Autospeak-Straight Talk contains articles covering digital and social media marketing social communities and events marketing

Choice: Giving customers too much of a good thing online

(Posted on May 6, 2014 at 12:17PM )

In our latest ebook, “A Marketer’s Guide to UX: The ‘Invisible Elements That Fuel Success,” we explored how a website’s design, form and function affect the number of visitors who stick around to complete goals. What makes UX such an important subject is that it’s recently become more complex.

Twenty years ago, futurists were already trying to figure out what life in an online world would be like. Some of them, like author Michael Heim, assumed we’d all be living in a digital matrix, but their concerns about frames of reference, content and choice are now strikingly relevant.

Already, in the electric element, the need for stable channels of content and reliable processes of choice grows urgent. [...] Cyberspace without carefully laid channels of choice may become a waste of space.

The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality — Michael Heim

We don’t live in an immersive online reality yet (although Google Glass gives us a hint of where tech companies would like to go), but even though we’ve managed to confine cyberspace to screens on our desks or in the palms of our hands, some of the challenges futurologists worried about have come to pass.

The modern web needs to follow physical rules of design, information architecture and usability, just like a virtual world might. But there’s also the issue of choice. In both an immersive digital reality and today’s internet, how will you ever be able to make a choice if you can do anything, click anywhere and look at it all? This is an important hidden element of UX, and one that will impact all content marketing campaigns.

Marketing in the Matrix

The question of choice in marketing has its roots in the offline world. Susan Broniarczyk, a professor of marketing at UT Austin’s McCombs School of Business, first identified the phenomenon in her 2005 paper, “The deleterious Consumers have more choices than ever before, and it's up to marketers to give them direction.effects of living in consumer hyperchoice.” She identified purchasing paralysis as the consequence of:

  • Consumers making more purchases each year
  • People are choosing in a market with more new products than ever before
  • Individuals are subject to more demands for their attention
  • Buyers have less free time than in the past

When faced with this reality, many consumers simply stop shopping for items altogether. But don’t customers say, time and again, that choice and variety are one of the most important attributes a business can have?

Maximize & satisfy

Part of the issue may come down to a principle researcher Barry Schwartz describes in “The Tyranny of Choice.” He breaks down most consumers into two groups:

  1. Maximizers, who are determined to find the best product or service for the best value, and they won’t give up until they’ve found it. They value money over time. 
  2. Satisfiers, who will only spend so much time researching before they make a purchase. These customers are more concerned with time than money.

Part of the problem may lie in the fact that people don’t want to admit that they’re Satisfiers. The internet supposedly empowers people to make smart buying choices, so when asked, of course they’re going to say they’re skilled shoppers. But it may be true that ecommerce and online marketing are at their best when they save people time, rather than money.

You can’t choose your way out of a jam

Columbia University conducted a study of consumer choice by offering customers at a supermarket free samples. One set included 24 different flavors of jam, while another was only comprised of six types. While 60 percent of shoppers tasted from the 24-variety group, only 3 percent of them made purchases. Conversely, 40 percent of shoppers tried from the six flavors in the second group, but 30 percent of them bought jam.

With fewer choices and more design clarity, your traffic might be lighter, but it would lead to more purchases.

Think about these figures in terms of web traffic and goal completion. With fewer choices and more design clarity, your traffic might be lighter, but it would lead to more purchases.

UX: When not choosing is a chore

So what can marketers do? Here are some ways to carefully curate a web page to ensure it isn’t so open-ended that customers flee en masse.

  • Design: Don’t offer too many options

Brands that want people to buy should minimize the number of choices they give consumers.Websites should be visually clean, meaning that colors don’t clash, text is easy to read and all elements follow a clear optical hierarchy.

Don’t include a link to every part of a site from the homepage, or a landing page for that matter. It’s estimated that modern humans in industrialized society make more than 70 important choices every day – so try not to give customers too many more of them. Make it obvious where they should click, and limit the number of elements that are actually hyperlinks.

  • Information architecture: Front-load choices

According to a study by Stanford University, the closer people are to the conclusion of a task, the more choices will derail them. If there are options on a website, they should appear earlier in the purchasing or goal-completion process. For instance, don’t make consumers fill out half a dozen forms on separate pages just before a transaction is complete.

  • Usability: Set default options

A study of workplace retirement plans found that when employees were asked to make choices before plans took effect, only 9 percent ended up participating. However, when workers were allowed to opt-in with default settings in place, participation shot up to 24 percent.

If you want or need to make options available, you don’t have to make it a requirement. Instead, let the Maximizers make additional decisions while the Satisfiers simply click ‘OK.’

Digital UX: Only on screens…for now

We’re still a long way off from spending all of our time in an immersive digital simulation, Google Glass and the Oculus Rift notwithstanding. But even if we lived in a cyberpunk dystopia where it was impossible to tell when existence begins and virtual reality ends, the same rules would still apply: Visual design has to make sense, information needs to be organized and functions must work.

And too much choice is no choice at all.

By Alex Butzbach Marketing Writer at Brafton.

Fastest-growing Top 500 merchants give the customer what she wants

(Posted on May 5, 2014 at 10:21AM )
Sur La Table, Uniqlo, and the other fastest-growing merchants ranked in the 2014 Top 500 Guide deployed new features and listened to customers to put e-commerce on a faster track.

There’s a pretty good reason web sales at cookware and kitchenware retail chain Sur La Table Inc. jumped 104.2% in 2013 to $56.8 million. But it wasn’t because Sur La Table, No. 303 in the 2014 Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide implemented a new multi-million dollar e-commerce technology plan. And Sur La Table didn’t completely re-invent its digital marketing plan. Instead, what made Sur La Table the second-fastest growing Top 500 chain retailer behind Japanese apparel and accessories chain Uniqlo Inc. (No. 495) is just that online shoppers are embracing a constantly improving web shopping experience, says senior vice president of digital Kevin Ertell.

“It’s not one big thing we are doing to generate more e-commerce sales but just the constant stream of small things we keep doing to make improvements,” Ertell says. In the last year Sur La Table has worked to improve by implementing a new site search engine from Oracle Corp. “With better site search the whole e-commerce shopping experience is now just more intuitive and personalized for each shopper,” Ertell says.

Sur La Table also implemented a new social media tool on called “My Collections” that lets customers shop for their favorite cooking or kitchen item, see similar items other shoppers have purchased, create a collection based on the results, and then share the collection with family and friends on Facebook and Pinterest. “We wanted to bring some aspects of social media to the site because we can use this as a tool to generate transactions,” Ertell says.

Many of the fastest-growing merchants in the 2014 edition of the Top 500 Guide cited improved features and functions as the reason why their online sales are growing at a brisk pace. The fastest-growing web merchant overall and among retail chains was Uniqlo, which increased web sales 341.3% to an Internet Retailer-estimated $22.06 million in 2013. Uniqlo, a chain owned by Japan-based Fast Retailing that only began selling online in the United States in 2012, credits its growth to faster search, one-click shopping on many product pages and a responsive design that enables Uniqlo to use one code base and one set of web content to render a site that fits the size of any screen.

Likewise the fastest-growing Top 500 catalog/call center company, Interline Brands (No. 90), which operates 14 business-to-business e-commerce sites and grew web sales 37.8% to $377.3 million last year, and RealReal Inc. (No. 295), the fastest-growing web-only merchant with 2013 e-commerce revenue that grew 296.8% to an Internet Retailer-estimated $60 million, also implemented new web site features. At Interline, which sells maintenance, repair and operations, or MRO, products to businesses of many sizes, the company added faster ways to track merchandise, new budget management tools and easier ways to repurchase certain items, says vice president of e-commerce, marketing and pricing Ramesh Bulusu., a deep discounter of used and consigned luxury apparel and accessories, stimulated growth with an updated mobile app that automatically puts a shopper on a wait list for similar items if a product she wants is sold out, says founder and CEO Julia Wainwright. At the fastest-growing Top 500 consumer brand manufacturer, jewelry maker Alex and Ani, the key to sharply higher web sales was marketing via social media and better use of customer data, says Ryan Bonifacino, Alex and Ani vice president of strategy. The company grew online sales 249.7% to $45.7 million in 2013

Overall 172 Top 500 merchants, or 34.4%, met or exceed the overall growth rate, which was 17.1%. That compares to 166 merchants—33.2%—of all merchants in the 2013 Top 500 Guide.

At Sur La Table it’s a mix of new programs such as a ship-from-store program that will launch sometime in 2014 and more attention to mobile commerce that will drive continued growth in web sales, Ertell says. In 2013 about 40% of all traffic to came from a mobile devices and mobile commerce accounted for more than 10% of all sales, Ertell says. “We just want to keep on getting better,” he says.

For more information on how to order the 2014 edition of The Top 500 Guide click here.

Mark Brohan Research Director

Existing customers should never be "out of site, out of mind" online

(Posted on May 4, 2014 at 10:55AM )
It’s understandable for businesses to be excited by the prospect of new customers. Promotional emails, social media marketing and search are all effective ways to find new business and help a company grow. That being said, it always pays to make sure existing clients don’t feel unappreciated. Social platforms are a great way to do this, but many companies haven’t fully embraced the tactic.

Past business can fall by the waysideAccording to a recent survey by Socialbakers, 61.7 percent of businesses consider customer acquisition to be a very important goal for social media in 2014. However, only 28.9 percent feel the same way about customer care. Gaining some new prospects but losing dedicated clients is a lot like taking two steps forward and one step back, so companies may consider the trade-off a net positive. Unfortunately, not every business is able to weigh these costs effectively.

As part of a study of marketing styles, the authors of Marketing Metrics: The Definitive Guide to Measuring Marketing Performance discovered that the probability of making a sale to a new prospect is between 5 and 20 percent. Conversely, companies average 60 to 70 percent success rates when it comes to existing customer sales. The smaller a company is, the more tightly it needs to cling to existing clients, so this kind of retention is extremely important.

Keep your friends closeDon’t outflank yourself by building a marketing house on quicksand. Use every channel available, particularly social media, to both bring in new business, while maintaining close ties with existing partners. You can do so by:

  • Offering rewards. To encourage social media follows and shares, let current fans and connections be the first to hear about discounts, promotions or contests.
  • Sharing news. The people who have done business with you in the past are the most likely to want to know about the inner workings of your business – and their distribution of this news will provide invaluable coverage.
  • Customer service. People increasingly turn to social media to lodge complaints or make inquiries because the audiences on these channels hold companies accountable. Encourage this kind of activity and respond promptly to make sure existing customers stay happy.
Companies aren’t necessarily interested in digital marketing in and of itself. Instead, they see themselves as marketing products on what happen to be digital platforms. That means following the rules and protocols of these networks and channels. Strike a balance between constant outreach and connection maintenance to keep growth steady and sustained.

by Brafton Editorial

Relevant Content:
It Is Time To Look Within

10 Social Media Selling Solutions for Small Businesses

(Posted on May 3, 2014 at 12:10PM )
Social media e-commerce has taken off — and it's showing no signs of slowing down. With social media selling, anyone can become an online merchant without having to invest in a website or give online marketplaces a cut of their profits. Here are 10 social media selling solutions to help you get started.

1. Soldsie
Want to sell on Facebook? The Soldsie Facebook app turns the social network's comments section into an e-commercepowerhouse. Typically, customers make purchases on Facebook by messaging sellers or leaving their email addresses. Instead, Soldsie's "Comment Selling" system eliminates all the back-and-forth communication by streamlining transactions. To start selling, connect Soldsie to your Facebook page, and upload product photos. These posts become your storefront, where fans can simply comment "Sold" to make a purchase. After commenting, they'll automatically receive an email invoice and proceed to checkout via PayPal or WePay.

2. inSelly
Instagram isn't just a photo-sharing platform; it has also become one of the most popular online selling tools available. inSelly, an Instagram marketplace, facilitates the process by aggregating Instagram listings (using hashtags) and making them searchable to anyone around the world. Because it's a third-party platform, you'll first have to connect the app to your Instagram accounts. Next, add your contact information, pricing details and PayPal email address to start making sales and receiving payments. ['Buy Button' Could Make Twitter Your New Storefront]

3. Hashbag
Hashbag is another Instagram selling tool that provides a centralized place to showcase Instagram listings. Sellers get their own storefronts on the Hashbag marketplace, while buyers search for items using hashtags. To start listing, first Instagram a photo of your product with the hashtag #forsale. You'll automatically receive an email asking you to log in to Hashbag, where you'll be able to set your price. The listing will then go live, and buyers can start making purchases via PayPal.

4. Chirpify
The hashtag is the universal language of social media, making it a powerful social selling tool regardless of the platform. Chirpify, a social commerce platform, takes unique campaign hashtags — referred to as "actiontags" — and uses them to enable purchases across multiple social networks. First, customers see the actiontag on social media, print, television and other marketing channels. Next, all they have to do is post the actiontag on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to activate a purchase. Chirpify then responds immediately to collect payment and instantly convert sales.

5. Beetailer
Even if you own an e-commerce website, cross-selling products on social media is a great strategy to boost sales. One service that makes this possible is Beetailer, which lets online merchants import their store into Facebook. After the initial migration, the system is basically hands-free — it requires no installation, configuration or maintenance, and products are automatically updated based on the website's inventory data. Included in the service are marketing tools like campaigns and promotions, detailed analytics, and integration with existing checkout systems.

6. Heyo
Designing Facebook page campaigns can seem like rocket science for people who aren't tech savvy. Heyo simplifies the process with a drag-and-drop campaign builder that anyone can use. The service works a lot like do-it-yourself website builders: Start by choosing a template, and then edit or customize elements to fit your campaign and brand. Whether you're running a contest, promotion or special deal, campaigns built on Heyo can then be easily plugged into your Facebook page — no coding necessary.

7. Fanchimp
Automation is key to saving time and money. Fanchimp lets businesses automate Twitter and Facebook selling by enabling them to schedule posts and promotions. Although there are already services that have the same scheduling capabilities (HootSuite, TweetDeck), what makes Fanchimp different is that it connects directly to your online store. Just log in to the system, and you can choose which products to promote, and when to promote them, directly from your inventory. Fanchimp can also set posts to go live at the optimum times and intervals for maximum viewership.

8. Poshmark
Although Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are the most popular social selling platforms, there are niche marketplaces that also function as their own social networks. One such marketplace isPoshmark, a website and mobile app for buying and selling fashion. Like on Instagram, sellers first take a photo of each product and post it to Poshmark with the item and pricing details. Customers can also like listings, as well as leave comments and follow sellers. Unlike Instagram, however, customers can make purchases directly through the service via the Buy button. Poshmark takes care of all the back-end processes, so the only thing sellers have to do is ship the item to get paid.

9. Facebook for Business
Facebook for Business is the one-stop shop for finding out which types of Facebook selling campaigns will work best for your business. The service lets you create Facebook pages and purchase Facebook ads, as well as integrate Facebook into your website or mobile app. Facebook for Business helps merchants create buzz, find new customers and drive sales, using one centralized hub. The service also includes analytics tools that provide key insights and measure campaign performance.

10. Pinterest for Business
There's a saying that consumers don't trust brands; they trust their friends. That's essentially the principle behind Pinterest for Business, which lets businesses create Pinterest accounts as a brand. In addition to pinning items just as regular users can, businesses can add the Pin It button wherever their items appear on the Web. For example, e-commerce website Etsy added the Pin It button to each individual listing — when Pinterest users click on the Pin It button, the corresponding Etsy item will be added to their Pinterest boards for their followers to see. These pins include the seller's shop name and pricing information, so viewers know the item is for sale. The idea is to drive traffic, grow followers and ultimately boost sales based on other Pinterest users' recommendations.

By Sara Angeles, BusinessNewsDaily Staff Writer

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Credit: Social media image via Shutterstock

The Value of Social Logins for Digital Marketers

(Posted on May 1, 2014 at 11:24AM )
Before Vocus gave me the opportunity to contribute to their blog, I was a fan. Not just of the product, which is a robust, multifaceted social CRM tool, but also of the quality of their inbound marketing content.
Last week I downloaded “The Marketer’s Guide to Social Media 2014” and was once again incredibly impressed by the content and its insights. I recommend that you download it if you have opportunity to do so.

One of the marketing opportunities that Geoff Livingston identifies in the piece are social logins, the somewhat common and seemingly innocuous logins that many sites use to authenticate users. It occurred to me that I really haven’t read too many even-handed accounts of the pros and cons of social logins.

What I want to do in this post is give you an overview of social logins, dig into what information marketers can glean from the two most prevalent ones (Google+ and Facebook), talk about technical considerations for implementation and how social logins can enhance social CRM.

Want more about social media? Get your free Marketer’s Guide to Social Media 2014 now!

Login with almost anything, but mostly Facebook and Google
You see social logins nearly everywhere you go on the web. Spotify, Pandora, Triberr, MySpace (just to name a few sites I’ve perused this morning) – all use some social authentication mechanism to prompt users in. Even Mashable, Forbes, and the New York Times use social authentication to some degree. So what’s the benefit?

Information. The social networks become privy to additional data about their users, and in exchange they allow websites (user-authorized) access to social data of users… including email.

If this sounds like a great deal, it comes with some caveats:

  • You have to have content that can be tailored to the user (ecommerce, content, et cetera). If there’s no benefit to use a social login, odds are people won’t use them (you’ve probably encountered sites like these). This is why talking about technical implementation isn’t worthwhile in this piece, because a social login implementation is far more involved than simply implementing the buttons, the back-end of your site needs to be able to customize the user experience based upon these additional data.
  • There are practical considerations for social logins. For instance, Facebook and Google+ dominate the social login space. It’s not that they provide information that is any different than a site like Twitter or LinkedIn, but they have scale. Odds are good that nearly anyone can login with a Facebook ID, and the vast majority with a Google ID. Only 20 percent (if that) can login with Twitter. It’s not an insignificant consideration.
  • The data isn’t always reliable. In my humble opinion, the biggest “get” from a social login is an email address (both Facebook and Google have CAN-SPAM compliance reminders for marketers that collect email addresses). If you recall a while back, Facebook made @facebook email addresses the default email for user profiles. Facebook announced that they are ending the @facebook email, but I still have acquaintances on Facebook whose email is that worthless default email. Also consider that many users use pseudonyms and false identities on sites like Twitter. Marketers need to weigh whether the data that they’ll receive is worth the cost of implementation.
  • Because users approve each of the pieces of data that marketers request with their social login, more information could (does) result in lower opt-in.
Social logins are widespread and may offer a fairly robust social data set for marketers, although there are technical and practical considerations to an implementation. What specific data can marketers glean from using social plug-ins?
Data from Facebook’s and Google’s social plugins
I don’t mean to ignore other social logins (and I’m sure it’s quite easy to find the same information for these), but I want to focus in on the specific data that marketers can get from the Facebook and Google social plugins.

An initial request for Facebook gives marketers access to what Facebook calls “basic information,” which is:

  • id
  • name
  • first_name
  • last_name
  • link
  • username
  • gender
  • locale
  • age_range
You can additionally ask for the following information:

  • email
  • user_about_me
  • friends_about_me
  • user_activities
  • friends_activities
  • user_birthday
  • friends_birthday
  • user_checkins
  • friends_checkins
  • user_education_history
  • friends_education_history
  • user_events
  • friends_events
  • user_groups
  • friends_groups
  • user_hometown
  • friends_hometown
  • user_interests
  • friends_interests
  • user_likes
  • friends_likes
  • user_location
  • friends_location
  • user_notes
  • friends_notes
  • user_photos
  • friends_photos
  • user_questions
  • friends_questions
  • user_relationships
  • friends_relationships
  • user_relationship_details
  • friends_relationship_details
  • user_religion_politics
  • friends_religion_politics
  • user_status
  • friends_status
  • user_subscriptions
  • friends_subscriptions
  • user_videos
  • friends_videos
  • user_website
  • friends_website
  • user_work_history
  • friends_work_history
Holy cow, right? Google boasts a less robust, but also useful complement of data:

The initial scope for a Google + login gives a user’s name and photo URL, which are always public, and a birthday or gender if the user has made them public.

  • aboutMe
  • ageRange
  • birthday
  • braggingRights
  • circledByCount
  • cover
  • coverInfo
  • leftImageOffset
  • topImageOffset
  • coverPhoto
  • height
  • url
  • width
  • layout
  • currentLocation
  • displayName
  • domain
  • emails
  • type
  • value
  • etag
  • gender
  • id
  • image
  • url
  • isPlusUser
  • kind
  • language
  • name
  • familyName
  • formatted
  • givenName
  • honorificPrefix
  • honorificSuffix
  • middleName
  • nickname
  • objectType
  • occupation
  • organizations
  • department
  • description
  • endDate
  • location
  • name
  • primary
  • startDate
  • title
  • type
  • placesLived
  • primary
  • value
  • plusOneCount
  • relationshipStatus
  • skills
  • tagline
  • url
  • urls
  • label
  • type
  • value
  • verified
You can see how some of these data points could be especially meaningful (EMAIL!!!!), especially in concert with each other.

Technical difficultiesImplementation of social logins could potentially be challenging. Email service MailChimp reported over 100,000 authentication errors directly attributable to their social logins. Because implementation isn’t just the login but the personalization that the data informs, social logins aren’t easy to do.

A group of SaaS (software as a service) providers such as Gigya and Janrain have developed products that implement different social logins on a site and help to collect usable consumer data. For businesses and marketers that want to collect user data with social logins but don’t have the organic resources to implement this themselves, this type of software may be an option.

Enhancing social CRMI had never shot a rifle before I went into the Army. And for the good part of 1o years, I continued to be one of the worst shots anyone had ever seen (I did manage to concentrate my shots at my own target starting in year two, though). One of the most important skills that I never mastered was to triangulate my shots. The principle is pretty simple: you get a rifle that you’ve never shot before. You shoot at a target three times, and if your shots are close enough together you can see exactly how you need to adjust your sights to shoot where you’re aiming.

The marketing equivalent of triangulating a rifle’s shot group is segmentation. This is how social login data can be utilized with a social CRM tool like the Vocus Marketing Suite to enhance its marketing value. Demographic data are kind of like my shot groups: erratic and not especially helpful. Segmenting me based on gender and geographic location probably doesn’t tell you that much. But if you understood from Facebook that I like Joan Osborne, Indian food and Arrested Development, you may come to the conclusion that I have exquisite tastes (I’m kidding). My point is that additional data points provide you a better opportunity to reach and convert customers with your digital communication using deliberate segmentation.

Social logins are popular, useful and difficult to implement. At best they provide a rich complement of user data points that would be difficult to acquire otherwise, at their worst they provide useless or empty data points that may make segmentation less precise. That said, social logins have the potential to be an important tool for marketers to create customized user experiences.

Jim Dougherty is an expert on social media and technology who blogs at Leaders WestFor more marketing advice from Jim, click here.


(Posted on Apr 30, 2014 at 11:30AM )
Socialcasting is not a new phenomenon but new technologies are providing more effective ways in which to capitalize on it. Social Casting has developed out of several technology trends including:

*instant messaging
*Social networking
*Blogging and Video Sharing

All combining stream information and photos in “Real Time” across the internet and social channels.

Socialcasting is a movement in online and onsite generated content that combines traditional media content, social networking, and interactive community to create a unique experience for viewers on the internet.

Some have called socialcasting where Web 2.0 meets TV 2.0, offering new ways for video content to be experienced and shared by viewers in an online community.

A Web 2.0 site or a social community allow users to interact and communicate with each other as creators of user-generated content in a virtual community, in contrast to websites where people are limited to the passive viewing of content.

This Social integration is the process of linking information--whether in blogs, forums or other networking options to the Internet. Search engines and communities are instantly alerted to the presence of a particular item. This allows users to quickly find what they need when they need it.

More and more companies are creating onsite social communities for their customers in which to interact. Companies can read the needs and concerns of their customers in new ways and can benefit from the relevant content being generated in the community via comments and articles that can be integrated into their Digital marketing initiatives.

Socialcasting is also seeing a lot of success in “real time events marketing.” On site events are seeing a much greater impact and reaching a much larger audience by going beyond the physical location and traditional media by simultaneously broadcasting the event in real time over the internet and through social channels. Through the real time streaming of photos and video, texting, blogging and social networking many people are engaged which causes the event to virtually feed on itself before, during and after the event.

The use of Socialcasting in digital marketing has increased in popularity but has been being used very successfully for many years. Sporting events of all kinds have been big beneficiaries of socialcasting using the internet and is now being utilized more and more for conferences and onsite promotions with great success.

Socialcasting in its many forms can boost page ranking and drive traffic in ways that no other form of media can. This can positively impact your overall marketing efforts and is something that any business can benefit from. Technology is constantly providing us with new and creative ways of marketing. Socialcasting is a product of all this new technology and is another way of driving social content to get help get your message out, create attention and drive traffic.

William Cosgrove

If A/B Testing Can Help Win Elections, What Can It Do for Your Business?

(Posted on Apr 29, 2014 at 11:42AM )
Online retailers are always looking to differentiate themselves in more meaningful ways. Compelling shopping experiences, product recommendations, and overall superior customer service are key ways retailers set themselves apart. Today's data-driven marketing tools can help them unlock those experiences by using the data they have about their customers.

Prior to founding my own company, I served as the director of analytics on the 2008 Obama campaign. By experimenting with changes to elements of the campaign splash page, we were able to help raise an additional $57 million in campaign donations.

The guiding principles that made the campaign successful are no different from approaches online retailers and other marketers can adopt to make a real business impact.

First, you need to know your constituent. The behavior of visitors who come to your website is very much indicative of the kind of messaging that would work on them. What you show a returning visitor is different from what you'd show to a new visitor, or a mobile visitor vs. a desktop visitor.

The urgency for businesses to use data to show the right thing, to the right person, at the right time is stronger than ever. Targeted messaging is the most to effective way to get consumers to convert.

Second, you must know the facts. One of the greatest challenges (and areas for error) for businesses is getting the data right. Online retailers should take prudent effort to make sure the infrastructure and process they've implemented is sound. For example, the "novelty effect" suggests that just because a change has an impact initially doesn't mean it can be sustained over time. Will your customers grow tired of cyber deals every 10 minutes for a week?

Finally, it's imperative to ask the right questions. The challenge for online retailers is not about prescribing the right answers but about asking the right questions. For instance, are you trying to see whether a visitor will respond better to more product selections on a page, or fewer? Consider first what you want the answers to be, and those hypotheses will then help you decide what to measure.

Common examples of A/B testing for online retail include homepage bounce rates, category-page views, product-page views, shopping cart ads, and all stages in a checkout flow all the way to the Thank You page.

In general, to get more effective and relevant results, rather than asking "What are the variations we are testing?" consider asking "What question are we trying to answer?" To ensure the best return on your effort, first look at your Web analytics to see which pages have the most room for improvement. You'll want to attack those areas first.

The following are some actionable insights to help retailers optimize their sales by running website experiments that help them deliver a better experience to their visitors.

Homepage. The homepage is notoriously the most over-scrutinized page, yet it is also likely to be the most under optimized. For instance, imagine you're a consumer shopping on a retailer's website for a new coat. You arrive on the homepage and see a banner for a sale. Just as you're about to click it, the experience changes to pants. The rotating carousel of images means you have to continually reorient yourself, and it diffuses the focus of your original purpose. And when consumers are distracted, they're probably not purchasing.

Category pages. Unfortunately, most retailers tend to overlook their category pages; luckily, there are some easy and effective tests to evaluate them. One simple experiment centers on the performance of tiled vs. list views. For example, in our experience, the list views perform better and lift sales for scenarios in which consumers are making a complex purchase decision. The list format enables consumers to scan information easily and compare between categories; it also gives the retailer space to display the best sellers above the fold.

Product detail pages. Where does the consumer ultimately decide whether to buy or bounce? The product detail page is where the final persuasion happens. Therefore, it is one of the most important areas of your website.

Often, retailers are looking for a solution to a distinct challenge: solid brand awareness, but poor conversion. In that scenario, it's difficult for the retailer to determine what to improve. To increase conversion, I recommend carefully examining the following key conversion factors in the product detail pages:

  • Value proposition: Is it strong or weak?
  • Relevance: Is the content pertinent to the target audience and their needs?
  • Clarity: How clear is the imagery, eye flow, copywriting, and call to action?
  • Distraction: Are you redirecting attention from the primary message with too many product options? Are upsell and cross-sell options provided prematurely? Are design elements overwhelming the message?
  • Urgency: Are you giving the consumer a reason to act now?
Primary calls to action. At the sitewide checkout entry point, make your calls to action loud and clear. Test phrases like "add to cart" or "sign up for emails" to clarify what specifically you want your website to achieve and whether you are effectively directing shoppers to accomplish those goals.

For example, knowing that users become more invested as they click through the signup funnel, the 1-800-DENTIST team hypothesized that making the first step as simple as possible would decrease drop off rate and lead to more successful signups further down the funnel. To test the hypothesis, the team considered how to best simplify the first step without losing valuable data collection. Since all dentist matches depend on location, ZIP code was the most logical input to lead off with. Then, the team moved the two other fields—insurance and dental need—to pages later in the funnel, ensuring they would still be able to collect each piece of information. In less than a week, the team found that shortening the first step of the checkout funnel increased conversions 23.3%.

* * *

The greatest opportunity for online retailers today lies in facilitating the process of experimentation to help their teams move from the era of Mad Men into the era of Math Men. The role of creativity is still as important as it's always been, but now it's not centered on the most intuitively creative person but, rather, the most data-driven creative person.

We live in a time where you can let the data help you get to the right answers. You'll quickly find that the tests take the guesswork out of website optimization and enable data-backed decisions that shift business conversations from "we think" to "we know."

And knowing your website's weaknesses means that you can turn them into strengths and sales.

by Dan Siroker

Introducing “MyPhotoRep” Testimonial And Photo In One

(Posted on Apr 27, 2014 at 01:15PM )
MyPhotoRep, is the first automated photo and text app of its kind developed by award winning OneBigBroadcast’s innovative technology to:

*Augment your reputation management

*Raise social awareness,

*Increase SEO rankings

*Encourage employee participation

*Solidify your brand through positive feedback and referrals from satisfied customers.

* Instantly share MyPhotoRep on your social channels and Testimonial page on your website with our fully integrated plugin.

The happiest time in the buyers experience is:

*The day they pick up their new or preowned vehicle

*Buy a home

*Eat that great meal

*Pick up that new product or:

*Get that great service.

We have made it easy to capture that moment with a photo and text statement from the customer as to why they purchased from your business. There are also many times when a customer is more than satisfied with the prompt and friendly service they recieved.

You no longer need to let these invaluable marketing opportunities slip by. Capture these happy moments on any mobile device as they happen and share them instantly on your Testimonial Page, with a blog and across your's and your sales or service representative's social channels.

These pictures and statements from satisfied customers will do more for your reputation and social awareness than anything that is available to you today and will also help with your search rankings. Your employees will also benefit from sharing these treasured moments on their social channels.

Plus, You can capture those funny or treasured moments that occur during business hours and share them with your current and potential customers to show them that you are people to, transparent and customer centric.

Search Engine Watch reports that 85 percent of consumers read reviews for local businesses. Dimensional Research reports that 90 percent of consumers say that positive online reviews had a direct impact on their buying decision.

Customer testimonials have the highest effectiveness rating for content marketing at 89%. 20 Marketing Trends and Predictions to Consider for 2014 (Social Times)

55% of young shoppers said that a recommendation from a friend is one of the strongest influencers in getting them to try a new brand. 47% consider brand reputation to be almost as important.

60% of Millennials said that social advertising has the most influence over them in how they perceive a brand and a brand’s value and Hispanics represent the youngest segment of the population here in the US. The Millennial tech-savvy and fast-paced crowd has now surpassed Baby Boomers spending $600 billion a year compared to Baby Boomer’s $400 Billion

The MyPhotoRep will allow you to easily attract customers, build a brand around your company, and ultimately drive more traffic to your website and convert more leads. 

MyPhotoRep is also a great contest app.

How many products have you invested in that produce invaluable guaranteed benefits from day one, do not need to be proven and take no time to implement.

Finish the year on a positive and productive note. It may be the best investment you make this year.

Call me today at 717-889-7030 or email me to set up a demo of this versatile application.

William Cosgrove

It is Time to Look Within

(Posted on Apr 26, 2014 at 03:02PM )
Social media destinations today seem to be a what’s trending, what's fashionable media where Social Icons are losing ground and where smaller ones are constantly being replaced with the next technologically fad driven way to communicate and share with one another on the internet and platform changes on these web properties can cost you dearly as many of you have learned.

It is time to look more within your organization to find better and more stable ways of attracting customers and communicating with your existing customer and employee base from your most important online asset-Your website. Having your message emanating from and traffic directed to your website is the only way you will reap 100% of the benefit that SEO and link building provide.

 This can be done by forming an onsite community to provide a central platform on your site where employees and customers can be engaged and can act as advocates for your brand that will strengthen your company in ways that no other medium can.

Social communities can integrate your marketing initiatives to organically grow your inbound traffic and SEO effectively reducing the cost of your online marketing and provide a host of benefits that cannot be achieved or more effectively controlled in any other way.

This interaction can be streamed across your social channels to engage potential customers by showing them that you have a customer and employee centric culture. This builds trust and confidence in your brand that will:

Increase visibility

Increase site traffic

Increase recommendations and testimonials

Increase employee retention

 All of which combined will result in higher sales and a fatter bottom line.

Onsite social communities bring you closer to your employees and customers by acting as listening posts that leads to better communication to gain valuable insight to make better decisions that will result in a  healthier organization.

There is a saying that content is the fuel and social is the fire. And for businesses in today’s customer centric marketplace creating a private social networking platform connects your employees, existing customers and potential customers into a single-focus environment enabling them to exchange ideas which will ultimately strengthen your brand and broaden your customer base.

In addition to your overall digital marketing strategy social communities are a perfect branding platform to show your members your appreciation and dedication to serving them by offering member only specials on purchases and services all geared towards producing devoted customers who will ultimately become your brand ambassadors.

This sense of community creates a win, win relationship where both you and your members can communicate closely and collaborate on such things as events, volunteer efforts, etc which in turn is channeled through organic SEO and social networks to generate goodwill across the internet from your website.

“We all know that social technology enables human connections. But the thing is, there are no boundaries between consumers or employees, because most of us are both. Technology has also amplified the speed and reach of every type of communication. This evolution in how we share information and knowledge goes far beyond just social "media." It's a complete transformation in the way we interact. When businesses fail to take advantage of the valuable assets in their organization, they miss out on an excellent way to create both customer engagement and employee empowerment." Michelle Killebrew, Program Director, Strategy IBM Social Business.

In today’s world of being relevant using content marketing in all its forms, what better way is there to be relevant than by creating your own onsite social community-What are your thoughts?

William Cosgrove
Bill Cosgrove Straight Talk

See Social Communities to learn more

Engineering students invent virtual fitting room for online shoppers (w/video)

(Posted on Apr 25, 2014 at 11:48AM )
Picture Rice University engineering students Cecilia Zhang, left, and Lam Yuk Wong, have created a virtual fitting room for online shoppers. Their program, which uses Microsoft’s Kinect motion-capture device, turns users into virtual mannequins to make online garment fitting more accurate.

One blessing of the Internet: shopping conveniently online for clothes. One curse of the Internet: shopping conveniently online for clothes.

"Nothing fits," said Lam Yuk Wong, a senior in electrical and computer engineering at Rice University. "Everybody says this. They order clothes and they don't fit. People get very unhappy."

Wong and her design partner, Xuaner "Cecilia" Zhang, are Team White Mirror, creators of what they call a "virtual fitting room." Their goal is simple and consumer-friendly: to assure online clothing shoppers a perfect fit and a perfect look with every purchase.

Both women are from China, Wong from Hong Kong, Zhang from Beijing. Both order most of their clothing online. They got the idea from their own experience as consumers and from listening to the complaints of friends and relatives.

"They say, 'The color is wrong' or 'I got the right size but it does not fit right.' We want to make it like you're in the store trying on the clothes," Zhang said.

Using a Kinect, the motion-sensing input device developed by Microsoft for use with its Xbox 360 video game player, Zhang scans Wong and turns her image into, in effect, a virtual mannequin, preserving Wong's dimensions, and even her skin and hair color.

"We put the clothes on the shopper's 3-D body models and show how they look when they are dressed. The existing virtual fitting rooms don't use customized body models that look like the shoppers. It takes a long time to display the fully dressed models, and they don't look realistic," Wong said.

With the software developed by the students, shoppers are able to see realistic details, even wrinkles in the garments. They can rotate the model to see how the garment fits from all sides. Thus far, Wong and Zhang have adapted the software to show dresses and shirts, and they are working on shorts.

Their paper, "Virtual Fitting: Real-Time Garment Simulation," will be presented at the 27th annual conference of Computer Animation and Social Agents to be held May 26-28 at the University of Houston. The team received further validation when it won the $5,000 Willy Revolution Award at Rice's annual Design Showcase April 17.

Asked if she thought men as well as women might be interested in using their virtual fitting room, Wong said, "I think their wives will care about this, so it will also be important to the men."

Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University