Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Multi-Channel Consumer & Their Influences To Purchasing

A few days ago I gave a presentation at workshop at Strathclyde University's Business School on the subject of 'The Multi-Channel Consumer & Their Influences To Purchasing'.

I do expect to go into my presentation in more depth over a series of subsequent posts here, but in the meantime I thought I would share it here:

Obviously this deck does need a bit of a voice-over to explain what some things mean, but hopefully it should be of some use... Especially to those who attended.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Customer retention with email - things to consider

It's still the case with most business sectors I work in that retaining an existing customer costs less than getting a new one. Customer relationship marketing, eCRM, marketing automation and a bunch of other industry approaches and technologies are all there for one thing... To retain the (profitable) customer and stop them switching to other competitive services or products.

Recent statistics [see above] support my own findings that organisations are increasingly using email  as a customer retention tool, rather than one for finding new customers. Although Social Media is constantly grabbing the headlines, the less glamorous subject of email and eCRM is becoming more and more useful in keeping the customers a company already has.

But doing retention marketing sensibly isn't as easy as you might initially think. In the modern world of SaaS email marketing systems and freemium eCRM tools, its relatively simple to dive straight in to a package and start spamming your existing customers left, right and centre.

However, it might be that by weighing-up the following you make your retention campaigns easier for you and more cost-effective for your company..
  1. Ensure you've correctly set-up your digital analytics (e.g. your Google Analytics tags)
  2. Make sure your email service provider can track everything you need (bounce rates, site visits, conversions)
  3. Check that you have the above two points integrated (e.g. that you can also see what emails are delivering converting visitors in you digital analytics package)
  4. Build a schedule for your communications, hopefully covering a calendar and also driven by events (e.g. by all means send out a 'Valentines Day' email a week before the 14th February, but also remember to send a 'Please renew your product warranty' or similar message the week before the anniversary of the product purchase).
  5. Test your messages on all devices, including mobiles and tablets
  6. Clearly place an unsubscribe link at the bottom of all your emails
  7. Understand the deliverability of your emails and what proportion of your messages end up in the 'junk' email folder (where possible, work with a premium ESP to measure and improve this)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Samsung Galaxy S4 launch date announced

So a date has been announced for what is anticipated to be one of the biggest tech product launches of 2013.

The 14th March is now officially the date that Samsung has set for the launch of its new smartphone, predicted to be called the S4.
Note: the use of the number '4' in the image below strongly hints at a move away from the potential use of Roman Numerals for this product's name.

So at 19:00 on the 14th (or midnight GMT over here in the UK) we will finally see what is expected to be a further strengthening of the Korean tech giant's position against Apple.

On a personal note I am really looking forward to seeing what Samsung has up its sleeves. I'm hoping is a powerful personal computing device that is still small enough to fit in my pocket, but that still works well as a phone. I think it's almost certainly going to use Google's Android operating system and have a clear & high resolution screen, to take it way beyond the iPhone5.

In just over 2 weeks we shall find out.

Presenting attribution correctly

Today I was not only lucky enough to be invited along to the Strathclyde University Business School's workshop on Big Data and Social Media... I also presented on one of my favourite topics:
The Multi-Channel Consumer And Their Influences To Purchasing

One of the hardest things I wanted to show was the different paths that consumers take on their multi-channel paths to purchase.

This journey (albeit just for one customer) is quite difficult to depict in a linear way and in the end I resorted to showing all the channels as a set of swim-lanes. In the photo taken above, you will see me in the middle of my presentation trying to explain the concept.

I hope the audience understood what I was trying to say.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Content: Found, read, shared and measured

The title of this post basically sums up my approach to the growing discipline of Content Marketing.

These four terms are section headings for my simple and effective way to assess and develop your CM strategy. Below they are broken down into the essential areas that I think needs covering if you are putting together your own content marketing approach:

It's no good creating content if nobody finds it... so ensuring your text, images and other assets can be found on the web is bloody important. This is consequently the area where Content Marketing and Search Engine Optimisation come together the most; as using the correct SEO techniques and being correctly indexed by search engines can mean the difference between your pages getting lots of traffic and getting practically none.

Isn't there a wonderful phrase that goes something like "if a tree falls over in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a noise?"... Well, in my opinion the same goes for your words and pictures... if nobody reads them, are they really content?
I should also mention that the quality of your content is something to watch out for. It's no good just getting the office junior to write all your website content if they've no real idea of how to correctly write for the web. Therefore scan-ability, readability and understandability are all key success factors here.

To get your content to as many eyeballs as possible, you have to encourage it's sharing across as many platforms and formats as possible. From RSS feeds through to seeding by simple social sharing functionality, your content needs to work as hard as possible when it is is used off of your website as it does when it is on it. Also links and content out on social platforms can now significantly contribute to you SEO efforts too.

This is probably the area least understood about Content Marketing (and therefore probably the area most likely to be missed / skipped). However it's not that difficult to get your head around, especially if you have a person in your organisation who understand your website analytics package and can obtain meaningful engagement KPI's.

Let me know if this framework works for you or if you have a better one

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Should newspapers be allowed to sell links?

The recent degrading of Interflora's website has caused quite a stir in the UK SEO industry. Not just because the flower delivery service has been given a Page Rank reduction by Google, but because this has exposed the company's practice of buying links from newspaper sites.

Personally I'm less than surprised that this reduction has happened (but perhaps a little shocked at the extent to which the newspaper sites have been downgraded by the might of the World's most powerful search engine). However, newspaper websites has been selling links for years. The practice is fairly widespread in my experience and even in the last year or so I've had pitches from high profile news sites that have highlighted the number of links they offer as part of 'a package'. This is hardly a new revelation and some time in coming.

But lets put reality to one side for a moment and forget that search engines will penalise sites for selling links... And ask the question of whether specific sites such as newspapers should be able to sell hyperlinks from their sites to those that want them.

On the one hand there's the huge elephant in the room that a lot of newspaper owners feel and actually say that the online world (including Google) has taken away a significant chunk of their income. They are right... Free news sites, content aggregators, the poor return from display advertising and a bunch of other factors have all eaten into many major newspapers' revenue. Selling links from their sites gives at least some way of making up for this loss.

On the other hand, I really don't know how you would distinguish a newspaper site these days from a lot on other online news sources and even a lot of blogs. The lines are now so blurred, with nothing to chose between them... Making the definition of what actually is an online newspaper almost impossible. Whatever choice you make it this area would be wrong for someone.

And to those who might say "you would need a printed publication to qualify for immunity", I would remind them that there are a number of newspapers that have ditched their print version and now exist solely online.

In short, there is no way I know to discern those who should and shouldn't be able to sell their links. And if nobody else can either, then we are probably just better off letting Google do it.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Where does the customer journey begin?

If you're selling either a product or service for even a reasonably sized company, its a good bet that someone has looked at understanding the main customer journey or journeys.

For a multi-channel organisation, selling across several devices and physical presence (store, branch, etc.) it soon becomes clear that the customer journeys are numerous and difficult to map out.

To make matters more complex for those doing this exercise, it soon becomes clear that the path to purchase doesn't start at the last physical or digital touch point... But that the user journey actually starts way back when a customer becomes aware and interested in what's being sold. In other words, the channels that create an understanding and desire for the product or service have an influence on the transaction too.

So the question posed as the title of this posting becomes a very important one to answer... Just how far back into the awareness and influence do you go to fully map your customer journey?

For me there's only one answer... As far as you possibly can! The route down the path to purchase must have started with a first step, with several paces forward being made before the transaction was made . If you can identify these and model them, you can build up a better understanding of what your customer is doing and hopefully influence their decision along the way.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The user experience of user experience

Those who know me, know that I'm passionate about the optimisation of online and multi-channel customer journeys. Right from the early days of my work with the web, I noticed how the digital user experience broke when 'real' people tried to use it.

Over a decade later, everyone has got a lot more savvy about the use of user experience techniques to maximize customer acquisition, engagement, conversion and retention.

However, with all the terms that now exist around this subject, it's no wonder that even the people who are the customers of UX work (e.g. clients) can get a bit confused.

Customer experience, process flows, user stories, user journeys, user-centred design, usability improvement, swim-lanes, conversion rate optimisation, etc. are all terms that a seasoned industry person should be more than familiar with and some are pretty interchangeable. But can we honestly expect the actual users of our services to keep up with whatever the latest name for something is? Furthermore, if we don't actually have sensible, understandable and consistent names for things... how will those who want to purchase these services explain it to their bosses, purchasing terms or even to themselves?

Perhaps the user experience of user experience needs a bit of improving?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Multi-channel retail meets Shopper Marketing

For many of us who come from the digital world, the mere existence of a whole area of retail analysis called Shopper Marketing is a bit a surprise.

And even those like me who are aware... but talk, write or generally think about multi-channel retailing, tend to focus on digital first and in-store second.

But if the statistic in that above Wikipedia article that '70% of brand selections are still made in stores' is to be believed... then online needs to get realistic about the influence it really has at the point of sale. Now I've no actual evidence to contradict this figure, but it does feel a rather high percentage... given that a lot of people will already have made their choice up about the brands they want before they get to the point of purchase.

Over the last few months I've built up my understanding of Shopper Marketing, having worked alongside an agency that specifically does that sort of thing. I actually have to admit I am actually quite impressed with some of the outputs of their work; producing empirical results from their in-store analysis which puts a lot of website testing to shame. For example, heat maps are carried out on different product aisles in various stores from a selection of viewer angles.

In short, digital user experience practitioners could learn a lot from the effort that goes into store planning (where to put products and how customers get to them).

So it does raise the important issue of how these two disciplines come together to:
  • Understand the roles that in-store and online now have
  • Map the Paths to Purchase (both Digital to Store and Store to Digital)
  • Grow customer loyalty and retain existing customers
In short, multi-channel retail / eCommerce and shopper marketing now need to merge into a single area of specialisation... Multi-channel shopper marketing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A little knowledge is all that's required

Ever heard the phrase "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing"?

Well I'd always assumed it related to people like mad scientists in laboratories who came up with deadly viruses after reading a copy of "Anthrax for Dummies". Or someone like an evil (but stupid) super villain, who worked out how to cause global mayhem and panic with just a bottle of bleach and a tube of tomato purée. You get the idea...

But if you're a client and you want to cause widespread despair and upset in the digital / eCommerce industry... then my advice is to read and learn just enough about what you want, so that you are able to write basic and bewildering requirements for that new website / app / whatever that scare the bejesus out of those that you have asked to deliver them.

I'm not suggesting dear prospective client* that you actually take the time to truly understand the ramifications of what you're asking. Instead, you should pull together an assorted collections of terms, buzz words and phrases that you think sound 'about right' and send them off to a bunch of agency folk. These people will then do their damnedest to meet your objectives, developing grey hairs and possible ulcers in the process.

If you really want to mess with their minds, throw in a couple of conflicting requirements... Assuming you know which ones actually conflict. If not... Who cares!

*Yes I am aware that most prospective clients reading this will now not be actual clients in the future.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Burger King loses Twitter account to hackers

In the last hour or so the US Twitter account of global fast food restaurant seems to have been hacked.

To add insult to injury, the account now displays the logo of rival McDonalds and the account description:

BURGER KING® USA official Twitter account. Just got sold to McDonalds because the whopper flopped =[ FREDOM IS FAILURE℠.

I'm sure I don't need to remind those who manage social media accounts for large and possibly contentious clients that they need to have decent passwords and should change them regularly....

Retention Marketing : working out the value of your efforts

We are currently working on a project to improve the retention marketing efforts for a client. But before we are able to sit down to finalise the deliverables, the client has asked us for some Key Performance Indicators that they can expect to measure our work against.
This is a sort of 'chicken and egg' situation, as until we have worked out what we are specifically trying to achieve and how we are going to do this, we can't decide on our actual goals and what the success criteria are. However, given I've done this sort of thing before I felt I could 'short circuit' the process and pulled together a few examples of some of the metrics I would expect to measure as part of a digital customer retention plan. Based on the assumption that the digital marketing activity is mainly going to be via email, the ones I gave were:
1. Bounce rates (site visitors and emails)
2. Share of overall website traffic
3. Conversion rates
4. Share of total conversions
And finally... I suggested measuring ROI (return on investment) from this activity as calculating the cost per site visit and cost per conversion generated.
Can anyone else suggest anything else?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The hybrid roles created by digital

Let's face it, there's lot's strange and merged job descriptions knocking around the online / digital industry. Here's some you may have come across:
  • Developer evangelist
  • Strategic online project manager
  • Chief Digital Officer
  • Owned, Paid and Earned Marketer
  • Programme Architect
These are all job roles I have seen in the last 12 months (although some of these may be familiar to regular readers as I blogged about the Chief Digital Officer one only a few months ago).  And to be totally transaparent, I've even applied for a consulting role as one of these... although I'm not going to admit which one it is.
To some people in the industry these newly-invented titles might seem unnecessary and even a little ego fluffing... but there's no doubt that the new economy is creating new types of jobs that have never arisen before.
I think this trend is only going to continue and admit to a slight curiousity as to what wierd ones will appear in the next year or so.

Friday, February 15, 2013

No you do not want a customer portal!

Oh how many times must I tell prospect? How many bloody ways are there to inform a potential client that a website is not a community and a community is not the instant way to gain and keep users ? Loads!

In the past I've used the 'Field of Dreams' analogy when clients and prospects have wanted to build a community site. The expectation back then was that users will just arrive automatically once the site was delivered. But this was sorely not the case and a lot of white elephants got built and subsequently junked.

Move forward a few years to the present and the Field of Dreams analogy is as relevant as always and still basically sums up my approach. Building a community is not just about designing and developing a website... It's about what you do to create & maintain visitors and their engagement.

If you do not plan to keep the community healthy and give them a reason to return... and this means a commitment of effort (time and / or budget), then don't even bother starting one in the first place!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Is eCommerce a sector?

Every so often the same debate crops up online. "Is eCommerce a sector?" is generally the sort of question that kick-starts an animated discussion. It then typically ends up changing into a rant or argument about the progress / maturity / understanding of both agencies and clients in the eCommerce space.

My own opinion is that eCommerce is not a sector but a discipline that crosses the different established sectors of technology, retail and online / digital.

What's the difference in these two definitions? Well for me, a sector is more defined by the size and scope of the market rather than the actual work done. For example... if you compare Information Technology (a sector IMHO) with eCommerce (a discipline) then obviously IT is much broader in its range. There is also a lot more people and skill-sets contained within it. eCommerce, although using a fair amount of technology skills (amongst others), doesn't cover anything like the scope that IT does.

Personally I'm happy that eCommerce as a discipline straddles the sectors of online and digital marketing and delivery, retail and consumer shopping as well as technology and its assorted areas. It adds to the mix of projects you can find and the different people you can work with.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Google Shopping becoming a paid-for service

Google Shopping, the comparison shopping engine from Google, is about to change in the UK and several other countries from today. From 13 February it is moving from a free service to a paid-for one, in an increasing attempt by the UK & Europe’s biggest search engine to monetise its functionality.
However it will take a little while to transition over from the free service and the change will not be completely implemented until around the end of Q2 2013. Based upon Cost-per-click (CPC) bidding for each product, the system will be run from your Google account .It will then work in a similar way to the AdWords system that is used to display advertising alongside the organic search results (SERPs)

So....Are you ready for Google’s newly-monetised service?

If not,there are certain things you can do to prepare yourself

  1. Create an AdWords account
    If you do not have an AdWords account already, you will need one if you want to keep your products showing up… but it will cost you when someone clicks on one of your products.
  2. Make sure your bidding is competitive
    Just like pay-per-click costs, bidding on Product Listing Ads is not just based on what you want to pay for a visit, but what your competitors bid. Setting maximum daily budgets is therefore the obvious way to avoid any financial surprises.
  3. Understand the work involved If you currently manage your free listings yourself and have little knowledge of the Google AdWords system, you could be in for a steep learning curve.
  4. Make sure your feeds are correct
    The slightest error in your feed to Google Shopping could break the entry for your products in the Google Merchant Center account. These feeds also need to contain as much information as possible and be completely up-to-date (so you’re not paying for products you no longer sell or have stock of).
  5. Keep a close eye on your analytics
    Remember, the number of visits to your site is not usually the best indicator that your paid-for campaigns are optimised. Ensure your analytics account (e.g. Google Analytics) has your goals set-up around conversions and then adapt your product listing adverts to get the most sales.
I’ll be following this new service as it gradually gets rolled-out to users. If you have any experience of paid for PLA’s(e.g. tips and hints) I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I am still not using Google Plus

There are enough things in my life to keep me busy (and provide a distraction) including the time I spend online. Of that online time I now spend a lot more of it blogging and on Twitter than I used to, mainly because this is where I get the most benefit and get my news. This therefore means I spend less time on Facebook as well. So although I can instantly communicate with friends and family there, I really don't use it as often as I used to.

As for Google Plus (Or Google+ as some call it), I've never really got into it and still don't really see the purpose of it. Sure, some friends use it and some business contacts are 'hanging out' there, but for me I don't need either another personal social platform or another business-orientated social network.

Perhaps, like the Dunbar's Number (the amount of people somewhere between 100 and 230 that it becomes almost impossible to sustain social relationships with), there's also a maximum number of Social Networks that the average human is capable of using at anyone time? For me it is around 4 (if you include the two blogs that I write for, plus Twitter and Facebook), but for others it might be higher or lower.  This might also go some way to explaining why I don't really find Pinterest Pinteresting and why Instagram hasn't gripped me.

I'm also not going to force myself to use Google Plus. Yes, I am aware that there are quite possible positive effects for using it (e.g. for SEO) and this does not mean other individuals or organisations shouldn't use it as a social media channel. It's just not for me right now... or at least until I stop doing something else and get less distracted!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Omnichannel? Please spare me the hype!

Hands up, who is getting really hacked off with the word Omnichannel? Me for one!

Used all over the place right now, but especially by marketing and consulting types (Yes, I know I’m both), the word is frequently mentioned to mean “More than multi-channel”.

But stop and think for a second…. What does “multi-channel” actually mean? Well my definition is the same one that most people in the online retail world have… several channels to market. These include: In-store sales, PC website, mobile website, mobile phone app, tablet app, etc.

So if “Multi” means many… then “Omni” must mean ‘all’ right? And by this extrapolation… “Omni channel” must mean all channels to sale. Which doesn’t make much sense if you think about it, since:

1.       Not every channel suits every product or customer (either for influence or transactions)

2.       Telephone is a sales channel that a lot of retailers tried, but now most have given up on

I think that the word "Omnichannel" has just been thrown into various conversations and white papers by solution providers looking to distinguish themselves from others in the market merely offering ‘multi-channel’… and that’s just hype for its own sake!

Still, it could be worse… I recently heard someone say “there is no channel”, which is either a Buddhist/Matrix reference or a way to further differentiate themselves from the growning Omnichannel mob.

Tag Management basics

Tag Management Systems (TMS’s and also known as Container Tags) are a way of simplifying the deployment and ongoing maintenance of JavaScript tags across a website. They are typically implemented in partnership with applications such as: digital analytics, personalisation and online marketing, although others can be integrated too.

The concept of a TMS is simple... in true Lord of the Rings style; you have “one tag to rule them all”. In other words you insert a single tag into your HTML and this then calls any number of other tags to the page (sometimes based on display rules, which fire certain tags in specific situations).

The business case for Tag Management is made by calculating the effort / cost required in the manual deployment of new tags (or updated incumbent ones), along with an increased speed of implementation and reduced amount of vendor lock-in. There are also potential benefits in having a single way to manage your tags and therefore keeping track of the potential numerous tags within your online estate, as well as performance improvements from the efficient delivery of only know JavaScript to your end user.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The future of Windows Live Mesh

Most of you who read this blog won't even have heard of Windows Live Mesh. And I can't blame you.

However for the last few years I've been using Microsoft's cloud storage and Remote Desktop product. It's a piece of software that's either been in long-term Beta or behind the scenes... Hidden behind the frontline product of Hotmail (in all its guises) and anything else that Redmond want to associate it with.

Well now it's come full circle and Windows Live Mesh has, like some 80 's sci-fi movie, been scheduled for termination. But in happy smiley Microsoft land, this means that although from 13th February 2013 it will be no more... the baton will be passed to a similar product, Skydrive.

Nobody really seems to mention the lack of an integrated Remote Desktop product though... But there are other MS offerings that can take care of that.

Me, well I've decided not to follow the migration path offered. Instead I've moved all my files across to Dropbox, where they are now synched across all computers, whilst also being stored in the ever-present cloud.

Knowing the way things go, Microsoft will probably buy Dropbox now!

How digital ate the PR industry's lunch

In an article on The Drum's site a couple of days ago, there was an opinion piece by Sandy Lindsay from Tangerine PR on the ability of the PR industry to hire new and young talent to safeguard it's future.

Her article mentioned that the PR industry has a job on its hands to find the right people to help it own the ‘digital space’, against 'those web bods, advertising or many others'. I  have a different opinion on this (being a 'digital bod' myself) that the PR industry has already lost a lot of this 'fight'. So I felt the need to comment on the article. Here's my rant:
I'm a 'digital bod' as you described and I think this highlights one area where the PR industry has dropped the ball. Over the years I've worked alongside many PR agencies (both in London and further afield) who continually refer to digital as "something over there that digital folks do, whilst we do PR over here". On the other hand, the digital industry now talks about 'engagement' , 'influence' and other factors that contribute to a multi-channel campaign - especially around areas such as search engine optimisation. In short, the Digital industry has moved up close to the PR industry, ate a lot of it's lunch and invented new disciplines such as Content Marketing... that should have been driven by the PR industry in the first place! Until it learns to broaden it's reach and truly understand the use and impact of digital comms, the PR industry will not attract the right young talent it needs at all and then I really would fear for it's future.
Sure, some PR agencies have embraced digital, others have created digital divisions (some only in name, or have just aligned themsleves to a developer sitting in their bedroom) but others have still stuck their heads in sand.

It will be interesting to see how the Content Marketing trend continues to eat into the domain (and lunch / budget) of the PR industry.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mobile emails: a bad example

Following on from my posting a few days ago on making abandoned basket emails mobile compatible... I thought I'd share a bad example of what I was trying to explain.

Above is a screen grab from my iPhone. Although this isn't specifically an abandoned basket email, it does show how not to send out a marketing email that may well be read on handheld devices these days.

Note the huge image at the top of the body of this message. This image does not display by default, therefore showing nothing on my screen until I scroll down.

Hardly a great user experience eh?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Abandoned basket emails... one thing I forgot

Isn't it always the way? You write a nice long posting on a specific subject, giving some useful tips along the way.... and then once it's written and published you remember something else that will be obvious to your readers.

Well, it's happened to me (again) with my latest opinion piece on optimising Abandoned basket emails. As it was only after I listed out my 6 suggestions for improving these emails and committed it to publish last night, that I realised I'd missed and obvious one.

So as well as: Experiment with subject lines, Experiment with the time of sending, Send more than one email, Use your email service provider, Experiment with layout, imagery & palette and Track links... I forgot to include "make sure your email is mobile compatible".

You see that although a lot of people just shop on their PC's and tablets, with mobile eCommerce lagging a little way behind.... they still carry their mobile with them. So if you're going to send an email reminder to them several hours later, to let them know they have left an item or two in their online shopping basket, there's a good chance they are out and about, or at least not in front of their main terminal. So if you want them to read that email and then go on to buy the product(s) you need to make it as compatible as possible for all devices.