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There are billions -- billions -- of people using the internet every day. Why is your site traffic so low?

It could be that you just operate in a niche market. Medicare supplemental insurance in Dayton probably isn't going to attract as much attention as hotels in Daytona just near spring break. Still, there's always that notion that you should be driving more traffic than you are already, right?

Let's do that, then!

Here are five ways you can start generating more traffic to your site today. They're quick, they're easy, and they work.

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It has been two decades since Amazon was founded. Online commerce is no longer a novelty. Despite this, over 92 percent of retail sales in the United States still happen offline, according to a Forrester study. Quite clearly, traditional retail still enjoys an advantage over e-commerce. Why are online retailers unable to grow bigger? Here are a few studies that have attempted to understand the complexities and challenges faced by online retail marketers.

The absence of touch and feel

One overwhelming reason why not all customers are comfortable purchasing products online is the lack of touch and feel that traditional retail offers. In the real world, you could try on a t-shirt before buying it. You could squeeze a pillow to see how soft it is -- these are things that you cannot do in an online marketplace. According to a study by Ripen eCommerce, over 30.8 percent of customers have stopped short of making an online purchase precisely due to this reason.

Perceived lack of security

A Forrester research study has found that online marketers that succeed in selling products online are those that walk the extra mile to reassure the customers that their financial information is absolutely secure while transacting through the website. The study found that while a lot of online stores do take all the precautions necessary to ensure security on their websites, they do not communicate this to the customer, which becomes a major roadblock that the customer faces while making a purchase. Another study conducted by business internet service provider,  AllStream, found that the server responsiveness and quick loading time was another major factor that influenced the perception about website security and credibility among customers.

The additional layer of customer support

A typical retail purchase in the offline world does not need customer support all too often. Of course there are sales reps to help you decide on a product to buy. But the replacements and refunds are often handed at the billing desk without much ado. Unlike this, online commerce introduces a new layer for customer support that is much more needed than in the offline world. Shipment delays, wrong sizes, and wrong products are all examples of scenarios where a customer needs to talk to customer support. According to a study from Accenture, given customers' general inclination to deal with support, it makes sense that continuing with the traditional mode of purchasing goods is preferred.

Mail delivery reliability

In traditional retail, you have to deal only with the shop you purchase from. You take the responsibility for verifying product quality and bringing the product home. In the case of online retailers, the product is shipped through third-party couriers, and how reliable they are and how the product is packaged are often outside your control. A new study conducted by Triangle Management Services revealed that even among online retailers, 39 percent of the merchants consider reliability of mail delivery services to be one of the major road-blocks to growing online retail.

As a customer, what are some other factors that influence your decision to purchase offline? Share it with us in the comments below.

Ian McGrath is chief consulting at Bridge Consulting. 

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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Great brands are introspective

Great brands don't look at or define themselves as external images to promote, but rather look internally to fuel, align and guide everything that the organization does. When a brand stops defining itself based on how the public perceives it, the company can start to introspect and really shape how it wants to operate and touch the public. Brands are more than messages and marketing; they are entities that touch our lives on a daily basis. We live in an always-on digital world where brand transparency is becoming more and more inevitable. Great brands have looked within themselves to mold a company culture, purpose, and mission that resonates on a deeper level with the public.

Few know more about how brands become great than Denise Lee Yohn, bestselling author of "What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand Building Principles That Separate the Best From The Rest." She speaks to iMedia about her book and why brand introspection is a key pillar in what makes certain companies truly exceptional.

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Media spend on marketing, particularly online, continues to rise in 2014. As CMOs gain confidence in their ability to generate revenue through digital channels -- especially mobile -- they will continue to invest time and resources into online methods of driving user acquisition and retention. According to the chief marketing officer council's eighth annual "State of Marketing" report, 54 percent of marketers plan to boost their budgets in 2014, focusing on the following approaches:

That last percentage may be surprising to most digital advertisers, since Google (71 percent global search engine market share) has been the online marketing industry standard for the past decade. According to a recent reader survey run by Ad Age, "Respondents ranked the search giant as the best ad platform for ROI, and its video channel, YouTube, fell fourth behind Facebook and Twitter." So, why wouldn't a brand invest solely in the digital channel that provided the highest return on investment? Here are a few reasons.

Search and social serve completely different purposes

Search engine marketing is based on intent. A prospect is volunteering information about what they are looking for, and Google matches that information with an ad based on a pre-selected keyword. So, if I'm searching for high-heeled shoes and Macy's has bid on an ad placement for high-heeled shoes, I will be served up that ad as long as Macy's is the highest bidder. The likelihood that I will be interested in their high heels is, well, high -- there's a reason why search has been the most popular choice for customer acquisition campaigns.

Social media marketing, however, is based on creating intent within a targeted audience. If I'm logged in to Facebook and my profile says I'm a Boston-based fan of The Beatles, Cirque du Soleil can take an educated guess that I'd be interested in the New England neck of its LOVE tour and bid to show me an ad to purchase tickets. I might be willing to buy one, and I might not -- it's a gamble. Either way, I will at least be made aware that the show is in town.

Social knows who you are -- search has to guess

As you can see in the example above, Facebook knows an awful lot about all of us -- our gender, age, location, relationship status, place of work -- and page likes are just the tip of the targeting iceberg. Search engines, on the other hand, have to base their ideas of who we are on our browsing history, which means if I've been shopping online for a Christmas present for my boyfriend, I might be mistaken for a man during future searches. Though a bombardment of Axe body spray ads wouldn't be the end of the world, it would be a waste of brand money.

Search engine ads lack social context

Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are places where people go to share updates, photos, links and videos. While search is considered a "native" channel because ads mimic the format of search engine results, social media has the added layer of peer approval. When a friend engages with a brand through a "like," follow or comment, that activity can be tied to an ad (e.g., "Jessica Wilson likes Expedia,") lending credibility to the product or service being advertised. This is an important differentiator when it comes to targeting millennial shoppers.

Social media ties in with television

Though multiple studies have shown that marketers are shifting ad spend from television advertising to digital channels, TV is not a dead medium by a long shot. The consumer trend of second screen browsing during commercial breaks has been reinforced by social media tie-ins as shows like The Voice, @Midnight, and Survivor have incorporated hashtags into the viewing experience. Recognizing this, Twitter offers a promoted tweets option to "Reach people who engage with specific television programming." For social media-savvy brands like Snickers, Progressive, and Old Spice, being able to target customers in real-time as they switch from viewing to browsing and back is a huge draw.

Try everything

Digital marketing is like investing on Wall Street -- it pays to have a healthy mix of stocks in your portfolio. While paid social media and search advertising methods are taking up a lot of attention in tech journalism, email marketing is still one of the highest performing channels for customer engagement, and content marketing drives a considerable amount of short- and long-term traffic to websites and product pages. Some channels are a great fit for user acquisition and not so much for retention; others are perfect for targeting millennials and ineffective when it comes to the 55+ set. Run side-by-side campaigns using the scientific method and take notes on what works for your brand. You're likely to find that a combination of search and social advertising is the outcome.

Juliana Casale is the content marketing manager at Nanigans.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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Mobile is totally manic, and there's no real prescription for the highs and lows. There's a massive pool of opportunity, with new market growth opportunities in countries like China, and much of Asia as a whole. You see games like Clash of Clans and Candy Crush doing well over $1 million a day in revenue and adding hundreds of thousands of users per day. Yet overall, monetization in mobile from apps to advertising can be equally soul-crushing.

A great product isn't always the tonic. Often a great user-acquisition strategy, and equally, a big budget to go with it, proves to be the magic bullet. While the app stores and ad networks foster great promise and opportunity for developers, publishers and marketers, they can also be a curse. It's the curse of being the only game in town.

As developers, publishers, and marketers, what choices do you have for driving eyeballs into revenue generating users? It's with this manic mindset that we look to the potential of Facebook's Audience Network (FAN) and wonder if it's a curse or a cure for the mobile industry.

While there can be massive potential, it could also kill huge swathes of the industry. For example:

  • Could this cause consolidation across the entire industry and change the landscape drastically?
  • Mobile App Install units on Facebook launched less than two years ago and are a huge traffic source. Is this the same thing extrapolated across the mobile app ecosystem?
  • Facebook's app install ads work because of its smooth native experiences and because of Facebook's incredible targeting social graph data. Will FAN be able to nail that key native component across other publishers?
  • What are the implications for other networks? Does FAN have potential to block out most irrelevant networks from getting to any publishers?

No one can offer definitive answers. However, here's what we do know:

Expanded ad inventory

Launch of the Facebook Audience Network will further expand Facebook's ad inventory through third-party apps. The huge success of Facebook's app install ads is limited only by its own ad inventory. As big as Facebook's own app is, there are many other apps out there that people are using and spending time in. It only makes sense for Facebook to extend its reach to this audience, especially considering that many of these apps are already integrated with Facebook for sharing and access to the social graph.

Restricted performance data

Facebook is moving to restrict access to the performance data it shares with mobile advertisers as the demand for its inventory grows. Current measurement partners are already limited in the data they can collect, and this trend is likely to worsen going into 2015. Facebook is under pressure from two different directions to limit the effectiveness of ad performance data currently shared with mobile advertisers. First, despite the fact that Facebook already shares less with advertisers than most of the competing ad networks, its primary advertised platform is owned by Apple -- one of the biggest supporters of consumer privacy. Facebook has to be careful to keep Apple on its side as it grows its ad business, now accounting for more than half of its revenue. Apple has penalized ad networks in the past for being too aggressive with user tracking, and Facebook would be no exception if it were deemed to be liberal with use of customer data. More self-servingly, Facebook is the hottest user-acquisition channel on mobile today. At some point, Facebook will want to take advantage of that by providing less ad performance data to advertisers and bringing more brands to the table.

Increasing Facebook's mobile lead

If successful, Facebook will extend its lead in the mobile ad space even further. We expect to see Facebook bring all mobile performance measurement in-house next year as they further limit performance data sharing. Facebook's app install ads now drive some 25 percent of paid user acquisition in mobile by some estimates. That means it only makes sense to bring all this data in-house. Facebook has shown it's not afraid to make waves a few months back when it kicked out its biggest mobile measurement partner, HasOffers. We hear acquisition rumors already, as it's unlikely Facebook will want to build an attribution engine in-house.

Right now it's all speculative, but it's safe to say that Facebook's Audience Network could be the game-changer that drives significant value and new riches into the entire mobile app, marketing and advertising ecosystem. Of course, one should also keep rooting for the innovative underdogs. Choices in business are essential, because too much of one thing -- no matter how good -- will eventually put you into a deadly state of toxic shock.

Slaven Radic is CEO and co-founder of Tapstream.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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If you're looking for the definitive history of marketing, we should probably tell you right up front that we're not historians. Also, that's a book-length topic. (Two volumes at least!) So if you clicked on this article thinking we'd cover the whole enchilada, you probably have unreasonably high expectations. Just saying.

Basically, this is a list of historic events, arranged in chronological order. You probably know about some of these turning points, but others might be new to you. These moments were chosen because they're part of marketing history and they can teach us something about marketing today.

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It's more difficult than ever for a brand to win a consumer's attention. Marketing follows us everywhere we go. So it takes grand and often exceptionally clever ideas to make us stop and say, "Wow -- that was really cool (or crazy or funny, etc.)."

The best marketing stunts are able to stay completely on-brand while extolling the virtues of the product or service and complementing the narrative of the story being told. But frequently, marketing gimmicks are successful enough if they succeed at compelling you to share them with a friend or colleague.

5 epic marketing stunts you need to see

Let's take a look at some recent brand stunts that caused consumer double-takes -- and loads of sharing.

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Marketers know their products well so that when it comes time to launch campaigns, they're usually correct about picking the right time to target. In the world of paid search, there are best practices that the commerce world uses to drive traffic and capitalize on hot online inquires. However, paid search should not be a one-and-done marketing endeavor. It's a tremendous tool for testing if you're really accomplishing the greatest ROI for your spend.


Jeff Campbell, co-founder and managing director of Resolution Media speaks to iMedia about why seasonal all-year testing with paid search could uncover facts about your success (or lack thereof) that you did not know. Here's why it's so important to have a strategy that leaves budget for experimentation with this important advertising tactic.

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Article written by senior media producer David Zaleski and video edited by associate media producer Brian Waters.

"Flat design modern vector illustration poster of the SEO website" image via Shutterstock.

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Regardless if you're a top-level executive or a rookie marketer, everyone needs motivation. And for many, the source comes from the creative vigor of other companies and organizations. In an effort to find out what companies young professionals are looking up to, iMedia asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) the following question: As an entrepreneur, what brand inspires you and why?

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Tesla

Liam Martin, Staff.com

"Tesla and SpaceX have at the core of their brand the ability to inspire huge accomplishments in human civilization. It's because they're not just designing a more efficient computer or better packaging for a running shoe or a soda product, but something that will fundamentally change human history. Any brand that inspires that kind of awe and wonder -- a brand that focuses its energy on changing the world rather than profiting from it -- is a brand that inspires me."

LUSH Cosmetics

Doreen BlochPoshly Inc.

"LUSH is an inspiring brand because they bridged the gap between revenue and ethics. I love that LUSH makes a conscious effort to make the world a better place through eco-friendly packaging, charitable donations, cruelty-free products, and ethically sourced resources. On top of all that, LUSH is still very chic, profitable, and expanding in popularity and scale."

truth

Ben Rubenstein, Yodle

"The anti-tobacco organization, truth. This is the only organization that I know of that has made a brand out of not doing something and created a product that you can't buy. They are doing something unique to reach consumers and influence decisions, and are challenging the status quo in marketing. They operate with honesty to solve a social issue, and I find that really inspiring."

Zappos

Vladimir Gendelman, Company Folders, Inc.

"I am inspired by Zappos because they are truly customer service oriented. They identify what would be best for the customer and then figure out what they need to do to achieve it. Anytime we discuss new ideas, I always ask myself, 'Would Zappos do that?'"

Ducati Motorcycles

Andy KaruzaBrandbuddee

"From the product to the brand image, I love it all. They've done a great job making some of the best motorcycles in the world with the industry's best design. More importantly, they've done a very good job building a sense of community around the motorcycles -- one that many aspire to be a part of."

Infusionsoft

Adam RootHiplogiq

"Infusionsoft provides small businesses with tools they wouldn't otherwise have access to. Most software companies are focused on building tools for big brands, but our country isn't built on a few large brands. It's built on entrepreneurs -- people who take a risk, leave their six-figure jobs to solve a big problem, eat ramen noodles, and work 12-hour days with no vacation for years because they see something great and want to make it reality."

Virgin Group

Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep

"A conglomerate that's well-respected among all founders and CEOs, Virgin is also a brand that is known in every household. Richard Branson has done an incredible job of building businesses that people love, and I aspire to do the same. Building an ever expanding group of companies while maintaining your brand's integrity is no easy feat, but that's something we hope to do too."

Cisco

David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services 

"I love the way sales is such a strong mantra throughout the company, with everyone focused on it. In my own business, I try to get everyone to see the role they can play in the sales cycle."

Everlane

Colin WrightAsymmetrical Press

"There are many brands operating in a very honest way, but I'm a fan of the clothing brand Everlane in particular. What they're doing in terms of transparency (with their operations, pricing, production, and just about everything else) is very smart. How they're building out their catalog and producing runs of products, only as their sales and profits warrant, is also a very smart and future-facing move."

Basecamp

Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

"I really admire Basecamp, and Jason Fried's model of staying strategically small. He's built his entire business around creating amazing work/life balance for his employees and creating products that help others run their companies. It's great to see a business putting employees and customers before profits."

Warby Parker

Mike McGee, The Starter League

"I'm a person who loves to wear glasses but hates to pay tons of money for them. In 2011, I was introduced to Warby Parker, and my world was changed. While I love the 10 pairs of glasses I've bought from them, what I love the most is their customer service. They answer every question posed to them on Twitter, and they took it to another level and sent me a book as well as made me a personalized video! A big brand with a bigger heart."

Jimmy Buffett

Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

"Jimmy Buffett is more than a musician; he is a bona fide multimillion-dollar brand. From Margaritaville restaurants to New York Times best-selling books to clothing lines, the quality and loyalty to his projects is evident in his ever-developing business portfolio. Expanding his business portfolio year after year, product after product, while staying true to his passion is every entrepreneur's dream!"

DivvyHQ

Jason GrillJGrill Media | Sock 101 

"DivvyHQ inspires me to take what I have learned throughout my career experience in order to find a solution to problems that people and businesses everywhere face. DivvyHQ's founders used their experience at ad agencies and creative groups to solve the content marketing and organizational issues many of us face in the workforce. Fixing a problem that helps an entire market is truly inspirational."

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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Content marketing is hot -- finally! It's the term du jour in digital marketing and advertising, getting its figurative place at the table and its own literal track at every marketing conference of note. Content is even getting its own dedicated conferences now -- several of them.

With great power comes great responsibility, as well as a not-insignificant number of "me too" arrivals at the party. 

Enter the age of parochial content marketing.

What's parochial content marketing? It's a trend we've seen in the past when new marketing channels suddenly erupt into prominence, most recently social media.

Five years ago, every email marketing solution was suddenly a social media company. Every search engine marketing vendor was suddenly a social media solution. If digital video was the offering, it was a digital video for social media providers. I think you get the drift.

Now all those email companies, search vendors, video providers, and so on down the line are -- you guessed it -- content marketing solutions. Even one of the largest social media platforms has begun a major marketing initiative for its content marketing product.

There's a good side to this. It means content marketing is maturing, mainstreaming, and that its importance is finally recognized. But there's a not-so-great darker side too.

The dark side is a parochial approach to content marketing, the view that "content marketing" means screwing search, or email, or video, or blogging into a container labeled "content marketing" and ticking that box off the list of "must-do marketing tactics."

Yes, vendors struggle to remain relevant -- often a tough job in a landscape in which tactics such as email and search and site design couldn't be more relevant, but have also been relegated to wallpaper status by virtue of the fact that they have aged out at a ripe old decade of service mark. A couple of years ago, I interviewed more than 50 Fortune 500 marketers on the content marketing channels they were using. One cited search. Zero cited email. (Ha! As if!)

Email is a container for content. Search has nothing to find if there isn't any content. Ads are filled with content -- it's just called "creative" in that channel. There simply is no marketing without content.

Smart marketers know that, and they know that the best content begins with a strategy. Not with a channel.

Rebecca Lieb is an analyst, digital advertising/media, for Altimeter Group.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

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