Category Archives: Business Advice

The customer experience bar has risen, so too must your digital experience

The pandemic has hastened the pivot to digital exponentially, leaving some businesses unprepared. At the same time, the customer experience (CX) bar has been raised and buyers still expect businesses to be easy to buy from, engage with, and get service from.

But who bears responsibility for providing this CX? What will a ‘delightful’ customer experience look like and what will ensure this process is made as easy as possible? CX needs redefining to become a mindset, not just something a business does. And achieving this takes a holistic customer relationship management (CRM) strategy powered by a modern CRM platform, with buy-in from all team members.

The Drum caught up with Susanne Ronnqvist Ahmadi, vice-president of international marketing at HubSpot, to get her take on just what those expectations are and where that bar is set.

How have customer expectations changed and which of these new behaviors are set to stick around?

The question customers have is: If a business I was interacting with provided a great digital experience during the lockdown, why wouldn’t they be able to maintain it in a post-pandemic world?

For today’s consumers, being delighted isn’t an added value to their experience as your customer anymore; it’s the inner foundation your relationship is built on. Consumers will react more to a moment of friction than to a moment of seamless performance. With the acceleration of digitalization and the consumerization of many business tools such as Zoom, buyers are now more independent, expect more intuitive experiences and are more empowered to switch service if the experience doesn’t live up to their expectations.

Only those companies that anticipate their customers’ needs and wants, put them at the center of everything they do and deliver seamless, contextual experiences across all touchpoints will thrive in today’s highly competitive landscape.

How can businesses create a seamless CX these days?

It is crucial to bring together marketing, sales and customer service under one team and then bring together a decision-making group that owns the end-to-end customer experience and creates a winning aspiration centered around customers, not functions. This will enable any business to move faster and be customer-centric.

At HubSpot, they use a flywheel approach to ensure different business units are continually working together to help our customers. The funnel approach has previously dominated CX. Different functions focus only on fulfilling their part of the funnel before passing the customer on to be someone else’s problem once the sale is made. Instead, the flywheel approach puts the customer at the heart of a continuous process to attract, engage and delight customers, meaning all functions have an ongoing responsibility to support one another in fulfilling goals for the overall business.

What’s the role of technology and what do legacy blockers need to overcome?

The survival mindset of 2020 led to processes and operations not suitable for scale. As CX has grown more complex, most companies have brought in a patchwork of disparate technologies from different sources, each with a completely different underlying tech stack: a CRM to manage customer data, a customer management system (CMS) to build their website, and marketing automation to scale their efforts.

When two completely different systems are cobbled together, the burden of making them work together is foisted on to the customer. This route is holding companies back, slowing them down and depriving them of having a complete customer view. Also reconciling these differences without causing friction for customers is an almost impossible task.

To scale without adding complexity in 2021 and beyond, today’s businesses need a powerful and easy-to-use CRM platform that enables them to create a ‘single point of customer truth’ that customer-facing teams can feed into – and, crucially, pull from – helping them remove friction in customer interactions and deliver delightful digital experiences. On this front, HubSpot has made a conscious decision to invest in our own product team so our customers benefit from software that’s cohesive, customizable and empowering. Our solutions are carefully crafted in-house using a collection of proven tools, components and systems that seamlessly work together as the building blocks of the user experience.

Where should businesses be making better investments?

To get the digital experience right, quality data is essential: reliable, organized and actionable data, providing insights into each individual customer’s experience. ‘Who are your customers?’ is no longer a valid question. Instead, you need to be able to have the complete picture of this and that specific customer. What does the digital journey look like? When, where and how have they interacted with your business? What do they need and want from you now and, most importantly, what will they expect from you next?

It’s also critical to ensure businesses make every part of the digital journey accessible online. We’ve seen more website traffic than ever post-pandemic and customers will expect the same accessibility and convenience that companies have offered them over the last year.

Nowadays, it’s about linking what’s happening on your website – the front door of your business – to the rest of the customer experience. This can be a big challenge for companies that do not use CRM platforms. There will be brands who have reached the limit of what their current set-up can manage and feel like they have hit a roadblock. It is time for businesses to start thinking about CMS as part of CRM because of how strongly linked customer experience is to websites today. The customer experience bar has risen, so too must your digital experience.

Who should be responsible for “owning” the CX within a business?

Pretty much every customer-facing team is responsible, from marketing to sales to customer service. At HubSpot, we deeply believe in the role of the chief customer officer as the unifier and enabler for different functions across the business, with the major responsibility of bringing alignment and breaking the silos in the business.

Marketing, sales, and customer service teams have a wealth of experience in their own disciplines but are often disconnected from each other. These silos in your internal experience show up as friction in the customer experience. That’s why the chief customer officer’s role is so important to help the business run better – building alignment, unifying the customer-facing teams, and providing them with a common framework and goals so that they can deliver delightful end-to-end customer experiences.

Which brands are disrupting the CX space?

The pandemic is only accelerating trends that we were seeing before. In industry after industry, we’re seeing businesses disrupt incumbents with better experiences – both in B2C and B2B environments.

We at NetGeekz Media puts the user experience above everything else, making it as easy and intuitive for customers as possible. From accepting payments online in less than a minute to solving any inquiry via live messaging almost instantly or reaching your target audience with little effort, ease of use and speed are the credo NetGeekz Media seems to live by.

In the B2B space, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a great example. Once, businesses had to buy physical, rack-mounted servers. These were expensive for the customer to maintain. AWS flipped the model on its head. Instead of a high upfront investment to set up servers, customers essentially rented space on Amazon’s. Customers only paid for what they used, and AWS did all the optimizing for them. This saved money and time.

What steps should businesses take to elevate CX to mindset status?

Companies that want to be customer-first organizations often think about things like: does our product work? Are our handoffs smooth? Can our customers get the help they need, when they need it? These things are important, but they are all about orchestration and strategy, and being customer-first starts much earlier. Transforming your organization to deliver a consistent customer experience requires thinking about CX as both an art and a science.

The artistic side is all about your culture. I think of culture as ‘art’ because art is freewheeling, and something that the artist (in this case, your leadership team) creates. Your culture should be unique to your business, customers, employees and the way you want to engage them.

Science follows a methodology and order of operations, and similarly there is a set of core practices that can be applied across different industries and types of companies and still work well. These disciplines are aligned teams, strategy, systems and incentives. I would argue both are equally important, and neither is enough to delight customers on its own.

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The war of attention: Gaming brands as the future of creative excellence

As the event show runners and leaders in esport competitions in the Cayman Islands, Netgeekz Media is quite up to date with everything gaming.

Few industries are operating at the speed that gaming is right now. Accelerated by consumer adoption, marketers in all aspects of the gaming world are having to scale up their efforts to keep pace. The GamersBay Event in March 2021 brought together gaming professionals and leaders to compete for over $10,000 in Cash and Prizes.

A highlight reel of the event can be found here, watch the recap now.

With people spending more time at home, wanting entertainment and socialisation, gaming has had its already fast-growing trajectory amplified. The spotlight on gaming has never been so bright. With this comes a responsibility on marketers to create content that resonates with people, ensuring that their brand rides as much on this wave as it can. GamersBay brought together various companies across the island to reach their target audience.

Carlos Alimurung, chief executive officer of ONE Esports, explained, “In the past 12 to 18 months, primarily due to the pandemic, not only has gaming grown as a pastime for people but also, esports, which is a part of its own ecosystem in gaming. When we think about our own content and the way we advertise and promote our content and experiences, we’re increasingly thinking about how we keep these new fans that have come into the esports ecosystem. The world will eventually come out of this thing and we’re going to be in the war of attention.”

The war of attention isn’t the only factor that is complicating the effort to scale up creative production. All marketers in the discussion said they needed to localise language and were always looking to adopt new platforms and formats to reach consumers. This is because the gaming audience is inherently discerning when it comes to digital creative. The younger, meme-hungry audience is comfortable calling out disingenuous brand marketing.

Allan Phang, regional head of marketing and PR at EVOS Esports, says, “Marketers need to be localised because they need to understand the culture. Especially in esports and gaming because the audience loves memes, and they can be gaming or country-specific. Our social media pages have to be careful in how they output this content. Another aspect is that the gaming and esports audience get shown too much esports and gaming content, they get exhaustion from it. For this esports and gaming audience, they prefer different content formats, and we need to stay in touch with them and deliver what they want.”

This was one reason the marketers agreed that automation could be a viable option for gaming brands. The ability to take out the reformatting and manual labour from the job means creative and design teams can have more freedom to think about new ways of connecting with the audience.

Celtra’s general manager for APAC, Raushida Vasaiwala, commented that automation was needed because the tools most teams used were too manual to scale.

“At a very high level, the problem is that the sheer manual nature of the production means that the tools that are currently used for design purposes are not for scaling purposes. This slows down the speed or the desire to get that campaign out on time,” she said.

Razer’s digital marketing director, ecommerce, Fred Chery, added to this, explaining that his brand has success in removing creative bottlenecks from teams, which freed them up to do better strategic work.

“The aim is to not put the bottleneck on the in-house creative team because we are not asking them to do five banners in 48 hours to cover just one product and a few markets, we are able to take this part out. This means we can ask for more quality. That’s one of the benefits of automation, we are able to do a lot of quantitative ads for the bottom-funnel but also at the same time it gives time for us to do even better briefs so that we can work on greater top of funnel creative ads,” he said.

Being able to balance the performance and brand aspects of marketing at the same time is a common challenge for gaming marketers. The speakers agreed that they all had transnational or e-commerce targets to hit but also had to spend time engaging with audiences to build loyalty.

Guillaume Noe, VP marketing at Coda Payments, said, “Balancing the promotional content and the engagement content is important. We are an e-commerce website, so obviously we want to drive sales. But if you only show cashback bonus and promotions to your users, at some point, you don’t engage. The quality of the relationship would be very transactional. This is not how you create brand love.”

There is a lot to consider in the fast-paced environment of gaming marketing. The audience is more discerning and the speed at which new products and IP is launched into the market is only getting faster. Brands will all take different approaches to build teams and strategies but it’s clear that tools that automate will become normal practice within this vertical.

Visit https://www.GamersBayCayman.com to learn more.

What Apple’s iOS 15 means for marketers

Apple’s upcoming privacy changes, including Hide My Email and Private Relay, will make opt-ins more valuable and may complicate already strained efforts to reach target users on iPhones.

Apple last month caused a stir among marketers and their advertising agencies with a preview of a software update that will give its customers more control over their personal data. The planned changes, estimated to launch this fall to coincide with new device announcements, will force marketers to develop alternative ways to find potential customers and engage with existing ones. A key strategy will be to position themselves as direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands that gather first-party data from consenting customers.

“With Apple turning off all these signals and going more privacy-centric, it is more important that brands get data back from the consumer,” Tim Glomb, vice president of content and data at customer engagement firm Cheetah Digital, said in an interview. “They won’t be able to use third-party data from other sources like Facebook, et cetera — it’s going to be blocked.”

The next version of the iOS software for the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac will give Apple’s customers several ways to limit or prevent data-sharing. Those privacy features include technology to mask the email and internet addresses of Apple customers, making them less effective as a unique identifier for online tracking.

Embrace personalized messaging

The Hide My Email feature is an upgraded version of an existing capability that lets Apple users create a randomized email address when they register with an app or website. Any email sent to those new addresses will be forwarded to a personal email account. While the feature prevents tracking the same consumer across different platforms, it still allows for one-to-one communication between brands and customers who opt into receiving promotions and offers with a compelling subject line.

“You have to double down on personalizing emails and SMS messages sent from your own website to reach people,” Glomb said. “An email is basically free to send, but you have to learn about your audience to send the right email or SMS message at the right time. You’ll make more revenue without having to spend for advertising.”

To entice people to share their personal information, marketers need to offer something valuable in return, Glomb said. They can gather information about purchase intent and consumer preferences through short surveys that offer discounts or chances to win a sweepstakes. By collecting the information directly, marketers have a basis for one-to-one connection with consumers that also respects their privacy.

“Being able to say, ‘I’ve got a million people in my database and I have a million contracts with every single one of those consumers,’ is the key to moving forward,” Glomb said.

Moving beyond IP addresses

With iOS 15, Apple also plans to update its premium iCloud storage and cloud computing service to offer an internet privacy service called Private Relay. The service encrypts web browsing data and assigns an anonymous internet protocol (IP) address to a user, making it more difficult for sites to track their browsing activities.

The service will add to the difficulty of reaching consumers across websites and apps. As tech companies respond to growing concerns about privacy, they’re gradually ending support for third-party cookies, a common method of online tracking. Apple blocked all third-party cookies in its Safari browser last year. Google had planned a similar update for its popular Chrome browser for early next year, but last week it delayed the plan until late 2023.

“Marketers need to stop relying on crappy old technology that got them fat and lazy, and they need to start getting creative and thinking like human beings.”

The two-year reprieve gives marketers, media outlets and ad tech firms more time to develop an alternative to cookie tracking. Glomb said the move away from third-party cookies is long overdue.

“Marketers need to stop relying on crappy old technology that got them fat and lazy, and they need to start getting creative and thinking like human beings,” Glomb said. “How do two people meet each other on the street? They ask each other questions. They listen, they learn and then they use that information to continue the conversation and build a relationship. Marketers lost that.”

The effect of Apple’s privacy updates on marketers will depend on how many of its millions of customers use the services. The disruption could be profound, considering that the iPhone has an estimated market share of 47% in the U.S. smartphone market, according to researcher eMarketer.

Popularity follows effort level

Apple’s last major update to its privacy features has proven to be popular. The company in April introduced its controversial App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature that came with an update to iOS 14. The feature notifies Apple users when apps want access to a unique Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) that’s embedded in devices including the iPhone. Marketers use the technology to improve the targeting of online ads, and users who decline to share their identifiers are more anonymous.

As Apple prepared to introduce ATT, it faced criticism from companies including Facebook and app developers that complained the feature would reduce the value of digital advertising when people opted out of tracking. Those concerns were legitimate, considering that only 9% of iPhone users nationwide have consented to share their device identifiers, according to mobile advertising and analytics firm Flurry.

The popularity of ATT is partly attributed to its effortlessness — an Apple user only needs to tap an on-screen button to opt out of tracking. It’s less clear whether the Hide My Email and Private Relay services will be as popular. People who use Hide My Email will have to remember their randomized email addresses while using a non-Apple device such as a Roku set-top box or Windows desktop. The Private Relay service costs extra money as part of Apple”s premium iCloud+ tier.

“If you want to live in the iCloud world — and there are people who do — you can,” Dave Pickles, co-founder and CTO of demand-side platform The Trade Desk, said in a company blog. “Though I believe it’s a fairly fringe activity and don”t see it being adopted at scale.”

 

Source: https://www.marketingdive.com/news/apples-next-round-of-privacy-changes-will-make-opt-ins-more-valuable/602644/

How much has consumer behaviour changed in the past year – and how can marketers adapt?

There is no doubt that, in the past year, changes to consumer behaviour have occurred faster and more extreme than ever before. Digital adoption has skyrocketed as consumers and brands alike responded to the new demands of lockdowns and social distancing. That’s bought with it new expectations for shopping, customer service and marketing that will stick around long after the pandemic ends.

It’s critical now that brands are adapting their messaging, strategy and priorities for a new-age of consumers. Read on for a few must-haves for your marketing strategy.

Consider your messaging
There has been a seismic change in what people are buying and how they are buying it. According to Selligent’s most recent consumer survey 60% consumers now focus on buying essential items and almost a third (29%) say their shopping behaviours have changed forever.

These changes have been largely driven by a change in employment, with 75% of global respondents reporting that they have less work. Despite the economy and jobs market recovering, conservative approaches to spending will have a lasting effect, making it more important for brands to cater to cost conscious customers in the long term.

While people do remain optimistic overall with the vast majority (82%) believing they will be employed again in the near future, there will be long term impacts. For example over half respondents believe that working remotely will be part of their future.

Brands must respond to the changing reality of everyday life. More people working at home means greater opportunities to cater to the new work / life balance. That might mean less footfall on the high street, but it also means a new opportunity to target and cater to, consumers everyday life in the 2020s.

64% of consumers for example now want mobile and contactless pick-up or check-in options. Accessible shopping will become the standard, with consumers around the world coming to expect a contactless experience as part of a seamless, efficient, and flexible omnichannel customer approach.

High quality customer service is key
The good news for brands is that with the shift in behaviour, consumers are becoming more patient overall. 38% agree that brands have made a considerable effort to improve their customer experience in the last year.

Don’t underestimate the role of flexible and empathetic customer service – quality products with competitive pricing plus an understanding attitude means customers will stick with brands for the long haul.

Invest in omnichannel offering
Ever changing consumer behaviour means that 75% of consumers now prefer to receive brand communications via email or mobile, and only a third prefer to start customer support interactions via phone or customer service representatives. This underpins the importance of both marketing and customer service being available across channels, including email, website chat, social, and SMS/text.

Brands that can adapt and offer digital and real-life experiences that weave seamlessly together will drive economic recovery for the commerce industry. Omnichannel fluidity and flexibility will allow brands to cater to changing consumer needs addressing things like safety, real-time updates and options in this “new normal” of consumerism.

There is a real opportunity for brands to continue to instill consumer confidence with strong offerings and relevance focusing on delivering what customers truly want and need during this time.

Tangible benefits build loyalty
The meaning of loyalty is changing in this new age of consumerism too – only 8% consumers now say a brand name is important to their loyalty. The real driver for repeat custom is tangible benefits, with over half of consumers saying sales or deals are the most valuable communications from brands, and that buyer perks and freebies show that brands care about consumers. There is a fine balance however; 2 out of 5 respondents unsubscribed from multiple brand emails with 55% citing that they received “too many”.

Privacy builds trust
Privacy is another critical factor for consumers. Our survey showed that for 64% privacy is now more important than online experience. Digital marketers need to build trust with consumers by understanding their needs and preferences more closely. 2021 will see brands collaborate with consumers to create a more personalised online experience combined with greater control and respect for privacy.

Despite the evolving world around us, the tenets of a customer-first focus on delivering exceptional customer experiences remain true. Consumers are changing and it’s up to brands to keep up by understanding what they want, and how to keep up.

8 major Google ranking factors — SEO guide

8 major Google ranking factors — SEO guide
Of over two hundred Google ranking factors that we know about, which ones are the most important? Here is the definitive list.
Sponsored Content: SEO PowerSuite on September 15, 2020 at 7:30 am

The SEO community is always looking for new ranking factors and we have discovered over two hundred of them so far. But there may be hundreds more actually used by Google. Luckily, we don’t have to work on all of them. Most have very little weight in SEO and are often used as tie-breakers rather than ranking signals. Instead, here is the definitive list of Google ranking factors, each of which can make or break your search optimization strategy.

1. Backlinks
Even though Google is planning to move away from backlinks in the future, they still remain the most important ranking factor for your pages. Except it is now too risky to use black hat SEO strategies — your links have to come from a variety of high authority websites that are similar to yours. Furthermore, some Google patents say that freshness and traffic may also be important backlink metrics.

Optimization strategy
The most efficient way to grow your backlink profile is to borrow backlink ideas from your search competitors. All you have to do is launch SEO SpyGlass, go to Domain Comparison > Link Intersection, and add a few of your top competitors. The tool will analyze your competitors’ backlinks and find the backlink gap — websites that link to your competitors, but not you. Those websites are your prime outreach targets. Seeing how they already link to other websites in your niche, they are very likely to host your links as well.

2. Semantic saturation
Your SEO content has to contain an appropriate amount of relevant keywords, entities, and images for the length of the copy. The content should not be stuffed, like in the old days of SEO, it should rather be a natural-sounding copy written in an informative style.

Optimization strategy
It could be a little challenging to figure out exactly which keywords to use, where to put them, and how many of them are needed. So, if you want to play it safe, a good strategy is to create a benchmark by analyzing your search competitors’ top-ranking pages. To do this in Website Auditor, go to Content Analysis > Content Editor, enter your main keyword, and get a detailed list of SEO writing instructions. The SEO Content Editor tool will tell you the right amount of main and secondary keywords, their placement, and the recommended length of the copy.

3. HTML tags
HTML tags tell Google which bits of your copy are the most important. The title and meta description tags are what users see in search results – write them like a keyword-rich promo. Heading tags (H1-H6) split your copy into sections — they should also contain keywords and be written in an informative style. Finally, alt text is used to describe images to search engines and should be filled out if you want to appear in the image search results.

Optimization strategy
If you weren’t mindful of HTML tags, then there are probably hundreds of pages on your website that are not properly optimized for search. A thorough approach would be to use Website Auditor and review your pages in bulk. First, go to Site Structure > Pages > On-page and sort the pages by their search optimization score. If you spot any pages with a low score, click on them for a detailed report. It will tell you exactly which HTML tags are in need of optimization and what’s wrong with them.

4. Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals are the newest user experience metrics that will soon become Google ranking factors. The metrics will measure the first impression the user gets when visiting a page. Specifically, how fast it loads, how soon it becomes interactive, and how stable the layout is. Now, it’s important to note that the vitals are not yet official Google ranking factors. But they definitely will be, so it’s best to use the remaining time to get them into proper shape.

Optimization strategy
Google has been kind enough to equip each vital with a detailed set of optimization guidelines. For faster loading, Google recommends better server response times, less render-blocking JS and CSS, and faster resource loading. For improved interactivity, Google recommends code splitting and using less JS. Finally, for better visual stability, Google recommends using size attributes for images and videos and loading content from the top.

5. User behavior
There is a lot of uncertainty in the SEO community on whether Google actually uses behavioral metrics to rank pages. Google says that it doesn’t, but there’s been some pretty convincing evidence that it might.

The metrics we are talking about are the click-through-rate (CTR), bounce rate, session depth, and session duration. To check your performance on user behavior metrics, use your

Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts.

Optimization strategy
Improving user behavior metrics has a lot to do with creating engaging content. For example, CTR relies on having an attractive snippet in search results. Meanwhile, bounce rate, session duration, and session depth rely on whether there is anything fun to do on your page. To keep users engaged, make sure to produce high-quality copy with plenty of visuals and internal links. The goal is to catch the visitors and send them down your sales funnel.

6. Structured data
There are thousands of tags to choose from, and they can tell Google every little detail about your content. Structured data can be used to tag authors, ratings, product features, locations, and so much more. And it can do wonders for your SEO — create links between entities, pin your location, and enhance your search snippets with rich elements:

Optimization strategy
If you are not a technically inclined person, then it’s best to use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper. Choose the type of markup (article, local business, and product come highly recommended) and submit a link to the page you want to enhance. Now highlight bits of text and choose corresponding tags. When done, save the HTML file and upload it to your website. Extra step — check whether your structured data actually works with the help of Google’s Rich Result Test.

7. Google My Business listing
Claiming, optimizing, and maintaining your Google My Business listing is the single most important thing you can do for your local SEO. It helps establish your company as an entity, which in itself is a great asset to your SEO. More importantly, it skyrockets your local search performance. Once you create a listing, it becomes eligible for the local business panel as well as Google maps, opening your business to nearby searchers:

Optimization strategy
First, you have to visit Google My Business and either create or claim your profile. You will be asked to provide a few basic details as well as verify your ownership. When done, you will be transported to your Google My Business dashboard, where you will find many additional ways to enhance your listing. The least you can do is add a description, business hours, and photos, but there are many more cool features to explore. Google is constantly adding new Google My Business features and it’s gotten so advanced that it’s almost like a website of its own.

8. Mobile optimization
Mobile-first indexing is fully rolled out. Google announced that starting from September 2020 all websites without exception will be judged on their mobile version, not the desktop version. So, if you want your website to have any chance of ranking in search results, you have to make sure that it is designed for mobile users.

Optimization strategy
To check whether your page is mobile-friendly, visit Google’s mobile-friendly test, and submit a URL. If the page is ok, you will get a green light, and if it’s not, you’ll get some suggestions on what to improve.

Checking your website page by page is hardly practical, so you can use Google Search Console to check all your pages at once. Launch the tool, go to Enhancements > Mobile Usability, and view a report along with a list of suggested improvements.

Final thoughts
It’s important to keep tabs on the ever-evolving Google algorithm. Some ranking factors, like keywords and backlinks, are gradually losing importance. Other ranking factors, like user experience and semantic saturation, are taking their place. For now, though, the list above is a pretty solid selection of tactics to add to your SEO strategy.

Top 3 Marketing Opportunities or Tips During Covid-19

As a premiere digital marketing agency, we have been planning for years for the eventuality of the digital age to consume the old analog economy, but with the spread of covid-19, some of the human behaviors we were expecting to be adopted this decade has already been adopted in just a few short months.

COVID-19 has certainly made an impact on commerce as well as ecommerce over the past couple of weeks here in the Cayman Islands, especially now that isolation and social distancing measures have been put in place.

Not just in the Cayman Islands, but workers in many infected countries have been asked to work from home, countries including the UK, Italy, and France have been placed under lockdown and schools have been shut down just as they have here.

Unsurprisingly, since taken the decision out of consumers’ hands by closing non essential brick and mortar businesses, forcing traditional consumers to adopt ecommerce and social media as more than an alternative, but a necessity.

Many of your competitors are taking their foot off of the marketing pedal, which means you may be able to blow right by them! Think of it like the hare taking a break while in the lead only to let the tortoise win the race with consistent effort. Don’t take your foot off the pedal!

Of course, I realize many businesses are simply not able to invest due to lost revenue and if that’s the case then simply skip this info. However, for everyone else, this is the most important takeaway of this article.

Now is the time to invest more, not less in your marketing. That is how you can gain a competitive advantage in the months and years to come.

We have put together a top 3 opportunities list to assist our clients with maximizing their brand exposure as well as ROI, and felt this would also benefit a wider audience of all businesses, please find below our list of top 3 marketing opportunities during covid-19 thus far.

 

Opportunity #1: Paid ads are really, really cheap
The latest trend we are seeing is that paid ads are becoming cheaper.

It makes sense because the way these big ad networks make money is through an auction system. They need small businesses to drive up the cost per click (CPC) for ads so that way the big, billion-dollar corporations have to spend more money on ads.

If you don’t have as many small businesses advertising (like we are experiencing now) there isn’t as much competition for the inventory, so the cost per click decrease.

But the virus has been causing us to spend more time online, so much so that companies like Netflix have had to reduce their streaming quality to help.

In other words, traffic on the web is up and there are fewer advertisers. This means ads are cheaper.

Now we are also seeing conversions rates dropping in certain industries, but nowhere near at the same rate as the CPCs.

When we average things out per industry and globally, we are seeing paid ads producing a much higher ROI than before the Coronavirus hit.

Our clients, in general, have seen their ROI go from 31% to 53%. That’s a 71% increase in ROI.

If you haven’t tried paid ads yet, you should consider it. If you do, consider ramping up as there is more excess inventory than there has been in years.

 

Opportunity #2: Offer educational based training
If you are looking for a good opportunity, consider selling your audience educational based courses.

With unemployment numbers reaching all-time highs, more people than ever are looking for new opportunities.

Many of these opportunities are in fields like high-tech that not everyone has experience in.

And, of course, going back to school can be expensive and is time-consuming. Plus, let’s face it… you can probably learn more applicable knowledge on YouTube than sitting in a college class for 4 years (at least for most professions).

So, where do people go to learn? Any online education website offering very specific, niche advice and courses.

Whether that is Udemy or you are selling your own courses, people are looking for help.

If you don’t know how to sell online courses in mass quantity, contact us for a free consultation.

 

Opportunity #3: Share Experiences Through Digital PR
Yes, the news is Ubiquitous with COVID-19 stories, but digital PR activity shouldn’t stop during coronavirus.

Now is a great opportunity to maximize social media, with interesting and personnel stories that are a ​distraction from the wider news.

People still want to read good news stories and want escapism from the pandemic currently dominating mainstream media.
Journalists themselves have been quoted on social media multiple times saying they need to put a smile on people’s faces.

If the story is strong, it can still get picked up right now.

If your business can offer comments to help other businesses and people during this tough time, distract them, or put a smile on their faces, that’s a great thing and should be encouraged!

 

Conclusion
Sadly, the next few months are going to get worse. The daily count of new Coronavirus victims is growing.

From a personal standpoint, all you can do is stay indoors and practice social distancing.

But from a marketing, business, and career perspective, you can make a change.

You should have more time now (sadly), so use it to your advantage. Put in the effort so you can grow, that way you’ll come out of the Coronavirus stronger.

So which one of the above opportunities are you going to implement first?

What you need to know about mobile engagement in 2020

The mobile mindset

We all know the basics at this point: single column designs, bigger buttons, clearer calls to action and media queries/responsive designs that create as uniform an experience as possible across the seemingly limitless set of platforms and devices used to access email and the mobile shopping experience. However, there are other considerations to be had in the coming months and years regarding the mobile experience. Mobile experiences are about utility and understanding how mobile shoppers open, engage and convert. Questions that need asking include: Are they converting on the mobile, web or through an app? Are emails adequately deep linked into shopping apps to minimize the friction from browse to buy? What percentage of your consumers are using iOS versus Android? These are basic questions that you need to begin asking when the fog of 2019 clears and the sun breaks through the clouds of 2020.

Preparing for a more branded mobile inbox

A cross-industry coalition of companies are working on a new standard for improving the visibility of email in the inbox while providing incentive for the sending community to publish and enforce email authentication. Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) will allow legitimate senders to publish a trademarked logo in DNS that will be displayed by a participating mailbox provider such as Yahoo! or Gmail if they’ve properly set up and aligned their email authentication records.

Why should you care?

The inbox is under regular assault by bad actors who weaponize emails and hijack or phish brands in order to defraud recipients. For as much trust and utility that email has provided the internet, it has also created a massive gap in terms of security. Over the years, companies have tried to help educate and empower recipients through visual trust indicators such as lock icons and colored messages about the identity of a sender. Most of these don’t mean much to the average recipient – at the end of the day most people are not security experts. BIMI has the potential to change that by securing who can and can’t use a logo and then displaying that logo in the native mailbox provider, or next to emails that pass muster.

You have the opportunity to have your logo seen by a recipient before they even open an email, if you take the necessary steps to secure your sending domain through SPF, DKIM and DMARC. Brand impressions are important to stay top of mind—having the brand displayed in the inbox can be a massive differentiator. Consider the struggle of mobile apps on a device: the average mobile user has upwards of 90 apps on their device but barely uses a third of them. Over 20% of apps are abandoned after just one use – but email still remains one of the top three activities done on a smartphone. The inbox’s list view, or the view of all emails in the inbox, has been a completely unbranded experience until now. When that changes, a huge opportunity will open up for brands.

Google AMP for Email comes to mobile

In November of 2019, Google began to roll out the AMP for Email experience on Android and iOS. The interactive mobile inbox presents new challenges and opportunities for bold retailers and e-commerce companies willing to spend the extra time to code and test AMP MIME Parts. Like BIMI, taking advantage of AMP for Email will require senders to publish and align their email authentication records. A new mobile inbox that’s both interactive and more visibly branded will potentially be a more secure inbox, so long as companies understand that email must be protected from a whole host of phishers and cybercriminals actively working to exploit the channel.

Since interactive emails will allow recipients to get status updates, view fresh content, and respond directly in an email to things such as invites and comments, senders will have to begin tracking the efficacy of the new mobile inbox versus native mobile apps and mobile web sites. It’s one thing to deliver a mobile experience – it’s another to understand the impact of the experience versus existing mobile properties. Additionally, there will need to be parity in data that is displayed in emails versus that which is available in an app or on the mobile web. This has always been a requirement but the timing aspect has changed. As recipients, we’ve all experienced a situation where the offer we received, time-sensitive or not, either wasn’t available, had expired or wasn’t quite what we had anticipated when we clicked a link in an email. Now that the recipient’s experience will remain in the mobile inbox, and as it grows and becomes yet another source of truth, senders will have to take extra precautions to ensure that the curious and restless minds that switch liberally between an app and an inbox with dynamic content are given the same up to date information to prevent confusion and disengagement.

Mobile everywhere

Mobile is everywhere – and it’s becoming more challenging. Smartphones introduced an incredibly small screen and format, and if the new Motorola Razr takes off the way its predecessor did in the early 2000s, we may have to tackle the nuances of foldable screens as well. What happens if Motorola decides to add a screen to the front of the device as the original had? Anything is possible in the mobile world, which is why it’s ripe with opportunity.

Mobile’s impact on email is not to be underestimated – we need to understand that mobile email is simply an adaptation of what we’ve been doing all along, but in a compact form that requires channel and platform-specific thinking. Before mobile, we were worried about rendering across desktop and web browsers and how no two mailbox providers would render email quite the same way. Mobile introduced new formats and wrinkles, but it also put email in everyone’s pocket in ways we’d never before imagined. The thing about mobile is that you have to measure it on its own merits and think of it as a unique means of engaging with your customers. Measure, test, iterate, measure, test some more, and make sure that your email isn’t dismissable and forgettable – because if it lacks visibility and usability in the forthcoming mobile inbox, it will be forgotten in this hyper-interactive world.

 

Facebook Adds New Options for Brands to Control Ad Placements

Facebook has announced a new set of brand safety tools which will enable businesses to better control where their ads appear across Facebook’s various ad delivery networks.

The issue of brand placement came to the fore back in 2017 when YouTube lost millions of dollars in revenue after major brands pulled their YouTube spend over concerns that their ads were appearing alongside extremist content and hate speech.

Facebook has been working to provide measures to avoid the same over the last couple of years, and these new options add to that capacity, enabling more in-depth control and specification in ad placement.

Among the various measures, Facebook is adding:

A new, dedicated section within Business Manager/Ads Manager where brands can create block lists, get delivery reports and set account-level inventory filters (as opposed to having to apply them one campaign at a time).

Updated delivery reports which will enable advertisers to search by account ID or publisher without having to download the report. Facebook’s also looking to add content level information to its delivery reports.

A new brand safety partner in Zefr to help improve its brand safety tools. Zefr will join DoubleVerify, Integral Ad Science and OpenSlate.
Publisher White Lists for Audience Network and in-stream ads on Facebook. Facebook is also looking to give advertisers the capacity to white-list the types of content they appear on for in-stream video ads.

The new measures will provide additional assurance for advertisers, enabling them to avoid any concerning associations, while also improving targeting options to their focus audiences.

As per Facebook’s vice president of global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson:

“The long term goal is to have an incredibly robust ecosystem where businesses can sell their products, [and] consumers have the confidence to buy them and know what they’re getting, and so that’s the long-range plan and these are just a series of steps along that path. It’s a lot that we’re doing to get there.”

Facebook also notes that while it has a zero-tolerance approach for harmful content on its platforms, “that doesn’t mean zero occurrence”. Given that some content can slip through the cracks, additional measures like this will provide advertisers with more options to manage their ad placements, and maintain greater awareness of the same.

As noted, Facebook has been developing its tools on this front for the last few years – earlier this year, Facebook added a new Inventory Filter which enables advertisers to choose a level of protection they want to apply to their ad placements.

Facebook inventory filter
As Facebook’s internal detection tools improve, so will its placement options, and these new elements move further along that line.

You can read more about Facebook’s new brand safety features here.

Facebook Adds New Authorization Process for Page Managers

Facebook ‘s rolling out the next stage of its expanded transparency push, with users who manage ‘large’ Facebook Pages being asked to go through a new authorization process before they’ll be able to continue publishing posts on the Page.

As outlined in the above example flow, the authorization process will prompt users who manage Pages with large potential reach to secure their account with two-factor authentication, and confirm their primary country location. The process is rolling out first to US businesses, with Facebook looking to expand the system more broadly over time.

Facebook doesn’t specifically explain how ‘large’ a Page needs to be to qualify, but if your Page manager/s do require authorization, they’ll receive a notice at the top of their News Feed to begin the process.

This Page banner will be visible on your affected Pages until the required users have completed all steps of Page Publishing Authorization – if they don’t complete authorization by the deadline provided in your initial notification, they’ll lose the ability to post as the Page.

The effort’s part of Facebook’s push “prevent organizations and individuals from creating accounts which mislead people about who they are or what they’re doing.” This comes on the back of interference in the 2016 US Presidential Election campaign, where Pages which looked like regular business and fan accounts were actually fronts set-up by foreign organizations, who used those Pages to influence voter behavior.

Facebook also notes that these latest updates will also be coming soon to Instagram, providing a broader overview across the two Facebook properties.

Some might see this is an annoyance, having to go through another process to maintain their Page management capabilities, but it seems a small price to pay in order to deliver a more accountable, transparent process.

Digital Marketing Agencies’ Rates and Services Are More Affordable Than You Think

Every entrepreneur at some point hires an SEO, PPC (pay-per-click) or SMM (social media marketing) expert — which generally means an agency or freelancer. But money is tight, so how do startups evaluate whether the candidates they’re considering offer reasonable rates? Is gut instinct enough?

Your own answer to the question is likely, “No, gut instinct is not enough, but what are my options? I don’t have sufficient data about price rates in the digital marketing industry.” And you’re not alone in that thinking: Those of us hiring outside professionals for digital marketing work haven’t had a clear idea of the average costs being asked for monthly retainers and hourly rates.

Until now. In recent months, I’ve conducted fresh research on the current state of digital-marketing agency services and costs, to help entrepreneurs orient themselves in the digital marketing sphere. My (nonscientific) survey, which brought in more than 1,000 responses from digital marketing agencies and freelancers, spanning 16 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and several European regions, included queries about services covered, prices and payment models. Among the biggest takeaways:

Freelancers’ hourly rates in the digital marketing industry start at $50 (all cost figures given here are U.S. dollar amounts).
The most commonly used payment models are monthly retainer contracts and project-based fees.
Agencies typically prefer monthly-retainer contracts, while freelancers service clients mostly on a project-based fee payment model.

In the United States, the hourly model is the most popular, vs. the monthly retainer contracts and project based fees that UK and other European respondents said they preferred. The average industry fee for a monthly retainer contract (across all studied regions) starts at $1,000.

Here are the details:

1. Freelancers’ monthly retainer contracts start from $251, and their project-based fees, from $5,000.
You can expect to hire a freelancer on a monthly retainer contract at a cost that starts as low as $251 — though the $1,000 noted in the last bullet above is the average. You can expect freelancers’ project-based fees to start at $5,000.

2. Freelancers’ hourly rates range between $50 and $200.
The average hourly rate for a freelancer is more than $100. But the majority of freelancers charge less than $50 per hour. Also, the hourly fee model is quite popular, regardless of agency size.

3. The average industry fee for a monthly retainer contract doesn’t go beyond $3,000.
The average fee across all U.S. regions for a monthly-retainer contract ranges between $1,000 and $3,000. However, in Europe, it is a bit lower, around $951.

4. Agencies mostly prefer monthly retainer contracts, while freelancers prefer a project-based fee-payment model
A payment models chart I created (see this infographic) shows that a majority of agencies are using the monthly retainer payment model, which helps businesses regulate their cash flow. Freelancers are also now using this model quite often, and most freelancers have a good number of clients on a project-based fee.

5. Small- and medium-sized businesses are the best clients.
The general trend shows that small- and medium-sized businesses are the best clients for the freelancers and agencies surveyed. The reason is that the digital marketing industry is still quite a new market, and most agencies aren’t experienced enough or big enough to deal with enterprise customers.

However, according to the survey, a percentage of agencies do already prefer to deal only with big businesses, so the industry is moving in this direction — it’s only a matter of time until this trend spreads.

6. Freelancers deal mostly with hyper-local, local and small businesses.
Hyper-local, local and small businesses have limited budgets, which is why they prefer to deal with freelancers who will charge significantly less than the average agency.

7. Agency clients are seeking mostly SEO and PPC services.
The survey revealed that the following services were the top five — in the following order — that survey respondents across all regions said they preferred:

  • SEO
  • PPC management
  • Social media
  • Content marketing
  • Analytics and UX

However, the survey also showed that social media were less popular in the United Kingdom than in the United States or the rest of Europe. I assumed that the reasons revolve around differences in market demand or the inclusion of social media in other services.

8. The bigger the agency, the more ‘other services’ they offer.
The survey reflected the obvious correlation between the growth of the “other services” tier and agency size. That made sense: The bigger the company, the more customized solutions it provides, and the higher the average price per customer.

9. Analytics and UX is a growing trend.
It was great to see analytics and user experience design (UX) among the most popular services agencies said they needed, because this data correlated perfectly with the current worldwide trend. As an active speaker and contributor, I have observed a significant increase in various types of content related to this topic. And that makes the analytics/UX niche an extremely promising one.

On the other hand, these statistics clearly showed that business owners should consider setting up the proper analytics needed, and developing a quality user experience from the very beginning of their projects, which would entail an increase in their startup investments. This matters, because web users have become more experienced, and business websites must meet those users’ expectations.

Source / Author: https://www.entrepreneur.com/author/alexandra-tachalova

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