While the GDPR applied a unified privacy law across Europe, the USA has no comparable federal law that compares. There have been ripples of state-led laws, granting similar rights to the CCPA – more of which are below – but the CCPA is the first major privacy legislation in the USA given its scope in introducing how data is handled about Californian residents.
It is important for two reasons; its application is a major step given the absence of privacy laws before it, but also it is paving the way for discussions at a federal level to introduce uniform legislation across the USA.
2. Who has to comply?
Compliance with the CCPA applies to any businesses operating for profit that collect and/or control California residents’ personal data and meets one of the three criteria below:
1. Have annual gross revenues in excess of US$25
2. Receive or disclose the personal information of 50,000 or more California residents, households, or devices on an annual basis; or
3. Get 50% or more of their annual revenues from selling California residents’ personal information.
The big difference compared to the GDPR is that the GDPR applies to any business (without being limited by CCPA-esque criteria) that determines the means and purposes of processing personal data about EU citizens.
Rights under the CCPA are provided to “consumers”,
meaning natural persons who are California residents (i.e. not someone in California
for a temporary or transitionary purpose).
The concepts of processing are broadly similar, captured under the CCPA as “collecting or selling” personal data. However, where the GDPR applies to all processing of data, the CCPA is principally focussed on the sharing or selling of information. There are also a number of elements that sit outside of the definition of what personal data is, including publicly available information.
4. Legal basis for processing
The GDPR introduced legal bases for processing
personal data under which businesses had to align to their processing of data.
This included consent and legitimate interest.
The CCPA does not introduce the concept of legal grounds for processing personal information.
5. Rights for individuals
What the CCPA does introduce is a number of rights
for Californian residents. These overlap the GDPR in most respects, including
the right to:
erasure / deletion, free of charge (with exceptions);
be informed (i.e. the individual must be provided with details of what personal data is collected & why);
access (i.e. a process allowing individuals to have full visibility of the data an organisation holds about them);
data portability (i.e. when data is requested under an access request that this is provided in an easy-to-read and portable format); and
object / opt-out (though there are some notable distinctions here – see below).
Deadlines to respond to consumers exercising their
rights are slightly different – the GDPR specifies a response to be sent within
a month, where the CCPA specifies a 45-day period. Both may be extended
provided the individual is told within the initial timeframe.
One distinction the CCPA provides explicitly (although it can be argued that this is implied in the GPDR) is that individuals must not be discriminated against for exercising their rights.
6. Opting out & not selling data
The CCPA introduces a significant and distinctive
requirement that is not mirrored under the GDPR.
The CCPA requires that a link with the title “Do
Not Sell My Personal Information” is provided on the homepage of any business
that sells personal data. Importantly,
Californian residents can only opt-out of the sale of personal data, and not
the collection or other uses that do not fall under the definition of
By contrast, individuals can object to any type of
processing of personal data under the GDPR. This can be done by withdrawing
consent, or by objecting to processing that is based on another legal basis.
The right under the CCPA is absolute, whereas under the GDPR a business has the opportunity to demonstrate “compelling legitimate grounds” for the processing that overrides the rights of the individual.
As well as informing Californian consumers of their rights, at least two methods of contact must be made available for them to make requests in exercising their rights. Obviously, organizations must put mechanisms in place to ensure that any such requests are dealt with.
Much was made of the eye-watering penalties that
the GDPR introduced of up to the higher of €20m or 4% of worldwide turnover.
The CCPA provides for penalties to be issued up to $2,500 per violation or
$7,500 per intentional violation, without a maximum amount for several
penalties for each violation. Enforcement powers are granted to the Californian
Individuals can also bring actions themselves. Where the GDPR allows claims for material and non-material damages for any violation of the GDPR, the CCPA only allows individuals a right of action where non-encrypted / redacted personal information is subject to unauthorized access; or where it has been disclosed as a result of an organization’s failure to meet its security obligations.
9. Security Obligations?
Given the risk to businesses for a failure to meet security requirements, the CCPA is surprisingly vague on what this means. The Attorney General is likely to publish further guidance, but at the present time it is worth noting that a number of security measures have historically been endorsed by the Attorney General that may be a useful point of reference in order to mitigate any risks by incorporating these into a CCPA compliance program.
10. Just the beginning…
The Attorney General is required to adopt
regulations on or before July 1, 2020 so there will certainly be future
developments and guidance as a result to keep an eye out for.
While the CCPA is not America’s answer to the GDPR, despite certain similarities, it is important to note that there is a real drive to introduce a harmonized privacy law at a federal level. This is some way off though, despite House and Senate hearings and FTC requests, but the CCPA may well be the first step towards this.
Keep watch for our FAQs on the CCPA, which we’ll publish soon.
The information in this document is for general guidance and is not legal advice. If you need more details on your obligations or legal advice about what action to take, please contact your legal advisor or attorney.
Email was 50 last year. But brands have only been using it as a revenue-generating channel for around 20 years. It’s frustrating when your emails don’t get opened and no one engages with your brand. But sometimes all it takes is sticking to the email rulebook, those commonplace tactics that actually work.
Email best practice is your bread and butter; and it’s easier and faster to get it right today, thanks to an avalanche of tech in recent years.
So, what are you waiting for?
Make 2020 the year of email
resolution, and start using your tech smarter. Remember, email
marketing has an ROI of 4200%. Get your customer engagement up to where it
should be with these seven email marketing best practices. You’ll be driving
more opens, clicks, and conversions in no time.
1. Improve your email deliverability
You may find that for whatever reason your emails are encountering
deliverability problems. Some of the common ones are:
Your contacts are complaining about unwanted
Your emails are going into the junk folder
You’re sending to spam traps
Your content contains spam keywords
Taking preventative measures can
protect your deliverability in the long term. Otherwise, it may take some time
for issues to resolve.
Sending wanted email is crucial, as well as emailing the people who actually open your emails. Make sure you’ve received explicit consent and are acquiring data through a robust process (double opt-in, etc.). Luckily, our data Watchdog protects you – plus catches anyone out who’s not playing by the rules. And don’t neglect your contact list hygiene. Sending to unengaged contacts doesn’t go unnoticed by ISPs, and puts your email sending reputation at risk.
The success of your email campaign rests partly on the subject line. It’s an essential bit of copy, and getting it right makes or breaks your campaign metrics. Communicate clearly what your email’s about. Testing is the best way to optimize the text: maybe your audience reacts better to emotive language; or perhaps emojis arouse more attention?
Tailoring your email content effectively to each recipient relies on how well you’re capturing data. Make sure you have a preference center in place that doesn’t ask too much or too little. Let contacts know why you want to get to know them more: to offer more personalized content. 77% of consumers want personalized content, so it’s a no brainer! You can use data to personalize in two ways: through dynamic content or segmentation, or both.
Relevant data include:
Date of birth
4. Use split testing to increase email engagement
Split testing is the best way to find the optimum email campaign. The great thing is that you can test a load of things: from name, subject line, content, call to action, send time and more. We’ve covered subject lines already, so let’s look at body copy.
Test what works best:
Fewer or more images
CTA as a button or link
‘Shop now’ vs. ‘Discover here’
Bestsellers or hottest drops
Blog placement – right or left?
Plus, multivariate testing means
it’s possible to test various email elements at once, for an even more
5. Tell stories that get contacts to click through
Storytelling is one of the most
important selling tactics in email. People bypass your product features and
benefits in search for an emotional connection. If you can’t tell a good story,
how are you going to sell your products and services?
Generating an emotive response
from subscribers means you need to cut the rhetoric. Put yourself in their
shoes. Focus on authenticity and imagination. Provoke feeling. Potential
customers need to see themselves using your products and services.
Here are some tips:
Share your customers’ experiences through reviews and interviews
Use people – not your business name – to narrate your stories
Avoid the classic sales pitch in favour of some inspirational editorial
Be real: use realistic images, videos, and commentary to support your stories
6. Use contact behavior to trigger relevant emails
Let’s cut to the chase. Triggered emails are highly relevant messages. And subscribers often react positively to them because they’re related to some previous action. Just think about when you receive an abandoned browse or cart recovery campaign.
Website behavioral data.Look at what contacts are browsing and send an email that complements their previous activity. Was it a high-intent page that needs a follow up from sales? Maybe it was a high-value product page that’s worth nudging the contact about.
Order history. Once customers start buying from you, you’ll start to understand what they like and how much they’re willing to spend. Use product and purchase data to inform what email product recommendations customers will likely respond to.
7. Measure campaign results and then optimize
Open rates and click rates are the most obvious metrics to measure for your email marketing. Rather than measure campaign by campaign, look your metrics over a period of time (i.e. 30 days) to get a better idea of your reach. You might discover that email engagement levels fluctuate because of the day or month, who you’ve sent to, or the content itself.
Metrics to consider
Unsubscribe rate – Ideally you want to minimize opt-outs and maintain your lists. Ask for feedback on why people are unsubscribing and make changes accordingly.
Complaints rate – Marking your email as spam is a serious matter. If this rate increases, consider whether you’ve: purchased lists, missed the unsubscribe link, sent irrelevant content or to old addresses, or emailed too frequently.
Conversion rate – Completing a desired action depends on many factors. So, for people who click through to your website, make sure it’s optimized for conversions.
Bounce rate – Calculated as a percentage of emails that weren’t successfully delivered to recipients’ inboxes. A good one to look out for any deliverability issues.
Forward/share rate – This is a good judge of how many brand ambassadors you have. You want to increase this and generate more leads/customers.
Campaign ROI – This is easier to calculate on a campaign-by-campaign basis. But campaign performance is far-reaching; a campaign today could drive ROI in months to come.
Psst… To maintain your list at healthy level, keep your contacts happy with relevant content.
Whenever you change an email variable, watch these metrics like a hawk. They’re a good indicator of optimization and where you need to focus your efforts. To keep on top of your email marketing performance, download our email scoresheet here.
Make email great again
Email will always be the marketer’s preferred channel. But success comes down to best practice. You can’t optimize everything at once, so start with one practice and then move onto the next.
Hit the nail on the head and there’s so much engagement potential with every practice you perfect – your results will soar.
The retail landscape has evolved massively: only a few years ago, retailers were producing a standardized product set for consumers who weren’t used to a large product range. But today’s retailer faces a consumer who is spoiled for choice, knows about the market’s transparency, and demands an excellent customer experience.
Power has shifted from the retailer to the consumer. Brands have to find ways to catch the attention of their target consumers, especially online, where competitors are only a click away. Engagement is key to transform them into loyal customers without loosing them on the way. Achieving this, though, is becoming more difficult in the ever-changing ecommerce landscape.
In this blog, we’re going to reveal five effective strategies to increase engagement and conversion. We’ll expand fully on one of them; if you’d like a breakdown of all five, download our partner ebook here.
1. Creating quality content at scale
Merge content and commerce to connect with your audience and boost sales. Contribution by Styla.
Promotions and discounting are an important part of the customer buying cycle, but most retailers agree that it’s becoming a race to the bottom. However, the alternative, creating high quality content at scale which engages and drives higher AOV and repeat purchases, can be a huge challenge. But it doesn’t have to be – here’s how to overcome the bottleneck of creating great content that converts.
With dwindling conversion rates, increased media spend, and new competition every day, the customer experience has become one of the most important features for brands and retailers. They key element of an extraordinary digital shopping experience is engaging content that creates brand recognition, brings value to the customer, and inspires them to buy.
Because your audience’s main exposure to your company is through the content you share. So, it’s no surprise that in 2018 more than half of B2C marketers have used content marketing successfully to create brand awareness, build credibility, educate audiences, foster loyalty with existing customers, and more (Content Marketing Institute, 2019).
So, why are some brands not building loads of engaging content? The answer is simple yet significant: because most brands do not have the right content production process in place.
Simplify the content production process
Historically, ecommerce platforms have had very limited content creation capabilities. Plus, all the pages across the website would usually need to be built by a developer, which would’ve been prohibitive if you had a small team or didn’t have a lot of resources to spend with your agency.
Even brands with larger development teams and big budgets struggle to build enough content to keep up with the appetite for today’s consumers.
A study by Accenture shows that two-thirds of content executives feel burdened by content production. Two-thirds of content executives feel burdened by content production and even less prepared to manage enormous amounts of content than in previous years (Accenture, 2017).
So, to create high-quality content at scale, the production process needs to be as short and simple as possible. This means reducing manual work across departments and utilizing technology at scale.
Don’t have your creative team spend days with the production of pixel-perfect layouts for all devices, or your IT team building them. Use automation technology to make these processes quicker and easier.
With a no-code content management solution in place, digital content experiences can be built with a few clicks and automatically optimized for all different devices. All without any IT effort. So, implementing the right technology simplifies the content creation process and makes it scalable.
How Holland & Barrett overcame the content creation bottleneck
Health and beauty brand Holland & Barrett has over 1,300 stores where all staff have gone on extensive product training to make sure they can help customers find the best products for their specific needs. Holland & Barrett understood that to create this superb in-store experience, they needed to provide rich content on their site that educates the consumer about their products in a fun way.
The challenge they faced was their content creation bottleneck; even though they have a large team of developers they could not produce enough content efficiently due to limitations in their tech ecosystems. While they wanted to be able to produce landing pages weekly, they were only able to create one landing page every six weeks.
By implementing Styla’s Content Experience Engine within 10 days, Holland & Barrett has now managed to increase content production by 90%, while decreasing production costs by 85%. The team can now easily create custom landing pages that inform customers and inspire them to buy with confidence.
Checklist for converting content
Keep the shopping cart close
When building rich, editorial pages for your shop, make sure the shopping cart is integrated into the assets, so customers can buy directly from the experience and not get redirected.
Variety is the spice of life
Create a range of different content types for different stages of the customer journey:
Personalized content on the homepage
Bespoke campaign pages
Enhanced category pages with content
Enriched product detail pages
Use data to inform content strategy
Look at Google Analytics to see what customers are searching for on your site. You can also use it to identify popular search terms or questions that could inform what type of content will have the biggest impact.
The welcome party
Use social and email marketing to engage an audience in a more personal way and get them to your site. Make sure to drive the traffic to custom campaign pages rather than the homepage or generic category pages to ensure more conversions.
Creating meaningful content is not an option anymore but every brand’s responsibility. Consumers have an insatiable appetite for relevant content and this is an area where the most competitive brands are innovating to fulfill consumers’ demands. Keeping up with them is vital and manageable if you have an optimized content production process and the right tools in place.
From email experts to newbies just entering the industry, there are common design errors that are occurring time and time again. Perhaps it’s because you need results fast, or maybe you’re not aware of some of the dos and don’ts when it comes to designing your email campaigns.
We’ve put together 10 simple steps to follow to get the most out of your email design. These will strengthen your campaign deliverability and help your campaigns to achieve more. If you don’t do anything else, take note and take action.
Nobody enjoys being addressed by “Hi there” or “Dear Customer”. When I get an email that says “Hi Jenna” I’m more likely to engage with it. By directly addressing the recipients, you’re likely to see a higher open and click-through rate. To do this simply use the ‘insert action’ feature in Engagement Cloud’s Campaign Editor. Select the field (FIRSTNAME). It will appear in your campaign as @FIRSTNAME@.
The quickest way to reduce your deliverability and get blacklisted is by buying and selling data. Your emails will quickly get flagged as spam and as your emails pile up in the junk/spam folder or lost in hyper-space, no-one will open your emails. The most effective campaigns are sent to your existing customers and organically grown, opted in lists.
Growing mailing lists can be accelerated with the use of engaging, or even gamified popovers.
3.) Back to basics
Emails don’t need to be complicated. A simple structure and a main header for your logo works well for most brands. This should be followed by the main content with a single key message, obvious CTAs, followed by a footer with company details and the required legal information. Remember the simpler the less chance of something going wrong in different web browsers or email clients.
Every email you send needs to be optimized for every device. With customers able to access emails on multiple devices, if your emails aren’t rendering properly, you’re going to missing out on some big opportunities. Using multiple columns in your design is a no-no as these may not display correctly on smaller phone screens. And, if you’re using an image and text block, you need to check images are stacking correctly before you hit send.
5) Preference centers
The modern consumer wants to feel in control of their relationship with a brand. As a result, you’ll get much better engagement from your email marketing campaigns. Make sure that every email you send contains a link to your preference center or allows shoppers to access their account to update their preferences.
The biggest thing to remember (and do!) is to avoid background images. Most email clients like Gmail and Hotmail don’t render them and display a grey block instead. Also, never rely on visual artwork to be the main way to communicate your message in an email campaign. Some big images will be turned off or appear as a blank email. This can cause your contact to think you’ve sent them a blank email and hit delete or the spam button.
It’s therefore essential you use alt tags, and keep copy and CTAs separate.
7) Phishing links
Phishing links cause distrust in your email campaigns. They’re mainly caused when the whole URL is present in an email. For example http//:www.dotdigital.com.
Place your links behind copy, actions, and images, to encouraging your contacts to click through.
White space is important when building your email. It helps ensure your emails have an uncluttered layout and are easier for the brain to absorb. By adding spacers between blocks and images it is easier for skim readers to differentiate what it is seeing with ease.
9) Alt Tags
A large number of email clients still automatically disable images when an email lands in the inbox. By making sure every image has an alt tag description is the best way to ensure your message maintains impact even when images are off. If they have an idea of what you are trying to say, they’re more likely to enable links and images in the future.
10) Test, test, and test again
This is probably the most important step to constructing an email. Testing allows you to view your campaign in the email clients but also the web version in a browser. This will allow you to check consistency across ISP and email clients and fix any rendering issues that occur before you send your email.
2019 was no different, with 11 teams taking part in dreaming – and building – the future of customer engagement.
Why dotdigital Hacks
Hack Week, now in its seventh year, gives our wider product and technology teams the chance to work on things that are just a little bit different from the day-to-day. It can be hard to take a step back and innovate when you’ve got your head down finishing a sprint, so Hack Week forces a pause in what we do.
The winners of 2019
2019 saw the introduction of a judging panel that scored every team, and our winners were the teams that scored highest. The judges were an excuse to introduce a little more role diversity – we had judges from Product Management, Customer Success, Engineering, Pre-Sales, and Training. These are the hacks they awarded most points too.
Voiceitronic Editor Control
Ever wanted to create an email campaign with your voice? For the two million people living with sight loss in the UK alone, it could make all the difference to their Engagement Cloud experience. The team used the speech recognition library annyang to allow EasyEditor to be controlled by voice – everything from selecting building blocks, moving them to a campaign, reorganizing them and, ultimately, sending, was included.
Creating on-demand Magento environments
Ok, so this one doesn’t have the catchiest name – but it solved a very real problem: creating test environments in a particular version of Magento with a specific branch of our Magento integration can be time-consuming (and just a wee bit dull). But it’s important, as we need to test our connector against all the Magento versions before we ship changes (otherwise some of you, understandably, get upset). And so the team set to using Docker to create a Slack bot that allowed the engineers to ask Slack to create a test environment using very specific configuration requirements. What’s more, it even added some sample data to aid the testing. That’s a 40-minute job taken down to seven minutes, on average.
In too deep
It wouldn’t be a hack week without machine learning being used for something, and so this team used TensorFlow Models hosted in BigQuery to provide real-time product recommendations on websites. It’s amazing what can be done with the data held in Engagement Cloud! (Incidentally, if you haven’t got your order data and product calalogs in your account yet, then you really should – once it’s there you can do many, many useful things.)
Interactive mobile landing pages
Ever think that simply sending a customer a discount code isn’t exciting enough? This team wanted to make the process much more fun, with scratch-off panels and spinners that revealed discount codes. The aim here, of course, was to gamify customer engagement, with the team working off the premise that, “humans like interacting with things that give them a reward.” Pavlov’s Dog not included.
Ok Google, how to win Hack Week?
And finally – the judges’ overall winner. This team created an entirely new voice channel for Engagement Cloud via the Google Assistant. What was really nice to see (and one of the things the judges loved) was that it was very consumer-focused. Using the data that lots of our users will already have in their accounts, it allowed someone to check in on order statuses, make changes, and so on. It really was the perfect mix of engagement, data, and innovation.
They also produced a nifty little video of it in action (I think they might be angling for an Oscar to go alongside their Hack Week win):
There’s actually one more hack from the team that won the ‘popular vote’ from live voting on the day. (We allowed staff from all around the world to vote via SMS using upcoming functionality that will be available later this year – so keep an eye out for that.) This team extended our pages and forms tool so that competitions could be built within a form, including questions that had ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers, and even a live tally of someone’s score. It’s very easy to imagine this in our product one day!
Our Hack Week is a yearly ritual. If you’d like to see previous hacks, check out the blogs from years past.
Join us and hack too
If experimenting with new technology and solving customer engagement problems in new and innovative ways seems like something you’d excel at, have a look at our open positions over at careers.dotdigital.com. You never know – maybe next year your hack will be featured here!
If you own or market a business location that makes a real-world community more serviceable, diverse, and strong, I’m on your side.
I love interesting towns and cities, with a wide array of useful goods and services. Nothing in my career satisfies me more than advising any brand that’s determined to improve life quality in some spot on the map. It does my heart good to see it, but here’s my completely unsentimental take on the challenges you face:
The Internet, and Google’s local platforms in particular, are a complete mess.
Google is the biggest house on the local block; you can’t ignore it. Yet, the entries into the platform are poorly lit, the open-source concept is cluttered with spam, and growing litigation makes one wonder if there are bats in the belfry.
Google comprises both risk and tremendous opportunity for local businesses and their marketers. Succeeding in 2020 means becoming a clear-eyed surveyor of any structural issues as well as seeing the “good bones” potential, so that you can flip dilapidation into dollars. And something beyond dollar, too: civic satisfaction.
Grab your tools and get your teammates and clients together to build local success in the new year by sharing my 3-level plan and 4-quarter strategy.
Residents, new neighbors, and travelers seeking what you offer will almost certainly find something about your company online, whether it’s a stray mention on social media, an unclaimed local business listing generated by a platform or the public, or a full set of website pages and claimed listings you’ve actively published.
Right now, running the most successful local business possible means acquiring the largest share you can of those estimated 1 trillion annual local searches. How do you do this?
By feeding Google:
Website content about your business location, products, services, and attributes
Corroborating info about your company on other websites
Local business listing content
Social media content
Remember, without your content and the content of others, Google does not exist. Local business owners can often feel uncomfortably dependent on Google, but it’s really Google who is dependent on them.
Whether the business you’re marketing is small or large, declare 2020 the year you go to the drafting board to render a clear blueprint for a content architecture that spans your entire neighborhood of the Internet, including your website and relevant third-party sites, platforms, and apps. Your plans might look something like this:
I recommend organizing your plan like this, making use of the links I’m including:
Begin with a rock-solid foundation of business information on your website. Tell customers everything they could want to know to choose and transact with your business. Cover every location, service, product, and desirable attribute of your company. There’s no chance you won’t have enough to write about when you take into account everything your customers ask you on a daily basis + everything you believe makes your company the best choice in the local market. Be sure the site loads fast, is mobile-friendly, and as technically error-free as possible.
Build out your listings (aka structured citations) on the major platforms. Automate the work of both developing and monitoring them for sentiment and change via a product like Moz Local.
Monitor and respond to all reviews as quickly as possible on all platforms. These equal your online reputation and are, perhaps, the most important content about your business on the Internet. Know that reviews are a two-way conversation and learn to inspire customers to edit negative reviews. Moz Local automates review monitoring and facilitates easy responses. If you need help earning reviews, check out Alpine Software Group’s two good products: GatherUp and Grade.Us.
Audit your competition. In competitive markets, come check out our beta of Local Market Analytics for a multi-sampled understanding of who your competitors actually are for each location of your business, depending on searcher locale.
Once you’ve found your competitors, audit them to understand the:
quality, authority and rate of ongoing publication you need to surpass
number and quality of Google posts, videos, products, and other content you need to publish
social engagement you need to create.
As to the substance of your content, focus directly on your customers’ needs. Local Market Analytics is breaking ground in delivering actual local keyword volumes, and the end point of all of your research, whether via keyword tools, consumer surveys, or years of business experience, should be content that acts as customer service, turning seekers into shoppers.
Use any leftover time to sketch in the finer details. For example, I’m less excited about schema for 2020 than I was in 2019 because of Google removing some of the benefits of review schema. Local business schema is still a good idea, though, if you have time for it. Meanwhile, pursuing relevant featured snippets could certainly be smart in the new year. I’d go strong on video this year, particularly YouTube, if there’s applicability and demand in your market.
The customer is the focus of everything you publish. Google is simply the conduit. Your content efforts may need to be modest or major to win the greatest possible share of the searches that matter to you. It depends entirely on the level of competition in your markets. Find that level, know your customers, and commit to feeding Google a steady, balanced diet of what they say they want so that it can be conveyed to the people you want to serve.
Let’s keep it real: ethical local companies which pride themselves on playing fair have good reason to be dubious about doing business with Google. Once you’ve put in the effort to feed Google all the right info to begin competing for rankings, you may well find yourself having to do online battle on an ongoing basis.
There are two fronts on which many people end up grappling with Google:
Problematic aspects within products
Litigation and protests against the brand.
Let’s break these down to prepare you:
Google has taken on the scale of a public utility — one that’s replaced most of North America’s former reliance on telephone directories and directory assistance numbers.
When you are marketing a local business, there’s a strong chance you will face one or more of the following issues while attempting to compete in Google’s local products:
Being outranked by businesses violating Google’s own guidelines with practices such as keyword-stuffed business titles and creating listings to represent non-existent locations or lead-gen companies. (Example)
Being the target of listing hijacking in which another company overtakes some aspect of your listing to populate it with their own details. (Example)
Being the target of a reputation attack by competitors or members of the public posting fake negative reviews of your business. (Example)
Being the target of negative images uploaded to your listing by competitors or the public. (Example)
Having Google display third-party lead-gen information on your listings, driving business away from you to others. (Example)
Having Google randomly experiment with local features with direct negative impacts on you, such as booking functions that reserve tables for your patrons without informing your business. (Example)
Being unable to access adequately trained Google staff or achieve timely resolution when things go wrong (Example)
Honest local business owners don’t operate this way. They don’t make money off of fooling the public, or maliciously attack neighboring shops, or give the cold shoulder to people in trouble. Only Google’s underregulated monopoly status has allowed them to stay in business while conducting their affairs this way.
Brilliant people work for Google and some of their innovations are truly visionary. But the Google brand, as a whole, can be troubling to anyone firmly tied to the idea of ethical business practices. I would best describe the future of Google, in its present underregulated state of monopoly, as uncertain.
A cause of employee protest over a very long list of employer projects and practices.
I can’t predict where all this is headed. What I do know is that nearly every local business I’ve ever consulted with has been overwhelmingly reliant on Google for profits. Whether you personally favor strong regulation or not, I recommend that every local business owner and marketer keep apprised of the increasing calls by governing bodies, organizations, and even the company’s own staff to break Google up, tax it, end contracts on the basis of human rights, and prosecute it over privacy, antitrust, and a host of other concerns.
Pick your battles
With Google so deeply embedded in your company’s online visibility, traffic, reputation and transactions, concerns with the brand and products don’t exist in some far-off place; they are right on your own doorstep. Here’s how to fight well:
1. Fight the spam
To face off with Google’s local spam, earn/defend the rankings your business needs, and help clean polluted SERPs up for the communities you serve, here are my best links for you:
Whether your degree of engagement goes no further than local business listings or extends to your community, state, nation, or the world, I recommend increased awareness of the whole picture of Google in 2020. Education is power.
You’ve fed Google. You’ve fought Google. Now, I want you to flip this whole scenario to your advantage.
My 2020 local SEO blueprint has you working hard for every customer you win from the Internet. So far, the ball has been almost entirely in Google’s court, but when all of this effort culminates in a face-to-face meeting with another human being, we are finally at your party under your roof, where you have all the control. This is where you turn Internet-driven customers into in-store keepers.
I encourage you to make 2020 the year you draft a strategy for making a larger portion of your sales as Google-independent as possible, flipping their risky edifice into su casa, built of sturdy bricks like community, pride, service, and loyalty.
How can you do this? Here’s a four-quarter plan you can customize to fit your exact business scenario:
The foundation of all business success is giving the customer exactly what they want. Hoping and guessing are no substitute for a survey of your actual customers.
If you already have an email database, great. If not, you could start collecting one in Q1 and run your survey at the end of the quarter when you have enough addresses. Alternatively, you could ask each customer if they would kindly take a very short printed survey while you ring up their purchase.
Imagine you’re marketing an independent bookstore. Such a survey might look like this, whittled down to just the data points you most want to gather from customers to make business decisions:
Have pens ready and a drop box for each customer to deposit their card. Make it as convenient and anonymous as possible, for the customer’s comfort.
In this survey and listening phase of the new year, I also recommend that you:
Spend more time as the business owner speaking directly to your customers, really listening to their needs and complaints and then logging them in a spreadsheet. Speak with determination to discover how your business could help each customer more.
Have all phone staff log the questions/requests/complaints they receive.
Have all floor/field staff log the questions/requests/complaints they receive.
Audit your entire online review corpus to identify dominant sentiment, both positive and negative
If the business you’re marketing is large and competitive, now is the time to go in for a full-fledged consumer analysis project with mobile surveys, customer personae, etc.
End of Q1 Goal: Know exactly what customers want so that they’ll come to us for repeat business without any reliance on Google.
In this quarter, you’ll implement as many of the requests you’ve gleaned from Q1 as feasible. You’ll have put solutions in place to rectify any complaint themes, and will have upped your game wherever customers have called for it.
In addition to the fine details of your business, large or small, life as a local SEO has taught me that these six elements are basic requirements for local business longevity:
A crystal-clear USP
Adequate, well-trained, personable staff
An in-demand inventory of products/services
Accessibility for complaint resolution
Cleanliness/orderliness of premises/services
The lack of any of these six essentials results in negative experiences that can either cause the business to shed silent customers in person or erode online reputation to the point that the brand begins to fail.
With the bare minimums of customers’ requirements met, Q2 is where we get to the fun part. This is where you take your basic USP and add your special flourish to it that makes your brand unique, memorable, and desirable within the community you serve.
A short tale of two yarn shops in my neck of the woods: At shop A, the premises are dark and dusty. Customer projects are on display, but aren’t very inspiring. Staff sits at a table knitting, and doesn’t get up when customers enter. At shop B, the lighting and organization are inviting, displayed projects are mouthwatering, and though the staff here also sits at a table knitting, they leap up to meet, guide, and serve. Guess which shop now knows me by name? Guess which shop has staff so friendly that they have lent me their own knitting needles for a tough project? Guess which shop I gave a five-star review to? Guess where I’ve spent more money than I really should?
This quarter, seek vision for what going above-and-beyond would look like to your customers. What would bring them in again and again for years to come? Keep it in mind that computers are machines, but you and your staff are people serving people. Harness human connection.
End of Q2 Goal: Have implemented customers’ basic requests and gone beyond them to provide delightful human experiences Google cannot replicate.
Q3: Participate, educate, appreciate
Now you know your customers, are meeting their specified needs, and doing your best to become one of their favorite businesses. It’s time to walk out your front door into the greater community to see where you can make common cause with a neighborhood, town, or city, as a whole.
2020 is the year you become a joiner. Analyze all of the following sources at a local level:
Print and TV news
School newsletters and papers
Place of worship newsletters and bulletins
Local business organization newsletters
Any form of publication surrounding charity, non-profits, activism, and government
Create a list of the things your community worries about, cares about, and aspires to. For example, a city near me became deeply involved in a battle over putting an industrial plant in a wetland. Another town is fundraising for a no-kill animal shelter and a walk for Alzheimer’s. Another is hosting interfaith dinners between Christians and Muslims.
Pick the efforts that feel best to you and show up, donate, host, speak, sponsor, and support in any way you can. Build real relationships so that the customers coming through your door aren’t just the ones you sell to, but the ones you’ve manned a booth with on the 4th of July, attended a workshop with, or cheered with at their children’s soccer match. This is how community is made.
Once you’re participating in community life, it’s time to educate your customers about how supporting your business makes life better in the place they live (get a bunch of good stats on this here). Take the very best things that you do and promote awareness of them face-to-face with every person you transact with.
For my fictitious bookseller client, just 10 minutes spent on Canva (you have to try Canva!) helped me whip together this free flyer I could give to every customer, highlighting stats about how supporting independent businesses improve communities:
If you’re marketing a larger enterprise, a flyer like this could focus on green practices you’re implementing at scale, philanthropic endeavors, and positive community involvement.
Finally, with the holiday season fast approaching in the coming quarter, this is the time to let customers know how much you appreciate their business. Recently, I wrote about businesses turning kindness into a form of local currency. Brands are out there delivering surprise flowers and birthday cakes to customers, picking them up when they’re stranded on roadsides, washing town signage, and replacing “you will be towed” plaques with ones that read “you’re welcome to park here.” Loyalty programs, coupons, discounts, sales, free events, parties, freebies, and fun are all at your disposal to say “Thank you, please come again!” to your customers.
End of Q3 Goal: Have integrated more deeply into community life, motivated customers to choose our business for aspirational reasons beyond sales, and have offered memorable acts of gratitude for their business, completely independent of Google.
Q4: Share customers and sell
Every year, local consumer surveys indicate that 80–90% of people trust online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from friends and family. But I’ve yet to see a survey poll how much people trust recommendations they receive from trustworthy business owners.
You spent all of Q3 becoming a true ally to your community, getting personally involved in the struggles and dreams of the people you serve. At this point, if you’ve done a good job, the people who make up your brand have come closer to deserving the word “friend” from customers. As we move into Q4, it’s time to deepen alliances — this time with related local businesses.
In the classic movie Miracle on 34th Street, the owners of Macy’s and Gimbel’s begin sending shoppers to one another when either business lacks what the customer wants. They even create catalogues of their competitors’ inventory to assist with these referrals. In Q3, I’m hoping you joined a local business alliance that’s begun to acquaint you with other brands that feature goods/service that relate to yours so that you can begin dedicated outreach.
Q4, with Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, is traditionally the quarter in which local businesses expect to get out of the red, but how many more wedding cakes would you sell if all the caterers in town were referring to you, how many more tires would you vend if the muffler shops sent all their customers your way, how many more therapeutic massages might you book if every holistic medical center in your city confidently gave out your name?
Formalize B2B customer referrals in this quarter in seven easy steps:
Create a spreadsheetheaded with your contact information and an itemized list of the main goods, services, and brands you sell. Include specialties of your business. Create additional rows to be filled out with the information of other businesses.
Create a list of every local business that could tie in with yours in any way for a customer’s needs.
Invite the owners or qualified reps of each business on your list to a meeting at a neutral location, like a community center or restaurant.
Bring your spreadsheet to the meeting.
Discuss with your guests how a commitment to sharing customers will benefit all of you
If others commit, have them fill out their column of the spreadsheet. Share print and digital copies with all participants.
Whenever a customer asks for something you don’t offer, refer to the spreadsheet to make a recommendation. Encourage your colleagues to do likewise, and to train staff to use the spreadsheet to increase customer sharing and satisfaction.
House flipping is a runaway phenomenon in the US that has remodeled communities and sparked dozens of hit TV shows. Unfortunately, there’s a downside to the activity, as it can create negative gentrification, making life less good for residents.
You need have no fear of this when you flip Google, because turning their house into yours actually strengthens your real-world neighborhood, town, or city. It gives the residents who already live there more stable resources, more positive human contact, and a more closely knit community.
Truth: Google will remain dominant in the discovery-related phases of your consumers’ journeys for the foreseeable future. For new neighbors and travelers, Google will remain a valuable source of your business being found in the first place. Even if governing bodies break the company up at some point, the truth is that most local businesses need to utilize Google a search utility for discovery.
Dare: Draw a line on the pavement outside your front door this year, with transactional experiences on your side of the line. Google wants to own the transaction phase of your customers’ journey. Bookings, lead gen, local ads, and related features show where they are headed with this. If Google could, I’m sure they’d be glad to take a cut of every sale you make, and you’ll likely have to participate in their transactional aspirations to some degree. But…
In 2020, dare yourself to turn every customer you serve into a keeper, cutting out Google as the middleman wherever you can and building a truly local, regenerative base of loyalty, referrals, and community.
Wishing you a local 2020 of daring vision and self-made success!
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You’ve made it through Black Friday, Cyber
Monday, Singles’ Day, (maybe even Boxing Day and New Year’s sales by the time
you’ve read this) and got yourself a whole lot of new customers – wohoo! With
such a huge volume of first-time buyers, it’s no surprise that our customer
success team is being asked how best to implement post-purchase programs, even
in the middle of sales season.
It’s important for any online retailer to
make sure that they’ve got a great program to help keep that buyer’s high and
get customers coming back for more, and this is a great time of year to test
different types of conversation to see what engagers your customers the most.
If you’re feeding in your order data, you can track the success of this in the retail dashboard of your dotdigital account, take note of the percentage of single vs repeat customers, and see the value of this conversion by multiplying your unique customers by your average order value…It’s a big number, right?!
Australia Post’s 2019 report revealed that Consumers buying fashion items are, on average, three times more likely to choose a vendor based on their returns policy, so make sure this is clear on your site for starters.
Costume box sends out this brilliant offer to return any item within 100 days of purchase. This helps to take the pressure off the warehouse processing returns at busy times of year, and also increases the value proposition for us as consumers.
I adore this email from Stuck on you, sent out once you’ve bought your customized Bento box. Not only are they giving you ideas for what to pack inside, they’re also educating consumers on how to snap out the inner lid. This helps reduce customer frustration with the tight-fitting seal, reduces the number of customer service queries on the topic, and makes sure the product is being cleaned properly, helping it last longer.
Costume box helps to educate their audience on how to interact with them on social media. Although it’s old hat to some shoppers, for many of their demographic, it might be their first time tagging a company on Instagram. So, the brand walks you through it, with some gorgeous examples from their recent feed on the upcoming Day of the Dead festival.
Spend-less Shoes knows that a lot of their customers aspire to be social influencers, and so send this out post-purchase to inspire tagging and sharing on Insta, as part of a competition to win a shopping spree. A winning campaign both for Spend-less and for their customers.
New Zealand clothing brand 3 Wise Men’s core offering is “3 for 3 hundy”, so when a customer makes it past checkout with only two items, they make sure to notify the customer, both at checkout and on email, how they can get the third item at the reduced price. This means you never miss out on a good deal!
Remedy Kombucha sends out a review email asking customers to rate their favorite flavor, helping the company develop more flavors and refine existing products. No incentive required, so they can ensure the feedback is authentic and not just a lax attempt to win something. Authentic reviews help to encourage both first-time and repeat purchases. Whilst I’m on the site raving about their passionfruit flavor, I’m pretty likely to be putting another slab in my cart at the same time as I reminisce…
Finally, don’t let shipping variables affect your post-purchase journeys. Shipping in Australia is a challenge for many retailers, and we often hear customers not wanting to send anything until they can guarantee the parcel has arrived. However, Baxter Blue does a fantastic job of addressing this head on. They check in with the customer, letting them know where they can track their parcel, and also offer some above-and-beyond help. They’ve also added some info on the product you’ve bought, to reduce any post-purchase remorse, highlighting the protection of their glasses against screen glare.
Your first-time purchasers are a goldmine for future revenue. Make sure you look after them, and don’t just put them back into the BAU emails without saying thank you. Try one or more of the above conversations to make them sticky and turn them into brand advocates.
Sustain that buyer’s high to encourage repeat purchases. Try something new, and track the success of different conversations, using your retail dashboard and/or segmentation.
Choose the conversations which match your brand voice, and product range, and make sure you’ve given your customers a way to continue their conversation with your brand once their product has arrived.
If you’d like to hear more on the topic, you can check out the webinars I’m doing on post-purchase journeys, one with Trustpilot and another with Magento, coming soon to our resources section!
Historically a key sales day, in-store footfall has dropped over recent years. Today’s shoppers prefer to bag a bargain during Black Friday or over 27, 28, and 29 December. Instead, there’s been a massive surge in consumers browsing online before venturing to the store. This presents a vital opportunity for ecommerce brands around the world.
But, as we all begin switching off and offices shut down for the holidays, how do we make ensure our marketing is ready?
We have eight tactics you need to put in place to maximize this marketing opportunity.
1. Set up your automation programs
Let’s face it – not all offices are open over the holidays. And if they are, you’re more likely to be focusing on next year’s strategy than sending out sales emails.
As a result, building your automation before the holidays begin is essential.
Make sure your strategy and creative are good to go and simply add them to your holiday automation. And the key automation you need to build is for your Boxing Day sales.
To guarantee massive ROI from this campaign, it’s important you think beyond a basic SALE email.
While these are eye-catching and can receive a decent CTR, the savvy-shopper is no longer so easily swayed.
When building your template, it’s important to take into consideration tactics that drive conversions and boost sales. Tools such as product recommendation blocks will improve engagements and bolster sales. Using AI-powered recommendations, you can highlight items related to or similar to previous purchases. This adds a layer of personalization to your email that’s hard to ignore.
2. Jazz-up your existing programs
Give your existing programs a Christmassy feel by creating some unique templates to cover the holiday period.
Boxing day sales are a great way to acquire new customers. Make the right first impression with a personalized welcome program that wishes new subscribers a ‘Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’. Perhaps you can offer a limited time discount to anyone signing up during the period. This will encourage repeat purchases when the season is over.
3. Get them before you even say hello
As with every other busy sales period, inboxes are even more overcrowded than normal. You need to make an impact as soon as your email lands. And the best way to do that is with your subject line.
Subject lines are an afterthought for many marketers. For others, it’s the most important part of the campaign. Being different is your secret weapon. Incorporate emojis and personalization to capture the attention of the skim reader.
And, don’t forget to test, test, test.
Setting up A/B tests before you fire off your emails is a must. They need to be constantly tweaked and adapted to ensure they’re landing with impact.
4. Get it before it’s gone
A flash sale is essentially a strictly limited period sale, fueled by the threat of limited stock and a tight deadline for purchase.
Flash or Short supply sales can generate an average uplift of 35% in transaction rates. At the extreme utilization of this trend, we have the infamous brand Supreme who is the pioneers of hype branding, some of their products resell as high as 1200% more than the retail price.
Running a short supply sale is an opportunity to generate real major sales momentum, particularly when supported by social media integrated with your outbound marketing campaigns. Interestingly, campaigns deployed in the morning have a higher engagement rate but those sent in the evening hours perform better on conversion; if your goal is to generate brand and awareness vs immediate sales consider this a tactic.
5. Everything connects
If you make just one update to your marketing strategy this month, make sure your systems are connected.
Integrations with your CRM and ecommerce store aren’t the only systems you need to think about connecting. To ensure your customers have a smooth and memorable journey with you, you need to consider all your communication channels. Whether you’re reaching customers by chat, SMS, push, or direct mail, you need to ensure your messaging is consistent.
This year, Black Friday proved to be the biggest day ever for mobile shopping. 61% of all online sales came from smartphone transactions, so being able to reach customers on the move is essential.
6. ‘Didn’t get what you wanted?’
Traditional post-Christmas thriftiness has been proven to be a thing of the past.
It’s one of the reasons why retailers are refocusing their marketing activity to maximize on the rise of the ‘I-want-it-now’ consumer. Shoppers want to spend some money on themselves as a reward for being so generous during the holiday season.
Build on this sentiment by personalizing your sales messages with dynamic content. Pull in previously browsed or wished for products to encourage shoppers to treat themselves to that special something they didn’t get from their loved ones.
7. Messages that really hit home
Boxing Day sales are a well-established practice in the world of UK ecommerce. As a result, to get your readers’ attention, you need to deliver relevant messages.
The more relevant the content you send, the more likely they are to read it. Tailoring email content around previous search and website visitor behavior can be an invaluable weapon in your battle for inbox cut-through.
Along with email marketing automation, consider building data segments of customers based on product categories they’ve browsed with targeted price discounts on related products.