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The social media giant will begin testing business-to-consumer transactions on the marketplace this month ahead of a soft launch planned for June.

The social media giant will begin testing business-to-consumer transactions on the marketplace this month ahead of a soft launch planned for June.

After making inroads into India’s payments sector via WhatsApp, Facebook is eyeing a larger piece of the country’s fast-growing ecommerce market where the world’s largest retailers Amazon and Walmart are gearing up for a direct faceoff.

The social media giant is in talks with several brands and businesses to list on Facebook Marketplace, according to two people familiar with the discussions. It will begin testing business-to-consumer transactions on the marketplace this month ahead of a soft launch planned for June, one of them said. Facebook “will build more tools (on its marketplace) for businesses to upload products and manage inventory and orders, and will also add payments to it by the end of this year”, the other person said. “For now, Facebook will start with directing consumers to sellers’ (Facebook) pages or websites.”

Facebook launched its marketplace as a consumer-to-consumer interface in India about six months ago only to receive a lukewarm response to its attempt at creating a domestic Craigslist, competing with startups such as Quikr and OLX.

Facebook confirmed it is testing ways to feature content from shops on its marketplace.
“We first introduced Marketplace in India last November, and since then we’ve been continuously learning and evolving the experience to meet people’s needs. We’ll continue to explore new ways to help these communities connect through commerce,” a company spokeswoman said.

India’s online retail sector is expected to grow to $27 billion this year after registering sales worth $19.6 billion in 2017, estimates Forrester Research. Global retailers are betting more on the massive growth potential for the fledgling market, which Morgan Stanley estimates will be worth $200 billion by 2026. While Walmart is getting closer to acquiring a majority stake in India’s largest online marketplace, Flipkart, Amazon has committed to invest $5 billion in its India operations. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, may also invest $1-2 billion in Flipkart if the Walmart deal goes through, ET reported first on April 27.

Google is also preparing to tap the domestic ecommerce market more directly after recently investing in Bengaluru-based personal concierge app Dunzo and ecommerce company Fynd, said people familiar with the developments.

A Google spokeswoman, however, denied such a move, saying “currently we have no plans”. The company operates Google Express in the United States via a partnership with retailers including Walmart and Costco.

As for Facebook’s marketplace plans for India, industry experts said it would take time for sellers to recognise the social network also as an ecommerce platform. “Onboarding sellers on Facebook may be a challenge. I think it will take significant time before people understand and see value in (business-to-consumer transactions via Facebook),” said Shrinath V, an independent product consultant.

Then there is competition from incumbent ecommerce giants. “Facebook Marketplace is going to compete with Flipkart and Amazon because all of them are ultimately fighting for the same customer,” said an industry executive, requesting anonymity. “But this is good news for sellers and brands because it adds another distribution channel for them.”.

Facebook Marketplace is available in 70 countries and has more than 800 million people visiting each month to buy and sell goods.

By Varsha Bansal, ET Bureau

Understanding ecommerce ROI

In the age of digital transformation, ecommerce teams have become one of the most vital commodities for businesses, especially for companies struggling with loss-making traditional channels to market.

In the age of digital transformation, ecommerce teams have become one of the most vital commodities for businesses, especially for companies struggling with loss-making traditional channels to market.

In the age of digital transformation, ecommerce teams have become one of the most vital commodities for businesses, especially for companies struggling with loss-making traditional channels to market.

And, yet how many organisations are actively empowering these teams to maximise their corporate value? Facing the escalating cost of talented ecommerce experts, there is a pressing need to unlock the potential of existing teams.

Right now, far too many ecommerce teams are operating blind, using gut-feel and best practice to prioritise activity. They are wasting vast amounts of time on unproductive content changes and irrelevant optimisation tests; time which no business can afford to squander.

Yet new UX analytics tools and AI prediction engines can transform the speed the insight, empowering teams to prioritise activity and rapidly respond to customer behaviour.

It is critical to empower this vital ecommerce resource with the tools to accelerate their speed to insight, maximise their skills and deliver measurable ROI.

Customer priority

Nearly every business has a ‘customer first’ strategy, but few have fast, accurate access to the customer understanding they need to deliver it. How many changes to the home page or tweaks to the checkout journey are truly data-driven?

Why invest in fantastic teams of content producers who are inspired by the brand and committed to success, when no one is able to understand how the content performs or its business impact?

Too often, ecommerce teams are flying in the dark, making content changes and optimisation decisions based on gut-feel or creative inspiration. Often they aren’t responding to the customers’ behaviour and expectation based on actual insight or prioritising optimisation tests based on actual customer problems.

Actual insight

A company only has to look at the new players in banking, in retail, in gaming, the companies that design the business around the customer and empower teams with data, to see the difference in customer experience – and, as a result, in financial success.

From Airbnb to Uber, these new companies provide their teams with the speed to insight required to deliver an optimal customer experience, every time. They have the ability to understand how customers – millions of customers – respond to specific content, to journey changes or new branding – and respond accordingly. They are not wasting days, weeks, months on creating content that will fail to resonate, or embarking expensively upon hundreds of tests in an unfocused bid to optimise the customer journey. They are quickly leveraging actual insight to make changes that work.

It is this speed to insight that is the primary differentiator between ecommerce success and failure. Most companies have great ecommerce teams committed to the brand; what far too many still lack is any way to quickly understand the evolution of customer expectation, how that affects behaviour and what that means for the online experience. Relying on IT and data scientists to provide insight is too slow and lacks context.

The result is wasted resources and ill-focused ecommerce activity.

Strategic and tactical insight

There is no need to wait for insight when UX analytics tools can deliver at the touch of a button information on how customers are responding to specific content; when AI tools can be used to prioritise activity and enable the ecommerce team to focus on the biggest wins. Whether it is undertaking more optimisation tests, concentrating on those tests that will make a tangible difference, or tracking customer response to the new hero banner, with speed to insight every member of the team can be more effective and hence have positive impact on customer experience and conversion.

This speed to insight should also feed into strategic thinking – boards are also constrained by the lack of relevant ecommerce ROI insight and too many are still reliant upon the big consultancies to inform strategy.

But, why would any company looking to change the way it operates rely on a small generic market study when it has access to deep information about its own customer behaviour?

Providing a board with fast insight into not only revenue per channel but the ROI on specific activity – from new mobile checkout journeys to updated online branding – is transformative. A board able to understand exactly how much revenue is generated by each element of the ecommerce site, how content changes and optimisation can be used to improve performance and revenue, is far better informed to make the essential strategic decisions than one relying on generic market trends.


When the heartbeat of the business is weak, the entire business is in jeopardy.

Delivering speed to insight is not just about making essential, fact based decisions today – it is about empowering and retaining the talent to deliver long term value. When ecommerce experts have the pick of jobs, they are going to work with the brand that offers the best chance to shine, the brand that actively explores data to empower its people to outperform the competition, not the one that relies on guess work and month old ‘insights’ squeezed out of the data scientist and IT team.

A content merchandiser wants the chance to see in real time how the home page is performing – and respond accordingly. In a market increasingly demanding accountability and ROI, experts need every possible chance to optimise their performance, to maximise their expertise and experience – and deliver for the business.

The only way to deliver a truly customer first business model is to empower talented people – and that requires fast access to great insight.

By Duncan Keene

google seo

Google has confirmed that they ran a “broad core algorithm update” last week that has impacted the appearance and rankings of some websites in the search results.

Google has confirmed that they ran a “broad core algorithm update” last week that has impacted the appearance and rankings of some websites in the search results.

Google has confirmed that they ran a “broad core algorithm update” last week that has impacted the appearance and rankings of some websites in the search results.

Google posted on Twitter that Google does these types of updates “several times per year” and there is nothing a site can do specifically to “fix” their ranking after the core update runs. “Some sites may note drops or gains,” Google explained and said if a page drops, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is something wrong with that page, it is just how Google changed their ranking models that now benefits “pages that were previously under-rewarded.”

Here is Google’s statement on Twitter:

Each day, Google usually releases one or more changes designed to improve our results. Some are focused around specific improvements. Some are broad changes. Last week, we released a broad core algorithm update. We do these routinely several times per year.

As with any update, some sites may note drops or gains. There’s nothing wrong with pages that may now perform less well. Instead, it’s that changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded.

There’s no “fix” for pages that may perform less well other than to remain focused on building great content. Over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages.

There was speculation over the weekend about a Google update; this is Google confirming that speculation.


digital marketers spend their AdWords budget

With ever-growing opportunities to promote businesses via Google, it can be difficult for digital marketers to know where to focus their efforts!

With ever-growing opportunities to promote businesses via Google, it can be difficult for digital marketers to know where to focus their efforts!

With ever-growing opportunities to promote businesses via Google, it can be difficult for digital marketers to know where to focus their efforts. Whilst a number of search specialists are – quite rightly – deploying clever tactics to boost organic listings, businesses should also remember the benefits that paid search can bring – speed, insight and ROI. However, if budgets are limited, what’s the best way to invest time and money with AdWords?

Google Shopping is not new – in fact, it was first released in late 2002 and known in the early days as Froogle. It’s changed a lot since then, primarily in that it is now a form of paid advertising through Google AdWords.

With often limited budgets available, digital marketers must therefore carefully consider their allocation of spend – should they plough their budget into Shopping campaigns or stick to more mainstream text-based PPC activity?

In truth, this quandary is only really of concern to ecommerce brands and retailers with stock to sell online. But there are still pros and cons that such organisations need to be aware of.

The benefits of spending with Shopping

Ultimately, when analysing paid advertising with Google over the last two years, Shopping campaigns have steadily grown to be a major source of traffic and sales. As a result, more than 50% of all AdWords spend has shifted from traditional text adverts to Shopping ads. That is a massive shift, which shows how effective shopping campaigns can be.

Brands can bid on products for a relatively low cost per click (CPC) usually ranging from £0.15 - £0.45. Compare that to text ads and the cost is likely to be four or five times more for a top three position. This is the great benefit of Google Shopping – the lower CPC allows marketers to drive relevant traffic directly to product pages efficiently.

But the success of a Shopping campaign almost always comes down to price – shoppers can filter according to the cost of a product, so competitiveness is crucial if the item is to appear in listing results and convert.

It is also possible to gain an advantage over competing retailers using tried-and-tested promotional techniques including free delivery, discount codes and even complimentary add-on products.

Like any AdWords campaign, Shopping ads should not be set up and left alone – optimisation is required to get the best ROI. For example, once enough data has been acquired it is often possible to identify poor performing products or brands that could be excluded from the campaign moving forward, to make it more efficient. Likewise, bids could be increased on products where returns are good.

Digital marketers will often refer to a target ROAS (return on advertising spend) when analysing the effectiveness of Shopping campaigns. This target ROAS will depend on the margin in the product and therefore the allowable cost per sale. Retailers will be aiming for a ROAS of 800% plus, but a brand owner selling higher-margin products may be able to work to a much lower target. Working this figure out before committing to significant spend is important. There are systems out there that will use machine learning to work to the target ROAS – at a cost, of course.

It is also worth noting that with Shopping campaigns, it is possible to control some elements in AdWords, such as visible products, the bid amount, adjustments for devices and location. But the marketer has no influence over keywords – they must rely instead on the search popularity of the products they sell. Shopping campaigns are therefore excellent for products where users have a good understanding about what they are searching for. But they will not prove as effective for new or unbranded products where there is no search volume.

Generate sales or leads with text ads

Text ads, on the other hand, are incredibly customisable depending on the goal of the campaign. Different ad variations can be tested, with ease, which helps to improve ad performance and protect spend levels. For example, if the goal is to drive more phone calls, the marketer can feature a number more prominently with a ‘click to call’ button.

Text ads are also more flexible and can be used to target a wider range of audiences – not just people searching for product-related terms – with very relevant content. The digital marketer therefore has more options for promoting products or services at various stages in the user journey, from research to sale or enquiry. For this reason, traditional text ads are often used for lead generation campaigns, in both B2C and B2B industries. For retailers they might be better used to focus on key lines and brands, increase awareness, or to promote brand new products that a user may not be directly search for.

That said, the average cost per click is usually a lot greater than a Shopping ad, depending on the sector and its competitiveness. So, this could prove a very expensive digital marketing activity if it is not underpinned by some clear commercial objectives.

So where should a brand spend money?

As with any digital marketing strategy, the chosen approach should reflect the situation and goal(s) of the business concerned. If driving more leads from a website is the priority, or there’s a need to target a wider audience, then text ads will no doubt prove the most effective type of campaign. However, the uplift in Shopping ad usage is undeniable, so, for e-commerce brands, Shopping campaigns will normally deliver a better ROI for the spend.

Of course, the investment could be split across both, if budgets would allow. But with only so much space on that all-important first page – and because money is often an issue – it may be more intelligent to adopt a quality over quantity mindset.

By Andy McCaul

ways to combat shopping cart abandonment

It’s February, and that means only one thing - its 11 months until the next set of January sales!

It’s February, and that means only one thing - its 11 months until the next set of January sales!

It’s February, and that means only one thing - its 11 months until the next set of January sales.

A few years ago, consumers would have to battle huge crowds, trudging from shop to shop in the freezing cold, elbowing people out the way to get the best deals only to find they’ve run out of stock...but, this year it is likely that many of us were getting our hands on cut price products from our warm and cozy living rooms.

In 2018, sales shopping on the high street is but a distant memory for many of us. Sales figures continue to fall as we increasingly choose to browse and buy via our laptops or mobile phones.

It’s true, we love online shopping. But it’s not without its flaws. In fact, online shopping is in the throes of a crisis. 76% of people who visit an online store abandon their carts without finishing their purchase. And a report by Barclays showed that this means UK retailers are missing out on a whopping £3.4bn worth of potential sales.

Why does this happen at such an alarming rate? The truth is, just like heading out to Oxford Street, the path to the final purchase online is often also long and arduous, fraught with unnecessary payment obstacles, unexpected costs or complicated delivery methods. Really, it’s no surprise that so many customers end up giving up on their purchase before payment.

Of course, there’s no denying that since online shopping is minimal effort, it’s a lot easier for a customer to fling something in their cart with no real desire to buy it in the first place. In fact, data from Statista claims that 38-40% of shoppers have no intention of purchasing the items in their shopping cart.

But the study also exposed issues with the shopping experience: 56% of consumers were shown to have abandoned cart due to unexpected costs, 25% because the navigation was too complicated, 21% felt the process took too long and 17% because of concerns about security. These are issues that retailers can easily rectify.

So how, exactly, can you make the road to purchase as smooth as possible so the customer pushes their virtual cart all the way across the finish line? Here are some practical tips:

1. Optimise the omnichannel experience

Everyone shops differently. But nobody wants a clumsy user experience. Whether they’re scrolling on an iPhone or an Android or clicking on a Mac or a PC, the online shopping experience needs to be seamless on every possible device. That’s easier said than done considering there are over 24,000 unique Android devices alone, each with their own nuances.

25% of shopping cart abandonment is because of complicated navigation - make sure there’s a straightforward path from cart to checkout on every single device a customer might be using. You can do this by testing the customer journey on as many different devices and for as many different groups as possible - have all bases covered. Thorough attention to detail during the testing process will pay off.

2. Keep the admin to a minimum

Don’t make it hard for the customer by asking them to fill out every last personal detail or redirecting them to third party sites. 46% of total shopping cart abandonment happens at payment stage, according to Internet Retailer. Entering endless bits of unnecessary information isn’t only time-consuming, it also reminds the user that their details are going to be fed into your omnichannel marketing machine.

The site’s design should reflect this simplicity. It’s worth remembering that the payments page is the very last stage of the customer’s journey - now is not the time to distract them. Don’t redirect them to another site, don’t offer them marketing material - just make sure that all they have to do is pay

3. Provide options for check-out

Don’t force new customers to make an account with a password and a profile if they don’t want to. Instead, you should provide a guest checkout option. You won’t lose out on their details - they have to include them for shipping and payment - and this way, they won’t feel like they’re being mined for their data.

On the flip side, however, you should give users who plan to return the option to create profiles where they can store valuable information. This means that next time, they can simply sign in and go, with no need to re-enter details.

And as the number of payment options continues to increase, particularly with the rise of mobile wallets, the main take-away for retailers is that no matter the method they should be able to support how each customer choose to pay.

4. Ensure trust

Purchasing online requires the customer putting their faith in an e-retailer. When consumers are handing over their personal and financial information, they must be reassured that it’s not going to be misused. Security breaches aren’t exactly uncommon - seldom does a week go by without a major one being reported. And it’s increasing - more data was lost and stolen in the first half of 2017 (1.9 billion records) than the whole of 2016 (1.37 billion).

It’s key that your customers have enough trust in the buying process to enter their data. The easiest way to do this is to show them that their information is secure. You should also display trust symbols on your site, particularly well-known security logos: Verisign, or PayPal Verified, for example.

5. No hidden surprises

There’s nothing worse than making it to checkout, preparing to take your card out of your wallet, but then to be presented with a nasty surprise: a delivery cost you weren’t prepared for.

Make sure your shipping costs are totally transparent before the customer has added it to their basket. You can even add a delivery calculator before checkout to estimate the costs. And it goes without saying that a surefire way to your customer’s heart is to offer free shipping where possible, or at least discounted shipping based on the order value.

Another way of avoiding shipping charges is to offer in-store pick-up. This is a growing trends - a survey conducted by Internet Retailer in August 2016 showed that 57% of respondents had chosen to buy online and collect their item in-store, saving money on shipping and eliminating the need to wait at home for a package.

There you have it: whilst shopping cart abandonment may be an irritation, it’s not hard to solve. The key is to make the potential customer’s journey go as smoothly as possible: no potholes, no unexpected tariffs, no endless data entry. By making the process as easy as possible, there shouldn’t be any reason for a potential customer not to become a returning customer.

By Sam O'Meara

ecommerce content marketing lessons

"Informative product descriptions can increase conversion rates by as much as 78%"!

"Informative product descriptions can increase conversion rates by as much as 78%"!

In a recent interview with The Telegraph, Josh Silverman, the new CEO of global craft marketplace Etsy, discussed giving the company a much-needed shake up.

As part of a lean new marketing strategy, Silverman has reportedly scrapped any activities that aren’t likely to immediately grow sales for Etsy’s vendors – including TV advertising – to focus on driving performance instead. These changes are already benefiting the business, with the share price reporting a 50% increase and Q3 earnings increasing by 13%.

Whilst this stripped-back strategy might be too extreme for some businesses, marketers can take some valuable lessons from Etsy’s ‘focus on the fundamentals’ rationale. Many brands still plough the lion’s share of their creative resources and budget into top-of-funnel awareness campaigns, whilst neglecting the hugely important latter stages of the purchase funnel – continuing to drive their customers from expensive advertising campaigns to sub-par online stores with poor quality content.

This leads to those customers being ‘put off’ at the critical pre-purchase stage, and is ultimately a huge lost revenue opportunity for those retailers.

Remembering that these content fundamentals can materially impact ecommerce performance by enhancing the overall user experience, improving SEO and increasing conversion rates – here are the three top tips for online retailers to maximise their performance using high-performing content.

Create product content that is fit for purpose

It’s sadly not uncommon for a consumer to be driven to a brand’s website by an engaging ‘hero’ campaign (e.g. a YouTube pre-roll ad) promoting a flagship product, only to be faced with poor-quality product description content that fails to provide detailed, persuasive information about the product itself in order to convert the browser into a buyer.
At Quill, we routinely see brands publishing product descriptions that are not fit for purpose – taking the fashion vertical as an example, product descriptions often consist of a couple of cursory bullet points, lacking useful details around how a garment fits and feels, or the product’s key features and benefits.

In failing to provide this information, retailers are really missing a trick: research has shown that informative product descriptions can increase conversion rates by as much as 78%. Similarly, 75% of consumers say they’d be more likely to make a purchase if there was a video explaining what they are buying, while 31% are more likely to buy if the business offers helpful online buying guides.

Don’t neglect SEO

It’s widely accepted in the digital marketing community that the old, keyword-centric SEO tactics are no longer valid in a post-Panda world. Relevant, high-quality, authoritative content has become one of Google’s key ranking factors. And given that Page 1 results on Google now account for around 95% of all search traffic – while paid ads continue to deliver diminishing returns, in the context of increased ad blocker adoption – this isn’t something that businesses can afford to ignore.

One of the most effective ways of driving the large volumes of organic search traffic using generic search queries is via category pages.

Despite this, we’ve found that just 15% of online retailers have fully optimised their category pages with informative category description content for SEO, meaning a significant number of retailers are losing out on this highly efficient source of new online customers.

Improve on-site search functionality

Being able to find the right product on a site is a basic, but crucial, customer need. One in eight consumers will abandon a site after a poor search experience – leading to lost conversions for the business, as well as potential reputational damage to the brand, and a decreased likelihood that the consumer will ever return to the site.
On the one hand, an important part of getting this right is having quality on-site search functionality (fast results, logically structured, with semantic reasoning to recognise natural language variations, like synonyms).

But it’s also about ensuring that searchable content (i.e. product descriptions) contain relevant keywords and phrases to maintain their accuracy and relevancy in onsite search results – so that all of the right products are presented to customers. This means that retailers to need to invest in maintaining the same level of quality and integrity in their online product data and content as they do in-store.

It is also critical for retailers with large product ranges or complex product features to supplement their onsite search with buying and how-to guides or videos, to assist customers who are looking for the information and advice they need to make their purchasing decision, often from an overwhelming choice of options both onsite and from competing sites.

The power of the fundamentals

Whilst these content fundamentals may not be particularly attention-grabbing – or likely to put any CMOs in contention for awards at Cannes – treating them as an afterthought means that brands are losing millions in online sales every year. At a time when ad blockers and ad blindness are blighting the performance of paid campaigns, strong content and a laser focus on content performance strategies is critical.

And ultimately, getting the fundamentals right will improve the ROI on all marketing activities further up the funnel – including those that might also win you those creative awards.

By Ed Bussey

Rewarding loyalty for online retailers

"Consumers value personalisation and individualism and want their loyalty to be recognised"!

"Consumers value personalisation and individualism and want their loyalty to be recognised"!

Last year’s Black Friday data shows quite clearly just how important eCommerce has become to consumers. While high street footfall dropped, online purchasing soared, but retailers and brands cannot afford to rest on their laurels.
Recent research that MetaPack carried out amongst over 3500 consumers in the UK, US and Europe illustrates sharply that shopper power determines the strategic decision-making for eCommerce retailers and nowhere more so than in the delivery choices that they offer.

To keep customers loyal, retailers need to stay on their toes.

We asked our cohort of research respondents how likely a positive delivery experience would be to encourage them to shop with that retailer again, and in the UK a massive 84% said very or somewhat likely.

Of course, the flip side to that is when a delivery goes wrong - in fact, over a quarter (29%) of Brits said they would never shop again with an online merchant following a negative delivery experience. When it comes to winning and keeping customers, delivery has the power to make or break the online shopping experience.

Loyalty benefits
Amazon, which knows a thing or two about marketing to its customer base and keeping it happy, has set much store by listening closely to what shoppers want and creating competitive advantage. Prime, its loyalty programme, now offers many benefits to members, but what it is best known for is free, one- or two-day delivery on most items that it sells on its marketplace.
Amazon understood early on that customers will have no compunction in abandoning an online shopping basket if the delivery choices on offer are unsatisfactory, and instead of taking that risk, it promised to provide a high standard of delivery choices and enfolded its shoppers into a long-term, highly beneficial commitment in return.

This works well with consumers who value personalisation and individualism and want their loyalty to be recognised and rewarded. In the UK, 69% of our survey respondents said that they would like the eCommerce websites they use regularly to offer a delivery loyalty program, with their loyalty rewarded by free or quick delivery. Looking at the total number of respondents, 86% said they would even prioritise shopping with that retailer.

So, it’s not surprising that other online merchants are following in Amazon’s footsteps and introducing loyalty schemes that customers are prepared to pay for. Typically, however, today’s savvy shopper is fully aware of how best to make this work for them. Over a quarter (27%) of shoppers from our survey already belong to at least one programme – a further 22% subscribe to two or more schemes. The younger they are, the more likely to be taking advantage, with 68% of millennial shoppers utilising up to seven delivery loyalty programmes

Consumer willingness
If retailers are considering launching a loyalty scheme it’s worth noting that 39% of consumers say they plan to join at least two programmes in the next year.

The privileges that consumers perceive come from membership of a loyalty scheme have distinct benefits to their relationship with the retailer. Most say they shop more with e-tailers that offer delivery loyalty programmes – and almost a third are prepared to pay an annual fee for premium benefits that eliminate the need to factor in the delivery cost of their purchases.
What is also telling is that 42% say that loyalty schemes make them feel special and 55% will prioritise one retailer over another if it offers a delivery loyalty programme – an important fact when considering strategy for the year ahead.

One other area in which online retailers could make changes that would encourage loyalty from customers is by working in consolidation with each other. This might be particularly appropriate for those e-tailers looking to drive down the cost of delivery – or utilise drop shipping fulfilment or crowd-sourcing warehousing strategies to achieve greater proximity to customers and fulfil orders faster – our research shows that shoppers are more than eager to participate in multi-vendor delivery loyalty programmes.

Almost three quarters (71%) indicated that the idea of joining a scheme involving multiple retailers and brands working together to offer premium delivery services held a strong appeal for them.

One final point for consideration. Consolidated delivery, particularly as part of a loyalty scheme, ticks many boxes for consumers, but there are indications that it might also prove popular with those that are interested in buying from retailers with green credentials.

27% of consumers said that they care a great deal about the impact on the environment of their online shopping deliveries whilst 47% say it’s a big concern for them. It might just be that the consolidated delivery trend has the potential for more than one positive outcome.

By Bruce Fair

biggest trends driving customer loyalty

A marketer’s guide to increasing customer retention and generating loyalty.

A marketer’s guide to increasing customer retention and generating loyalty.

According to 3Cinteractive, 64 percent of brands reported an increase in loyalty program membership over the last year. Loyalty programs are becoming more sophisticated, moving beyond the traditional spend-and-get model, to omnichannel and multichannel programs that recognize customers for every interaction they make with a brand. Smart marketers are capturing and leveraging loyalty data to understand their customers better and market effectively to them.

We’re seeing significant advancements in loyalty as brands seek new ways to add value for customers. Here are the seven biggest trends impacting the loyalty landscape currently.

1. Omnichannel and multichannel programs are replacing traditional programs
More and more brands are adopting omnichannel-based loyalty programs, which are proving to be very effective. Omnichannel loyalty connects customers to a brand across all touch points seamlessly and provides members with the opportunity to be rewarded for spend and engagement across all channels. Furthermore, omnichannel data capture helps brands drive personalized communications and better customer experiences. Beauty giant Tarte’s recently launched “tarte

2. Consumers expect personalization
Research finds a correlation between personalization and customer satisfaction. Seventy-nine percent of customers surveyed indicated that they are very satisfied with loyalty programs with high personalization and that loyalty programs that make customers feel special and recognized had 2.7 times more satisfied members.

Research indicates that consumers are willing to share data to get personalized experiences. By leveraging customer data captured in a multichannel loyalty program, brands can make personalized recommendations, offer relevant promotions and upsell and cross-sell relevant products or services to consumers. We’re seeing many retailers this year incorporate personalization into their customer strategies. Recently, members of the DSW rewards program were sent an email that contained how many points each member needed to receive a $10 certificate. They were also informed of other deals they’re eligible for. They also use member data to provide a detailed snapshot of their customers’ interactions with the brand over the past two years, including how much they’ve saved, how many points they’ve earned and how long they’ve been a loyalty member. The campaign was a success and saw a 64 percent lift in email opens, a 13 percent lift in click-through rates, and 58.82 percent of customers who opened the email read it for 15+ seconds. Frequent personalized communications like this help keep members engaged and encourage sales.

3. Partnerships have increased
2016 saw brand partnerships take center stage as a strategy for growth. Now we’re seeing an increasing number of brands seek out strategic partners to stay ahead of the competition. Partnerships help brands extend additional value beyond what they provide alone. Whether for a loyalty campaign or an evergreen program, the right partnership provides new and exciting ways to reward customers which will drive sales and loyalty.

For example, Wyndham Rewards, a highly ranked hotel rewards program, recently partnered with Caesars Entertainment’s award-winning casino-based “Total Rewards” program. The partnership offers their combined membership of over 50 million access to industry-leading travel experiences and perks and benefits including complimentary status match and opportunities to redeem points for one-of-a-kind hotel, restaurant and entertainment experiences. The partnership extends the reach for both brands and connects them to potential new customers.

4. Consumers expect brands to be socially responsible
A recent study found that 81 percent of millennials expect companies to go beyond generating profit and serve as drivers of change and become active in their communities. This can have a major impact on loyalty, as consumers are increasingly more likely to support brands with a purpose. Almost 66 percent of consumers are willing to pay extra for products and services that come from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact. Incorporating corporate social responsibility initiatives as part of your loyalty offering allows you to better meet customer expectations and maintain customer loyalty.

Loyalty Programs like TOMS Passport Rewards have pioneered the trend. They offer their loyalty members the option to redeem points on a donation to a charitable cause or initiative. For example, currently, members can redeem points for a $25 donation to help TOMS support US-based after-school groups and community development programs. This option creates goodwill and helps customers create more emotional connections to the brand.

5. Premium loyalty programs are becoming more appealing
We’re seeing a wave of premium program launches. The reason why premium loyalty programs are gaining popularity is that members want the benefits that programs like Amazon Prime provide and are willing to pay for it. In a consumer study from last year, 62 percent of respondents said they’d consider joining a fee-based rewards program if their favorite retailer offered one. This number was even higher among millennials, with 75 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds and 77 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds saying they’d consider joining a fee-based rewards program. Nearly half (47 percent) said rewards in fee-based programs are better than rewards in free programs.

The PowerUp Rewards premium loyalty program boasts more than 50 million members and drives three times the sales of non-members. Last year, the brand introduced a new tier, an upgrade from the current highest level, Pro. The new PowerUp Rewards Elite Pro membership costs $29.99 USD per year (double what gamers pay for Pro), but it provides members with additional perks, including free two-day shipping, $50 in exclusive monthly offers and discounts on pre-owned games and software. The decision to introduce the new tier this year was based on feedback from reward members who wanted to earn more points and subsequently enjoy more rewards. The success and evolution of this program demonstrate that PowerUp Rewards members see the value in paying a fee for their status in the program. For gaming enthusiasts willing to pay up front, the brand incentivizes spend and encourages loyalty.

6. Emotional loyalty is key
Forrester recently published research that concludes that emotion is one of the strongest unique drivers of loyalty. This means companies must invest in measurement frameworks that help better understand what actions and emotions they must elicit across interaction points to engender true loyalty.

Forrester’s survey of loyalty marketers found that most are still fine-tuning their programs to establish and solidify relationships with consumers, as well as to build an emotional connection with their most frequent shoppers.

Research by Gallup has demonstrated that emotionally loyal customers are willing to spend with the brand even if meaningful and available alternatives are presented. They found that consumers with strong emotional connections to retailers will visit their stores 32 percent more often and spend 46 percent more money than those without emotional bonds.

To maintain their interest and help build deeper emotional connections, “The Walking Dead” rewards their fans for their dedication to the show with “money-can’t-buy” experiences and rewards. Leveraging a loyalty program, brands can incentivize fans to attain these unique rewards through further engagement. Members who accumulate the highest level of points as part of The Walking Dead Fan Rewards Club, launched earlier this year, can enjoy one-of-a-kind experiences, including VIP tickets to the “Talking Dead” aftershow, a set tour and meet-and-greets with the cast.

7. AI and chatbots are improving customer engagement
Chatbot technology is gaining a lot of interest, with plenty of companies making the investment. It’s expected that chatbots will soon become mainstream to maintain strong and efficient customer engagement. In fact, by 2020, customers are expected to manage 85 percent of their relationships with enterprises without interacting with a human. Though not a replacement for human interaction, chatbots are most effective in situations where a customer is trying to resolve common issues, such as placing an order. Chatbots relieve the need for customers to visit a company website, call or visit a store in person.

7-Eleven launched a chatbot on Facebook Messenger to enhance the customer experience. The chatbot not only converses with customers using artificial intelligence that powers automation, it also lets users sign up for the 7Rewards customer loyalty program and find a nearby store and available discounts and promotions. Upon program signup, members will immediately receive a digital card in Messenger and can scan to start earning points, check status or collect coupons.

Looking forward in 2018
Right now, brands are under pressure to meet customer expectations with exceptional customer experiences and are investing in trends from personalization to adding value. If brands want to beat out the competition in 2018, their loyalty programs, their strategy and their technology must continually evolve to keep customers at center focus and loyal.


Intel Microsoft Google

Major tech companies scrambled to calm the mood this week after a large number of computer users reported performance problems...

Major tech companies scrambled to calm the mood this week after a large number of computer users reported performance problems...

Major tech companies, including Intel, Microsoft and Google, scrambled to calm the mood this week after a large number of computer users reported performance problems linked to security updates for the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities.

A firestorm of criticism has erupted over the response to the chip flaws, which researchers at Google's Project Zero discovered in 2016. Months passed before the problems were disclosed to the public. Further, the security patches released in recent days have been blamed for performance problems, including slowdowns in many systems. The fixes reportedly rendered a smaller number of systems unbootable.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich on Thursday sent an open letter to the technology industry, pledging the company would make frequent updates and be more transparent about the process, and that it would report security issues to the public in a prompt manner.


Design Flaw
Intel Executive Vice President Navin Shenoy on Wednesday issued an update on the impact of the patches on performance, saying that eighth-generation Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake platforms would see less than a 6 percent performance decrease. However, users running Web applications with complex Javascript operations might see a 10 percent reduction.

The seventh-generation Kaby Lake platforms would experience a 7 percent reduction, and the impact on the sixth-generation Skylake platforms would be slightly higher at 8 percent.

Intel released numerous statements after the vulnerabilities were made public, and it shot down reports that its chips were the only ones at risk.

However, the Rosen Law Firm on Wednesday announced that it had filed a class action suit against Intel, alleging a failure to disclose the design flaw. The complaint cited reports that Intel had been warned of the problem. An Intel spokesperson was not immediately available to comment for this story.

Project Zero researchers discovered serious security flaws caused by "speculative execution," a technique used by modern CPUs to optimize performance, Matt Linton, senior security engineer at Google Cloud, and Matthew O'Connor, office of the CTO, wrote in an online post.

G Suite and Google Cloud platforms have been updated to protect against known attacks, the company said, though it acknowledged concerns that a variant of Spectre is considered more difficult to defend against.

Microsoft and others in the industry were notified of the issue several months ago under a nondisclosure agreement, Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft's Windows and Devices group, noted earlier this week in an online post. The company immediately began engineering work on updates to mitigate the risk.

The flaw could allow a nonprivileged user to access passwords or secret keys on a computer or a multitenant cloud server, explained Stratechery analyst Ben Thompson in a post Myerson referenced.

Contrary to Intel's protests, the potential risk from Meltdown is due to a design flaw, Thompson also noted.

Users of Windows 8 or Windows 7 systems using Haswell or older CPUs and would see a decrease in system performance after patching the flaw, Myerson noted.

Apple released updates for iOS, macOS High Sierra, and Safari on Sierra and El Capitan, noting the issue relates to all modern processors and affects nearly all computers and operating systems.

However there have been no reported compromises of customer data, Apple added, and Apple Watch is not affected by Meltdown or Spectre.

Performance Over Prudence

"The Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities require adjustment to critical, low-level interfaces in affected operating systems," said Mark Nunnikhoven, vice president of cloud security at Trend Micro.

"Given the scale of the issue, the patches by Microsoft, Apple, Google and others have been very successful," he told TechNewsWorld.

Still, there have been problems in some cases, Nunnikhoven said, noting that Microsoft and AMD have been pointing fingers at one another following reports of computers slowing down or in some cases not booting.

Microsoft has suspended automatic updates and is working with AMD on a solution, it said in a security bulletin.

Like most organizations, chip manufacturers long have prioritized speed over security," said Ryan Kalember, senior vice president of cybersecurity strategy at Proofpoint, "and that has led to a tremendous amount of sensitive data being placed at risk of unauthorized access via Meltdown and Spectre.

The software patch required to fix Meltdown can slow computer processors down by as much as 30 percent, said Alton Kizziah, vice president of global managed services at Kudelski Security.

"Organizations need to test patches before installing them to make sure that systems that may already be pushed to their limits won't crash and cease functioning as a result of the patch," he told TechNewsWorld. Also, those using Microsoft patches may need to make adjustments to their registry keys to avoid interference with antivirus software.

By David Jones 

tech issues for 2018

So, you’d like to have more people find out about your startup in 2018? If you’re interested in securing more web traffic, you’ll want to check out the following search engine optimization tips...

So, you’d like to have more people find out about your startup in 2018? If you’re interested in securing more web traffic, you’ll want to check out the following search engine optimization tips...

So, you’d like to have more people find out about your startup in 2018? If you’re interested in securing more web traffic—and having relevant prospective customers discover you, you’ll want to check out the following search engine optimization tips from Rand Fishkin, founder and current ‘wizard’ (https://moz.com/about/team/randfish) of Seattle-based SEO powerhouse, Moz (https://moz.com).

Startups are known to have limited resources. (Yes, truer words may never have been said.) If an entrepreneur had to choose from the 2018 list that Fishkin shared at the Web Summit in Lisbon this past November, here are the tips he believes will get them the most bang for their buck.
1- Know Your Keywords.

“If you can do nothing else, I’d urge you to invest in keyword research,” Fishkin recommends. “Uncover the terms and phrases your audience is using to search, and match those keywords to content you’re creating (or will create) so you can start the optimization process.”

This could involve some keyword research using Google’s keyword planner tool (https://adwords.google.com/home/tools/keyword-planner/) to see how current searches stack up, or scouring Quora (https://www.quora.com), Reddit (https://www.reddit.com) or other forums in order to get the terminology just right.

Fishkin notes that at this stage, it truly pays to do your homework. “If you don’t have a grounding in keyword research, it’s next to impossible to do the rest of what’s needed for SEO.”

2- Solve the Searcher’s Task Better Than Anyone Else.

He also advises companies to ‘solve the searcher’s task better than anyone else’. What does this mean exactly? Should entrepreneurs try to get granular and focus on specific responses to achieve a first page search result, or should they attempt to answer a question more broadly (e.g. a catch-all approach)?

“Generally speaking, you want to serve the searcher’s intent,” he said. “Sometimes that means serving multiple intents when keywords have multiple types of questions behind them.

Consider what intentions your current or desired customers might have, including the pain points they’re experiencing, as a means for shaping their searches—then adjust your content accordingly.

“Something like ‘dentists in San Diego’ is fairly clear. Folks want a list, some way of choosing and sorting, and ways to trust that the list is reliable, up-to-date, includes pertinent contact info, etc.”

That’s clear enough, but how should entrepreneurs approach more generalized searches?

3- Explore Current High-Ranking Results.

Search engine algorithms can’t be fooled, nor can they easily be fully understood. However, there is a straightforward way to reveal what they prioritize. Here’s a concrete example.

“A query like ‘hiring developers’ is tougher,” Fishkin says. “Do searchers want lists of companies who are hiring? Advice on how to hire? Pros and cons of whether to hire vs outsource? Or something else? In this case, it pays to research what’s already appearing on page 1 (and page 2 and 3) to see what content Google believes to be of primary interest to searchers. That’s where you’ll want to start.”

Ready to generate more online visibility and build a stronger sales funnel in the New Year? You now have all the insights you need to successfully launch your startup’s SEO efforts—it’s time to get to work!

By Kristi DePaul

SEO trends

In online marketing, few strategies are as competitive or as quickly evolving as search engine optimization (SEO).

In online marketing, few strategies are as competitive or as quickly evolving as search engine optimization (SEO).

In online marketing, few strategies are as competitive or as quickly evolving as search engine optimization (SEO). Marked by a history of algorithm updates, new technologies, and new techniques to win real estate at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs), most SEO experts (like me) chomp at the bit to predict or learn the latest trends that will shape our businesses’ digital futures.

Though algorithm updates were few and far between, 2017 was still an exciting year for SEO, and I’m anticipating even bigger changes on the horizon for 2018. Based on my observations, some trends that unfolded through the end of 2017, and some speculation on some newly unfolding technologies, I’ve come up with a list of predictions for the trends I think will dominate the SEO field in 2018:

1. Video and image search will vastly improve. Gradually, our online interactions have evolved to become more visual. Over the past few years, faster internet speeds, more visual-friendly social media platforms, and a general public desire to engage with more images and videos has led to a surge in visual online interactions. Accordingly, I think we’ll see some changes to how Google and other search engines treat images and videos in an online environment. New startups like Moodstocks and Eyefluence (both of which were acquired by Google) have sought to recognize visual elements within images and videos more accurately, or have sought to improve user interactions with them. I’m not sure what changes these startups foretell, exactly, but I bet we’ll see a vast improvement in search sophistication for visual assets.

2. The Knowledge Graph will dominate. For a few years now, Google has been steadily increasing the frequency and specificity of featured snippets—the concise answers to questions users pose in their search queries. Yet, just last month, the frequency of featured snippets declined significantly, apparently replaced by equivalent answers found in Knowledge Graph boxes. I think this event could portend the rise and eventual dominance of Google’s Knowledge Graph, replacing a good chunk of the space currently occupied by featured snippets in an effort to provide users with even better, more consistent answers.

3. Voice search will sharply increase with the rise of smart speaker sales. Do you have a smart speaker? If you don’t, I bet you know at least a few people who do. Smart speaker sales, like those for Amazon Echo and Google Home, surged in 2017, and sales will probably grow further in 2018 as newer models start to roll out. Because these speakers are activated by voice, and provide spoken search results, users are getting even more used to interacting with search engine results with only their voices and their ears. This could drastically change the types of queries we see, and reshape the way businesses think about SERPs (since they may no longer be as visual).

4. Individual customization will change the way many rankings are calculated. Google has been pushing the development of more personalized search results for the better part of a decade, relying on individual search histories, browser cookies, and other information to give better, more customized SERPs for individuals. With the advent of smart speakers, the increased convenience of search, and greater technological sophistication, the personalization factor will likely increase even further in 2018, making it more difficult to predict how your company will rank—or what you’ll rank for.

5. Machine learning will spell the end of traditional search algorithm updates. RankBrain remains Google’s deepest dive into machine learning—at least in how it pertains to its search algorithm. But Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has invested heavily in machine learning and AI over the past several years. Though Google hasn’t released any official news about when or if it plans to roll out more machine learning updates to its core algorithm, my guess is by the end of 2018, we’ll see a greater influence of machine learning over typical search results. Eventually, though it will probably be years from now, we may see algorithm updates fade away entirely, in favor of an automated, continuous and iterative algorithm updating process carried out by machine learning.

6. SEO will expand beyond Google and Bing. Over the past few years, I’ve seen an increased trend of companies competing for ranking space outside Google. Google still dominates the search engine sphere, remaining the most popular search platform by far, but third-parties like Yelp and Amazon, as well as digital assistants like Siri have stepped in to become relevant search engines in their own right. If you want to be found by a greater percentage of user searches, and introduce yourself to the widest audience possible, in 2018, you’ll need to begin to think beyond Google’s range of influence.

7. Hyperlocal results will finally take off. I anticipated 2017 to be the first major year for hyperlocal marketing (as did several other experts); I wasn’t wrong about the increased influence of local search and local SEO, but the world wasn’t ready for hyperlocal intent to become the new normal. By “hyperlocal,” I’m referring to the process of targeting customers (or presenting search results) based on physical proximity, down to less than a block radius. I imagine by the end of 2018, with more mobile use than ever before and the rising relevance of VR and AR, companies currently involved in local SEO will need to do more to target hyperlocal keywords and optimize for even more locally relevant appearances.

I feel some of these predictions are “sure bets,” bound to unfold soon, even if they don’t take hold early in 2018. Others are a little riskier, but I’m personally going to start pursuing them (or at least start brainstorming how I could take advantage of them). If you’re interested in seeing how these trends develop, stay tuned to your favorite SEO communities, and take note of any aberrations in your own sets of data.

I don’t think 2018 will be a highly volatile year for the SEO industry, but it could certainly bring some changes that shake up the game.

By Jayson DeMers

spending on influencer marketing programs

Linqia’s new research on the influencer landscape found that 40 percent of brands are upping their budgets in 2018.

Linqia’s new research on the influencer landscape found that 40 percent of brands are upping their budgets in 2018.

New research conducted by Linqia, titled The State of Influencer Marketing 2018, sheds light on the ever-growing marketing tactic from the perspective of brand marketers. To inform the research, a total of 181 marketers were surveyed spanning a variety of industries including CPG, Food and Beverage, Media, and Retail.

Key findings from the research include:

- Eighty-six percent of marketers claimed to have used influencer marketing in 2017. Of this group, 92 percent said they found it to be effective.

- Thirty percent of marketers report that they will spend between $25K and $50K per program in 2018 and 25 percent report that they will spend between $50K and $100K.

- Forty-six percent of marketers run between two and five influencer programs per year per brand and 31 percent run more than five programs per year per brand, with enterprises typically holding portfolios of dozens of brands.

- Overall, marketers are taking FTC guidelines more seriously, with 71 percent of respondents reporting that they were up-to-date with current FTC Endorsement Guides, compared to 55 percent who said the same one year ago.

- With respect to the challenges inherent to influencer marketing, 76 percent of respondents reported that, in 2017, determining influencer marketing ROI was their top challenge. In the year ahead, 42 percent project changing social network algorithms will be their second largest challenge.

- Less than 20 percent of respondents claimed that they self-manage their influencer campaigns in-house, proving out the growing market for influencer agencies and technology partners.

The main takeaway: As the influencer space matures, it grows more complex—yet more powerful. Fifty-two percent of marketers in the Linqia survey say they’ll use multiple types of influencers for their upcoming strategies.

Further, 44 percent will employ influencer content to bolster the performance of other digital channels and 36 percent reported they will pair their influencer content with e-commerce to help drive product sales.