Operational tips for independent retailers learnt from the big boys

One of the things I love the most about digital is the lightning speed at which it changes, the flexibility and adaptability required to keep ahead of the curve at the cutting edge is phenomenal. As someone who is motivated by new challenges and finding solutions, this speed of change keeps me interested and excited all the time. Retail digital consultancy luckily lends itself to fast paced adaptation. Being operationally nimble is no small feat and certainly not something to be under estimated.

Having spent the last six years working with retailers there are common hurdles and barriers to success I see time and again. In this post I am going to explore five of the lessons independent and growing retailers can learn from the big ones, and get right.

Unity

All too often I see big in house teams divided, marketing and ecommerce working independently, to goals that don’t align with each other. Marketing speak digital but don’t fully understand it. Ecommerce are revenue orientated and are laser focused on the 2-3% of site visitors who are converting, often neglecting the other 98% of visitors who need to be engaged through the brand experience. Brand vs Ecommerce, ultimately with the customer suffering as the result.

Unify your team, set collaborative goals and clear lines of ownership.

Your marketing team should own acquisition, retention, engagement and advocacy. Bringing together harmony between departments is the only way to do this successfully. Up skill your brand team to exploit opportunity and support the ecommerce function but with the customer at the heart.

KPIs must be centralised and teams working collectively to the same goal. Minimise waste, maximise efficiency and create a unified customer experience.

Vanity Vs. Sanity

Get to know your customer, marketing should be aspirational but it also needs to be inclusive and realistic. All too often brands have an idea of who their customers are or who they would like them to be, but the reality of those actually buying is very different.

Use your data effectively, investing in your data partner and getting your customer data in good shape is essential. Build a centralised, single view across all channels, no silos or duplication of databases!

Segment your data and get to know your customer beyond their purchase, who are they, what do they care about, how do they want to be communicated with.

Each part of your business can then use this data to create a perfect experience across all touch points for all segments.

Look beyond last click

All activity needs to be driving a return that of course is a no brainer. However all channels are not equal when it comes to ROI. All too often activity gets canned (mostly by the FD!) if it is in a silo and cannot hold its own in the ROI stakes.

Don’t underestimate the halo effect of activity, ensure your reporting looks deeper at metrics such as assisted sales, brand and non-brand impressions, new visitors vs returning, engagement etc.

Set realistic goals with conversion in mind. Appearing number 1 for high volume generic terms may boost your ego (and cost a pretty penny), but will those customers actually convert?

Make structured change and measure the impact. Changing lots of things at once can leave you unsure of what impact each change has had. Analyse, develop, test and repeat.

Jack of all, master of none

The temptation to try and do everything, be everywhere and use all channels and tactics is all to present for brands. Keeping up with the Joneses isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be for the bottom line.

Use your customer insight and data to identify where your customers are actually spending their time and getting their inspiration and turn that into action. Invest your budget wisely.

Embarking on activity without a clear brief or objective is the road to failure. Make sure you know what you want to achieve from the activity and set clear goals so you can kick the tires and test the effectiveness of it. Analyze, develop, test and repeat.

Do less but do it brilliantly.

Direct to consumer vs wholesale

All too often do we see brands battling with their stockists for market share. Trade team driving forward their partners whilst the ecommerce team are hemorrhaging budget trying to keep up with the big players and their deep pockets.

Get your Trade and Ecommerce teams working together.

Agree terms and guidelines around products, pricing, promotions and brand bidding through paid media in your trade agreements.

Retain exclusives so you are the go to for the full range or hero products.

Get full visibility on stockist promotional activity and align your promotional strategy. Enabling you to manage your budget effectively in times when you may not be price competitive.

Submit your authorised stockist list to Google via their trademark form. This allows only authorised stockists the ability to use your brand name in their ad copy. Simple and effective but also needs policing.

All of the recommendations above are well within the reach of smaller retailers. They don’t require huge budgets, just time and focus. What are your barriers to success? Speak to us now about how we can help you start making a change in your business.

Twitter displayed in desktop searches and Facebook referral traffic increases

 

This week there have been a few developments in social media that we thought were particularly interesting. Read on to find out about Twitter’s new partnership with Google and how recently published data shows that Facebook has now overtaken Google for referral traffic.

 

Twitter results displayed in Google desktop searches

Following an initial test on mobile and in the U.S, Twitter has officially begun to roll tweets into Google desktop search results for all English language searches.

The agreement between Twitter and Google was designed to put “real-time info” into Google searches, as well as providing Twitter with a larger audience for their content to promote the service in a relevant and engaging way. This partnership is great news for Twitter who has recently declared stagnating user growth and subsequent investor fears.

Now when you search on Google, a feed of the latest tweets relating to the search term will appear in a carousel in the main column of organic search results. Typing in a hashtag into Google also generates a list of trending tweets on that topic.

The tweets will only show when Google deems them to be relevant to the search results and users do not need to have Twitter account to click on the tweets. So far, we’ve started to see tweets appear in search results for both us and also some of our clients.

tom dixon

 

This change increases the chance of your content being discovered and it’s also another area your brand can dominate in the search results. For example, a fashion retailer might have a nice informative blog post about the latest seasonal trends and how to get the look with their collection. but on the flip slide, negative tweets about your brands might appear, so it highlights the importance of providing exceptional customer service at every touch point.

Facebook pulls ahead of Google in referral traffic

In more search and social news, recent data from traffic analytics firm Parese.ly has shown that Facebook has overtaken Google in driving traffic to news sites.

In its quarterly Authority Report, Parse.ly looked at referral traffic to the top 100 news sites (as ranked by comScore and Alexa) from May – July. They found that in this period, 43% of the referral traffic came from social and 38% from search.

Google has traditionally made up a majority of referral traffic. However, the search giant peaked in October 2013, when we saw Facebook traffic start to steadily increase. Google has always remained dominant until the last quarter, when Facebook’s referral traffic share made up 38.3% compared to Google’s 35.8%.

Social media is very agile and instantaneous – a breaking news story is likely to surface on social media first so people are checking these channels first for news, rather than traditional websites as it takes time for content to be uploaded.

 

The six principles of influence in web design

I recently attended The Neilson UX Week’s Persuasive Web Design Course and was introduced to The Six Principles of Influence from the book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Dr. Robert B. Cialdini. Katie Sherwin applied the principles to website design and it was really interesting to see how they could be used to improve the usability of your website to make your customers happy and spend more.

Here’s a brief overview:

The Rule of Reciprocation

The Rule of Reciprocation, in its simplest form, is the principle of feeling an obligation to repay someone when they have provided us with something.

A real life example of this in action is the Hare Krishna. They adopted a technique of giving flowers as gifts before asking for a donation. Having received a gift, it subsequently made it much harder for people to refuse a request for a small donation.

How does this rule apply today on the web? Examples include offering free whitepapers and instructional videos. However, companies often get this wrong by requesting something from the user before giving them anything at all.

Don’t ask for too much too early. For example, presenting a user with a ‘sign-up to our email newsletter’ pop up before they have even viewed a page of your website is only going to result in a negative feeling towards your brand.
Avoid asking for personal data before allowing access to content or requiring subscriptions or credit card information for ‘free’ trials.

Start by giving your customers something and ask for as little from them as possible. If you request information later on, your customers are more likely to reciprocate by doing business with the company.

Read more on the Reciprocity Principle in user experience.

The Rule of Consistency

People are driven to be consistent in all areas of life – in what they say and do and their attitudes, opinions, beliefs and values. Once a person makes a decision, takes a stand, or performs an action, they tend to strive to make all future behaviour align to this.

Consistency makes thinking easy, because there’s little thinking needed. If you can get someone to make a commitment, you can trigger the Rule of Consistency and the commitment can be small and seemingly inconsequential.

This can often be seen when consumers stick with brands that they have bought before and trust, even if they are more expensive.

The Rule of Social Proof

The rule of social proof is a fairly straightforward and one we are exposed to a lot on the internet.

Essentially, it’s the act of following others without thinking and can be described as a shortcut for making decisions. If we see others doing something then we often assume that it is the right thing to do. The more people we see doing something, the more likely we perceive it to be correct.

This principle is magnified if the person or people we are following seem similar to us or look like they have similar values, in which case we trust them more.

We see retailers online using this principle in the form of product reviews and trust icons. If you want someone to do something, show others doing it.

reviews

Read more on Social Proof in web design.

The Rule of Liking

The Rule of Liking can best be explained using the example of Tupperware parties. Tupperware struggled to sell in store, but when sold in person by people who knew each other, the products then became a success.

People prefer to say ‘yes’ to people they know and like, with the actual product often taking a backseat in the process.
Organisations and brands, both established and start-ups alike, can benefit from this principle and studies have shown the following to be key factors:

  • Similarity – We like people who we perceive are like us
  • Familiarity – Positive interaction with an organisation or person encourages liking
  • Cooperation – We like people who want to help us
  • Association – We like people who share our values
  • Praise – We like people who compliment us, even if we know it isn’t completely without alternative motive

Simple ways to improve the likability of your website include using photos of real people which can help customers remember that they are talking with a human being which may encourage them to be more polite and tolerant.

Including in depth company history and an ‘about us’ web page can also help a customers feel an emotional connection to a brand and not just see it as another website.

Where other rules such as social proof and scarcity can have an instant impact on a user’s action, liking is much longer term and can encourage customer retention.

More on the Liking Principle in website user experience.

The Rule of Authority

There have been many studies that show how people react to symbols of authority such as titles, clothing and reputation of source and users look for similar trust indicators when reviewing a website.

These symbols of authority that are often enough to gain compliance in real life situations aren’t quite so easy to apply to your website.

To establish your organisation or brand as an authority you must first establish genuine credibility through expertise and trustworthiness. Only then can you gain the benefits from clearly displaying ‘as seen in’, ‘awards’ and ‘accreditations’ on your site.

The Rule of Scarcity

People assign more value to opportunities that are less available. Things that are difficult to attain are perceived as more valuable. An example of this in the real world in retail can be seen with the emergence of Black Friday. A limited number of products at discounted prices can send customers into a frenzy.

People fear loss and studies have shown how losses are twice as painful, as gains are enjoyable.

The Rule of Scarcity can be seen in action on product pages highlighting limited stock, another person viewing that product, a sale ending soon, or through invite only social media and flash sale websites.

2 in stock

Read more on the Principle of Scarcity in UX

In conclusion

When looking at your website and business, review with these rules in mind and where possible look to take advantage of them.

The key to effectively employing any of these rules is user research. If you don’t know your users well enough, it is much more difficult to anticipate what will and won’t work.

Key takeaways from SheerB2B – a conversation with the customer

Last week saw SheerLuxe host their annual SheerB2B conference at The Worx in Parsons Green.

This is a great event which focuses on all areas of digital marketing for the premium & luxury sector. Leapfrogg have been a headline sponsor for five years and it’s one of our favourite events of the year to meet and network with people working across our niche sector.

This year was no exception and we were particularly pleased that the theme of this year’s conference was “customer centricity” in marketing as it’s a subject we’re passionate about. The two day event featured a fantastic line of speakers from retailers and brands as well as expert suppliers.

In this post, I have pulled out the key takeaways and highlights that I found most interesting from the conference.

Who is the luxury buyer in 2015?

First up on day one was Lara Bonney from Abacus who shared their recent findings on the luxury customer in 2015. Here are some of the key insights she shared:

73% of wealthy consumers identified “luxury” as “superior quality,” and they expect the experience of buying a luxury product to be as good as owning it. They seek exclusivity and stylish stores as well as a close relationship with sales assistants. They also believe it is worth paying more for quality items.

Less than a quarter of luxury consumers buy online BUT 50% research the items they want to buy online. 7 out of 10 consumers used social media in 2014 and 50% of them used Facebook.

Lara also talked about the importance of the catalogue as part of the luxury shopping experience using Boden as an example who saw a 30% increase in response from personalising their catalogues.

She also explained that many premium brands assume their customers are women where in fact in many cases over 50% are men! This was a recurring theme across the conference – never assume you know what your customers want and gain insight by asking them questions to really understand them.

We couldn’t agree more!

Grow your business with customer-centric strategies

Maria Hatzistefanis, the founder of Rodial Skincare, spoke about the need to connect properly with your customer. Maria explained how Rodial designed their packaging to appeal to their customers and picked highly effective brand ambassadors. She explained how celebrity Kylie Jenner had created a huge amount of brand awareness for Rodial as a brand ambassador after using the product and tweeting about it.

At Leapfrogg we absolutely agree that selecting the right brand ambassadors to connect with your customer is crucial, but we also believe that you should be joining the dots between all content producing and marketing teams in your business to ensure you’re making the most of your relationships to produce content across all channels.

Create effective blogger outreach strategies

Anna Hart is a blogger who runs a network called Pitch & Post to help connect brands with relevant bloggers and in her talk she shared some great insights into what bloggers really want from brands:

  • Exposure: bloggers utilise relationships with brands to grow their own following and keep them current in their readers’ minds
  • Revenue: bloggers can’t pay bills with free shoes! Be prepared to pay them what they are worth
  • Product: bloggers blog because they are passionate about what they write about. Giving them access to products is therefore a real incentive as long as it is done legally!
  • Strong images: provide bloggers with great visual content they can use. It costs them money to create themselves.
  • Fun opportunities: be interesting and fun to work with!

Anna’s tips on how to treat bloggers included:

  • Treat them as you would a media partner with long term content plans as well as immediate needs
  • Consider that bloggers need paying for at least 50% of their content
  • Always ask to see analytics of their blog to help you value their worth to you!

Get the basics right

Joanna from ReynoldsBushyLee spoke about many of the mistakes that retailers make in customer experience – a great reminder of how brands really do need to get the basics right online! She also had the best quote of the day from Ghandi:
“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him.

He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it.

We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

Tailor your marketing to millennials

Marketing Consultant, Jennifer Roebuck, spoke brilliantly about marketing to millennials and broke many myths of how people perceive the younger generations.

She split the large group of millennials into two groups; The Entrepreneur and The Multitasker. The Entrepreneur is aged 18 – 25 and is engaged with global issues and a desire to be creative. The Entrepreneur is keen to lead a balanced career and identifies with beauty that is effortless.

The Multitasker is aged 25 – 35 years old lives life with purpose and wants to make the world a better place. They want rewarding experiences in life but will manage their finances carefully.

Therefore marketing to this more thoughtful generation is very different to the brash and possession focused Gen X. Brands must have purpose other than making money, be savvy yet approachable and be hugely personal to the people who buy from them. Luxury brands wanting to sell to this younger set take note!

Customer experience is the most exciting opportunity for retailers

Peter Abraham from Econsultancy talked us through their recent research on the ‘Pillars of Successful Ecommerce’. Here are the most interesting facts:
22% of businesses view “Customer Experience” as the most exciting opportunity for their business over the next five years.

The main business benefits of customer experience optimisation are:

• Higher engagement and conversion rates
• Better brand perception & loyalty
• Renewal, cross-sell and upsell
Customers who are personalising web experiences are seeing an average 19% uplift in sales.
We have been preaching the importance of customer experience for a number of years so were very pleased to see large scale research backing up our opinion.

Ensure digital and direct marketing work in unison

Rosemary Stockdale from Sterling Marketing gave a very interesting talk on the importance of the printed catalogue within the marketing mix for luxury and premium retailers and brands.

She shared insight from Royal Mail that showed that 51% of consumers prefer a combination of mail and email from the brands they shop with and 57% of consumers feel more valued by a brand that sends them a catalogue.
She spoke about Net-a-Porter’s brilliant ‘Porter’ magazine highlighting that 83% of its 32k subscribers said the magazine was the number one influence in helping them decide what to buy online.
She also talked us through how online fashion retailer, Atterley Road launched a publication on a much smaller budget which has helped launch their own brand range and has increased customer spend and retention.
As an agency we push continually to ensure digital marketing ties in very closely with direct as we know that a combined approach can lead to far higher AOV and repeat purchase.

Personalisation is key

Ben Blackwell from Oka spoke about how Oka used a simple solution from Nostra to personalise the online experience for their customers. This tool helped OKA group relevant products together and offer additional products leading to an increase in AOV on the site of 33% and an increase in conversion rate of 24%.
Neither of those are to be sniffed at and all smaller retailers can use tools like these at an affordable entry cost to start seeing immediate results!

Use customer insight to make decisions

Becky Hardman from Shop Direct talked the audience through how Shop Direct used its huge wealth of customer data and insight to launch their new premium brand Very Exclusive.

Access to customer  data allowed Very Exclusive to create a specific set of personas to target for their launch. Here at Leapfrogg, we are huge advocates of using customer personas to engage with your customer.
She also spoke about the need to create very different visuals for the premium and high fashion customer and how they created a different style of photographs for their products that focussed on style rather than model. This also fed through to the premium packaging they have introduced to offer a more premium experience.

You don’t need huge budgets like to Shop Direct to do this. There are many ways to find out more about your customers at low cost just by asking them!

 

Phew! Well the above is only a small selection of the great insight that was shared at the event. It was great to see so many brands and suppliers sharing the view that understanding your customer and putting them at the heart of your business and marketing really is the way to succeed today, particularly in the premium and luxury market.

This is a view we have had at Leapfrogg for a long time now and why the ethos for everything we do is to make our clients’ customers happy, by delivering premium digital experiences that meet our clients’ customers’ needs and desires.

 

Until next year!

What we learnt in 2014 and what we look forward to in 2015

With 2015 well and truly upon us, I asked the Leapfrogg team to reflect upon what we have learnt over the last 12 months in the world digital marketing and premium retail and how we expect this year’s developments to evolve.

Here’s what they came up with:

 

 

Rosie FreshwaterRosie Freshwater – Managing Director

2015 will be the year of “Customer Experience”

Last year, customer experience still felt very much like a theory that everyone preached and understood that they needed to start doing. However, retailers were challenged to do anything about it as they felt there was so much to be done just to get to the point of best practice. Only then did they feel they were ready to start tweaking the experience they give to certain customers.

I believe that 2015 will be the year that customer experience really does get put at the heart of digital marketing teams and retailers work out how to do that and build a focus on customer insight and data into every job role within their marketing teams and wider across the business. We will start to see roles such as ‘head of customer experience’ appear and more and job descriptions will include the need to understand customer data.

 

Ben PotterBen Potter – Commercial Director

Customer insight is key

If pretty much any year from 2008 onwards was labelled ‘the year of mobile’, 2014 was very much about ‘customer experience’ with marketers at the turn of the year proclaiming it to be the most exciting opportunity.

However, customer experience is nothing new, there is just far greater attention being paid to it as a discipline in its own right because, in a consumer-led, multi-device world, a seamless and consistent experience is so difficult to deliver.

The ability to decide where to invest for maximum return, minimal waste and happy customers will separate the good from the great this year. This is where customer insight is key. It shouldn’t only be shaping the big decisions but the ‘smaller’ ones too. Even at the most granular of levels, every decision should begin and end with the customer.

I hope to see marketers take a step back and see the bigger picture in 2015. If 2014 was the year customer experience became as much a part of the vocabulary as SEO or social media, 2015 is the year when retailers need to really live and breathe it. It’s the year when every decision is made on the basis of what customers actually want rather than what the retailer thinks they want.

 

Suzanne TaylorSuzanne Taylor – Website optimisation manager

Focus on your wider strategy

In 2014 it felt like brands and retailers took further steps to root digital execution in their in-house teams. It’s hugely important that internal departments are all embracing and ingraining digital in their day-to-day marketing efforts as this will provide a long-term foundation for digital success.

This year, online brands and retailers really do need to focus on building their brands by engaging with their customers and providing unique experiences. Although different channels all have their part to play, it’s important that brands focus on the wider strategy to ensure everyone is aligned and working towards overall business objectives. Better segmentation and personalisation are likely to get more advanced in 2015.

 

Alice ReevesAlice Reeves – Social Media and Content Manager

Video will dominate further

This year, video is set to become even more important and brands not creating their own video content are going to lose out to competitors that are.

Video doesn’t just give you the chance to create compelling, easy-to-consume content about your products and services, it also performs exceptionally well on social media. According to figures released in September 2014, around a billion videos are viewed on Facebook every day. Consumers’ thirst for quality video content is only set to increase in 2015 and the social networks know it, that’s why they’re going to be investing in and pushing their own video hosting capabilities. Get on the bandwagon early.”

Social media strategies need to be engagement-focused AND include paid media

The biggest disruptions to the social media sphere in 2014 were the various updates to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm which suppressed organic reach for brand Pages. As a result, our clients across the board saw their organic reach (along with resulting website traffic and conversions) taking a dip. With the roll out of further updates beginning this month which will suppress “promotional content” from Pages, brands are going to need to divide their Facebook strategy into two distinct areas in order to see success on the platform:

• Paid promotional
• Organic engagement

It’s not just Facebook that’s making changes like this in the name of improving the user experience. Pinterest recently introduced its ‘Smart Feed’ which means that pins are no longer shown in chronological order – they’re assessed on the basis of quality and relevance to the user. There’s also been speculation around whether Twitter is going to abandon its chronological timeline and serve users tweets based on relevance instead. If you want to see success on any social media platform in 2015, your strategy is going to need to be wholly engagement-focused AND include an element of paid media.

Content strategies need to be altruistic, not self-indulgent.

My final prediction for 2015 is that brands that don’t focus on delivering what their customers want via their social media and content are going to fall behind. In-depth customer insight (we’re not talking ACORN profiles here) should be the starting point for any content strategy and maintaining genuine engagement with consumers is going to be how brands see success. Content marketing is going to be entirely about answering problems and adding value.

 

Ben AdamBen Adam – Senior website optimisation consultant

Backlink relevancy will still be a big win in terms of search quality

In 2014, Google found a way to ‘encourage’ webmasters to help them start clearing the web through Penguin and its regular updates – something they have been attempting to battle unsuccessfully for a number of years. Over the last year, in fear of action from Google, website owners have been trawling through historic ‘spammy’ links, requesting removal of them and supplying lists of websites in the form of disavow files, shopping these offending sites directly to Google.

Last year saw many predictions and outcries of links being dead. However they still remain a core factor in the way Google ranks search results and they have got much better at identifying manipulated links thanks to the webs clean up.

Google are yet to find a better approach. They even tested removing links internally but the resulting quality was much worse. Matt Cutts stated “It turns out backlinks, even though there’s some noise and certainly a lot of spam, for the most part are still a really, really big win in terms of quality for search results”. I would expect it to stay that way for some time.

 

Ben RobsonBen Robson – Senior social media and content consultant

Create content that has a purpose, rather than content for content’s sake.

2014 showed us that Google continues to place more and more emphasis on high quality content, rewarding businesses and brands who cater for online searches with content that is relevant and useful.

In 2015, I’m looking forward to seeing the trend develop further – helping our own clients position themselves as trusted sources of highly relevant, highly shareable content that attracts engagement from the right visitor demographic. I am also hoping 2015 is the year more brands recognise that adding to the growing amount of ‘content noise’ on social media (adopting a quantity vs. quality approach) is never the way forward. May 2015 be the year of content that has a purpose, rather than content for content’s sake.

 

AnnAnna Taylora Taylor – Sales and Marketing Executive

Customer-centric fulfilment

In 2015 the importance of free, speedy and flexible delivery and return options will continue to grow as ecommerce customers will start to expect this to be the norm. Gone will be the days of waiting weeks for deliveries and even months for your refunds. To compete, online retailers will need to provide an optimised online shopping experience and offer great deals on delivery and a fast turnaround time on all orders.

I think 2015 will also see personal and effective customer service becoming crucial in such a competitive retail landscape. We’ve seen many examples of retailers such as ASOS who may be pushing the boundaries in terms of innovation and expansion but they’ve come under recent criticism for their automated customer service processes. The fact that that 80% of UK consumers are less likely to buy again after one bad experience will mean that the retailers who can’t provide this will certainly fall behind

I think we will be seeing plenty to advances to online retail in 2015 but hopefully every single one will boil down to improving the customer experience.

So, what do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts on our predictions so please feel free to leave a comment below.

It’s not too late to maximise online sales this Christmas

Christmas is a key time for many retailers and brands. Therefore, it is important to ensure your website is up to scratch in order to maximise sales.

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) underpins the success of a website and even a few small changes now could have a positive impact on conversion rates and sales over the festive period.

So where to start? How about with the following:

Carry out some quick A/B tests

Many tools such as Optimizely allow you to test smaller changes against the current design to determine which perform better than others. You can then serve the better performing page variation to a higher percentage of users in the run up to Christmas. This means that even if you do not get statistically significant results quickly, you can still divert more traffic to your higher converting page variation.

Conduct a user test

This will help you quickly identify any changes you can make immediately. If you have specific problem areas you want to test, What Users Do is a cost effective online tool that can top line key issues users’ face.

Conduct a short survey

Tools such as Google Surveys or Survey Monkey allow you to gain some quick, free insight into what users might find frustrating on your site. By focusing on getting something up and running now, you can run it for a month and implement any quick-win changes in time for December.

Identify problem pages in Analytics

Look for pages that drive a good amount of traffic but have low conversion and/or high bounce rates. In addition, review page speeds and work through priority recommendations from Google Page Insights. You will typically find the same problems across a number of pages, so some site-wide changes to improve load time could have an immediate, positive impact on user experience. It will also improve optimisation of the site.

Go through your checkout process

Identify any issues or tweaks you could make to simplify or streamline the process. Look out for unnecessary form fields, enable guest checkout (if you haven’t already,) auto populate address fields where possible etc. Try and be objective, as if you were a customer yourself.

ASOS checkout

Check your online enquiry forms and customer service channels

Ensure they function as best they can. Forms should be quick and easy to fill in and should let customers know that their enquiry has been received. Any queries should be answered promptly in order to try and maintain the attention of the customer and ideally their loyalty to buy with you.

Check your website’s search function

Many people know what they want and will search specifically for gifts at Christmas. They also usually want to view and compare products and prices quickly. Therefore, ensuring your site search functions well and provides relevant, useful results should help support conversions. If you are using Google custom search, you should explore marking up for a Google sitelinks search box which would enable a search box directly in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs.)

 

HoF

Review which products were popular last Christmas

Use this insight to ensure they have good visibility on your site this season. Use popular product imagery to promote email sign ups too (e.g. email / newsletter/ catalogue sign up boxes.)

Offer a price match

If you can, offer a price match offer in case customers have seen lower prices elsewhere. Price is even more important to customers at Christmas, therefore you have to ensure you remain competitive. Ensure price match messaging is in a prominent position across product pages and provide details for customers to contact you to honour the price match.

John Lewis price match

Free delivery

Where possible, offer free delivery as standard. Alternatively, consider awarding free delivery if people sign up to your newsletter. By doing so, you will benefit in the long run by growing your email list.

john lewis

Abandon basket emails

Make sure your abandon basket emails are working effectively in the run up to Christmas. These emails are really effective to bring people back to purchase.

Basket abandonment email

As you can see, it’s not too late to make some fruitful changes to your site that could boost your sales this Christmas. Look at your website with fresh eyes and prioritise any ‘quicker win’ changes so you don’t lose sales to your competitors. But don’t hang around too long – your customers certainly won’t!

 

A round-up of Brighton SEO

At the end of last month I attended the best Brighton SEO yet. From the opening keynote to the afternoon’s content-focused talks in the Corn Exchange, the day was packed with actionable takeaways. However, the five talks that really stood out for me were:

  • How I Earned Loads of Links by Ignoring SEO – Malcolm Coles
  • The Habits That Land You Links – Stacey Cavanagh
  • How journalistic principles will shape the digital marketing of tomorrow – Julia Ogden
  • Using Content for Direct Response – Matt Evans
  • The Content Marketing Blueprint for Boring Industries – Mike Essex

Below, you’ll find my summaries (largely taken from my frantically scrawled notes) of the key points from each talk plus links to slide decks where available.

How I Earned Loads of Links by Ignoring SEO – Malcolm Coles

The conference kicked off with a keynote from Malcolm Coles, General Manager at The Daily Mirror and founder of UsVsTh3m. Malcolm spoke about how UsVsTh3m’s goal has always been to gain the biggest share of their traffic through social rather than search. They’ve achieved this through creating topical, highly shareable content in the form of games and quizzes, such as:

  • The ‘Where’s Damascus?’ Game – thousands of people played the game online and failed miserably, including people from the Houses of Parliament, which resulted in news coverage.
  • How Much Are You Hated By The Daily Mail? – though impossible to get to the end of unless you’re Michael Gove, this short piece of interactive content attracted over a million players, multiple pieces of online coverage with hugely authoritative links and caused UsVsTh3m to rank 3rd for the search term ‘Daily Mail’ for months.

Malcolm also spoke about how The Daily Mirror now sees more mobile traffic than desktop. Therefore, you must ensure that any content you outreach to publications (e.g. infographics) needs to look good on mobile. Your outreach email will probably be read in mobile too. What’s more, infographics sent as huge JPEGs won’t look good on mobile – these should be created in HTML and should be responsive. When UsVsTh3m launched their ‘Northometer’ quiz, 85% of plays came from mobile. In fact, the entire UsVsTh3m site is designed for mobile – Malcolm even went as far as to say that they “don’t really care” how it looks on desktop.

The most important takeaway of Malcolm’s talk was about content headlines. The best-performing headlines are interesting (you want to read them) and mysterious (they don’t give too much away) – these are the headlines that get you clicks AND shares.

Essentially, online content can be divided down into four categories: 

  • Gets clicked AND shared (what goes viral)
  • Gets clicked NOT shared (tends to be content that includes swearing – after all, “your Mum is on Facebook”)
  • Gets shared NOT clicked (rubbish headlines, but good content)
  • Doesn’t get shared OR clicked (most online content) 

You want your content to fall into the top category and sites like Buzzfeed work extremely hard to get this right – it’s standard for them to A/B test up to 25 different headlines for each piece of content.

Three more key points from Malcolm’s talk were:

  • If you’re creating content that’s getting shared, the most important thing is that it’s visual – this means people writing about it are forced to link to it because it’s not something that they can describe with the same level of impact
  • The reason quizzes work so well when it comes to generating content that gets shared is because people want to share content that’s self-affirming – i.e. it reinforces the way that people perceive themselves and/or want to be perceived by others
  • Use Facebook Ads to deliver niche content to the right people – when people in a niche start talking about something, it’s likely to get picked up by relevant publications

The Habits That Land You Links – Stacey Cavanagh

Next up was Stacey Cavanagh, Head of Search at Tecmark, talking about getting into the habits that land you links. Stacey spoke about the importance of allowing time to be creative, championing the 6-3-5 method which enables six people to generate 108 ideas in 30 minutes. Next, you should use NUF testing (New, Useful, Feasible) to work out which ideas are worth following up – score each idea out of ten for each of these things and prioritise the highest scoring ideas.

Additional takeaways from Stacey’s talk were:

  • Use a tool such as fivesecondtest.com to A/B test the effectiveness of your tweets
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of having a Flickr page with high quality, original images – ensure all images have a Creative Commons attribution license and include direction as to how to attribute
  • Have regular image reclamation sessions – imageraider.com helps to find sites using your images, then you can request attribution and a link
  • Create stories from surveys – this is a great tactic for getting news links, even if you just write a story about it (you don’t need a fancy infographic to get quality links)
  • Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of offline content – e.g. doing something “real” that results in coverage; links are a by-product of coverage
  • Old-fashioned communications are disruptive – when it comes to outreaching to your contacts, doing something like sending a hand-written letter will get you more attention than an email

How journalistic principles will shape the digital marketing of tomorrow Julia Ogden 

Julia was a journalist before she went on to work at Zazzle. Her talk was about how she’s used the skills she learnt while working in local media to inform her digital marketing tactics. Key points were:

  • Most people don’t read more than 250 words of a piece of content so make sure all the important information is at the top – the introduction to any piece of content needs to hook the reader and make them want to read on
  • The internet is crying out for high quality, well-written content – in essence, this is all that “SEO content” is
  • Content marketers should take advantage of the citizen journalism approach and crowd-source content from brand advocates and social influencers
  • Google rewards a website/business which has a range of followed links, no follow links and even just online mentions – Google recently released a patent to reward content that just mentions a brand or associated keywords, but has no links
  • When you’re creating content, always think about what’s new or different – why should people care about what you have to say?

 Using Content for Direct Response Matt Evans

It was Matt’s first time speaking at Brighton SEO and I thought his talk was one of the most useful from the day. Matt spoke at length about selling through content and provided some really great takeaways.

In essence, we’ve stopped stuffing Google with keywords and started stuffing it with content – but what so many online marketers overlook is that the sales funnel is content.

Matt outlined that there are four stages of the sales funnel that your consumers go through:

  • Unaware – content at this stage should catch peoples’ attention
  • Know the situation – content at this stage should inform people of the situation
  • Product awareness – content at this stage should inform people about the product
  • Purchase intent – content at this stage should push people to sale

Too often, content created “for SEO” overlooks this and completely misses the sales process:

  • Your content should inform your audience – because an informed audience is more likely to purchase
  • Get your content in the right place at the right time – tailor your content to what your audience want / need to see at each stage of the buying journey 
  • Re-market to your content, not just your products – use your content to move your potential customers down the funnel until they’re ready to purchase
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of post-purchase campaigns – it costs 5 x more to acquire a new customer than to sell again to an existing customer
  • Stop thinking about links first – create content with a real purpose

The Content Marketing Blueprint for Boring Industries – Mike Essex

Mike Essex from Koozai spoke about how we’re so obsessed with “great content” that we often totally overlook that fact that “boring content” is actually the best opportunity in content marketing. Great content might achieve awareness, but boring content is what sells.

Opportunities to create boring content include:

  • Your ‘About’ section
  • Technical specifications
  • Press releases (these are still important and great for targeting niche audiences, which can be critically important)
  • Company location pages

Ways that you can achieve stand-out “boring content” are:

  • Repackage boring content in a visually interesting way  – e.g. highly visual technical specification pages
  • Distil your product information down into simple-to-follow comparisons – sometimes you have to focus on what stops people buying and create content to address this
  • Think about customer aftercare – for example, other sites were ranking for Vax user guides so Vax invested in creating their own
  • Have great product pages – Aviva are a great example of a company which uses its product pages to give them a competitive edge

Above all, remember that on-site content such as this MUST convert – that should always be your end goal!

 

 

 

10 tips for planning your New Year sales customer journey

In the build up to Christmas many retailers will be focusing on getting as many sales as possible and providing the best possible experience for their customers before the big day. Once Christmas is over and we move into the sales period, many retailers rely on just the price cuts to gain revenue and consequently place the customer experience at the bottom of priorities.

But how many retailers really understand how many of their customers buy at full price in the run up to Christmas and will purchase again in sale period opposed to their number of one-time sales customers?

If a large proportion of those who buy during sales period are those that buy items at full price during the rest of the year, ensuring they receive the right experience at all times is the key to high retention and loyalty.

On the flip side, those new customers you acquire during sale period could well move on to be full price buyers in the long term if they are given a good experience during their first purchase, no matter what discount they are given.

With this in mind, here are our top 10 tips to using the sales period to increase retention and loyalty as well as revenue by placing the customer at the heart of the buying experience.

1. Segment your database into those customers who have bought items at full price and those that only ever buy from you during the sales period. Set up your Electronic Customer Relationship Management (ECRM) program to send two different sets of emails before and during sale period to those segments.

2. One week before your sale period, send an exclusive ‘sneak peek’ sale email to your full price customers highlighting items featured in the sale that match the items they have bought from you recently. On sale start day send another email to launch the sale and give an exclusive discount to your loyal customers or offer free delivery on all sale items during sale period.

3. On sale launch day send an email to your sale only buyers with no special offer but just highlighting the great savings and deals to be made during the sales period.

4. Send each segment sale reminder emails twice a week throughout the sales period with special offers tailored to previous items they have bought or viewed/added to basket on the site. Switch between product focused and editorial content. Customers still want to engage with the brand when buying in sale as well as getting the discount!

5. Ensure all new customers you win during sales period are welcomed properly and given the best possible delivery and post purchase communication. Make sure you bring them into your ECRM program for future engagement.

6. Select key items from your sale and invite significant bloggers to style the ‘best of the sale’ using them. Feature the content on your site as you go into the sale and include across your website and email campaigns as engaging and inspirational sale content.

7. Ensure that you encourage as many reviews as possible on all items you sell pre-Christmas through post purchase correspondence and on flyers within your packaging. The rise in reviews will help sell products during sale period.

8. Encourage sale buyers to engage on social media and share pictures of their sale purchases. You could perhaps run a competition where those sharing their sale items can win the chance to do a trolley dash in store or online on the last day of sale. Again, feature this content on your site and in editorial emails as inspiration to others.

9. Ensure you maintain your high standards of delivery and packaging for sale items. One bad delivery experience can put a full price buyer off for life.

10. Ensure you keep on top of stock levels and remove all those out of stock items from the site immediately. There really is nothing worse for your customers than seeing a great deal online and not being able to purchase.

Of course, there are many other ways you can keep delivering a tailored experience to your customers. However, these are the areas that will have the most impact on the buying experience during the sales period that will not cost you extra budget when you are slashing margin.

Remember, your customers demand a seamless brand experience at all times from you.
Good luck!

Key takeaways from our luxury retail roundtable at BrightonSEO

Earlier in the month, we were delighted to have the opportunity to host a luxury retail roundtable as part of the bi-annual BrightonSEO conference. The roundtable saw us facilitate conversation and learning between key members of the luxury retail market which continues to grow and adapt to ever-changing conditions. We were really chuffed to have some great brands attend on the day and fuelled by a concoction of pic n mix and beer we discussed the unique challenges luxury retail professionals face across five different topics.

We covered a huge amount of ground in the one hour session and really did struggle to fit it all in! Below is a list of the key takeaways which were revealed at the session:

Market watch

The best way to track competitors is to use a combination of manual tracking and 3rdparty tools such as Moz Analytics, SEMrush, Linkdex, AnalyticsSEO and NetVibes. It was also considered important to take the time to experience your competitors yourself and see how the buying experience compares to your brand.

This summer has been particularly bad for all brands online, in some cases their sales have been 50%-60% lower.

Customer experience is a hot topic. It is hugely important for any brand to gain insight from their customers by speaking directly to them or by sending surveys to your customer database. This data is invaluable to gain customer insight.

Industry best practice

Using a specialist agency was considered beneficial as it’s becoming increasingly hard to keep on top of all the different and ever-changing areas of SEO and digital marketing.  This can help keep the ‘bigger picture’ in sight rather than focusing on granular details.

Since the Penguin update many brands have been affected, in some cases traffic has been 80% down. The process to remove bad links and penalties is very time consuming and it can be hard to communicate to senior staff with a non-digital background about a drop in traffic when black hat tactics have worked so well for so long.

It is important to use customer insight to determine what keywords are profitable when people haven’t heard of your brand. Keep testing and tracking to determine what works for your brand.

Insight and measurement

Google Analytics and Moz were considered the best tools for monitoring. If using Google Analytics, it was recommended that you regularly export monthly reports of your primary KPIs to help maintain visibility and true performance over time.

A key KPI to keep an eye on was the bounce rate from homepage. If this increases then the search results your brand yields are not relevant to the content on your website.

Financial planning

You should be flexible with your marketing budgets to adapt to market changes. If an area is performing particularly well you should be able to spend more money in this area.

Ecommerce teams are often blamed for a drop in sales in bricks–and-mortar stores. Online and offline stores should have combined targets and aim for an omni channel experience.

Key resources and allocation

SEO needs to be ingrained across the whole team so everyone is working to produce valuable content to best practice. Agencies can help to keep on top of best practice and specialist knowledge is appreciated as brands appreciate being able to take a step back and see the bigger picture.

Recruiting the right skill set is a challenge; it was felt there are a lot of ‘blaggers’ in digital. You should look for people with a blend of skills which complements your existing team.

Don’t always send internal emails to your team, go and talk to them and brainstorm. It is important to for a team to spend time together and talk not just at work so they can really understand what each role does and how they can work together.

You can download our full notes here: BrightonSEO luxury roundtable notes.

The Weekly Shop (9th – 13th Sept)

In our Weekly Shop this week – reasons to increase your SEO budget, why site optimisation is necessary throughout the site redesign process and the findings from two research studies, as well as some other useful bits and bobs!

4 Reasons to Spend More on SEO

Significant Google updates, such as Panda and Penguin, have meant many businesses are rightly moving away from low quality tactics and services, yet are reluctant to increase their SEO budget in line with the more complex and multi-disciplined approach required to succeed. This article from Search Engine Watch outlines four reasons why small business owners should consider spending more on SEO.

Why site optimisation is necessary before, during and after site redesigns

This article from Econsultancy highlights the important of testing a new website throughout the re-design process rather than as separate project post-launch. With huge resources poured into site re-design projects, testing can help to ensure the project is on the right track and the end result will deliver enhanced site performance and conversions.

Facebook Organic and Paid Posts with Photos Get Most Clicks, Engagement [Study]

This week ShopIgniter released findings of research that showed Facebook posts with photos received the highest click-throughs in organic and the most engagement on the paid side compared to other updates. This article from Search Engine Watch highlights the key findings from the study and offers best practices tips for Facebook posts and paid content. You can also download the full report here.

2 Reasons to Love the New Google AdWords Paid & Organic Report

Google recently launched a brand new report that shows the total traffic by keyword from paid and organic search. This is the first report of its kind and it’s available in the dimensions tab once you’ve linked your Google Adwords and Webmaster Tools accounts. This article highlights two reasons why the report will be valuable to marketers – co-exposure monitoring and keyword identification.

Why Google Wants to Know About Small Websites That Aren’t Ranking Well

Google’s Head of Web Spam recently tweeted about a new Google Doc which can be used to submit details of small websites that users think should rank higher in the engine’s SERPs for related terms. The form collects two pieces of information:

(1) The name and URL of the small site you think should rank well.

(2) Why do you think that small site should rank better?

This is great news for small businesses who have to compete with big brands for visibility, but the document does state that respondents  should not “expect this survey to affect any site’s ranking” and they are just collecting feedback. This also throws up questions as to why Google needs this feedback rather than using own data to rank websites.

Why are people showrooming and how should retailers respond?

Columbia Business School and Aimia have recently produced a study on showrooming, which they define as when an individual actively chooses to buy something after carrying out actions on mobile. The report contains some useful statistics on showrooming and also some tips on what retailers can do to provide an excellent in-store experience that cannot be replicated online.

Google Webmaster Tools Give Users More Link Data

This week, Matt Cutts kicked off SES San Francisco and announced a change to the way Google Webmaster Tools serves backlinks to users. Now, instead of getting a huge list of backlinks in alphabetical order, they are giving a better representation of all the backlinks as they are sampled uniformly from the full spectrum of backlinks. Shortly after this announcement was made, Google published a blog post detailing their changes. This is great news for webmasters, especially when trying to clean up after a bad backlink warning or penalty. This was a problem for larger sites that had thousands of low-quality/spammy backlinks pointing to a site.