Looking at the Online Holiday 2014 Shopping Season

Repost Article that Ben Adams and I wrote about discuss some online selling techniques and data from the 2014 Shopping Season. 

Check out the original two part article here: Pt. 1 & Pt. 2.

What's Under the Tree? Looking at the Online Holiday Shopping Season

The holiday season is already underway, and for many marketers it represents the best time of the year to maximize their return on ad spend (ROAS). We decided to take a two part look at the hottest trends you should know for 2014.

Let’s start by looking back at what happened in 2013. According to Google, 2013 was the year the store window went digital. More consumers researched and purchased holiday gifts online than ever before.

Changes in consumer behaviour can be attributed to the rise of consumers using mobile devices for shopping. They have shopped across devices and channels and looked for product information and deals earlier than before. Mobile site traffic reached 38.2% in March 2014, more than double the percentage in March 2012. IBM estimates that 20% of site sales and more than 43% of site traffic will come from mobile devices by end of November 2014. Still not convinced that mobile is the place to be? comScore reported that mobile apps drive half of all time spent on digital.

Spending is on the rise, and consumer attention spans are on the decline. The past two years shoppers spent on average 9.3% more per online order in November 2013 than two years earlier, and 13% more per order in December.

Shopify recently reported that 54% of Canadian businesses still don’t have a website, 64% of sales growth has gone to large enterprise, and mobile is taking over for e-commerce with 50.3%.

Search habits have also shifted in the last year. Google found that searchers were 1.5x more likely to buy than those who didn’t use search, making them a particularly valuable audience for marketers. From a timing perspective, Black Friday was the most popular shopping day in Canada. Canadians are actively searching on Black Friday terms; interest even surpassed boxing day in 2013, and this trend is likely to continue in 2014.

On the advertising side, Google and Ipsos conducted a study in 2013 where they found that online ads influence holiday shoppers more than TV. Display ads, email offers, paid search, and social ads as a whole influence more than TV. About 60% of all shoppers will pay attention to search ads, and 33% will pay attention to video ads.

In another study from Facebook and Salesforce, when reached with Facebook ads, we found that email openers were 22% more likely to purchase.

Kenshoo found that Facebook ads improve the paid search ROAS by 30%.

Shoppers today are savvier than ever before. They are well informed and educated about what products to buy, which brands they want, and what retailers to shop at. Every time they walk in a store or visit a website they are a new, mindful, informed and purposeful shopper. This is very important to note considering when we know that 57% of holiday shoppers don’t have a specific products or brand in mind when they begin their holiday shopping, and 78% of consumers are not loyal to a particular brand. So, as long as you know how to influence the consumer decision, the opportunity is here.

When Google asked a panel of users what channels influenced their purchase, 64% of them referenced YouTube, making it the number one online channel. Twitter, Facebook, and Search all have been mentioned over 50% of the time.

To succeed this holiday season, retailers will need to rely on mobile as the channel of choice. They need to pay particular attention to the context of each interaction with consumer, and they have to engage their target audience way before they step foot in their store or click on their site.

Marketers should also expand their digital shelf through an array of combinations of ad formats — search/social, display/search, video/display, email/social.

  1. Start by creating unique content for the holiday season and making sure your online presence is optimized (you have a website, with the right content, that can be browsed from any device).
  2. Build highly relevant audiences, targeted by a combination of dimensions such as interests, behaviours, location, time, device, etc.
  3. Stand out with unique creative – tap into the power of video, rich media, hyperlocal ads, and native. Offer discounted prices and free shipping. According to Shop.org, these are the two most important factors when shopping online.
  4. Embrace the various channels and options that customers favor to deliver a positive customer experience and ultimately drive sales and brand loyalty.
  5. Quantify the impact of your campaigns by measuring and optimizing in real time, towards predefined KPIs.

The 1 – 2 – 3 Email Combo

Consumers in 2014 are more product savvy than ever before – and predictions have the trend continuing in 2015 – marketers have had to up their game to keep informed consumers looking at their products.

What does this mean for you as a marketer? It means that it’s time to look at where your potential customers are informing themselves about your product. In most cases, the answer will be a number of channels ranging from online ads to news/media articles to social posts to email blasts and more.

One of the troublesome parts about having so many channels of information is figuring out how to be efficient with your marketing efforts. In 2014, marketers shifted their efforts towards a combination approach across several channels rather than trying to get lucky with the big haymaker on one specific channel.

This means combining email with retargeting ads, text ads with social contests, traditional media with online landing pages etc., all in an effort to increase conversions. These combinations need a strategy, development, and vigilance in execution, but the facts show that it’s worth it.

A recent study from Facebook and Salesforce shows that customers who saw an ad before they opened a promotional email were 22% more likely to make that purchase – no small boost.

Who’s Doing It Right?

There are plenty of companies using multi-channel marketing to boost conversions, but most recently I came across a particularly compelling example. Evo – an outdoor rec company – has both an e-commerce site and a retail store. This means their offering not only extends through multiple marketplaces, but also through multiple channels.

In this case, I was shopping online and looking for new boots to pair with my shred-sticks. Here’s the marketing campaign as I saw it unfold:

1. Customer visits site and searches for boot (organic).

2. Searches Google for comparable offerings (text ad).

3. Received promo next day (email)

With one search on the site (I was already a member) I was hit on three different channels with custom ads. It’s a prime example of using search data, email, and user behaviour to push a purchase decision.

Creative Content Is Still King

It’s not just multi-channel marketing and smart advertising that has stepped forward in 2013, it’s also in the creativity behind the marketing efforts. We’ve always seen creative and inspiring marketing campaigns from big brands with big budgets, but the little guys are also upping their game. And they’re doing it without breaking the bank.

How are they doing this? GIFS of course!

I’m not just talking about cats being festive and cheerful or that hilarious fail video your Dad sent you. It’s the use of gifs in a professional manner. A way that shows off a new feature or pulls an emotional response from an image.

A number of tech companies in 2014 have been using this technique on their website and in their eblasts – Intercom and the Evernote use them regularly. Here are a few examples to check out:


Go Forth and GIF

GIFs aren’t a new phenomenon at all, but how we’re using them has evolved. 2014 was a big year for gifs mainly due to advancements in technology and bandwidth. Our customers are using more powerful devices on faster networks than ever before. This allows us as marketers to deliver rich media on multiple platforms without a poor user experience damaging the brands persona.

Now if you’re thinking about tossing some animated gifs into your emails or multi-channel holiday campaigns, that’s good. However, you should keep these tips in mind:

1. Less is More

If you use too many gifs – especially if it’s in a way that screams “look at me I’m cool!” – it will likely come off as cheesy. Don’t be a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man.

2. Know Your Audience

Not everyone is down for an animated email, so before you get your gifs ready to send out be sure that you’re playing to the right crowd. Does this make sense for your brand and who you are talking to?

3.You’ll Need Some Tech Help

Integrating your gifs into your header or styled inline with your text will take some savvy development. Inboxes still don’t like to play nice, so make sure you thoroughly test your emails before they go out.

With all that in mind, you should be able to give your customers the kind of GIF they love. They might even end up loving you too. Especially if you throw down a GIF like this.

And in case you were wondering how I picked that GIF, wonder no more.

Winning the Away Game: How to Get Remote Staff Onside

Post I wrote for Staff.com. Original here - OG Post


Being a remote worker—whether from a home office or Hong Kong—is the new normal. Since 2005, there’s been an 80% increase in the number of “telecommunicating” employees in the US. There’s no doubt we’ve become smarter about how we work and where we work from. But working remotely still feels… well, remote.

Modern organizations are armed with cloud-collaboration tools that should make working from anywhere a breeze. Combine these tools with a global talent pool from which to hire, and you’re set to dominate the competition, right?

So, why do we still struggle to connect teams, keep them happy and bring them into the company family? These four effective tactics will help you create a work environment that’s both global and connected.

Find Yourself. Choose a Corporate Identity that Works

Identifying your company’s unique culture is a first step toward creating a global communication strategy that works. Don’t be overwhelmed by process. Instead, start with this fun exercise: choose a persona that embodies your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps your company is like Star Wars’ Darth Maul: cutthroat, highly skilled, a source of fear and symbol of hatred throughout the galaxy. Or you might be an office of Bart Simpsons: high energy, motivated by your own ideas, but extremely impulsive.

Not only is this exercise fun, it’s a simple way to assess your company’s character, and gives you some insight and guidance into how your company communicates—internally and externally. If you’re a company of Barts, you’ll want to make sure your remote team doesn’t miss out on annual “Eat My Shorts” day. That’s right, at least send them a cake.

Photo by Claudius Prößer

Don’t Save Corporate Culture for the Home Team

There’s often a chasm between how a company perceives its corporate culture and how colleagues communicate with one another. This gap widens with the addition of remote workers. Jokes at the watercooler, impromptu conversations about everyday work life and innovative ideas spread in the hallway but go uncommunicated to remote teams. When you aren’t able to drop in and ask questions, misinterpretation abounds, innovation decreases, and it creates a culture of frustration in the workplace.

Your product might be thrilling, but sometimes, working remote and away from the wellspring of HQ inspiration is not. It can be difficult for remote workers to find their place and feel a sense of belonging within their companies, and even in the products they make. And research proves time and time again that replacing an employee is up to twice as expensive as actually employing one.

Instant messages and emails are efficient and accessible, but they lack the emotion that face-to-face conversations allow. How much better is it to hear a person laugh than to read “haha” in Google chat?

Crossing the Divide

Culture is created, defined and shared by people. We are motivated and kept passionate about our work by strong emotional bonds. A few year back, this MIT study reported that remote workers are less happy and motivated when they feel isolated from co-workers. You can organize beer Fridays every day of the week, but if remote workers can’t participate in ad hoc socializing with their teammates you’re digging a geographical ditch that will be very hard to cross.

So, how do you close the geographical gap?

  • Encourage the use of video rather than text. For decades, researchers have been saying (PDF) that video communication gets us closer to in-person interactions.
  • Managers should check in with remote staff on a more frequent and informal basis. Spontaneous check-ins build stronger relationships.
  • Applaud and publicly acknowledge remote workers’ contributions.
  • Use lightweight, real-time communications tools that enable informal and frequent conversations such as instant messaging, group chat rooms and always-on video portals.

Tactics and tools for healthy global collaboration and communication are out there. Now, you just need to put them to work in ways that will make it easier to keep remote employees happy, healthy and engaged.