Ecommerce Marketing - Your August Digital Marketing Bundle

We have a confession (slash apology) to make.

This month’s dosage of digital marketing sustenance is a smidgen late. We gorillas aren’t known for our punctuality, but we’ve been getting so much better.

We promise the next package of online retail knowledge will arrive at your inbox doorstep right on time (the 1st Thursday each month for those of you new to this monthly email wisdom caper).

We’re not one for excuses, but we’ve been kinda busy (cough* new website *cough).

There’s this whole other important surprise, secret thing that’s been going on.

Anyways. We’re sorry. In an attempt to make it up to you, we made sure this August’s edition is riper and juicier than ever – no low hanging fruit, only the best...

Online advertising, marketing your marketing, and personalisation demands

August in the north is perennially quiet in the marketing industry. Seemingly everyone with a passport in the US and Europe are too busy sipping a cool beverage on a beachside li-lo to break any earth-shattering ecommerce news.

The_Great_Northern_August_Marketing_Holiday

Down-under, we’re hard at it. And let’s face it – those beachcombers can’t really get away from phones and email. Google has us cornered. Your 'out of office reply' is just wishful thinking these days. As such, the important ecommerce developments kept on coming with a customary rapid pace this month.

We’ve got some must reads for anyone investing in online advertising, and some suggestions to help you develop a more customer-friendly marketing approach.

We’ll show you the secret formula to guaranteeing your next YouTube vid goes ‘viral’ (spoiler alert: it probably won’t help your business very much), and a stern, passionate plea to start getting serious about developing personalised experiences. 

Prepare to be schooled. In a helpful, educational way.

Not a beat-you-at-1-on-1-streetball-in-your-face! kinda way.

In fact, our first headline is less marketing slamdunk and more embarrasing airball (but we'll teach you how to put the numbers on the board with more aplomb than this guy).

 

 

Why online advertising sucks

This could be our favourite subheading of the year.

And, yes, it’s kinda clickbaity.

Sorry. We couldn’t resist.

Of course, there’s a time and a place for this stuff. We’re just all for building an audience on your own website with your own helpful, valuable content.

There’s no reason why an online retailer can’t become the number 1 publication in their niche. If you do it right, content marketing is a much more effective proposition than repeatedly throwing a bunch of cash at online advertising to reach someone else’s audience.

This is why content marketing professionals everywhere beamed a collective cheeky grin after learning about an crafty online advertising experiment conducted by a US creative agency last month.

How to make the world’s most boring video ‘go viral’

Minneapolis agency Solve, were fed up with the misleading nature of ‘vanity metrics’.

Solve CEO John Colasanti told Adweek:

 

"Among many marketers and agency peers, 'views' have become the holy grail. Views offer a seemingly simple and easy way to measure the power of content. This is a false indicator of success... Often the video didn't truly go viral; the view metric was purchased."

 

The agency set out to prove that so-called ‘engagement’ metrics can be pretty flimsy indicators of success when it comes to measuring ROI.

Solve decided to make this anomaly abundantly clear.

The challenge they set for themselves: what’s the lowest possible investment required to manufacture 100,000 YouTube views for a blank video (a completely white screen with no audio)?

 

 

Turns out it’s a measly $1,400 worth of YouTube advertising.

What can a blank screen tell you about online advertising?

The premise: likes, shares, retweets, and, in this case – views, are dangerous metrics.

If you or your agency are using these types of vanity metrics in isolation, you might want to focus in on this little case study.

The nature of YouTube’s business model means that online advertisers can pay to increase the reach of a video. However, you are only charged by the Google subsidiary when users watch (or leave your ad running without ‘engaging’ with it at all) for more than 30 seconds.

Simply, if a user chooses to skip your video ad before the 30 second mark, you still get one more notch on your total views statistic, but you’re not charged for the ad.

It’s safe to assume that your target audience member hasn’t ‘engaged’ with your content, and your ad hasn’t really ‘moved the needle’ (excuse the advertising guff, but, when in Rome).

However, the cheeky cost-per-view metric starts to look exceptionally positive for the media buyer. If it costs you $1 per view, and your pre-roll ad is shown 100 times, only for 99 users to skip the ad before it finishes (or not watch), your cost per view could be just $0.01 – one cent per 100 views.

In this case, Solve’s video cost 1.4c per view, with an astonishing 104,797 getting past the 30 second mark. One can only assume these users had a separate browser tab open, took the chance to fix a fresh cup of coffee, or simply have a very dull taste in entertainment…

Even in YouTube's own PPC promo video (slick and beautiful as it may be), the focus is on skyrocketing views.

 

 

But as Solve has recently prooved, more views doesn't mean more eyeballs or more engagement, no matter how targeted your online advertising may be.

The ecommerce marketing lesson

You can’t use engagement metrics in isolation to measure the success of your online advertising campaigns.

May we suggest a specific conversion goal as a more effective option?

  • How many email subscriptions were driven by your investment?
  • From your call-to-action click throughs (you gotta have some sort of CTA right?), what was the average time spent on your site?
  • What was the percentage of users that made it through to your product pages from your ad campaign’s unique URL?

Get serious with your promotional investments. The beauty of online advertising lies in our ability to track, analyse and measure results in a way that traditional media channels do not allow. If you decide to part with a chunk of your sacred marketing budget, make sure you’re clear on the next step you want your potential customer to take on their purchase journey.

A conversion goal is an effective measure of success.

Don’t keep paying someone else to reach their audience.

Instead, pay them once, and find a way to convince your target to subscribe to your content. Next time you talk to them it’s a whole stack cheaper.

Another ominous sign for your online advertising budget

Online advertising is taking an ever-increasing slice of the ecommerce budget pie (Granted, this has to be one of the most boring, tasteless pies you’ll ever come across).

As mentioned, the advent of pay per click, and the ability to track and analyse results directly, makes this marketing tactic a jucier proposition than the traditional alternatives of television, print and radio.

We ecommerce folk are digital natives. We get online. It makes sense that we’d funnel any advertising dollars away from mass media; where measurement and costs are a scary proposition.

Just last month, Australia’s ecommerce fashion poster child, The Iconic, announced their decision to bring all television advertising budget back into online channels.

The Iconic told Adage:

 

“the business has turned away from TV, saying the medium did not provide the measurable insights the business needed”.

 

The lure of more direct metrics, and a clearer understanding of ROI, makes online advertising a juicy proposition for ecommerce managers debating their ad budget allocation. 

Will Apple’s ad blocker kill the canary in the online advertising gold mine?

Apple has a message for those marketers using display advertising:

Apples_message_to_online_advertisers

The PPC page view gold rush, drew brands from everywhere to publisher’s properties; picks and shovels ready to mine a new field of cheap audiences. Slowly but surely, the frenzied rush is starting to hit some serious barriers - none more intimidating than a decision made by Apple last month. 

Brands relying on online advertising to lure in more potential customers will be forced to question this tactic in the coming weeks and months, as Apple has become the first of the internet browser giants to incorporate ad-blocking software into their next Safari mobile browser update. 

The move will allow users to enable ad-blocking on their own mobile device. The returns on banner ads are already questionable, with industry wide conjecture about their effectivess (as of 2013, you were more likely to climb Everest than click on a banner ad), but you can guarantee things will get a whole lot worse if there’s no chance your target audience can see your ad in the first place. 

Apart from brands reliant on online advertising to drive business, this announcement is a grave warning for online media companies running a business model based on these ‘blockable’ ads. 

The Wall St Journal explains this conundrum from the publisher’s perspective:

 

“For sites that support themselves with advertising, the reason for their heartburn is clear: they are already struggling to monetize their growing mobile audiences. If millions of iPhone and iPad users can easily activate ad blocking, that will translate to fewer ads to sell and likely less revenue.”

 

All of a sudden publishers' source of revenue – ad buys from brands – is under severe threat. 

If your ecommerce marketing budget has an online advertising line item, it’s time to consider how best to re-assign that slice of the pie. 

And we gorillas aren’t the type to tell you what’s broken but not help you fix it…

Promote and advertise your content, not your products and services

Ads can be really, really annoying.

Especially if you have no interest at all in the product being gratuitously flogged in your face.

So often we brands take the easy way out.

We blast out a promotional barrage targeted (or not really targeted at all) at as many unsuspecting civilians wandering by, in the hope that some small minority of the group might be convinced to buy our stuff.

It’s hard to generate loyal, repeat customers with this strategy.

Shouldn’t we be trying to help our target audience? We need to earn our potential customer’s trust first. Helpful, valuable, interesting content is what your target audience wants. You should provide it. Regularly.

Over time, you can nurture your relationship, and educate your subscriber, to the point where they might be genuinely interested in your product. Now you have earned the right to convince your potential customer to buy your stuff.

How IKEA deliver customer-friendly promotion

Instead of using the generic promotional megaphone, Swedish homemaking giant IKEA (soon to launch an Australia-wide ecommerce site), tries to help its potential customers into a sale, with genuinely valuable content.

Their 2016 ‘catalogue’ is more interior design educator, than annoying mailbox stuffer. And it sure would want to be, with more than 220 million copies allocated worldwide. That makes it the world’s most widely distributed book. Impressive.

The wonderfully designed magazine looks more at home on your coffee table than strewn amongst the shopper dockets and red hot specials clogging up your kitchen benchtop.

We’ve written before about IKEA’s print content marketing success, but this year the Scandinavian innovators have added an ingenious flourish that any ecommerce marketer can learn from.

IKEA is marketing their marketing

Things will get a little meta here, but stick with it, you need to understand this strategic decision.

Instead of promoting their products (which can be self-aggrandising, presumptuous and annoying for those with no established interest), IKEA is promoting their helpful, valuable and entertaining content.

IKEA is treating their content marketing asset – the 2016 magazine – as a product in itself. It’s an investment. It deserves a launch. It deserves promotion. With each new catalogue, IKEA is adding another brick to an impressive content marketing house (or maybe it's more of a library?).

Because IKEA know this magazine is just as important in driving revenue as any of their products. It’s the bridge between interest, research and conversion. It earns the trust of potential customers. It helps people into a purchase.

So the magazine itself needs promotion.

People are interested in helpful content. An ad for a good read is much more welcome than some new chair being spruiked.

And IKEA delivered with all they style and ingenuity of the furniture adorning their catalogue.

 

 

That’s right. IKEA enlisted the help of Germany’s most popular literary critic to ‘review’ their 2016 book. With tongue firmly wedged in cheek, IKEA gives their audience a good old chuckle.

By pointing fun at themselves, IKEA endears itself to their audience. Much better to give your potential customers a warm belly laugh than an annoying prod to buy something you’ve never expressed interest in.

The best bit?

No mention of IKEA’s products. Just a gentle reminder about the release of the helpful, educational, and entertaining 2016 catalogue – now endorsed by a five star Deutsch critic.

The ecommerce marketing lesson?

Treat your content assets like you would a product. Your content is an investment. It builds value for the organisation over time.

If you have a grand vision for the final structure of your content marketing asset, each new piece of content you develop is another strategic brick in the wall of something that becomes more valuable as a whole, than the sum of its parts.

Like your products, your content deserves promotional attention to maximise your investment.

IKEAs retail content marketing library

Flickr Image Courtesy Matt Crest

Our customers want more personalised online shopping

We’re still not giving our online customers the personalised experience they expect.

With the technology and tools at our disposal, there’s no real excuse for ecommerce brands – we need to develop a customised shopping experience superior to that of our offline counterparts. We have the data, analytics and targeted marketing opportunities that bricks and mortar retailers do not.

Personalisation is not an online retail pipe dream. It’s here. Now. Ready and waiting for you to make your customer’s lives better.

Don’t believe it?

Read this article

We’ve been banging on about it for ages.

A few ecommerce innovators are doing it really, really well.

These market leaders don’t have exorbitant Amazonian-ish budgets.

They just have a customer first, gift-giving approach.

If we gorillas can’t convince you to start taking personalisation seriously, there’s another ‘key stakeholder’ with a vested interest here, and their desires are guaranteed to make your boss sit up and take notice…

Some really important people want more personalised experiences from you

It turns out some other folks are asking ecommerce brands to lift their online shopping game.

The opinions of these people matter much more than our pesky ramblings.

Who are these ultra-important people?

Your customers.

Oracle’s Australian Retail Without Limits Report was released last month with one particular insight that prolonged our personalisation head-scratching.

Here’s a direct quote from the report that provides a salient summary of the online shopper’s mindset:

 

“Consumers now expect a consistent, personalised and relevant experience, in which they can access the right product, at the right time, in the right place, at the right price.

A desire for convenience lies at the heart of this requirement for a converged retail experience, and it is convenience that has essentially become an ‘invisible hand’ driving the need for technology adoption in today’s commercial society.”

 

You shoppers expect better from you.

They know online stores have the technology available to make their purchasing experience more convenient and enjoyable.

Oracle Retail Without Limits Report

Oracle’s report suggests your customers will reward more friendly experiences with their dollars, and their loyalty – two prizes that aren’t simply raffled out by chance.

You can’t just buy a ticket and hope. A decent website and excellent customer service is table stakes. Your brand needs to earn this loyalty jackpot with a best in class customer experience.

Why are shoppers demanding personalised experiences?

This personalisation concept – it’s not about being tricky, techie, or stalky – it’s about helping your customer find what they might want, as quickly and easily as possible.

It’s about making educated suggestions to your customers.

It’s about proving you’ve taken the time to understand your customer, and doing everything you can to make things more convenient.

This level of personalised care helps you turn one time buyers into loyal, repeat customers.

If you can show your customers a quicker, easier, friendlier experience – of course they’ll keep coming back for more.

Anneke van Aswegen, writing for Guided Selling explains why personalisation is so important for online retailers looking to improve their customer’s shopping experiences.

 

“Online shoppers are easily confused by an overload of product and purchase information. Directing your customers toward identifying the most interesting and valuable information, saves them money and time.

Whenever done well, user-directed personalization strategies can stand in the center of personalization activities, as they open up the opportunity to offer truly personalized 360° shopping experiences and can generate valuable data and actionable insights to further improve other personalization tactics.”

 

Don’t think about this stuff in terms of data and analytics. Think customer happiness. Think about what you can do to make sure none of your customers will ever want to shop from one of your competitors.

A recent Ecommerce Growth Benchmark Report, released by ecommerce analytics wizards RJ Metrics, set out to distil online retail uber-success into its purest form.

What separates the ecommerce superstar elite from the run-of-the-mill majority?

The result of their research was emphatic.

Fast, sustainable growth seems to require 2 key things:

 

“The fastest growing companies are achieving breakout success because they excel at two things:

#1. Acquisition: they acquire customers three and a half times faster

#2. Retention: after three years in business a majority of their revenue is coming from repeat purchases”

 

It’s this retention part that we ecommerce brands tend to neglect. We spend so much time and effort (and cash) striving to bring in new customers, without developing a water tight strategy to keep them loyal for life.

The old adage repeated by everyone’s dronish marketing lecturer is nagging like a metronome at the back of our heads.

 

“It costs more to get a new customer than it does to keep one”.

 

Turns out this bitter old curmudgeon we all loved to hate was actually on to something here. But we ecommerce marketers are on the cutting edge, right? There’s nothing we love more than showing off some fancy new way to bring in streams of new buyers.

Unfortunately, acquisition is just one piece of the ecommerce marketing puzzle.

RJ Metrics’ report spelt this one out in no uncertain terms:

 

“While 75% of senior executives say that customer lifetime value (CLV) is an extremely important indicator for success, 42% of them admit to not regularly calculating CLV.

The competitive advantage is clear. An ecommerce business using CLV to understand buyer behavior is ahead of the curve.”

 

Your retention strategy is your brand’s longevity plan. Personalisation has to be a huge part of it. 

Craft an experience to make your shoppers love your brand. Make them thank you for your marketing, and keep working to find ways to improve and innovate, so your online store is always better than the rest. 

RJ Metrics' data on top performing ecommerce brands

Your online retail must read for the month

 

“We hope to show the public that getting products faster and cheaper isn’t necessarily the greatest good. It comes at a human cost.” Douglas Preston.

 

Is Amazon Creating a Cultural Monopoly?

We love a good underdog story, and this piece by the New Yorker is a cracker. 

A passionate band of little guys are taking the fight to Amazon. And they’re not about to be silenced by the Western world’s largest ecommerce company. 

You’ll be cheering on this motley assembly of customer-first crusaders on their seemingly insurmountable quest to bring down America’s online retail Goliath. 

Their line of argument is curiously paradoxical:

 

“Even though Amazon’s activities tend to reduce book prices, which is considered good for consumers, they ultimately hurt consumers.”

 

Writer Vauhini Vara explains the monumental task ahead of The Authors United group, who are attempting to take down the crippling power of the Amazonian monolith:

 

“To make a convincing antitrust case against Amazon they would have to show that the company was bad for consumers despite, and perhaps even because of, its role in lowering prices."

 

The book industry has been turned on its head by the advent of ecommerce, and the bulldozer that is Amazon might have too much control over suppliers. 

After this read you’ll be cross checking the moral compass of your own marketing strategy. The article tosses up some pertinent questions for any ecommerce marketing professional. 

The most important of which seems to be:

 

Where do your customers draw the line between quality and price?

 

The TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read) summary this August

  • YouTube advertising might not be all it's cracked up to be - conversion goals are a better measure of success than vanity metrics 
  • Australian ecommerce giant The Iconic are following an industry wide trend to pull advertising budget from traditional channels
  • Apple's decision to include ad-blocking software in their next Safari mobile browser spells trouble for brands using online ads
  • You should consider following IKEA's lead and promote your content marketing assets, treating your investment like a product
  • Our customers expect a more personalised customer experience, and retention is proven to be critical to successful ecommerce growth

 

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Until next month, Gorilla out.

 

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Author

James Dillon

James tells stories for a living. Sometimes they are true. Always they are crafted to help brands delight, educate and funny-bone-tickle their audiences into coming back for more. He’s super passionate (read: obsessive) about ecommerce content marketing. James is dedicated to teaching ecommerce brands how to create their own repeat-customer-generating media empire. Keep an eye out for his online ramblings - you can expect a generous helping of lightbulb moments and cheeky guffaws.
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