Three Not-Trues

As marketers, it’s essential that we sometimes step back and challenge our own assumptions. In many cases, we take things for granted that are simply not true. Here are three.

  1. “Email marketing doesn’t really work.”

    Mailchimp
    Mailchimp

Not true. E-mail marketing absolutely works. In fact, over the five days from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, it continues to be the strongest channel for generating online sales. In fact, it accounted for 25.1 percent of transactions, according to Custora, which tracks e-commerce and benchmarks retailers. The key? Sending impressive and relevant offers to customers who have expressly opted in. Companies that do this well are seeing big returns.

  1. “Social media drives e-commerce sales.”

Not true. Over the same five-day shopping period, Custora also found that social media drove only 1.7 percent of online sales. So if you’re dubious about Facebook, Instagram and Twitter driving any serious sales (retail or otherwise), you’re probably right. Simply, while social media plays a role in influencing purchase decisions and search results, it doesn’t drive e-commerce sales yet. Yes, there are a few exceptions. But considering we’re past the peak of the Facebook era, social media in its current form may never establish itself as a main sales driver.

  1. “When shopping online, consumers go to Amazon first.”

google shoppingNot true. While many consumers may indeed end up making a purchase on Amazon, Google Shopping is establishing itself as the 800-pound gorilla of online deal hunting and where they start first. In other words, instead of consumers wading through lots of different deal sites (like slickdeals.net or woot.com, for example), Google Shopping provides a consolidated look, right there in the regular search results.

Since Google transitioned to Shopping campaigns last year and Product Listing Ads (PLAs) continued to explode in popularity, retailers now have access to more tools, more advanced reporting and more competitor data than ever before. The e-commerce consulting firm Channel Advisor notes that Google Shopping is even cannibalizing its own search results.

As always, we encourage our clients to challenge their assumptions, look beyond the status quo and make data-driven decisions. Not surprisingly, given the dynamic nature of online shopping and e-commerce, hard-and-fast rules usually don’t last too long.

If you’d like some help evaluating your assumptions and discovering what’s actually true for your business, drop us a line.

Now what? 5 Great Tips for Continued Online Success

now-whatLet’s say you’ve done a fantastic job of incorporating keywords into your site and you’re perfectly tweaked for efficient SEO. You’ve got a good inbound linking strategy. You’ve built a nice user experience and maybe even incorporated some video. Your reporting and analytics functions are tuned to your liking.

So is that it? Are you done?

Nope.

Certainly, SEO efforts and keyword optimization are an ongoing function of your business. But it’s also critical to make sure you’re welcoming Google with open arms. It’s as simple as this: When Google doesn’t crawl your site frequently, your ranking will likely drop.

Here are five tips to make sure Google stops by for frequent visits, courtesy of Pratik Dholakiya over at Search Engine Watch:

  1. Make sure your web server is fast. Slow load times and unreliable servers can incur SEO penalties and discourage frequent visits from Google. So whether you host your site yourself or contract for hosting services, it’s critical to optimize for better performance.
  2. Update your site. A lot. Need a good reason to have a blog? This is it, because Google likes new content. Another benefit: Google applies the SEO benefits of your blog to your entire site, so frequent updates can pay big dividends. Just make sure your blog falls inside (not outside) of your site’s core domain. In other words, it should be yoursite.com/blog, not blog.yoursite.com.
  3. Get more inbound links. Quality counts more than quantity, but links pointing to your site continue to tell Google “Hey, this is good stuff.” If you need more quality inbound links (and who doesn’t, right?) just be sure to ASK for them – don’t buy them. Ever.
  4. Ask Google to crawl your site. Using the “Fetch as Google” tool, you can tell Google to crawl any page of your site. This is especially useful for time-sensitive updates to your content.
  5. Keep your sitemap updated and error-free. An XML sitemap, when properly maintained and implemented is like a plate of warm cookies when Google shows up at the door.

Most of these things you can do yourself, but some are definitely more complex. Some require intentional effort and planning. Just know that we’re always here to help, with a combination of strategic marketing and extensive technical know-how.

The Black Friday Experience

Once the boon of every retail business, Black Friday has taken quite a P.R. hit lately. And for good reason. What was once a fun early-morning adventure for bargain hunters has become a chaotic, frustrating and painful ordeal. Could the experience be any worse?black friday

You’ve probably heard about camping/sporting goods retailer REI boycotting Black Friday, and others have followed. M
any have finally said “no” to being open on Thanksgiving Day.

On the consumer side, many of us already skip Black Friday—you surely know people who consider a 4:00 a.m. trek to the mall to be the very definition of insanity. Even the latest data from the National Retail Federation suggests that 45% of shoppers won’t do any on-site shopping over the 2015 Black Friday weekend.

Meanwhile, according to the NRF, online sales are once again expected outpace overall growth, increasing between 6 and 8 percent to as much as $105 billion in November and December. And on that fateful Friday, online sales casually peak around noon, not 7:00 a.m. At the very least, that’s a stark contrast to camping out on a sidewalk to save some money on an off-brand TV.

There’s a lesson here, and it speaks to customer experience. While most retailers will continue to do brisk business on Black Friday, the shift to online shopping is a direct response to a retail experience that leaves a lot to be desired.

Simply, consumers want something better. Maybe it’s a better price. Maybe it’s knowing when an item is in stock. Maybe it’s a more efficient and time-saving way to shop. Maybe it’s something far less frustrating. Maybe, with a good cup of coffee and a favorite playlist, it’s an experience that’s actually—gasp!—enjoyable.

Good businesses know this. If you’ve ever shopped on a fast, well-designed site with a silky smooth interactive interface built for ecommerce, gorgeous images and an intuitive shopping cart, it’s hard to imagine ever going back to the bricks.

Experience matters. This year, make sure your site isn’t the online version of Black Friday.