Digital Marketing Insights
December 03, 2013 | Justin Williams
Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:
By now, you know that consumers don't interact with just one marketing channel on their path to conversion. Chances are, your company understands it can't develop and deliver marketing on only one channel if it wants to remain competitive. But are you still using old-school, one-channel metrics (CTR, impressions) to measure success?
A cross-channel marketing approach requires cross-channel metrics. Read on to learn about two specific metrics and two measurement approaches that will give you a better perspective on your cross-channel marketing effectiveness.
The Match Rate (or Identification Rate)
If you're going to engage in retargeting using display, Facebook or other channels, a key measure of success is how many people you'll be able to reliably identify on those channels.
More generally, if you're leveraging multiple channels, you need to understand exactly how many people you can identify for targeted content.
One company recently developed a technology to identify three times as many people on its site and across various digital channels. This one change tripled their identification rate, increasing the audience of people that can be nurtured.
Of course, you still need to be good at marketing to those people that you cannot identify, and you'll never be able to identify everyone. But with identity comes information, which allows a marketer to be more relevant and therefore more likely to drive action.
The View-Through Rate
The view-through rate tells us how many people who've seen or engaged with an ad go on to participate in an important interaction, such as viewing a video or visiting a site. Many of the channels in a cross-channel campaign won't lend themselves to a direct click-through, so the view-through rate allows a marketer to better understand the contribution of these channels, helping to justify spend in channels that aren't seen as generating ROI as directly as other channels, such as email.
The view-through rate has it's own complications. It's not always clear what the value of a view-through is, and it's not always clear that the ad unit itself was seen. Still, tracking this metric will move a marketer beyond rigid focus on the last interaction to build a better picture of other channels' contributions.
Adopting a Multi-channel Attribution Approach
A cross-channel customer experience should necessitate multichannel attribution of success to your different campaigns. Why should the last click on an email get all the credit for a $60 sale when it was a PPC ad that caused the subscription, site interactions that built the interest and retargeted display ads that drove the purchaser to the point just before he bought? The goal of a multichannel attribution model is to spread attribution intelligently over all of the channels that contribute to a conversion.
Thankfully, most of the top analytics platforms offer some multichannel attribution reports for you to leverage. Before you begin implementing multichannel attribution, however, you should be aware of the technical and strategic challenges this entails (Avinash Kaushik's post does a great job of explaining some of these difficulties and how to approach them). But don't let the difficulty deter you! The multichannel attribution approach allows for a much more accurate understanding of how the entire marketing mix contributes to results.
Using Cohort Analysis
One-channel metrics provide precise insight into the performance of single interaction points, such as a click on a link or time spent on a page. The problem with these metrics is the lack of visibility before and after the target interaction. What else did the person see before they clicked the link? After purchasing, does the person purchase again, and how long does it take him to do so?
Cohort analysis, in contrast, allows a long-term comparison between groups, thus negating the focus on single interactions. In cohort analysis, an objective (ie.: an increased retention rate for a subscription product) is defined and then measured for different groups of people over time.
To do this, a group with a similarity is identified (ie.: joined the list on the week of November 17th) and considered against other groups (ie.: joined the list on the week of November 24th). After a certain period of time (ie.: 2 months), the groups' performances are compared. Cohorts can also be formed around other criteria, such as previous purchase history or engagement data.
In the image below, a service with a weekly subscription model is comparing retention rates of members who joined during different weeks. Why is there such a large drop in retention for the second cohort who joined on the week of 11/24/13 when compared to the other two cohorts? Such a report allows the marketer to review the marketing mixes of that cohort specifically to see if anything obvious stands out.
Retention rate of user cohorts based on join date.
Cohort analysis provides a broader view of how differences in experiences create different results. You lose the level of detail that one-channel metrics provide, but you gain that broader view that is essential to understanding cross-channel campaign contribution.
Leveraging the two metrics (match rate and view-through rate) and the two shifts in methodology (multi-channel attribution and cohort analysis) will enable marketers to achieve a higher level of insight into the specific contributions of each channel.
Posted by: Justin Williams at 12:00 AM
November 27, 2013 | Katrina Conn
Here's an article I wrote for MediaPost:
Multichannel strategies have served marketers well by providing multiple channels on which marketers can engage and interact with their customers, such as email, social, web, brick-and-mortar storefronts, mobile and call centers. Typically, these multichannel engagements have happened in a non-integrated manner, with different departments managing different channels, often resulting in siloed, disjointed messaging and responses.
There was a time when that was sufficient, but that’s not now. Today’s consumers are cross-channel to the core, moving seamlessly and simultaneously across all channels to engage with brands. Consumers don’t think or care about which channel they’re on. They care about -- and expect -- convenience and a meaningful experience, whether they’re strolling through a flagship store on Fifth Avenue or browsing new arrivals online after receiving an email notification that the winter 2013 line is just in. It’s time for marketers to evolve to the next level, to make providing a meaningful consumer journey across all channels their top priority, using data intelligence to improve the user experience at each step of the way.
Here are three ways that truly integrated cross-channel marketing can improve your marketing efforts and produce better end results:
1. Data. Here’s where it all begins. Cross-channel marketing strategies focus on the data around customer profiles, preferences, interactions and behavior to improve each consumer engagement. When you can connect your customer profile data with online cookies, social data, website data and online and offline transactions, you end up with a single view of the individual that provides the context and insight you need to create meaningful, personalized experiences for customers across channels.
2. Timing. Nothing is more frustrating than receiving an offer for a product or service that you just bought, and it’s even worse if it’s from the brand you just bought it from. This obvious miss is a symptom of a big disconnect between the data that marketing organizations collect from their customer interactions and the timing and content of the messages that they send at different points along the customer journey. True cross-channel marketing requires the ability to store, view and take action on dynamic data sets; the ability to use insights derived from that data to create, edit and proof targeted content; and the ability to orchestrate the timing of customer interactions across multiple channels. A cross-channel approach encourages marketers to focus less on the independent channel logistics required to deliver the content and more on creating consistent, relevant and timely experiences for customers when and where they engage with your brand.
3. Customer alignment. One of the biggest advantages of a cross-channel marketing approach is that it requires marketers to focus on developing individual customer journeys or experience paths that build upon the most recent customer interaction, regardless of the channel it took place on. This enables marketers to respond based on the customer’s last action, at the right time and on the right channel, based on the consumer’s current need. This approach not only builds brand affinity; that level of attention and service ultimately increases customer loyalty.
If cross-channel marketing were easy, we would all already be enjoying its benefits. Unfortunately, we all know there are no silver bullets. Implementing truly integrated cross-channel marketing requires harnessing breadth and depth of customer interaction data to determine consumer context and orchestrate relevant communications across channels. Once you have that, you will be able deliver truly meaningful experiences aligned to the needs and expectations of today’s fast-moving consumers.
Posted by: Katrina Conn at 12:15 AM
November 19, 2013 | Justin Williams
Here’s an old marketing adage that I’ve relied on as a go-to heuristic for thinking about campaigns:
What determines the success of any marketing approach?
- 40% depends on the audience you target
- 40% depends on the offer you present
- 20% depends on the creative presentation of the offer
The landscape has changed since the first time direct marketers applied this rule to their campaigns. In today’s world, where Present Tense Marketing reigns, does this rule-of-thumb still apply?
What is the new definition of a target audience or list?
A target audience is now defined by more than the traditional demographics that drive mailing lists. It’s more than the size of the marketable list a company possesses.
To be successful, batch messaging should vary depending on information sourced from customer profile data, digital interaction data and other external data, such as weather. Insights from the combination of this data allow a marketer to understand customer context and build a more segmented target audience than before.
For example, say a retailer is preparing to send a 10% promotion for Halloween. In the past, 40% of the success of the campaign would come from identifying “households” with a certain minimum income. Now the retailer leverages annual income along with RFM data by record to serve relevant items along with the 10% off promotion (more pricey decorations to the more active customers and more essential costumes to less engaged customers).
How have offers changed?
The ability to target by leveraging different data sources means that marketers can now create offers that are more timely and relevant. We’ve seen some of these relevant offers (e.g. coupons for customers who’ve abandoned carts or for those who are repeat buyers), but nothing close to what is possible given the wealth of data available. Most of the offers being created today vary only by engagement with the brand or some other simple demographic identifier, such as location.
I believe we haven’t seen more advanced efforts in this area because varying offers by several data points requires a lot of initial investment in defining what will work for whom and a lot of backend work on tracking what actually performs. Attempting to understand how to vary an offer for users by leveraging location, current activity, brand affinity, purchase history and the weather can be overwhelming at first. What’s more, after building such a set of highly targeted offers and running them, how does a marketer begin to understand how to attribute campaign success or failure to which data points? Daunting though it may seem, marketers need to adapt quickly to these new requirements or risk falling behind in the increasingly competitive race for consumer share-of-wallet.
Success in this Present Tense Marketing approach to creating offers requires a new level of commitment to relevancy and data analysis. It’s no longer sufficient to try a 50% vs. BOGO or a month of free service vs. $50 off. It’s no longer sufficient to report on how the entire campaign performed for all targets, or even how it performed with one or two data points considered (e.g. performance by location). A flexible offer approach and a multivariate data analysis mentality must be applied to understand the true benefit that “offer” can bring to a campaign’s success.
What are our creative options today?
Creative is a crutch for most marketers. It’s often the first feature blamed for failure or credited for success. This is because it is the most visible and obvious feature of any campaign. Anyone can see and evaluate the creative. Seeing the target or the offer in the same way requires effort, in the form of systematic analysis and performance reporting.
In the past 4 years, creative enhancement has been the focus of many marketing teams, especially with the growth of mobile device usage. Now that we have so many sources of data available, and now that we’re marketing to a fundamentally different consumer with different requirements, we need to revisit the target and offer parts of the equation with renewed vigor.
Creative shouldn’t be ignored, of course. The growth of responsive templates, real-time email and personalized retargeting ads does contribute to the success of the campaign. Yet “target” and “offer” remain more fundamental contributors to the success of a campaign.
So does the 40-40-20 formula still hold true?
Yes. The advancements in technologies and customer needs have simply changed the way we target, the way we offer and the way we design our creative—for the better.
The marketer’s role in this Present Tense world is, therefore, similar to that of the pre-internet, pre-mobile, pre-big data era. Define a target and create a compelling offer. Then present that offer clearly, and present it in the channels that make the most sense for the target at that time. The difference is that now marketers must be more precise, accurate and timely or risk losing out to competitors who are taking these extra steps to better meet customer needs.
Posted by: Justin Williams at 11:32 AM
November 19, 2013 | Katrina Conn
Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:
The everyday life of consumers is being transformed. Thanks to the mobile devices glued to their hips, consumers are able to access information and take action online anywhere, anytime.
Understanding the behaviors that result from being constantly connected is crucial to reaching and engaging today's on-the-go consumers at their exact time and place of need. The ability to do that – to create consumer experiences that leverage a contextual understanding of the consumer's present state – is what we are calling Present Tense Marketing.
So what are the key behavior traits that define today's consumers?
Are Always Connected
What does always connected mean? The answer is easily demonstrated if you think about when and how you engage with brands and consume content. Whether it's turning on your tablet first thing in the morning to scroll through your favorite sites as you eat breakfast, checking your email to review the latest offers or looking for location-based information on your smartphone while running errands, your daily habits are likely those of an 'always connected' consumer. You seamlessly – and often simultaneously – use multiple channels and multiple devices to engage with your favorite brands. Identifying the how, when, where and why consumers connect with a brand gives marketers the contextual insight to deliver relevant Present Tense communications.
Expect Needs to be Instantly Met
Consumer expectations continue to increase. Word of mouth now travels the world in a flash, whether it's a Facebook post, a Tweet, a Yelp restaurant review or an Amazon.com product review. This can potentially turn any new product launch or brand experience into a positive or negative customer referral that reaches broad audiences. Consumer satisfaction is set and measured by their experience in terms of convenience, service level and relevance to their personal needs. Naturally, we feel disappointed when our expectations are not met. When that happens we look elsewhere for gratification. Each instance of customer disappointment poses a major risk because it means you may have lost not just a single customer, but many potential customers – all thanks to one negative comment online.
Leave Clues – A Trail of Digital Footprints
As I explained in my previous article, digital footprints are the data left by customer interactions that take place within any kind of digital environment. These digital footprints include data about what you clicked on, searched for, Liked, where you went, your location, your IP address, what you said and what was said about you. All this data can and is being used in behavioral and target marketing, personalization, and social media and social graphing. This avalanche of consumer data is the key to understanding a customer's present state, which is the precursor to being able to develop and deliver relevant experiences.
Are Easily Turned Off by Marketing Mistakes
Marketing is more than just advertising or selling. It's about providing an excellent customer experience. How people perceive your business or brand is determined by the image you project regularly, what other consumers say about your brand and the aggregation of an individual customer's personal experiences with your brand. Have you ever received an email offer for a pair of boots you recently looked at online, only to find out that the retailer is sold out of the color advertised? Do you then search other retail sites for the boots you want in the size and color you are looking for? I know I do. Failing to provide relevant and useful information to customers based on their profile, interests and behaviors is one of the biggest marketing mistakes any brand can make. Today's consumers expect more from the brands they favor, and they aren't afraid to look to competitive alternatives when they have unsatisfactory experiences.
Success in today's competitive marketing environment requires understanding these behavior traits and consciously designing your marketing engagements to be the 'always on' brand experience that consumers now demand. By capturing the digital data footprints your customers are leaving behind and using that insight to offer true Present Tense Marketing experiences that meet heightened expectations, you can avoid turning customers off with non-relevant communications that annoy and confuse rather than inform and enable.
How Present Tense is your customer experience?
Posted by: Katrina Conn at 12:30 AM
November 14, 2013 | Amanda Hinkle
Here's an article I wrote for MediaPost:
Lately I’ve been noticing more and more examples of poor cross-channel marketing and just downright bad customer service when it comes to digital transactional messaging.
For example, this week I signed up for a membership to an online personal training/ fitness organization, where I get paired with a personal trainer who develops an exercise and meal plan for me and provides encouragement. Getting started on a fitness regimen before the holidays sounded like a good plan to me!
To begin, I completed a questionnaire asking about dietary and workout preferences. A triggered email stated that my trainer would review the information and deliver my personalized plan within 48 hours. Exciting! In the meantime, I downloaded the company’s application to my smartphone. When I tried to log in, I was met with an error message: password invalid. Thwarted! Okay, I ditched the app and went to log into the website. Same error. What was going on? I tried resetting my password, but kept getting the message “Error: Reset code invalid.” I couldn’t find a phone number on the website, so I was relegated to emailing the company for help.
What I got back was an auto-responder saying that they were looking into my issue. In the meantime, I also received an email that my meal plan and workout program had arrived. Ooh, the temptation! It was like dangling a carrot. The plan had arrived but I couldn’t access it. I was more anxious than before!
One day later, I got an email saying that I needed to follow up my request for help at a specific link -- which led to a page where I needed to log in with my username and password. I emailed back to tell them that I couldn’t log in, and they finally replied with a password reset link. Eureka!
The techie in me wanted to know why the reset link originating from their support desk worked while I couldn’t reset the password myself, but I let it go -- and instead focused on the personalized plan in front of me. I also wanted to learn more about the personal trainer with whom I’d been paired, so I clicked on the link to her bio. "Oops something went wrong. We're looking into the issue and will have a fix soon." Sigh.
After clicking the only button on the error page, "Return Home," I was transferred to the website home page and noticed I had been automatically logged out. I tried to log in again, and you guessed it: my password was invalid. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Marketers have to satisfy the consumer’s demand for precisely targeted and relevant messaging. Taking in factors such as the consumer’s context and motivators are becoming more important to doing this effectively. So where should you start?
Know the Present Tense Context of Your Customer
Your customer is poised to interact with your brand in a variety of ways, via a variety of channels. As in the example above, the customer’s next interaction can change moment to moment based on a number of factors. This is the present-tense context of the customer.
Being aware of this context enables you to respond precisely. It requires listening (taking in interaction and context data) and understanding (modeling the customer state). You must augment prior static models of the customer lifecycle with dynamic processes that continually reassess the customer state.
Act in the Now
A marketer’s understanding of customer context should not be static, but continually evolving. In my case, the brand should not ask me to log in to view my meal and workout plan when my password isn’t working.
In addition to customer data, marketing and technology systems -- as well as external contextual data -- will be necessary to execute programs that can truly meet a customer where she is.
Create Messages that Address a Customer’s Movement and Growth
Acknowledge and address the customer’s current state – but don’t stop there. Plan to send messages in accordance with the natural progression a recipient takes through the customer journey. What should and/or will she do next? This will create a true 1:1 relationship and is the key to a “fully baked” marketing program.
Food for Thought
At the time of writing, I still cannot click to find out more about my trainer, for fear it will invalidate my password. And I am unable to log into the smartphone application, which would make calorie-counting during the day much easier to manage.
This is an excellent example of why marketers should strive to meet a customer exactly where she is in the present moment. Take this as “food for thought” that can seriously impact your bottom line.
Posted by: Amanda Hinkle at 12:45 AM
November 11, 2013 | Justin Williams
As we enter the busy holiday season, email marketers will ramp up send volume, experiment with different offers and push the limits of their databases in an effort to earn a bigger share of the lucrative holiday consumer spend.
Marketers are justified in increasing send volume and varying content in order to drive more purchases during the holiday season. Most shopping occurs during this period of time, so it makes sense that your customers are more likely to buy more often. But this extra effort must be tempered by the threat of spam complaints, unsubscribes and ISP bulking.
Here are six ways to make sure your increased holiday effort doesn’t go too far and have negative consequences.
Respect Volume Limits
ISPs will block and bulk brands that send too many emails, especially if they start sending much more than the ISP is accustomed to seeing from that brand. It's OK to increase your volume, but try not to increase it more than 30% over your normal volume. (For example, if you normally send 4 times a week, don’t increase to more than 5-6 times per week for the same number of recipients).
Practice Good Email List Hygiene
Make sure your feedback loops on unsubscribes and complaints are solid. Make sure it’s easy for someone to unsubscribe from your list. Monitor the messages that cause the most unsubscribes, and adjust your content to make sure you are maintaining relevance for your subscribers. Quickly respond to any issues from any ISP.
Also, investigate suppressing contacts from your mailings if they have not engaged in a certain period of time with your emails. If possible, investigate limiting volume for those users (e.g. once a week instead of 4 times a week, or high-priority emails only, such as Black Friday, instead of all your emails).
Be Careful with Subject Lines
Avoid automatic blocking and user complaints by creating compelling subject lines. Don't fall back on tactics like using all caps, inappropriate punctuation (e.g. ten exclamation points) or trigger words or phrases (e.g. Click here now! Free, free FREE!!!).
Remember that if your subject line doesn’t get an open, your emails become more likely to be bulked. Also remember that a subject line that doesn’t match the content inside the email is more likely to cause complaints.
Mind Your Creative
Make sure you have a good balance of images to text. An email that is all image and no text will raise the wrong kind of attention from ISPs. Also, make sure your code is clean of unnecessary attributes and HTML tags. If you normally create your emails in Word, that's bad. Word adds a lot of unnecessary junk to the code, and spam filters look for that.
Leverage and Respect Your Reputation
You'll find that the best defense against the spam filter in the holiday season is the reputation you've built up over the year. A sender with low complaints can send many times a day with no problem if they've been doing so all year round. Also, be sure you are using one of the many sender authentication methods available (e.g. SPF, DKIM, DMARC, etc.).
Measure Your Deliverability
Last but not least, invest in a tool that allows you to measure inbox deliverability and bulking. Pivotal Veracity and Return Path are two options. These will allow you to proactively identify and react to any issues that arise before they become much larger issues.
Staying out of the spam folder is essential to a successful holiday campaign. If your emails aren’t seen, it doesn’t matter how good your subject line, offer and creative are, since your recipients won’t have the opportunity to respond. The tips above apply to any time of year, but it’s especially important during the holiday season when volume rises and success or failure is amplified.
Posted by: Justin Williams at 2:25 PM
November 07, 2013 | Justin Williams
Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:
Like it or not, the 2013 holiday season is here. Whether this is good news or bad news for your holiday email campaigns depends on your ability to deal with two trends in email marketing: increased volume and inbox foldering.
Not only has annual email volume increased year over year, but each holiday season, there is an additional increase of about 20 percent in the number of marketing emails sent. This means more and more messages are competing for recipient attention in the inbox, especially in November and December.
With the rollout of Gmail Inbox Tabs--the largest implementation of automatic inbox foldering to date--you may be competing for limited attention in a purely promotional inbox. Even if Gmail users represent a small percentage of your list, the inbox foldering trend is only going to grow, so if you're not feeling a need to adjust your strategy now, you will soon.
I laid out a framework for getting email opens in two previous articles: first, get attention; then, drive action. To get attention, you'll need to stand out among the other messages competing for your recipients' eyes and mind.
Getting Attention in a Crowded Email Inbox Tab
Attention is concentration on one item while excluding other items. In cognitive science (the study of the brain and thought processes), the brain grants concentration in one of two ways. Understanding these two different mechanisms by which the brain gives focus to things will help inform how your subject lines can stand out, especially in highly competitive environments.
- While using the first mechanism, the brain is searching for a specific thing, and those items that are noticed match in some way the mental concept that is being searched for. This mechanism is known as goal-directed or top-down.
- In the second mechanism, called exploratory, the brain is running on automatic, searching for sets of stimuli to trigger a goal-oriented search or other information that could be important about the environment (ie.: the sudden appearance of a spider).
When looking at an inbox, most brains will be in goal-oriented mode, looking for important items that require their attention. In goal-oriented mode, the more similar other stimuli (subject lines and from names) are to the target object (your subject line), the less likely your target object is to stand out and get attention. You want to make your subject line stand out visually from the other subject lines as much as possible. This will increase the chances that it will be the subject line that captures your recipients' attention.
Tips for Stand-Out Subject Lines
How can you make your subject lines stand out? Here are a few suggestions:
- Many brands highlight offers in their subject lines. Be different and tease something else in your email to get the open, and then highlight the offer inside the email.
- Subject lines average about 50 characters. Try going shorter. True, some studies indicate longer subject lines receive higher open rates, but several other studies show no correlation. The point here is not to be long or short, but different than everyone else so that your subject line stands out.
- Icons in subject lines may help. Just don't forget that once you get the email open, you need a click through to make the open valuable, so don't be ridiculous. (Also, don't do this every time. Read on to the end to find out why.)
As inbox foldering becomes more common, strategies to increase the salience of your subject line compared to others become even more important, since the context in which your subject is viewed (i.e. a tab specifically for marketing emails) means that the neighboring subject lines are more similar than they would be in a general inbox.
Standing Out to Recipients in Exploratory Mode
Now, the exploratory mechanism is a little less related to our case, but still somewhat relevant. The exploratory mechanism--literally localized in a different part of the brain than the goal-oriented mechanism--has the job of discarding a lot of stimuli and only granting attention to the stimuli it deems most important to survival and success.
In order to do it's job effectively, this part of the brain must efficiently filter out things it recognizes as being inconsequential (i.e.: the familiar).
Remember the first time you went into a new building or moved into a new place, and every little thing caught your attention? That old nail on the wall, the color of the paint, the way the door opened. At first, your brain doesn't know what's important and what's not in this new environment, so it pays attention to all of it. Once you've gained some familiarity, you don't pay attention to all those little things, unless someone calls your attention to it and you go into the goal-oriented mode.
In a similar way, recipients become habituated to your emails over time. If your from name is consistent (good) and your subject line always has the same structure (not as good), your recipient is less likely to even grant attention to your email much less engage with it. That's why using icons in your email subject lines might result in great open rates initially, but if you use icons consistently, recipients will become familiarized to this style of subject line, causing inbox attention (and thus open rates) to decline.
To stand out to recipients browsing in the exploratory mode, you need to continuously switch it up:
- If you've always sent short subject lines, next time send long ones, or vice versa.
- If your subject lines always include a "10% off" or some other offer, try excluding that next time.
- If your subject lines always start with the same phrase, exclude that phrase.
The above suggestions are but a few ways in which you can go about garnering recipient attention in the competitive holiday inbox.
Remember: in order to stand out, your email subject lines need to be both visually different from your competitors and from your own previous subject lines. So this holiday season, take a chance on something different-you may find it's more effective than you expected.
Posted by: Justin Williams at 9:04 AM
October 23, 2013 | Katrina Conn
Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:
Do you know what type of data trail you're leaving behind, or what your digital footprint says about you?
Just this week, the FX network premiered the third season of American Horror Story: Coven. It's not rooted in reality, obviously, but Jessica Lange's character had one line that really resonated in this era of digital trails: "In this day and age of Facebook and Twitter, do you really think that we won't be persecuted for anything that we do--which will be recorded and uploaded for millions to see?" That question struck me.
We all know that digital footprints are made up of the data left behind by people's interactions in any kind of digital environment. This includes, but certainly isn't limited to, the internet, mobile phones, tablets, other connected devices and sensors.
These ‘digital footprints' include data about what you clicked on, searched for, Liked, where you went, your location, your IP address, what you said, what was said about you and more. The data can and is being used in behavioral and target marketing, personalization, and social media and social graphing.
What can digital footprints tell you?
They help paint the ever-changing contextual state of the consumer, which marketers can then use to identify the preferences, interests and needs of a consumer, in order to deliver relevant content that reaches the consumer at their point of need.
Whether you're a governor, mayor, military personnel or consumer, for better or worse, we live in the age of email, texting, blogging and social networking. From a customer perspective, consumers leave "breadcrumbs" that give details that surround their digital interaction data, including:
- Channel Engagement
- Device & OS
With social media, we can follow the imaginings, opinions, ideas and feelings of hundreds of millions of people. We can see the images and video they create and comment on, monitor conversations they are engaged in, read their blog posts and tweets, navigate their maps, listen to their track lists and even follow their trajectories in physical space.
Other ways that these breadcrumbs are left behind have to deal with some or any of the following profile data:
- Purchase History
- Lifecycle Stage
- Content Preferences
In email, digital footprints give insight into click activity, enabling marketers to infer interests. Maybe a recipient has signed up or registered for a particular promotion, or shown a level of interest by browsing a certain product or service offering.
For mobile, maybe a user is showrooming with a particular device which might make comparison shopping and/or purchasing quick and easy (for those of us always on the go). The point is this: we all have and leave a digital footprint. It's thanks to these interaction trails that marketers are able to create personalized communications for customers who have browsed their site, downloaded an application, completed surveys or abandoned shopping carts.
Will digital footprints go away? Not likely. The challenge is how to capture, visualize and take action on the data gathered from digital interactions and combine it with profile data, to create an even more accurate picture of real-time customer needs in order to deliver contextually relevant marketing communications.
As marketers, do we see this process as intuitive? As consumers, do we see it as creepy? These are the types of questions we all need to address in the day and age of Facebook and Twitter.
Posted by: Katrina Conn at 9:16 AM
October 21, 2013 | Amanda Hinkle
Here's an article I wrote for MediaPost:
I recently attended a digital retail conference and was reminded of something I just love about industry events: networking! Conferences are a great way to connect with industry experts and get plugged into what businesses are doing to support their marketing regime.
A vendor invited me to attend his company’s evening cocktail event, encouraging event registration via SMS. I thought, why not? All it involved was texting my email address to an SMS short code.
This is not yet a commonly used tactic, but it could be a useful one. Here are some tips for promoting event attendance with SMS:
Ensure the registration confirmation contains helpful information in a text-friendly format. After texting my email address to the SMS short code, I immediately received a text back with a few key pieces of information: the event description, location, an add-to-calendar link and a (URL-shortened) link to the event landing page. These all should be a “must have” when using SMS to promote your events. You can even consider a link to a maps function so registrants can get driving directions, but remember that context is important. In my case, registrants were coming from a conference and thus were likely to take cabs. Therefore, since we’re working with a limited amount of text space, it’s okay to save the maps link for the landing page.
Mobile-optimize the registration Web page. If you’re going to allow individuals to register via SMS, you had better make sure that any landing page is optimized for the mobile consumer. This is where my experience started to fall short. The registration page had lots of good information, but the copy was too small to read. Additionally, I could see that there were form fields requesting some type of information, but the wording was so small that I couldn’t decipher what they were requesting me to input. It turns out they were asking for basic details like name, title, company and contact information – the most important info for follow-up. Lesson learned: Be sure to look at the entire user experience (across email, social, SMS and Web) and make sure it enables users to take the actions you’re asking for in the easiest manner possible.
Have a plan to notify registrants in case of event changes. Unfortunately, in my case, it turned out that the texted registration confirmation contained incorrect information right from the get-go. The event time was off by an hour, and believe it or not, the physical address of the event was incorrect as well!
These are mistakes that can be easily caught with a little campaign quality assurance before it goes live. However, this example brings up another common scenario in which the time, location or some other crucial piece of information about your event will change. What’s your plan for informing your event registrants? You’d better have one, or your attendees will be left feeling jilted.
When the event details change may play a part in how you respond. If the event is not for another few days, there are several options. But let’s pretend the event is this evening and there’s a change in plans – what now? Your text messages are being sent through an automated system. Will you be able to have someone log into your SMS technology provider and make updates? This will resolve the situation for those who have not yet registered, but what about those who already have? You still need a way to contact them with the updated event details. Sending a text, email or link to the updated landing page are all possibilities. Your options may be more limited if you are on the go or if it’s after business hours and your company’s office is closed. Therefore, make sure to hash out the plan before you are in crisis mode to determine your course of action if event details change.
Remember to follow through. We’ve jumped over some hurdles, alerted our attendees to the updated event details, and we’re now sitting back sipping cocktails at the networking event. What now? After all the rush, don’t forget to find out who actually attended your event. You will want to follow up with those who made it (and those who didn’t) when the event is over. Contact them afterward with a review of the event highlights and additional information about your company.
Particularly for organizations exhibiting at a conference, using SMS registration can be very effective in situations when potential attendees are on the go and spontaneously deciding how to spend their evening. Just make sure your SMS programs are well-thought-out and tested, so you’re not alone at the event sipping cocktails by yourself.
Posted by: Amanda Hinkle at 9:08 AM
October 14, 2013 | Katrina Conn
Here's an article I wrote for GigaOM:
Marketing is always most effective when it is delivered with something else of value. If you open your postal mailbox and its nothing but ads, you tend to throw the whole bunch away. But, if one offer comes along with other interesting pieces of mail or if it includes something valuable like a gift card or a coupon, you tend to give it more attention.
The same goes for email. One marketing message that sits alongside emails from friends and family is much more likely to be looked it or at least considered. That’s why Google’s new Gmail layout, with the addition of Gmail Tabs, is causing such a stir within the marketing industry. It limits the opportunity for marketers to deliver their messages alongside other valued messages.
Even if a customer has signed up to get messages from their favorite brands, they are still getting funneled by Gmail Tabs into the new Promotions tab, unless the user moves them into their Primary tab. This new paradigm requires marketers to think and act differently.
In case you haven’t yet changed over to Gmail Tabs as a subscriber, it essentially involves Google assigning categories to your mail and putting it into pre-labeled folders or tabs. These tabs include Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums. Users can choose to show all or just some of these Tabs, but they cannot personalize them. In the past few short months, marketers are already struggling with the sea change that Gmail Tabs brings to their efforts to reach consumers.
On the flip side, Google has said that Gmail Tabs will allow users to take back control of their inbox and bolster user productivity within Gmail. Though Google’s rationale may or may not be in line with consumers’ wishes, and users still have the option to not use Tabs, Google has inevitably changed the game for marketers trying to reach the roughly 425 million Gmail users.
So what does this mean for companies? Do consumers feel like they are missing out on promotions that would have otherwise been seen in the old Gmail inbox?
A survey of the new Gmail Tabs layout by my company gave some surprising insights. We asked nearly 5,000 consumers their attitudes toward the switch to Gmail Tabs inbox view. About 40 percent of respondents say they now spend less time with promotional messages from their favorite brand, while only 7 percent of users say they spend more time with promotions. This large percentage of respondents revealing they don’t spend as much time with their favorite brands shows that marketers must up their game.
Google’s decision to go to the Gmail Tabs format has been more warmly welcomed by young millennials, who find Gmail Tabs useful and are changing their behavior accordingly. Fifty percent of 18-24 year olds find that Gmail Tabs make it easier to manage their inboxes and 100 percent say they have not lost any emails from their favorite brands.
However, marketers should note that over 38 percent do say that they have less interaction with promotional emails than with the old Gmail platform. The survey also found that while 34 percent of Gmail users check their promotional tab once a day or more, 15 percent check less than once a day and a startling 46 percent check less than once a week. The remaining 5 percent check it infrequently or never.
Gmail Tabs has created two challenges for marketers. The first is that eye-catching subject lines won’t be the main influencer for consumers anymore, unless the consumer is looking in the Promotions Tab. Secondly, timing is now up in the air, at least for a significant percentage of folks on Gmail. Almost half of consumers may not see the message until a week later.
So now, marketers have two main goals: not only to get their consumer to seek out their email in the Promotions Tab, but to go beyond the inbox and reach the consumer at every relevant touch point.
When 61 percent of Gmail users check their promotional tab less than once a day, email just can’t be the only way we connect with consumers. To continue to get coveted results from email, you must weave email into a broader strategy involving many different channels. Marketers can educate customers on how to direct messages from their favorite brands to the Primary Tab. Making a message stand out in the inbox is also more critical than ever with strategies like personalizing subject lines and using attention-grabbing language. Given that messages may not be read right away, marketers should consider using real-time dynamic content so that it’s fresh at the moment it’s read rather the moment it’s sent.
But, perhaps, most marketers need to earn their spot in the Primary Tab. They must be important and relevant so that customers want to read their messages. Gmail Tabs is just one of many hurdles marketers will face as consumers become more sophisticated and demanding in the way they like their marketing. It is better for marketers to step up their game now.