Smart Insights Digital Marketing > The Marketing Strategy Blog Sat, 30 Aug 2014 13:37:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Digital marketing statistics 2014 Sat, 30 Aug 2014 11:50:02 +0000 The top 10 free sources for UK, European, US, Asian and Global digital marketing statistics

Online marketers love statistics about digital marketing. They allow us to review customer adoption of the latest digital platforms, make business cases for investment in marketing and allow us to benchmark our performance against competitors.

For Expert members, we compile a regularly updated set of usage statistics to use in presentations.


If you’re compiling your own stats, which are the best, most reliable free and paid sources? Everyone has their favourites, but I thought it would be useful to share the ones that I go back to most often as I research online to update books and posts and I recommend to students on marketing qualifications.

If we had to choose a single source with the most up-to-date statistics for 2013 it’s the comScore Digital Future in Focus series- this has separate reports for the UK, Europe, France, Germany, Spain, US, Latin America and South East Asia . We also have a page on mobile statistics we’re updating though 2014, so take a look at that.

Quite a few visitors have added to the suggestions in the comments – thank you for adding to this free resource with your recommendations!

Digital marketing statistics search engine

To save myself time, last year I spent 10 minutes creating a custom Google search engine covering these sources. I hope you find it useful too:


Top 10 sites for digital marketing statistics

These sites cover global stats including UK, Europe, US and global. Thanks for adding the other suggestions to the comments – well worth checking out for anyone searching for statistics sources who passes this way. I’ve added these to the custom search engine too.

One other source worth being aware of is the posts tagged statistics from the Econsultancy blog.

1 Ofcom ( The Office of Communication has reports on adoption of digital media including telecommunications and the Internet (including broadband adoption), digital television and wireless services.

2 UK National Statistics Consumer trends ( Family spending and technology adoption.

3 European Union Digital Marketing statistics ( – based on assessments of ICT adoption.

4 Comscore The The Comscore press releases are one of the best sources of the latest stats releases. Their blog can also be helpful – I have included within the custom search engine. A similar service included in this search engine is Nielen Netratings.

Comscore have a new Digital Future series of reports covering the UK, US, several European countries, Canada and Brazil – we have a summary post on Online media statistics from Comscore summarising this.

5 International Telecomms Union ( World telecommunications and ICT adoption statistics with the emphasis on broadband and mobile

6 Marketing Charts ( An aggregator of information about consumer and business adoption of technologies and approaches.

7 ClickZ Stats ( A source agggregating news on digital marketing developments, reports by experts and calculators.

8 eMarketer ( A compilation of digital statistics for online marketers – more US oriented.

9 Hitwise Hitwise blog – one of the best sources giving interpretation of a selection of their stats by their analysts. It’s also worth checking their data centres – which have summaries of the most popular sites and search engines.

10 IAB Research Research reports on online advertising effectiveness

The best global sources in terms of frequency of update, although with a US bias are, for me, the blogs/press release sections from Comscore, Hitwise and Nielsen Netratings. These are the ones you will find are most common results within the custom search engine.

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Twitter Analytics now free to all users [@SmartInsights alert] Fri, 29 Aug 2014 09:28:45 +0000 Just head to when signed-in


Recommended link: Twitter Analytics

Previously Twitter’s analytics service has been limited to advertisers, but that changed this week with an announcement via Twitter:

How to access Twitter analytics?

Just as it says in the title to this article, if you’re already signed into Twitter in your browser, if you go to There is no registration process, but a little bizarrely, you just have to access the dashboard URL and you should then see updates. Until then you will just see a blank dashboard:


For more information on what you can see in Twitter’s analytics see this post from Twitter introducing the Twitter Analytics dashboard.


This is the type of insight you will get, but possibly you wont see this many impressions… or this amount of engagement…

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The latest changes to the Facebook algorithm [@SmartInsights alert] Fri, 29 Aug 2014 08:28:58 +0000 Changes to how you share photos, clickbait and likegating on Facebook


Recommended link: Facebook announcement on algorithm updates

Given the amount of traffic that Facebook drives to sites, any significant changes to Facebook’s algorithm are now big news in the way that Google’s algorithm updates have been for years. So in our alerts we look to update readers on all the major changes made by Facebook. This data on visits prompted by shares of articles via social networks shows that Facebook is far more important for driving visits than other social networks across all sites, although this may be different for B2B sites.


The major change to the Facebook algorithm announced this week has two main parts: a Clickbait filter and a change to processing of links related to status updates. While most commentary on the changes has focused on Clickbait, this is less relevant to most businesses so we start by looking at the changes to how you should best use links in status updates.

Summary of the change to Facebook’s algorithm

1. Sharing links in status updates.

It’s common to use visuals in Facebook to make your updates more engaging and shareable. Naturally Marie Page recommends it, with lots of examples in our guide to Facebook marketing. If you do this it then it often appears in the Facebook News Feed with a large picture, a headline and some text that gives context on the link. For example:


In this new update Facebook has says it will favour status updates using the “Link format”:

We’ve found that people often prefer to click on links that are displayed in the link format (which appears when you paste a link while drafting a post), rather than links that are buried in photo captions. The link format shows some additional information associated with the link, such as the beginning of the article, which makes it easier for someone to decide if they want to click through. This format also makes it easier for someone to click through on mobile devices, which have a smaller screen”.

Facebook explains that it’s common practice for brands to share photos with a link next to it, but without a preview.

So, how should you do this in practice? If you paste a link into an update or use a tool like Hootsuite to manage social media like we mainly do across the main social networks, by sharing a short caption and link to relevant content then you may already be doing this. Facebook explains it this way:

The best way to share a link after these updates will be to use the link format. In our studies, these posts have received twice as many clicks compared to links embedded in photo captions. In general, we recommend that you use the story type that best fits the message that you want to tell – whether that’s a status, photo, link or video”.

2. Cracking down on Clickbait

Marketers will know “Click-baiting” as a “Teaser headline”. It’s when a publisher posts a link with a headline that encourages people to click to see more details, without giving much away. Here’s an example:

Facebook has noticed that some sites like Buzzfeed are engineering so many posts like this that get a lot of clicks that they are now seeing a lot of them in the newsfeed so have decided to take action.

How will they determine Clickbait? It will be similar to the way that Google assesses relevant content. If the dwell time on the content after the click is low then that suggests less relevant content and it will be filtered out of the News Feed. If you’re interested to know more, I recommend this article by Jon Loomer on the updates. Jon is a great source for detailed analysis of Facebook marketing techniques.

3. An end to ‘Likegating’

Jon also has a reminder about another significant, but less often reported update from earlier in August that outlaws incentivised likegating. This was not widely reported since it was hidden in an update from the Facebook developer site related to a change to their programming API:

You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page. It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, checkin at a place or enter a promotion on your app’s Page”.

You still see this Likegating approach quite often, so take note if you’re planning a Facebook campaign at the moment.

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Google ends Authorship functionality [@SmartInsights alert] Fri, 29 Aug 2014 07:15:33 +0000 Google’s use “rel=author” markup to stop but Google+ posts to continue featuring in search results


Recommended link: Google announcement of end of Authorship

Summary of the change

John Mueller of Google Webmaster Tools announced in a personal Google+ post on 28th August that Google will now stop showing authorship results in Google Search, and will no longer be tracking data from content using rel=author markup.

From a Google user point of view this means you will no longer see author images in pictures like this one from a briefing written by Chris Soames in 2012:

In fact, you may have noticed from around a month ago that Google removed the author images. In this new announcement they are taking the next step and removing the author information too.

We’re also alerting you to this since more significantly from an SEO point of view Google has said that they are no longer using the data associated with markup.

The Reasons for the Removal of Authorship?

Google gives these reasons:

  1. 1. Low adoption rates by authors and webmasters. While many marketing sites like our have enthusiastically adopted Authorship, this was not the case in other sectors.Searchengineland reports on this test that showed that even amongst major publishers journalists were not integrating their Google+ profiles:


  2. 2. Low value to searchers. Google has said there is limited difference in click behaviour, i.e. clickthrough rate from results with these rich author snippets. This goes against what we have found and others have reported, but the decision has been made anyway. John Mueller has said:

    If you’re curious – in our tests, removing authorship generally does not seem to reduce traffic to sites. Nor does it increase clicks on ads. We make these kinds of changes to improve our users’ experience”.

Implications for Marketers?

Well, if you were planning to implement authorship, you can discard that task! If you already have you can disable the feature to slightly reduce page bloat, although most will keep the markup even if it’s redundant I imagine.

Is this the end of Google+?

Many have taken this change as a yet another sign of the impending end of Google+. While it certainly removes a key feature integrating Google+ into the search results Jon Mueller reminds us that Google will still feature personalised Google+ link recommendations in the search results page, so this is not a reason to stop activity on Google+:

It’s also worth mentioning that Search users will still see Google+ posts from friends and pages when they’re relevant to the query — both in the main results, and on the right-hand side. Today’s authorship change doesn’t impact these social features”.

Google has also stated that it is committed to other forms of markup – so we still encourage these for SEO purposes.

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How to make SEO, social media, email marketing and more work together Thu, 28 Aug 2014 15:30:00 +0000 Integrating different inbound channels as part of a content-led digital strategy

Here’s the only way to approach your marketing: What content will your customers thank you for?

Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs @MarketingProfs

In the ever-evolving sphere of digital marketing, creating compelling content just isn’t enough. Instead, what you need to do is develop a strategic plan that is both consistent and integrated and will help drive traffic, generate leads and increase your conversions. While content creation still plays a pivotal role in an effective marketing strategy, smart brands are taking a more holistic approach – and that means focusing on how content marketing, SEO, social media, blogging and email marketing all work in sync.   integration 123rfphoto30659712_s

Along with our own tips and tricks of the trade, in this article AWeber has enlisted a few industry leaders to share their insights and best practices to help you craft a solid, comprehensive digital marketing strategy. These are the pillars of an integrated strategy as we and they see them.


‘Content Marketing is an imperative because it represents the gap between the content brands want to produce and what consumers actually want’. 

Michael Brenner, Head of Strategy at Newscred @BrennerMichael

Let’s face it: content marketing ain’t easy. In order to fully satisfy the needs of your audience, your content needs to be:

  • Valuable: What’s in it for your customers and prospects? Are you speaking their language? Are you giving them something they can’t find anywhere else?
  • Timely: Can you put a newsworthy, industry-specific spin on your content? Is your subject matter different from what others have addressed before?
  • Solutions-oriented: Are you providing a solution to your customers’ biggest pain points? Can you deliver real, actionable information that people can implement right away? Would a prospect see this and think, ‘Wow, I need to learn more!?’


‘Honest and transparent content is the best sales tool in the world. Period’,

Marcus Sheridan, Author of The Sales Lion @TheSalesLion

Your blog should be a trusted resource that both customers and prospects alike can use a tool to learn more about your industry. It’s a huge part of your content strategy because it combines SEO, social media and can serve as the basis for your email marketing campaign. Keep these tips in mind before you hit ‘publish.’

  • Cadence: How often are others in your industry posting? Is there a specific time that your readers are paying more attention to social shares? Experiment with timing and frequency, then pick a schedule and stick to it.
  • Titles and bullets: Don’t make your readers work to find the sections and subsections that they are most interested in. Break up your text with bullets and engaging titles to make your content easy to read.
  • Go-to resource: Think of your blog as a resource for your most valued customers. Tease it via social media and email marketing and use it to inform future content.


‘If you think number of links is how you are going to win Google, you are doing it wrong’,

Wil Reynolds, Founder of SEER Interactive @WilReynolds

While SEO is super important, engaging content always wins. Nobody wants to read something that sounds like it was written by a robot. You’re writing for real customers with real needs and your words should reflect that. SEO only helps enhance that experience.

  • Headlines: Your headlines should be attention-grabbing, yet concise. Be wary of creating click bait – a few return customers are more valuable than a lot of short-attention spans.
  • Keyword research: What are the terms that your audience is using to speak about your services? To get on their level, you need to first do your keyword research.
  • Inbound links: Guest-blogging is a great way to get more eyes on your content (we’re doing it right now!). Be sure to share your content on the appropriate channels including social media, forums and other blogs to up your chances of getting inbound links.

Social Media

‘When you say it, it’s marketing. When they say it, it’s social proof’

Andy Crestodina, Strategic Director at Orbit Media @Crestodina

Social media presents limitless opportunities for extending the reach of your content, which means more impressions, more clicks and more conversions. Take note of some of the easily-implemented practices you can use to optimize your social presence:

  • Share: Does all of your content have social sharing icons prominently displayed and properly configured? Unless you’ve written a killer piece of content, nobody is going to go out of their way to spread the word.
  • Engagement: Ask your followers to repost, retweet and converse with your content. While it may sound obvious, it’s an effective step that’s often overlooked.
  • Tease Content: Do you link to your email sign-up on your social pages? Have you shared your latest blog post via Facebook or Twitter? Giving fans and followers a glimpse at your content will leave them hungry for more.

Email Marketing

‘If you send responsive or mobile-optimized emails, be sure your landing pages are mobile-friendly too’,

Justine Jordan, Marketing Director, Litmus @meladorri

Make note: email isn’t dead, it’s evolving.

In fact, email has cemented its status as the primary form of business communication. It’s no wonder businesses aren’t eager to ditch this ‘old-school’ form of communication in favor of it’s newer, shinier competition: email is consistent and measurable. Along with a solid strategy, it delivers better ROI than any other marketing tactic.

So how are marketers utilizing email in new ways to bolster sales and increase conversion rates?

  • Email testing: The only way to know for sure how your subscribers will respond to your emails is test, test and test some more. You can improve your open rates significantly just by split-testing subject lines, or you can experiment with content and images to deliver the most effective emails possible to your audience.
  • Segmented lists: Can you group subscribers on your list by location, interests or their stage in your sales funnel? These groups each have different needs, and by segmenting your list you ensure that the right people are receiving the right information – and that means more sales for you.
  • Consistency: It will take some testing, but grabbing your audience at the right times with the right frequency of emails can mean the difference between driving sales and unopened messages.

Ready to take your marketing initiatives to the next level? Join AWeber and our all star lineup of digital marketing experts at ASCEND Digital Marketing Summit this October 22-24 in Philadelphia. This two-day, three-night conference is your opportunity to network and learn from the industry’s best, including Ann Handley, Michael Brenner, Andy Crestodina and more. Reserve your tickets to ASCEND now.

Image credit / Copyright: Mathias Rosenthal/ 123RF Stock Photo.

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Exploring alternative structures for better integrating digital marketing activity into your business Thu, 28 Aug 2014 07:25:58 +0000 Do We Need a Digital Department At All?

When I began working on the Smart Insights Digital Transformation guide, I believed that the days of the digital department were numbered. After all, if digital integration was a true goal of a business, shouldn’t this department simply be merged into marketing and other ‘non-digital’ departments? I felt that we’d only created digital departments as a bolt on reaction to the changing landscape, and that over time different skills would simply be ‘absorbed’ into the rest of the business.

While this sentiment may run true amongst some readers, I soon found that this ideal has seldom been reached, and may never occur in many verticals. After all, it often seems that there will always be requirements for specific skills that need to sit within a specialist team. Rather than saying whether we ‘should’ or ‘should not’ have a digital department, there are varying ‘phases’ of digital integration.

Structuring Digital Marketing Activities

A common model for structuring digital marketing is based upon The Altimeter Group’s The Evolution of Social Business, which outlines five stages of social media integration.

Different Levels of Digital Marketing Integration

The same phased approach can be seen where Neil Perkin writes for Econsultancy about these alternative digital marketing structures as explained below:

  1. Dispersed – an early stage reaction to digital staffing, whereby skills are dispersed throughout an organisation.
  2. Centre of Excellence – digital marketing personnel sit within one bespoke team, usually reporting to one Head of Digital. 
  3. Hub and Spoke – a combination of a digital ‘centre of excellence’ (hub) and ‘spokes’ that sit within separate departments.
  4. Multiple Hub and Spoke – there are a number of separate digital hubs within departments, each with their own spokes in further business units.
  5. Holistic – digital knowledge is at a strong level throughout the organisation.

No respondents within Econsultancy’s report, and only 2.4% in Altimeter’s study, answered that a ‘holistic’ level of integration had been reached. This obviously casts doubt on my initial suppositions: digital departments are likely to stay for the considerable future.

Having a Digital Centre is Standard Practice

In many companies, the digital department exists is a separate entity to other divisions and is not wholly integrated into other departments – indeed, Altimeter’s study would suggest some 85% of companies are somewhere between stages 2-4 –all which demand a digital centre.

Why the Need for a Centre?

Establishing a digital centre can be a reaction against a decentralized (largely ungoverned) structure. With the appointment of a head of department, there is greater emphasis on establishing process and a move towards a formal structure. Of course, by bringing this centrally, there can be a number of inherent weaknesses, the clearest being:

  1. Potential barrier to effective multichannel marketing.
  2. Lack of shared learning in the wider organisation.
  3. Lack of focus on smaller business units.

So once a formal central structure is established, the next phase is to better integrate digital through the creation of ‘spokes’ – that is, digital skilled people sitting directly within particular teams. As demand progresses this model, these spokes may become larger, eventually with the ideal of the holistic stage being reached.

A Digital Centre Maybe Wholly Necessary

Since digital is such a different and complex arena to more established channels, it appears there will still be a requirement for groups of specialists to sit together and work almost as an agency for the rest of the company. Thus it may not be possible for some businesses to completely move away from having a digital centre.

Some digital skills are distinct specialisms, and do not always require many hires for the business to operate well in these areas. For instance, analytics and SEO are often deemed to be the realm of specialists (although you might now argue SEO has become more of a ‘generalist’ role). Additionally, some companies simply may not be able to afford the fixed costs and headcount necessary to evolve to a hub and spoke approach.

It is also possible that the centre of excellence functions as an ‘innovation hub’ while the more integrated spokes work on digital execution. For instance, the central hub researches and tests new approaches and technology, and while the spokes are responsible for digital change management.

It is quite clear that full or holistic digital integration may not be possible in large companies. But conversely, maintaining a separated ‘digital center of excellence’ presents its own pitfalls, particularly in widening company understanding of digital marketing. It’s not time we said goodbye to the digital department, and for many, it doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon either. How do you see it?

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Advanced Real Time Marketing Insights Wed, 27 Aug 2014 16:25:23 +0000 3 Strategic learnings for real time marketing


Recommended link: Forrester real-time analytics report – free download 


Commissioned by MediaMath, the latest research piece by Forrester is well worth the time it will take you to scan to understand this emerging modern marketing technique. I think most marketers understand the concept of real-time marketing but may struggle to see how that works across the WHOLE customer journey (most people associate real-time with Social media channels, mistake number one! More on that later). It is certainly something I am still learning about especially the practical side of it and excited by the prospect of working with more clients on helping them on the journey.

Looking at the data shared in the report suggests the value that brands can get from real-time marketing.

Real time marketing-analytics

So, the value is in improving customer experiences by identifying opportunities and problems although the categories in the graph are a little generic, not actionable enough.

My three key learnings

  1. A roadmap for using real-time marketing is crucial otherwise you will be quickly overwhelmed by data. It is a huge but exciting commitment as a brand
  2. Data is the key enabler, though how you utilise it is obviously more important
  3. Ultimate customer focus and a passion for creating remarkable experiences is not optional

Getting clear on what real-time marketing means is probably the first thing to agree. As defined by the website that knows everything about everything Wikipedia:

Real-time marketing is marketing performed on-the-fly to determine an appropriate or optimal approach to a particular customer at a particular time and place

On a broad level that means highly personalised experiences with every touchpoint of your brand, hence my comment earlier on it isn’t linked to Social Media, it covers all touch points. While that is an exciting agenda it immediately means cross divisional effort and backing from the top (CEO / MD) against a vision meaning you should start the conversations ASAP.

Key Learning 1: Spend time on your vision and road map, don’t jump in

My initial feelings when I had finished reading the whitepaper was firstly excited, secondly overwhelmed. I think for most brands and companies real-time marketing is a long journey, with lots of wins and excitement on the way. The document alludes at the end to the fact it can take 2 years to get data collection and technology in place and then another 2 years to get into using it appropriately. So a minimum of a 4 year vision. Our jobs as marketers is to show the vision but make it practical and useful here today!

Image from Forrester & MediaMath Report

Key Learning 2: Data, data & more data

The word data is mentioned 88 times in the 9 page document which highlights its importance. I think the use and collection quality of data vastly changes by industry but there are certainly some industries that have taken big steps forward that we can learn from. One of the more fascinating comments in the guide was how financial services are leading the way.

After my initial sense of surprise it actually makes sense. Financial services were and still are renowned for their ability to utilise data in unbelievable ways to interact with customers. They work hard on data collection and ensure it is utilised to generate sales, if only they had a sexier product to sell at the end :-). I think this quote from a finance services company in the document highlights the scale of data!

“We display a personalized offer and capture how the customer reacts. Then we use this feedback to fuel ranking the offers for the next day. Right now we run about 400 million calculations each night.”

Key Learning 3: Ultimate customer focus

The skills and roles needed in marketing teams is forever changing, but I think one common trait needed whether it’s a data scientist, a developer or marketing manager is a never-ending desire to create amazing customer experiences and an appreciation that it is never done or good enough, but always improving. While data is an empowering asset this passion and desire I would argue is more important and it MUST transcend through the business. The point of real-time marketing outside of the tools and data etc is to build relationships with people, this happens over time and by showing up consistently

A timely whitepaper… 2015 planning is just round the corner, it’s time to make this happen!

  • Understand what real-time marketing should mean for your company. This will mean lots of consumer journey mapping and understanding of technology
  • Consider how your first steps can be linked to data, whether how you collect and store or how it is utilised
  • Finally consider how you would take your company on the journey and highlight the commercial benefits

I hope you find the whitepaper as useful as I did from a strategic and picture painting persepctive, exciting times at the forefront of marketing!

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Integrating social media and content marketing for Ecommerce Wed, 27 Aug 2014 07:25:00 +0000 Examples and research showing why content marketing is now key for driving Ecommerce customer journeys

Ecommerce is constantly evolving alongside the development of new digital media and technologies, yet one aspect has not changed. That is, the importance of search intent in the buyer journey. Consumers continue to use search to find, research and buy the products that they want.

However, though this basic fact may not be changing, the way search works is. Search algorithms and in particular those by Google are regularly updated to focus more on quality and relevance of content. So now ecommerce businesses have to think differently about content’s position in the buyer journey.

Long gone are the days of keyword density, link farms and ghost pages. Want your products to rank well for search? You need quality content.

The intersection of content marketing and ecommerce

How are ecommerce businesses using content marketing?  New research from Econsultancy and EPiServer shows an increasing importance attached to content marketing :

In ecommerce, 60% companies see content engagement increasing and 30% of companies plan to invest more in creating original and unique content. They are making this investment to stay ahead of competition, as well as a way to improve SEO.

Of course the trend is not just one affecting ecommerce, content marketing is now a tactic deployed across a broad variety of sectors. But it has particular value for ecommerce, and ecommerce companies are already seeing real value from a financial perspective. They are starting to realise that content is the conduit for merchandising, and many are putting more emphasis in creating high quality product and editorial content that fits with their customers’ lifestyle interests as a way to help drive ecommerce journeys.

No wonder all of the companies interviewed in the recent Econsultancy and EPiServer report have cited increased revenue as a commercial benefit of doing content marketing.


What do we mean by content marketing for ecommerce?

‘Content’ can play many roles in an ecommerce context. We’re seeing a rise of editorial and curated merchandise, where brands have identified the need to engage customers around lifestyle elements or interest areas and not just sell products. Content is playing a key role in educating, inspiring and seducing customers in this way.


A lifestyle-focused content sharing example

Take our customer Norrøna, a high end outdoor clothing brand who has recently re-launched their website to combine the content and commerce experience. They believe that the story of the sports (snowboarding, skiing, biking etc) can be as important as the product (outdoor clothing) itself.

The editorial follows various professional ambassadors in outdoor and snowsports.  An example piece of content features Andreas Wiig, a famous professional snowboarder, on a trip to Japan to review the snow condition and local culture. A video shows him on the ski slopes with his Japanese host, alongside information about how to get to the island of Hokkaido and curated product merchandise to match.

norrado content

An Interest focused content sharing example

Another of our customers Key Music, a music retailer operating in several regions across Europe, is a particularly strong example here. As musicians are invariably passionate about their past time, Key Music saw an opportunity to use specialist content to help it engage with its customers. The screenshot here is a branded landing page combining the brand story of Gibson and product merchandise with a video of the craftsmanship of Gibson guitars through a YouTube video. This example shows the page localised for the Netherlands.


This business also employs a network of freelance music writers who have specialist knowledge in the different areas its customers are interested in. Operating across several countries, they have specialists to deliver content across languages and interest areas.

A multichannel content marketing example

Selfridges’ Beauty Project makes great use of multichannel content marketing designed to drive sales through customer engagement. The campaign made use of in-store photo booth that streams content live into store window displays, live feed of content to Google+, campaign video content, iconic photography from well-known photographers and filmmakers and social hashtag #beautyproject to encourage customers interaction with the campaign via social media, in-store and online.


What are the challenges of content marketing?

Of course the drive towards content and commerce integration is not without it’s challenges

challenges content marketing

The first is defining a solid content marketing strategy. The main difficulty of using content to ‘sell without selling’, is that, well, you do still want to sell. There is a tension between the content and the commerce aspects.

For example, how do you choose when to surface editorial content and when to surface product?  The challenge is to define a strategy that finds a balance between the commercial and content aspects of the site and decide how are you going to measure it.

Ultimately, product has to be the primary focus for a commerce site, otherwise people can mistake the website for a magazine site. However, a site without content may actually dissuade some customers from coming back.

Good content can satisfy customer’s research needs and help drive them towards the sale, so conversions (AOV/revenue) and engagement (dwell time/social shares/page per visit) KPIs should be used in conjunction to understand the true impact.

The second is simply resource. Creating great content is much easier said than done; it requires advanced skills and expertise, not to mention a lot of time. Finding the right skills is difficult, with 40% companies we interviewed cited difficulty in finding people who understand the brand values as a key challenge, as is coordinating content delivery and governing the tone of voice across international markets/teams.

Lastly, finding the right technology is crucial to deliver a personalised experience. The research has found that most companies interviewed have no clear technology roadmap around the variety of tools such as CMS, e-commerce platform, marketing automation and web analytics software they use.

Marketers are still struggling to deliver a consistent experience across channels, and 60% of companies interviewed agreed that the lack of single customer view (data gaps) is holding them back. The importance of technology in enabling rich content experiences that drive conversion should not be underestimated.

By defining a clear content marketing strategy and using the right technology, resource and expertise to deploy it, it is possible to use content not only to improve SEO rankings but to create more engaged and loyal customers.

You can hear more about integrating content and e-commerce at the Smart Insights Digital Impact conference on 17th September 2014 where Bob Egner, VP of Product Management at EPiServer will give more examples of how content can become part of the path to purchase.

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Examples of retail category page best practice Tue, 26 Aug 2014 10:40:12 +0000 What Makes Great Ecommerce Website Design? Part 2: The Category Page

In Part Two of my series of blog posts looking at the factors that help make different parts of an ecommerce websites more effective in experience, merchandising and SEO, I review examples of category pages. In Part 1 I looked at 5 Ecommerce home page best design practices.

You can think of Category pages serving as the ‘Departments’ within your website like they do in a department store – the ladieswear department, childrens wear department and so on.

These areas in a department store are typically demarcated by very visual merchandising, such as mannequins dressed in the types of clothes that you’d find in that department, visual posters/ signage showing branding or imagery depicting the section you are in – smiling children on posters indicating that you are in the childrens’ section.

These subtle visual prompts are often un-noticed yet serve to ensure that subconsciously shoppers are assured that they are in the correct area of the store and in some cases draw on the imagery to portray the idealistic lifestyle/ look that they could emanate.

Many websites however lose this altogether. Sometimes this is because of development issues (for example many sites I have reviewed tend to make the old query parameter mistake for category/ subcategory pages which will only inherit the parent category images and descriptions and do not allow unique ones to be shown). Sometimes the capacity is there and it is the website manager who ‘never got around to putting anything on these pages’ as it was lower down the list of priorities.

Both of these are issues that can be overcome and whilst this may be lower down the list of priorities it is certainly higher on that list that you’d think.

Category pages usually tend to be higher traffic pages and as such first impressions count (see my previous blog on Online Value Propositions for Ecommerce sites). Encouraging a conversion from category pages therefore becomes even more important, in some ways, than the product levels pages because of the higher levels of traffic typically entering the category level pages.

Let’s look at some examples of category pages.

PJ Pan does a great job on category pages using both on and off page headings and descriptions (important for SEO) and banner imagery to make us aware which category page we are on.


In addition the page clearly shows price points of all products as well as short descriptions so that we know exactly what we are looking at. What also works well here are the ‘Sale’ overlays on product images to draw your eyes immediately to the sale items / bargains on the page.

Cleverly the customer has the option of filtering through the category using the filter options which are laid out across the tabs at the top of the category – very accessible and yet not overbearing.

The image swatches on the site change on hover-over to allow you to see the material of the product in detail which helps to ‘sell’ the product.

All of this functionality and imagery helps to sell the product on the category page to the end user and can really help to increase overall conversion rate across the site.

Some other sites take this one step further. Take a look at On their Ugg category page they show the familiar lifestyle imagery and descriptions, but additionally demonstrate many more value propositions including free delivery, trusted store badges, 100 day returns policies and more.

zalando category page

When hovering over the product images on this category page you can immediately see what sizes are available in the product and thumbnail images of other colours, avoiding an unnecessary click-through to the product page if the size/ colour isn’t available and thus ensuring that the user journey through the site is shortened.

Whilst you cannot add to basket from the category page (which I might add would be the missing functionality to add to create a really great category page) they have gone someway in attempting to re-create this by allowing you to click on your size from the category page – but it doesn’t actually add it to basket.

Both of these examples demonstrate some great ways in which you can help make your category pages better, and help increase add to baskets and ultimately conversion rates on your website. These are features that I have tried and testing for my clients over at Ambition Digital  to great effect.

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Digital Transformation – Survival skills for the traditional brand Tue, 26 Aug 2014 09:00:00 +0000 A case study of how Ford have embraced digital and social media

The digital landscape for the majority of sectors has witnessed a meteoric rise in the number brands. These brands come in all sizes and shapes – On one side you have the traditional brands making the steady transition to the world of digital and on the other, the start-up brand, out there to cause disruption to the sector and to offer that something a little different. And they all have the same objective - vying for our attention.

In with the old

The transformation traditional organisations are learning to wrestle with is the fact that moving to a digital future, traditional brands should not still try to control media content that impacts the brand and its perception, rather the brand should instead focus on becoming more transparent and seek to build engagement, credibility and collaboration with its user base.

A case study of Ford’s social media strategy

For example take Ford, a 100-year-old car manufacturer who, as these detailed tactics show has embraced social media to empower the organisation to remain relevant and engaging with its audience. Ford is a classic example of a ‘traditional’ organisation that was willing to re-define it’s brand and what it stands for by embracing digital and seeking out new, innovative opportunities. Ford also played on two key attributes it has built throughout its 100 year history, two attributes that any other traditional organisation should utilise in how it redefines itself:

  • 1. Knowledge Centre Ford is a knowledge centre for the automobile industry. It has accumulated a library of content and information central to its sector and with it has allowed Ford to become the go-to authority for their respective sector. It has provided the opportunity for Ford to tell a great narrative through authority content and can be syndicated, shared and re-purposed through a multitude of different digital channels, tailored for the right audience.
  • 2. Trust The importance of having an easily identifiable brand helps the effectiveness of the messaging or the value proposition. Building a level of trust and indeed retaining a brand reputation takes years in development. It’s perhaps something the start-up brands will always find difficult to match with the more traditional organisation that has fine tuned their offline proposition over decades and now is at the beginings of migrating their proposition online.

A brand that exemplifies trust provides the user with an affinity and helps to build a relationship by engaging with the consumer’s emotions through imaginative associations such as user-generated content.

Ford demonstrate this perfectly through their social media presence where they proactively engage their audience in real-time marketing to participate through the brands social media channels. Here’s a nice example: ford-social-media-strategy In my opinion, brands need to create a reason for customers to engage with your brand on a daily basis in a world of choice, alternatives and new entrants willing to disrupt traditional and existing markets.

Traditional organisations need to take a look internally, and the opportunities that exist around them through their library of content on tap which can be re-defined and optimised for a digital audience. This content provides a route for the brand to not just become the go-to source for content but to also refine and develop their content offering to become the expert within their sector.

The industrial-era organisation is being replaced by more connected organisations who are open to collaboration and building external relationships in a globalised market. More traditional organisations should consider launching a Skunk work, which is an off-shoot of the main organisation, protected from cultures and processes that inhibit progress and has a remit to create, develop and concept test new opportunities, products and services. This would help drive innovation and collaboration in partnering with organisations and individuals.

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