Q&A: Lost Your Anonymous Google Reviews? The Scoop on Removal and Moving Forward

Posted by MiriamEllis

Did you recently notice a minor or major drop in your Google review count, and then realize that some of your actual reviews had gone missing, too? Read on to see if your experience of removal review was part of the action Google took in late May surrounding anonymous reviews.

Q: What happened?

A: As nearly as I can pinpoint it, Google began discounting reviews left by “A Google User” from total review counts around May 23, 2018. For a brief period, these anonymous reviews were still visible, but were then removed from display. I haven’t seen any official announcement about this, to date, and it remains unclear as to whether all reviews designated as being from “A Google User” have been removed, or whether some still remain. I haven’t been able to discover a single one since the update.

Q: How do I know if I was affected by this action?

A: If, prior to my estimated date, you had reviews that had been left by profiles marked “A Google User,” and these reviews are now gone, that’s the diagnostic of why your total review count has dropped.

Q: The reviews I’ve lost weren’t from “A Google User” profiles. What happened?

A: If you’ve lost reviews from non-anonymous profiles, it’s time to investigate other causes of removal. These could include:

  • Having paid for or incentivized reviews, either directly or via an unethical marketer
  • Reviews stemming from a review station/kiosk at your business
  • Getting too many reviews at once
  • URLs, prohibited language, or other objectionable content in the body of reviews
  • Reviewing yourself, or having employees (past or present) do so
  • Reviews were left on your same IP (as in the case of free on-site Wi-Fi)
  • The use of review strategies/software that prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews
  • Any other violation of Google’s review guidelines
  • A Google bug, in which case, check the GMB forum for reports of similar review loss, and wait a few days to see if your reviews return; if not, you can take the time to post about your issue in the GMB forum, but chances are not good that removed reviews will be reinstated

Q: Is anonymous review removal a bug or a test?

A: One month later, these reviews remain absent. This is not a bug, and seems unlikely to be a test.

Q: Could my missing anonymous reviews come back?

A: Never say “never” with Google. From their inception, Google review counts have been wonky, and have been afflicted by various bugs. There have been cases in which reviews have vanished and reappeared. But, in this case, I don’t believe these types of reviews will return. This is most likely an action on Google’s part with the intention of improving their review corpus, which is, unfortunately, plagued with spam.

Q: What were the origins of “A Google User” reviews?

A: Reviews designated by this language came from a variety of scenarios, but are chiefly fallout from Google’s rollout of Google+ and then its subsequent detachment from local. As Mike Blumenthal explains:

As recently as 2016, Google required users to log in as G+ users to leave a review. When they transitioned away from + they allowed users several choices as to whether to delete their reviews or to create a name. Many users did not make that transition. For the users that chose not to give their name and make that transition Google identified them as ” A Google User”…. also certain devices like the old Blackberry’s could leave a review but not a name. Also users left + and may have changed profiles at Google abandoning their old profiles. Needless to say there were many ways that these reviews became from “A Google User.”

Q: Is the removal of anonymous reviews a positive or negative thing? What’s Google trying to do here?

A: Whether this action has worked out well or poorly for you likely depends on the quality of the reviews you’ve lost. In some cases, the loss may have suddenly put you behind competitors, in terms of review count or rating. In others, the loss of anonymous negative reviews may have just resulted in your star rating improving — which would be great news!

As to Google’s intent with this action, my assumption is that it’s a step toward increasing transparency. Not their own transparency, but the accountability of the reviewing public. Google doesn’t really like to acknowledge it, but their review corpus is inundated with spam, some of it the product of global networks of bad actors who have made a business of leaving fake reviews. Personally, I welcome Google making any attempts to cope with this, but the removal of this specific type of anonymous review is definitely not an adequate solution to review spam when the livelihoods of real people are on the line.

Q: Does this Google update mean my business is now safe from anonymous reviews?

A: Unfortunately, no. While it does mean you’re unlikely to see reviews marked as being from “A Google User”, it does not in any way deter people from creating as many Google identities as they’d like to review your business. Consider:

  • Google’s review product has yet to reach a level of sophistication which could automatically flag reviews left by “Rocky Balboa” or “Whatever Whatever” as, perhaps, somewhat lacking in legitimacy.
  • Google’s product also doesn’t appear to suspect profiles created solely to leave one-time reviews, though this is a clear hallmark of many instances of spam
  • Google won’t remove text-less negative star ratings, despite owner requests
  • Google hasn’t been historically swayed to remove reviews on the basis of the owner claiming no records show that a negative reviewer was ever a customer

Q: Should Google’s removal of anonymous reviews alter my review strategy?

A: No, not really. I empathize with the business owners expressing frustration over the loss of reviews they were proud of and had worked hard to earn. I see actions like this as important signals to all local businesses to remember that you don’t own your Google reviews, you don’t own your Google My Business listing/Knowledge Panel. Google owns those assets, and manages them in any way they deem best for Google.

In the local SEO industry, we are increasingly seeing the transformation of businesses from the status of empowered “website owner” to the shakier “Google tenant,” with more and more consumer actions taking place within Google’s interface. The May removal of reviews should be one more nudge to your local brand to:

  • Be sure you have an ongoing, guideline-compliant Google review acquisition campaign in place so that reviews that become filtered out can be replaced with fresh reviews
  • Take an active approach to monitoring your GMB reviews so that you become aware of changes quickly. Software like Moz Local can help with this, especially if you own or market large, multi-location enterprises. Even when no action can be taken in response to a new Google policy, awareness is always a competitive advantage.
  • Diversify your presence on review platforms beyond Google
  • Collect reviews and testimonials directly from your customers to be placed on your own website; don’t forget the Schema markup while you’re at it
  • Diversify the ways in which you are cultivating positive consumer sentiment offline; word-of-mouth marketing, loyalty programs, and the development of real-world relationships with your customers is something you directly control
  • Keep collecting those email addresses and, following the laws of your country, cultivate non-Google-dependent lines of communication with your customers
  • Invest heavily in hiring and training practices that empower staff to offer the finest possible experience to customers at the time of service — this is the very best way to ensure you are building a strong reputation both on and offline

Q: So, what should Google do next about review spam?

A: A Google rep once famously stated,

The wiki nature of Google Maps expands upon Google’s steadfast commitment to open community.”

I’d welcome your opinions as to how Google should deal with review spam, as I find this a very hard question to answer. It may well be a case of trying to lock the barn door after the horse has bolted, and Google’s wiki mentality applied to real-world businesses is one with which our industry has contended for years.

You see, the trouble with Google’s local product is that it was never opt-in. Whether you list your business or not, it can end up in Google’s local business index, and that means you are open to reviews (positive, negative, and fallacious) on the most visible possible platform, like it or not. As I’m not seeing a way to walk this back, review spam should be Google’s problem to fix, and they are obliged to fix it if:

  • They are committed to their own earnings, based on the trust the public feels in their review corpus
  • They are committed to user experience, implementing necessary technology and human intervention to protect consumers from fake reviews
  • They want to stop treating the very businesses on whom their whole product is structured as unimportant in the scheme of things; companies going out of business due to review spam attacks really shouldn’t be viewed as acceptable collateral damage

Knowing that Alphabet has an estimated operating income of $7 billion for 2018, I believe Google could fund these safeguards:

  1. Take a bold step and resource human review mediators. Make this a new department within the local department. Google sends out lots of emails to businesses now. Let them all include clear contact options for reaching the review mediation department if the business experiences spam reviews. Put the department behind a wizard that walks the business owner through guidelines to determine if a review is truly spam, and if this process signals a “yes,” open a ticket and fix the issue. Don’t depend on volunteers in the GMB forum. Invest money in paid staff to maintain the quality of Google’s own product.
  2. If Google is committed to the review flagging process (which is iffy, at best), offer every business owner clear guidelines for flagging reviews within their own GMB dashboard, and then communicate about what is happening to the flagged reviews.
  3. Improve algorithmic detection of suspicious signals, like profiles with one-off reviews, the sudden influx of negative reviews and text-less ratings, global reviews within a single profile, and companies or profiles with a history of guideline violations. Hold the first few reviews left by any profile in a “sandbox,” à la Yelp.

Now it’s your turn! Let’s look at Google’s removal of “A Google User” reviews as a first step in the right direction. If you had Google’s ear, what would you suggest they do next to combat review spam? I’d really like to know.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 3 days ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Take a shot this summer: how to use the World Cup to up your marketing game

One of the most interesting things I noticed right from the off was the lack of batch and blast marketing with bland, generic, slightly football related content. Of course, there will always be some. Supermarkets, take-outs and travel brands who have special World Cup offers – Ryanair have a limited time sale, Iceland and Co-op have offers on food and drink, and Uber Eats are offering 50% off first orders – but there has been a distinct lack of brands throwing caution to the wind and jumping on the World Cup bandwagon.

Instead, consumers are getting a hyper-personalized experienced via apps and social media. Do you want to know everything that’s happening as soon as it happens? Get the FIFA app. Interested in a free beer while watching the England game? Budweiser have an app for that.

Maybe you’re not interested in the football at all – that’s okay. The likes of Boohoo and ASOS scheduled push notifications about their sales to coincide with the kick-off of England’s World Cup campaign.

Unfortunately, these kinds of tactics are to be expected by big brands. But that doesn’t mean you should let this opportunity pass you by. So how can you make the most of the World Cup fever gripping the globe?

1) Think of your fans

There’s no point running a world cup themed campaign if your audience aren’t going to be engaged, so make sure whatever you do it’ll appeal to your customers. Domino’s’ social media campaign captures this perfectly. Branding themselves ‘The Official Food of not Going to International Football Tournaments’, they created a series of videos featuring former footballer Jimmy Bullard enjoying the World Cup from home. Its tongue-in-cheek humor and popular front man perfectly appeals to their target customers. On the flip side, NowTV is appealing to those hoping to escape the football by offering box set selections for those who ‘don’t give a damn’, are a ‘sore loser’, or have been ‘dumped for the football’.

World cup campaigns

2) Dominate the game

So far, mobile marketing – via apps, videos, and social media – is dominating World Cup comms. Whatever tactics you adopt, make sure you’re optimized for mobile. The summer is here, and people are making the most of it, so catch your customers wherever they are and make sure the journey you invite them on is one they will can enjoy. Get started with designing your emails for mobile by checking out our latest best practice guide.

3) Be ready for anything

One of the most exciting things about the World Cup is its unpredictability. Utilizing the moments nobody expects is a fantastic way to engage with your customers throughout the month when the world goes football mad. Amongst the biggest surprises so far has been Iceland’s draw with football aficionados Argentina. This has been wholeheartedly embraced by the Iceland Foods who has been filling its social media feeds with hilarious comments about their unexpected success.

Iceland tweets

4) Don’t score an own goal

Don’t ruin your chances of winning big. FIFA have strict rules about how you can and can’t advertise during the competition. Their “Official Marks” must not be used in unauthorized marketing. This includes the official emblem, trophy and mascot. Additionally, they have a range of “word marks” – specific wording relating to the event – that you can’t use in your promotions such as ‘FIFA World Cup’ and ‘Moscow 2018’. There are still plenty of ways to get in on the action. Sporting phrases and terms like ‘Summer of football’ are the best way around this. More information about the FIFA advertising guidelines can be found on their website.

5) Capture the spirit of the game

One of the most important things to remember is to have fun! It’s summertime and your marketing should embrace the fun and excitement that comes along with the World Cup. Your customers will have their highs and lows, or they may not care about it at all, but make the most of this opportunity to try new things. Did the underdog beat a top tier team? Follow one surprise with another and have a flash sale to celebrate! Are you looking to expand your contact list? Why not organize a world cup themed competition to encourage sign-ups? Maybe think about adapting your abandoned cart automation to include a “did you get distracted by the football” message.

 

For ideas and inspiration about how to improve your email game, head to our resources page today.

The post Take a shot this summer: how to use the World Cup to up your marketing game appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 5 days ago from blog.dotmailer.com

Google updates ‘Ad Settings’ to allow users to turn off targeting signals

Google is also extending ‘Why this ad?’ notices to all services that display Google Ads, including YouTube, Google Play, Gmail, Maps and partner websites and apps.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Reblogged 1 week ago from feeds.searchengineland.com

10 winning automations for B2B ecommerce

B2B ecommerce sales will experience explosive growth in the coming years, eclipsing the revenue generated from B2C markets. Just think about the average value of a business order when compared to that of a consumer. And yet, B2C brands seem to dominate digital channels, harnessing the power of marketing automation to reach the right customer, with the right message, and at the right time.

In this year’s Hitting the Mark, B2B brands scored 26% below their B2C counterparts across all criteria. With their global ecommerce worth set to reach an eye-watering $6.6 trillion by 2020, B2Bs need to put their foot of the gas.

Email still remains the most popular tactic employed by B2B marketers, perhaps down to the returns on investment: £32 for every £1 according to the DMA. To take their ecommerce to the next level and capitalize on this predicted growth, companies need to digitalize their marketing activities and adopt smarter tactics.

Marketing automation is the answer. B2B companies can dissect the lifecycle of their customers and create powerful, data-driven programs to complement every stage of the buying journey.

Food for thought:

  • Make context the source of everything you do
  • Define your audiences
  • Blitzing your contacts with emails is a dead end
  • Content is hot right now

1. Welcome program

The welcome program is widely considered by industry professionals to be the most important automation in the marketer’s armory. Its importance rests on one single factor: the initiation of the customer relationship and the ability to influence future perceptions. Whether you’re onboarding a new client or introducing your brand to prospects, the welcome program is your vehicle to drive a positive relationship from the start.

In your welcome program, you’ll need to:

  • introduce your brand and its USPs
  • ask for preferences to tailor the customer experience
  • set expectations and reinforce any special benefits of signing up: i.e. exclusive content

2. Nurture Program

Nurturing prospects into customers – and customers into repeat-buyers – is the essential ingredient of business growth and success. From the moment an assistant registers interest to when a c-level buyer signs on the dotted line (and beyond), nurturing contacts is a non-stop marketing effort that delivers the goods. This is the ‘right people, right time’ element of your marketing mix.

When scoping out your nurture program, consider the following:

  • Product-specific information, i.e. promotional and editorial
  • Base this on your web insight, preferences and where customers are in the buying cycle
  • Set-up of various newsletter automations, per category and audience segment for example

3. Abandoned browse program

A prospect’s browse behavior is a great indication of where they sit in the buying cycle – viewing a price page might suggest a high intent to purchase, for instance. Triggering an email off the back of this action could spur the prospect to return to the website and review the pricing page again – they might even book a demo, request a sample product or buy from you.

Best tactics to lure web visitors back:

  • Ensure the email is 100% on brand and reflects your website
  • Include some inspirational content that’s relevant to what the subscriber was browsing
  • Recommend the right product or service based on the data you hold

4. Abandoned cart program

The cart recovery program is a tried-and-tested quick win for B2Bs, delivering sensational results every time. It’s a simple triggered campaign to implement and is proven to get deals over the line. This is due to the hyper-targeted nature of the communication – you’re nudging prospects who, having dedicated time to place items in their cart, have a very high propensity to buy. Not sending these emails is throwing money away. Madness!

Top tips for an effective B2B cart recovery email:

  • Send the email within 24 hours of the abandoned action
  • Pull in product details and imagery to contextualize the message
  • Direct subscribers back to their cart with an eye-catching call to action that’s above the fold

5. Aftersales program

The post-purchase period is a delicate timeframe where expectations hang in the balance. Overdelivering on your promise will keep customers happy, while falling short can jeopardize your retention.

Being super-attentive to new customers will build enthusiasm over the products or services they’ve acquired. In the long term, this level of care can abate churn and generate brand advocacy.

To deliver a smooth aftersales journey, you should:

  • thank customers for purchasing with you over a competitor
  • ask for a product rating and review of the service experienced by customers
  • be transparent. From once an order is placed right through to delivery and usage, it’s important to provide relevant information that adds value to the customer experience

6. Upsell Program

There’s an art to upselling and it’s wise to be subtle in your approach. As is often the case with many email programs, the devil is in the data. Pushing random products to contacts after they’ve purchased could cause them to unsubscribe and makes for an altogether unpleasant email experience that could tarnish the business relationship.

Tailoring the experience on the other hand can boost a customer’s lifetime value and keep them in your good books.

To get the balance just right:

  • promote complementary products or services that will enhance a customer’s account and improve their business processes
  • base these recommendations on past-purchases, web behavior and preferences
  • be customer-centric, offering contact details should subscribers want to discuss a particular product or feature over the phone

7. Replenishment program

This program isn’t for every B2B. Brands that sell products with a short lifespan will need to ensure their customers’ stocks are replenished. An effective way to remind them is to enrol contacts onto a replenishment program – this would work particularly well for stationery brands that supply their clients for monthly or annual events, for example.

Employing this program will depend on both your business and the products/services you offer.

If it’s relevant to you, don’t forget to:

  • calculate the frequency of purchase based on the needs of customers
  • use a loyalty scheme to make replenishment worthwhile to clients
  • offer more for less: it might be an idea to inspire customers to bulk-buy at a reduced cost

8. Loyalty program

Inspiring loyalty is a must, as failing to make customers sticky can have serious consequences for business continuity. Unhappy customers, even indifferent ones, will move through the funnel at a quicker pace – eventually there won’t be enough business coming in to compensate for clients slipping through the net.

To generate loyalty among customers:

  • award them with bonus points or a special gift every time they buy
  • invite them to exclusive events that will add value to the business relationship
  • offer perks that incentivize them to spend more or upgrade their package

9. Lapsed customer program

Sustaining engagement is a challenge faced by many businesses. But customers that drop off the face of the earth aren’t lost forever. You should try, at the very least, to win them back and rekindle some brand love. Simple re-engagement programs are tried and tested sources of revenue – and every B2B should be implementing them.

Top tips:

  • Nudge dormant contacts with an attention-grabbing subject line (i.e. ‘We Miss You’) and reveal the content they’ve been missing out on
  • Ask these subscribers whether or not they’d like to continue receiving emails from you
  • If after several attempts contacts remain inactive, perform a health-check of your database and filter them out – this should improve your deliverability

10. Data-driven program(s)

Conceptualizing email campaigns off the back of data is a winning tactic for B2Bs. Why? Because extracting powerful insights from customers will deliver more targeted emails, inspiring readers to engage and buy with you.

Examples include messages (triggered by geolocation) promoting a specific event or store sale that’s relevant to the individual; another would be a triggered email following up a form submission or demo request. In both cases, the high level of relevancy exhibited in these campaigns will tap into readers’ emotions and spur action.

When planning your data-driven programs, think about:

  • context: will subscribers realize who you are, what you’re saying and the reason why?
  • relevancy: does the content pair perfectly with the context of the message?
  • calls to action: don’t waste time. It’s all about captivating the audience at the right moment – send them somewhere and get them to do something.

 

Want to see some killer examples of B2B automation? Download the full guide to find out more.

10 winning automations for B2B ecommerce

 

The post 10 winning automations for B2B ecommerce appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 1 week ago from blog.dotmailer.com

dotmailer’s Adele Boesinger tells all about her amazing charity trip to Kenya

Having left teaching two years ago to join dotmailer as a trainer, I jumped at the chance to go to Kenya when I was asked to support a Charity school out there. Mahali Pa Watoto – which translates to a place for the children – is part of The Seedsowing Network which my family and I have supported for many years. It was started by a family who moved out to Nairobi to start a school. The aim of the Seedsowing Network is to provide destitute children with comfort, protection, a foundation of Christian principles, and a basic education in reading, writing and arithmetic.

I not only visited the school, but I was also able to get involved in teaching lessons, organizing playground games, and helping to serve lunch. It was an amazing, eye-opening experience to get to know the teachers and children.

The children adored school and were so excited to learn, a stark contrast to some of the schools I taught at in England. It was interesting to hear how the charity works so closely with the community to find out the needs of the children and what would and wouldn’t work in their culture. For example, they have spare shoes for the children, but they will only give to a child if there is real, clear need, such as completely broken shoes, otherwise the shoes might go home and be sold and leaving the child to return the next day in their old, worn-down pair.

One afternoon we went on a home visit to see the slums where some of the school children live. Two parents and three children lived in a one room which was a 3’2” corrugated tin shack with no bathroom or kitchen.

I can safely say this broke my heart.

Seeing first-hand the poverty these children and their families live in is something that will haunt me forever. You can watch celebrities on Comic Relief visiting slums and bringing awareness to inhumane living conditions but, when you see it with your own eyes it’s so much worse than how it looks on TV.

After the home visit we all were asking what we could do. We had a feeling inside saying ‘I can’t un-see this. I can’t walk away from this. I can’t let this happen, there must be something I can do’. Our connection from Seedsowing gave us a brilliant chat after about how to cope with what we had seen, how to move forward and different ways we can support. It made me realise even more what a fantastic school and safe place for the children they have managed to create.

They take children from the poorest of the poor and give them an education, life skills, hope and a future. I have so much respect and admiration for what the team out there are doing, I’m already itching to return!

Some of the group we were with supported another project set up by AMREF at a child protection and development centre. They delivered singing and drama workshops to over 50 children. These children also live in slums where the ‘houses’ are one room corrugated tin squares or they live on the streets and have dropped out of school. They were pretty much all on drugs and a high percentage of the boys also were injecting heroin.

We observed some of their work and saw how they built the trust and relationships these vulnerable children. AMREF uses a rights-based Child Protection approach that focuses on strengthening prevention, response and coordination to ensure protection for children from violence, abuse and exploitation. They work with street children for a year in their development centre to try and reintegrate them back into society and the schooling system.

Kenya blog - group shot

After a week of volunteering, we did have some time for some R&R at a safari park. It was an incredible way to end the trip, being totally at one with nature. Seeing animals in their natural habitats and learning from our guide about the park and how it has changed was fascinating.

Kenya blog post safari

Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to fit a monkey in my suitcase. Maybe next time…

The post dotmailer’s Adele Boesinger tells all about her amazing charity trip to Kenya appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 2 weeks ago from blog.dotmailer.com

How to use rewards data to improve your customer experience

As eCommerce retailers find it more time-consuming and expensive to generate new customers, they are increasingly looking to their loyalty programs. And customers are certainly eager to sign up. In 2017, there were 3.8 billion memberships of loyalty programs in the US alone.

But overall growth has also slowed. Many retailers are struggling to retain members. They’re also finding it difficult to prompt them to take meaningful actions like make purchases and send referrals.

So what’s the solution?

One option is to use data derived from your rewards program to improve the experience of those who have signed up.

By leveraging a number of data-points, you can build a program that boosts engagement while also driving a number of key metrics, like purchase frequency, average order value, referrals, lifetime value and more.

In this post, we’re going to identify the most important types of data and how to use that data to create meaningful changes.

What data can you generate from a rewards program?

 

  • Segmentation dataThis is data about the demographic makeup of your loyalty program membership, and encompasses age, location, marital status, gender etc.
  • Reward-specific dataWhich rewards, promotions and giveaways are most popular? Determining which products and voucher codes are redeemed most often is usually a relatively simple process.
  • Membership activityActivity refers to the degree to which your members are interacting with your program. How many points have they redeemed? How many have been left sitting? How many vouchers have been used? This data is immensely useful for deciding which members to prioritize.
  • Personal detailsThis is individual data that you have extracted on the basis of membership of your loyalty program. It can include birth dates, reward preferences, specific location and so on.

 

So how do you get started? Here are four data-based ways to improve the customer experience of members of your loyalty program.

1. Segment rewards by activity and demographics

 

Segmentation works for both VIP members, who have high purchase frequency and regularly redeem their points, and for members that do not exhibit a high level of engagement.

For your top members, offering high-value rewards will encourage engagement with your program over the long term. By picking and contacting certain groups, and even individuals, for exclusive rewards, you can provide the best possible incentives in a cost-effective way.

Showcasing unique rewards and giveaways via email to members that are inactive, under-engaged or sitting on a large number of unredeemed points will also further increase retention among those most likely to drop off. It’s usually viable to allocate extra resources to this segment because they represent a high-potential group – they’re existing customers who have already signed up – with the greatest contribution to your overall churn rate.

Segmentation can also work effectively when unique promotions and rewards are designed on the basis of demographic information like age, location, marital status etc. By tailoring reward initiatives to meet the unique preferences and needs of specific sections of your customer base, you are much more likely to drive action (and thus engagement). Amazon used this strategy to immense success by targeting students for its Prime program.

2. Create highly personalized initiatives

Personalized reward initiatives

 

Personalization is a hugely under-leveraged strategy. It’s one thing to include a personal name at the beginning of an email. It’s another to encourage members to enter the birth dates of family members at sign-up and use that information to send tailored discounts and offers in the run-up to the big event.

Most managers responsible for running loyalty programs don’t take advantage of the huge array of personal details at their disposal. Customer experience can be dramatically improved when you tailor email promotions and rewards to include personalizaton; think relevant buying holidays (such as Mother’s or Valentine’s Day), personal celebrations, specific genders, locations and so on.

We’re not talking about general demographic or segmentation data here, but rather individual-specific details that you can use to automate highly targeted promotions or reward offers.

An added benefit of sending these highly personalized rewards is that they will increase trust over the long term. If you send your customers free points via email on their birthday or favorite shopping holiday, particularly when your competitors don’t, you’re much more likely to stand out.

3. Tailor your program to preferred platforms

Tailor your programs

 

Which platforms are your members using to check and redeem their points? Data about the kinds of devices and channels your customers prefer can be useful for deciding which platforms to prioritize.

If, for example, the majority of your eCommerce visitors shop on mobile, it makes sense to make your loyalty program directly available through mobile devices. Research by Exodus shows that 31% of consumers use an app to manage their loyalty rewards, so there is clearly a preference for certain access-points.

Most loyalty program managers take an omni-channel approach. And while this is certainly a laudable strategy, it usually falls short. The key is to hone in and optimize those channels that are most effective at engaging your membership.

4. Build feedback into your program

Build program feedback

 

Do you have any feedback mechanisms in place to determine unserved needs and pain points among your members?

Indirect feedback exists in the form of data about your most popular rewards and promotions. You can use this information when creating new rewards or putting together future promotions. If, for example, most members swap their points for cash-back rewards, then you can offer variants and similar offers going forward.

But it’s also important to utilize other ways of collecting feedback. How often do you send email surveys to your loyalty members or include survey questions on your rewards pages? Are you listening to customer service recordings? Do you undertake user testing?

This is one of the big reasons that retailers often experience high rates of churn. They apply a rigorous set of methods to pinpoint customer needs and pains related to the buying process but none to the customer experience of their loyalty program members, where a unique set of issues are often present. If you want to boost retention, it’s vital that you listen closely to your existing members.

Conclusion: Loyalty programs are a powerful but underutilized tool

Loyalty programs are so popular among eCommerce retailers because they work. But it’s also vital to keep in mind that the market is incredibly saturated. The average American is a member of over 14 programs.

As ad costs soar and search engine traffic becomes scarcer, holding onto your existing customers is ever more important. This is why a data-driven approach to improving the customer experience of your loyalty program will almost certainly be relevant.

On the one hand, it will enable you to generate concrete insights for reducing churn. On the other, you have an opportunity to create a key competitive advantage by building a rewards program that is genuinely based on customer needs and preferences.

Now, time to start mining that data.


This is a guest post written by Skubana. Skubana provides an omni-channel eCommerce platform for unifying all aspects of your store’s operation. Skubana’s tools make it easy to manage inventory and shipping, automate laborious tasks and generate meaningful insights from on and off-site data.

 

The post How to use rewards data to improve your customer experience appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 2 weeks ago from blog.dotmailer.com

Email design: how mobile should you go?

Email is your brand’s virtual shop window

Flashy email design, gripping email copy and intelligent personalization – these are the things most of us strive to deliver as email marketers. We want to get the look and feel of our brand spot on. Plus, we want to deliver memorable experiences that’ll help us shine  So sometimes we overlook the bare necessities, like ‘Can my customer see what I’m seeing?’. Email mobile optimization is one of those fuzzy areas of email design: some brands will nail it as a priority, while others haven’t even got it on their radar. Here’s why it matters:

For retail and ecommerce marketers, mobile’s taken over the market share. Mcommerce sales worldwide reached an estimated $1.357 trillion in 2017, or 58.9% of ecommerce spending overall. By 2021, mcommerce will account for 72.9% of the ecommerce market.” And for B2B businesses, it’s a similar story: 76% of Gen X buyers and 84% of millennials said their mobile device was critical to their work.

Email is STILL the top channel for marketers looking to maximize on ROI, delivering £32 for every £1 you spend. But in order for it to fire in all cylinders, it’s got to be optimized for your customers’ viewing preferences.

The customer experience should be seamless, whatever the device

Designing for mobile users shouldn’t be viewed as a separate component to your regular email design. Creating a smooth, effortless experience for your customers across all their touchpoints is the ultimate goal for any marketer – especially when 50% of consumers now regularly use more than four touch points during the buying process.

So the question is:

‘How mobile should I go with my email design?’

Every brand is different, and what works for your peers might not be the best fit for you. Deciding on the level of influence mobile has on your email design is the best way to ensure you’re optimizing content for your customers – without leaving any out in the cold.

Get to grips with just how many of your contacts open, click and convert on mobile devices. If you have a best-of-breed ESP, like dotmailer, you can access a detailed breakdown of email client share for every campaign you send. Find out the percentage of Iphone opens, for example, or build a more accurate picture of how many tablet engagers you’ve got on the books. A quick pointer: getting to grips with this information can also improve your send time optimization; a dip in mobile opens at certain times will highlight the times when it’s inopportune to push out marketing messages.

Once you’ve got the measure of mobile engagement, you can decide just how mobile you’re going to get. We’ve rounded up the important differences between mobile-friendly and mobile-responsive email design to help you make up your mind.

Mobile-friendly

Mobile-friendly email design (sometimes called mobile-first or mobile-aware) is fixed width and optimized for reading on a handheld device. This design relies on a single column layout with large text and CTA buttons; the font size isn’t responsive, but is large enough to be read on smaller screens. Extra spacing around campaign elements allows for maximum ‘tappability’.

Mobile-friendly email designs are simple to create and guarantee customers will be about to view your creatives on any device. However, their primarily single-column layout offers limited design options, especially for meatier campaigns like newsletters.

Responsive

Responsive email design uses CSS media queries to create fluid tables and images, allowing your campaign to adapt for different screen sizes and orientations. You can prioritize different layouts, font sizes, colors and even content based on the device customers are using. Previously, Gmail didn’t support media queries – but that’s no longer the case.

Using responsive email design gives you much more control over your campaigns. The drawback is that the design process is more complex and will require some coding. Some best-of-breed ESPs will have responsive design baked into their platform as standard; brands using dotmailer can select which email content blocks they want to display on what device. Plus, all of our templates are designed to be mobile responsive – even the free ones.

What about hybrid email design?

Hybrid email, sometimes called ‘spongy’ email, uses a combination of percentage-based widths, maximum-widths and clever and complex workaround coding for Outlook clients to ensure emails are adjusted based on a device’s width. Hybrid design offers marketers universal ‘friendliness’, but requires more development knowledge – and can get messy if left to inexperience. Always test any new design across multiple devices and email clients to ensure you’re delivering a consistent customer experience

If you’re interested in building email campaigns with hybrid design, we’re here to help you. dotmailer’s talented Digital Creatives have the full mix of design and coding skills, and can help your team execute beautiful, consistent mobile-optimized campaigns and pages. Get in touch with your Account Manger or check out our Creative Services page.

What next?

dotmailer has a guide that goes into more detail on mobile email design. You’ll get real-world examples for top brands, more insight and a handy list of 10 best practices to help you stand out in any inbox.

Grab our free best practice guide on email design.

 

The post Email design: how mobile should you go? appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 2 weeks ago from blog.dotmailer.com

Looking Beyond Keywords: How to Drive Conversion with Visual Search & Search by Camera

Posted by Jes.Scholz

Let’s play a game. I’ll show you an image. You type in the keyword to find the exact product featured in the image online. Ready?

Google her sunglasses…

What did you type? Brown sunglasses? Brown sunglasses with heavy frame? Retro-look brown sunglasses with heavy frame? It doesn’t matter how long-tail you go, it will be difficult to find that exact pair, if not impossible. And you’re not alone.

For 74% of consumers, traditional text-based keyword searches are inefficient at helping find the right products online.

But much of your current search behavior is based on the false premise that you can describe things in words. In many situations, we can’t.

And this shows in the data. Sometimes we forget that Google Images accounts for 22.6% of all searches — searches where traditional methods of searching were not the best fit.

Image credit: Sparktoro

But I know what you’re thinking. Image SEO drives few to no sessions, let alone conversions. Why should I invest my limited resources into visual marketing?

Because humans are visual creatures. And now, so too are mobile phones — with big screens, multiple cameras, and strong depth perception.

Developments in computer vision have led to a visual marketing renaissance. Just look to visual search leader Pinterest, who reported that 55% of their users shop on the platform. How well do those users convert? Heap Analytics data shows that on shopping cart sizes under $199, image-based Pinterest Ads have an 8.5% conversion rate. To put that in context, that’s behind Google’s 12.3% but in front of Facebook’s 7.2%.

Not only can visual search drive significant conversions online. Image recognition is also driving the digitalization and monetization in the real world.

The rise of visual search in Google

Traditionally, image search functioned like this: Google took a text-based query and tried to find the best visual match based on metadata, markups, and surrounding copy.

But for many years now, the image itself can also act as the search query. Google can search for images with images. This is called visual search.

Google has been quietly adding advanced image recognition capabilities to mobile Google Images over the last years, with a focus on the fashion industry as a test case for commercial opportunities (although the functionality can be applied to automotive, travel, food, and many other industries). Plotting the updates, you can see clear stepping stone technologies building on the theme of visual search.

  • Related images (April 2013): Click on a result to view visually similar images. The first foray into visual search.
  • Collections (November 2015): Allows users to save images directly from Google’s mobile image search into folders. Google’s answer to a Pinterest board.
  • Product images in web results (October 2016): Product images begin to display next to website links in mobile search.
  • Product details on images (December 2016): Click on an image result to display product price, availability, ratings, and other key information directly in the image search results.
  • Similar items (April 2017): Google can identify products, even within lifestyle images, and showcases similar items you can buy online.
  • Style ideas (April 2017): The flip side to similar items. When browsing fashion product images on mobile, Google shows you outfit montages and inspirational lifestyle photos to highlight how the product can be worn in real life.
  • Image badges (August 2017): Label on the image indicate what other details are available, encouraging more users to click; for example, badges such as “recipe” or a timestamp for pages featuring videos. But the most significant badge is “product,” shown if the item is available for purchase online.
  • Image captions (March 2018): Display the title tag and domain underneath the image.

Combining these together, you can see powerful functionality. Google is making a play to turn Google Images into shoppable product discovery — trying to take a bite out of social discovery platforms and give consumers yet another reason to browse on Google, rather than your e-commerce website.

Image credit: Google

What’s more, Google is subtly leveraging the power of keyword search to enlighten users about these new features. According to 1st May MozCast, 18% of text-based Google searches have image blocks, which drive users into Google Images.

This fundamental change in Google Image search comes with a big SEO opportunity for early adopters. Not only for transactional queries, but higher up the funnel with informational queries as well.

kate-middleton-style.gif

Let’s say you sell designer fashion. You could not only rank #1 with your blog post on a informational query on “kate middleton style,” including an image on your article result to enhance the clickability of your SERP listing. You can rank again on page 1 within the image pack, then have your products featured in Similar Items — all of which drives more high-quality users to your site.

And the good news? This is super simple to implement.

How to drive organic sessions with visual search

The new visual search capabilities are all algorithmically selected based on a combination of schema and image recognition. Google told TechCrunch:

“The images that appear in both the style ideas and similar items grids are also algorithmically ranked, and will prioritize those that focus on a particular product type or that appear as a complete look and are from authoritative sites.”

This means on top of continuing to establish Domain Authority site-wide, you need images that are original, high resolution, and clearly focus on a single theme. But most importantly, you need images with perfectly implemented structured markup to rank in Google Images.

To rank your images, follow these four simple steps:

1. Implement schema markup

To be eligible for similar items, you need product markup on the host page that meets the minimum metadata requirements of:

  • Name
  • Image
  • Price
  • Currency
  • Availability

But the more quality detail, the better, as it will make your results more clickable.

2. Check your implementation

Validate your implementation by running a few URLs through Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. But remember, just being valid is sometimes not enough. Be sure to look into the individual field result to ensure the data is correctly populating and user-friendly.

3. Get indexed

Be aware, it can take up to one week for your site’s images to be crawled. This will be helped along by submitting an image XML sitemap in Google Search Console.

4. Look to Google Images on mobile

Check your implementation by doing a site:yourdomain.cctld query on mobile in Google Images.

If you see no image results badges, you likely have an implementation issue. Go back to step 2. If you see badges, click a couple to ensure they show your ideal markup in the details.

Once you confirm all is well, then you can begin to search for your targeted keywords to see how and where you rank.

Like all schema markup, how items display in search results is at Google’s discretion and not guaranteed. However, quality markup will increase the chance of your images showing up.

It’s not always about Google

Visual search is not limited to Google. And no, I’m not talking about just Bing. Visual search is also creating opportunities to be found and drive conversion on social networks, such as Pinterest. Both brands allow you to select objects within images to narrow down your visual search query.

Image credit: MarTech Today

On top of this, we also have shoppable visual content on the rise, bridging the gap between browsing and buying. Although at present, this is more often driven by data feeds and tagging more so than computer vision. For example:

  • Brahmin offers shoppable catalogs
  • Topshop features user-generated shoppable galleries
  • Net-a-Porter’s online magazine features shoppable article
  • Ted Baker’s campaigns with shoppable videos
  • Instagram & Pinterest both monetize with shoppable social media posts

Such formats reduce the number of steps users need to take from content to conversion. And more importantly for SEOs, they exclude the need for keyword search.

I see a pair of sunglasses on Instagram. I don’t need to Google the name, then click on the product page and then convert. I use the image as my search query, and I convert. One click. No keywords.

…But what if I see those sunglasses offline?

Digitize the world with camera-based search

The current paradigm for SEOs is that we wait for a keyword search to occur, and then compete. Not only for organic rankings, but also for attention versus paid ads and other rich features.

With computer vision, you can cut the keyword search out of the customer journey. By entering the funnel before the keyword search occurs, you can effectively exclude your competitors.

Who cares if your competitor has the #1 organic spot on Google, or if they have more budget for Adwords, or a stronger core value proposition messaging, if consumers never see it?

Consumers can skip straight from desire to conversion by taking a photo with their smartphone.

Brands taking search by camera mainstream

Search by camera is well known thanks to Pinterest Lens. Built into the app, simply point your camera phone at a product discovered offline for online recommendations of similar items.

If you point Lens at a pair of red sneakers, it will find you visually similar sneakers as well as idea on how to style it.

Image credit: Pinterest

But camera search is not limited to only e-commerce or fashion applications.

Say you take a photo of strawberries. Pinterest understand you’re not looking for more pictures of strawberries, but for inspiration, so you’ll see recipe ideas.

The problem? For you, or your consumers, Pinterest is unlikely to be a day-to-day app. To be competitive against keyword search, search by camera needs to become part of your daily habit.

Samsung understands this, integrating search by camera into their digital personal assistant Bixby, with functionality backed by powerful partnerships.

  • Pinterest Lens powers its images search
  • Amazon powers its product search
  • Google translates text
  • Foursquare helps to find places nearby

Bixby failed to take the market by storm, and so is unlikely to be your go-to digital personal assistant. Yet with the popularity of search by camera, it’s no surprise that Google has recently launched their own version of Lens in Google Assistant.

Search engines, social networks, and e-commerce giants are all investing in search by camera…

…because of impressive impacts on KPIs. BloomReach reported that e-commerce websites reached by search by camera resulted in:

  • 48% more product views
  • 75% greater likelihood to return
  • 51% higher time on site
  • 9% higher average order value

Camera search has become mainstream. So what’s your next step?

How to leverage computer vision for your brand

As a marketer, your job is to find the right use case for your brand, that perfect point where either visual search or search by camera can reduce friction in conversion flows.

Many case studies are centered around snap-to-shop. See an item you like in a friend’s home, at the office, or walking past you on the street? Computer vision takes you directly from picture to purchase.

But the applications of image recognition are only limited by your vision. Think bigger.

Branded billboards, magazines ads, product packaging, even your brick-and-mortar storefront displays all become directly actionable. Digitalization with snap-to-act via a camera phone offers more opportunities than QR codes on steroids.

If you run a marketplace website, you can use computer vision to classify products: Say a user wants to list a pair of shoes for sale. They simply snap a photo of the item. With that photo, you can automatically populate the fields for brand, color, category, subcategory, materials, etc., reducing the number of form fields to what is unique about this item, such as the price.

A travel company can offer snap-for-info on historical attractions, a museum on artworks, a healthy living app on calories in your lunch.

What about local SEO? Not only could computer vision show the rating or menu of your restaurant before the user walks inside, but you could put up a bus stop ad calling for hungry travelers to take a photo. The image triggers Google Maps, showing public transport directions to your restaurant. You can take the customer journey, quite literally. Tell them where to get off the bus.

And to build such functionality is relatively easy, because you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are many open-source image recognition APIs to help you leverage pre-trained image classifiers, or from which you can train your own:

  • Google Cloud Vision
  • Amazon Rekognition
  • IBM Watson
  • Salesforce Einstein
  • Slyce
  • Clarifai

Let’s make this actionable. You now know computer vision can greatly improve your user experience, conversion rate and sessions. To leverage this, you need to:

  1. Make your brand visual interactive through image recognition features
  2. Understand how consumers visually search for your products
  3. Optimize your content so it’s geared towards visual technology

Visual search is permeating online and camera search is becoming commonplace offline. Now is the time to outshine your competitors. Now is the time to understand the foundations of visual marketing. Both of these technologies are stepping stones that will lead the way to an augmented reality future.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 2 weeks ago from tracking.feedpress.it