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Ecommerce: User-generated content, video marketing and other lessons from IRCE 2014

May 29th, 2015 No comments

How can you attract more traffic to your ecommerce store? How can you improve conversion on the traffic you’re currently getting? At IRCE (Internet Retailer Conference + Exhibition) 2014, we sat down with 39 marketers and ecommerce experts to bring you actionable ideas to improve your results.

To help you prepare for IRCE 2015, today on the MarketingSherpa blog I’m taking a look back at a few of the key lessons I learned from the interviews at last year’s event.

 

Lesson #1: User-generated content is not free labor for marketers

User-generated content. Community-sourced content. It’s been called many things, but brands have found success by encouraging customers to create their own content and share it with their peers.

No site has been better at this than Wikipedia, which refers to the practice as collaborative writing by volunteers. “The free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” gets the sixth most traffic in the world, according to Alexa.

I asked Jimmy Wales, CEO and Founder, Wikipedia, what advice he would give to marketers looking to engage their audience to create content.

Jimmy likened the typical approach of crowdsourcing to, “It’s sort of like if you opened up a bowling alley and you said, ‘Gee, we’ve got all this bowling to be done. How are we going to trick people into bowling for us.’ Instead you say, ‘Well, wait. What do people want? They want leisure time activity, beer and a hot dog. They want it to be family friendly. They’d like to have a league so they can compete with other teams and so on.’ So you think, ‘What’s the infrastructure we can build here? We’ll offer a bowling league, we’ll make sure there’s hot dogs and beer.’ And people will come, because you’re thinking about what they need first.”

“Don’t think about the work you would like people to do. Think about what it is people want to do and how you can empower them to do that,” Jimmy advised.

 

Lesson #2: Video can help make your products come alive online

While ecommerce has many advantages over brick-and-mortar retailing, it has one major disadvantage:

You can’t touch and feel the products. You can’t try them on. You can’t feel the material and the quality.

One way to overcome that is with video, which is much more compelling than a simple two-dimensional image.

I sat down with Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, Chairman and Founder, Joyus, and one of the powerful women who are reinventing the way you shop for fashion online according to Forbes, to discover how you can put video to work on your site.

“Create a sustained relationship with your audience, find the person that represents your brand voice and use them repeatedly,” she advised.

 

Lesson #3: Get out of the way of your customers

You have some effective user-generated content and compelling videos, and it has built demand for your site and interest in your product. How do you get customers to make a purchase?

In this case, less may be more. In other words, once you have great products and have brought people to your site who are interested in purchasing these products, make it easy for them.

Michael Layne, Director of Internet Marketing, and Jen Rademacher, Chief Information Officer, both of Fathead, shared what they learned from conversion optimization testing on their site.

“Simplicity is genius, white space is your friend and get out of the way of your customers,” Michael said. “Too many buttons are going to hurt you. Too much copy is going to hurt you. You just want to give customers what they’re looking for.”

 

Put ideas from the world’s largest ecommerce event to work for you

To help you improve your ecommerce marketing and conversion, the MarketingSherpa team is once again heading out to IRCE (Internet Retailer Conference + Exhibition) in Chicago to run the MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE. We’ll be interviewing brand-side marketers to share their expertise with you on MarketingSherpa.

If you’re at IRCE, swing by and say “hi.” And if you’re a brand-side marketer with a story to tell, let me know and we might be able to arrange an interview in the Media Center.

 

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, @DanielBurstein.

 

You might also like

Watch exclusive full interviews from MarketingSherpa Media Center at IRCE 2014

Live from IRCE: Key insights from the MarketingSherpa Ecommerce Benchmark Study [MarketingSherpa webinar replay]

Social Media: Marketing to millennials [More form the blogs]

Ecommerce: 2 tips to help small businesses navigate multichannel marketing [More from the blogs]

Social Media Marketing: Setting expectations both internally and externally [Video] [More from the blogs]

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Why Implementing Relevancy into Email Programs Can’t Wait

May 26th, 2015 No comments

A few moments after her featured speaker session at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015, Shawna Dahlin, Senior Email Marketing Manager, Microsoft Store, sat down at the Media Center with MarketingSherpa Reporter Courtney Eckerle to discuss why it’s so important for marketers to recognize problems and implement changes to their email campaigns as soon as they can.

 

Why shouldn’t marketers wait until everything is set up perfectly to implement program changes?

“It’s never too soon to start being relevant to your customer,” Shawna explained.

A lot of lists are “leaky buckets.” With every email send that isn’t relevant to the customer, you risk losing them forever. With the technology available today, marketers now have the ability to use data to find out what their customers are interested in and segment their email sends to make those sends more personalized.

Even the tiniest bit of data can be converted into a big win. “You can’t wait. You’ll have to do everything you can to be ever, just a little bit, more relevant so you don’t lose them out of your database,” she said.

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The Hidden Side of Email Marketing: The once-and-done option, A/B testing and a supersmart kind of dumb

May 19th, 2015 No comments

What assumptions do you make about your customers? Your competitors? Your industry in general? More importantly, what do those assumptions cost you?

At MarketingSherpa, we write case studies to help you execute your marketing strategy.

We also talk to writers, researchers and, well, renegades to help you challenge those assumptions and create an effective strategy to begin with.

I’m talking about people like Stephen J. Dubner. Not only has Dubner learned about economic theory and customer behavior as co-author of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything and, more recently, Think Like a Freak, but he’s also a very successful digital content creator in his own right as host of the Freakonomics Radio podcast, which nets more than 5 million downloads per month.

Customer behavior. Digital content. Sounds like a guy who could offer a few words of wisdom to email marketers to help them challenge their potentially costly assumptions. I sat down with Dubner at the Media Center at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 before his featured speaker session later that morning:

 

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Harley-Davidson Overcomes the Baby Boomer Cliff by Creating a New Customer Base

May 15th, 2015 No comments

Brands are not solely defined by corporate executives and marketing campaigns but by communities that are loyal to the brand and the perception of those communities by society.

These communities are never static. As the major purchasing power shifts from one generation to the next, brands need to evolve in order to ensure the survival of their market share.

Toy brands, for example, are excellent at targeting the next generation. They rely on detailed research and outreach programs to make sure their brand loyalty continues. These companies also rely on the nostalgia of parents who played with the toys when they were younger.

But what about brands with a loyal brand population that don’t have a natural turnover rate from parent to child? How can these brands prepare themselves for a major generational shift?

That major generational shift is already on its way. Baby boomers — Americans born post-World War II to around 1964 — are retiring in vast numbers. Right now, there are 40 million Americans aged 65 and older. These citizens make up 13% of the population, according to Census.gov. By 2030, the 65+ age group will climb to 20% of the population and become the single biggest age demographic, following “the greying trend” of other fully industrialized countries around the world.

This represents a major shift in purchasing power. Brands that rely on baby boomers as their core demographic have been aware of the coming shift for years.

But few have begun to prepare for it as successfully as Harley-Davidson Motor Company.

Harley-Davidson is an iconic American brand that truly grew into its legendary status right after World War II — growing up alongside baby boomers.

1-as

Harley-Davidson, INC (HOG): Geared Up For a Strong Ride, Scutify (2014)

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Customer-Centric Marketing: Listen to your customers if you want to live

May 12th, 2015 1 comment

Listen to your customers. That must seem like an obvious statement to most marketers.

However, taking into account the variables under which your performance is judged, how much can you really listen? Time and time again, I have seen many marketers find that KPIs conflict with what their customers really want.

In this MarketingSherpa Blog post, we will explore a few key instances from companies in various stages of maturity where focus on customers predominantly contributed toward subsequent success.

terminator

 

The underlying truth of the above statement is profound whether implied in the business sense, the entrepreneurial sense or even the “Terminator” sense from which this phrase emanates. In this day and age, if you want your business to live, you must listen to your customers.

 

The Customer Voice at Launch: The case of Yelp

As is the story for many startups, (including Twitter, which was originally a podcasting platform called Odeo), the Yelp we know and value today was not what its founders initially intended for it to be.

yelp

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Customer-Centric Marketing: 5 tips on mining customers for content

May 1st, 2015 1 comment

A blinking cursor on a blank page is a terrifying sight for a writer. It’s like having arachnophobia and someone putting a spider in your hair. The struggle is, in fact, real.

The good news is that, as marketers, we have it easy. Customers are telling you what they want to hear, and it’s only a matter of listening to what they’re saying. Sounds simple, right? I can practically hear everyone mentally (or maybe actually) murmuring, “Duh.”

However, when it comes to talking about tactics for making customers the genesis of content, every marketer I have interviewed for a case study or blog post — and there have been many — has made me dig deeper. That’s because this is an issue so many content creators struggle with in execution.

Whether it’s email, blogs, social media or any of the other seemingly endless channels, the main point is to have a conversation. Be engaging.

I recently wrote a case study for our Email Marketing newsletter with JustAnswer. Seeing as how it’s a service where customers come to the site to ask questions, you would think creating content would be simple. One of the best tips for coming up with content is to simply answer customer questions.

Just Answer blog categories

 

However, with so many questions being asked and topics including law, mechanics, medical (both humans and animals), plumbing and technology, just to name a few, the options are dauntingly endless, forcing marketers to be creative with their tactics.

Below is bonus material from the case study about how the JustAnswer team approaches content creation — both email and otherwise.

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Ecommerce Development in Brazil: An interview at IRCE [Video]

April 17th, 2015 No comments

Even though the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition (IRCE) 2014, the world’s largest ecommerce event, was held during the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, more than 60 Brazilians made it to the conference.

The contingent was led by Priscila Inserra, Executive Director, and Renato Gonzaga, President, Concierge Brazil. The goal of their organization is to advance Brazil’s digital marketing by exposing executives to knowledge gathered at ecommerce events across the globe.

“Brazil is really growing in (the digital marketplace), and we are proud of it,” Priscila said. “We are starting to exchange experience. We don’t consider ourselves as mature as American companies, but we can learn a lot. We are taking as much content as we can back to the businesses in Brazil.”

Priscila was surprised by the event’s focus on technology.

“In Brazil, we focus a lot on marketing,” she explained. “America has tools that are much more sophisticated. But when we can join the expertise of the Brazilians and Americans, they will work well together.”

Watch the whole interview below: “Global Ecommerce: Developments in Brazil

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Digital Marketing: What is a 21st century brand?

April 7th, 2015 2 comments

What is a brand?

Specifically, what is a brand in the 21st century, when we have the ability to converse directly with our customers?

Is it a product, a culture, a destination, service or ingredient? Or is it something more metaphysical? Steven Jones said in his book, Brand Like a Rockstar, that,

Brands are so much bigger than business, logos, names and locations. Brands go deeper, beneath the visible surface and exist in the mind. Brands are essentially perceptions and emotions. They are feelings and associations that come from interacting with a product or service.

A brand in the 21st century exists in the feelings customers get when they interact with a company’s product. It is a direct reflection of that company’s culture, value proposition and the individual personalities of its executives and employees that help shape the brand’s core values.

With the advent of social media, the cultural norms that dictate how a brand interacts with its customers have irrevocably changed the way we view it.

Brands have become more human, and today’s technology allows us to have a real-time conversation with our customers as well as allowing them to start a real-time conversation with us. This means brands are quicker to respond to the praise and critiques of marketing campaigns.

Recently, Starbucks had a social marketing campaign that focused on a desire to force its customers to talk about race. In the campaign, Starbucks had their employees write, “Race Together” on cups of joe.

race togetherThe idea was that every time someone got a cup of coffee, it could be an opportunity to talk about the recent racial and social tensions that have recently gained traction in the national media.

The campaign failed spectacularly.

After only a week of near constant criticism, it came to an end. However, it didn’t harm the Starbucks brand. In fact, it reinforced the brand’s values in the minds of the public. Because Starbucks has crafted a socially-conscious brand image, it has often been criticized by taking a stance on socially divisive subjects.

However, for better or for worse, the company has taken a stance on social issues, which is the main fact perceived not only by customers but also the media at large. Failures have (so far) been forgiven.

The hardest part of managing a brand in the 21st century is with all the avenues we have available to interact with customers, ensuring that messaging reflects brand values.

Brands today can make jokes in social media, wish customers happy birthday and interact frequently with the online communities that support them. It is these communities in the end that help define the perception of the brand in the minds of other consumers. By developing relationships with them, brands can grow a brand image that will absorb the blows of bad campaigns and help gather steam to launch its next marketing idea.

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Ecommerce Investment Advice: How marketers can make their companies more valuable

March 3rd, 2015 No comments

We don’t often think of business investors as marketing experts.

However, great marketing is grounded in a great value proposition. If anyone is good at finding a value proposition, it’s a (smart) potential buyer of a business. Great investors have a way of cutting through all the hype and finding the true value (or lack thereof) in a company.

It stands to reason, then, that a great investor would be a stellar resource to tap for your marketing efforts.

Enter Abe Garver, Managing Director, BG Strategic Advisors. Abe attended IRCE last year and was able to talk to former MarketingSherpa reporter Allison Banko about how ecommerce marketers can develop an acquisition mindset and help grow their business, whether they plan to sell or not.

In this interview he covers:

  • How you value an ecommerce company
  • The four keys to making your ecommerce company more investor friendly (and as a result, customer friendly)
  • Why ecommerce companies aren’t really getting it right, and who really is

 

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Inbound Marketing: How Infochimps grew its database 94% in one year

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Three Takeaways on Customer-centric Marketing from Email Summit 2015 Media Center

February 24th, 2015 1 comment

There are a lot of decisions that go into putting on Email Summit. Millions, probably, if you go deep enough.

But they all come around with one objective: you. The attendees and people who are reading about, and following, the event.

In every discussion and decision, we were asking ourselves how it would affect the experience. Your experience. So it made sense that when it came time to pick speakers and give out the Email Summit Awards, sponsored by BlueHornet, that customer-centric campaigns were the ones that rose above the rest.

Fellow Email Awards judge Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, and myself sat down on the steps of the (still under-construction) 2015 Email Summit Media Center to discuss some of our award winners and the customer-centric elements of campaigns featured at the Summit.

Media Center 2015

 

“The companies that focused on customers, that put their customers first, are the ones that ultimately have the sustainable competitive advantage,” Daniel said.

Our marketing compass points toward true customer-centricity, so it was important that marketers we featured held that same standard.

Daniel spoke about the B2B Award winner he has been working with over the past few months, Ferguson, and one of their main takeaways from their own event effort: Always look to enrich the customer experience.

Ferguson Enterprises generated more than $10 million and growing in online sales by enriching the customer experience within their 90 trade show events, which allowed Ferguson’s vendors to get in front of customers and promote their brands and products.

To accomplish that, Ferguson went from one email per event to a segmented series as well as optimized its onsite event registration for better retargeting.

Read the full case study here.

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