Archive for the ‘General’ Category

CMOs Investing in Improving Customer Experience via Big Data, Social Media, Content Marketing

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

While there is no denying the power of objective, strong and accurate ROI data, chief marketing officers (CMOs) today are more concerned with a somewhat subjective metric: improving the customer experience.  According to a study by Korn Ferry, the top concern of CMOs (34%) is the creation of sustainable and engaging customer relationships and improving the customer experience.

Demonstrating ROI was still ranked as the top concern by about a quarter of CMOs, but doing so has often proven difficult.  A survey by ITSMA and Vision Edge Marketing (VEM) revealed that while 85% of marketers were under pressure to measure their value or contribution to the business, only 25% were able to measure that impact.  Similarly, a study from Duke Fuqua School of Business, revealed that just 35.7% of CMOs feel that they can prove the short-term impact of marketing spend quantitatively, and 28.6% feel they can prove the long-term impact.

So, CMO’s may be shifting their attention, and their dollars, to something that technology has made easier to measure: customer engagement. Other data from the Korn Ferry study showed that 8 in 10 CMOs report that their organization has increased spend on content marketing, and about the same figure said their social media spend increased compared to last year.

Social media is a natural extension and tool of customer engagement, considering it revolves around the idea of building relationships online, staying connected and growing an audience.  Impressions, clicks, likes, shares, comments, and other social interactions help to make this engagement quantifiable.  In addition, the investment in content marketing represents the growing importance of messaging that is both consistent with brand initiatives and relevant to specific markets and customers.

When it comes to content, Contently found that some 54% of internet users aged 18-65 say they generally don’t trust sponsored content, but some brand content types are better received by consumers than others.  According to the chart below featuring data from a Vibrant Media study, consumers are most receptive to images and videos.

Personalization also plays a major role in creating a better customer experience and big data helps make that happen. The same Korn Ferry study found that nearly one-quarter of CMOs said big data is most effective for personalizing the customer experience.  In addition, a study by Adobe reported that U.S. marketers found personalization to be the most important capability for their marketing efforts moving forward.

All in all, CMO’s are constantly looking for ways to bring value to the business while also being able to prove that value. Fortunately, big data, social media and digital technologies provide new ways to market and advertise, and new ways to measure performance.  It will be interesting to see if, or when, metrics surrounding customer experience and engagement will be directly correlated to actual sales and value for the business.

Shift to Video Continues with New Yelp and Facebook Updates

Friday, August 8, 2014

Video continues to take a central role online for consumers and publishers.  A 2014 Cisco study predicts that by 2018, 79% of all Internet traffic will be video – and Yelp and Facebook are working to accelerate that growth.

Yelp recently introduced a new feature allowing users to post 3-12 second videos related to local businesses in order to better capture ambiance, lighting, noise and other features that are hard to capture with photos.  Currently, the feature is only accessible on the Yelp app for iPhone users but is expected to be available for Android soon. 

Image Source: Business Insider

Bringing the sights, sounds and motion from a local businesses to the digital world is going to be extremely helpful for a wide range of verticals. According to a study by Animoto, 73% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase after watching videos explaining a product or service.  In addition, Yelp users post around 23,000 photos each day, and that kind of activity should help the review site generate video content at a similarly rapid pace.

While Yelp does provide some tips and examples of what a good video looks like, the downside to the feature is that there doesn’t seem to be much the company can do in regards to video quality.  On the other hand, poor quality videos should be less a reflection of the business and more so of the uploader.

Facebook is also putting some effort into growing the influence and overall presence of videos on the social network.  In March this year, Facebook introduced a new video ad unit that is 15 seconds long and runs inside a user’s news feed. The ads automatically play without sound and when clicked, they expand to fill the screen with sound.

With Facebook’s often cited 1.5 million small and medium-sized business advertisers, the introduction of these ads may seem like a big win for Facebook and SMBs alike, but it hasn’t happened yet.  The ads are still in preliminary stages and according to a story on Re/code, Facebook is running tests and working to get users ready for the full roll out of these ads by showing more autoplay videos in the news feed.

“We have to get the consumer experience right, and autoplay is obviously a big deal,” Dan Levy, Facebook’s director of small businesses, told Re/code.

The time table isn’t clear, but much of the testing of the new ad format is taking place with the help and ad dollars of big brands.  The cost for these ads are well outside the typical SMB ad budget, with Mashable saying in February that ads start at $600,000.

The continuing shift towards video content for consumers and publishers alike is changing the complexion of the digital world. And this shift is only being accelerated as big names like Yelp and Facebook invest in video solutions and products.

Industry Veteran Greg Sterling Joins LSA to Lead Strategy & Insights Offering

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I am thrilled to announce that Greg Sterling, one of the best recognized experts on local advertising and media, is joining the Local Search Association as our first VP of Strategy & Insights.

Beginning August 18th, Greg will lead a new role at LSA designed to identify and analyze industry trends and guide the development of new markets and revenue streams for our more than 300 members.

In today’s Last Mile Advertising environment, our members are constantly asking for LSA’s help in better understanding what shifts are taking place in our industry, and determining what they can do to better anticipate and respond to those changes. Over the past year, we have made a significant investment to meet our members’ needs by expanding our analytics and insights function, including partnering with Thrive Analytics and launching the LSA Metrics that Matter Database.

By bringing Greg on board, we are further demonstrating our commitment to providing unmatched thought-leadership and strategy expertise to our full spectrum of local advertising members. In his role, Greg will improve our efforts to collect and consolidate insights across the Last Mile Advertising spectrum. He will advise corporate management for our existing and prospective members on ways to leverage LSA research to build stronger business strategies.

Additionally, Greg will frequently share his findings through whitepapers, alerts and posts right here on our blog and serve as a subject matter expert with business and trade media. He will spearhead program development and serve as an active participant at our conferences, including the annual LSA event in April.

Greg will also continue to serve as a contributing editor for Search Engine Land and Marketing Land, and author his own blog, Screenwerk, on online and offline media.

Please join us in welcoming Greg into this new position. He is a fantastic partner and collaborator, and we couldn’t be more excited that he is joining LSA to build our Strategy & Insights capability.

Follow Greg Sterling on Twitter at @gsterling and visit his personal blog, Screenwerk. 

Bing Study: Online Search Trends Vary By Device During Different Times of Day

Monday, June 30, 2014

Building rapport and gaining visibility within a community can be difficult for SMBs if they are not targeting through the right media at the right time. To ensure a successful message, it is important for SMBs to first understand who to target, and then also when to target them.

Bing recently released a study that tracked the time periods that consumers are most commonly browsing the Internet. According to the study, weekdays and weekends have distinct search patterns.

On weekdays, consumers are more likely to use a PC until 6 p.m., before switching to either a mobile phone or tablet through approximately 10 p.m. Given the typical workday times, this finding makes sense.

Source: Bing

On weekends, however, when the average consumer is not at their place of work, he or she uses the Internet more frequently, and the separation between the devices is much less substantial. On Saturday-Sunday, searches via desktops are consistently high from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. across PCs, mobile phones and tablets.

Source: Bing

Based on study findings, if an SMB’s weekday media campaign is chomping through PC budget in the early morning or mobile budget in the early afternoon, it is likely missing the prime times to reach consumers on those platforms. Aligning campaigns with the most popular search times on particular devices can lead to significantly greater visibility..

Whichever combination of platforms consumers use to access the Internet, reaching them is all a matter of timing. For a message to succeed, SMBs should gauge when their consumers are typically using each device. This can be a crucial factor in determining whether a campaign will be successful.

Top 10 Tips for Local Search Success

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Business owners today see all the different ways that consumers are seeking out, discovering and considering local businesses, and they don’t know where to start their marketing efforts.

In our column for Search Engine Land this month, I offer my 10 tips for best positioning local businesses in today’s ever-changing local search environment. These include:

1)     Ensure key information about your business is accurate & accessible

2)     Populate your top local business listings

3)     Build a website with the user experience as the key priority

4)     Optimize your website for search

5)     Start a blog to provide a steady stream of content

6)     Leverage visual content, including photos and videos

7)     Ensure your business website is mobile-friendly

8)     Engage on social media channels used by your target customers

9)     Encourage reviews to add credibility to your business

10)  Pay attention to your success – and adjust your approach as necessary

Click here to read my full column on how to integrate each of these tips into your local business strategy.

Maximizing R.O.I. in Local Media Today

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Please join LSA, YP and Market Authority for an exclusive webinar presentation next Thursday, May 8 from 2 pm – 3 pm EST.

Local advertising is more fragmented than ever and is evolving rapidly. Due to all of this disruptive change, SMBs and national advertisers need help navigating today’s complex media landscape. During this webinar, YP and Market Authority will share unique insights into what is working today in hyper-local media, including a focus on how local search via print and internet yellow pages is delivering strong R.O.I for key categories, geographies and demographic target audiences.

YP is one on the largest local media and advertising companies in the U.S. including Mobile, Online, Display, and Print solutions. Market Authority is a leading provider of research into consumer media usage and advanced sales technique training.

Spots are limited so reserve your seat today!

LSA|14: Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Shares Passion for Innovation & Opportunity

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Steve Wozniak covered a wide range of topics including his childhood and early career motivations, initial successes at Apple, his relationship with Steve Jobs, thoughts on Apple’s business today, predictions for consumer technology, and more in his highly anticipated featured appearance at our 2014 annual conference.. LSA President Neg Norton moderated the session.

The Silicon Valley icon and Apple co-founder described his childhood as one consumed by a drive for exploring innovation and discovery in electronics, math and science. He credited his father, an electrical engineer, for providing him with an education  – “the equivalent of graduate classes” – that drove his interest and knowledge. He talked about building science fair projects, machines and even computers in his early years that set the framework for his later success.

In college, Wozniak said he first realized the opportunity to use the television as an output device that would allow people to see what they were doing on a computer.  Wozniak’s innovations often involved taking larger computer units and reducing the cost and number of chips needed for it to function resulting in an affordable unit suitable for personal use.   It was also during that time period that Wozniak first met Steve Jobs, who quickly became an advocate and partner for selling Wozniak’s inventions. “Every time I’d create something – Steve [Jobs] would say, let’s sell it,” he said.

Wozniak quit college and began working at HP, where he pitched his personal computer ideas five times, without success. It was by starting Apple with Jobs and launching Apple II – the first low-cost, color screen personal computer ever – that Wozniak first saw the potential for his ideas to fuel the creation of a “real company – possibly a big company,” as well as make a global impact.

Wozniak also discussed Jobs’ ambition from the offset for playing a leadership role at Apple. He also spoke openly about the failures of later Apple products such as the Apple III and Apple Lisa, and what could have been done differently that would have helped them to do better.

In discussing Apple today, Wozniak said that he did not think a lot had changed since Jobs’ passing. However, he mentioned being encouraged by recent signs at Apple that it is opening up its ecosystem, referencing plans to introduce iTunes on Android.

Wozniak said that wearable technology such as Google Glass and smart watches represent key trends in the electronics industry. He felt there was a risk that smart watches might go the way of Bluetooth headsets because they simply duplicate a smaller set of functions that are on the phone.  On the other hand, he shared an idea on how flexible display may be incorporated into wearable devices that solve the small screen problem of smart watches.  He also spoke about opportunities in voice, such as Siri. He talked passionately about the possibilities of building software that provides a more human experience and better anticipates human’s real intentions. “Your smartphone is becoming like a friend – your most trusted advisor in the world,” he said.

Wozniak also said that the best innovations come from people who build the technologies for themselves. “I designed Apple II because it was what I wanted for myself,” he said. “The Telsa, Elon Musk designed the car for himself.” In looking at young talent, he told attendees to search for “the person who is a builder – who has built successful solutions in the past.”

Wozniak also spoke about his strong interest in childhood education and encouraging and supporting young people in finding their place in society. He said that to date, the computer has not achieved its promise of revolutionizing education. He said he dreamed of the time when computers can serve as a “student’s best friend … to have feelings for students, to know everything about them. So kids can choose their direction in life much earlier. “

Overall, Wozniak demonstrated a love for technology, a passion for helping others, and a genuine and humble personality that was so enjoyable and refreshing to witness from someone of his stature.

LSA|14: Emerging Start-Up Tech in Local Media

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Google Head of Business Development, Channel Sales, North America Jon Sofield led an afternoon panel about emerging start-up technology in local media.  Members of the panel included William Hsu, Mucker Capital; Farbod Shoraka, BloomNation; Amit Jain, Bridg; and Jim Johnson, ServiceTitan.

The panel discussed how big data is impacting the local space.  Hsu said that the investment in big data started about three or four years ago, indicating that the market is probably about halfway through its investment period.  He said that as investment slows down, companies will look more at how they can put that data to action.

Jain agreed that putting the data into action is what brings value to a business.

“It’s real time, a lot of data.  You’re tracking every single activity every single minute.  You’re tracking that data and trying to figure out behavior changes.  So it’s becoming a way to learn in real-time and react on a real-time basis.”

“The reality today is you can process a lot of data in real time and really take actions on it … That’s what creates value.  Technology allows you to process lots and lots of data, and that wasn’t possible yesterday.  What real-time big data is doing already to our lives is making the consumer experience so much different than it used to be.”

So how do startup local search providers help in this complex environment?  Shoraka says it’s all about transparency.

“We came in strongly that we’re fully transparent in what we’re going to do.  Sharing consumer information … it immediately created that form of trust.”

Before closing the panel, Sofield asked which companies will lead in local technology in the future:

  • Hsu: Google
  • Farbod: Amazon
  • Jain: Square, Paypal, Apple
  • Johnson: Google

LSA|14: comScore’s Gian Fulgoni Highlights Drastic Changes in Ways Consumers Shop and Buy

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Gian Fulgoni, executive chairman and co-founder, comScore, kicked off the final day of our 2014 LSA annual conference with a data-filled presentation on the fast-changing consumer path to purchase and its implications for local marketers. Throughout his presentation, Gian highlighted data sourced from comScore’s global panel of two million Internet users around the world.

Gian began his remarks by highlighting the emergence of the “digital omnivore” in the U.S. marketplace. He said that there are 156 million smartphones and 82 million tablets in the U.S., growing at 24% and 57% year-over-year. He also noted that while Millennials have a substantially higher rate of smartphone penetration than their older counterparts, that reality will likely change in the near future.

Gian said that Americans today spend more time on mobile platforms than on desktop. He noted that leading retail properties are now seeing one-third of their monthly audiences coming exclusively from mobile platforms. He said these developments mean that retailers and marketers must have a mobile strategy.

That said, Gian also noted that retailers and marketers should not forget legacy media or the desktop for categories where they still play an important role. For example, desktop still attracts a strong share in the online couponing business, even though mobile is changing the game in other categories such as weather and maps.

Gian then discussed the growing importance of mobile search and advertising, which grew to a $7.1 billion business in 2013. He said that consumers today are accessing a broader variety of local content via mobile, noting that apps use is growing faster than browser. He described how valuable mobile searches are to retailers and marketers: almost 80% of mobile searches end in a purchase, with nearly 75% of purchases occurring in-store. That’s why spending on mobile advertising today is surging – now equaling that of banner ads. Gian mentioned that social networks including Facebook and Twitter are benefiting from this shift towards mobile, since their newsfeeds are well suited for mobile ads.

Lastly, Gian highlighted how successful multi-platform marketing can mean the difference between realizing valuable opportunities versus suffering damaging consequences. He described a changing consumer path-to-purchase that is no longer funnel-based, but rather “a flight map” that has consumers jumping from friends and family, TV, online, brick and mortar stores and print media before moving forward with a purchase. He stressed that while mobile use in the shopping experience is growing fast, traditional media like newspapers, TV and magazines are still rated highly by consumers.

Gian said that mobile devices have helped to accelerate the movement of pricing power to the consumer, and that they have an impact on both offline and online buying decisions. He mentioned that more than 1 in 3 online consumers said they have showroomed, with the top reason being to find a better price online. Gian also noted that while somewhat limited, m-Commerce is growing rapidly (reached $25 billion in Q4 2013, +22% year-over-year), but he also said its importance varies substantially across product categories.

The key takeaway from Gian’s session was clear: there are drastic changes taking place in the way that people shop and buy today. Retailers and marketers continue to adopt and change quickly. But in doing so, they must take careful note of what types of media – traditional, online, mobile, and/or tablet – are most effective in reaching consumers in their category.

Defining Local: Last Mile Advertising

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

After interviewing executives from a range of advertising agencies, platforms and experts including R/GA, Sears, Twitter, Microsoft, YP, Groupon, Mashable and the IAB , we found that there is still a lot of confusion around what “local” actually means.  Overall, the feeling is that the local space isn’t clearly distinguishable from advertising as a whole, but there is a strong conviction that it could and should be.

This is where we believe “Last Mile” can bring some clarity.  In my blog post on Street Fight, I define the Last Mile Advertising space and explain the three pillars that make up this space: Seek, Discover and Consider.

Check out my full article at Street Fight.