Last week, as part of our series on actions to take following a surge in sales, we teased you with a great way of retaining new customers — with product recommendations of course! And with a potential increase of 300% in revenue – did you know that according to Forrester 30% of Amazon’s total group revenue is directly attributed to them? – it’s no wonder you’ve clicked through to learn more about what product recommendations can do for you. But beyond the obvious upsides of upselling, with Engagement Cloud, product recommendations go that one step further.
If you thought product recommendations were just about repeat purchases, you’d be wrong! Just like a good sales person, product recommendations are great when it comes to achieving a higher customer lifetime value and increasing average order value. But, similarly to a good hire, they can also provide an exceptional customer experience, and even help improve things like your stock management or your understanding of customers.
Here are a few tips and tricks from dotdigital to get product recommendations working for you.
1: Delight your customers by displaying a product they need but didn’t know you had
An online store can be harder to navigate than a physical one, just because you don’t get to see everything at once. That means it’s highly likely your customers have no idea of the full breadth of your wonderful product offering. Make it easy for them.
Use ‘also bought’ and ‘best next’ product recommendations on your site to point your customer in the right direction. They’ve just bought a computer mouse from you, but they might not know you offer batteries. Or maybe they booked a hotel room – are they aware you have a spa with services on offer? You can use these product recommendations post-purchase as well of course, in emails that upsell a little later than the point of sale. Or perhaps even try a combination of the two.
For those customers that didn’t quite make a purchase, could it be they didn’t quite find what they were looking for? Use lookalike product recommendations to give the customer some more options, whether it’s handbags or holidays. You can increase open rates and click-throughs by making your abandoned cart copy sound exclusive with a touch of the personal shopper, with phrases such as ‘Selected just for you’. Use personalization fields to up the ante.
2: Show them what’s hot, and what they really want, with trending
The trending product recommendation combines ‘best sellers’ and ‘most viewed’ to give your customers a selection that will make them feel as if they are ahead of the curve. People love to keep up with the Jones’, and there are few industry exceptions. Whether it’s shoes, phones, speakers, cars, or mini-breaks, show your customers what they’re missing out on in your regular marketing sends.
3: Avoid disappointment when an item is out of stock, with lookalikes
Your customer may have had their eye on a product from you for some time but couldn’t quite commit to buy for a number of reasons. Then they go to view the item with the intent of buying this time and discover it’s out of stock. Quickly divert their attention with on-site lookalike product recommendations, reassuring them that just because that one product is sold out, it doesn’t mean there are no other alternatives for them on your site.
You could also capitalize again here on abandoned cart emails (as well as a bit of fear-of-loss); let the customer know that the item they viewed is now out of stock, but there are others that they’ll no doubt love.
4: Take them on a new journey, with existing customers leading the way
Both the ‘best next’ and ‘also bought’ product recommendations in Engagement Cloud are customer-led, in that they examine and use real customer data to recommend the products. In fact, ‘best next’ even uses AI to predict missing products in a typical matrix (or customer journey). For instance, if you were buying a new outfit and looking at the shoes, you could recommend that customers also bought a particular belt or that the next best product might be a blazer.
Use this as a selling point for your customers. Frame your product recommendations as your community of loyal customers leading the way for your new customers. Word and design your ‘best next’ and ‘also bought’ product recommendations as if customers were personally recommending items to one another. This not only gives your products an element of social proof, it will also make them feel as if they are part of something bigger when shopping with your brand.
Maybe I just got off of work, like millions of other non-nine-to-fivers. Maybe I was running around with my family all day and didn’t get my errands done. Maybe I was feeling too sick to appear in a public grocery store wrapped in the ratty throw from my sofa.
And now, most of the local shops are closed for the night and I’m sitting here, taco-less and sad.
But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if I could search Google and find a kiosk just a couple of blocks away that would vend me solutions, no matter what time of night or day?
Something old is becoming new again, just like home delivery. And for your agency’s local business clients, the opportunity could become an amazing competitive advantage.
What’s up with kiosks?
The automat was invented in Germany in the late 19th century and took off in the US in the decades following, with industry leader Horn & Hardart’s last New York location only closing in 1991. These famous kiosks fed thousands of Americans on a daily basis with on-demand servings of macaroni, fish cakes, baked beans, and chicory coffee. The demise of the automat is largely blamed on the rise of the fast food industry, with Burger Kings even opening doors at former automat locations.
A couple of weeks ago, I was watching an episode of my favorite local SEO news roundup in which Ignitor Digital’sCarrie Hill mentioned a meat vending kiosk. I was immediately intrigued and wanted to know more about this. What I learned sparked my imagination on behalf of local businesses which are always benefitted by at least considering fresh ideas, even if those ideas are actually just taking a page from history and editing it a bit.
What I learned from my research is that the Applestone Meat Company is distinguishing itself from the competition by offering a 24/7 butcher shop via two vending installations in the state of New York. They also have a drive-up service window from 11am–6pm, but for the countless potential customers who are at work or elsewhere during so-called “normal business hours,” the meat kiosks are ever-ready to serve.
CEO Joshua Applestone says he was inspired by the memory of Horn & Hardart and he must be one smart local business owner to have taken this bold plunge. The company has already earned some pretty awesome unstructured citations from the likes of Bloomberg with this product marketing strategy and they’re planning to open ten more kiosks in the near future.
But Applestone isn’t alone. A kiosk can technically just be a fancy vending machine. Check out Chicago startup Farmer’s Fridge. They recently closed a $30 million Series C round led by one-time Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors. Their 200+ midwestern units provide granola, Greek yogurt, pasta, wraps, beverages, and similar on-the-go fare, and they donate leftovers to local food pantries.
Americans have long been accustomed to ATM machines. DVD and game rental stations are old news to us. We are nowhere near Japan, with its sixty-billion-dollar-a-year, national vending machine density of one machine per 23 citizens, and its automated sales of everything from ramen to socks to umbrellas. Geography and economics don’t point to the need to go to such a level in the US, but where convenience is truly absent, opportunity may reside. What might that look like?
Use your imagination
My corner of the world is famous for its sourdough bread. There are hundreds of regional bakeries competing with one another for the crustiest, lightest, most indulgent loaf. But, if you don’t make it to the local stores by early afternoon, your favorite brand is likely to have sold out. And if you’re working the 47-hour American work week, or gigging California night and day but don’t want to live on fast food, you’d likely be quite grateful to have your access to artisan baguettes restored.
Just imagine every bread bakery around the SF Bay Area installing a kiosk outside its front door, and you can hear the satisfied after-hours crunching, can’t you?
Applestone is selling unprepared meat, Farmer’s Fridge is selling prepared meals, and almost anything people nosh could be a candidate for a kiosk, but why should on-demand products be limited to food? I let my imagination meander and jotted down a quick list of things people might buy at various off-hours, if a machine existed outside the storefront:
What if customers who do their morning bike ride at 5 AM knew they could stop by your client’s kiosk to fix a punctured tire? What if night workers knew they could pick up a box of light bulbs or bandages or cat food on their way to their shift? Think of the convenience — in some instances even life-saving help — that could be provided to travelers on the road at all hours, members of your community who are housing-insecure, or whole neighborhoods that lack access to basic goods?
Not every local business has the right model for a kiosk, but once I started to think about it, I realized just how many of them could. I’m initially envisioning these machines being installed at the place of business, but, where the scenario is right, a company with the right type of inventory could certainly place additional kiosks in strategic locations around the communities they wish to serve.
Kiosk Local SEO
Clearly, kiosks can generate revenue, but what could they do for clients’ online presence? The guidelines for representing your business on Google already support the creation of local business listings for ATMs, video rental stations, and express mail dropboxes. But I went straight to Google with the Applewood example to ask if this emerging type of kiosk would be permitted to create listings. They were kind enough to reply:
The link in the Twitter DM reply just pointed to the general guidelines, and I can find no reference to the term “Food Kiosk listing” in them. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard this terminology. But, clearly this representative is naming food kiosks as a “thing.” Google, it seems, is already quite aware of this business model. And the proof of their support is in the Maps pudding:
My, my! Talk about having the ability to hyperlocalize your local search marketing to fit Google’s extreme emphasis on user-to-business proximity. Enough to make any local SEO agency see conversions and dollar signs for clients.
Tip #1: Helpline phone numbers
I’ve written about ATM SEO in the past for financial publications, and so I’ll add one important tip for creating eligible Google listings for kiosks: guidelines require that you have a helpline phone number for kiosk users. I would post this number both on the listings and on the units, themselves. Note that this will likely mean you have a shared phone number on multiple listings, which isn’t typically deemed ideal for local search marketing, but if kiosks become your model and you avoid any semblance of creating fake listings, Google can likely handle it.
Tip #2: Unique local landing pages for your kiosks
I can also see value in creating unique location landing pages on client websites for their kiosks, especially if they aren’t stationed at your physical location. These pages could give excellent driving and walking directions for each unit, explain how to use the machine, feature reviews and testimonials for that location, and perhaps highlight new inventory.
Tip #3: Capitalize on your social media
Social media will also be an excellent vehicle for letting particular neighborhoods know about client kiosks and engaging with communities to understand their sentiments. Seek abundant feedback about what is and isn’t working for customers and how inventory could better serve their needs. And, of course, be sure every client is monitoring reviews like a low-flying hawk.
I’m a longtime observer of rural local SEO. I’ve learned that being intentional in noticing small things can lead to big ideas, and almost any novel concept is worth floating to clients. The tiny, free book lending kiosks sometimes officially branded “Little Free Libraries” are everywhere in my county, have become a non-profit initiative, and are driving Etsy sales of cute wooden contraptions. Moreover, my region is dotted with unstaffed farm stands that operate on the honor system, trusting neighbors to pay for what they take. I’d say our household purchases about half of our produce from them.
Within recent recall, the milkman and the grocery delivery boy seemed as distant as the phonograph. Now, consumers are showing interest in having whole meal kits, entire wardrobes, and just about everything delivered. The point being: don’t discount anything that renders convenience; not the traveling salesman, not the automat.
The decision to experiment with a kiosk isn’t a simple one. There will be financial aspects, like how to access a unit that works for the inventory being sold. There will be security questions, as most businesses probably won’t feel comfortable operating on the honor system.
But if the question is whether there is an appetite for the right kiosk, selling the right goods, in the right place, I’ll close today with a look at these provocative, illuminating reviews from just one location of Farmer’s Fridge:
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A humble bestseller product recommendation is an easy win. For a little effort and low data dependencies, it gives you strong revenue uplift.
Bestsellers’ high performance makes sense.
Your most popular products are popular for good reason. They exist at key intersections of value, features, desirability, quality, and trend.
Amplifying any of those signals to your audience is always going to make you money. It’s easy to understand why it’s one of the most popular types of product recommendations.
Job done, right? Why do you need AI?
After you’ve marketed your bestsellers for a time, you may hit a couple of challenges.
First, bestsellers favor your more established products. Unless new products are immediately successful, a recommendation can become self-reinforcing. It can be hard to get different products to breakthrough.
Second, you may notice that revenue uplift starts tracking new customer growth. At this point, the recommendation is saturating. Whilst it’s smart to hit your new customers with your best stuff, it’s now underperforming for existing customers.
Both problems warrant their own detailed discussion. For now, let’s look at a more nuanced strategy and how AI can help find new revenue in your existing customer base.
Unlocking inaccessible revenue
AI-powered product recommendations will identify new and unique customer/product relationships.
Finding these relationships at scale is where machine learning comes in. It analyses your products, orders, and web behavior data, so you don’t have to. It roots around the dark corners of your data to match products to customers.
Doing this analysis manually, even if you knew what to look for, would be an impossible task. Machine learning does it continually for you. Each time it trains on new data, it learns and gets more accurate.
My argument for this kind of big data approach to marketing is simple: don’t assume your established customer personas are the only truth. Until you use machine learning, you don’t know what you don’t know.
Winning with blended recommendation strategies
Bestsellers may always be your top performing recommendation. Talking to retailers, I’ve heard cases where a small set of products accounts for over 60% of sales. AI is unlikely to outperform against such massive numbers. (Unless you’re Amazon and have an enormous and diverse catalog!)
These retailers are aware of the risks of saturation. Not marketing effectively to their wider customer bases is a long-term challenge. Historically, there are easier battles to win that deliver nice returns.
Fortunately, technology is catching up to support retailers.
We’ve built Engagement Cloud product recommendations to support a blended strategy. You can combine so-called heuristics (like bestsellers) with hyper-personalized recommendations using AI.
The theme behind this strategy starts with covering known areas with broad sets of rules. Create non-AI product recommendations to match your known customer cohorts. You might focus on product categories, price points, seasonality, trends, or any other rules you like.
Once you have those, it’s time to infuse your campaigns with AI recommendations.
Here’s how to use different classes of recommendation:
Set up multiple category-targeted best sellers for some big hitting recommendations;
Find tomorrow’s best sellers with the most viewed recommendation type;
Mix things up with the hybrid trending recommendation type (it blends best sellers and most viewed);
Match your niche customers to their perfect products with AI-powered lookalikes;
Use best next’s AI to let shoppers help other shoppers find products they didn’t even know they wanted.
With this approach, you’re casting the widest possible net to drive more sales. You’re building automated marketing around cohorts you know. Meantime, AI is finding new customer/product relationships you didn’t know you had.
Anyone who has shopped with Amazon has experienced the same frustration. After you’ve bought a shower curtain, you don’t need to be recommended more shower curtains. Especially ones cheaper, or more expensive than the one you just purchased.
That’s not what anyone wants. Let’s be honest, it feels a little bit lazy of the ecommerce giant.
The thing is, product recommendations aren’t difficult to
implement. With very little effort, you can reap the rewards that product recs
all but guarantee. According
to Barilliance, a single recommendation can increase AOV (average
order value) by 369%.
The key is getting the right recommendations to the right customer, at the right stage of their journey. The more personalized and engaging recommendations are, the more they resound with your audience. The more resounding they are, the more you’ll benefit from larger orders.
Start the journey strong
Segmentation is essential for delivering the right content.
New subscribers should be automatically enrolled onto a welcome program. Welcome emails generate 320% more revenue than a generic campaign. Introducing them to your bestsellers as part of this is the fastest way to get them engaged with your product catalog.
Give your audience a stir by demonstrating your range of products with category recommendations. And, Engagement Cloud’s AI-powered technology even takes care of tag generation, so each block is automatically filled for you.
By tracking what they click and where they go, you’ll also
be gathering rich, valuable data for our AI-driven product recommendation tool
to use in the future.
Make it special
Let the power of AI determine which products are likely to
get shoppers excited to shop with you. Best
next uses machine learning to predict items customers are most likely to
Include this type of block at the end of your order confirmation emails or in abandon cart programs to drive them back to your site.
Keep them coming back and inspire long-lasting loyalty by
demonstrating you have everything they didn’t even know they needed.
Reveal hidden gems
Engagement Cloud’s AI-powered lookalike recommendation block analyzes your product catalog,
identifies items with similar attributes and surfaces the products that go well
This is the perfect accompaniment to any abandoned cart email, driving customers back and helping to increase their AOV.
Using lookalikes or best next utilizes the power of AI to push
the products that will truly resonate with your audience.
Share them everywhere
Incorporate your product recommendations anywhere on your site. Pick-up underperforming products by featuring them in a custom recommendation block on a bestsellers’ page or show them something new with a what’s trending section on the homepage.
Let Engagement Cloud do the work
Make the most of every engagement with the help of our AI-powered product recommendation tool. Including intelligent product recommendations throughout the customer’s journey boosts sales and revenue. So much so, you’ll end up asking yourself ‘why wasn’t I doing this before?’
The quality of these images defines your customer interactions and dictates the perceived value of both your products and your brand’s image.
The importance of product photography
Your images can make or break your brand and are essential for the success of your store. Their importance lies in building relationships with your customers and turning them into loyal promoters for your brand. When your images are polished and professional, your site visitors are quicker to start trusting your brand and engage with your product page.
They are also a key element to your visual marketing strategy that boosts your emails engagement and click-through rate. In your marketing emails and other content, images serve as ambassadors of your brand and nurture visitors closer to conversion.
Product photos enhance all buyer interactions and do a better job at that if they are of high quality. Visuals with colors, especially, boost the reader’s willingness to read by 80%. Your images help you build trust in your social posts, promotional emails, and product pages so keeping them polished and uniform is vital.
Let’s take a look at what kind of images to use and how to make them stand out from your rivals.
What types of images to use across your marketing channels
The two main types of images that most brands use across their digital channels are
On your product page and on channels closer to closing a purchase (like the checkout page), you should lead with clean-cut, uniform-looking images of your products on a white or light background.
On your product page, the feature image should show your product from the front at an eye-level angle. The rest of the images on the product page, on average a dozen, should showcase the product from all relevant perspectives. You can also include one or two in-context images to boost emotional engagement. Here you are aiming to provide solid visual proof that your product can meet your customer’s needs so they get closer to purchasing.
Your emails, social media, and blog posts are usually further up the marketing funnel. Here, static product images tend to wither. Instead, grab attention with more in-context and lifestyle shots that raise awareness and keep customers engaged. You can also mix in product-only images where appropriate as long as you have the more engaging photos as well.
In your emails and on other content channels, you can use images and videos of your product being used or in its intended environment to engage the user. Use your images to answer questions, explain features, and educate your customers so they are more likely to follow through and land on your product page.
How to take great photos
Organizing a successful photo shoot can be challenging the first time around, but you can quickly streamline it if you follow these simple steps. The three most important elements of a photoshoot are having the right equipment, choosing your background (white or light colored), and using the right lighting.
Let’s take a look at what you’ll need.
Camera Almost any DSLR will do as long as you have a good lighting setup and background. And with the advance of smartphones, you can even use your iPhone or Samsung device to get professional-quality results.
Tripod If you’re taking photos of multiple products on a regular basis, it is best to have your camera fixed on a tripod to ensure consistency and avoid blurry images.
Background The background is one of the key elements when you are shooting product images for your product page. It is vital to shoot on a white or light background that you can later remove in post-processing for a polished and professional look. With in-context images, however, you do have more freedom, and the background becomes one of your creative elements.
Lighting If there is one key defining factor in photography, that is lighting. If you get your lighting right, all the other steps will be easier. Use natural light, if possible, because it is easier to manipulate. Studio lights need a little more getting used to, but with two or three softboxes you can get good results. If you get your lighting right, you will save a lot of time during post-processing.
How to retouch your images to drive engagement
Retouching is essential to create a uniform look across your store and create professional, polished images that engage visitors. Post-processing can include background removal, color correction, mannequin removal, and shadow addition.
Thankfully, there is a world of software solutions for editing images, but if you are working in bulk and time is an issue, you can use an editing service like Pixc. With Pixc, you can create a template and get all your images edited to your specification and returned to you within 24 hours. You can give it a test drive with a free trial here.
Create an email template that converts
Your images are the windows of your email campaigns. Their visual appeal engages your customers more than anything else in your newsletters. In fact, eye-tracking studies have confirmed time and time again that viewers are first engaged by these visual elements. And their type and quality are the deciding factors in making those visitors further engaged with the content.
Emails are one of your most important sales tools. They have the task of both delighting your customers and make them come back to actually read more or complete a purchase. Viewers start at the images and, when convinced, use the other elements of your email template to fortify their decision.
Know your audience, and include visuals in your emails that resonate with them. Segment your buyers, and send emails with different images based on previous purchases or other store data.
But before you send an email out to your entire list, A/B test your images with a smaller segment to see what works best. Experiment with image types as well as size and placement within the email to find the formula that leads to the highest click-through rate for you.
We are wired to process images faster than anything else, and that fact holds strong when making buying decisions. In an ever more crowded ecommerce space, where online retailers compete to get the attention of consumers with decreasing attention spans, the quality of your images is becoming more and more important.
Empower your email campaigns, social posts, and content with quality images to boost your conversion rate and, ultimately, your customers’ lifetime value.
This guest post was written by Rachel Jacobs of Pixc, one of dotmailer’s partners.
The top three reasons were People, Product and Opportunity. I met the people who make up our business and heard their stories from the past 18 years, learned about the platform and market leading status they had built in the UK, and saw that I could add value with my U.S. high growth business experience. I’ve been working with marketers, entrepreneurs and business owners for years across a series of different roles, and saw that I could apply what I’d learned from that and the start-up space to dotmailer’s U.S. operation. dotmailer has had clients in the U.S. for 12 years and we’re positioned to grow the user base of our powerful and easy-to-use platform significantly. I knew I could make a difference here, and what closed the deal for me was the people. Every single person I’ve met is deeply committed to the business, to the success of our customers and to making our solution simple and efficient. We’re a great group of passionate people and I’m proud to have joined the dotfamily.
Dan Morris, dotmailer’s EVP for North America in the new NYC office
Tell us a bit about your new role
dotmailer has been in business and in this space for more than 18 years. We were a web agency, then a Systems Integrator, and we got into the email business that way, ultimately building the dotmailer platform thousands of people use daily. This means we know this space better than anyone and we have the perfect solutions to align closely with our customers and the solutions flexible enough to grow with them. My role is to take all that experience and the platform and grow our U.S. presence. My early focus has been on identifying the right team to execute our growth plans. We want to be the market leader in the U.S. in the next three years – just like we’ve done in the UK – so getting the right people in the right spots was critical. We quickly assessed the skills of the U.S. team and made changes that were necessary in order to provide the right focus on customer success. Next, we set out to completely rebuild dotmailer’s commercial approach in the U.S. We simplified our offers to three bundles, so that pricing and what’s included in those bundles is transparent to our customers. We’ve heard great things about this already from clients and partners. We’re also increasing our resources on customer success and support. We’re intensely focused on ease of on-boarding, ease of use and speed of use. We consistently hear how easy and smooth a process it is to use dotmailer’s tools. That’s key for us – when you buy a dotmailer solution, we want to onboard you quickly and make sure you have all of your questions answered right away so that you can move right into using it. Customers are raving about this, so we know it’s working well.
What early accomplishments are you most proud of from your dotmailer time so far?
I’ve been at dotmailer for eight months now and I’m really proud of all we’ve accomplished together. We spent a lot of time assessing where we needed to restructure and where we needed to invest. We made the changes we needed, invested in our partner program, localized tech support, customer on-boarding and added customer success team members. We have the right people in the right roles and it’s making a difference. We have a commercial approach that is clear with the complete transparency that we wanted to provide our customers. We’ve got a more customer-focused approach and we’re on-boarding customers quickly so they’re up and running faster. We have happier customers than ever before and that’s the key to everything we do.
You’ve moved the U.S. team to a new office. Can you tell us why and a bit about the new space?
I thought it was very important to create a NY office space that was tied to branding and other offices around the world, and also had its own NY energy and culture for our team here – to foster collaboration and to have some fun. It was also important for us that we had a flexible space where we could welcome customers, partners and resellers, and also hold classes and dotUniversity training sessions. I’m really grateful to the team who worked on the space because it really reflects our team and what we care about. At any given time, you’ll see a training session happening, the team collaborating, a customer dropping in to ask a few questions or a partner dropping in to work from here. We love our new, NYC space.
Guests and the team at dotmailer’s new NYC office warming party
What did you learn from your days in the start-up space that you’re applying at dotmailer?
The start-up space is a great place to learn. You have to know where every dollar is going and coming from, so every choice you make needs to be backed up with a business case for that investment. You try lots of different things to see if they’ll work and you’re ready to turn those tactics up or down quickly based on an assessment of the results. You also learn things don’t have to stay the way they are, and can change if you make them change. You always listen and learn – to customers, partners, industry veterans, advisors, etc. to better understand what’s working and not working. dotmailer has been in business for 18 years now, and so there are so many great contributors across the business who know how things have worked and yet are always keen to keep improving. I am constantly in listening and learning mode so that I can understand all of the unique perspectives our team brings and what we need to act on.
What are your plans for the U.S. and the sales function there?
On our path to being the market leader in the U.S., I’m focused on three things going forward: 1 – I want our customers to be truly happy. It’s already a big focus in the dotmailer organization – and we’re working hard to understand their challenges and goals so we can take product and service to the next level. 2 – Creating an even more robust program around partners, resellers and further building out our channel partners to continuously improve sales and customer service programs. We recently launched a certification program to ensure partners have all the training and resources they need to support our mutual customers. 3 – We have an aggressive growth plan for the U.S. and I’m very focused on making sure our team is well trained, and that we remain thoughtful and measured as we take the steps to grow. We want to always keep an eye on what we’re known for – tools that are powerful and simple to use – and make sure everything else we offer remains accessible and valuable as we execute our growth plans.
What are the most common questions that you get when speaking to a prospective customer?
The questions we usually get are around price, service level and flexibility. How much does dotmailer cost? How well are you going to look after my business? How will you integrate into my existing stack and then my plans for future growth? We now have three transparent bundle options with specifics around what’s included published right on our website. We have introduced a customer success team that’s focused only on taking great care of our customers and we’re hearing stories every day that tells me this is working. And we have all of the tools to support our customers as they grow and to also integrate into their existing stacks – often integrating so well that you can use dotmailer from within Magento, Salesforce or Dynamics, for example.
Can you tell us about the dotmailer differentiators you highlight when speaking to prospective customers that seem to really resonate?
In addition to the ones above – ease of use, speed of use and the ability to scale with you. With dotmailer’s tiered program, you can start with a lighter level of functionality and grow into more advanced functionality as you need it. The platform itself is so easy to use that most marketers are able to build campaigns in minutes that would have taken hours on other platforms. Our customer success team is also with you all the way if ever you want or need help. We’ve built a very powerful platform and we have a fantastic team to help you with personalized service as an extended part of your team and we’re ready to grow with you.
How much time is your team on the road vs. in the office? Any road warrior tips to share?
I’ve spent a lot of time on the road, one year I attended 22 tradeshows! Top tip when flying is to be willing to give up your seat for families or groups once you’re at the airport gate, as you’ll often be rewarded with a better seat for helping the airline make the family or group happy. Win win! Since joining dotmailer, I’m focused on being in office and present for the team and customers as much as possible. I can usually be found in our new, NYC office where I spend a lot of time with our team, in customer meetings, in trainings and other hosted events, sales conversations or marketing meetings. I’m here to help the team, clients and partners to succeed, and will always do my best to say yes! Once our prospective customers see how quickly and efficiently they can execute tasks with dotmailer solutions vs. their existing solutions, it’s a no-brainer for them. I love seeing and hearing their reactions.
Tell us a bit about yourself – favorite sports team, favorite food, guilty pleasure, favorite band, favorite vacation spot?
I’m originally from Yorkshire in England, and grew up just outside York. I moved to the U.S. about seven years ago to join a very fast growing startup, we took it from 5 to well over 300 people which was a fantastic experience. I moved to NYC almost two years ago, and I love exploring this great city. There’s so much to see and do. Outside of dotmailer, my passion is cars, and I also enjoy skeet shooting, almost all types of music, and I love to travel – my goal is to get to India, Thailand, Australia and Japan in the near future.
Australia has a resident population of more than 24 million and, according to eMarketer, the country’s ecommerce sales are predicted to reach A$32.56 billion by 2017. The country’s remote location in the APAC region means that unlike European countries or the USA, traditionally there have been a lack of global brands sold locally.
Of course, we also know that many expatriates, particularly from inside the Commonwealth, have made Australia their home and are keen to buy products they know and love from their country of origin.
All of these factors present a huge and potentially lucrative opportunity for non-Australian brands wanting to open up their new and innovative products to a fresh market, or compete for market share.
But it’s not just non-Australian retailers who are at an advantage here: Australia was late to the ecommerce party because native, established brands were trading well without it. Subsequently, Australian retailers’ ecommerce technology stacks are much more recent and not burdened by legacy systems. This makes it much easier to extend, or get started with, best-of-breed technologies and cash in on a market that’s booming. To put some of this into perspective, Magento’s innovative ecommerce platform currently takes 42% of Australia’s market share and the world’s first adopter of Magento 2.0 was an Australian brand.
The GST loophole
At the moment, local retailers are campaigning against a rule that exempts foreign websites from being charged a 10% general sales tax (GST) on purchases under A$1,000. And in 2013, Australian consumers made $3.11 billion worth of purchases under A$1,000.
While the current GST break appears to put non-Australian retailers at an advantage, Australian-based brands such as Harvey Norman are using it to their advantage by setting up ecommerce operations in Asia to enjoy the GST benefit.
Australian consumers have also countered the argument by saying that price isn’t always the motivator when it comes to making purchasing decisions.
It’s not a place where no man has gone before
Often, concerns around meeting local compliance and lack of overseas business knowledge prevent outsiders from taking the leap into cross-border trade. However, this ecommerce passport, created by Ecommerce Worldwide and NORA, is designed to support those considering selling in Australia. The guide provides a comprehensive look into everything from the country’s economy and trade status, to logistics and dealing with international payments.
Global expansion success stories are also invaluable sources of information. For instance, it’s not just lower-end retailers that are fitting the bill, with brands like online luxury fashion retailer Net-a-Porter naming Australia as one of its biggest markets.
How tech-savvy are the Aussies?
One of the concerns you might have as a new entrant into the market is how you’ll reach and sell to your new audience, particularly without having a physical presence. The good news is that more than 80% of the country is digitally enabled and 60% of mobile phone users own a smartphone – so online is deeply rooted into the majority of Australians’ lives. 
Marketing your brand
Heard the saying “Fire bullets then fire cannonballs”? In any case, you’ll want to test the waters and gauge people’s reactions to your product or service.
It all starts with the website because, without it, you’re not discoverable or searchable, and you’ve nowhere to drive people to when running campaigns. SEO and SEM should definitely be a priority, and an online store that can handle multiple regions and storefronts, like Magento, will make your life easier. A mobile-first mentality and well thought-out UX will also place you in a good position.
Once your new web store is set up, you should be making every effort to collect visitors’ email addresses, perhaps via a popover. Why? Firstly, email is one of the top three priority areas for Australian retailers, because it’s a cost-effective, scalable marketing channel that enables true personalization.
Secondly, email marketing automation empowers you to deliver the customer experience today’s consumer expects, as well as enabling you to communicate with them throughout the lifecycle. Check out our ‘Do customer experience masters really exist?’ whitepaper for some real-life success stories.
Like the Magento platform, dotmailer is set up to handle multiple languages, regions and accounts, and is designed to grow with you.
In summary, there’s great scope for ecommerce success in Australia, whether you’re a native bricks-and-mortar retailer, a start-up or a non-Australian merchant. The barriers to cross-border trade are falling and Australia is one of APAC’s most developed regions in terms of purchasing power and tech savviness.
We recently worked with ecommerce expert Chloe Thomas to produce a whitepaper on cross-border trade, which goes into much more detail on how to market and sell successfully in new territories. You can download a free copy here.
 Australian Passport 2015: Cross-Border Trading Report
 Australian Passport 2015: Cross-Border Trading Report
Before you start reading, I want to say that I am not an analytics expert per se, but a strategic SEO and digital marketing consultant. On the other hand, in my daily work of auditing and designing holistic digital marketing strategies, I deal a lot with Analytics in order to understand my clients’ gaps and opportunities.
For that reason, what you are going to read isn’t an “ultimate guide,” but instead my personal and practical guide to content and its metrics, filled with links to useful resources that helped me solving the big contents’ metric mystery. I happily expect to see your ideas in the comments.
The difference between content and formats
One of the hardest things to measure is content effectiveness, mostly because there exists great confusion about its changing nature and purpose. One common problem is thinking of “content” and “formats” as synonyms, which leads to frustration and, with the wrong scaling processes present, may also lead to Google disasters.
What is the difference between content and formats?
Content is any message a brand/person delivers to an audience;
Formats are the specific ways a brand/person can deliver that message (e.g. data visualizations, written content, images/photos, video, etc.).
Just to be clear: We engage and eventually share the ideas and emotions that content represents, not its formats. Formats are just the clothing we choose for our content, and keeping the fashion metaphor, some ways of dressing are better than others for making a message more explicit.
Strategy, as in everything in marketing, also plays a very important role when it comes to content.
It is during the strategic phase that we attempt to understand (both thanks to our own site analysis and competitive analysis of others’ sites) if our content is responding to our audience’s interests and needs, and also to understand what metrics we must choose in order to assess its success or failure.
Paraphrasing an old Pirelli commercial tagline: Content without strategy is nothing.
Strategy: Starting with why/how/what
When we are building a content strategy, we should ask ourselves (and our clients and CMOs) these classic questions:
Why does the brand exist?
How does the brand solidify its “why?”
What specific tactics will the brand use for successfully developing the “how?”
Only when we have those answers can we understand the goals of our content, what metrics to consider, and how to calculate them.
Let use an example every Mozzer can understand.
Why does Moz exist?
The answer is in its tagline:
Inbound marketing is complicated. Moz’s software makes it easy.
How does Moz solidify its “why?”
Moz produces a series of tools, which help marketers in auditing, monitoring and taking insightful decisions about their web marketing projects.
Moreover, Moz creates and publishes content, which aims to educate marketers to do their jobs better.
If you notice, we can already pick out a couple of generic goals here:
Leads > subscriptions;
Awareness (that may ultimately drive leads).
What specific tactics does Moz use for successfully achieving its main goals?
Considering the nature of the two main goals we clarified above, we can find content tactics covering all the areas of the so-called content matrix.
Some classic content matrix models are the ones developed by Distilled (in the image above) and Smart Insights and First 10, but it is a good idea to develop your own based on the insights you may have about your specific industry niche.
The things Moz does are many, so I am presenting an incomplete list here.
In the “Purchase” side and with conversion and persuasion as end goals:
Home page and “Products” section of Moz.com (we can define them as “organic landing pages”);
Content about tools
Pro tools (which are substantially free for a 30-day trial period).
CPC landing pages;
Price page with testimonials;
In the “Awareness” side and with educational and entertainment (or pure engagement) purposes:
The blogs (both the main blog and UGC);
The “Learn and Connect” section, which includes the Q&A;
Games (The SEO Expert Quiz can surely be considered a game);
Social media publishing;
Live events (MozCon and LocalUp, but also the events where Moz Staff is present with one or more speakers).
Once we have the content inventory of our web site, we can relatively easily identify the specific goals for the different pieces of content, and of the single type of content we own and will create.
I will usually not consider content like tools, sponsorship, or live events, because even though content surely plays a role in their goals’ achievement, there are also other factors like user satisfaction and serendipity involved which are not directly related to content itself or cannot be easily measured.
Measuring landing/conversion pages’ content
This may be the easier kind of content to measure, because it is deeply related to the more general measures of leads and conversions, and it is also strongly related to everything CRO.
We can measure the effectiveness of our landing/conversion pages’ content easily with Google Analytics, especially if we remember to implement content grouping (here’s the official Google guide) and follow the suggestions Jeff Sauer offered in this post on Moz.
On the other hand, we should always remember that the default conversion rate metric should not be taken as the only metric to incorporate into decision-making; the same is true when it comes to content performance and optimization. In fact, as Dan Barker said once, the better we segment our analysis the better we can understand the performance of our money pages, give a better meaning to the conversion rate value and, therefore, correct and improve our sales and leads.
Good examples of segmentation are:
Conversions per returning visitor vs new visitor;
Conversions per type of visitor based on demographic data;
Conversions per channel/device.
These segmented metrics are fundamental for developing A/B tests with our content.
Here are some examples of A/B tests for landing/conversion pages’ content:
Title tags and meta description A/B tests (yes, title tags and meta descriptions are content too, and they have a fundamental role in CTR and “first impressions”);
Prominent presence of testimonials vs. a more discreet one;
Tone of voice used in the product description (copywriting experiment);
Product slideshow vs. video.
Here are a few additional sources about CRO and content, surely better than me for inspiring you in this specific field:
Here is where things start getting a little more complicated.
Blog posts, guides, white papers, and similar content usually do not have a conversion/lead nature, at leastnot directly. Usually their goals are more intangible ones, such as creating awareness, likability, trust, and authority.
In other cases, then, this kind of content also serves the objective of creating and maintaining an active community, as it does in the case of Moz. I tend to consider this a subset, though, because in many niches creating a community is not a top priority. Or, even if it is, it does not offer a reliable flux of “signals” so as to appropriately measure the effectiveness of our content because of pure lack of statistical evidence.
A good starting place is measuring the so-called consumption metrics.
Again, the ideal is to implement content grouping in Google Analytics (see the video above), because that way we can segment every different kind of editorial content.
For instance, if we have a blog, not only we can create a group for it, but we can also create
As many groups as there are categories and tags on our blog;
groups by average length of the posts;
groups per the kind of prominent formats used (video posts like Moz’s Whiteboard Fridays, infographics, long-form, etc.).
This are just three examples; think about your own measuring needs and the nature of your content, and you will come out with other ideas for content groupings.
The following are basic metrics that you’ll need to consider when measuring your editorial content:
Pageviews / Unique Pageviews
Pages / Session
Time on Page
The ideal is to analyze these metrics at least with these secondary levels:
Medium / Sources, so you can understand what channel contributed the most to your content visibility. Remember, though, that dark search/social is a reality that can screw up your metrics (check out Marshall Simmonds’ deck from MozCon 2015);
User Type, so to see what percent of the Pageviews is due to returning visitors (a good indicator of the level of trust and authority our content has) and new ones (which indicates the ability our content has to attract new potentially long-lasting readers);
Mobile, which is useful in understanding the environments in which our users mostly interact with our content, and how we have to optimize its experience depending on the device used, hence helping making our content more memorable.
You surely can have fun also analyzing your content’s performance by segmenting them per demographic indicators. For instance, it may be interesting to see what affinity categories of your readers there are, depending on the categorization used in your blog and that you have replicated in your content grouping. This, in fact, can help us in better understanding the personas composing our audience, and so refining the targeting of our content.
As you can see, I did not mention bounce rate as a metric to consider, and there is a reason for that: Bounce rate is tricky, and its misinterpretation can lead to bad decisions.
Instead of bounce rate, when it comes to editorial content (and blog posts in particular), I prefer to consider scroll completion, a metric we can retrieve using Tag Manager (see this post by Optimize Smart).
Finally, especially if you also grouped content for outstanding format used (video, embedded SlideShare, etc.), you will need to retrieve users’ interactions through Tag Manager. However, if you really want to dig into the analysis of how that content is consumed by users, you will need to export your Analytics data and then combine it with data from external sources, like YouTube Analytics, SlideShare Analytics, etc.
The more we share, the more we have. This is also true in Marketing.
Consumption metrics, though, are not enough in order to understand the performance of your content, especially if you strongly rely on a community and one of the content objectives is creating and growing a community around your brand.
I usually add comments into these Metrics, because of the social nature comments have. Again, thanks to Tag Manager, you can easily tag when someone clicks on the “add comment” button.
A final metric we should always consider is the page value. As Google itself explains in that Help Page:
Page value is a measure of influence. It’s a single number that can help you better understand which pages on your site drive conversions and revenue. Pages with a high Page Value are more influential than pages with a low Page Value [Page Value is also shown for groups of content].
The combined analysis of consumption and social metrics can offer us a very granular understanding of how our content is performing, therefore how to optimize our strategy and/or how to start conducting A/B tests.
On the other hand, such a granular vision is not the ideal for reporting, especially if we have to report to a board of directors and not to our in-house or in-agency counterpart.
In that case being able to resume all these metrics (or the most relevant ones) in just one metric is very useful.
How to do it? My suggestion is to follow (and adapt to your own needs) the methodology used by the Moz editorial team and described in this post by Trevor Klein.
What about the ROI of editorial content? Don’t give up; I’ll talk about it below.
Measuring the ROI of content marketing and content-based link building campaigns
Theoretically measuring the ROI of something is relatively easy:
(Return – Investment) / Investment = ROI.
However the difficulty is not in that formula itself, but in the values used in that formula.
How to calculate the investment value?
Usually we have a given budget assigned for our content marketing and/or content-based campaigns. If that is the case, perfect! We have a figure to use for the investment value.
A complete different situation is when we must present a budget proposal and/or assign part of the budget to each campaign in a balanced and considered way.
In this post by Caroline Gilbert for Siege Media you can find great suggestions about how to calculate a content marketing budget, but I would like to present mine, too, which is based on competitive analysis.
Here’s what I do:
Identify the distinct competitors which created content related to what we will target with our campaign. I rely on both SERP analysis (i.e.: using the Keyword Difficulty Tool by Moz) and information we can retrieve with a “keyword search” on Buzzsumo.
Social shares per kind of social network (these are available from BuzzSumo). Remember that some of these social shares can be tallied by sponsored content (check this Social Media Explorer post about how to do Facebook competitive analysis).
Estimated traffic to the content’s URL (data retrieved via SimilarWeb).
Assign a monetary value to the metrics retrieved.
Calculate the competitors’ potential investment value.
Calculate the median investment value of all the competitors.
Consider the delta between what the client/company invested in content marketing (or link building, if it is moving from classic old link building to modern link earning) before, as well as the median investment value of the competitors.
Calculate and propose the content marketing / content-based campaign’s value in a range which goes from “minimum viable budget” to “ideal.”
Reality teaches us that the proposed investment is not the same than the real investment, but at least we then have some data for proposing it and not just a gut feeling. However, we must be prepared to work with budgets that are more on the “minimum viable” side than on the ideal one.
How to calculate revenue?
You can find a good number of ROI calculators, but I particularly like the Fractl one, because it is very easy to understand and use.
Their general philosophy is to calculate ROI in terms of how much traffic, links, and social shares the content itself has generated organically, hence how much it helped saving in paid promotion.
If you look at it, it reminds the methodology I described above (points 1 to 7).
However, when it comes to social shares, you should avoid the classic mistake of considering only the social shares directly generated by the page your content has been published.
For instance, let’s take the Idioms of the World campaigns Verve Search did for HotelClub.com and which won the European Search Awards.
If we we look only at its own social share metrics, we will have just a partial picture:
Instead, if we see what are the social shares metrics of the pages that linked and talked about it, we will have the complete picture.
As you can imagine, you can calculate the ROI of your editorial content using the same methodology.
Obviously the Fractl ROI calculator is far from being perfect, as it does not consider the offline repercussion a content campaign may have (the Idioms of the World campaign was organically published in a outstanding placement on The Guardian’s paper version, for instance), but it is a solid base for crafting your own ROI calculation.
So, we have arrived at the end of this personal guide about content and its metrics.
Remember these important things:
Don’t be data driven, be data informed;
Think strategically, act tactically;
Content’s metrics vary depending on the goals of content itself.
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