Friday, December 9, 2016

Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from the world of search marketing and beyond.

This week, we’ve got a special on stories about advertising and mobile, with a look at mobile ad viewability from our regular mobile columnist Andy Favell, and the news that Snapchat video ads are generating less than three seconds’ viewing time on average. Over on our sister site ClickZ, Tereza Litsa took a look at how neuroscience can activate brains in a mobile world.

And speaking of advertising, take our 10-minute survey to tell us how the events of 2016 affected your advertising spend, and you could win an iPad mini in time for Christmas!

What is mobile ad viewability, and why does it matter?

When advertisers pay for ads, they understandably want to make sure that the advertising will be seen by someone. So if an ad fails to display, is visible for barely any time or is triggered by a bot instead of a real person, the advertiser shouldn’t be charged for that impression.

Mobile expert Andy Favell delved into why this is even more of a headache on mobile than on desktop, and why mobile viewability is an issue on so many levels.


Snapchat video ads generate less than 3 seconds of view time on average

Snapchat has been a hot property in the marketing world for some time now, with brands racing to snap up (haha) the young and highly engaged audience that Snapchat gives them access to. Only, it turns out that this audience might not be engaging with ads much at all.

Al Roberts reported for Search Engine Watch this week on the news that Snapchat’s video ads are generating an average of less than three seconds’ view time. Can video ads, even ones which take up the entire screen and play with sound by default, generate any useful leads in under three seconds? As Al Roberts wrote:

If they ultimately don’t see lift and can’t trace action back to these ads, Snapchat, which is reportedly preparing to go public in 2017 at a valuation of $25 to $35 billion, could find that advertiser interest in its platform is as fleeting as the snaps that its users send.

2017 will be the year of machine learning, intelligent content and experience

Last week, we looked at the eight most important content marketing trends that marketers will need to pay attention to in 2017. This week, Jim Yu wrote for our sister site ClickZ about why 2017 will be the year of machine learning, intelligent content and experiences.

Jim took a close look at the role of machine learning, deep learning and artificial intelligence in understanding data, the importance of automation, and how we can balance machine learning and human capital in the digital ecosystem.

Why Black Friday won’t be going anywhere for a while

Every year, a debate springs up in the world of ecommerce and retail as to whether Black Friday is really worth it. Is the hype bigger than the revenue it brings in?

Well, Black Friday supporters can rejoice, because Robyn Croll reported for ClickZ this week on why Black Friday won’t be going anywhere for a while. Figures from the National Retail Federation have shown that Black Friday 2016 set a record for mobile sales – a total of $1.2 billion, up by 33% from last year. 154 million consumers shopped over the long holiday weekend, an increase of 3 million from last year. Overall spending was up, and Cyber Monday set a record for the biggest day in US ecommerce sales with a massive $3.45 billion in transactions.

In her article for ClickZ, Robyn Croll looked into what retailers learned from last year’s Black Friday shopping extravaganza, and how retailers and brands can still tweak their strategies in the run-up to Christmas.

How neuroscience can activate brains in a mobile world

ClickZ and Search Engine Watch contributor Tereza Litsa was at Integrated Live this week, and listened to Heather Andrew of Neuro-Insight explain how neuroscience can help increase engagement with mobile users. She wrote,

“It’s not easy to be effective with the ever-increasing mobile audience, but emotion along with memory can contribute to a more meaningful relationship between a brand and a target user.

As people become more attached to their smartphones, marketing needs to be adjusted to build trust between a brand and a consumer – and neuroscience can be helpful in this journey.”

Tereza broke down Andrew’s speech into five key takeaways, including how to make messages personalised and relevant to users; the importance of delivering emotional intensity; and why driving physical interaction with branded messages is useful.

Discount codes: 5 ways retailers can handle their deal addiction

Discount vouchers can be a great lever to grow top line revenues and engage new customers. However, they can also become a highly addictive and dangerous drug for retailers, increasingly relied upon (with diminishing effects) as a reaction to three major challenges:

Customers becoming conditioned to buy only with a discount; cannibalisation of organic sales; and a ‘pull forward’ effect with sales spiking artificially in the short term and declining post-promotion.

As their usage becomes increasingly widespread, there’s a rush by retailers to understand the full extent of their economic impact on the customer journey and get smarter with how they’re deployed.

Here are five strategies to make them work:

Have a plan.

Compelling offers that are aligned to recognisable events (Black Friday, January sales etc) can be powerful conversion levers at peak shopping times. However, if you’re focused on short term gains with heavy usage of tenuously themed codes, the chances are your customers will see through it eventually. As Jeff Bezos said:

 “When things get complicated, we simplify by saying ‘what’s best for the customer?’ And then we take as an article of faith if we do that, it’ll work out in the long term.”

In the context of promocodes, ask yourself: what’s best for the customer? A commitment to consistently fair prices with reward-based discounts (for new customers, rewarding loyalty or guaranteed incremental purchases), or a convoluted mire of vouchers that leaves them questioning full-price value?

Restrain yourself.

Don’t compromise the plan to squeeze out some end of month/quarter sales, without understanding the exact cost. Do you know the effect on customer lifetime value? Have you calculated the impact of cannibalisation of otherwise full-price purchases? Have you forecasted the post-discount drop in sales accurately?

Consider them marketing spend.

It’s easy to consider discount code cost and revenues separate to traditional marketing channels, with the cost a percentage of margin at the point of sale rather than upfront cost.

However, in order to properly gauge the impact, it’s necessary to understand their effect on the whole end-to-end economics of the customer journey. One company we polled revealed that upon adopting our multi-touch multi-channel attribution model, they revised the ‘incrementality calculation’ for the long term bottom-line revenue impact from discount codes from 70% to 5% of the total revenue generated using them.

Be smart with targeting.

Identify and focus on channels and customer segments where the revenue they generate is more incremental. One example is exclusive offers through specific affiliate partners that can reach new customers and reduce the risk of cannibalising existing customer purchases.

One customer segment approach is to immediately target customers who recently purchased with a time-sensitive offer as a way of generating genuinely additional sales. At Fospha, one of our favourite features is building different customer segments with different propensities to convert either with or without promos. This way you can consistently and accurately avoid wasting promos on people already planning to buy.

Use intent triggers.

Many ecommerce platforms push discount code messaging at each stage of the funnel. Whilst this approach is effective at delivering the most impactful short-term revenue, it also maximises the cannibalisation effect and encourages customer association between the brand and discounting.

New generation customer journey optimisation companies like us help businesses understanding exactly where customers are most likely to drop off or abandon their carts and trigger in-site messaging with discount codes to increase conversion where they’re needed.

Jonathan Attwood is CEO at Fospha.

Fospha specialises in turning customer data from every user journey, interaction, device and silo into actionable insights to optimise the economics of every moment of the customer journey. Get in touch here.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Influencer marketing: the strides we’ve made in 2016

Influencer marketing saw a huge bump in popularity in 2016, and it’s expected to grow even more in 2017. The social media marketing industry is evolving faster than ever, which is why it’s important to stay on top of the industry changes coming in the New Year.

This is how your brand or agency will stay ahead of the curve to be better prepared for your influencer marketing strategy:

Marketers are investing more in influencer marketing

Recent “60 Minutes” reports show that influencer marketing is rapidly inserting itself into the mainstream conversation and is becoming more familiar to average consumers. As a result, marketers are investing more in influencer marketing.

This will cause influencer marketing to grow rapidly, relative to other marketing tactics. Brands are finding a lot of success connecting with their audiences through targeted influencers and this will only continue in 2017.

Influencer identification is top priority

Brands and agencies are learning that they will only be able to generate authentic content if they put in the necessary work before a campaign’s launch to find and recruit the right influencers for their programs.

Getting enthusiastic participants to create meaningful content and expose their audiences to your brand hinges on one thing: knowing who is a good brand match. SpaghettiOs knew that their product was a childhood favorite and a choice for busy moms everywhere. They chose moms and dads on Instagram who posted frequently with their families to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this beloved childhood snack.

Additionally, they worked with influencers who loved Sci-Fi, comic books, and video games to help promote the launch of their special edition Star Wars cans. The resulting content perfectly captures the fun spirit of the brand.

This type of effective influencer matchmaking is what drives the authenticity and engagement critical to a successful program.

Authenticity is the cornerstone of influencer marketing

Authenticity on the part of the influencer and the campaign strategy is key to any successful influencer marketing strategy. This authenticity comes from a confluence of the influencer’s posts and the audience’s expectations of that influencer’s content. This need for authenticity on the part of the brands and influencers becomes dire with the proliferation of spammy posts from some influencers. The brands and influencers who are able to build authentic programs for their audiences will succeed and see a measurable positive reaction from their audiences.

So in 2017, the onus will be on brands and agencies to build programs that enable this and find the right influencers who can post in these styles.

Brands giving influencers more room to create

As influencer marketing grew in popularity, more brands began jumping into the fray. Some that did were prescribing too strictly what they wanted their influencers to share. But this tendency takes away from the influencer’s skills and abilities to drive authentic engagement.

The brands with the most experience began giving their creators more flexibility and creative liberty to create content for the programs. These brands saw results with the authenticity of the influencers’ content and the response from their communities.

Hilton Garden Inn wanted to learn about the best spots in 19 different American cities so they could create an interactive map for guests visiting those destinations. They selected talented city-insider photographers to document their favorite spots around town. The result? An unfiltered guide to non-touristy destinations in some of America’s best cities and a major value add for Hilton Garden Inn’s guests.

In 2017, we expect brands to do a better job of setting up their influencers for success by giving them more creative opportunities such as this.

Using influencers for content creation

Some of the best accounts on Instagram are professional photographers who used their feeds to showcase their work. These creators were getting hired both as influencers to promote content on their Instagram accounts, and separately as commercial photographers.

More and more those lines are getting blurred and influencers are getting hired by brands simply to create content with no expectation of sharing publicly. Brands have an insatiable appetite for amazing visual content and influencer marketing is one of the best ways to keep up with these demands.

Consumers demand less spam

Though consumers are more familiar with influencer marketing in general, they’re also familiar with the dark side of the marketing tactic. Too many consumers have come to know the tactic as one associated with fit teas and body scrubs promoted by attractive models on Instagram. This is not only an ineffective way to promote any product; it also gives influencer marketing itself a bad name.

As consumers continue to view these types of promoted posts less favorably, we’ll see a decline in their frequency and an increase in content from the quality creators who are inspiring thoughtful brand activations that are authentic to their audience’s expectations for their feed.

Redefining success metrics

In 2016, every brand and influencer marketing agency set out to determine the ROI of influencer marketing. But the brands that were the most successful understood that the true returns of influencer marketing came from the influencer’s impact on the awareness building for the brand and their ability to add to the true story of the brand.

The savvy marketers went from pushing straight for downloads and sales success, to story building success.

Measurement in 2017 will move beyond simple vanity metrics like engagement and sales. Brands will begin to build a better understanding of where influencer marketing fits in their customer’s lifecycle and the brand’s storytelling.

Early in 2016, it was clear that influencer marketing was going to move beyond the practice of a few savvy, forward-thinking marketers to become an essential part of most marketing strategies. We’ve even seen a handful of traditional advertising/marketing agencies launch their own influencer departments this year in an effort to innovate. We’re excited to see how influencer marketing grows in 2017.

Brian Zuercher is the CEO & Founder of SEEN, and is a contributor to Search Engine Watch.  

Three ways that AI is enhancing the ecommerce customer experience

Sponsored content in collaboration with Bijou Commerce. Click here to read our collaborative content guidelines.

Artificial Intelligence might seem like a high-tech and lofty concept, but recent advances in technology have given rise to a number of more everyday applications for AI.

And in ecommerce in particular, brands who want to stay relevant and ahead of the curve are embracing AI as a way to enhance the customer experience, making it more personalised, efficient and intuitive.

Here are three ways that we are already seeing artificial intelligence in action across various sectors, which when applied to ecommerce, have the potential to take customer experience to the next level.

1. Natural language processing is making search more intuitive

We’ve all experienced the frustrations of trying to search with keywords – a constant process of trial and error which results in many of us giving up in frustration. “iPhone.” “Second-hand iPhone.” “Second-hand like new iPhone.” “Second-hand white iPhone like new.”

Wouldn’t it be better if we could just talk to our computers in full sentences, explain the exact parameters of our search, and have them understand?

Companies like Google and Microsoft are training their AI to interpret complex, multi-part queries.

Artificial intelligence, combined with the power of natural language processing – which allows machines to understand the nuances of human language – is making this possible. Companies like Google and Microsoft are already using voice search and complex, multi-part queries to continually improve their understanding of natural language.

As natural language processing is applied to ecommerce search engines, shoppers will be able to express their needs, desires and specifications in everyday language – resulting in a faster and more satisfactory shopping experience.

2. Visual search is making the physical world buyable

Visual search, a form of search which allows users to search with images or photographs of objects in their surroundings, is bringing the physical world into the virtual.

This has any number of applications for search engines and social networks, with the likes of Google and Pinterest already developing visual search capabilities that give users more ways to find what they’re looking for. But the most natural application of visual search is in ecommerce.

Think about the number of times you’ve been out and about, and wished you could find out where to buy that cool-looking bag, or those awesome shoes. With visual search, retailers can allow customers to snap a picture of an object they like and find a way to buy it, or buy something very similar, in their store.

A gif showing Pinterest's visual search in action on a smartphone, detecting objects around a room and bringing up related pins at the bottom of the screen.

The future of visual search in action.

Ecommerce giant Amazon has already incorporated visual search functionality into its mobile app and the Kindle Fire HD. Meanwhile, department store Neiman Marcus has partnered with visual search providers Slyce to produce a feature called Snap. Find. Shop. which allows shoppers to capture 3D images of items in any category, and receive matching items from Neiman’s product offering.

Visual search will soon be closing the gap between the moment of inspiration and the eventual purchase, making the transition between seeing an item and buying it absolutely seamless.

3. Chatbots are personalising the online shopping experience

Chatbots are artificial intelligence in miniature: every shopper’s own text-based personal assistant. They have been trialled by companies such as Facebook and H&M as a way of giving online shoppers bespoke attention at no extra expense to the retailer.

Chatbots can help customers more easily navigate the range of products for sale, provide personalised recommendations, and feed back in-depth data about customer preferences and behaviour to the retailer to help improve the business.

Two side by side screenshots of the Kik messaging app showing a conversation with H&M. One shows messages from H&M saying that they have just created a custom style profile for you. They invite you to choose a clothing item around which they will base an outfit. Underneath are a range of clothing items to choose from as a response. The second screenshot shows an outfit with a peasant blouse and black shoes. Underneath are the options Love it, Try again; or New search.

Chatbots like H&M’s Kik bot can offer personalised recommendations to the customer.

As artificial intelligence develops further, chatbots will be able to interact with the customer in almost human terms, potentially even solving customer service issues – or preventing them before they arise.

Ultimately, what we know so far about the future of artificial intelligence is very exciting, and is opening up a world of opportunities for retailers to learn more about their customers, personalise the ecommerce experience and engage with them on a whole new level.

Are you interested in machine-learning personalisation for your mobile channel? Contact Bijou Commerce for a no-obligation chat about what they can offer:

6 Psychologically Proven Techniques to Boost Your Conversions in 2017

What does a 1961 experiment have to do with boosting website conversions? You’ll find out as you read this article. First, it is important to establish some facts:

  • For every $92 spent on advertising, the average business spends just $1 on conversion — this explains the abysmal conversion rates most businesses have.
  • 99 percent of people who visit your website will not make a purchase on their first visit.
  • The average shopping cart abandonment rate is 68.81 percent — yet a whopping 73 percent of companies do not have an idea as to why people abandon their shopping carts.

If conversion optimization has always been a mystery to you, it shouldn’t be anymore. Below, I’ll be sharing some psychologically-proven techniques — many that were first documented decades ago — that you can use to boost your conversions in 2017. First, let’s start with that 1961 experiment…

  1. What’s Stanley Milgram’s Experiment in Obedience Has to Do With Your Conversion Optimization Techniques

Sometimes in 1961 a famous psychologist, Stanley Milgram, decided to conduct an experiment to see what extent people were willing to go to obey authority. While this experiment was initially conducted to explain why German soldiers obeyed authorities to commit atrocities during the nazi regime, it has far reaching implications on marketing and conversion strategy.

For the experiment, Milgram recruited participants through a newspaper ad. He then had his partner strapped to an “electric chair,” while a researcher in a coat lab (an authority figure) stayed in another room and asked participants to administer electric shocks to his partner. The whole setup was fake (the electric chair was fake and the participants had no idea that the “victim” was Milgram’s partner), but the participants all believed the experiments was real.

Shocks were to be administered from a range of 15 to 450 volts — with 15 representing mild shock and 450 representing fatal shock.

The results of the experiment was shocking. A whopping 60 percent of people obeyed the authority to administer the shock up to 450 percent, even when they thought the shocks were fatal.

Now, here’s the kicker: The exact same experiment was repeated, but without the real presence of an authority figure. Compliance dropped to 20 percent.

Implication for your business in 2017:

As part of your conversion strategy, try to get authorities and niche influencers on board. Have them endorse your products and offers. The more authoritative they are, and the more recognized they are to your audience, the higher the conversion gains you will record. Also, make effective use of social proof you’ve gotten by highlighting them.

  1. What the Little Albert Experiment Can Do to Your Conversion Rates

Famous psychologist John Watson conducted an experiment in 1920, that most certainly wouldn’t have been allowed today, called the “Little Albert” experiment. It involved a very young child with a natural liking for furry animals, especially a white rat.

In the experiment, the child started off playing freely with furry animals — however, over time the experimenter made a loud bang whenever these furry animals came around. This gave the child a scare, and the child eventually noticed a pattern and associated the furry animals with the bang; eventually, just the presence of the furry animals was enough to give the child a scare.

This experiment explains the classical conditioning phenomenon, a principle many top brands use: Apple is associated with luxury and high spend. Walmart, on the other hand, is associated with cheapness. What is your brand associated with?

Implication for your business in 2017:

Identify the association you want to people to build with your brand. Once you identify this association, consistently employ it — by subtly and directly communicating what your brand stands for. It might not have much of an immediate results on conversions, but consistent application of it will help you build a core group of loyal followers and help your long term conversion strategy.

  1. The Paradox of Choice: While More Options Will Always Hurt Your Conversions

In his book The Paradox of Choice Barry Schwartz used research to show that giving people too many options can have a paralyzing effect, negatively impacting conversions and making people unhappy. A classic study on choice was cited to argue his point:

In a 2000 experiment, Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper observed the actions of 754 shoppers in an upscale supermarket. About half of the shoppers were shown a variety of 24 gourmet jams while the other half were shown a variety of six jams. The experimenters discovered something shocking: while the large display of jams attracted more people, the display of six jams converted 10 times more people. That’s a 900 percent increase in conversions!

Implication for your business in 2017:

More choice could hurt your business, decreasing conversions by up to 900 percent. Carefully experiment with reducing the number of choices you give to people and measure the impact it has on your conversions.


  1. The Little Black Bag Experiment and the Familiarity Principle

Does familiarity breed contempt, or does it breed content?

The answer to the above question lies in an experiment conducted by professor Charles Goetzinger of Oregon State University. Goetzinger had a student come to class dressed in a black bag — a process that was repeated for months. Students were initially hostile to the black bag, but they gradually became curious and eventually came to like the bag. This proves the mere-exposure effect.

Implication for your business in 2017:

The more people are exposed to what you have to offer, the higher your conversion rates. Regularly share your content on social media — statistics show that resharing old posts on social media can boost engagement by 686 percent. Similarly, start an email list in order to give yourself an avenue to constantly reach your audience. The more avenue you have to reach people, and the more times you actually reach them, the more receptive they will become to your offer and the higher your conversion will be.

  1. The Economist Pricing Experiment, and What Decoy Pricing Can Do for Your Sales


In an attempt to see the impact decoy pricing can have on sales, psychologist Dan Ariely decided to test the famous Economist pricing on 100 of his students at MIT. He initially gave them two options and asked them to choose:

  • Web-only subscription — for $59
  • Print and web subscription — for $125

68 percent chose the web-only subscription and 32 percent chose print and web. Ariely then decided to switch things up by introducing a decoy price. He gave the following options:

  • Web-only subscription — for $59
  • Print only subscription — for $125
  • Print and web subscription — for $125

This changed things drastically. A whopping 84 percent of people chose the print and web subscription (they felt they were getting a bargain!), 16 percent chose the web-only subscription and 0 percent chose the print only subscription.

By introducing a decoy price, Ariely was able to make an initially unattractive, “expensive” package look like a bargain, more than doubling its initial conversion rate.

Implications for your business in 2017:

You can use this same principle to boost product sales, especially if you are selling expensive products. Introduce a decoy price that gives people something “extra” at the price of an apparently weaker product. Just because people feel they are getting a bargain, and that the price could be a mistake, sales and conversions will go up drastically.


Sales and conversions is not complicated. Once you know a few psychologically proven principles, you will be surprised at the massive conversion increase you can record. Make effective use of the above principles and watch your sales grow in 2017.


John Stevens is a marketing consultant and the founder of Hosting Facts.