The top strategies for digital marketing success in 2018

Charming today’s entitled consumers will be the key challenge for marketers next year.

To make inroads, they need to create truly tailor-made experiences and mobile-first engagement and leverage the value of owned channels.

Mega Trend – Artificial Intelligence

2018 will see artificial intelligence (AI) advance from cutting edge technology to status quo. Built into audience engagement platforms, AI will bring new levels of relevance into automatically delivered content, help marketers to recognise the most engaging channel and present a contextually relevant message to match a consumer’s real-time situation.

AI will be used to rollout prediction-based shopping recommendations, location-specific offers, and AI-powered chat conversations – to site a but a few usages.

Currently, 13% of organisations have already adopted AI (Spiceworks) and the number is even higher in large organisations with over 1,000 employees, where 30 % are already on board with AI and 25% plan to join in 2018.

1.      “Hyper” personalisation

With permission from data-savvy consumers, brands are mining rich data footprints from online user behaviour and leveraging it into new and exciting ways to further adapt to specific user needs.

And, as new biometric technologies and access becomes the norm, spearheaded by facial recognition on the latest Apple iPhone, consumers can expect brands to rush to create tailor-made, customised brand experiences in 2018.

2.      Live and kicking

Video streaming accounts for 75% of online traffic (KPCB) and live videos offer the maximum value for marketers right now. The numbers are clear: consumers spend 300% more time watching live video over pre-recorded content (Facebook), and 82% of consumers prefer branded live video over other social media formats (LiveStream). Just be sure to trigger mobile alerts (see 4.) when a live event is about to happen.

3.      Crystal clear data collection

Consumers are willing to share personal data for better experiences but brands need to keep it under wraps. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union comes into effect on May 2018 and further raises the bar on data safety (read also our guide to Marketing Data Privacy).

GDPR affects brands even beyond EU borders, and instead of dreading GDPR, brands can use it to strengthen customer relationships. With its built-in Accountability Principle, GDPR presents an opportunity to win customers’ trust – and outperform the competition – by creating transparent data collection policies. Data breaches like the recent Equifax hack (Sept 2017) are today’s Exxon Valdez-style PR-disasters.

4.      Mobile-first engagement

Convenience and frictionless customer experiences are a must for engaging consumers today and marketers are responding by leveraging mobile message integration to deliver convenience at every step of the consumer journey.

Delivered via Whatsapp, Line, Wechat, GroupMe, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, and good old text messages, over 69% of digital media engagement occurs using mobile devices (ComScore), so it’s a no-brainer.

With that being the case, marketers need to design mobile-first journeys anchored by micro-moments in real-time. The main barrier? Earning opt-in for notifications and location sharing and using them wisely.

5.      Creating a niche

Shouting marketing messages from the rooftops is so 2008. In 2018, big brands are finding value in cornering niche audiences that may be small in size but high in engagement and loyalty.

Targeting these well-informed consumers with relevant content will be key in continuing these positive relationships.

6.      Paid social media

The days of boundless (and unpaid) audience engagement on social media are over. With Facebook clamping down on organic reach, marketers need to allocate budgets to pay for boosting posts or getting on Facebook’s News Feed.

Creativity will also pay off in 2018 – whether it’s attracting audiences with live video events or finessing Ads in Facebook Messenger.

2018 is all about blending in with native ads, including search advertisements, sponsored listings, advertorials, recommended content, or seamlessly integrated display ads. Premium native ads not only play nicely with publishers’ websites, but they also deliver 400% higher click-through-rates (CTRs) on mobile devices than regular display ads (Polar). The key to it all? Delivering relevant, hyper-personalized experiences across all channels, powered by real-time consumer intelligence.

7.      Returning to owned media

With social media and mobile notifications updating consumers on new content, it’s becoming less important where content is published. If content is searchable, relevant, and useable – users will find it. 2018 may actually see brands extract more value from publishing on their owned properties such as brand websites, e-commerce platforms, blogs, and mobile apps than on third-party sites.

There are three reasons powering this shift:

First, content on owned property will by nature “live” where conversion (online shopping portals, etc.) is just a click away.

Second, owned properties support consumer-specific personalization, for instance dynamic websites adjusted according to purchase history or path-to-site.

And third, all that behaviour and preference data will belong to the owners, not a third-party app or social platform.

– by Christopher Baldwin

Google on top again as search beats social on referral traffic

According to research by content marketing platform Shareaholic, search outpaced social in the percentage of overall traffic that it delivered in 2017. This reverses a trend of social dominance that began in 2014.

The analytic platform looked at externally referred traffic from over 400 million internet users and 250,000 mobile and desktop sites. A year ago site visitors were more likely to be referred from social networks, but search seems to have made a comeback in 2017.

Search drove 35% of site visits in 2017 compared to 26% from social. Shareaholic consider the changes to the Facebook news feed algorithims to be a major factor in the shift over the last 12 months.

Another important factor is that search engines are indexing more and more social content and including it within their rankings and results pages. This means that internet users are increasingly finding social content being aggregated by search engines, rather than only being accessible through searches on individual social media networks.

This has seen Google reclaim their place as the world’s foremost referrer of traffic.

Facebook drops

With regards to the social media networks themselves, the biggest change overall was Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg’s site’s share of visits dropped a pretty significant 12.7% in the second half of 2017. The site has had a bumpy year, with the anger over its potential role in the US election continues to simmer and the major changes made to what content it displays on its news feed.

Facebook users are also spending 5% less time on the site, although they are spending more time watching Facebook Live broadcasts and watching video. Because video and live streaming tend to link out to less other pages, this could be a big factor in the big drop in referrals.

Pinterest and Instagram are the biggest profiteers of Facebook’s drop. Instagram in particular has double its user base in the past two years, while Pinterest has seen a 1.5% percentage point increase in share of visits year on year. The sites success is built on the fact that its 200 million monthly active users have saved over a 100 billion Pins, all of which provide opportunities to drive traffic to an external source.

The thing that links Instagram and Pinterest is that the are both heavily focused on images, indicating that image sharing is an important element of distributing and driving traffic to content and product pages.

– by Colm Hebblethwaite

How store locators can work wonders for your SEO

Creating a mutually complementary in-store and online presence is one of the biggest marketing challenges retailers with websites and brick-and-mortar stores face. All too often, they exist as separate entities, battling for custom rather than working together to enhance customer experience.

One of the most effective ways for retailers, restaurant chains, hotels and service providers to bridge the gap between the physical and the online is to add a store locator to their website. That makes it much easier for online browsers to find their nearest outlets, turning online traffic into footfall in stores.

But many businesses don’t make their store locators work as hard as they should. These days, next-generation store locators from developers likeBRIDGE can be optimised to attract internet traffic in their own right.

In this article, we’re going to look at the key advantages of a store locator in terms of the SEO of your site and introduce some best practice tips for optimising your store locator content.

Why optimise your store locator content?

Optimising your store locator content is a job that’s well worth doing when you consider the potential rewards:

Improved visibility

Optimised store locator content can improve local search by boosting the rankings and ultimately the visibility of each store in the search engine results pages.

Local search is any search aimed at finding something within a specific geographic area, for example: “coffee shops in Shoreditch”. It’s conservatively estimated that 40 percent of all search is made with local intent. That means you could miss out on a huge amount of traffic if you don’t have location-specific pages for your stores.

Cut out the middleman

There are lots of business directory sites and online yellow pages like Yelp that contain location-specific information about hotels, restaurants and stores. If you don’t have location-specific content then these are the results that are likely to show in the search engine results pages when browsers search for your specific store locations.

The trouble is that these sites often contain outdated information and even negative reviews that could prompt prospective customers to go elsewhere.

Branded content gets a boost

The major search engines, particularly Google, give preferential rankings to brand name sites for location-specific searches if they can find relevant local content. If you create optimised content for each location, it’s likely you’ll outrank other sites, boosting site traffic and improving the overall user experience.

How can you improve your store locator SEO?

In our view, the benefits of optimising your store locator content are quite compelling, particularly given the potential rewards for what is relatively quick work. But what simple steps can you take to optimise your store locator for local search?

Include the right links – You must include links to all of the store location pages that the search engines can easily follow. This allows them to be indexed so they can appear in the search engine results pages. If you have multiple locations in certain cities, you may even have to generate a hierarchy of pages to link out to all your stores.

Create a page for each store – Ideally, you will have a standalone page for each and every store. This will ensure the content is hyper-relevant to that city, postcode and local area.

Write unique content – You need to make sure the content on every store page is as unique as possible. It should contain things like contact details, opening and closing hours as well as information relating to any promotions or offers that are specific to that store.

Write title tags and meta descriptions – Every page needs a unique title tag and meta description. The title tag should include the business type, city name and brand name without exceeding 60 characters. The meta description should contain a short description of each location and a direct call-to-action, at a maximum of 300 characters.

Include images – Ask the manager of each store to take a picture of their storefront which you can upload. People love images. We can form impressions immediately from images that might take several minutes to create by text. They also make it easier for customers to find your store.

Get links from other local sites – If individual stores are involved in the local community, are members of business networks or support local charities, requesting links from local sites to the store’s location specific page is an excellent way to build its authority and boost its visibility in the search engine results page.

Let’s get optimising!

Many businesses fail to see just how beneficial store locators can be when it comes to SEO. Yes, they are an effective way to drive online traffic to your stores, but they can also be a valuable source of traffic in their own right, allowing your stores to market their products and services directly to new and existing customers.

– by Vincent Naigeon

Customer experience management top strategic priority for 2018/19

A global survey of 13,000 marketing, creative and technology professionals has found that customer experience management has emerged as the top strategic priority for businesses in the coming year.

The findings were published by Adobe and Econsultancy as part of the former’s Digital Trends report for 2018. 45% of respondents ranked customer experience as one of their three most important tasks in the next 12 months, with 20% listing it as their primary strategic focus.

Many think that they are on their way to achieving that goal, with 62% claiming that they have a “cohesive plan”, as well as long-term vision and executive support for making it happen. The report suggests that one of the keys to building effective customer experiences is creating cross collaboration between creative, content, marketing and web teams.

Those businesses that employ tools to facilitate streamlined workflows between different business functions are 62% more likely to show better business performance. 43% of respondents, however, reported that their current tech set-up is fragmented and inconsistent.

Intelligent planning

AI is seen as a key driver of customer experience execution, particularly in large enterprises, where 24% said they are making investments in the technology. The push towards AI adoption is often coming from the top of organisations. 57% of the c-suite respondents said that their companies were already using AI, or planning to.

There remain significant skills gaps in a large number of organisations. 40% or organisations currently lack the AI knowledge or resources that they need to make their plans a reality.

“Digital means that customers now have more power to engage with brands in their own terms,” John Watton, Senior Marketing Director, Adobe, said.

“This has changed the way companies interact with their customers, who expect great experiences as standard. For businesses that put the customer at the centre of everything they do, it’s clear the investments are paying off. But customer experience cannot just be the remit of marketing or customer services; it must be driven through every function of the organisation, from marketing and IT to product development and design. By breaking down organisational silos and using data and AI to combine analytical insight with design and creative capabilities, brands can offer stand-out experiences across every interaction.”

– by Colm Hebblethwaite

Journey analytics show the customer experience through a different lens

Marketing directors can’t make decisions in a vacuum. They need information about their customers, their channels and all the touchpoints that help them to connect with each other. How can they deliver what the customer wants unless they can see through the customer’s lens?

Customer interactions with a brand are now defined as their ‘journey’ and it is insight into that journey that helps organisations to plan product roadmaps or launch new services. McKinsey calls it ‘journey analytics’: the combination of big data technology, advanced analytics, and functional expertise, which come together to develop a comprehensive view of the end-to-end customer journey that gives marketing departments all the information they need.

Journey analytics captures customer feedback from everywhere, doing the hard work in bringing together the ways in which customers engage, what they are trying to accomplish and where there are areas of friction that need ironing out. Their journey can be seen clearly, and shared across the company so that changes can be made and ideas implemented with confidence.

Using analytics to enhance the customer journey is a process that can be taken in stages. Here is an introduction in five steps:

1. Gather the data

When customers interact with a brand they leave clues about their levels of satisfaction and engagement that can be acted upon by marketers.

If you think about the number of touchpoints, from loyalty programme information and purchase behaviour through to online reviews, social media references and conversations with customer service representatives in contact centres, these interactions deliver data that helps marketers to visualise the customer’s journey, assess their responses and uncover sentiment.

The smallest detail can reveal the most interesting finding, and as the data accumulates across all of these areas, it provides an accurate, and often unexpected perspective.

2. Reshape Customer Feedback

Data relating to customer interactions is both quantitative and qualitative. Structured quantitative data, which might include when the customer last purchased from a brand, how old they are, where they live and the products they most frequently buy, together with qualitative feedback, such as the unstructured voice of the customer needs to be married together. This requires Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology. This transforms the unstructured information into something that can be analysed. NLP can reveal a customer’s sentimental response and spot discord based on how, and how often, the customer talks about the experience.

Sentiment analytics have the power to ascertain what customers like or what they don’t, and more importantly, why. It is the difference between quantitative data that informs a company that their customer service is rating 6 out of 10, and qualitative data that explains why, and it enables specific issues to be addressed with accurate information. This delivers the ‘moments of truth’ that for marketers are akin to the holy grail.

3. Analyse Customer Data in a High-Level Journey

Now it’s time to place the data into logical journey touchpoints. A retailer, for example, could segment the data for the “Purchase Online” journey as follows: Research products available ➔ Open Account ➔ Select delivery options ➔ Pay for Goods ➔ Establish Online Connectivity. There would then be lots more steps, but maintaining a high-level allows marketers to place all data related to that area in one bucket to determine which areas to drill into.

This enables the emotional high and low points to be assessed using customer sentiment as they move through the journey, and focus on extreme areas of positive and negative sentiment. A robust analytics solution will help marketers to include actual customer comments, such as those delivered to contact centre staff, in the charts that are produced, and which can be elevated to board-level.

This way, the company can see representative and statistically relevant comments in context rather than just anecdotal pieces of information that don’t accurately portray the bigger issues.

4. Take action

Of course, there’s no point in marketers doing any of this unless they then show their team, and the extended company, how to set a path to improvement, the reasons for doing it, and the key objectives. Interactive dashboards on analytics solutions allow marketers to illustrate the impact that all stakeholders have on the customer journey. This is empowering, helping to drive communication and process improvements, system enhancements, and policy changes. The insights can be easily consumed and deliver contextual understandings of trends. Interactive dashboards also allow for real-time root cause analytics that throw light onto issues being faced by customers. With this information, marketers can work with other departments to manage these issues and reduce the necessity for customers to call back into the contact centre.

5. Avoid pitfalls

As with any tool, unless journey analytics are used properly, they will not deliver. Forrester Research has said that this happens when journey analytics are used in one of three ways:

·         to validate assumptions instead of to discover;

·         in a silo, instead of throughout the enterprise;

·         and as a one-off project instead of a as a change management tool.

Analytics should be fed with both qualitative and quantitative insights and with feedback from multiple sources so the results are based on how the customer actually interacts with the brand across all channels.  Most importantly, the data should be shared on a regular basis with the key stakeholders via dynamic dashboards. And marketers should not forget, customer journey mapping too often ignores the unstructured feedback provided by customers, so customer testimonials, verbatim comments and what customers say to contact centre customer service reps in conversation, is vital.

By following these steps and implementing the right tools, journey analytics can become the lens through which a marketer views the customer’s journey and experience. When implementing this, it is important to map customer statistical data (demographic and behavioural) with the customer voice, their feedback and friction points. When this is done, it is possible to improve the parts of the business that matter most to customers.

– by Fabrice Martin

The customer journey: A smooth path?

How many of us follow the same purchasing habits today as we did even five years ago? Very few. How many businesses rely on the same sales and marketing approach as they did five years ago?

More than you would think.

In the rapidly evolving digital era, the rules have been (and are still being) fundamentally rewritten. It used to be the supplier who created interest in their products and services, pushing out information and offers as part of lead generation campaigns. But now it is the consumer who is firmly in charge of their journey to purchase.

Of course, the availability of online information is at the root of this crucial shift in power. People prefer to ‘self-educate’ and decide when, where and how they interact with potential suppliers. Company websites, peer review sites, comparison tools and social media all play a role; indeed businesses that neglect social media platforms (and there are lots that still do) slam the door on commercial opportunities, and harm their reputation.

An overarching trend within the new customer journey is the growing appetite for authentic, personalised and emotional engagement with brands, especially in the realm of social media. A recent article by Forbesstated that 62% of Millennials “are more likely to become brand loyal if a company engages with them, sincerely, on social media.” There is still a role for brand promotion, but the balance between promotion and engagement must be carefully considered.

So, what are the six key stages of the new customer journey, and how can you optimise each opportunity?

1. Awareness

Brand awareness is crucial, so that your prospects have you in mind when they commence their research. Building awareness requires a nuanced understanding of your audience – such as which channels they use, their frequent pain points and typical needs. For certain sectors and channels, well-planned and executed brand promotion, such as paid advertising, will reap rewards. But as we introduced earlier, engagement via user-published and shared content often works better today than overt promotion.

Whether you are undertaking engagement or promotion work, it is vital to establish an integrated content strategy that encompasses digital and traditional media so that your messages and communications are consistent, informative and searchable across all channels. You should structure this strategy around a content calendar, so you don’t end up having to resort to ad hoc social media updates that don’t fit into a wider plan.

2. Interest

Awareness is not the same thing as interest. Once you’ve encouraged prospects to visit your website, blogs or social media, you need to analyse their initial interaction so you can glean information to inform your next move. Which touchpoints did they use? What content did they download? Web and social media monitoring tools can help to map prospects’ behaviours and preferences.

Engagement at this stage is crucial. On social media, encourage users to communicate with you by asking for questions and feedback. Endeavour to create a human connection with your prospects.

Providing helpful FAQs, downloadable information or easy to complete online surveys encourages would-be customers to engage with you. By completing a form or similar, people share information with your business about what they are interested in, giving you an opportunity to better understand their preferences and pave the way to that all-important sale.

3. Consideration

Today’s consumer is likely to verify your claims through a range of means, which is where peer reviews come in, and they may consult press articles, watch demo videos or read blogs. Improving your visibility and customer reviews on the right channels will help you to transition prospects to the next stage. Over 80% of consumers seek peer referrals before making a purchase.

Visual content works particularly well on social media as it stands out on social feeds. Any content should lead the prospect back to the information they need to help them make an informed purchasing decision.

4. Purchase

Purchase in the bag, it remains vital to analyse your customer’s behaviour and to deliver an excellent buying experience. Knowing which channels were used to make the purchase, how long it took and how satisfied your customers were, can be invaluable information to help you to improve the experience for other customers. At this stage you are laying the foundations for repeat purchases and long-term loyalty.

5. Retention

The average cost of new customer acquisition is on the rise; so it pays to hold on to your existing ones! Yet it is easier than ever for customers to ‘switch’.  Post-sale engagement activities can include sending further value propositions, product of service updates via email or offering compelling content on your website, blog or social media. Being aware of any problems at an early stage is also crucial; catch up meetings or calls can pre-empt this.

6. Advocacy

Consider how you can build loyalty and deliver ongoing value to your customers, for instance by regular account reviews, rewarding loyalty with promotional offers or by extra training, product add-ons and user videos. Customers love sharing good experiences – so ask them to write reviews, case studies or testimonials that can be used for PR, blogs, email marketing or website posts. On social media, keep engaged with loyal customers – those are the ones who are more likely to share your content.

Demonstrating that you have happy customers who are willing to be brand ambassadors is the ultimate way of encouraging more to embark on their journey to purchase.

In our experience, companies of all sizes are recognising the scale of the commercial rewards to be gained by understanding – and adapting confidently to – the new customer journey. Taking action now to update your customer engagement processes, supported by the right technology, will help to supercharge your growth and unlock the true potential of your business.

– by Mike Richardson

How to spend a limited digital marketing budget in 2018/19

It’s an important objective imposed on marketers every single year – how best to squeeze every drop out of the annual budget.

Even industry professionals who, on paper, have more cash to splash, are still pressed to make their spend go further. And then there are those less fortunate of course, who have their budgets cut whilst the targets remain as competitive as ever.

So, whichever scenario you find yourself in, if you’re faced with a ‘limited budget’, what should the focus be in 2018/19?

If there isn’t enough money available to delve into every digital marketing channel, where should the priority lie?

The important thing to note is that it is possible to be effective, even when constrained by the purse strings. It all boils down to being clear about objectives and results.

Measurement

Before any money is spent on digital marketing, it is crucial to ensure the right measurement tools are in place – it’s impossible to optimise what you can’t measure.

So, set up Google Analytics if you haven’t already (and if you have a web partner on board that hasn’t done this for you, start the alarm bells ringing!) If you’re running an ecommerce site, GA should be tracking sales too, and on B2B websites, GA’s events and goals functionality will help to start analysing traffic conversion effectiveness.

It’s not just about Google though. Tools like Hotjar offer great insight into what users are doing on your website, for instance, which will help further down the line.

Start using a CRM

Another important consideration – particularly for marketers within B2B brands – CRM systems don’t have to cost the earth. Zoho is an affordable cloud-based solution for example, which will help establish a lead to sale conversion rate.

In the long run, such a metric helps measure the sales process all the way through the funnel, and therefore the underlying effectiveness of the marketing activity.

Don’t ignore lifetime value

An optional step before unleashing a digital marketing campaign, is to calculate lifetime value (LTV). By calculating what a customer is ‘worth’ over the duration of their relationship with your brand, it is possible to establish a more accurate cost per acquisition – in other words how much you can afford to spend per lead.

There are simple and complicated ways to arrive at such metrics – when time is tight a straightforward LTV is better than nothing.

Starting spending

A marketer can often make the most effective spend decisions when armed with reams of historical data, with which to compare new campaign ‘success’ to. In the absence of this data, it’s important to test channels and see which combinations are, ultimately, the most effective.

But the more limited the budget, the greater the need to be selective during this somewhat iterative process. With that in mind, and based on what is most likely to achieve the best bang for your buck, the following priorities should be given to marketing spend over the next year:

1. Conversion rate optimisation (CRO)

Marketing effectiveness can be assessed in terms of generating more website traffic or converting a greater proportion of existing traffic. Why not start with the latter? Even in the absence of any digital marketing activity whatsoever, a website should attract some visitors, so it makes more commercial sense to try to get more from them.

CRO can be very complicated, but in the interest of keeping things simple, ask yourself: ‘Do we have clear and obvious calls to action (CTAs) on our website?’

Then consider whether you could introduce softer CTAs. For B2B sites, a brochure download will always out-convert a quote request for example – you’re simply generating leads at a different stage of the user journey.

In ecommerce, start with the basics, e.g. do the product pages clearly tell a user all they need to know? More importantly, is it easy to buy?

There are tons of tiny changes you can introduce to make a site work better. Simple things like making buttons look like buttons and shortening contact forms as much as possible. Use session data from systems like Hotjar to review user experience (UX) and ensure results are measured following the implementation of tweaks.

Assuming the website is generating leads or sales at a healthy conversion rate (2% as a rough rule of thumb), then try to secure more traffic.

2. Paid search

From shopping campaigns and re-marketing, to text ads on Google and Bing, there is so much potential with paid search, at virtually any budget level.  There is usually a minimum baseline though – if you can’t afford to send enough traffic to generate a lead or sale, it will be difficult to achieve a return. But that’s where the LTV calculation will help – is it worthwhile bidding up knowing a client is likely to come on board for 12-18 months, for example?

3. Organic

Sometimes people refer to this as ‘free traffic’, which it really isn’t.

People finding you in a search engine do so because you’ve established a good brand or because they searched for something generic and you appeared on page 1. In either case it takes hard work to achieve that presence. So, expect great returns from organic traffic, but equally, be prepared for it to take time.

On a limited budget, do thorough keyword research and prioritise content creation including keyword progress that is achievable in the short to medium term.

4. Paid social

Thanks to the level of retargeting granularity in social channels such as Facebook, there is a lot you can do with paid ads in this space. Consider using an existing marketing database to create a look-a-like audience for example, or target a set demographic if you know precisely who you’re talking to.

In the interests of saving money, be selective in the social channels you home in on, rather than running paid ads across all. This activity will typically generate a lower conversion rate than AdWords, but the cost per lead/sale will probably be less.

5. Email

If you have email contacts at your disposal, use them! This is a fairly cheap way of communicating with lots of people and, with easily-editable templates available from the likes of MailChimp, it’s a quick process too.

In the B2B space, emails are a great way to remind clients and prospects of your brand’s proposition. In ecommerce there are vast options ranging from cart abandonment incentives to other promotional incentives. It’s a fairly cheap way of communicating with lots of customers.

Results will, however, vary upon the integrity of the email database and the quality of the email content.

6. Organic social

This isn’t just about sharing pictures of cute dogs. Good social activity should include thorough content and follower research and planning. Don’t just sell all the time, for instance, as users will better engage with posts that are interesting or offer some value.

Social media is also the platform most likely to require good customer service, as people will readily ask questions and complain if the response is unsatisfactory. There should therefore be a process in place to deal with the more disgruntled of keyboard warriors.

Of course, budget advice is most useful when it is tailored to the specific marketing objectives of the brand concerned. But when money is tight and general insight is required, this hopefully provides some interesting food for thought.

– by Andy McCaul

How E-Commerce teams can benefit from Marketing Calendar Software

It is a new year and several e-commerce marketing teams are looking for improved methods of operating efficiently. Lightly resourced are these departments considering the number of marketing channels or tactics utilized to promote their products and brands.

They’re inundated with communicating plans, changes to plans by constantly updating and sending spreadsheets across the organization. These activities are literally occurring until final publication of content to all digital, social and mobile tactics. A highly time consuming and challenging activity to coordinate.

The purpose of this post is to shed some light on how e-commerce marketing teams are planning and executing digital, social and mobile marketing initiatives through using marketing calendar software to simplify their operations and allow teams to focus their efforts on devising strategies to grow their business.

Planning

Planning is a constant activity when it comes to ecommerce and retail. Beginning with an annual plan, followed by a seasonal plan and then execution occurring at monthly and weekly levels. These planning activities are essential in aligning the execution with the defined strategy for the marketing teams.

Typically during the annual planning stages, the marketing strategy team starts with a blank slate selecting campaigns and tactics from the previous year that they deem were effective and are aligned with the next year’s marketing strategy.

This plan is then altered to address the goals for the next year. Seasonal planning is an activity that occurs periodically through the year and requires marketing planning teams to analyze the previous season’s performance understand whether their strategies were effective, define seasonal events and promotions. In order to achieve goals for the seasonal plan, marketing teams would need to execute tactics monthly and weekly.

These tactics would include leveraging several digital, social and mobile channels to promote events and products for the ecommerce business.

Change Communication

E-commerce is a dynamic business, plans are constantly changing to ensure competitiveness and to cater to new trends. Unlike the traditional brick-and-mortar retail business, online retailers need to be swift and agile allowing for rapid shifts in their merchandising and promotional strategy.

Strategies such as lowering prices or advancing an event’s promotion sooner to attain market share typically require changes to originally planned marketing activities. These changes need to be easily communicated and synchronized across the organization for alignment. Managing your marketing plan through marketing calendar software allows ecommerce teams to effectively communicate changes across the organization and align all stakeholders within the process.

Downstream Integration

In order to achieve widespread adoption and eliminate the need to duplicate work across multiple systems, the marketing calendar software integrates with downstream systems to transmit the marketing messages and promotional content.

E-commerce departments that are able to define their plans in their marketing calendar and once approved, the information automatically propagates to downstream execution systems, eliminating the need to re-enter information and ensuring strategy and execution are aligned.

Performance Measurement

Measuring performance of a marketing initiative is a vital part of the marketing process and with ecommerce it directly relates to sales and margin. Ecommerce marketing teams are consistently measuring their marketing efforts to determine what worked or didn’t work. Also running test marketing initiatives can provide results that help marketers establish baselines and scale their efforts.

Daily & weekly KPIs for traffic, sales and average basket are overlaid on the marketing calendar to help illustrate the impact of marketing investment. Also, budgets and results for each initiative are incorporated into the marketing calendar tool providing a holistic view of the investment and return.

Each initiative depending on the type will have its own metrics allowing the marketing team to evaluate the level of success. For example open and click-through rates depict performance or effectiveness of email campaigns while a number of likes & comments depict the level of engagement on social media.

With the new financial year approaching, it should be time to consider how you can improve the productivity, communication and alignment of your marketing efforts with a marketing calendar software.

By the way, at CrossCap we have researched and put together a guide to marketing calendar software features, and we explained the benefits of each to help you make an educated buying decision.

– by Rahim Kassam

How can marketers adapt to the recent Facebook algorithm changes?

Following Mark Zuckerberg’s personal post on Facebook’s recent newsfeed changes, the social network’s share price fell as much as 6.1 percent.

With Facebook’s key advertising space for brands reverting back to its original purpose (actual, personal news from friends and family), the brand marketers who have relied on in-feed advertising to drive traffic and revenue must now reconsider how to engage with audiences through this pillar channel.

But more than anything, organisations must recognise this as an opportunity to take back control of their audiences, audience data, and engagement strategy. With GDPR on the horizon, there has never been a more opportune moment to build a proprietary customer database, find innovative ways to connect directly with consumers, and truly own your customer experience.

This is the beginning of the next era of owned media versus rented audiences. Marketers can build the right foundation through the following approaches:

Personalisation

A one-to-one relationship creates mutual trust and respect, and is proven to drive engagement that is more meaningful to consumers and to brands (read: revenue). Organisations utilising the full depth and breadth of their data better understand each individual user and tailor content for a more relevant, contextual experience.

For us, this means moving beyond ‘engagement bait’ that can erode relationships; and building and activating relationships that matter.

Better websites

As organic reach decreases on Facebook, the importance of having a central hub of content increases – but not just the traditional homepage, section, and article pages.

Publisher websites must be designed to convert traffic into known audiences, and this means learning from retail, ecommerce, and other industries. Quality content, SEO, overlays, and connectivity to email and mobile messaging must be in the mix.

Ads over articles

Instant articles will no longer be… so instant. With a shift to engaging a known audience, publishers will still be engaging and spending with Facebook, but in a different way.

Targeting and converting Facebook users into email subscribers is where we will see money being spent, all in a way designed to give brands the opportunity to own the data – and the experience.

Omnichannel approach

An integrated approach is more important than ever. Content delivered across mobile, app and email must be coordinated for every individual in real-time, as audiences shift sessions and channels. Creating a seamless experience for accessing breaking news, daily media, and evergreen content will solidify your relationships and your revenue streams.

Facebook has thrown curveball after curveball, but this change has the potential to be truly significant. That said, brands now have a real opportunity to take audience development into their own hands, rather than continuing to rely on social media platforms for support.

– by Marielle Habbel

What will programmatic look like in 2027?

2017 saw the tenth anniversary of programmatic advertising. From its humble beginnings, over half of all non-search digital ad spend is now made using the technology. The days of slow deals, subject to human errors and inefficiencies, are increasingly behind us.

But adtech’s story is far from over.

The next ten years will see new technologies that will fundamentally change the way advertising is experienced in our day-to-day lives, whether as media buyers or as consumers. It is our responsibility as technology providers to capitalise on these changes as best as possible, delivering what is becoming a genuinely helpful service by connecting consumers to the purchases they want to make.

By 2027, programmatic will become ubiquitous in the marketing sector. It will no longer be a line item on a media plan, but will be taken as a given by media buyers. Programmatic will extend its depth, moving into more channels such as DOOH, TV, Radio, and VR. It will also extend its breadth to more consumers, yielding more data across more localities to properly optimise successful campaigns.

Ditching siloed channels

Understanding the omnichannel user experience is already a must for any effective programmatic marketer. The way an ad is engaged with by a consumer, between, say, their desktop and mobile, is crucial for advertisers to understand to best optimise their campaigns. The ‘single view of the consumer’ across multiple devices currently spoken of will be a well-established state of affairs, with marketers having an accurate view of cross-device behaviour.

The way consumers engage with multiple channels will change too. A search for a product or service on their smartphone will instantaneously update the ads recommended to them when on their laptop or tablet. What’s more is that consumers will quickly raise their own expectations in light of these developments, demanding convenient, real-time offers and messages, and scrutinising ads which are irrelevant and unnecessary. The consumer will even start to see advertising as a core component of shopping, with smart refrigerators reminding them of the need to buy milk through an ad, having detected that they don’t have any.

By 2027, omnichannel marketing will have reached new heights as we increasingly inhabit a computerised world. Developments in VR are but one example of the direction of travel, not to mention the growing market in tech-enabled wearables.

The adoption of programmatic trading by out-of-home platforms such as billboards are another sign of things to come. This computerised environment will be all the more reason for marketers to ditch increasingly outmoded siloed channel strategies, with specific channel budgets giving way to unified ones.

Just 6% of television ads will be traded programmatically in 2018, according to eMarketer.

But even that stalwart of traditional media buying will itself look radically different in 2027. As video-on-demand and streaming services blur the lines between TV and online video, traditional broadcasters will adopt the media buying techniques of their peers in the video universe.

Most TV ads, by 2027, will therefore be executed programmatically.

Audience-first

Current trends towards transparency in the media buying process will continue to accelerate. Marketers will exercise their right to know where exactly their spending is going, asking for guarantees that their content is running on quality sites alongside brand-safe content. Marketers will take a fully audience-first approach to media buying, matching high-value audiences to the best media in brand-safe contexts. Cast-iron guarantees that ads won’t run on brand-unsafe sites will become the norm, with the legitimacy of sites verified by the likes of Ads.txt.

The media agency will take on a new, more strategic role in this changing ecosystem, partly as a results of machine learning, which will automate several existing tasks.

Brand CMOs will increasingly look to their agencies to share the best approaches to media buying, data management and measurement – seeking their advice, for example, on how to best utilise their tech stacks, or in developing new joint products.

As the world of technology, data, and devices expands, the agency is set to take a consultative approach, delivering holistic strategy and bringing the latest innovations and approaches in marketing to their clients for consideration. Agencies will need to be on top of neatly summarising the story in a complex trove of data, which can be easily relayed back to the relevant CMO and to the board of a given client.

2027 is, of course, still a long time away, and making predictions of this nature are never a precise science. However, by looking at the fundamentals of where the industry is going, and where we’ve come from in such a short space of time, we can have an idea of where marketing is headed. It’s the job of any serious marketer to take these trends seriously and make the best use of them for their customers.

– by Emma Williams

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