Social sharing trends in 2014

Content-Sharing-by-Category-and-SocNet-in-Q4-Jan2015

Facebook continued to dominate the social sharing landscape in 2014. But did they gain or lose in overall market share? That’s the question that many of the pundits keep asking, and that’s also the question that the folks at ShareThis set out to answer when they took a deep dive into the sharing statistics for the year off their platform.

During the last quarter of the year, Facebook accounted for almost 81% of al content shared in social networks. That translated into an approximate 8% gain in total activity fro the beginning of the year. These numbers are proof that consumers love to share great content.

Taking a more granular view of the data, looking at different verticals and how social sharing behaves differently from platform to platform, here are some observations the researchers made.

• Twitter generates 5% more Arts & Entertainment sharing activity than average
• Pinterest is the dominant platform in the Beauty & Fitness and Shopping categories, generating 190% and 185% more sharing activity than the average.
• Twitter generates 21% more Finance sharing activity than average.
• Facebook sharing is 8% above average in the Health content category while the opposite was true for Twitter (-38%) and Pinterest (-37%).
• Twitter, somewhat unsurprisingly, generates the most sharing activity for news (+21%) content, with Pinterest well below the average in that area.
• Pinterest is the winner in Shopping generating 89% more social content sharing activity than the average across channels.

You can read the full report here

 

7 elements of the ideal ecommerce marketing mix

Delicious marketing mix

What are the major elements that contribute to a high performance ecommerce business?

Well truth be told there are probably a million of tiny elements. After all retail is detail. The lesson there is that ecommerce is never quite as easy as the blogs (like this one) make it sound. You have to deal with everything from suppliers to shipping logistics to payment processing to marketing. So let’s focus on the part that I know the most (a little bit) about. Marketing.

In my humble opinion here are 7 factors that are the key building blocks to a great ecommerce marketing mix.

User experience

First thing’s first. If customers can’t figure out where to go and what to do on your website then they won’t stay or come back. By definition that means they won’t buy anything, and they definitely won’t be referring their friends to your store.

When it comes to selling things online, you don’t have the luxury of in person conversations or salespeople, so you need to fill those gaps in the customer experience with a great user experience. Remember that a great user experience doesn’t mean fancy or expensive design. It just means having a logical and intuitive workflow.

With a little bit of thought and planning you can even replicate in a reasonable way some of the elements of an in-person shopping experience on your site.

Here are a few tips we laid out in a previous post talking about how to humanize the online experience.

Design

Your store design and user experience go hand in hand. Not only should the layout and navigation of your site be easy to follow, but the first aesthetic impression you leave on your customer counts too. Product photos should be clean and professional, your font and color selections should all work together, and everything on your site should look like some design thought was put into it.

If you’re not a designer yourself, this is an area where it pays off to bring in some professional help.

Here are a few ideas to help your store design stand out from the crowd.

Content

Good content is one of the most strategic things you can add to your online store. Content helps users find your store and also helps users make the decision to buy from your store.

Content helps sell your business, your expertise and your products. This includes everything from the copy, to the images and video you use on your site.

Another great place to contribute content is through a store blog. If you’re looking for a hand in crafting super shareable content here is a technique we’ve come to know and love called the skyscraper technique.

Search

If your business is online, there is one marketing tactic that you absolutely cannot afford to ignore. Search. Search engine marketing and search engine optimization are critical to the discoverability of your business.

Consumers are now trained to ask Google all of the questions they have in life. This is especially true when it comes to shopping and product questions. Knowing how to make your site easily searchable by Google and other search engines (like Bing and DuckDuckGo) should be top of mind when it comes to any online marketing strategy.

Here are a few tips we’ve picked up on how to ensure your search strategy is up to date and isn’t reliant on old advice

Email

With the breadth of choice out there for marketers, some of the older, proven, tactics fall to the wayside. Email is an example of one of those. I‘m amazed by how often people I advise are surprised by the effectiveness and the engagement levels that can be generated by email marketing.

I think the world of business has had the fear of being called a spammer drilled into them, to the point where many businesses actually overlook their most valuable marketing asset – their opt-in subscriber list. Remember customers who have opted-in to communications from you expect just that. Communication from you ☺

More than ever consumers are reading and catching up on email through a mobile device. Here’s some advice on making sure your messages are coming in clearly.

Social Media

The last thing the world needs is another blog post with advice on social media. So I’ll just leave it at that. Social media is no longer a fad, it’s a must when it comes to your marketing mix and marketing channels. Here are some thoughts on how to make the most of it.

PR and Publicity

Now we’re getting a bit more old school. Public relations (mentions on news outlets, blogs and other news outlets) can be a huge help for businesses starting out. They help to get you more search juice when it comes to Google and SEO and also more importantly help to establish credibility for your brand in the eyes of consumers.

Here’s some advice on creating a simple (but effective) PR strategy.

 

So there you have it, 7 elements that make up the essential components of an effective ecommerce marketing mix.

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A high-octane customer referral program example

Bullseye

What would you say if I told you that one simple marketing tactic could help boost your online sales by nearly 10%?

As far as marketing tactics to try, I’d say that’s not too shabby.

So what is this mythical marketing tactic? Well it’s not mythical at all, nor is it a secret. It is a marketing tactic that businesses have replied on since the beginning of time – A customer referral program and word of mouth marketing.

These days word of mouth and refer a friend marketing is made even more effective online and through social media. Not too long ago consumers were limited to their close circle of friends when it came to how much influence they had, but today, those same consumers can broadcast messages to thousands of people in the blink of an eye. But even with this newly empowered consumer the underlying principles of great word of mouth still remain the same.

The secret, if there is one, is not being afraid to ask your customers to do you a favor and recommend you to friends and family if they enjoyed your products and services.

Let’s talk numbers. What kind of returns can these programs offer for a small business that does over a million dollars a year in turnover? Well pretty impressive ones I’d say.

Here is a snapshot of a customer referral program that was launched last fall on a boutique women’s apparel brand that is on the rise and is now doing just under $2 Million in annual online sales.

  • 30 days $12,600
  • 282 new referral visitors coming from 231 referrals sent off of 630 transactions
  • 21 transactions a day
  • 37% referral rate
  • 1.2 visitors per referral

From a monthly perspective this particular business had a sales volume of about $150,000 a month online. In raw numbers this translated into an approximately 8% lift in overall sales that could be attributed to the customer referral program.

These are impressive numbers but the question you probably have is – How did they get there?

When it comes to a customer referral program, or any marketing program for that matter, there are two elements that you should always keep in mind.

1. How you ask

When it comes to the communications that you send to your customers. First thing’s first. It should sound like you. In the case of the apparel brand we’re looking at, their brand was centered on a message of quality. Likewise the referral emails reflected that and re-enforced that quality products value proposition.

The imagery used in the email was from the same image catalogue as the imagery found on their website and in store as well. Using the same type of graphics and imagery in all your different marketing channels helps to maintain a consistent customer experience across all channels. Be that email, in store, online and in social media. Consistency counts.

Finally a few more quick pointers when it comes to crafting your email messages.

  • Define the goal of the email. Customers shouldn’t have to work to determine the action you want them to take (in this case the action was referring their friends)
  • Write a great subject line. This is the first thing customers will see. An easy trick is to have this subject again reflect your core value (in this case quality)
  • Craft the introduction to keep them interested and get them to keep reading. A personal touch makes a difference here. Sound like a person, not a robot.
  • Keep it short! If your email is too long and it seems like a lot of work to read it, people will skip it and move on

2. When you ask

There are certain points in the customer journey where customers will naturally feel a much stronger sense of loyalty and satisfaction. Tuning your customer referral program to take advantage of those periods can go a long way in getting more (and better) word of mouth from your customers.

In particular there are two key moments in that journey that are excellent times to solicit customers to refer their friends.

  • Right after a purchase. This is the point in the customer journey where consumers will still be on their discovery high. We’ve all felt it. We just found a great deal or an awesome new vendor online and we’re in the moment of happiness right after we hit submit on our credit card form. While we eagerly await our purchase to arrive, this is a prime opportunity to tell our friends about our new purchase.
  • After their initial experience with the product. This is probably the ideal time to be asking customers for referrals and recommendations. After receiving the product and enjoying it for the first time, most of us can’t wait to tell each other about the amazing new products we’ve just gotten. Take a look at your own Facebook newsfeed. How many posts show up talking about (or bragging about) new toys. Savvy businesses know to take advantage of this window of opportunity.

The science also backs this up as well. It turns out that triggered emails have an open rate that is 4 times higher than other forms of email marketing. So don’t be shy. Reach out to your customers, and absolutely make sure to reach out during these two great moments in the customer journey.

So there you have it, a simple snapshot of what a high octane customer referral program might look like and some tips ot get you there.

Until next time…

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Tips to keep your ecommerce blog truckin

Blogging is hard

Starting a blog is easy, but maintaining a blog, not so easy.

These days a company blog is one of the most important foundational marketing assets you can create for any business. Ecommerce businesses in particular can benefit tremendously from the SEO and knowledge sharing benefits from blogging.

However, as any experienced blogger will tell you, the hardest thing about a blog is keeping it going. Blogging, like many things in life, is exciting at the beginning, but months, or years into the endeavour it can be a challenge to come up with content on a weekly basis.

As you can see, I am the main writer on this particular blog. No doubt coming up with new ideas is a challenge, but thanks to a combination of this being a priority for me, along with lessons learned along the way it’s doable.

Here are 3 strategies I’ve used to keep our content pipeline constantly full:

1) Skyscraper technique

This is the most “paint by numbers” approach we’ve used for high quality content creation. You can read a step by step walkthrough of how to use this technique to create you own highly shareable content here.

2) Repurposing content

Whenever appropriate we will re-use and recycle content pieces that we’ve created. We’ve used statistics and data from certain posts as a basis for infographics, and have taken some of our long form content and use them as the basis for everything from ebooks to whitepapers to follow-up article inspiration. When it comes to writing content one of the best pieces of advice is to reuse and recycle. If a topic you’re writing about resonates or a particular posts goes viral. Make the most of it by transforming it into something else, or writing additional content about the same topic.

3) Call in some help

We have seen success with invited guest bloggers, as well as leveraging external experts as “interview subjects”, we also curate other blog content whenever appropriate for our audience. Much like other aspects of your business, don’t be afraid to call in help when it comes to your content and blogging. Help doesn’t have to cost money either, many other writers and experts are more than happy to act as interview subjects or provide sound bytes of expertise, in exchange for you helping them build their reach and reputation.

The payoff of a blog is multi-faceted. For us our blog is the foundation of our SEO strategy – we now rank on page 1 results on several dozen long tail keywords, including some of our core strategic ones. This is largely due to the rich content on the blog.

This blog and the content we publish has, over time, also become one of our best sources for lead generation. Both for attracting potential new customers, as well as for attracting the occasional inbound press lead as well.

So take this advice and go forth to inject some life into your own blogging efforts!

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Intrinsic vs extrinsic purchase motivators

Fresh carrots

Let me take you through a simple exercise. Imagine for a moment that we are friends (I know we might actually be friends, if online only, but pretend ☺)

What if I were to ask you a question like “Can you help me move this weekend?”

Don’t just think about what your answer would be. Think about the thought process that goes through your head for a moment. Good. Remember that feeling.

What if I asked you the same thing in a different way and said, “If I pay you $10 will you help me move this weekend?”

What did you feel? Different, isn’t it?

The logic that your brain processes is different. Rather than thinking about our friendship, and deciding if and how much you ant to help me. You immediately attached a value to our friendship and probably started thinking about how much your time is worth, or how much time discount you would offer me based on our friendship, or maybe even alternative payment methods.

That’s the difference between an intrinsic motivation and an extrinsic one.

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is motivation to do something that comes from inside an individual rather than from an external influence or reward. These are decisions we make based on emotional response.

Extrinsic motivation

Extrinsic motivation is the opposite. This is motivation to do something based on an external reason or reward. The metaphor often used to describe extrinsic motivations is a carrot or stick. It’s the idea that pleasurable rewards or painful external consequences to motivated people to do something.

Why are we talking about this?

Well obviously it’s because I need a few extra hands to help me move some furniture….

Actually I’m kidding.

These nuanced elements of human psychology can be incredibly important for business owners when it comes to developing your business plan. In particular in how you want to approach communication with your customers. From advertising and marketing to customer support, these subtleties can make a big difference.

Business owners need to understand that intrinsic motivators almost universally create stronger bonds when it comes to relationship elements such as loyalty and advocacy. In fact one of the best summaries of the power of intrinsic motivation on branding is Simon Sinek’s concept of “leading with Why”.

Identifying and increasing intrinsically motivated shoppers and customers is really the foundation of organic growth.

But the problem with these emotional drivers I they can be hard to measure. Or at the very least they can be intimidating.

But provided the right tools and data are in place it turns out there are some steps you can take to get better and deeper insight into how to identify and grow these types of customers.

Market researchers have a number of techniques and formulas to determine loyalty, and as a business owners that’s the where you should start. The typical formula for measuring loyalty consists of 3 questions. These data points while not perfect are a great indicator to help identify and determine who your ideal customers are. Which customers may be the most intrinsically motivated to be loyal to your brand, and maybe even determine a profile of how to find and attract more of the same type of people.

The three questions are permutations of the following:

3 questions to evaluate and identify the best customers you have

Are you satisfied with the product or service?
Would you buy again?
Would you recommend?

So now the question is how to gather this type of data. First thing’s first. The easiest place to start is to ask your customers. This can be done in a number of ways. For smaller businesses this can be accomplished with conversations (documented of course) and interviews. Reach out to your customers (try to pick a random sample so as not to skew the data) and simply ask them how they feel about your business, just try to make sure all your questions can fall under one of those 3 categories. Or just ask those 3 questions verbatim.

For an easier to scale approach you can use feedback widgets … Qualaroo for example, or even a survey. If your mailing list/customer list is big enough, with a combination of the email marketing tool you use, along with a tool like SurveyMonkey again you can setup a reasonably easy feedback system to gather some data.

When it comes to the second loyalty question asking about re-purchase intent. You can find a lot of quantitative data by looking at your customer information. Re-purchases and frequency of purchases are an exact number in some cases and you can look to your customer data to try to determine your outlier super customers as well as medians and averages. Your loyalty or rewards program might give you a peak into purchase behavior as well. Highly active customers when it comes to your loyalty program or incentive obviously would be likely re-purchasers as well.

Likewise when it comes to your likelihood to recommend data, there are amply quantitative numbers available to businesses running an active referral or word of mouth program. On the survey side you’ll get a predictive number or percentage as to how many of your customers would be likely to recommend, and on the referral platform you’d get the real world number of how many of them did (and who hey are).

Using all this information you can paint a very detailed picture of who your ideal customer is.

What are they demographics? Is there anything interesting in their shopping habits (at your store) or even in their referral habits and patterns?

That’s the information that can be used to target future buyers. After all, customers are great. But ideal customers are better. Those are the ones who will spend more, spend more often, and help you grow by referring their friends and family, and repeating the cycle.

The great thing about some of today’s marketing platforms. Facebook in particular, is that they allow you to build very specific and very targeted audience segments to try to reach with your advertising. These days you don’t’ have to just sit on your ideal customer segment profile. Or hope that an ad exchange will be able to find that segment needle in a haystack for you. With Facebook you can punch it in directly yourself, and better yet even optimize that segment over time with Facebook’s own native data.

It’s an exciting time for entrepreneurs and marketers. And for people who just like collecting data as well.

BTW who’s going to help me move?