Smart Insights Digital Marketing > The Marketing Strategy Blog Wed, 06 May 2015 06:23:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 New: Google+ Collections to categorise your content [@SmartInsights Alert] Tue, 05 May 2015 15:44:00 +0000 Google+ follows Pinterest with a new 'Collections' feature

Google+ Collection Example


Recommended Link: Google Official announcement - Introducing Google+ Collections

With this new feature Google+ seems to be following the popular model of Pinterest boards, where posts can be categorised into topics and interests, to share with family and friends on the same basis as the posts.

You can see the example at the head of this post where we grouped some of our infographics and they appear as 'cards' similar to Pinterest. Google explains 'Collections' this way:


"Every collection is a focused set of posts on a particular topic, providing an easy way for you to organize all the things you’re into. Each collection can be shared publicly, privately, or with a custom set of people. Once you create your first collection, your profile will display a new tab where other people can find and follow your collections".

Google's apparent reason for this new feature comes from behavioural research which identified that connections were taking place around 'interests'. Although there are sceptics which reveal that take up could be low, as activity is not around public posts.

They are clearly treating it as a major feature since when you add collections the link/tab to them is in middle of the main page navigation.

How does the new collection feature work?

You can use this page to create your first collection collection, and a new page will then be created to allow others you follow and share your collections.

To 'road-test' the feature we created a collection featuring our Digital Marketing infographics - view example.

This new feature is available this week. It can be accessed via Android and the web, with iOS is to follow.

What  are the implications for marketers?

Well, this depends how important Google+ is important to your business now and how you see this changing in the future. We have seen the number of shares of our content via G+ decrease steadily over the last 18 months while Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn shares have continued to grow. For this reason we have rate this as . It is a major feature in the sense that it is shown in the main menu of the header. But we don't see it as significant enough to increase adoption or engagement of Google+ by businesses or consumers. Or to look at it another way, the grouped content is not as clear as Pinterest (from the home page of the brand), so it's unlikely to attract Pinterest fans.

Given this, our advice would be not to bother about Collections unless you already have an active Google+ business page with thousands of followers.

What do you think of the Collections feature - Game Changer to revive Google+ engagement or a minor feature update?

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What is the impact of Adwords PPC advertising on brand awareness? Tue, 05 May 2015 14:45:00 +0000 Research study tests show brand awareness lift in 12 different sectors

Simulated search experiment research from Google and IposMediaCT reminds us that search ads are not only about driving direct response for lead generation, but that they can also develop brand awareness. By measuring brand metrics and reviewing test Search Results (SERPs) with control groups, the study showed the impact of search ads across 800 consumers.

Brand awareness adwords search test

Ads across 12 vertical sectors were tested and proved that 'search ads' placed their brand at the forefront of a consumer's mind, lifting awareness by an average of 6.6 points.

Search ads uplift brand awareness

How search ads lifted awareness

Respondents were asked which brand first came to mind when thinking about a specific category keyword. An average of 14.8% in the Test group named the test brand, while just 8.2% of the Control group named the same brand. That’s a 6.6 percentage point increase or an average 80% lift in top-of-mind awareness.

Across verticals, the research showed higher than average points for brand awareness in the automotive industry, Consumer Packaged Goods and B2B companies.

This infographic summarises the research.

Search Ads USA research

Source: Source: Google/Ipsos MediaCT, Search for Brands Industry Research.

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Case Study – How The Sun hurdled the paywall using Live Chat Tue, 05 May 2015 10:45:00 +0000 An example implementation showing the popularity of Live Chat


The Sun newspaper took a step into uncharted territory in August 2013 when it moved its content behind a paywall for the first time.

For Britain's biggest selling daily, it was a hugely important development. In common with newspapers all over the world, the Sun has witnessed a sea change in consumption habits as increasing numbers of readers opt to access content online rather than buying printed editions.

By setting up a paywall and thus requiring readers to pay a subscription, the Sun was securing an important revenue stream for its online version while also emphasising that its journalism has a value.  

But if it was a big step for the newspaper itself, it was also a major change for online readers, who were being asked to pay for content that had previously been free to view. Once the paywall was put in place, readers were presented not only with an unfamiliar subscription model but also a revamped digital product, branded as Sun Plus. This created a communications challenge. Not only was it important to explain the change it was also vital to provide advice and support for readers as they assessed the subscription packages and explored the functions and features of the new site.

So as the paywall was implemented, the Sun put customer support at the heart of a multi-channel communications strategy. The guiding principle was simple. The launch team were aware that readers would have a great many questions. Each and every query would receive an instant answer.

If the principle was simple, the execution of the strategy was painstakingly prepared. A team of 20 was assembled to handle customer engagement and each member was trained to answer any question that might arise. There was a lot of ground to cover in the training. Readers were certainly expected to ask about the subscription packages but equally there could be questions about downloading apps or setting up a fantasy football team.

Using Livechat for customer support

Customer support was lead not by a traditional phone line or email, but via a live chat platform (Live Engage), supplied by LivePerson. This provided the newspaper's online readers with the means to click through to a chat agent from links on the Sun Plus site itself or from the @SunplusCS twitter feed.

The positioning of live chat as the primary customer support channel perfectly suits the medium. Sun Plus readers are an 'online' audience and they expect to do things in the digital space.  Rather than, say, ringing a telephone hotline or e-mailing for support, they can get instant advice simply by clicking through to talk to an agent. There is no need to leave the Sun Plus environment. 

How popular is Live chat?

Live chat has proved popular with readers. Since the launch of Sun Plus there have been approximately 250,000 interactions with visitors to the site and, to date, 80% of queries have been addressed through the chat channel.

And for the Sun, it has proved a highly effective means to reach answer the maximum number of enquiries with the resources available. It's estimated that if the enquiries had been handled by telephone, the existing team could only have dealt with about half that number of engagements.

The reason is simple. One key feature of live chat is that an agent can handle several engagements simultaneously.  In contrast, each telephone enquiry locks agents into a single conversation for the duration of the call.  

But the advantages of live chat extend beyond the increased numbers of inquiries that the team can deal with on any given day. The resolution rate is also much higher. Indeed, the Sun Plus team estimate that chat performs four times better than voice calls in terms of the time it takes to resolve questions and problems.     

Keeping customers satisfied

Any major change to the commercial relationship between a business and its customers – in this case the readers – has to be handled carefully. Indeed, it's often during times of change that the ability of contact centres to deal with customer concerns is really tested. Poor support can generate a negative reaction.  So it's gratifying that Sun Plus is achieving customer satisfaction ratings of 85% plus.

The platform The Sun use - LivePerson's LiveEngage  is also winning favour, with surveys turning up a 95% of customers are satisfaction rate.

Good communication is the key to implementing change and in the digital era live engagement is proving to be a hugely effective tool in addressing the questions and concerns of customers.  And as the experience of Sun Plus illustrates, its an ideal channel for digital businesses. 

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Which words in Email Subject lines drive the best response? Tue, 05 May 2015 06:50:00 +0000 What data science taught us about 211 email subject line phrases

Once you click the send button, your email subject line is the most important part of your campaign. This is a fact.

Think about your own experience in the inbox. Mine is something like this:

  1. Look at inbox
  2. Look at sender name
  3. Look at subject line
  4. Make a decision whether or not to open it and read the content

Your sender name is important as it conveys your brand value. But it’s not something you can change easily.

Your subject line is important because testing and optimising them drives response rates like nothing else.

But, there’s a common problem with subject lines.

Dotmailer research reveals 26% of email marketer’s time is spent on email creative, 21% on deployment, and only 8% on testing. And, over 70% of email marketers don't split test their subject lines very often.

Here’s the thing: if people don’t open your email, there’s a 0% chance they’ll see your creative.

It’s clear that more attention needs to be paid to subject lines. However, subject lines as a discipline lacks rigorous scientific and statistical investigation.

Research to reveal the importance of  'subject lines' in emails

I believe that there is a science to subject lines. So I did the research to prove it.


I took a random, anonymised sample of 700 million emails from, the subject line tester and generator. The data is from a collection of online retailers spanning numerous industries. It is mostly from the UK and the USA, with small amounts of data from other Anglophonic countries.

Simply looking at past data is myopic and risky. It assumes that tomorrow will be the same as yesterday. This is where most subject line analysis falls short.

I then applied some advanced statistics. I’ll spare you the gory details but, in a nutshell, I created a time-decayed Bayesian probability model. Then, I ran billions of Markov chain Monte Carlo simulations to generate a huge amount predictive data. This allowed me to take a data set and extrapolate it to a much larger sample of outcomes. It also controlled for random variance, which makes the end results more robust. It also takes into account interdependence of phrases, not just binary outcomes.

From here, I normalised the results and calculated a quality score for individual phrases. The quality score is derived from a combination of response metrics, time-decayed results, and external factors. It’s called the Phrasee Score™.

What is a Phrasee Score™?

Phrasee Scores™ are statistics that tell you how well (or poorly) a given phrase will perform in an email subject line. They are based upon our training data and predictive algorithms.

Scores range from 1 to 100. The higher the score the more reliably a phrase drives response.

Bear this in mind though: a high Phrasee Score™ doesn’t tell you that the given phrase will always deliver solid results for you. What it does tell you is that a phrase has above-average results with low variability. A low score may have good results at times, but the variability is higher. It’s therefore less likely to be the causal variable of increased response.

Phrasee Scores™ are an indication of quality. They will help you decide what to use in your subject lines. But they’re not silver bullets – there’s a lot more to subject line science than that. To understand more about how Phrasee uses this score to generate subject lines, then read on.

Results of the analysis

I tested out 211 common phrases used in email subject lines that are focused on selling.

For the sake of keeping this blog post under a million words, I’ll abridge the results. You can download the email subject lines report.

Key findings from the subject line analysis report

I’ll break it up into a few subsections to aide readability and comprehension. I’ll show the top 5 and bottom 5 from a selection of the categories I analysed.

  • Action words

These are call-to-action phrases that are intended to elicit a specific behaviour.

cta words

  • Questions

These are subject lines formed as a question, checking specific inquisitive structures.

Subject lines as question - scored research

  • Sale phrases

These are phrases that relate to a specific offer, discount or sale.

sales phrase  - scored research

  • Superlatives

These are noun or verb modifiers that elicit emotional response from email recipients

superlatives words scored research

  • Urgency

These are phrases that use time or stock defined scarcity as an action driver. Clearly, anything to do with Midnight isn’t working too well.

urgency words - scored research

I analysed much more as well: In total I analysed 211 phrases. Beyond the Phrasee Score™  and also calculated open, click and click-to-open means and quartile metrics. You can download the full email subject line report

Key email marketing takeaways

From doing this analysis, I learned the following things:

  1. There is a science to subject lines
  2. Testing subject lines is key to learning what works
  3. Advanced statistics can teach you a lot about subject lines
  4. Don’t use the word 'midnight'

What are your experiences?

Phrasee uses machine learning to optimise your email subject lines. free trial of and benefit from subject line science in action.

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How to use outreach in social media to grow your personal blog Mon, 04 May 2015 18:45:00 +0000 Examples of using social media to promote your personal blog

Blogging without social media is now the digital equivalent of stranding yourself on a desert island. To promote yourself effectively and get the results you want, you need to find and connect with people who share similar interests and goals. The best social media strategy entices people to follow the link back to your main blog and check out your main content posted there.

Developing a personal brand using a blog together with social media has a slightly different approach depending on your niche and subject matter. Researching some basics about your target audience is an essential early step, and thankfully each of these social platforms has user-friendly search tools to help you. The essentials to note are average age groups and interests among the followers you want to target as potential blog readers.

Starting up a Personal Blog

The definition of 'personal' has become rather broad for a blog because it can be anything from a personal online journal about your life to a blog about a specific subject that carries a great deal of meaning for you. Don't rush the process of fleshing out your blog topic. It should strike a good balance between what appeals to your target audience and what you also find meaningful.

Should you use your name?

Some experts recommend using your first and last name as your blog name, though you should follow this advice based on a few specifics. Consider your short list of subject matter possibilities, and think about how much certain individuals may find your topics controversial or otherwise counter to their cherished beliefs. This factor often comes into play if future employers may look up your name online. If your blog theme is very mainstream and common, it's usually just fine to use your first and last name. In this case, it can be more challenging to follow the first cardinal rule of blogging. If you want to blog about a topic that may well shake some people up, it's often best to use a pseudonym or a combination of your first name and a key word that tells people right away about your topic.

Case studies on personal blogs

Here are some examples of personal branding across a variety of marketing channels.

Laurelpapworth blog

No better way to brand yourself then by inserting a headshot of yourself in the header of your website. That way, people looking for you by name can confirm that’ve come to the right place. More than that, people who didn’t have a face to match to the name can now do so.

You can’t go past this custom social media link square. It invites the user to continue the journey with the author off-site and in the social sphere.


Leaving already - social icons


Facebook Alexandra Porter coronis realty

As you can see in Alexandra’s timeline and display picture, she has made it obvious that she sells houses, and that she enjoys her job. Their confident Facebook page informs fans of their success  in selling houses and in some cases, within days.

alexandra porter-coronis_reality social media post

The first cardinal rule I've discovered about Blogging is don't be boring. The Internet is an enormous source of user-generated content, and it has become a very competitive arena for readers' and social followers' lasting interest. To cut through the masses, you need to stand out in people's minds and give them reasons to follow your blog. This cardinal rule applies to your social media posts as well.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but unless you're a celebrity or other public figure, few people are going to care about the details of your personal day-to-day life. The exceptions are usually your family and closest friends. It is good to sometimes throw in a short anecdote from your personal life if it ties directly into your core subject matter, but keep those minimal and relevant.

If you want to reach a larger and dedicated audience, a niche topic that matters to you is best for a blog. Be sure it's a topic you won't get bored with, because you'll always need to write new posts and create other types of content surrounding it. There are some reasons why your small business blog is failing as Jakk Ogden highlights in his blog.

Promoting yourself with Facebook

Once your blog is published with a good number of posts, it's time to set up a Facebook page for it. The specific number of posts you should publish before promoting your blog is usually a matter of opinion, but 15-20 published posts is a good goal. As a professional, a Facebook page allows you to post links to each of your blog posts, along with relevant photos, videos and related news items on other sites.

Facebook posts with photos and a link back to one of your posts tend to get more views than links without a photo. Last year, according to research from eMarketer, content posted with photos accounted for 75% of content and photo posts received the highest engagement on Facebook.

Once your Facebook page is live, find and like other pages on similar topics. Also invite your existing Facebook friends to like your new page. Using Video also increases engagement.

Using Twitter for driving blog traffic

Many bloggers have had great success with growing the biggest following in the shortest amount of time with Twitter. The microblogging site has a huge user base from every niche area imaginable, and new members join on a frequent basis. The basic rules for Twitter success are as follows:

Be sure to tweet links to your new posts as soon as you publish them. Also keep your Twitter followers updated on future topics and content you're working on for your blog. If anyone tweets you good feedback, always take the time to reply and thank them.

For more advanced Tweeters, read SmartInsights hub on Twitter Marketing. 

Building Circles with Google+

Google+ is a relatively new addition to the most popular set of social media platforms, but it's already gained a solid user base. It provides a great platform for connecting with people who have the same interests and who could turn into loyal blog readers. Google+ gives you the option to join public or private discussions about relevant niche topics, and these are excellent ways for you to weigh in on the same topics covered in your recent blog posts. As example you can check out this case study to learn how H&M uses Google+ to engage their audience through an inspirational strategy, sharing a mix of media including photos and videos to promote fashion

Making the Tumblr connection

Many blogging platforms have available add-ins that allow you to automatically cross-publish each of your blog posts to a Tumblr blog, which is a great way to increase your main site's visibility. You have the option to publish the full texts of your posts to your Tumblr blog, or to publish only excerpts with a link back to the full text.

Tumblr is a very visual-heavy site, so adding images and animated GIF files is highly recommended. As with other social sites, following, commenting and reblogging are all the most effective ways to build an audience over time with Tumblr.  

Find out if your profiles fits the growing Tumblr audience.

Managing multiple social sites can be a challenge, but you do have some tools at your disposal to help you. Applications such as Buffer and Hootsuite allow you to write and schedule posts to Facebook, Twitter and Google+ in advance, which can be a life-saver when you're juggling a blog with a busy schedule. Don't completely set it and forget it with the social scheduling. A mix of scheduled and real-time posting works the best, and for either case make sure your social posts are engaging.

Although it takes more time and planning, mix up the content you post to each of your blogs social accounts to keep things interesting. Seeing the same image and link on three different accounts will cause some of your readers to get bored after a while, and they'll be less inclined to read your newest content. At least once or twice a week, create a different post or tweet for each of your social accounts. You don't even need to add your blog link to all of them. Add something new to each of them that your readers wouldn't have learned just from reading your blog.

Social media's core idea is to create online communities around a specific niche, so interaction is also vital. Make some time to reply, share, retweet and comment on some of your followers posts as well. This step is essential for building trust and sending the message that you're not just out to get page views and traffic to your blog.

Branding yourself with a personal blog and social media takes some time, thought and planning. It also requires commitment, patience and dedication to building up a substantial following. Becoming a blogger people want to follow takes a certain level of chutzpah because you need to stick out from the massive online crowd. Doing so involves creating material that grabs others' attention, and not everyone is going to share your exact point of view. Don't let the possibility of less-than-polite feedback discourage you, and don't waste your mental energy worrying what others think. This approach will come through in the content you create, and it will help you gain the admiration of your social followers.

Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Tumblr are the most established and recommended sites to join for promoting your blog. New social media sites are also launched on a frequent basis, and those are usually worth investigating to see if they're worth adding to your blog promotion strategy. Don't expect immediate results overnight when it comes to building a substantial following, and take note of which types of posts and tweets get the most attention from your followers. As trends change in your niche topic area, use these changes to make adjustments to your blog and social content as well.

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New research on smartphone and tablet adoption and engagement Thu, 30 Apr 2015 09:50:30 +0000 Europe ahead of US in mobile engagement

Adobe have released new research comparing mobile engagement in different countries and across different sectors. We thought it could be useful for benchmarking your use of smartphone and tablet on your site and the engagement you're getting.

The research was released at this week's Adobe Summit for EMEA in London. It's from the Adobe Digital Index (ADI) and part of a new report which analyses website metrics such as stickiness, consumption, and conversion rates. It's a big study based on data from 100 billion visits to more than 3,000 Web sites in Europe (Belgium, France, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the UK) - comparison are given to the US too.

According to Tamara Gaffney, principal at the ADI:

"The big difference Gaffney noted between Europe and the US was in traffic coming from smartphones. In Europe, the Nordic countries were the leaders, with smartphone traffic growing by an average of 8.7%. In the UK, traffic increased by 8.4%, and in Belgium and Luxembourg by 6.8%. Apart from France, with 5.6% growth, all European countries studied outperformed the US, where growth was 5.9%.

The UK is the most mobile-ready with companies already recording 52% of their Web traffic coming from smartphones."


The report is also interesting since it covers other KPIs for site engagement benchmarks. Here's some highlights of what these show:

Conversion Rate

Conversion rate showed the impact of increased smartphone use. The data compared conversion rates in every country with 2013, and only France, Germany, and the Nordics saw the gap widen between the best and the rest. But that gap can be hugely significant the conversion rate for the best can be almost double the average.

2 conversion rate mobile adoption emea 2015For reference, the benchmarks compare the best sites to the average using this method:



The impact of increasing smartphone traffic also showed up in site stickiness too - overall there were low figures for stickiness which is the number of Web visits that involve more than one page of a site (so it's 100 minus bounce rate which we see in Google Analytics). The report shows that, on average, a little less than half the Web site visits in Europe involve more than one page. Of course this metric varies a lot by page type and type of visitor so it's only useful to review in relative sense across a site.

2 stickiness mobile adoption emea 2015Visit or Returning visitor Rate

Adobe define visit rate as "the number of times a customer comes back to a site in a given month". Gaffney explains that this metric matters because loyal customers are so much more valuable than first-timers.

In Europe, telecommunications and financial services showed the biggest improvements, with Gaffney highlighting the latter as the industry companies wanting to build a loyal following should study.
4 return rate emea 2015If you'd like to review the full research you can download the report via site. Smart Insights have a fuller compilation of mobile marketing research.



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9 Powerful promotional tactics for your blog [Infographic] Wed, 29 Apr 2015 10:30:00 +0000 It's about content, style and value more than SEO

We like this infographic which has been created with newcomers to blogging in mind. It practices what it preaches by using an interesting visual style with useful recommendations rather than less useful 'facts and figures' about how to promote your blog. It recommends how to develop the right types of content and style within your blog post rather than providing SEO techniques or basic social media promotion.

It can be a learning curve and take time to build up your followers, so why not learn from existing bloggers to speed up your success rate by reading further.

9 ways to promote your blog posts


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Call Centre Technology – Boosting capacity and ROI Wed, 29 Apr 2015 09:00:00 +0000 Strategies to enhance customer service levels across peak response

How capable is your contact centre when it needs to deal with unexpected peaks in traffic or even the normal throughput of customer interactions? 

customer service handlersTo a large extent the answer to that question will depend on the number of concurrent users the system can handle as defined by both the technology (and licensing) available and the number of staff on hand to take enquiries. And if the number of concurrent users is limited to say 50 an hour and number of customers seeking to contact the company amounts to more than that on a regular basis then you're going to have a problem in terms of customers left on hold or abandoning calls.

Clearly the way to solve the problem is to increase the number of concurrent users that the system can deal with but in the end it's a question of cost.  In a contact centre, you can increase capacity to some degree by taking action to reduce average call length but a more obvious course of action is to raise the headcount - a costly option. The key question then is will the business benefits justify the increase in staffing levels?

But there is a better way.  Rather than increasing call capacity organisations should be thinking of migrating voice call traffic to live engagement via messaging/chat.  It provides a means to improve concurrency without necessarily hiring more people.  Here's why.

  • Voice calls tie-up staff

When an agent picks up the phone, his or her job is to achieve a sale or resolve the customer's issue, no matter how long it takes. That could mean just 60 seconds on the phone or it could require an hour's worth of the agent's time. During that period, the agent is tied up with one caller while others are waiting on the line. If all the agents are engaged, you get queues. 

  • Messaging instantly increases capacity

In contrast, an agent working in the chat/messaging medium can handle several streams at once. For instance, let's say the agent picks up a chat and within a few seconds another customer needs help. The same agent can pick up that chat/message stream as well. For the customer there is no need to wait in a queue. Now project that simple doubling up over a 20-strong customer service team and you have a massive increase in capacity and the number of concurrent users that the system can cope with. In reality, well-trained agents can handle more than two customers at a time. 

  • Tools to increase capacity further

Once agents are working with text rather than voice, various tools can be used to increase productivity further. For instance, if the role of the agent in a particular contact centre is to deal with calls asking for product information, then much of this can be imparted through pre-prepared scripts (served by the agent in answer to a specific question) or even by video walkthroughs.  Agents can also use pre-prepared text messages to speed up basic interactions. For instance, 'Hello, how are you. How can I help' could be prepared along with a range of other typical interactions. 

  • Faster resolution

Text based communication is usually more succinct than voice conversation, enabling agents to resolve calls more quickly, again increasing capacity.

Messaging gives you more for less

These efficiencies allow you to serve more customers using either the same number or fewer staff. This builds slack into the contact centre operation, meaning that contact centres are better able to deal with peaks and troughs.

The result is that message-based contact centres can handle a greater number of concurrent users than their voice counterparts. That's good for the customer and in terms of the cost-efficiency of the operation, good for the bottom line.

Source/Copyright: royalty free
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Agile Marketing vs Best Practices Wed, 29 Apr 2015 09:00:00 +0000 Why the marketing hare beats the tortoise

Traditional marketing has been turned on its head by increasingly disruptive technology and the connected customer. It’s not enough to plan campaigns and follow best practices anymore; as a marketer you have to be agile. 

Why is that? Because the connected customer, your customer, people just like you, is ‘always on’. You don’t have a small window in their day to try to reach them anymore, as they’re switching from screen to screen, device to device, which such limited spans for attention, you have to be able to keep up.

To be a customer centric business today means that you as a marketer need to be able to think, and act, in real-time.

As a result, marketing professionals are faced with a new age of engagement - an age in which a series of targeted short-term promotions or messages are beginning to outperform more traditional long-term “integrated campaigns”.

This is an age in which the hare beats the tortoise, in which sprinting a metre is better than jogging a marathon. This is the age of agile marketing.

What is agile marketing?

Taking its roots from the Agile Manifesto for software development, Agile Marketing is a means to 'create, communicate and deliver unique value to an always-changing customer in an always-changing market'. In its simplest form this means moving away from the ‘waterfall method’ of marketing, the traditional lengthy development process that backs up most marketing campaigns to short iterations.

While there is still a place for such long-term campaigns in the modern marketing landscape, the truth is that within our high-speed always on digital environment, many such approaches are simply out of date before they’ve even launched. In contrast, the objective of agile marketing is to constantly prioritise the customer through short iterations of activity which engage them in real-time. This generates incremental, but still significant results.

Why is marketing going agile?

The need for this increasingly targeted but ultimately shorter-term approach has been driven by a series of recent developments within the marketing community. In addition to the growth of the connected customer an explosion in new technologies has also helped to drive the trend. As social networking has grown in popularity and mobile internet technologies have improved, customers now expect to communicate with brands in real-time, and will actively avoid those that fail to deliver on this any time, any where, any channel world.

I have spent some 27 years as a sales and marketing professional, and for the last 10 years I have prided myself with perfecting the 'product marketing discipline,’ yet I’m here to tell you that job, that role as it’s existed no longer applies. Our profession is one of the youngest, and yet as a discipline it’s been constantly reinvented. What made sense for the Mad Men world of the 50’s and 60’s was totally out-of-place in the 80’s and 90’s, which in turn were changed by the dotcom era. But today we face another fundamental change or as we marketers like to say 'a paradigm shift,' of epic proportions. Today’s Marketing pros need to be ready to take more risks, although they’re risks backed up by more science than we creative folk traditionally like.

Sometimes you just have to seize the moment – carpe diem – and forsake perfection in favour of just getting the message out quickly. Customers are bombarded by an unprecedented amount of marketing messages at all times, we all are, and making your marketing efforts more agile is all about reinventing the way you work based on real customer needs at every moment, and pushing compelling, rich and relevant content out that’s also simpler and quicker.

While many marketers are still afraid of this 'always-on' communication, it is the brands that embrace it that will ultimately reap the benefits early on. The king is dead so long live the king, or at least the digital disrupter – the new breed of confident agile marketer. After all, agile marketing is just another way to improve customer connections and increase your response-time when it comes to managing customer needs.

See why this can only be a good thing with our '‘Best Practice Rant'.

The 5 principles of agile marketing

With a bit of help from agile marketing evangelist Scott Brinker, we have summarized the 5 key principles to help get your started on your agile journey:

  • 1. Experience but be focused. It is all too easy to confuse responsive agility with short-term thinking and a lack of campaign planning. Make sure you know what you are trying to achieve with each of iteration.
  • 2. Be adaptable. As a marketer you need to know you can’t just expect everything to be mapped out flawlessly every three months. There will be always be things that come along, so diversify your plans.
  • 3. Prioritize the problem. There’s no shortage of marketing problems to solve. Know your priority and throw time and energy into your biggest problem first.
  • 4. Empower your team.  Sometimes the biggest problem is the management barrier. Give your team the right tools and power to tear up processes, when they need to, and encourage creativity and execution in real-time.
  • 5. Test relevance. Test fast, fail fast and learn fast from your data. Success is a process rather than an end product.

As with all the tools in a marketers’ arsenal, agile marketing is just one (increasingly important) part of a wider marketing mix. It is all too easy to confuse responsive agility with short-term thinking and a lack of campaign planning. Overall, it’s about finding a balance between the long and the short term.

For more advice on Agile marketing from Scott and his rant on why best practices are killing marketing, read the ‘5 principles of agile marketing eBook’ to learn how to become more agile. 

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Retail Ecommerce Design – The Perfect Checkout Funnel Wed, 29 Apr 2015 07:49:00 +0000 Recommended design patterns and best practices for your Checkout Funnel

Checkout design is the last in our series of posts covering design best practices for different parts of the Ecommerce customer journey. Previous posts include discussion and examples and potential design elements to test for:

  1. Home page
  2. Product listing or category page
  3. Product page
  4. Site search pages
  5. Shopping Basket design

Design issues for the checkout pages?

Checkout is the most critical part of the conversion path in some ways since it throws many challenges, due to the multiple stages, with each step influenced by the previous one. It is further complicated since it's not necessarily linear; so there is no standard path from start to finish and so this depends on the user's profile, where some steps can be skipped.

In the Smart Insights Ecommerce design guide, I focus on 3 stages:

  • 1. Sign-In /Register
  • 2. Personal Details and Addresses.
  • and 3. Payment.

One size doesn't fit all for the checkout flow, and the art of the template design is in masking the complexity of the logic and process flows behind an intuitive and user-friendly page design - not an easy challenge. In our experience, it takes rigorous testing to find the optimal flow for your website.

Key Ecommerce Checkout Funnel Wireframe requirements

The wireframe below outlines the core elements for the checkout funnel, though UX/UI design patterns can vary across websites. Please note that in the checkout we recommend a custom header & footer that is different to the standard site header and footer we discussed in step 1 of this guide. This is because it’s widely accepted that unnecessary navigational elements like mega menus and footer links can distract users from the core goal of completing an order.

1. Sign-In/Register Template

signin checkout flow

2. Personal details and addresses

Personal details and addresses at checkout

3. Payment and confirmation

payment and confirmation wireframe

Case study for Net A Porter

Instead of separating new and existing user checkout (the classic Amazon approach), the user is asked to enter an email address, then select whether or not they have a password. We like this UI design because it reduces the complexity of the page and doesn’t force users to make a tacit decision about which box they fall into. Some of the big multichannel retailers like House of Fraser adopt this approach. You’ll notice how the standard header and footer are used throughout the checkout, which goes against good practice advice.

Net a Porter sign up

Net A Porter sign up process

Net A Porter basket steps

Net A Porter payment checkout

Key requirements checklist for a Checkout Funnel

Finally, here's a checklist for a process to review and test your checkout;

  • Q1. Have we defined and understood the goals for the checkout?
  • Q2. Have we defined user cases for each step?
  • Q3. Have me mapped the user journey for new and returning users?
  • Q4. Is it easy for both new and returning visitors to enter and complete the checkout?
  • Q5. Are we providing a guest checkout for new users (if applicable)?
  • Q6. Have we defined which data fields are required vs those which are optional
  • Q7. Have we removed all non-essential data fields?
  • Q8. Have we ensured checkout pages aren't indexed for search?
  • Q9. Have we identified web analytics requirements?
  • Q10. Have we defined the navigational elements?
  • Q11. Have we defined how to handle error messages?
  • Q12. Have we integrated a postcode validation tool?
  • Q13. Is it easy for users to edit/add addresses?
  • Q14. Have we defined all delivery methods and the cost to the visitor for each method?
  • Q15. Have we tested all payment types to ensure there are no breakpoints at payment stage?
  • Q16. Have we tested the checkout in all key browsers ie. Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Chrome etc.)
  • Q17. Do we make it easy for users to add useful information like gift messages and delivery instructions?
  • Q18. Do we promote our loyalty scheme clearly and is it unobtrusive i.e. doesn't disrupt the core checkout flow?

Additional requirements to consider in your Checkout Funnel

In the full guide for Expert members I go into much more detail on individual page elements and look at more examples of how these apply in practice from UK and US-based retail sites.

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