At The Relevancy Group, we spend a lot of time helping clients manage the increasingly complex process around RFPs for new marketing technology partners, particularly in the email marketing space. This has given us a very unique perspective on the process of pitching for business and the pitfalls that can trip up a vendor at every stage of it.
Whether you are an enterprise provider pitching a Fortune 500 prospect or are looking to serve the small or midmarket segments, the same universal truths apply when in the RFP process. So as a public service to all our friends in the ESP space, this month I offer you the three universal truths of all email RFPs -- ones that actually apply to all marketing technology RFPs.
Managing an RFP process obviously means disappointing many very capable candidates at different points. There can only be one winner after all. At each phase of the process, candidates are eliminated, and we try to provide them with constructive feedback. And despite their disappointment, by and large the vendors are gracious and very professional in their response.
However, in some of our client engagements, there's the vendor who didn't even make the cut to be included in the RFP and yet has a close relationship with someone in senior management. And that vendor uses that relationship to get imposed on the process, sometimes when it's already well down the road.
Before your company does this, here are some things you should consider:
There are very good reasons you weren't included in the first place. Those reasons will invariably surface during the process, as the methodology we use is very objective and based on unbiased scorecards. It's not that we don't know enough about your company; it's that we know enough about your company to have decided it's not a good fit in this particular RFP.
You're not winning any friends when you crash the party. Your party-crashing going to extend the length of the process for the client and give him or her the added pressure of having to deal with executive management oversight of the project. As for The Relevancy Group, we manage a lot of RFPs -- not just the one you've decided to crash.
I have written about this before, but I'm going to say it again: Email marketing (and marketing technology in general) is a service business, and our clients want to get comfortable with the team with whom they would work if they award you the business. In The Relevancy Group's recently completed "ESP Buyers Guide" (you can get a free excerpt here), we found that the quality of the people is as important in selecting a new ESP as are the features and functionality of the platform, particularly at the enterprise level. It's extremely difficult to make a pure platform play these days.
But in far too many RFP presentations, the ESP team is comprised of sales leads, sales engineers, implementation specialists, etc. And maybe one person who will actually be part of the team managing the business. Making matters worse, of the seven or eight people presenting, only one is a woman. Some of the smartest people with whom I've ever worked just happen to be women!
If you take anything away from this at all, it should be this: 100 percent of the time, the decision makers at the prospect are going to include women -- 100 percent of the time. So include women and the people who will manage the business in your presentations. Ideally they are one and the same. Lastly, one salesperson should do it. That's getting harder these days because of the purchases of ESPs by the likes of Adobe, Oracle, Teradata, Salesforce.com, etc. Having lived through the purchase of Digital Impact by Acxiom back in 2005, I know how difficult keeping it to one or two salespeople can be. The "mother ship" (as we referred to Acxiom back in the day) wants at least one of its salespeople in all the opportunities along with the team from the ESP. After all, one of the reasons to buy an ESP is to have another entry point into prospects. But there's no upside for the prospect during an RFP to have two or more salespeople involved. And it can confuse the daylights out of us as well. We often end up not knowing with whom we should be speaking.
Ignore those different needs at your peril. There's usually one or two critical features on which an RFP turns -- features that in all likelihood are unique to that marketer. So vendors that stick to a playbook and script often don't recognize the importance that a prospect puts on a particular feature. Or they do pick up on it, and rather than address it, they try to hide the fact that they have an inelegant solution for that need by shifting the focus to something else.
Recognizing these inflection points in an RFP process requires excellent listening skills on the part of the ESP's team. And if your platform doesn't address the requirement, it's even more critical that you get ahead of that fact. Don't try to ignore it and move on. We advise vendors to acknowledge when their ability to address a specific requirement misses the mark. At this point, they should outline a roadmap to solve the problem, while also emphasizing how their platform is superior in handling the remainder of the requirements specific to that marketer. Merely saying "we're the best," "we are winning the most business," or "we invest the most money in our platform" is not a winning strategy at this point in the RFP.
Prevailing in any RFP takes a lot of work, a bit of luck, and a good product. Even so, if you are honest with yourself, no matter how good your team and platform might be, you're not going to win every time. But you can certainly improve your odds of winning if you follow the advice we've included here. And even a small uptick in your win rate will mean a lot more revenue over time!
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Traditional radio has always dominated in-car entertainment. However, if Pandora has its way, all of that is about to change.
Image source here.
The world's leading streaming audio service is ambitious about its prospects, especially when it comes to emerging markets. Connected cars are one of them. Soon, all cars will not only be connected to the cloud, but might also be Wi-Fi hotspots. Cars are quickly turning into another device that consumers own, like smartphones, tablets, and laptops. The automobile industry is embracing digital, and it's creating massive opportunities for brands.
Pandora is one company that is salivating over the prospects presented by this trend. Imagine if a car operated like your iPhone and you could download apps (or have them natively implemented) and control your content experience on the go. According to Heidi Browning, SVP of strategic solutions for Pandora, this has been square in the company's vision since day one. Pandora exists to disrupt radio. Radio is easy, free, and ubiquitous. Pandora's goal is to be just as easy, free, and ubiquitous as radio. That's why Pandora is so bullish about being incorporated into connected cars. The company has already accomplished this on a multitude of other devices. According to Heidi Browning, the connected car is the last and biggest frontier.
While the internet isn't really owned by any one person or organization, Google certainly has a lot to say about what you've got to do to succeed there.
For several years now, Google has been tweaking its search algorithms to weed out thin websites, spammers, and those engaging in black-hat SEO techniques. Essentially, those who aren't providing anything of real value or any kind of useful information are going to have a harder time getting ranked high (or at all) than those who are trying to provide high-quality content.
So, if you have a website and you're wanting to get it ranked, one of the best things you can do is to stop worrying about being ranked.
Or at least don't let that be your primary motivator. Website admins and bloggers need to understand Google's basic objective: to provide useful information to as many people as possible. If we get that and our site helps them achieve that goal, then page rank will happen.
That means regardless of where you stand with Google, providing the online community with real value should be your ultimate goal.
At the same time, there are some practical and acceptable ways to improve your reputation with Google and net yourself a high search engine results page (SERP) for certain keywords.
Aside from your content, here's what to keep in mind:
Online marketing has brought a completely new set of rules to the business and advertising world. Whether you run a blog, a simple website where you're selling a product or you admin a business' website, it pays to know these new marketing strategies and put them into practice.
Once again, content is the central issue.
How you reach people with that content is up to you and your own schedule, yet the principles are still the same and you need to know what they are in today's online marketing world.
Site navigation has nothing to do with a sitemap (which means something entirely different than what we're discussing here), so get that out of your mind.
The term is simply used to refer to how a user finds their way through a series of web pages and the content within those pages.
As you might expect, the easier things are for the user, the better off you'll be.
It's unclear exactly how Google measures this, but they do keep track of something called "bounce rate." Your site's bounce rate is a percentage, say 75 percent, which refers to the number of people who see your site and then leave without clicking through to another page.
That alone is bad for your rankings, so make sure your site is simple and easy to navigate.
This is about going beyond the realm of SEO and embracing an "all-of-the-above" type of approach.
Traditional marketing, social, guest blogging and networking for building connections and friendships should all be a part of your digital footprint.
In today's web design lingo, "responsive" has become an incredibly important term to be familiar with.
It refers to a web design strategy that accounts for your page being displayed in browsers across all platforms; namely laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
The difficulty here is that HTML and CSS tends to render differently on different browsers and devices, so there's definitely some testing that needs to take place, even if your website looks great on Firefox running off of your laptop.
However, striving for an optimal and excellent web design means you'll cover this in a thorough manner.
Understanding what people do when they get to your site and what they want to accomplish should have a lot to say about how you structure your layout.
Information should be quickly accessible and easy to navigate, while at the same time keeping things simple enough (avoiding over-optimizing) and user-friendly.
Ultimately, your site needs to be about the people who visit it and not the way Google is ranking you in search results.
It's tough, because the goal of any business (online or otherwise) is to get plenty of traffic and leads. However, the best way to get that traffic is to concentrate on providing something worth showing up and sticking around for.
Camille McClane is a freelance writer and online entrepreneur living in Southern California.
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It is in the spirit of International Women's Day, Saturday, March 8, 2014, that I write this article. For many readers this may not come as a surprise, but men and women think differently. I don't have to go beyond my own marriage for an example. It's not often that I ask my husband to change a light bulb. I'd do it myself if I had a workman's ladder that could fit in my apartment (not to mention my husband is 6'4" without heels). His typical answer, said with sincerity and without mockery: "Do you want me to do it now?" After 23 years of marriage I've developed a sense of humor: "No, I want you to do it next year, but I'm asking now so you can put it on your to do list."
Neurologists and psychologists have been grappling with the differences between how men and women think and behave for centuries. In researching for this article I've read countless articles about how men's and women's brains are wired differently. A recent study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania states, "In one brain region, women have more connections between left and right hemispheres, and men within hemispheres, while in another brain region, it is the other way around." The researchers go on to say, "This may explain, for example, why on average men are better at learning and performing single tasks, such as cycling or navigating [obviously not changing light bulbs], while women tend to be better at multitasking and problem-solving in group situations."
In taking a closer look at today's work dynamics, I asked women at the C-suite level what they thought were the differences between the sexes in the workplace.
Lili Mahlab, EVP of Frontline Marketing, thinks that "often men in leadership positions tend to exude a lot of confidence." Mahlab added, "It's their confident attitude, especially when speaking in front of an audience that wins clients' and colleagues' respect." Conversely, Mahlab talked about a female sales person on her team, who is somewhat hesitant when presenting. Mahlab coaches this salesperson to be more self-confident in order for her to elevate her sales wins. "People trust self-assured people," stated Mahlab.
According to researchers, men are better at dealing with the facts and tend to be more set in their ways. That means men may be quicker on the perception-action path, while women are better at integrating the analytic side of the brain with the intuitive and social side. Women excel at tasks that involve both logical and intuitive thinking. Mahlab said, "Women are often better listeners and tend to pick up more body language and voice inflection cues, which allow them to 'course correct' during a meeting."
As an executive recruiter and consultant, I have found that people, both men and women, often stereotype. Mahlab chucked and told me, "It's hilarious when I go into a meeting with a male colleague and the people we are meeting think he's my boss -- that is until I open my mouth." But what really galls this successful female executive is that often people tend to direct the conversation to the men in the room rather than the women.
Many of my clients, both men and women, often tell me that women have a better ability to collaborate in business. Relating a story from her past, Soche Picard, EVP, group account director at Geometry Global spoke about working at a large holding company. The company had a long standing relationship with a Fortune 100 company who sponsored the Olympics ever year. One particular year, the company had the opportunity to bring together a number of its agencies under one platform for its client. Picard was tasked to "rally the troops by bringing the agencies together." The concern for Picard was dealing with big egos in many of the agencies. "I know that I had to check my own ego at the door for the greater good. I had to understand the psychology of all the different players and how they could work together as a team."
Many women that I've worked with over the years have worked in predominantly male organizations. Mentally, women have the ability to get down to completing the tasks without their egos getting in the way. "What I've observed," stated Picard, "is that women tend to listen first before reacting. Men lean towards the inverse. And, in my experience in this business, being an effective listener is a key attribute to being a strong leader -- internally and externally."
Chris Bart, a McMaster University business professor, and his research partner, Greg McQueen, administered a test to help board members assess their decision-making skills, as part of a training program. Here are some of their findings:
Increasingly, innate and beneficial gender differences are being used to build business. Yes, men and women are different. It is diversity of thought and behavior that savvy leaders seek when building their businesses. It's about tapping the best candidate pools and ensuring retention of star employees. Smart leaders understand that men and women bring different skills to the table.
For more than 100 years, International Women's Day has celebrated the social, political, and economic achievements of women while focusing world attention on areas requiring further action. This year, the theme of International Women's Day is "Inspiring Change," and the organization is calling for greater awareness of women's equality, more women in senior leadership roles, equal recognition of women in the arts, growth of female-owned businesses, increased financial independence of women, more women in science, technology, engineering, and math, and a fairer recognition of women in sports.
It may still be a man's world, but women are making slow but steady progress finding their place at the table in corporate executive suites across the nation.
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"There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently what should not be done at all." -Peter Drucker, management consultant, educator, and author
Why is this quote so meaningful when it comes to content marketing? Because content marketers have become manic content creators. So manic in fact that they are overloading their readers and exhausting their resources. Efficient? Yes. But extremely redundant according to Kyle Lacy, senior manager of content marketing and research at ExactTarget. According to him, content marketers are not breaking up their content the way they should be. If you have a good idea, or subject matter that you want to cover that is extremely meaningful to your readers, don't throw it out all at once. Break it up among video, social, articles, and images. The variety will give your brand an impressive look, and it will drive your point home more effectively to more people. Don't feel like you need to create new stuff constantly. Take your time. You have the ability to efficiently push out new content on a constant basis, but perhaps it shouldn't be done.
Kyle Lacy speaks to iMedia's Bethany Simpson about why this quote is so important to keep in mind in the content marketing space, and why brands should be breaking up their content in multiple forms to reach more people with a higher impact.
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"Illustration depicting graffiti on a brick wall with a hopeless concept" image via Shutterstock.
Do you know many 20-somethings who own a RV? How about any Millennials (the generation that is fanatical about wealth) who think it's a good idea to accumulate colossal debt for a depreciating asset? Neither do I.
But that's not what many data mining services would have me believe. Perhaps it's because data brokers know that I like to travel based on my web browsing and purchase history. Or perhaps some third-party cookie data showed that I browsed for luxury goods recently, and thus inferred that I must be fabulously wealthy.
Whatever the reason, this much is clear: Marketers have created a temple that needs to be torn down. For more than a decade, data from third-party browser cookies have told brands and advertisers who their consumers are -- poorly. The result is rampant mistargeting of content and offers, which has understandably left consumers fed up. Nearly half of consumers will ignore a brand after being targeted with irrelevant content just twice.
When Acxiom recently created a way for consumers to see exactly what information is tracked about them, many were surprised to see just how inaccurate our consumer profiles really are. And yet marketers continue to pay for access to this information, and we rely on it to inform our segmentation and targeting strategies.
No wonder that ad for RV accessories keeps showing up. If I actually owned one, these ads would be relevant, and possibly even useful to me. Maybe our targeting algorithms aren't broken after all -- maybe we just need better data.
With web browsers and regulations cracking down on third-party tracking cookies, marketers are suddenly scrambling to determine how to identify their consumers and target them with personalized, relevant content. As new ways to collect both demographic and psychographic customer profile data have emerged, marketers now have much better ways of segmenting their customers and targeting them using more accurate first-party data -- data that brands collect and store on their own, as opposed to data purchased from third-party sources.
Big players like Pandora, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft were quick to recognize this tectonic shift in how we can track consumers, and they are rapidly adjusting strategy. The information consumers provide via registration or account creation, coupled with the ability to tie their behaviors across devices to a single customer, makes login data the new cookie. What cookie-based data lacks in accuracy, it certainly makes up for in scale since not every visitor will log in. But, what login data may lack in scale, it certainly makes up for in accuracy and quality.
The term "holy grail" gets thrown around far too often in marketing circles, but at the risk of introducing hyperbole, psychographics are fundamentally what marketers want to know about our customers. Right? We want to know what consumers like, their interests, and how they think. But psychographic data is like unobtanium -- everyone covets it, but except for complex inferences based on predictive modeling or surveys plagued by low response rates, it's always been hard to get.
Think about it. These days, we employ expensive analysis on clickstream behavioral data, or we buy third-party data, just so we can make guesses about what consumers like and how they think. What if there was a better way? What if you could just ask consumers for permission to this information, and they gave it to you?
Thankfully, there are technologies that make this possible. Social login, for example, lets brands access customer profile data with permission from the consumer. People are maintaining a lot of detailed information about themselves on social networks including demographics, hobbies and interests, favorite books, music, movies, TV shows, sports, and more.
And because this information is visible to our friends, it is much more accurate than third-party data or data inferred from browsing behavior. Let's just say that you won't find any pictures of my RV on my Facebook profile.
Just how valuable is this type of psychographic data for brands that want to remain relevant? One music label saw the number of people who read and take action on its emails improve by 600 percent after it began segmenting consumers and targeting them with artist recommendations, album releases, and upcoming concerts, all based on the music interests declared within their social network profiles.
A news media publisher increased the CPM rates it was able to charge by 20 percent, all by gaining the ability to segment its audience based on declared interests from user profiles. If an advertiser knows exactly who it is targeting, it will pay more money to publishers in order to reach those consumers.
Shopycat, a product discovery site created by Walmart Labs, recommends products to shoppers based on their Facebook "likes." So, if you're a comedy enthusiast and a fan of Bradley Cooper on Facebook, and you agree to share some of your social profile information with Shopycat, you may see a recommendation for The Hangover Part III instead of that new historical biopic about Hannah Arendt.
As they used to say (a long time ago), you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Similarly, marketers can't solve their mistargeting problems when they are relying on bad data. Ad tech has improved rapidly during the past decade, and marketing teams are full of smarter and more creative talent than ever before. By building customer profiles using the right data, marketers can survive the cookiepocalypse and remain relevant in the minds of their target consumers.
One of the most annoying and inefficient tasks in life is going grocery shopping. I have to visit up to four stores every week to find everything for the family, and that eats up plenty of time, gas, and money.
Life would be great if we could buy groceries programmatically, right? I'm not talking about simply buying them online and having them delivered (i.e. FreshDirect), but rather buying them in the same way media is bought and sold. Set a menu in advance, combine it with first-party data from a "smart fridge." The items are scanned when they're put into the fridge and tracked when taken out, put back, or getting depleted. Throw in some family eating habits, maybe some third-party data from healthy eating studies, and the groceries arrive at the door in the exact amounts needed.
This would be more efficient and result in a lot less waste, which is great for the wallet and the environment. Although buying groceries programmatically would result in a family getting a lot of their preferred food and ingredients, it would result in the same meals week after week, month after month. This limits the ability to branch out and try new things. Without going to a store and looking at the stock, you're never aware of new flavors or alternatives. Online marketers are in great danger of falling into this exact trap -- being put into siloes through an overreliance on data and ceding too much control to automated algorithms.
So, while many have touted programmatic's advantages in targeting, data, performance and, above all else, efficiency, the vital human element is often forgotten. If you're using algorithms to buy groceries, you can get out of the rut by inputting new recipes.
Marketers need this too, in the form of a data expert who can make decisions on what to do, based on the data the marketer is inputting and generating with each subsequent campaign.
While programmatic leverages machine-based learning, a machine cannot make a gut decision. Humans can look at the results and say, "let's try this" to find new inventory elsewhere and produce slightly altered audience models that perform better. A high-end headphone manufacturer may be looking for males in their 30s who live in major cities and are shopping for Apple products. But machines don't know that Samsung is putting out a hot new phone, nor can they be taught to look for big updates to Android devices. These are two situations that will trigger a behavior change in the original audience. Rather than searching for Apple products, those 30-year-olds are suddenly paying attention to Samsung, and there are far fewer Apple-intender impressions available.
A human running the campaign can change the audience target slightly to reflect the potentially larger audience pool. It's like finding a new salad dressing you never knew existed. The same basic vegetables (or attributes) are underneath, but there is a new, slightly richer characteristic on top. Algorithms may suggest something new to replace a depleted item, but a human recommendation is the strongest endorsement, whether it's for food, media or audience targets.
For more proof of the dangers of trusting formulas too deeply, just consider the broadcast television network show model. Television networks put every single one of their shows through rigorous audience testing and focus groups. Shows that test high make it on the air and are promoted with multi-million dollar ad buys. This is data-powered decision making, but every year shows are cancelled mere weeks into the season at a huge loss to the network. The focus group data turned out to be worthless, and you have to wonder if anyone had a gut feeling and was afraid to challenge the data.
Algorithms can't do everything. They're good at helping a marketer repeat processes that are often tedious and time-consuming. But even the most cutting-edge machines are not good at exercising curiosity or understanding the potential for higher success based on outside factors. Marketers that are not using some human expertise to power their programmatic buying will be stuck eating the same inventory salad over and over.
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Personalization is a pervasive theme in modern marketing as brands strive to understand customers as individuals. Previously, personalization meant targeting a message to a seemingly specific demographic, such as females aged 25 to 30 who reside within a certain ZIP code. Today, personalization means targeting Kate, when she is walking by DSW, because she might be in the market for some new snow boots since the weather in Chicago is getting colder and she left those size 8 Sorrels in her online shopping cart last Saturday.
Location-based technologies are a powerful way to learn about shopper behavior, both in and out of store, and can empower marketers to better personalize future communications. In store targeting provides data on shopper behaviors in aisle, while outdoor targeting seeks to locate shoppers on the go. To better inform marketers, this paper will eliminate technical jargon and discuss the advantages and limitations of the three main outdoor targeting technologies: geofencing, mobile IP lookup, and proximity-based detection.
Geofencing technology is a product of an early 1990s government regulation requiring wireless operators to be able to locate any cellular device on their network. The primary motivation for this mandate was to reveal the source of 911 calls from mobile devices when the caller's location might not have been known. The infrastructure created by wireless operators enabled them to locate any mobile device on their network, in any geographic location, provided that the device was within range of their cell towers. Some service providers took this development to the next level by mapping out geofences around specified areas like shopping centers, so that marketers could locate customers nearest their store via mobile device. A use case for geofencing might proceed as follows: About a week ago, Kate got an email from DSW and opted in to their text campaign so she could receive location-based offers. Now she is about 100 yards from the retailer, receives a text message showcasing several new styles with a $20 off coupon valid for today only, and heads into the store.
Geofencing is a marketer's dream, but unfortunately implementation is not as easy as it sounds. One of the major issues is that geofencing service providers are not automatically notified when a mobile device enters the fence area. Instead, it must constantly locate the device throughout the day, waiting for the moment when the user steps within the boundary of a geofence. This can be extremely costly. For example, a retailer with a subscriber list of 10,000 wants to locate each customer twice per hour during their business hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and if this costs just 1 cent each time the provider confirms the subscriber's whereabouts, the cost to execute this strategy is $2,400 per day! Another complicating factor of geofencing is that the accuracy of the method is directly correlated with population as well as cell tower density. Strategies executed in an urban area with high population density are quite accurate, and providers are able to create smaller geofences using more towers, while fewer towers and lower population density in rural areas can result in a much larger fence area, compromising the accuracy and suitability of this method in these cases.
The second method is using mobile IP lookup technology, which pinpoints the subscriber's location using the unique IP address assigned to a mobile device while it is connected to internet. A device reports its IP address when the user is browsing online or using a mobile app. In keeping with our example, if Kate has previously downloaded the DSW app, the service layer of the system can use the IP address to confirm the physical coordinates of her mobile device while she is using the app. Her location is further verified by a method called triangulation, which calculates a mobile user's location and direction of movement based on the distance between multiple physically based location access points, such as cell towers or Wi-Fi hotspots. This information presents an opportunity for marketers to customize the content pushed to the cell phone via in-app push notifications, customized search results, or ads displayed to the user while browsing a mobile website. Mobile IP lookup technology is advantageous in that it does not require constant monitoring of the device like geofencing and can more accurately determine location; however, its functionality requires that the user first have the app with notifications enabled, and also allow it to track their location, introducing a broad array of privacy concerns.
The third location-based technology that is gaining attention among mobile marketers is proximity-based detection, which uses Wi-Fi access points to identify a mobile device attempting to use its services. This method can work in a retail setting, event, public space, airport, or any other venue offering Wi-Fi network access. The user is initially asked to sign-in via mobile opt-in form. Going forward, they can be detected any time they are within range of the Wi-Fi access point. For an illustration of this method, we can go back to last month, when Kate took advantage of a $5 off promotion by signing up for DSW's Wi-Fi. Today, just as she's heading down the escalator into the store, she receives a personalized coupon for an additional 30 percent off sale items. Proximity-based detection technology is distinct in that it only detects the user when they are within range of the Wi-Fi and does not track customer movements on an ongoing basis, making it the best option for maintaining customer privacy. The use of a proximity based detection strategy is limited to Wi-Fi enabled smartphone users and to retailers or venues that offer Wi-Fi access, but as a result it is also the easiest and most cost effective location-based solution to implement.
Geolocation, mobile IP lookup, and proximity-based detection share a common end goal of locating the mobile customer while on the go. They all have the ability to collect valuable metrics about shopper behavior such as number of store visits, duration of each visit, or time since last visit, allowing marketers to combine that knowledge with data on purchasing behaviors for a powerful way to retarget customers while they are on the go. The real challenge is to select the best solution for each business need as they all differ in execution, cost, accuracy, barriers to entry, and overall advantages to the marketer. It is important to identify and execute a strategy best suited to each situation, and also to consider how a location-based strategy can tie in with other marketing initiatives. This way, when marketers locate customers, they can combine insights from across channels to personalize the conversations and ultimately strengthen brand's relationship with the customers.
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Responsive design is coming into its own, and that means learning lessons from the early adopters. Many brands have transitioned to a single site approach to manage its desktop, tablet, and smartphone experiences. Brands such as 1-800 CONTACTS, Seventh Generation, and Disney made the switch to responsive design because of the benefits of SEO, social linking, unified web teams, and the ability to enable omni-channel.
We have all heard these benefits before, but brands have still struggled in understanding how to effectively achieve them. After a couple years of responsive design implementations, we can tell you about the coveted secrets.
Mobile experts have been saying the opposite of this for many years, but that's just it, it was many years ago. Today's consumer is different. According to a Pew Survey conducted in 2013, 21 percent of people use their mobile as their primary device. Don't assume you know what the user is looking for, or that mobile is on the go. Your mobile site should "feel" meaningfully similar to your desktop site and have the same level of content. It's simply a matter of prioritizing content and optimizing layout. Concern of more content creating a slower site is something to be considered, but our experience has shown that a well-done, full-featured site on a mobile device converts at a higher rate than a pared-down mDot site that is slightly faster.
The organization must adapt to mobile first design. Instead of focusing on pixels, focus on the percentage and the fluidity of the website. This means designers should be using tools like Axure instead of Photoshop for design prototypes. Force the content prioritization discussion with stakeholders. Ask yourself: If it doesn't belong on mobile, then does it really belong on your site at all? Many newly built sites are doing this well and creating a seamless user experience. See www.disney.com for a good example of a content heavy site that has effectively minimized where possible and in turn, improved the user experience.
Get your web team involved in analytics and A/B testing for responsive design early. Responsive A/B Testing is harder than traditional testing, as you are testing variations on-top of variations. Ensure that your "breakpoints" and your A/B Testing tool match up -- they both need to track the same thing. The last thing you want to report against is something that no users are seeing or experiencing. Track device orientation -- don't assume that portrait and landscape users want the same experience. Test device specific behavior -- such as swipeable images and zoomable images vs standard web controls.
While this is an obvious philosophy, there are considerations unique to responsive design. The more breakpoints you have, the more initial build and ongoing maintenance costs you have. Start with phones: 768px and tablets: 768-992px and analyze your analytics to see where additional needs may lie. With responsive design, you are looking at lower costs than managing three separate sites for desktop, smartphone, and tablet -- but more than desktop alone. Let's be realistic -- efforts required to build and maintain a responsive site will be more than your desktop site. Each site update you make will require consideration and testing around how it affects your smartphone and tablet breakpoints. Where you will see the major benefit is a unified message and team delivering a superior cross-platform experience at a lower cost than addressing each device individually. We have seen about a 30 percent reduction in cross-platform efforts for brands previously managing a separate desktop and mDot site.
Responsive design delivers the next evolution in web development -- uniting the smartphone, mobile and tablet channels. The challenges that come with this holistic approach require change to our usual working habits. Sure, developers will love to put this skill under their belt, and designers will relish the challenge, but everyone needs to understand responsive and be ready to adjust accordingly in order to achieve the best responsive design experience possible.
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Marketers often live in a bubble. When you're passionate about something, it's easy to get lost in it and have tunnel vision. Marketers are passionate about marketing, and their driving thought on a daily basis is to try to implement creative ways to move product and reach people. It's this obsessive focus that can often make marketers forget what it's like to be their own customer. To become relevant to your market, first put yourself in the shoes and mindset of the demographic you are trying to reach. What is their daily life like? How are they consuming? What are their problems? You need to clearly map out the landscape and have empathy, as well as genuine understanding of your market segment's needs.
After you have put yourself in the consumer's shoes, the next step is to come up with ways that you can fit in. What problem can you solve for your consumer? Create content experiences that slip nicely into the daily life of the consumer you are trying to reach. Try not to be an interruption (e.g., bombarding the consumer with online ads). This philosophy is why content marketing is on such an upswing. Content marketers are good at understanding the interests and consumption habits of their market, and creating content experiences that fit right in. You can do this as well, even if you are not a content marketer.
Lastly, take what you learned and apply it across all of your campaigns. Rethink the way you reach people. If your philosophy is all about quantity and the number of people reached, it may be flawed. Sure, clicks and impressions look good on paper, but there's a difference between gaining an impression and making one. Not every click will translate to a sale, but the more your brand is valued by a consumer, the higher the probability that a sale will occur. Make sure all of your digital campaigns make an impact in the consumer's life.
Heidi Browning, SVP of strategic solutions for Pandora, speaks with iMedia's David Zaleski about why these steps have been so effective for Pandora and have helped the brand become such a powerful content marketing play.
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"Streaming mobile phone" image via Shutterstock.
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