Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Global map of Social Networks - December 2013

For my last post of 2013 I thought I'd quickly mention this map of Social Networks used across the world for this month, December 2013.

Every 6 months Vincenzo Cosenza collates information from Alexa to understand which Social Media platforms are the the most popular in each country across the globe:

Since his last review 6 months ago, Facebook's growth has been slower. Its population is now up to 1.189 billion monthly active users, made up of: 199 million U.S. and Canada users, 276 million users in Europe, 351 million users in Asia (up by 34 million) and 362 million users from other parts of the world. Showing that it is still the world's leading network and that others such as V Kontakte and Twitter will have a hard job overtaking.

What is interesting for me is that there are a number of social networks that I was not familiar with at all, including Adnoklassniki, QZone, Cloob and Drauglem. Their prominence in this review highlights the need for a global social media marketing approach (e.g. when planning any international eCommerce efforts).

Friday, December 27, 2013

GAP PPC misses important sale figure

Imagine the situation.  You're managing the PPC digital marketing campaign for your global retail client. However they haven't yet told you the specific discount they are applying at the post - Christmas Sale.
So you stick a couple of x's in for the meantime, with the intention of putting the real figure in later.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mercure Hotels Hides the Wifi Link

I spend a fair bit of my time in hotels and therefore have to work using the provided hotel wi-fi services. I'm very grateful for this (usually) free service and it has been a factor in my hotel selection in the past (although most now provide it, including a number of Bed & Breakfast establishments).

However I thought it worth pointing out the poor usability of the Mercure Hotel group's wi-fi link on it's page... can you spot it on the screen grab from my high specification laptop??

Nope, it's not the purple title that says "Free WiFi" or the purple text underneath it that says "Free WiFi - ideal for basic browsing and emailing". But the button beneath it that is lost on my screen... and therefore must be the same for other users.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Developing Scottish eCommerce

I recently answered a few questions for a press article about eCommerce, following my presentation at a the 'Pixels & Pies 2' event in Edinburgh.

One of these was printed yesterday in The Times Business Insight supplement:

The latter part of what I wrote was quoted:

The Question?
What themes/issues were most able to help attendees get to grips with in the tourism industry briefing?

The Complete Answer.
My presentation covered the opportunity that eCommerce presents for all industries and in particular the tourism and food & drink ones. I gave several examples of new businesses that are using eCommerce in
different ways and across the international stage. The UK is actually one of the most mature markets for the adoption of eCommerce, both from a supplier/retailer perspective and a buyer/consumer one too. 
We therefore have the opportunity to learn from the fantastic success stories that are out there already, build
or evolve current off-line processes, products & services to suit a growing online population and contribute to the growth of the Scottish economy.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Ecommerce maturity is an opportunity

The UK leads the way in eCommerce and we are one of the most mature markets for online retailing.

Therefore, as the whole world shifts more and more towards the use of digital channels for marketing,  engagement and buying, we have an opportunity to lead the way and make the most of this opportunity.

In short, the tools, technologies and communications we use to trade online are not going away any time soon. We therefore need to embrace this chance, utilise the online skills & experience we have, share best practice, build up more talent & skills and then sell to the world.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The seven key areas of an eCommerce evaluation

I get asked to evaluate online retailing proposition a fair bit. So I thought I would share the key areas that I typically look at and report on.

User experience:
Quickly assess a site’s reaction from target site users (ideally using video & audio remote assessment tools such as whatusersdo.com)

Conversion rate optimisation:
Carry out an analysis of the potential use of conversion rate optimisation (CRO) tools & techniques, including possible AB & MVT processes and products

Retailing, merchandising & site operations:
Review of Inventory, pricing & fulfilment processes & systems. Then review the current processes for photograph & video asset production, merchandising, content management and offer promotion, as well as any sale, distressed inventory, affiliates, syndication, etc.)

Review of current Google e current digital analytics set-up, including: campaign tracking, eCommerce (e.g. funnel & conversion) metrics, integration with other services (e.g. digital marketing, product recommendations, etc.)

Site health:
Review the code, page loading time, internal linking, redirects and 404 (not-found) pages (note: this could cross over into search engine optimisation territory, so can in theory be done at the same time)

Volume & Performance (V&P):
Carry out an assessment of any projected volume and/or performance figures and (hopefully) a check of an previous testing done. This then leads into a validation of these figures and the subsequent planning of future V&P testing.

Have I missed anything?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Customer Services on Twitter need what?

In a recent rant on Twitter about my mobile phone broadband, I got a response from EE the mobile phone & data network provider. However the response I got wasn't what I expected and this raised a couple of questions in my mind:
  1. Why do I need to contact them directly and provide my full name, in order for a company to investigate what was a technical or process issue?
  2. Surely by looking at my Twitter account they can see what my name is (and a quick look at my profile will validate this)?

I'm sure EE has it's own reasons for this Twitter Customer Services policy. But I did find it slightly strange that EE want that level of contact and can't be bothered to look up basic publicly-facing information on people.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Multi-screen shopping - useful infographics

I've used a new Google service to produce an infographic (actually 4 separate ones) that outline how the multi-channel shopping experience has changed.

Content Marketing : owned, paid & earned doesn't work

As the subject of content marketing grows into more of a discipline, I've been looking at ways to categorise the different types of CM activity you can engage in.  I therefore wanted to see if these categories mapped to the three classifications of marketing originally developed by Forrester Research. Those of Paid, Owned and Earned.

Note: For those of you that want a better perspective of this general topic of Paid, Owned and; Earned, I produced a blog post on the merging between these 3 area a few months back.

However, I have to be honest on this occasion and say "no, I don't think that Content Marketing and the Paid, Owned & Earned classification work in this context"

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Stand up for Google Analytics

I’ve recently been giving a series of presentations with ScotlandIS to the Tourism and Food & Drink sectors. This has been as part of a wider series to improve the overall level of Internet Retailing skills and experience across Scotland, with my particular topic on the opportunities for eCommerce.
During this 25 minute set I take a break from providing statistics, advice and examples, to do something a little more interactive.
In one slide I build the following set of bullet points:

  • Stand up please
  • Stay standing if you currently have an eCommerce site
  • Stay standing if you are using web analytics
  • Stay standing if you use it to get regular KPI’s (visits)
  • Stay standing if you have ‘goals’ set up on your site
  • Stay standing if you are measuring eCommerce values for these 'goals'

Although quite a few people initially stand, it is surprising to see nearly every person sit down as each point appears. And in all three cases where I've given this presentation so far… only one company or site is left standing.

Although this exercise is there to provide a break from ‘death by PowerPoint’ and to show the simple path to analytics maturity, it has been a bit of a revelation to myself and the other eCommerce consultants in the room to see just how many people are not using even some of the more simple digital analytics functions.

What’s more shocking is my final point.
All of this is free!

Yes, with Google Analytics, all the points I have highlighted are freely available to any internet retailing site. Or as I more succinctly put it… “GA should be the eCommerce practitioner’s best friend”.

Hopefully I have not only communicated how simple and cost effective this tool it, I have also helped some Food & Drink and Travel & Tourism businesses.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Understanding the eCommerce Opportunity

I've been asked to give presentations to different companies & organisations around Scotland on the 'Opportunities for eCommerce'.

The following is therefore my generic set of slides that I have already started to deliver in various locations. The presentation is meant to cover the key industries of Travel & Tourism and Food & Drink.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Know the fundamentals of Google Analytics

I've heard a range of excuses for digital types not to get to grips with Google Analytics.  From "I don't have enough time to take the course" through to "oh, it changes so often, I can't keep up" and "it costs money to take the test"... there is always a bunch of reasons not to do something

However until the end of 31st October (tonight) you have the chance to study all about GA and take Google's Digital Analytics Fundamentals exam for free:

I took my test the other night, without reading the course material, and got 80% - a pass!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Understanding the Third Moment of Truth

Last week I posted my thoughts on whether there was an extra  'Moment of Truth' in the online & multi-channel purchasing cycle. One where users get the product home and only then decide to return some or all of them.
This Third Moment of Truth is key to an eCommerce site's revenue and stock management, as returned inventory can significantly affect a product line's profitability and add a lot of effort to the entire back-end process.

In the diagram above I have also tried to tie together this Third Moment of Truth (TMOT) with the other moments and then to align them with my previously-used model of influence & action... AIDA.

Hopefully now, regardless of which model is used, there should now be some alignment of these different pivotal moments.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Dark Side of Content Marketing

I sometimes blog about the more shady side of Internet Marketing and how you should avoid this sort of stuff (if at all possible).
Buying email lists, Black Hat SEO and other nefarious activities are still used though... primarily for short-term gains and only by some digital folk. Despite all the guidance of search engines, advice from reputable online agencies and contributions from best-practice consultants, there is still a fair bit of shadiness still used (and some clients even encourage it).

Content Marketing on the other hand is the discipline of creating and sharing content for the purpose of communicating, educating and informing prospect, customers and anyone else really. The art of great copy writing, coupled with great UX skills and fantastic creativity is rewarded in engaged eyeballs and influenced sales.

But I have been considering recently whether there a dark side to Content Marketing. Activity that isn't entirely legitimate, but that has yet to be defined as dodgy.... yet

Here's some examples I can quickly think of:
  1. Writing blog posts with very similar titles & subjects (purely to try and cover a range of search terms for SEO or internal search)
  2. Writing unnaturally (either to force a call-to-action or to appeal to search engines with keyword stuffing, repetition, etc.)
  3. Creating meaningless (or even completely off-topic) infographics just to encourage their sharing
  4. Creating numerous videos from a single original clip and posting them online under different titles and keywords.
Can you think of anything else?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Oh... We already have a digital strategy

When I talk to organisations about the need for a strategic plan for implementing online tools and services, I get told "Oh... We already have a digital strategy" or something similar.

I hear this phrase quite a lot and it is typically followed by other quotes such as "We created one of those a couple of years back" or "We had one produced in 2011 by a bunch of consultants, but they didn't understand our business".
My take on this is that the process to create a digital strategy should be:
  1. The development of a vision
    - Where digital benefits are fully utilised & integrated across the organisation
  2. Created
    - By your organisation
    - For your organisation
  3. Owned by your organisation
  4. Supported by:
    - Clear goals and measurable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
    - A prioritised portfolio of projects with an achievable delivery road map
But just as importantly for me is that this digital strategy should not be set in stone forever. Yes, it should have board-level approval, but it should not sit in a drawer and gather dust over time, it should be revisited, reviewed and redrafted to accommodate changes in: Technology, People & Processes, your wider Business strategy and any other external factors (e.g. competitors, legislation, etc.).

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Is the future of the Chief Digital Officer at risk?

In a recent report by Gartner called "Top Industries Predicts 2014: The Pressure for Fundamental Transformation Continues to Accelerate" [link] it's predicted that nearly two-thirds of government organisations with both a CIO and chief digital officer role will get rid of one or the other. This will eventually happen because of the overlap between the two and further changes across the business.

This announcement may seem a little premature, since the role of Chief Digital Officer is only just taking shape in the minds of some organisations and their boardrooms. To therefore announce it's redundancy before it is fully embraced could be seen as just headline grabbing (or link bait).

However, I agree with this viewpoint. Furthermore I not only believe that the future of the Chief Digital Officer post is at risk, but that it should be seen as an interim position along the path to full digital adoption. In other words... if you're aiming to be a CDO in several years time, you are probably planning for the wrong future.

But let's take a small step back to the present. Where the role of Chief Digital Office is definitely needed by some public and private sector bodies, with others having already hired & found their CDO. This person should neatly sit between the roles of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO), to help both on their journey forward to the creation of a vision, where digital benefits are fully utilised & integrated across both teams and further afield.

In some circles the title of CIO amusingly used to stand for "Career Is Over". However it is really the CDO who should not only assume they are out of a job eventually, but should plan for this as part of their wider responsibilities.


Friday, October 18, 2013

The Third Moment of Truth

In my earlier post this week, I explained what was meant by the traditional marketing model of the First and Second Moments of Truth (FMOT & SMOT). I then went on to cover the more recent concept of the ZMOT or Zero Moment of Truth and how it aligns to older models of: AIDA (Awareness, Influence, Desire and Action). 

In the offline world, the FMOT is typically when the shopper reaches for the product and buys it. This aligns nicely to the online (or Multi-Channel) world, where the user does virtually the same thing by clicking on the product they want, adding it to their digital basket and proceeds through the checkout process. The SMOT is then relatively the same for both channels, with the shopper either taking the item home to experience themselves, of getting it delivered / collected. 

However, I think we also need to consider that (primarily for the online shopper) we should add an additional stage, the Third Moment of Truth… or the TMOT if I’m allowed to continue the series (and not to be confused with ‘The Ministry of Truth’ or ‘The Magic of Television”).  

Consider the situation that is now quite a common problem for eCommerce retailers…
  1.  A shopper visits a website, selects a product to purchase (typically one that they wear or needs to fit them in some way) and adds it to their online basket.
  2. Because they are not too sure about the exact sizing of the product, or because they are not sure about their own physical dimensions, they order another one in a different size or two.
  3. They may also order different colours of the product or other variant in some way… all in an effort to find a single product that is the ‘right’ version or fit.
    Note: It’s also my assumption here that sites who offer ‘free delivery’ and especially ‘free returns’ will suffer from this effect more.
  4. After the user has completed their transaction (FMOT) they then await delivery, or in a ‘Click & Collect’ situation they go and get it themselves.
  5. The goods arrive at their home and the shopper unwraps or un-boxes their purchases (SMOT).
  6. However, they are now left with more than one product, when all they wanted was one thing. So after viewing or trying on these products, what do they do?

    They decide which items they are going to return.

It is this moment, when a choice about what gets sent back is made, that I think needs greater consideration and becomes the TMOT, the Third Moment of Truth.

Trust Me On This …   Doh!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Moments of Truth

Most savvy marketers should now be familiar with the concept of the first and second ‘moments of truth’. The idea (pioneered by P&G over a decade ago) that there are several key points in the shopper’s journey which should be recognised and supported, is now pretty much part of the vocabulary of modern retail marketing.

The First moment of truth (FMOT):
When a shopper decides to purchase an item (e.g. reaches for the product sitting on a supermarket shelf)

The Second moment of truth (SMOT):
When the shopper gets the product home and starts to use it.

More recently Google identified the Zero Moment of Truth. This was explained as being the online decision-making process that takes the multi-channel shopper from the initial point of stimulus through to the first moment of truth.

The theory is that by being aware of these stages in the buying process means, we can craft message and experiences around these points to encourage and persuade shoppers to buy.  However Google’s Zero Moment of Truth, or ZMOT as it is referred to, needs more than a brief explanation of how it actually works  in practice across the a digital world. Google's model highlights that there is now a new critical moment of decision that happens before consumers get to the supermarket shelf. That regardless of the products sold, customers and shoppers (the two terms here are pretty-much interchangeable) decision on what product to buy is made up. However, it is not necessarily persuaded by just one factor or one message via a single source… but by a complex combination of lots of messages, many of which are via digital marketing channels.
You can find out more about it here: http://www.zeromomentoftruth.com

However these models aren't really that new or revolutionary. Back several years ago I used the acronym AIDA in several posts to refer to a very similar marketing concept. This explained that there are 4 steps along the path to purchase of: awareness, influence, decision and action. This process takes the shopper up to the point when they commit themselves to purchasing… in other words up to the first moment of truth (FMOT).
In my opinion… What Google has done with ZMOT is to give a name to the two steps of influence and decision, shaped for the modern generation of multiple channel users.

Or to break it down in a way that I find easy to understand, I've created the following diagram which shows how I think these different approached come together:

Monday, October 14, 2013

New Google nav hints at Google Plus desparation

I recently blogged about the new navigation that Google was rolling out across it's varied and rich estate of sites. The older black nav bar looks to be consigned to the scrapheap (at least for some areas) and the new navigation sits right-proudly in a right-aligned format on top of some of Google's principle functionality (Search, GMail, Calendar, etc.).

Although this change may have been done to easily give consistent and easy access to further Google areas... I can't help think that the search giant has also tried to put the link to Google Plus, it's own social networking platform, in a more prominent place. Google has therefore moved this link from the far left (where is sits as a link with your name and a plus symbol) to center stage, where it now the first of only three text links.

To be frank, there can't be anywhere more obvious to the user than putting the Google+ hyperlink in its new place and hints at desperation to drive users to a tool that still doesn't seem to have the user adoption that it might have expected or hoped.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The signs that Google is killing the SEO industry

It's funny that the Internet search engine that really defined the work of search engine optimisation practitioners over the last decade is now giving several signs that it wants to kill that industry off.

1. The removal of organic results from the top of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages)
In a post a year ago, I commented on how little of the organic search engine results showed on the page of a normal user's screen for hotel-related searches. Back then I explained how very little actually appears above the 'page fold' on a decent size monitor and asked Google the question:
Are you trying to do away with the search engine optimisation industry entirely?
Well a year later the search giant has answered my question, by showing no organic results above the fold for certain search queries. E.g. "diabetes symptoms".

And with yesterday's announcement of 'Hummingbird' (the search giant's biggest change to their engine algorithm since the 2009 'Caffeine' overhaul), Google stated that  “around 90% of searches" would be affected. My initial take on this was "Great, I bet that means even more paid-for results appearing at the top of the page".

2. The removal of organic keyword information 
Unless you're in the SEO industry you might not have been following the recent developments in the ongoing [not provided] issue with Google.
To put this in a non-technical way... Google used to let's site owners see which words were driving organic search traffic to their site, via the Google Analytics tool they provide for free. However, over the course of a almost 2 years, the percentage of terms you get to see in GA has diminished to the point where now only 20 - 30% of the total are visible... and this is decreasing all the time.

Why? Well there has been various excuses for removing this incredibly valuable SEO source, from the generic "privacy" label through to the mention of "NSA snooping" (That's the National Security Agency, the internal spy organisation, similar in function to GCHQ, to us Brits).

However, despite all this bluster by the 'Big G' about protecting our privacy, Google still provides full disclosure about specific keyword usage to those who pay for it's AdWords Pay-Per-Click service. Thus putting a price on your privacy.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Google changes the top nav for search again

Google seems to be rolling out another new iteration of its top navigation bar.

In what seems to be an about-face from the adoption of the black left justified "Google bar" that currently lives across the top of all Google apps, the new version gets rid of the black background and moves to the right.

In my opinion this makes the Google+ link to Google Social Networkking platform even more obvious and seemingly relegates the useful links to: maps, Play (Google's app store), YouTube and more. To now reach these functions, you click on the three by three grid image, which then drops down the icons for these popular apps.

Will it catch-on and be adopted across the entire Google estate? Or have I just stumbled across a limited test by the Big G?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Embedding a Google+ post inside a blog article

I find I'm using Google Plus more these days, so I thought I'd understand how to use the embed post feature. And as this blog is also run on Google's Blogger platform, inserting a G+ post into this blog seemed the obvious choice.

However was actually easier than I thought. By selecting the drop-down menu at the top of a top, you get the options as follows:

Then just selecting "Embed Post" you get access to the HTML code, that you then just copy and paste in the HTML editor of your blog.
Note: editing HTML might not be everyone's idea of 'easy' but for most technically proficient users this should be relatively simple.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Will Social Media Experts take over the World?

I once read back in 2007 that since the rate of Elvis impersonators in the World was increasing at such a fast rate, by 2019 a third of everyone on the planet would be one.

However, I now fear that the Social Media Guru Disease is getting out of control. Now rather than the prediction that the population will be filled with an excess of flared sequinned jumpsuit-wearing singers, we could end up with more than our fair share of inexperienced 'Social Media Ninjas' and self-trained 'Social Media experts' setting up training courses in "creating a Facebook page" and running webinars in "how to engage customers using Twitter".

Well... too late, we already have too many of these!

Hayden has now left the building.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Do you have Social Media Guru Disease?

I fear that a new highly virulent strain has gripped the modern world. One that seems to be so infectious it is spreading life wildfire and afflicting nearly everyone it comes into contact with.

What are the symptoms?
  1. A delusional state of mind 
  2. The constant mentioning of abilities and expertise that the person clearly doesn't have
  3. The impersonation of professionals they have occasionally met or seen
  4. Constant requests for you to like them or follow them
In case you haven't some into contact with these poor people yet... These symptoms are also accompanied by other physical manifestations, such as the sudden appearance of websites and marketing material claiming to "learn the basics" or "grow your business with Social Media". These messages, like a form of digital graffiti, are now posted all over Linkedin and Facebook... it's almost as if those who are worst affected are using the very channels that fuel their delusions as cries for help.

Yes, Social Media Guru Disease is here people and could be affecting those around you at this very moment.

  • Does your partner keep setting up different Twitter accounts for no reason?
  • Has your son started drawing large letters (particularly the letter 'F' in blue) on every vertical surface?
  • Have you the secret worry that 'Instagram' may not be the covert word for your colleague's drug habit?
  • Has an old school friend sent you over 15 request to 'like' their flower arranging business in the last week?

I noticed this disease appear a couple of years back and hoped it wouldn't get out of control. But alas, it seems it might be too late.... I hope not! 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Is this the best 'Page Not Found' message?

The web was originally created for the purpose of linking between different locations using hyperlinks within pages. This is still the case now, only these days there a lot of broken links out there as pages change their locations over time (e.g. when a new site is built or when products are no longer available to buy online). Consequently now and then you're bound to run into the odd 'Page Not Found' message as you browse around.

This is sometimes called a "404 error", as this is the official server code created when a web server can't find the page requested. And typically this 404 error page generates a dull computer-created message that looks completely out of place on your newly-designed digital masterpiece.

However, it's not often you come across such as page that makes you giggle. I'll therefore leave it up to you to decide if this 404 message from baby & toddler retailer Mothercare is actually the best example out there.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Retailisation - what it means to be a modern digital retailer

"We want to be more like a retailer"
"We need to think more like a retailer"
"Our business needs to evolve into more of a retail model"

Sound familiar? Well I'm hearing these sorts of quotes more and more often these day, and  not just from the obvious brands you would think. But from established product manufacturers and service providers, who realize that they need to up their game and drive people to consideration and purchase/subscription/take-up.
It seems that despite a recent Global economic melt-down driven by over-spending and an economic reliance on spending... retailisation seems to be the way forward. Everyone apparently now wants to be the next Amazon, Zappos or Play.com

So what does it actually mean to think and be more like a digital retailer these days? (Especially the major online or multi-channel retailers, who seem to epitomize this ethos).

Well here's my thoughts:

  1. A good online retailer never stops looking for ways to improve what they have. This constant & iterative approach to goal optimisation means sites need to constantly change to increase their conversion ratio, average order value and other KPI's. eCommerce giants like Amazon, Argos, Tesco, etc. no longer launch major re-developments once in a while, but have a tried & tested process of smaller changes planned based on analytics & insight. These changes are then implemented in an  optimisation road-map as quickly as they can, with the idea of building up a picture of what works and what doesn't.
    This is also not just something that done on the homepage of your site,  where every product/service wants to get visibility, but on every page / template, including: landing pages, product pages, etc.
  2. Use every opportunity to maximise each individual transaction. From useful up-sell and cross-sell opportunities through to optimised abandoned basket messages or a clever eCRM communication that pulls in dynamic product suggestions based on browsing history... you have the data, use it to persuade and encourage.
  3. Carry out regular user experience site reviews, but ensure they are done from the perspective of a prospect/customer.
    Examples could include:
    1. A new customer looking for product information
    2. An soon-to-be customer looking for product validation
    3. An existing customer looking for support or returns information
    4. A lapsed customer who has forgotten their password.
  4. A PPC & display budget should focus on those campaigns that deliver conversions and not just visits or other vanity metrics. In other words, deliver a bought media strategy that targets goals using input from you site analytics.
    (And if I hear one more senior exec say "we have X number of hits on our site" - I think I'll scream)
Retailisation isn't for everyone. But as more & more sites move beyond just the basics, I'm sure it is an approach that will continue to increase in use.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Online success - 8 soundbites for digital improvement

I'm typically not in favour of using soundbites, without backing them up with facts or information. However I find myself using the following more and more... so thought I'd note them down for future reference.

Find and identify your audience
Turn monologues into dialogues via web and social networks
Match the style of message with the style of audience
Create, implement and analyse ideas which deliver results
Measure value and worth properly
Build engagement, loop it and exploit it
Developing a programme for continuous improvement
Evaluate, set-up, use and  tools that use the data you already own

Hopefully in another post or two I'll go into these in far more detail.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

5 ways to spot a crap Content Marketing agency

Content Marketing is this season’s buzz word. Like ‘Social Media’ was a few years back and ‘Web 2.0’ a few years before that… Content Marketing is apparently all the rage now.
Only there’s a big problem with that.

To try and fill the gap between client expectations and delivery of these, a bunch of agencies have recently cropped up offering: Content strategy, Content Marketing, In-bound marketing and the rest. You know the ones… they email you all the time (well, they fill up my ‘Promotions’ tab in Google Mail – which I now treat like a second inbox for spam) and make it seem like they are a reputable company and not just a bunch of people jumping on the latest digital bandwagon.

Yes, there will be the odd one out there who has actually done what they say and possibly for some brands you may have actually heard of. But a lot of them have either just re-purposed their existing Search Engine Optimisation efforts or may have worked out how to do the basics in Google Analytics (e.g. look at in-bound source URLs, print out a PDF of landing page bounce rates, etc.).
So here’s my tips on the ways you can spot a crap content marketing agency:

  1. They send you an email such as “understand blogging basics” or “free website content review” when they've not even looked at your site
  2. They don’t actually have any content creation and copy writing skills (they typically only offer to suggest blog posts or to analyse what you've already written)
  3. They have spelling or consistency mistakes across their website (an obvious sign of poor content quality) 
  4. Despite claiming to have been doing “Content Marketing for years” their own twitter feed and blog posts go back less than 12 months.
    (And watch out for the tell-tale sign of sudden flurries of blog posts all written around the same time, and then large gaps where they haven't been bothered)
  5. They make wonderful sweeping statements like “you need to increase brand engagement” with no indication of how you actually do this, let alone measure it.

So. Did I miss any points? Let me know. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Think Search Engine Optimisation is easy?

We often get new digital marketing clients come to us after hearing a lot of inaccuracies (or just plain lies) from others, so I thought it best to set down a points about SEO that might come as a surprise to those looking to hire a decent search engine optimisation company:

  1. The improved placement of your site in search engines can’t be guaranteed. There are certain SEO things within our control such as on-site content, the code of your website and some in-bound links (e.g. from partners, etc.). But there is a lot beyond our control, such as how the search engines index & display sites, plus what the competition does… all of which may affect the positions of your site in the organic search engine result s (SERPs)
  2. Reputable SEO agencies should not use any underhand or short-term 'black hat' SEO activity to gain an improvement, no matter how tempting this may be to the agency or the client. There's no instant way to get a significant lift in your site rankings without a lot of hard & genuine work. So don’t keep asking us to do it, or we will resign the account.
  3. We are (to a certain extent) at the mercy of your web development agency to make code & configuration changes for the benefit of SEO. By the way, if that’s also us, then don’t worry. Your web developers may have their own opinions on what is good for SEO, we may have another...  we’re not saying we’re always right, but we may have the bigger perspective here.
  4. SEO & PR now have to work together to be truly successful. We’ll therefore need access to either your in-house PR person or your PR agency. If you don’t have either then we can still do loads of great stuff, but our link-building activity may take longer.
  5. We can't optimise your site without content... decent, credible, interesting, readable and shareable content. If you have no intention of producing it yourself, then we can suggest people for this job. But if you don’t want to use them… then the scope of how we can optimise your site is then limited.

In short, I don’t think Search Engine Optimisation is easy, although the positives of working in such an interesting and dynamic industry more than makes up for this.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Linking your blog to Google+

I've resisted the temptation to get serious about Google Plus over the last year or so, mainly as I didn't see much value in Google's social network. To me it just seemed a little errr... pointless. However to be serious about search engine optimisation, I really needed to have more of an understanding of the platform. (No, this is not an admission that Google+ is something I now use privately, just something I use professionally).

My first step towards using Google+ was linking this blog to my Google account. Usually this is a process of just checking a box in the back-end of the Blogger.com administration and off you go. However in my case this was a little more tricky, as my blog was created in an older Google account and my public Google+ profile sits under a different one. This was resolved by adding the account with my G+ profile to the list of authors and administrators of my blog and then subsequently going in a removing the older account.

Having then linked this blog to my Google+ profile, it was only a matter of days before I noticed that this link was recognised by Google's search results.

Meaning a picture of my face and a link to my Google+ profile was now evident.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Key Objectives For Any Digital Strategy

Every major organisation now needs a Digital Strategy, or should have one already. But is your strategy underpinned by some simple core objectives?

Here are mine:

  • Be great
    Create a seamless digital presence that evolves over time to create a service that maintains & improves quality and exceeds digital standards & user expectations. 
  • Be inclusive and user-centric
    Ensure as many customers as possible can access your functionality via digital touch-points, regardless of their: ability, connection, devices (e.g. mobile, PC, kiosk, tablet, etc.) and location. 
  • Be optimised
    Build a service that optimises your life-long contact with your customers. Provide: relevant, timely & targeted information to maximise revenue using online marketing & communication techniques. 
  • Be measurable
    Understand digital visitor behaviour at every touch-point and use that data to create insight to inform business thinking and steer future digital roadmap developments, marketing services and business processes.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Further musings about Meta tags

In a recent posting, I mentioned how the Meta Keywords tag is no longer used by search engines to rank websites. Even Google now officially states that they don't bother with it... so as a search engine optimisation technique, I wouldn't spend any time on them.

This therefore raises the question of whether you should even include it in your site or if you should remove it.

So here's some thoughts on the pros and cons of keeping this tag in your site.

Remove them:
  • Your site HTML code can easily be seen by viewing the source in your browser - PC's typically. This means the keywords always on display and can therefore give your competitors insight into the keywords you are targeting.
  • Although a lot of people are now on super-fast home broadband and work connection, there are still a number of users on slower download speeds ... including those on mobile devices. Although removing a line of HTML code isn't going to make your site noticeably quicker, as one UK supermarket slogan goes... every little helps.
Keep them:
  • HTML / Accessibility standards change and evolve from time to time. Therefore there is the chance that the Meta Keyword tag could be brought back into use (although very unlikely I guess).
  • Some on-site search mechanisms might still use them to classify pages on your own web presence 
  • If you're after throwing your competition off the scent of what keywords you're actually targeting, you could always put false ones in your meta tags... but then, that might be a little too much

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Have a redirection strategy when changing your site

Lots of companies I speak with are changing and updating their websites, it’s the natural evolution of things (and also keeps us digital agencies in business). Some of them are carrying out complete overhauls of their online presence, including:

  • Re-platforming (e.g. moving to a more enterprise content management system)
  • Changing the design of the user interface and navigation
  • Applying a new site structure 

When doing all or some of the above, one very important thing usually gets forgotten… the redirection of old page locations to their corresponding new URLs.

Why is this important?
Well, for a start, you hopefully have previous visitors who have bookmarked specific pages with the aim of returning to them at a future date. You would not want them to get the ubiquitous ‘404 error’ that tells them the page is not found on the server.
Secondly, you want to preserve as much of the SEO value of each page as possible. Current thinking (and input from search engine optimisation authorities such as Google’s Matt Cutts) says that the majority of PageRank Juice’ is transferred to the target page when you do site re-directions correctly. And the correct way of providing redirect is via a 301 redirect, which tells the incoming page request that this is a permanent redirection.

There are some important things to note here:

  1. The amount of Google PageRank that you lose through a 301 is currently identical to the amount of PageRank that dissipates through a normal link.
  2. A 302 (temporary redirect) passes 0% juice through to the target page, so should be avoided when optimising your site for search.

Therefore for any sites realistically bigger than a few pages, it is important to plan your redirection strategy. But not just as you are cutting over from one site to another, but as much in advance as possible. In other words, ideally as soon as the new site map and page content have been agreed.

You then have the job of mapping old URLs to new URLs. This can be quite simple if both versions are similar. However it can be far more complex when pages are split across different subjects or when you have an entirely new approach to your site content. So plan your redirection strategy in detail and make sure you are sending users and search engines to the most relevant new location.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Returning to Wordpress SEO

It's been a while since I dabbled with the complexities of Wordpress, the popular website blogging platform that is now the content management system (CMS) behind so many sites.
Note: We've moved onto typically using Drupal for most decent sized sites these days, mainly because it is more of an enterprise CMS and far more stable when you have multiple users all entering and editing content at the same time.

However I had the chance to dive back into the area of Wordpress SEO very recently. This was when a new client was already in the process of having their site developed by anther agency and needed some help to ensure they got the most from their content. Luckily the web developers had used the popular Yoast Wordpress SEO plugin. This was a tool I hadn't used in at least a few years, so it was interesting to see if the popular Wordpress plugin had evolved much.

Luckily the important features are still there, primarily the ability to edit the Meta Description and Meta Title for each post and every page.
Note: Most search engines apparently no longer take any notice of Meta Keywords, which were once the first set of changes for everyone in the search engine optimisation industry. Also older site accessibility standards included some meta data a basic acceptance criteria, however Meta Keywords were not explicitly stated back then and the more recent WCAG2.0 doesn't mention the need to include any specific meta fields... phew!

Luckily the product has improved since I last use it. I really like the Snippet Preview, which gives you some indication of how your page will be displayed in search engines such as Google (however, from experience, search engines don't always take the on-page data you provide and use other sources - e.g. Alexa or http://www.dmoz.org/). Apparently Yoast has been using Linkdex for it's advanced page analysis tools for the last year or so, although this breakdown of: word count, keyword usage and relevance isn't something I've seen in my stand-alone version of Linkdex.

Overall, it's been a rewarding experience going back to something I used to do and re-learning an updated version of a popular SEO tool.

I'll try and blog about the results of my efforts when the site goes live...

Friday, August 9, 2013

Make Customer Experience Management easy for real people

It seems like the world has suddenly woken up to the concept of "the customer journey", the idea that users have specific processes and tasks that they go through to achieve their goals via multiple touch-points & channels.
I must have heard the phrase more in the last few months than I have in the preceding 10 years. It's like every middle manager thinks they have only just invented the term... But that's OK, these people can catch-up with the online industry. We've been using: personas, customer process flows and transactional funnels for over a decade, with great success.

But now things have changed in that time. The idea that the user follows a linear journey is a simplistic model that takes no account for the multiple user types, needs, loyalty, etc. There's also a lot more data available via analytics now can be interpreted, analysed and even processed in real-time to create a dynamic site experience (e.g. product recommendations and multivariate testing) and automate various marketing processes (retargeting, etc.).

However, for all the fancy integration and mathematics behind the scenes, these complex systems still need a non-technical person to manage the experience day-to-day. Normal humans (not rocket scientists) are needed to change assets, conduct conversion experiments and approve content updates. In short, the very person who has now got excited about the improved user experience, now needs a simple way to manage the data-driven customer experience.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Building your corporate digital analytics capability

As an organisation develops its digital understanding, you see certain trends and processes emerging. One of those is the increasing usage of digital analytics and increasing business reliance on the figures produced.

Digital analytics is now taken seriously as a business tool. From what was once a mainly geek-ish domain has emerged a significant service that can empower the business to make more rational or efficient decisions.  But just as other digital resources have grown (and grown-up) over time, the analytics resource in your organisation may well have grown too. If fact, making the point a bit stronger, if your web analytics team has not grown in size or depth in their understanding as the rest of your online capability has matured, you are probably missing something.

However… creating, scaling and keeping your web insight team is not an easy task.
Firstly positioning the team as just another marketing service is not the right approach. Having them regarded in the same light as a search engine optimisation or pay-per-click resource misses the point. This is not to take anything away from the SEO or PPC staff you might employ but the online analytics function is not just there to inform and maintain the current activity… but can also be used to feed insight back into your organisation too.

Creating the right online customer analysis and insight team structure depends a lot on the size & scale of your company. Most small companies do not have someone dedicated to this role (unless they are a digitally-focused business such as an eCommerce site) and even a lot of bigger companies combine the work of a web analytics function with other disciplines, and in a lot of cases this is digital marketing. It is therefore typically only much larger enterprises that can usually afford or utilise a dedicated person or persons in a digital analysis capacity.

Structuring this multi-person team can then be a little different from the way you might structure another digital functions. Although a lot depends on the types and quality of the individuals you hire. Just having a bunch of people who can all do the same things might not provide enough specialisation or focus… and analytics can quickly get into specifics. Some larger teams can range in skill-sets from more technical-orientated people through to business-based modellers who can pull trends and opportunities from complex data structures.

Keeping the team (aside from the effects of your own management style) can be the hardest thing to achieve. From my own experience there is currently a lack of decent experience digital analytics professionals out in the market right now. Quite frankly, we need more digital analytics experts. People with the right skills and experience are given far more choice about who and where they work, with many choosing a more lucrative career as a freelancer or consultant. Therefore holding on to good digital insight staff is crucial if your organisation is to you want to grow your capability and retain best practice knowledge.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Lawyer's Letter to Merchant Soul

In a previous post, I  copied an open letter to Stephen Halpin of Merchant Soul about him owing our company over £26,000 of unpaid invoices.

Below is a letter sent to Stephen Halpin by our corporate lawyers:

Dear Sir
We act for Ideal Interface.
We are instructed to recover from you the above mentioned sum which is comprised by several invoices dating from as long ago as October 2012, full details of which have already been provided to you by our client.  There is no dispute concerning the invoices – you have simply failed to honour your payment obligations.
The matter is obviously of great concern to our client since there is every indication that you have been continuing to incur liabilities without any obvious means of being able to meet them.  This conduct is indicative of wrongful and/or fraudulent trading, the penalty for which includes being compelled to repay money owed out of your own pocket and being disbarred from acting as a director ever again.
The context of this is to make it plain to you that the sum outstanding is sufficiently high that if it transpires that you have wrongfully or fraudulently traded, our client is prepared to take all such steps as are necessary to prosecute such a matter to a conclusion through the courts and the DTI.  
In the circumstances we urge you to give this matter your most urgent attention.  Accordingly unless we have your payment in full, or acceptable terms of payment, by 4pm on Thursday 15 August 2013, our client will take all such steps as are necessary to effect recovery whether through proceedings or insolvency process. We hope that this is not necessary and that common sense can prevail.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Tracking individual users in Google Analytics

Several people have recently asked me if it is possible to use Google Analytics to track and store information on specific individual visitors to their site. Usually the popular analytics package only reports trends and grouped user behaviour, you never get to see the granular detail of each person (e.g. their specific browsing path around the site, etc.). However this can be quite annoying for some marketers who want this information and who have used competitive packages from companies such as WebTrends or Adobe (Omniture) in the past.

If you read the Google Analytics support documentation on Google’s website, you will see in several places there is a reference to NOT using PII (Personally Identifiable Information). This is data that can be used by Google to identify an individual and includes info such as: Name, Address & Email address. However PII can also be a mobile phone’s unique identifier or some other way to recognise a specific device.

There are work-arounds to this restriction (such as using Custom Variables that hold randomly-generated reference for each specific user), but these come very close to violating Google’s End User License Agreement and are definitely not in the spirit of the platform.

So can you upgrade to Google Analytics Premium (the paid-for version of GA) and then start to store important user data? No. The collection of personally identifiable information (PII) is in violation of Google Analytics entire EULA and therefore paying $150k still doesn't let you use the platform as you might have hoped.
Google has therefore been pretty specific in its user agreement (with its new Universal Analytics product also currently having the same restrictions) and even gives the warning that:
Your Google Analytics account could be terminated and your data destroyed if you use any of this information.
However, I have one important point to raise that has been bugging me…

In GA there is the feature to understand your Multi-Channel Funnels. This is lets a site manager understand the interactions between different online media and see how the channels work together to trigger sales. Since this report gives a breakdown of all the multiple digital customer touch-points over the last 30 days… if Google doesn't uniquely identify individuals, how does it know when specific people use each channel and then join them up to create a complete picture of the steps customers take before actually converting?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Forget creating a digital strategy

Digital Strategy, I hear & read the words repeatedly in the line of my business. It seems that it’s the current phrase to use within a company, which is annoying as I’ve been writing them for around a decade and a half now.
Now typically in this blog I would drill into the subject of the different aspects of creating and maintaining a digital strategy, covering things from a top-down perspective and giving my views on how to implement one.
But not today. I think I need to clear some things up first that have been on my mind.
  1. What’s the point in having a digital strategy when there are probably a number of different online initiatives around your organisation that don’t know (or care) about the more strategic direction being taken?
  2. Why even plan a digital strategy, when there are simple digital projects that have either failed to get off the ground or have subsequently turned out to be turkeys? (These don’t have to be monumental projects to entirely redevelop your online business, they could be something as basic as a quick microsite that has failed to comply to HTML standards)
Sure, planning an overall approach to all online engagement and interaction is a noble cause. But hoping to just lay this new lush green grass layer over the rubble of bad or missing quality standards or known gaps in your organisation’s digital capability is a recipe for almost certain failure.
Or in other words, forget creating your digital strategy, get your digital tactics right first!

Monday, July 29, 2013

British Airways pricing might need work

The other day I was buying a flight down to London to see a client and used the British Airways website to book. I looked at various options to get the cheapest flight, but was a little surprised to see that the cost of flying from Glasgow to Gatwick costs more when you take less baggage.
Yes that's right, to fly with a suitcase up to 23kg in weight is £11 cheaper than just travelling with hand luggage.

Note: I know that BA's digital revenue management team can't be expected to get pricing exactly right and that errors will occur. However on this occasion I did book the cheap ticket and simply 'forgot' to take my large bag.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

eCommerce and the dehydrated mare

Ever heard the phrase “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”?

Well, if you leave a thirsty horse right by the water trough, make it as easy as possible for them to take what they want and show the water off in the best way possible… you are more likely to get it drinking.
The same goes for eCommerce websites, where the you have no control over the actions of a specific user… but by a clever combination of: thought-out usability, customer insight & segmentation, an acute focus on maximising customer revenue and a ‘test & learn’ approach, you stand a far more likely chance of converting prospects into customers and makin more money in the process.
There's unfortunately no one-size-fits-all model for eCommerce, but typically there are best-practice models to follow in each market sector. Understanding what works for your business is then a process of trial and error to establish what combination works best.

Remember, you may drag your customers to your site via a number of different marketing channels; but what they do when they are there is yours to shape and persuade.

Monday, July 22, 2013

email to Stephen Halpin of Merchant Soul


The time has come for us to stop working together.

Currently Ideal Interface is owed £24,600 by Merchant Soul, not including our final invoice due at the end of July for £1,680. This is a significant sum outstanding and has now become of considerable concern to Moya and myself, also meaning we have not able to meet certain financial obligations.
As I see it, there is either a lack of concern on your part or an inability to pay. If it is the former, then I need to inform you that we have been speaking to a corporate lawyer to take action to claim this money back via whatever means. If it is the latter, then there has been no mention of this by you at all and therefore your company is continuing to trade on money that should have been used to pay suppliers such as us.
You have therefore given me no option but to do the following:
1. Conclude our working relationship with immediate effect
2. Inform any known suppliers of Merchant Soul of my decision and that they are also at risk of non-payment
3. Contact Merchant Soul’s digital clients and inform them of my decision 
4. Lodge this debt against Merchant Soul Holdings with the relevant agencies & authorities
However, from my perspective, what is perhaps the most concerning of all is that you have not responded once to Moya’s emails, calls or texts over the last few months. She has gradually escalated the issue with you and not once have you replied, questioned or apologised for leaving us with this amount of money owed.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

True content marketing is calculating page value

I see so many articles on the subject of content marketing it makes my head hurt. They nearly all just witter on about blogs, infographics and social media, but hardly any even mention one key thing... return on investment.

Its like we've stepped back once more to either around 2008 (when social media gained a lot of attention) or the early days of the dot com bubble in the 1990's. Both were a time when a lot of people lost a lot of money, by not focusing on value.  The value of what you're doing compared to what you get out and the value you're adding.
So before rushing into loads of content marketing efforts and wasting everyone's time and money. .. ask yourself "do I know the value of this page I'm either creating or maintaining?".
If you don't, might I suggest you stop right there and work that out first?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Going Global with eCommerce?

If you're looking to take your Internet retailing wider than just the UK, then you'll need to understand the complexities of multi-country, multi-lingual and multi-currency eCommerce.

I'm a great believer in learning from those who have gone before. So I thought I'd share this email from our pals at Cranberry Panda, who recently filmed every speaker at the EcommerceUK event called Going Global.

Here  Dave Elston, Head of Ecommerce at Clarks, presents the challenges that the shoes retailer faced in reaching a global market.

A copy of his presentation can also be found here:

Monday, July 8, 2013

How do you segment financial services customers?

In an earlier post I made it clear that I thought a certain way of segmenting customers has had its day. The method of classifying customers just by their life stage is no longer relevant, with both lifestyles and finances having moved on.

So rather than dwelling on this, I thought it better to look at ways that banks in the future could segment their customers. But to be honest, I couldn’t come up with a single simple way of segmenting financial services customers that made sense in the modern world. Nothing really fitted nicely and any possible model had loads of exceptions to the rules.

And then it struck me... that perhaps there's no longer a few simple segments that fitted all financial services customers. Perhaps this subject is just too complex to put into simple terms... or in other words, perhaps now with the advert of clever data analysis and personalisation, there's no need to segment them into a handful of categories, everyone is in their own segment!

It's therefore my prediction that banks will eventually integrate big data analytics into their CRM systems. This will develop their understanding of who each individual customer is, alongside a record of what products and services they have already got do describe how best to meet their needs.

Some financial services companies may already be on their way to delivering this vision and this should be an interesting space to watch as the use of dig data analysis takes off.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Don't base digital shopper activity on ecoupons.. yet

Research just published shows the growth of electronic coupon usage slowing. Does this mean the predicted dominance of ecoupons has stumbled before it's learnt to run?
In a recent report on this subject the use of money off coupons has now grown in usage to cover 90% of all consumers.  However digital coupons have only grown in use by 9% over the same period. 

It therefore seems that paper-based redemption methods are more popular than ever, but that ecouponing hasn't got the mass adoption it should have.
Why is this? 

Here's a couple of possible reasons:
1. Retailers don't support them
The major supermarkets have so far failed to embrace digital vouchers. Even my Tesco Clubcard app on my mobile phone, which uses a simple bar code shown on the screen, only works on a limited number of their scanning tills (and none of their smaller local stores near me, which seem to be the type growing in number right now). Yet I walk in with a handful of paper - based ones (from newspapers, magazines and even self-printed at home via sites such a supersavvyme.co.uk) and they all bleep through with no problem.
2. Brands are slow to use them
Perhaps as a result of the point above, even the major FMCG brands (typically the early adopters of these sorts of things) have not taken up the opportunity to use electronic coupons in any sizeable numbers.
Perhaps when both the retailers and brands collectively get their act together on ecouponing, then there will suddenly be lots of  uses, linked in with tracking and other eCRM initiatives for the ideal digital shopper marketing campaign.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What is a good bounce rate?

This is an interesting question I thought I'd answer, primarily following a series of debates with friends and associates in the digital industry.

For those unsure what exactly is meant by the bounce rate, it is usually defined as those visitors to a site who only view one page of the same site in any one browsing session. The metric is calculated by dividing the total number of visitors by those who only view one page and then expressing this as a percentage. 

But is a high or low bounce rate a particularly good or bad thing? Let's take an example....

Imagine a company has a website that showcases their products and uses both SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) techniques as well as Google Adwords for Pay-per-click digital marketing. When investigating bounce rates from their digital analytics we see that visitors from organic search engine sources have an approximately 40% bounce rate. This compares with a rate of around 55% for those coming from pay per click adverts over the same period.

Surely the bounce rate generated from the organic source is healthier? As less people come to the site and disappear straight away, this must surely mean that they are 'better' users is some way?

Or to flip it around, doesn't it therefore follow that the paid PPC campaigns are delivering less value than those from search engines?

Not necessarily.  

 A different bounce rate from different acquisition sources makes sense if you consider these factors:

1.      The landing pages for paid and organic traffic could be different.
Search engine optimisation is not an exact science and depending upon the search terms used, the page displayed in the search engine results pages (SERPs) might well be different from the one you really want them to go to. This may also be different from search engine to search engine. If this is the case, it is likely your paid efforts are pointing visitors to the page of your choosing and one that may well be optimised for this purpose.
Note: this may well mean that the users’ paths to complete their required goals are different and could affect the conversion rate.

2.      The paid advert copy might be different from your organic listing
Now far be it if for me to suggest that any upstanding company would deliberately mis-represent their site in PPC adverts to potential visitors.. but I have seen examples where the Ad Words copy significantly differs from the content of the target page. Now I’m all for experimentation to understand the optimum copy in each circumstance… but when the paid advert content sets an expectation with the person about to click on an ad, don’t be surprised if they bounce straight out if the page doesn’t meet those expectations.

3.      Different visitors use different searching techniques.
I know that I have differing browsing behaviour depending upon: the frame of mind I'm in, the device I'm using and the amount of time I have. And I'm sure I'm not the only one. Online users also click on different paid placements depending on whether there are other PPC adverts displayed and the quality of the organic listings displayed alongside or below those precious Google Adwords ads.

Whatever your bounce rate, you should always take whatever steps you can, not just to minimise it, but to focus on optimising your collective set of site KPI’s and maximising the commercial opportunities your online presence gives you.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hilton website shows failed users the door

When using the Hilton hotel website tonight, I had a problem. After entering all my details I waited for several minutes while a spinning icon continued to do nothing. Try as I might, the site wouldn't accept the booking for myself and colleague on our forthcoming room  our overnight business trip.

Instead, and after what seemed like a long wait (although it may have been only a few minutes), I was given the image below:

To some users, this may seem like a well-designed error page, something that shows that Hilton cares about such eventualities. But for me, this wasn't the message I took away. Instead all I saw was a closed door with the handle down and the online equivalent of a 'do not disturb' sign hanging there.

Was this really the message Hilton wants to give users who have already had poor site experience?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Does it matter where anything goes?

I've been meaning to write this post for ages, but never had the chance to pull my collected thoughts together before now. In essence, this article is all about the need to continually optimise your digital presence. But it's also about the bigger concept that change is the only constant in the online world and that anyone not innovating and making mistakes is actually taking a step backwards.

So what do I mean by all this?

Well, as I've mentioned in several posts before, the creation of a website (e.g. an online retailing one) is just the end of the beginning... Not the beginning of the end. Your journey has just started. So if you haven't already begun to use AB tests or Multi Variant Testing tools already, I bet you're at least considering the way you can use them to improve your KPI's.

This does consequently create an interesting debate that you might like to have with your web design / development agency or in-house eCommerce team. Centred around the central premise of "Does it actually matter where you place content and functionality on the web page when you're creating it?"

In other words... if you practice the science of 'user centred optimisation',  then very quickly your iterative process of test & learn will find a better way than you came up with at the beginning of your process.

And yes, if you keep doing it... your site should continue to evolve. Therefore leading to the theory that it might not actually matter how you initially design your website, but that it just matters that you keep evolving it quickly and intelligently.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It's not traditional media anymore

I've been struggling with the term "Traditional Media" recently.
I'm not sure why... maybe it doesn't sound right, perhaps the term just doesn't cut it in a fragmented communications world or possibly I've lost a lot of my nostalgic view of newspapers, radio and even television.

Some traditions are great and are quite rightly upheld. Traditions not only show us where we came from, but also serve as a reference point to remind us what was good at a given point in time. 

But now we live in a new world.  An always-connected one where media is streamed, stored, consumed on demand and mashed together across multiple channels and devices.  The consumer of media is now in control and there's really no going back. My 4 year old daughter thinks it 'silly' that the TV doesn't show all the programs YouTube does (perhaps only because I've not bought an Apple TV box yet) and she laughed when I tried to explain that we once only had a TV with 4 buttons for our television... and one of those was for the power supply.

But we now live with those old paradigms, albeit updated for a 21st Century life. YouTube still has 'channels' and streamed digital radio is still referred to as 'stations'. 

So maybe we should change to term from 'traditional media' to something more fitting for a hangover from a bygone age? Perhaps we need a new way of referring to the old ways of media consumption?

Perhaps we should now call them 'legacy' media instead?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The rise of Personal Finance Management services

Last year I was lucky enough have a senior role as the Head of Digital for a financial organisation. This got me back into the Financial Services arena, where I could leverage the experience I’d gained from several years of agency-side delivery in this sector.

Diving into this industry again after several years out of it, I was struck by the changes that had taken place. For example: The reputation of banks was lower than it had been nearly 10 years ago (primarily due to the financial crash, but also because of the rise of customer complains brought on by better communication methods such as the Internet and Social Media) and people were eventually breaking away from the traditional and clumsy segmentation models of life stage and age.

However one thing in particular grabbed my attention more than most, the potential for banks not to own the financial interface with the customer anymore and that a service layer could be placed between the user and financial services provider. In other words, the market was far more likely to use personal finance management tools now than ever before.

But why are online personal finance management services now being considered? Especially when banks have spent so much money and time creating their own direct banking channels?

1. Users want independence
Having a product agnostic platform puts the user back in control. Look at the gradual dominance of the aggregator in financial comparison; from credit cards through to car insurance, online now provides a way of comparing and contrasting multiple products in a single place. This independence from a specific financial services provider gives the user a place they can trust and not have cross-sell and up-sell offers from the same company tirelessly pushed to them at every opportunity.

2. Users need better interfaces
All online banking and services sites are playing catch-up with each other, but all so very slowly. Thanks to lengthy development timescales, the need to comply with in-house governance and the very nature of financial brands to be less agile and more risk averse... you then get products that work, but are rarely shining examples of fantastic functionality, user experience and design.

3. Users have more choice
The financial services landscape has changed. These days users not only have the ability to switch providers for their insurance and banking needs, this switching is becoming a legal requirement that all FS providers must support. Add to this the fact that so many financial companies have now all diversified into as many different markets as possible (usually by white-labelling everyone else’s services) and the choice amongst products is bewildering and still growing...

When you then compare these facts with the ability of smaller, digital-first and more innovative personal finance manager sites, you can start to see why some banks and building societies are getting worried. The rest, well they’ll have a nasty shock when they eventually wake up.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Still segmenting financial products by life stage?

Back about a decade ago I used to work for a digital agency and we had one of the UK’s largest Financial Services as our client. Life was fun and the projects were interesting, for example we developed sites for acquiring new student accounts, we created digital marketing campaigns for first-time mortgage products and we built content-rich portals for customers of added-value current accounts.

Throughout all of this, we focused on targeting prospects according to their life stage. This followed the typical life stage breakdown of:
  • Going to university (student account)
  • First job (graduate or regular current account)
  • Wedding / First house (mortgage, home insurance)
Other products, such as savings, loans and insurances were usually either seen as more opportunistic (e.g. Going on holiday? = holiday insurance or travel money) or obvious up-sells and cross-sells (e.g. Got a mortgage with us? = we think you’ll need contents insurance)

However this segmentation, aided by the banding potential customers by age (e.g. Ignore if under 17, try and grab customers aged 18 – 21, market the heck out of those who are under 50 with money) always seemed fairly rudimentary to me.

Now several years on and with more life experience under my belt, I see that these basic categories and product segments are less and less relevant. Why is this then? Well...

1. The customer is more demanding
They now require financial products based around them and not just any old thing that their existing FS company wants to tout. However most typical products offered still don’t provide the flexibility that the modern informed buyer wants (e.g. Could I find an offset mortgage when I recently went looking for one? Nope!)

2. Life has changed
Society is more diverse and multi-cultural, consumer choice has fragmented and so have the niches that went with this. Therefore the life stage someone is at is no longer as predictable an indicator of the propensity to buy a financial product as it once was. Nowadays a person of 55 and 25 could have the same requirements in cars or property (and therefore the insurances needed to cover both), just as they could also have in music, clothes and food.

3. Trust in finance by younger people has crumbled
Just in the same way as you once would have advised a smart young city-dweller to work in a bank but now wouldn’t so much (for fear of getting a slap), trust in products such as savings and pensions has been eroded... leading a lot of the millennial generation to ignore traditional financial institutions and use alternatives (from the ‘bank of mum & dad and beyond)

In short, people and their finance needs have evolved and fragmented over the last decade, with the impact that the old models used are not the new models now needed.

How they should now segment is perhaps the subject of a different post...