers. These special offers dig your customer loyalty relationships and ensure a consistent flow of new and old customers.
Free shipping is vital as holiday shoppers are bound to purchase more when they know all they buy can be shipped without a cost. Most retailers offer this but marketers should also have legal implications to cover up demographic shipping issues and costs.
Personalized promotions, suggested items, gift idea center, live chat are some site features retailers use during holiday season promotions. these are used primarily to generate revenue from loyal customers. Most of these features should be personalized with the click stream behavior of the customers to get maximum sales.
Highlight seasonal content, products and categories and put the holiday season front and center so that shoppers can find, choose and buy gifts easily. Taglines like ‘shop for our exclusive gifts’ gets the message across clearly – recipients are unlikely to get these gifts anywhere.
Many retailers possess high performance analytic tools but at one point they find that these tools are not providing what it required and expected. Higher end solutions like Web Trends, Omniture or Coremetrics have capabilities which may outrun what a basic retailer requires from their sites. No tool would automatically improve site performance right out of the box – marketers have to select and configure as the first step. Some of the reasons some retailers have with their unsuccessful data metrics could be because:
Data using has no methodology
Some of the tools provide more than 4-6 million different views of your site’s website data. Retailers and marketers need to put a methodology in place to analyze the data based on overall site goals, identify opportunities and test solutions using analytics. It’s mandatory to have a team and process in place to keep this moving.
Focus required on KPIs
Metrics has to be clearly defined and prioritized before the KPIs are received to get the maximum data results. Focus is lost when the metrics are not clear and there is no priority levels defined.
Poor implementation tools
Retailers need to ensure that the tools which are set to provide information on key metrics has to be implemented and configured correctly. Otherwise data presentation would not be accurate and misguided patterns will arise.
If incorrect or incomplete data occurs due to poor tool implementations or less focus, then marketers should not act on them. Accuracy issues occur when marketers tent to adopt the incomplete data.
Retailers need to ensure that people who control the tools should communicate with those who are responsible for the site.
Tool training is must
Each tool is unique in how it presents its data and lets you to navigate and acquire the desired metrics. Marketers require to be trained or have the basic understanding of how to exploit the tool and know where to look and which data to focus.
Data migration projects highlight serious data quality issues that too often lead to delayed projects and cost overruns. In extreme cases, poor data quality has led to the abandonment of new business initiatives. Environments where high volumes of data are entered into key business systems are a breeding ground for data quality problems. Lack of user knowledge, absence of stable and robust processes, and missing relationship linkages can lead to poor quality data in any system. The most common issues are:
1. Incomplete Data
Data can be missing partially or completely. For instance if some field values are null and during migration process these were not handled in elegant manner, could cause lot of problems in proper functioning of the migrated system.
2. Duplicate Data
Multiple instances of the same data is a big problem during data migration. It’s unlikely that conversion will ignore duplicate data records. Since the data format is different in each of the duplicate records, though the information is the same, it is difficult to narrow down and ignore duplicate data records.
3. Data Non-conformity
This is because the way the data in the database is formatted differs greatly from individual to individuals who have created the database structure. Hence data is not present in the standard format.
4. Inconsistent and Inaccurate Data
When merging various systems, the data can lack consistency and represent wrong information. Data deteriorates over time, which can cause a lot of difficulties during migration.
6. Data Integrity
Missing relationship linkages can drastically degrade the quality of data and pose problems during migration.
Prior to developing a conversion utility for data migration, it is worthwhile to research the type of data presented in the system. This is similar to the requirements gathering phase of any project. Listing all the types of data that need to be converted reduces the risk of errors.
There are variety of tools available to use in the data migration process by both advanced and beginner developers. These tools are contingent upon the compatibility of the data environment and platform dependent.
Informatica Power Center – A functional programming tool for platform accessing, reporting and integrating data.
Ascential Data Stage – Provides OnDemnd data integration.
ESS Base Hyperion – Creates analytic and enterprise performance management applications.
Business Objects: Data Integrator – Builds data marts, ODS systems and data warehouses.
SAS Data Integration – Generates data streams, data marts and data warehouses.
Microsoft Data Transformation Services (DTS) – Aids data movement issues, and automates ETL processes through databases.
Oracle Warehouse Builder – Provides fully integrated relational and dimensional modeling and the management of data and metadata, among other functions.
For more tips on data migration read eCommerce Best Practices book
Request For Proposal (RFP) can be written for every requirement from all the departments of the retailer. So does that mean that every RFP is different from the other? To a certain extent the content and certain requirements would differ but all the RFPs include the same pre-defined sections like purpose, overview, RFP response, business requirements, technical requirements, support requirements, pricing and costs and finally summary.
This section should be very brief carrying a short description about the purpose of the RFP which is simple and straightforward in its objective. Retailers should be aware that they are requesting a proposal from multiple vendors for a possible service relationship.
Also a brief and simple section this should mainly cater to inform the vendors who you are as a company, your business, and how you want the vendor to handle the functions that they are outsourcing currently.
This section requires being more substantial in content. The retailer should request a response for addressing the vendor’s product history, what their implementation plans are, process for customization and training and finally customer references.
This includes detailed information about how you need things to operate. Care should be taken to ensure that the business requirement information is targeted and specified with respect to all the needs you want met.
This includes functional requirements and is probably one of the longest sections within the RFP. All question and answer slots should be made here so that the vendor can complete answers or, if needed, ask you for any clarifications. System details, management and requirement technicalities are some specifications that can be added to the list.
This deals with asking the vendor what support would be provides—emails, telephone, etc. Also points like whether there would be 24×7 support for all media to help minimize the response time to customer queries, requests, back orders, etc. should be addressed here.
Pricing and Deadlines
Be straightforward about your pricing format so as not to confuse the vendors or mislead them in any way. Identify startup costs, additional support costs; customization costs and, also in particular, any hidden costs. Deadlines for submission are equally important so that there is no delay in the process for finalization. All deadlines should be specified and valid points of contact should be identified from your side. Deadlines are a big factor in determining whether a vendor can actually deliver tasks on schedule.