5 ways you could be using email to secure longer-lasting loyalty from one-time BFCM customers

Once the stomping ground of only the biggest US brands, Black Friday has now become a universal sales period that for many – it is too costly to ignore.

There are brands out there who don’t embrace the annual price-cutting chaos – for example, Apple, Ikea, and the UK’s Walmart cousin, Asda. However, with 30% of annual retail sales occurring between Black Friday and Christmas (almost 40 percent for jewellery retailers), it’s easy to see why so many are still getting stuck in.

Discounting periods are proving costly for retailers the world over with UK-market leader, John Lewis, recently citing having to match twice as many discounting extravaganzas in 2018 as the key reason for a major fall in profits. The rising number of discount days retailers must acknowledge, combined with the lower lifetime value of a customer acquired during a discounting period, is a key reason why merchants must focus on securing longer-lasting loyalty from one-time shoppers acquired during the sales.

Let’s get started with five simple ways that you could be optimizing your email strategy in order to secure longer-term customer loyalty, both during BFCM and once the sales are over:

1. Segmenting your customer base from the get-go

When it comes to email, it’s tempting to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach and send the same messages out to everyone. It’s even more tempting to take this approach following BFCM, when you have a large collection of customers who have only purchased once, but you want to re-engage with as soon as possible.

You might not know everything about these customers just yet, but use the information that you do have to segment your customer base and send the most relevant emails.

Whether you segment by the type of products purchased or by the brand or collection purchased from, make sure that the first message that you send post-BFCM is highly targeted and relevant. Customers who believe that you understand their individual behaviors are more likely to return and engage again.


2. Sending emails triggered by personal events

80% of customers are more likely to shop at brands that offer personalised experiences. At the most basic level, you can achieve this by sending special messages, offers or discounts on a customer’s birthday. At a deeper level, you can send messages that are tailored around their shopping anniversaries.

For example, celebrate with them each time they unlock a reward, qualify for a higher tier on your loyalty program, or reach a specific number of purchases with your store.

Whether you offer them simple discounts in return for their ongoing engagement, or offer them more exclusive perks such as free shipping or early access to sales or new product ranges, customers will appreciate the fact that they have received an email entirely unique to them and their actions or buying behaviors.


3. Re-engaging at-risk customers with incentives to return

Customers acquired during BCFM are proven to have a lower lifetime value than those acquired at other times of year. This means that they are less likely to return and make their next purchase, leaving them ‘at risk’.

In order to prevent at-risk customers from churning, ensure that you’re giving them reasons to come back and shop again. One approach is to credit customers with points within your emails.

Even if those customers do not immediately return to use those points, you have differentiated yourself by giving them something for doing nothing – something not many retailers will do. We recommend crediting enough points so that at-risk customers can instantly unlock a new reward.

You might also consider moving customers up to a higher tier in your loyalty program, allowing them to unlock more generous or exclusive rewards that are worth returning to use. There is no cost to this strategy, and also no doubt that your customers will be pleased they stopped to open that email!

4. Making the benefits implicit

Use emails you are already sending – such as post-purchase emails – to make sure that customers know what they are missing out on if they don’t return and repeat purchase. We don’t necessarily mean other sales or discounts they could be accessing, but instead, the rewards and benefits they could be unlocking with another purchase.

Use your post-purchase emails to show customers how many points they have or could have earned with their BFCM purchase, and remind them what that could translate to in terms of rewards and benefits.

You can also let them know how many points they would need to earn to unlock other, even more valuable rewards, incentivising them to come back to your store and shop again, sooner.


5. Reiterating your brand values

For many customers, purchasing decisions around BFCM are based solely on price, rather than shared values or beliefs. That’s why we encourage merchants to take the time to share their brand values once the shopping period is out of the way and customers are thinking more clearly.

Loyalty programs are all about community and relationships, and shared values are a key incentive for customers to join and engage more with your brand. Build messaging into your welcome and post-purchase emails, so that customers immediately see how your brand resonates with their own personal values. This is a key step to building longer-term relationships that will drive customer retention and increase lifetime value.

This year, all we want for Christmas is to see merchants making the most of every opportunity to turn Black Friday Cyber Monday into a resounding retention success story, rather than just a spike in acquisition. Have a chat with one of our team to find out more, or head to the LoyaltyLion Academy to learn more about improving the effectiveness of  loyalty emails.

 

About LoyaltyLion

LoyaltyLion is a data-driven loyalty and engagement software for fast-growth ecommerce merchants. Thousands of retailers worldwide use LoyaltyLion to add their own fully customizable loyalty programs and increase customer engagement, retention and spend.  Stores using LoyaltyLion typically generate at least $15 for every $1 they spend on the platform.

 

 

The post 5 ways you could be using email to secure longer-lasting loyalty from one-time BFCM customers appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 2 weeks ago from blog.dotmailer.com

Examples of brands with excellent omnichannel experiences

The birth of omnichannel has led to a revolution in the digital marketing world. Marketers have long since known about the advantages and effectiveness of omnichannel’s success; putting it in to practice has been challenging. Juxtapose that with the expectation of today’s consumer that every brand interaction be seamless.

So, let’s define what omnichannel really means. Omnichannel is about delivering a consistent and cohesive customer experience via any channel the customer chooses.

Take Domino’s, for example. The pizza you’ve ordered needs to taste, look and smell the same whether it was ordered online, through an app or in store. Similarly, the product needs to be consistent – whether it’s collected in store or delivered by one of Domino’s’ drivers.

Let’s take a look at the companies we believe are winning over consumers by going truly omnichannel.

Domino’s

Domino’s receives most of its orders on digital channels and is now classed less as a restaurant and more as an ecommerce company.

Domino’s operates 14,000 stores in more than 85 countries around the world and gets more than 50 percent of its sales through digital channels — with half of those coming from mobile.

Domino’s succeeds in an on-demand world by adapting to consumer behavior. Ordering pizzas with emojis and voice commands are not just a ploy – voice-related searches and the use of emojis reflect how people are interacting with each other and with brands in the post-digital age.

CEO Patrick Doyle challenged the company’s Information Technology team to “make it so a customer could order a pizza while waiting for a stoplight”, as he understood that mobile was, and remains, ingrained in this kind of behavior.

You can also order Domino’s pizzas through an increasing number of channels and devices which go beyond Twitter and the Amazon Echo. These include apps, Facebook messenger, Apple Watch and smart televisions.

Domino’s is a great example of creating the right experience for the consumer, channel and device.

 

An overview of Domino’s’ omnichannel reach:

  • Email
  • SMS
  • App
  • Social media
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Dom. The AI Bot.
  • Bricks and Mortar

Topshop

Recent studies (McKinsey Research and Harvard Business Review) have shown that customers who use more than one channel spend more and have a higher lifetime value than those customers who use fewer channels.

It has taken several years for bricks and mortar and digital to become truly integrated in retail but finally, we are seeing mobile, desktop and in-store shopping coalesce.

The growth of apps has also empowered shoppers to locate items, check availability, take advantage of offers, promotions and vouchers and participate in loyalty schemes more easily and conveniently. Topshop’s ‘On the go’ app creates a seamless experience between physical and digital worlds – a barcode scanner that links users to nearby store locations and highlights its available stock.

Asthma UK

Asthma UK runs a 12-week asthma support programme using dotmailer’s automation studio to send a mix of email and SMS content to send free, personalized advice to motivate patients to manage their asthma well.

Patients need to be qualified by Asthma UK by reviewing a patient’s answer to a short 8 question eligibility questionnaire to gain access to the content of the program, which was designed and developed by asthma clinicians and health psychology experts.

What really works for this program is how Asthma UK utilizes long-form content within email to deliver useful and key pieces of information. Plus, the non-profit also leverages SMS to deliver short-form content to manage expectations for what’s coming next.

For example: ‘Look out for your first email tomorrow’. Or, you could drive traffic to vital pieces of content, i.e.: ‘if you haven’t watched our welcome video, why not watch it now <insert link>’.

As this program is ongoing, Asthma UK utilizes a test-and-learn approach with all its emails. This allows subscribers to respond to the usefulness of the content at the bottom of their email, as well as a post-program questionnaire to gain valuable feedback.

 

Check out Asthma UK’s winning entries for this year’s dotties: the charity won the non-profit and omnichannel campaign categories.

Starbucks

Starbucks is at the top of its game with omnichannel right now, and it comes as no surprise, with over 28,000 stores worldwide and approximately 15 million active members of its loyalty program.

What makes Starbucks so great with omnichannel? You can use its mobile app to place an order and pay ahead of arriving at one of its bricks-and-mortar stores.

After placing the order, the app suggests nearby Starbucks stores and lets you know the estimated wait time for your order at each one. No more bun fights in a morning on your way to the office!

When you’ve selected which store to collect your coffee, it gives you directions to get there. You can pay for said coffee using the Starbucks card and can check the balance anywhere, at any time, using either your phone, the app, the website or in store.

This is a great example of how to leverage your customers’ devices and your own channels for a better experience.

 

Oasis

Oasis is at the leading edge of omnichannel, using its ecommerce site, mobile app and brick-and-mortar stores in to one simple, seamless shopping experience.

If you take a visit to one of its stores, you’re greeted with sales assistants holding iPads that are available to give you up-to-date, accurate and on-the-spot product information.

This iPad also acts as a cash register, making it more convenient to purchase your product/s. If it appears that something is out of stock, the staff can instantly place an online order for you to have the item delivered direct to your home address. For online shoppers, if an item is sold out then customers can also use their ‘Seek & Send’ service.

Overall, Oasis provides a well-managed experience that reduces the lines between online and offline. The brand endeavours to get that sale, no matter what channel is used, and without being pushy and demanding too much attention from the customer.

Three tips on implementing omnichannel for your brand:

  1. Develop an omnichannel location data strategy. Once you understand every touch point your customer uses, ensure that your brand is visible on each one through location data.
  2. Understand your customer’s omnichannel journey. Examine the entire journey your customer takes from home to store. Understanding your customer’s omnichannel journey will require you to employ tools such as journey maps, which designers use to research and depict the customer experience journey.
  3. Create next moments appropriate for each channel. As I mentioned in this article a “next moment” is the action that occurs after someone finds your brand through a search. The next moment needs to maximize and capitalize on the unique attributes of each channel and device (e.g. highly visual content for Instagram).

In short: more connected channels = more revenue.

Want to discover omnichannel in more detail? Download our whitepaper here.

The post Examples of brands with excellent omnichannel experiences appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 3 weeks ago from blog.dotmailer.com

Announcing the 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors Survey

Posted by Whitespark

It has been another year (and a half) since the last publication of the Local Search Ranking Factors, and local search continues to see significant growth and change. The biggest shift this year is happening in Google My Business signals, but we’re also seeing an increase in the importance of reviews and continued decreases in the importance of citations.

Check out the full survey!

Huge growth in Google My Business

Google has been adding features to GMB at an accelerated rate. They see the revenue potential in local, and now that they have properly divorced Google My Business from Google+, they have a clear runway to develop (and monetize) local. Here are just some of the major GMB features that have been released since the publication of the 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors:

  • Google Posts available to all GMB users
  • Google Q&A
  • Website builder
  • Services
  • Messaging
  • Videos
  • Videos in Google Posts

These features are creating shifts in the importance of factors that are driving local search today. This year has seen the most explosive growth in GMB specific factors in the history of the survey. GMB signals now make up 25% the local pack/finder pie chart.

GMB-specific features like Google Posts, Google Q&A, and image/video uploads are frequently mentioned as ranking drivers in the commentary. Many businesses are not yet investing in these aspects of local search, so these features are currently a competitive advantage. You should get on these before everyone is doing it.

Here’s your to do list:

  1. Start using Google posts NOW. At least once per week, but preferably a few times per week. Are you already pushing out posts to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter? Just use the same, lightly edited, content on Google Posts. Also, use calls to action in your posts to drive direct conversions.
  2. Seed the Google Q&A with your own questions and answers. Feed that hyper-relevant, semantically rich content to Google. Relevance FTW.
  3. Regularly upload photos and videos. (Did you know that you can upload videos to GMB now?)
  4. Make sure your profile is 100% complete. If there is an empty field in GMB, fill it. If you haven’t logged into your GMB account in a while, you might be surprised to see all the new data points you can add to your listing.

Why spend your time on these activities? Besides the potential relevance boost you’ll get from the additional content, you’re also sending valuable engagement signals. Regularly logging into your listing and providing content shows Google that you’re an active and engaged business owner that cares about your listing, and the local search experts are speculating that this is also providing ranking benefits. There’s another engagement angle here too: user engagement. Provide more content for users to engage with and they’ll spend more time on your listing clicking around and sending those helpful behavioral signals to Google.

Reviews on the rise

Review signals have also seen continued growth in importance over last year.

Review signals were 10.8% in 2015, so over the past 3 years, we’ve seen a 43% increase in the importance of review signals:

Many practitioners talked about the benefits they’re seeing from investing in reviews. I found David Mihm’s comments on reviews particularly noteworthy. When asked “What are some strategies/tactics that are working particularly well for you at the moment?”, he responded with:

“In the search results I look at regularly, I continue to see reviews playing a larger and larger role. Much as citations became table stakes over the last couple of years, reviews now appear to be on their way to becoming table stakes as well. In mid-to-large metro areas, even industries where ranking in the 3-pack used to be possible with a handful of reviews or no reviews, now feature businesses with dozens of reviews at a minimum — and many within the last few months, which speaks to the importance of a steady stream of feedback.

Whether the increased ranking is due to review volume, keywords in review content, or the increased clickthrough rate those gold stars yield, I doubt we’ll ever know for sure. I just know that for most businesses, it’s the area of local SEO I’d invest the most time and effort into getting right — and done well, should also have a much more important flywheel effect of helping you build a better business, as the guys at GatherUp have been talking about for years.”

Getting keywords in your reviews is a factor that has also risen. In the 2017 survey, this factor ranked #26 in the local pack/finder factors. It is now coming in at #14.

I know this is the Local Search Ranking Factors, and we’re talking about what drives rankings, but you know what’s better than rankings? Conversions. Yes, reviews will boost your rankings, but reviews are so much more valuable than that because a ton of positive reviews will get people to pick up the phone and call your business, and really, that’s the goal. So, if you’re not making the most of reviews yet, get on it!

A quick to do list for reviews would be:

  1. Work on getting more Google reviews (obviously). Ask every customer.
  2. Encourage keywords in the reviews by asking customers to mention the specific service or product in their review.
  3. Respond to every review. (Did you know that Google now notifies the reviewer when the owner responds?)
  4. Don’t only focus on reviews. Actively solicit direct customer feedback as well so you can mark it up in schema/JSON and get stars in the search results.
  5. Once you’re killing it on Google, diversify and get reviews on the other important review sites for your industry (but also continue to send customers to Google).

For a more in-depth discussion of review strategy, please see the blog post version of my 2018 MozCon presentation, “How to Convert Local Searchers Into Customers with Reviews.”

Meh, links

To quote Gyi Tsakalakis: “Meh, links.” All other things being equal, links continue to be a key differentiator in local search. It makes sense. Once you have a complete and active GMB listing, your citations squared away, a steady stream of reviews coming in, and solid content on your website, the next step is links. The trouble is, links are hard, but that’s also what makes them such a valuable competitive differentiator. They ARE hard, so when you get quality links they can really help to move the needle.

When asked, “What are some strategies/tactics that are working particularly well for you at the moment?” Gyi responded with:

“Meh, links. In other words, topically and locally relevant links continue to work particularly well. Not only do these links tend to improve visibility in both local packs and traditional results, they’re also particularly effective for improving targeted traffic, leads, and customers. Find ways to earn links on the sites your local audience uses. These typically include local news, community, and blog sites.”

Citations?

Let’s make something clear: citations are still very valuable and very important.

Ok, with that out of the way, let’s look at what’s been happening with citations over the past few surveys:

I think this decline is related to two things:

  1. As local search gets more complex, additional signals are being factored into the algorithm and this dilutes the value that citations used to provide. There are just more things to optimize for in local search these days.
  2. As local search gains more widespread adoption, more businesses are getting their citations consistent and built out, and so citations become less of a competitive difference maker than they were in the past.

Yes, we are seeing citations dropping in significance year after year, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need them. Quite the opposite, really. If you don’t get them, you’re going to have a bad time. Google looks to your citations to help understand how prominent your business is. A well established and popular business should be present on the most important business directories in their industry, and if it’s not, that can be a signal of lower prominence to Google.

The good news is that citations are one of the easiest items to check off your local search to do list. There are dozens of services and tools out there to help you get your business listed and accurate for only a few hundred dollars. Here’s what I recommend:

  1. Ensure your business is listed, accurate, complete, and duplicate-free on the top 10-15 most important sites in your industry (including the primary data aggregators and industry/city-specific sites).
  2. Build citations (but don’t worry about duplicates and inconsistencies) on the next top 30 to 50 sites.

Google has gotten much smarter about citation consistency than they were in the past. People worry about it much more than they need to. An incorrect or duplicate listing on an insignificant business listing site is not going to negatively impact your ability to rank.

You could keep building more citations beyond the top 50, and it won’t hurt, but the law of diminishing returns applies here. As you get deeper into the available pool of citation sites, the quality of these sites decreases, and the impact they have on your local search decreases with it. That said, I have heard from dozens of agencies that swear that “maxing out” all available citation opportunities seems to have a positive impact on their local search, so your mileage may vary. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The future of local search

One of my favorite questions in the commentary section is “Comments about where you see Google is headed in the future?” The answers here, from some of the best minds in local search, are illuminating. The three common themes I pulled from the responses are:

  1. Google will continue providing features and content so that they can provide the answers to most queries right in the search results and send less clicks to websites. Expect to see your traffic from local results to your website decline, but don’t fret. You want those calls, messages, and driving directions more than you want website traffic anyway.
  2. Google will increase their focus on behavioral signals for rankings. What better way is there to assess the real-world popularity of a business than by using signals sent by people in the real world. We can speculate that Google is using some of the following signals right now, and will continue to emphasize and evolve behavioral ranking methods:
    1. Searches for your brand name.
    2. Clicks to call your business.
    3. Requests for driving directions.
    4. Engagement with your listing.
    5. Engagement with your website.
    6. Credit card transactions.
    7. Actual human foot traffic in brick-and-mortar businesses.
  3. Google will continue monetizing local in new ways. Local Services Ads are rolling out to more and more industries and cities, ads are appearing right in local panels, and you can book appointments right from local packs. Google isn’t investing so many resources into local out of the goodness of their hearts. They want to build the ultimate resource for instant information on local services and products, and they want to use their dominant market position to take a cut of the sales.

And that does it for my summary of the survey results. A huge thank you to each of the brilliant contributors for giving their time and sharing their knowledge. Our understanding of local search is what it is because of your excellent work and contributions to our industry.

There is much more to read and learn in the actual resource itself, especially in all the comments from the contributors, so go dig into it:

Click here for the full results!

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Reblogged 3 weeks ago from tracking.feedpress.it

3 Empowering Small Business Tips for Today, 2019, and a Better Future

Posted by MiriamEllis

“American business is overwhelmingly small business.” – SBE Council

Small businesses have created 61.8% of net new jobs in the US since the early 1990s. Local business is big business. Let’s celebrate this in honor of Small Business Saturday with 3 strategies that will support independent business owners this week, and in the better future that can be attained with the right efforts.

What’s Small Business Saturday?

It’s an annual shopping event sponsored by American Express on the Saturday following Thanksgiving with the primary goal of encouraging residents to patronize local merchants. The program was launched in 2010 in response to the Great Recession. By 2017, Small Business Saturday jumped to 7,200 Neighborhood Champions (individuals and groups that organize towns for the event), with 108 million reported participating consumers spending $12 billion across the country.

Those numbers are impressive, and more than that, they hold the acorn of strategy for the spreading oak of a nation in which independently grown communities set standards of living, set policy, and set us on course for a sustainable future.

Tips for small businesses today

If your community is already participating in Small Business Saturday, try these techniques to enhance your success on the big day:

1. Give an extra reason to shop with you

This can be as simple as giving customers a small discount or a small free gift with their purchase, or as far-reaching as donating part of the proceeds of the day’s sales to a worthy local cause. Give customers a reason to feel extra good that they shopped with you, especially if you can demonstrate how their purchase supports their own community. Check out our Local Business Holiday Checklist for further tips.

2. Give local media something to report

Creativity is your best asset in deciding how to make your place of business a top destination on Small Business Saturday, worthy of mentions in the local news. Live music? A treasure hunt? The best store window in town? Reach out to reporters if you’re doing something extra special to build up publicity.

3. Give a reason to come back year-round

Turn a shopping moment into a teaching moment. Print up some flyers from the American Independent Business Alliance and pass them out to customers to teach them how local purchasing increases local wealth, health, and security. Take a minute or two to talk with customers who express interest. Sometimes, all it takes is a little education and kindness to shift habits. First, take a few minutes to boost your own education by reading How to Win Some Customer Back from Amazon this Holiday Season.

AMIBA has a great list of tips for Small Business Saturday success and American Express has thebest examples of how whole communities have created memorable events surrounding these campaigns. I’ve seen everything from community breakfast kickoffs in Michigan, to jazz bands in Louisiana, to Santa Claus coming to town on a riverboat in California. Working closely with participating neighboring businesses can transform your town or city into a holiday wonderland on this special day, and if your community isn’t involved yet, research this year can prepare you to rally support for an application to next year’s program.

Tips for small businesses for the new year

Unless your town is truly so small that all residents are already aware of every business located there, make 2019 the year you put the Internet to work for you and your community. Even small town businesses have news and promotions they’d like to share on the web, and don’t forget the arrival of new neighbors and travelers who need to be guided to find you. In larger cities, every resident and visitor needs help navigating the local commercial scene.

Try these tips for growth in the new year:

  1. Dig deeply into the Buy Local movement by reading The Local SEO’s Guide to the Buy Local Phenomenon. Even if you see yourself as a merchant today, you can re-envision your role as a community advocate, improving the quality of life for your entire town.
  2. Expand your vision of excellent customer service to include the reality that your neighbors are almost all on the Internet part of every day looking for solutions to their problems. A combination of on-and-offline customer service is your key to becoming the problem-solver that wins lucrative, loyal patrons. Read What the Local Customer Service Ecosystem Looks Like in 2019.
  3. Not sure where to begin learning about local search marketing on the web? First, check out Moz’s free Local SEO Learning Center with articles written for the beginner to familiarize yourself with the basic concepts. Then, start following the recognized leaders in this form of marketingto keep pace with new developments and opportunities as they arise. Make a new year’s resolution to devote just 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week, to learning more about marketing your small local business. By the end of a single year, you will have become a serious force for promotion of your company and the community it serves.

Tips for an independent business future: The time is right

I’ve been working in local business marketing for about 15 years, watching not just the development of technologies, but the ebb and flow of brand and consumer habits and attitudes. What I’m observing with most interest as we close out the present year is a rising tide of localistic leanings.

On the one hand, we have some of the largest brands (Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc.) losing the trust of the public in serious scandals surrounding privacy, human rights violations, and even war. On the other hand, we have small business owners uniting to revitalize their communities in wounded cities like Detroit and tiny towns like Bozeman, in the wake of the Great Recession, itself cited as a big brand product.

Where your company does business may influence your customers’ take on economics, but overall, the engrossing trend I’m seeing is towards more trust in smaller, independently owned companies. In fact, communities across the US are starting to map out futures for themselves that are as self-sustaining as possible. Earlier, I referenced small business owners undergoing a mental shift from lone merchant to community advocate, and here, I’ve mapped out a basic model for towns and cities to shift toward independence.

What most communities can’t access locally are branded products: imported big label clothing, packaged foods, electronics, cars, branded cosmetics, books. Similarly, most communities don’t have direct local access to the manufacture or mining of plastics, metals, and gases. And, very often, towns and cities lack access to agroforestry for raw lumber, fuel, natural fibers and free food. So, let’s say for now that the typical community leaves these things up to big brands so that they can still buy computers, books and stainless steel cookware from major manufacturers.

But beyond this, with the right planning, the majority of the components for a high standard of living can be created and owned locally. For example:

There are certainly some things we may rely on big brands and federal resources for, but it isn’t Amazon or the IRS who give us a friendly wave as we take our morning hike through town, making us feel acknowledged as people and improving our sense of community. For that, we have to rely on our neighbor. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that it’s up to towns and cities to determine whether neighbors are experiencing a decent standard of living.

Reading the mood of the economy, I am seeing more and more Americans becoming open to the messages that the percentage of small businesses in a community correlates with residents’ health, that quality social interactions lessen the chances of premature death by 50%, that independent businesses recirculate almost 4x as much community wealth, and that Main Street-style city planning massively reduces pollution vs. big box stores on the outskirts of town.

Small Business Saturday doesn’t have to be a once-a-year phenomenon. Small business owners, by joining together as community advocates, have the power to make it a way of life where they live. And they have one significant advantage over most corporations, the value of which shouldn’t be underestimated: They can begin the most important conversations face-to-face with their neighbors, asking, “Who do we want to be? Where do want to live? What’s our best vision for how life could be here?”

Don’t be afraid to talk beyond transactions with your favorite customers. Listening closely, I believe you’ll discover that there’s a longing for change and that the time is right.

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 weeks ago from tracking.feedpress.it

What Do You Do When You Lose Organic Traffic to Google SERP Features?

Posted by Emily.Potter

Google’s increasing dominance of their own search engine results pages (SERPs) has kicked up a lot of panic and controversy in the SEO industry. As Barry Adams pointed out on Twitter recently, this move by Google is not exactly new, but it does feel like Google has suddenly placed their foot on the accelerator:

Follow that Twitter thread and you’ll see the sort of back-and-forth these changes have started to create. Is this an ethical move by Google? Did you deserve the business they’re taking in the first place? Will SEO soon be dead? Or can we do what we’ve always done and adapt our strategies in smart, agile ways?

It’s hard to think positive when Google takes a stab at you like it did with this move on Ookla:

But regardless of how you feel about what’s happening, local packs, featured snippets, and SERP features from Google, properties like Google News, Images, Flights, Videos, and Maps are riding on a train that has no plans on stopping.

To give you an idea of how rapid these changes are occurring, the image below is what the SERP rankings looked like in November 2016 for one of our client’s key head terms:

And this image is the SERP for the same keyword by early December 2017 (our client is in green):

Check out MozCast’s Feature Graph if you want to see the percentage of queries specific features are appearing on.

Who is this blog post for?

You’re likely reading this blog post because you noticed your organic traffic has dropped and you suspect it could be Google tanking you.

Traffic drops tend to come about from four main causes: a drop in rankings, a decrease in search volume, you are now ranking for fewer keywords, or because SERP features and/or advertising are depressing your CTRs.

If you have not already done a normal traffic drop analysis and ruled out the first three causes, then your time is better spent doing that first. But if you have done a traffic drop analysis and reached the conclusion that you’re likely to be suffering from a change in SERP features, then keep reading.

But I’m too lazy to do a full analysis

Aside from ruling everything else out, other strong indications that SERP features are to blame will be a significant drop in clicks (either broadly or especially for specific queries) in Google Search Console where average ranking is static, but a near consistent amount of impressions.

I’ll keep harping on about this point, but make sure that you check clicks vs impressions for both mobile and desktop. Do this both broadly and for specific key head terms.

When you spend most of your day working on a desktop computer, sometimes in this industry we forget how much mobile actually dominates the scene. On desktop, the impact these have on traffic there is not as drastic; but when you go over to a mobile device, it’s not uncommon for it to take around four full scrolls down before organic listings appear.

From there, the steps to dealing with a Google-induced traffic drop are roughly as follows:

  1. Narrow down your traffic drop to the introduction of SERP features or an increase in paid advertising
  2. Figure out what feature(s) you are being hit by
  3. Gain hard evidence from SEO tools and performance graphs
  4. Adapt your SEO strategy accordingly

That covers step one, so let’s move on.

Step 2.0: Figure out which feature(s) you are being hit by

For a comprehensive list of all the different enhanced results that appear on Google, Overthink Group has documented them here. To figure out which one is impacting you, follow the below steps.

Step 2.1

Based off of your industry, you probably already have an idea of which features you’re most vulnerable to.

  • Are you an e-commerce website? Google Shopping and paid advertising will be a likely candidate.
  • Do you tend to generate a lot of blog traffic? Look at who owns the featured snippets on your most important queries.
  • Are you a media company? Check and see if you are getting knocked out of top news results.
  • Do you run a listings site? Maybe you’re being knocked by sponsored listings or Google Jobs.

Step 2.2

From there, sanity check this by spot-checking the SERPs for a couple of the keywords you’re concerned about to get a sense for what changed. If you roughly know what you’re looking for when you dig into the data, it will be easier to spot. This works well for SERP features, but determining a change in the amount of paid advertising will be harder to spot this way.

Once again, be sure to do this on both mobile and desktop. What may look insignificant from your office computer screen could be showing you a whole different story on your mobile device.

Step 3.0: Gain hard evidence from SEO tools and performance graphs

Once you have a top level idea of what has changed, you need to confirm it with SEO tools. If you have access to one, a historical rank tracking tool will be the most efficient way to dig into how your SERPs are evolving. I most frequently use STAT, but other great tools for this are Moz’s SERP features report, SEOmonitor, and SEMRush.

Using one of these tools, look back at historical data (either broadly or for specific important keywords) and find the date the SERP feature appeared if you can. Once you have this date, line it up with a dip in your organic traffic or other performance metric. If there’s a match, you can be pretty confident that’s to blame.

For example, here’s what this analysis looked like for one of our clients on a keyword with a regional search volume of 49,500. They got hit hard on mobile-first by the appearance of a local pack, then an events snippet 10 days later.

This was the clicks and impression data for the head term on mobile from Google Search Console:

As this case demonstrates, here’s another strong reminder that when you’re analyzing these changes, you must check both mobile and desktop. Features like knowledge panels are much more intrusive on mobile devices than they are on desktop, so while you may not be seeing a dramatic change in your desktop traffic, you may on mobile.

For this client we improved their structured data so that they showed up in the event snippet instead, and were able to recover a good portion of the lost traffic.

How to adapt your SEO strategy

You may not be able to fully recover, but here are some different strategies you can use depending on the SERP feature. Use these links to jump to a specific section:

Have you tried bidding to beat Google?

I cover what to do if you’re specifically losing out on organic traffic due to paid advertising (spoiler alert: you’re probably gonna have to pay), but paid advertising can also be used as a tactic to subvert Google SERP features.

For example, Sky Scanner has done this by bidding on the query “flights” so they appear above the Google Flights widget:

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

AMP is a project sponsored by Google to improve the speed of mobile pages. For a lot of these challenges, implementing AMP may be a way to improve your rankings as Google SERPs continue to change.

If you’ve noticed a number of websites with AMP implemented are ranking on the first page of SERPs you care about, it’s likely worth investigating.

If you are a news website, implementing AMP is absolutely a must.

Featured snippets and PAA boxes

If you’re losing traffic because one of your competitors owns the featured snippets on your SERPs, then you need to optimize your content to win featured snippets. I’ve already written a blog post for our Distilled blog on tactics to steal them before, which you can read here.

In summary, though, you have a chance to win a featured snippet if:

  • The ones you’re targeting are pretty volatile or frequently changing hands, as that’s a good indication the owner doesn’t have a strong hold on it
  • If you rank higher than the current owner, as this indicates Google prefers your page; the structure of your content simply needs some tweaking to win the snippet

If you’ve identified some featured snippets you have a good chance of stealing, compare what the current owner has done with their content that you haven’t. Typically it’s things like the text heading the block of content and the format of the content that differentiates a featured snippet owner from your content.

Local packs

At SearchLove London 2018, Rob Bucci shared data from STAT on local packs and search intent. Local SEO is a big area that I can’t cover fully here, but if you’re losing traffic because a local pack has appeared that you’re not being featured in, then you need to try and optimize your Google My Business listing for the local pack if you can. For a more in depth instruction on how you can get featured in a local pack, read here.

Unfortunately, it may just not be possible for you to be featured, but if it’s a query you have a chance at appearing in local pack for, you first need to get set up on Google My Business with a link to your website.

Once you have Google My Business set up, make sure the contact and address information is correct.

Reviews are incredibly important for anyone competing within a local pack, and not just high reviews but also the number of reviews you’ve received is important. You should also consider creating Google Posts. In a lot of spaces this feature is yet to have been taken advantage of, which means you could be able to get a jumpstart on your competitors.

More queries are seeing paid advertisements now, and there are also more ads appearing per query, as told in this Moz post.

If you’re losing traffic because a competitor has set up a PPC campaign and started to bid on keywords you’re ranking well for, then you may need to consider overbidding on these queries if they’re important to you.

Unfortunately, there’s no real secret here: either you gotta pay or you’re going to have to shift your focus to other target queries.

You should have already done so, but if you haven’t already included structured data on your website you need to, as it will help you stand out on SERPs with lots of advertising. Wrapped into this is the need to get good reviews for your brand and for your products.

Google Shopping

Similar to paid advertising, if the appearance of Google Shopping sponsored ads has taken over your SERPs, you should consider whether it’s worth you building your own Google Shopping campaign.

Again, structured data will be an important tactic to employ here as well. If you’re competing with Google Shopping ads, you’re competing with product listings that have images, prices, and reviews directly in the SERP results to draw in users. You should have the same.

Look into getting your pages implemented in Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which is sponsored by Google. Not only has Google shown it favors pages that are in AMP, better site speed will lead to better conversion rates for your site.

To see if implementing AMP may be beneficial to your business, you can read some case studies of other businesses that have done so here.

Knowledge panels and carousels

Knowledge panels such as the one below appear for broad informational searches, and rarely on highly converting keywords. While they are arguably the most imposing of all the SERP features, unless you’re a content site or CelebrityNetWorth.com, they probably steal some of your less valuable traffic.

If you’re losing clicks due to knowledge panels, it’s likely happening on queries that typically can be satisfied by quick answers and therefore are by users who might have bounced from your site anyway. You won’t be able to beat a knowledge panel for quick answers, but you can optimize your content to satisfy affiliated longer-tail queries that users will still scroll to organic listings to find.

Create in-depth content that answers these questions and make sure that you have strong title tags and meta descriptions for these pages so you can have a better chance of standing out in the SERP.

In some cases, knowledge panels may be something you can exploit for your branded search queries. There’s no guaranteed way to get your content featured in a knowledge panel, and the information presented in them does not come from your site, so they can’t be “won” in the same way as a featured snippet.

To get into a knowledge panel, you can try using structured data markup or try to get your brand on Wikipedia if you haven’t already. The Knowledge Graph relies heavily on existing databases like Wikipedia that users directly contribute to, so developing more Wikipedia articles for your brand and any personal brands associated with it can be one avenue to explore.

Search Engine Journal has some tips on how to implement both of these strategies and more in their blog post here.

Google Jobs

Google Jobs has taken up huge amounts of organic real estate from listing sites. It will be tough to compete, but there are strategies you can employ, especially if you run a niche job boards site.

Shifting your digital strategy to integrate more paid advertising so you can sit above Google and to generating content in other areas, like on news websites and advice boards, can help you.

For more details on how to employ some of these strategies, you can read Search Engine Journal’s Google Jobs survival tips.

To conclude

Look, I’d be lying to you if I said this was good news for us SEOs. It’s not. Organic is going to get more and more difficult. But it’s not all doom and gloom. As Rand Fishkin noted in his BrightonSEO speech this September, if we create intelligent SEO strategies with an eye towards the future, then we have the opportunity to be ahead of the curve when the real disruption hits.

We also need to start integrating our SEO strategies with other mediums; we need to be educated on optimizing for social media, paid advertising, and other tactics for raising brand awareness. The more adaptable and diverse your online marketing strategies are, the better.

Google will always be getting smarter, which just means we have to get smarter too.

To quote Jayson DeMers,

“If you define SEO as the ability to manipulate your way to the top of search rankings, then SEO will die. But if you define SEO as the practice of improving a website’s visibility in search results, then SEO will never die; it will only continue to evolve.”

Search, like nearly every other industry today, will continue to come against dramatic unanticipated changes in the future. Yet search will also only continue to grow in importance. It may become increasingly more difficult to manipulate your way to the top of search results, but there will always be a need to try, and Google will continue to reward content that serves its users well.

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 1 month ago from tracking.feedpress.it

How to build customer loyalty during peak season?

According to eMarketer, only around 46% of customers claim that the overall price is the number one reason why they buy gifts from a particular retailer. This leaves plenty of room for other forms of customer retention that don’t involve ridiculous price drops, which compromise your company’s profit margin.

On top of that, more and more companies are realizing that brand loyalty cannot be gained through discounts. Private White, a British outerwear brand for men decided to launch a Black Friday campaign that offers 0% off. See James Eden’s LinkedIn post for more details on why they left the price wars for the competition.

Here are the three most powerful practices that ensure shoppers stay with you – even after the holiday craze has quieted down.

1. Personalized emails

If there is something customers like, it’s being treated like a VIP by their favorite company. Sending your customers a message or newsletter that is tailored to their shopping persona will no doubt make them feel appreciated.

Make sure to craft an email template that reflects relevant information. Don’t stop at simple data such as the name, spice up the message with product recommendations that match their purchase history. Pay attention to subtle additions as well, such as changing the backdrop to match the recipients favorite color or showcasing a tier-specific logo. The possibilities are endless, so be creative!

Harvey Nichols loyalty program

It goes without saying that your emails should reflect the atmosphere of the current season. To add more spice to your campaign, consider assigning different pictures and content to male and female customers, or creating higher quality designs for top-tier members.

2. Loyalty program

Launching a loyalty program is a valuable way to increase customer engagement, especially during the retail rush.

  • A loyalty program elevates your existing customer retention strategies
  • Reward additional actions that aren’t related to the buying cycle, such working out or referring friends
  • Use points, or scrap points altogether; both systems work
  • Add alluring bonuses, like discounts or free shipping, or take the concept to the next level and use experiential rewards to give customers personal treatment

On the other hand, loyalty programs can help you better understand your customers because you can reward customers for taking part in surveys or completing their profile. Doing so provides valuable information that could be later used for personalization. Think about the rich data you could acquire, such as birthday, gender, sizing, favorite color or brand preference.

It’s also worth mentioning that the concept of Recognition Loyalty™ further expands the possibilities by introducing the concept of membership tiers.

Represent loyalty structure

To give you an example, Represent, a shared client of dotmailer and Antavo, has six tiers. Each tier offers incremental benefits. Participants are ranked according to their overall spending value, which motivates them to increase their purchase frequency throughout the year, so they can climb the ladder and unlock more rewards.

3. Memorable experiences

My final piece of advice for improving customer retention during peak retail seasons is to focus on surprise and delight elements. People love to receive gifts, and the gesture is even more impactful when the recipients aren’t expecting it.

So, what should be in your gift box? Sweepstakes are a good start because they have a game-like feeling. During Christmas, a calendar that offers limited-time bonuses each day would amaze your customers, no doubt about it.

Of course, no one can resist a great deal, especially if there is a time limit attached to it. Granting double or triple points for products during the holidays has the power to mobilize shoppers.

Luisaviaroma loyalty program

To illustrate the power of surprise and delight, look at the email campaign of one of Antavo’s clients, LuisaViaRoma. Their birthday emails not only increased the active members of the Privilege Program by 50%, but these emails ended up among the company’s Top 3 highest netting campaigns.

Maintaining Engagement Requires Constant Effort

If you really wish to stand out from the competition and keep the customers you gather during the peak season, then you need a constantly-evolving strategy that implements the latest innovations.

The time of ‘set it and forget it’ or ‘one size fits all’ solutions are over; customers want a more personalized experience that constantly gives them new opportunities to interact with your brand –not just when they open their wallets, but also when they’re living their lives, outside the buying cycle.

Interested in learning more about customer retention and engaging your customers in a meaningful way? Here is the Definitive Guide to Creating a Successful Loyalty Program that dives even deeper into the topic.

The post How to build customer loyalty during peak season? appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 1 month ago from blog.dotmailer.com

Turning your online browsers into buyers

Think about it. A customer signs up to your online fashion site:

They’re into international designers?
They want to receive invites to exclusive events?
Stated they’ll only purchase items that are organic?

The reality? They’ve only ever bought designer clothes that were on sale. They haven’t visited the organic clothes page on your website and are too busy to attend any events.

So how do you deal with a customer who won’t say what they want, or do what they say?

Make sure you listen to them over time. Use the signals you receive to have a two-way conversation with your customers. As a new friend slowly reveals more and more about themselves, so will your customers.

They’ll click through to your site from your emails, visit various pages or the same pages multiple times. They may order products and services from you. Don’t ignore any of this. This is implicit data. Use these signals to create timely and relevant conversations with your customers. At scale.

How?

Collect and understand tracking data

Track your customers’ behavior through what they’re clicking on, to what they’re browsing on your site. You can do all this through dotmailer’s web behavior tracking. This is where your customers’ browsing activity is tracked, stored and made available for you. This data can be used to segment contacts, and send them focused, relevant and timely content and more.

Creating segments helps you better understand your database. For example, maybe there’s a group out there who always buy full price products? These are valuable customers and need to be targeted accordingly – not sent more irrelevant emails. Maybe there’s a group out there who visited your website more than once in the past six months but have never bought anything? An abandoned browse strategy could help turn this group from browsers to buyers.

Opening packages

Decide on an approach

There are a couple of different approaches you can take, depending on the time and effort you want to put in. My advice? Short-term pain for long-term gain.

Put in the time to create your intelligent automated programs. These ‘set-and-forget’ programs ensure your communications are relevant and timely, without you having to hit send every time. You can even include SMS, Facebook and push notifications in your program to catch subscribers on the channel right for them.

Have they recently browsed the Australian designer’s page but not made a purchase? Send them an email featuring best-sellers from the brand! You can have any variation depending on the categories and content on your site. The possibilities – and potential for revenue – are endless! Programs can also be used to capture preference data on your customers. If they have browsed Australian designers, mark these customers as preferring Australian designers.

You can even build dynamic content into your automation programs. Why not try tailoring your hero image and content based on previous browsing data? If you know your subscribers have been looking at shoes a lot recently, use shoes as the hero image and have an accessories image for everyone else.

Online shopping

Analyze and optimize

Analyzing results is easy thanks to our campaign reporting features and tools like Google Analytics. (Did I mention dotmailer makes it easy to add tracking tools like Google Analytics to your campaigns?) As your program runs, you can analyze the impact it’s having on your engagement and revenue, immediately, and over time.

To maximize the learning from your campaign, follow the simple steps:

  1. Send subscribers emails without any personalization and record the revenue for that month.
  2. The following month, introduce personalized automated programs featuring email and SMS. Compare the revenue for that month to the previous month. Has there been any uplift? Has it remained the same?
  3. Taking your learnings and consider any possible changes to your program. Maybe you could change the number of days between emails or introduce an offer or incentive.  You may have only focused on a few products or categories in your automated programs. Try focusing on other products or services across your range and see if these affect your revenue. These tests will help you see what impact your campaign is having.

I hope you’ve found this helpful for setting up your new automation program. Following these tips and tricks will help you turn your online browsers into committed buyers and, in turn, increase your revenue.

To learn more about dotmailer’s web insight tool, and further strategies for turning browsers into buyers, please contact your Customer Success Manager.

The post Turning your online browsers into buyers appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 1 month ago from blog.dotmailer.com

What the Local Customer Service Ecosystem Looks Like in 2019

Posted by MiriamEllis

Everything your brand does in the new year should support just one goal: better local customer service.

Does this sound too simple? Doesn’t marketing brim with a thousand different tasks? Of course — but if the goal of each initiative isn’t to serve the customer better, it’s time for a change of business heart. By putting customers, and their problems, at the absolute center of your brand’s strategy, your enterprise will continuously return to this heart of the matter, this heart of commerce.

What is local customer service in 2019?

It’s so much more than the face-to-face interactions of one staffer with one shopper. Rather, it’s a commitment to becoming an always-on resource that is accessible to people whenever, wherever and however they need it. A Google rep was recently quoted as saying that 46% of searches have a local intent. Mobile search, combined with desktop and various forms of ambient search, have established the local web as man’s other best friend, the constant companion that’s ever ready to serve.

Let’s position your brand to become that faithful helper by establishing the local customer service ecosystem:

Your Key to the Local Customer Service Ecosystem

At the heart sits the local customer, who wants to know:

  • Who can help them, who likes or dislikes a business, who’s behind a brand, who’s the best, cheapest, fastest, closest, etc.
  • What the answer is to their question, what product/service solves their problems, what businesses are nearby, what it’s like there, what policies protect them, what’s the phone number, the website URL, the email address, etc.
  • Where a business is located, where to find parking, where something is manufactured or grown, etc.
  • When a business is open, when sales or events are, when busiest times are, when to purchase specific products/services or book an appointment, etc.
  • Why a business is the best choice based on specific factors, why a business was founded, why people like/dislike a business, etc.
  • How to get to the business by car/bike/on foot, how to learn/do/buy something, how to contact the right person or department, how to make a complaint or leave feedback, how the business supports the community, etc.

Your always-on customer service solves all of these problems with a combination of all of the following:

In-store

Good customer service looks like:

  • A publicly accessible brand policy that protects the rights and defends the dignity of both employees and consumers.
  • Well-trained phone staff with good language skills, equipped to answer FAQs and escalate problems they can’t solve. Sufficient staff to minimize hold-times.
  • Well-trained consumer-facing staff, well-versed in policy, products and services. Sufficient staff to be easily-accessible by customers.
  • In-store signage (including after-hours messaging) that guides consumers towards voicing complaints in person, reducing negative reviews.
  • In-store signage/messaging that promotes aspects of the business that are most beneficial to the community. (philanthropy, environmental stewardship, etc.) to promote loyalty and word-of-mouth.
  • Cleanliness, orderliness and fast resolution of broken fixtures and related issues.
  • Equal access to all facilities with an emphasis on maximum consumer comfort and convenience.
  • Support of payment forms most popular with local customers (cash, check, digital, etc.), security of payment processes, and minimization of billing mistakes/hassles.
  • Correctly posted, consistent hours of operation, reducing inconvenience. Clear messaging regarding special hours/closures.
  • A brand culture that rewards employees who wisely use their own initiative to solve customers’ problems.

Website

Good customer service looks like:

  • Content that solves people’s problems as conveniently and thoroughly as possible in language that they speak. Everything you publish (home, about, contact, local landing pages, etc.) should pass the test of consumer usefulness.
  • Equal access to content, regardless of device.
  • Easily accessible contact information, including name, address, phone number, fax, email, text, driving directions, maps and hours of operation.
  • Signals of trustworthiness, such as reviews, licenses, accreditations, affiliations, and basic website security.
  • Signals of benefit, including community involvement, philanthropy, environmental protections, etc.
  • Click-to-call phone numbers.
  • Clear policies that outline the rights of the consumer and the brand.

Organic SERPs

Good customer service looks like:

  • Management of the first few pages of the organic SERPs to ensure that basic information on them is accurate. This includes structured citations on local business directories, unstructured citations on blog posts, news sites, top 10 lists, review sites, etc. It can also include featured snippets.
  • Management also includes monitoring of the SERPs for highly-ranked content that cites problems others are having with the brand. If these problems can be addressed and resolved, the next step is outreach to the publisher to demonstrate that the problem has been addressed.

Email

Good customer service looks like:

  • Accessible email addresses for customers seeking support and fast responses to queries.
  • Opt-in email marketing in the form of newsletters and special offers.

Reviews

Good customer service looks like:

  • Accuracy of basic business information on major review platforms.
  • Professional and fast responses to both positive and negative reviews, with the core goal of helping and retaining customers by acknowledging their voices and solving their problems.
  • Sentiment analysis of reviews by location to identify emerging problems at specific branches for troubleshooting and resolution.
  • Monitoring of reviews for spam and reporting it where possible.
  • Avoidance of any form of review spam on the part of the brand.
  • Where allowed, guiding valued customers to leave reviews to let the greater community know about the existence and quality of your brand.

Links

Good customer service looks like:

  • Linking out to third-party resources of genuine use to customers.
  • Pursuit of inbound links from relevant sites that expand customers’ picture of what’s available in the place they live, enriching their experience.

Tech

Good customer service looks like:

  • Website usability and accessibility for users of all abilities and on all browsers and devices (ADA compliance, mobile-friendliness, load speed, architecture, etc.)
  • Apps, tools and widgets that improve customers’ experience.
  • Brand accessibility on social platforms most favored by customers.
  • Analytics that provide insight without trespassing on customers’ comfort or right to privacy.

Social

Good customer service looks like:

  • Brand accessibility on social platforms most favored by customers.
  • Social monitoring of the brand name to identify and resolve complaints, as well as to acknowledge praise.
  • Participation for the sake of community involvement as opposed to exploitation. Sharing instead of selling.
  • Advocacy for social platforms to improve their standards of transparency and their commitment to protections for consumers and brands.

Google My Business

Good customer service looks like:

  • Embrace of all elements of Google’s local features (Google My Business listings, Knowledge Panels, Maps, etc.) that create convenience and accessibility for consumers.
  • Ongoing monitoring for accuracy of basic information.
  • Brand avoidance of spam, and also, reporting of spam to protect consumers.
  • Advocacy for Google to improve its standards as a source of community information, including accountability for misinformation on their platform, and basic protections for both brands and consumers.

Customers’ Problems are Yours to Solve

“$41 billion is lost each year by US companies following a bad customer experience.”
New Voice Media

When customers don’t know where something is, how something works, when they can do something, who or what can help them, or why they should choose one option over another, your brand can recognize that they are having a problem. It could be as small a problem as where to buy a gift or as large a problem as seeking legal assistance after their home has been damaged in a disaster.

With the Internet never farther away than fingertips or voices, people have become habituated to turning to it with most of their problems, hour by hour, year by year. Recognition of quests for help may have been simpler just a few decades ago when customers were limited to writing letters, picking up phones, or walking into stores to say, “I have a need.” Now, competitive local enterprises have to expand their view to include customer problems that play out all over the web with new expectations of immediacy.

Unfortunately, brands are struggling with this, and we can sum up common barriers to modern customer service in 3 ways:

1) Brand Self-Absorption

“I’ve gotta have my Pops,” frets a boy in an extreme (and, frankly, off-putting) example in which people behave as though addicted to products. TV ads are rife with the wishfulness of marketers pretending that consumers sing and dance at the mere idea of possessing cars, soda, and soap. Meanwhile, real people stand at a distance watching the song and dance, perhaps amused sometimes, but aware that what’s on-screen isn’t them.

“We’re awesome,” reads too much content on the web, with a brand-centric, self-congratulatory focus. At the other end of the spectrum, web pages sit stuffed with meaningless keywords or almost no text as all, as though there aren’t human beings trying to communicate on either side of the screen.

“Who cares?” is the message untrained employees, neglected shopping environments, and disregarded requests for assistance send when real-world locations open doors but appear to put customer experience as their lowest priority. I’ve catalogued some of my most disheartening customer service interludes and I know you’ve had them, too.

Sometimes, brands get so lost in boardrooms, it’s all they can think of to put in their million-dollar ad campaigns, forgetting that most of their customers don’t live in that world.

One of the first lightbulb moments in the history of online content marketing was the we-you shift. Instead of writing, “We’re here, isn’t that great?”, we began writing, “You’re here and your problem can be solved.” This is the simple but elegant evolution that brands, on the whole, need to experience.

2) Ethical Deficits

Sometimes, customers aren’t lost because a brand is too inwardly focused, but rather, because its executives lack the vision to sustain an ethical business model. Every brand is tasked with succeeding, but it takes civic-minded, customer-centric leadership to avoid the abuses we are seeing at the highest echelons of the business world right now. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber, and similar majors have repeatedly failed to put people over profits, resulting in:

  • Scandals
  • Lawsuits
  • Fines
  • Boycotts
  • Loss of consumer trust
  • Employee loss of pride in company culture

At a local business level, and in a grand understatement, it isn’t good customer service when a company deceives or harms the public. Brands, large and small, want to earn the right of integration into the lives of their customers as chosen resources. Large enterprises seeking local customers need leadership that can envision itself in the setting of a single small community, where dishonest practices impact real lives and could lead to permanent closure. Loss of trust should never be an acceptable part of economies of scale.

The internet has put customers, staffers, and media all on the same channels. Ethical leadership is the key ingredient to building a sustainable business model in which all stakeholders take pride.

3) Lack of Strategy

Happily, many brands genuinely do want to face outward and possess the ethics to treat people well. They may simply lack a complete strategy for covering all the bases that make up a satisfying experience. Small local businesses may find lack of time or resources a bar to the necessary education, and structure at enterprises may make it difficult to get buy-in for the fine details of customer service initiatives. Priorities and budgets may get skewed away from customers instead of toward them.

The TL;DR of this entire post is that modern customer service means solving customers’ problems by being wherever they are when they seek solutions. Beyond that, a combination of sufficient, well-trained staff (both online and off) and the type of automation provided by tools that manage local business listings, reviews and social listening are success factors most brands can implement.

Reach Out…

We’ve talked about some negative patterns that can either distance brands from customers, or cause customers to distance themselves due to loss of trust. What’s the good news?

Every single employee of every local brand in the US already knows what good customer service feels like, because all of us are customers.

There’s no mystery or magic here. Your CEO, your devs, sales team, and everyone else in your organization already know by experience what it feels like to be treated well or poorly.

And they already know what it’s like when they see themselves reflected in a store location or on a screen.

Earlier, I cited an old TV spot in which actors were paid to act out the fantasy of a brand. Let’s reach back in time again and watch a similar-era commercial in which actors are paid to role play genuine consumer problems – in this case, a family that wants to keep in touch with a member who is away from home:

The TV family may not look identical to yours, but their featured problem – wanting to keep close to a distant loved one – is one most people can relate to. This 5-year ad campaign won every award in sight, and the key to it is that consumers could recognize themselves on the screen and this act of recognition engaged their emotions.

Yes, a service is being sold (long distance calling), but the selling is being done by putting customers in the starring roles and solving their problems. That’s what good customer service does, and in 2019, if your brand can parlay this mindset into all of the mediums via which people now seek help, your own “reach out and touch someone” goals are well on their way to success.

Loyal Service Sparks Consumer Loyalty

“Acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to twenty times more expensive than retaining an existing one.”
Harvard Business Review

“Loyal customers are worth up to ten times as much as their first purchase.”
White House Office of Consumer Affairs

I want to close here with a note on loyalty. With a single customer representing up to 10x the value of their first purchase, earning a devoted clientele is the very best inspiration for dedication to improving customer service.

Trader Joe’s is a large chain that earns consistent mentions for its high standards of customer service. Being a local SEO, I turned to its Google reviews, looking at 5 locations in Northern California. I counted 225 instances of people exuberantly praising staff at just these 5 locations, using words like “Awesome, incredible, helpful, friendly, and fun!”. Moreover, reviewers continuously mentioned the brand as the only place they want to shop for groceries because they love it so much. It’s as close as you can get to a “gotta have my Pops” scenario, but it’s real.

How does Trader Joe’s pull this off? A study conducted by Temkin Group found that, “A customer’s emotional experience is the most significant driver of loyalty, especially when it comes to consumers recommending firms to their friends.” The cited article lists emotional connection and content, motivated employees who are empowered to go the extra mile as keys to why this chain was ranked second-highest in emotion ratings (a concept similar to Net Promoter Score). In a word, the Trader Joe’s customer service experience creates the right feelings, as this quick sentiment cloud of Google review analysis illustrates:

This brand has absolutely perfected the thrilling and lucrative art of creating loyal customers, making their review corpus read like a volume of love letters. The next move for this company – and for the local brands you market – is to “spread the love” across all points where a customer might seek to connect, both online and off.

It’s a kind of love when you ensure a customer isn’t misdirected by a wrong address on a local business listing or when you answer a negative review with the will to make things right. It’s a kind of love when a company blog is so helpful that its comments say, “You must be psychic! This is the exact problem I was trying to solve.” It’s a kind of love when a staff member is empowered to create such a good experience that a customer tells their mother, their son, their best friend to trust you brand.

Love, emotions, feelings — are we still talking about business here? Yes, because when you subtract the medium, the device, the screen, it’s two very human people on either side of every transaction.

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dotties winners revealed!

Is your head hurting this morning? Yep. We thought so. But what a fantastic night. Laughter erupted from the Troxy as Rob Beckett delivered his hilarious stand-up. Our guests savored some mouthwatering street food. We all enjoyed one-too-many proseccos – and some of us danced til we dropped!

A HUGE thank you to everyone who attended the dotties 2018 – we hope you had an awesome time. A big hand to all the brands who made the shortlist – we were massively impressed with every single entry and our judges faced a tough decision.

But last night, we celebrated you – the winners. Congratulations to the brands who are shaping the digital marketing space, delivering first-class experiences to customers, fans and supporters. And for anyone having a little trouble remembering what went down, allow us to refresh your memory:

The winners

Certsure LLP

Inspiring email creative: The BIG Idea

Winning in Business: Best B2B Marketing Campaign

Barbour

Content Excellence: Most Compelling Campaign

 

Tottenham Hotspur

Creative Flair: Best Subject Line

Star of Leisure: Best use of dotmailer to please

Southampton FC

Data Creativity: Best Use of Data

 

icelolly.com

Innovation in Integration: Combining Tech Powers

 

Neal’s Yard Remedies

Excellence in Automation: Most Powerful Program Use

 

Asthma UK

Omnichannel Pioneers: Most Connected Campaign

Star of Non-profit: Best use of dotmailer to help others

 

Jack Wills

Excellence in Ecommerce: Most Compelling Campaign

 

Greene King

Big Impact, Small Bottom Line: Best Use of Budget

 

Inviqa

UK agency of the year

 

Absolunet

US agency of the year

 

Experius

European agency of the year

 

Crimson Consultants

CRM partner of the year

 

XCM

Integrated partner of the year

 

Yuji Isayama – Selco Builders Warehouse

Star Performer: Excellence in Marketing by an Individual

 

T. M. Lewin

Star Disruptor: Energizing Change in the Marketing Team

 

 

 

 

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