Four Ways Brands Earn Trust

Four Ways Brands Earn Trust

Marketing

Consumers don’t want to ignore brands. We want to spend time in their stores and immerse ourselves in their websites when the experience is good. We willingly buy their products. Otherwise, people around the world wouldn’t be spending nearly $25 trillion in 2018 in the retail sector alone. But to become loyal to brands – to willingly give them our time and money over and over, and then recommend them to others – we have to trust them.

A relationship with a business is built on trust, and consumers now possess more tools to figure out which brands they can trust and which they cannot. For example, analyst Brian Solis recently assessed the results of Google research indicating that mobile searches that include “best” have grown more than 80 percent in the last two years, and searches using the phrase “to avoid” have grown 1.5X in the same span. And Google continues to refine its algorithms to provide precise answers. As Solis notes,

Among everyday consumers, trust in brands and executives erodes every year. According to Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer report, trust is increasingly democratized and less hierarchical. In its most recent report, Edelman found, for the first time, that 60% of consumers view “a person like yourself” as a credible source for information about a company as a technical or academic expert. And, credibility of CEOs hit an all-time low in the series, with a 12-point decline in the last year.

Building consumer trust becomes not only an imperative for attentive brands but also a significant competitive advantage.

In addition, consumers are increasingly relying on reviews to determine which companies they can trust. According to eMarketer, online reviews are even overtaking advice from friends and families as a way to research brands. Online reviews are especially important for high-consideration products such as electronics and clothing.

How do brands earn our trust? I think brands do so by living these four attributes:

Authenticity

Brands can illustrate authenticity in many ways, but when it comes to consumers trusting brands, it’s important that companies demonstrate their values and what they stand for. Kendra Scott is a fashion brand that is built around positivity and giving back to the community. The founder, Kendra Scott, uses social media to not only showcase their quality products, but the company’s values and philanthropic actions as well. The brand organizes events for a variety of organizations and causes, which they put on display across their marketing channels. Emphasizing how involved Kendra Scott is to making the world a better place allows consumers to think of them than more than just a company that sells jewelry and other fashion products – it’s a brand they can trust.

Transparency

In the social media world that we live in, there are no longer secrets. Consumers are demanding brands to be open and honest with them. Many brands struggle with being transparent with their customers, but a lack of transparency only hurts them. Whether a brand is enduring a PR crisis or announcing a new product, it’s important for a brand to show who they are and what they can give to the consumer. Recently, I received an email from Panera Bread’s CEO, Blaine E. Hurst, commenting on the recent romaine lettuce recall. He stated, “From the moment the advisory was issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on April 13, 2018, we pulled all romaine originating from Yuma growing region from our cafes .  . .”

He continued by confirming that customers can rest assured that they found a new source and all Panera salads are safe to eat. He concluded the email by saying, “We hope this helps to ease your mind, and invite you to come in and enjoy your favorite Panera salad again.”

From this email, Blaine Hurst was able to build trust by being honest. He assured customers that they were safe to eat at Panera by confirming that Panera had resolved the unfortunate issue. When a brand faces a conflict that involves them or their products, it’s crucial that they are completely transparent with consumers in order to gain or sustain trust.

Consistency

It’s essential to develop standards for brand consistency, online and offline, to earn consumer’s trust. Chick-fil-A is a company that does so. My experience at Chick-fil-A, no matter which location, has been consistent each time, whether it’s at the beginning with a warm welcome from the employee taking my order, or when I’m enjoying my meal. And the brand consistency doesn’t stop there. When I come across one of their social media posts or advertisements, I can tell it’s their content without even looking at the brand name. Having consistency across your team, products, and marketing efforts builds trust and loyalty for consumers because they know what to expect from you and your products or services.

Empathy

Showing your customers that you care about them, especially in a time of need, boosts consumer loyalty and trust. I recently ordered a present for a family member off Amazon, and the dealer lost it in the mail. Amazon sent me an email telling me to contact Amazon support, and then a friendly customer service rep from Amazon apologized multiple times for the inconvenience. The same rep immediately re-ordered my item for me free of charge with overnight shipping so that I would get it on time. Amazon training their support team to show empathy allows me to feel confident ordering from Amazon in the future. Even if this issue or a similar scenario were to happen again, I could trust that Amazon would happily resolve the issue quickly. Offering empathy to a customer enhances the customer’s experience which then enables them to trust the brand.

Perhaps the best way for a brand to build trust is to ask these simple questions:

  • Are you treating your customers the way you would want them to treat every person at your company?
  • What do you want your customers to say about you? Are you giving them every motivation to do so with your actions?

Trust is earned one person at a time. But building trust starts with training your own people. Does everyone at your own company know how to earn the trust of every customer they meet?

Image source: http://www.brandingbusiness.com/blogs/building-b2b-brand-trust-through-communication

Artificial Intelligence Shapes Google’s Future

Artificial Intelligence Shapes Google’s Future

Marketing

For many marketers, Google means advertising. But Google also wants us to associate its name with artificial intelligence. Recent events illustrate how the company has one foot planted in the present and future. Can Google have its cake and eat it, too?

The Present: Advertising

The latest quarterly earnings announcement of Google’s parent, Alphabet, shows that Google remains a formidable force in the world of online advertising. Alphabet’s first-quarter revenues, $31.1 billion, outperformed analysts’ expectations. Why? Because Google is an advertising cash cow. As much as Alphabet likes to tout its forays into emerging technology, its money comes from Google’s ability to secure revenue via time-honored advertising tools such as AdWords.

Approximately $26.6 billion, or 86 percent of Alphabet’s quarterly revenue, came from Google advertising. Think about that: $26.6 billion. That’s enough to land a company in the Fortune500. Google is protecting its position by refining current tools such as AdWords while rolling out new tools to make online advertising more personal and mobile-centric. Although much has been said about Google’s struggle to make YouTube a safer advertising platform for brands, probably Google’s bigger threat is Amazon, which continues to ascend as a major search platform – and offers advertising tools of its own. As reported, Amazon is now a multi-billion dollar advertising giant. Google needs to adapt or fall behind.

The Future: Artificial Intelligence

The 2018 Google I/O event, occurring May 8-9, illustrates Google’s intent to change itself and the world around it. At this year’s I/O, Google has been pushing artificial intelligence through its products. For example, Google announced the creation of Duplex, an “AI System for Accomplishing Real World Tasks Over the Phone” in the words of a Google blog post. As Google noted:

The technology is directed towards completing specific tasks, such as scheduling certain types of appointments. For such tasks, the system makes the conversational experience as natural as possible, allowing people to speak normally, like they would to another person, without having to adapt to a machine.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai demonstrated how accurate Duplex already is when he showed how Duplex can make Google’s voice assistant (Google Assistant) smart enough to place a call to a hair salon and book an appointment with a real person, sounding so natural that a human being is not aware they are talking with a voice assistant.

Google also unleashed a number of AI-based product improvements ranging from a smarter, more personal Google Maps to a customized Google News. So why the push into AI? Because Google knows that the company needs to become more than a leading search platform. Google has long been evolving as a media platform for accomplishing everyday tasks, and in recent years, it has looked to emerging technology such as virtual reality to do so. Google needs to demonstrate to its advertisers that it can keep consumers inside the Google ecosystem, and simply making search better is not enough to do that.

If Google can pull off a future defined by AI, it will protect its advertising base. But here again, Amazon looms as a threat. Amazon is making its own investments into AI to be a smarter platform for its customers, both online and offline.

The competition between Google and Amazon is good for consumers and advertisers. Consumers should benefit from more personalized services while businesses have more choices to advertise. Choice is good. And Google wants to be the first choice. Contact us to learn more about how to thrive with online advertising with giants such as Google and Amazon.

7 Great Women Who Inspire Us

7 Great Women Who Inspire Us

Marketing

To honor International Women’s Day, we’ve thought about the women who lead our industry through their ideas and actions. These women are not only leading the advertising and media industry, they’re also leading businesses, period:

  • Jerri DeVard, EVP, chief customer officer, Office Depot: she inspires by showing how a legacy company can keep its brand fresh online and offline – and in her spare time, she’s on the board of directors of three companies.
  • Carol Dweck, author: at businesses across America, her book Mindset is required reading to inspire people to embrace self-improvement and better performance. She is an inspirational TED speaker and teacher with a far-reaching impact.
  • Patty McCord, consultant and author: as chief talent officer at Netflix, she helped build the company’s renowned culture of innovation and agility. Now she teaches other businesses how to get better.
  • Indra Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCo: you always find her on lists of the world’s most powerful women, but she’s also led the building of one of the world’s most powerful brands – and one that is innovating with its products and marketing.
  • Ruth Porat, CFO, Alphabet: in a male-dominated field, Ruth Porat stands apart for her leadership of a company whose stock price and market value continue to climb. She ensures that all those moonshots make fiscal sense.
  • Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios: as president of NBC Entertainment, she managed more than 40 television titles including popular shows as such as This Is Us. We can’t wait to see what she does with The Lord of the Rings series now that she’s head of Amazon Studios.
  • Susan Wojcicki, CEO, YouTube: 180 million people watch YouTube, and more than 400 hours of video content are loaded a minute. YouTube continues to extend its influence under her guidance.

These are just seven names among many women at all levels across industries who lead. We salute the women we work with and admire!

What Retail Apocalypse? Holiday Shopping Is Surging

What Retail Apocalypse? Holiday Shopping Is Surging

Marketing

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are bigger than ever. The so-called retail apocalypse might not be so apocalyptic after all – especially for retailers that have beefed up their online presence.

According to Adobe Analytics, Americans spent $19.62 billion online over the five-day period from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday — 15 percent more than they spent during the same time frame in 2016. The top two days for online shopping were Cyber Monday (more than 81 million visitors) and Black Friday (more than 66 million). What can retailers learn from this explosive growth? Plenty:

  • Black Friday is more than a day. Black Friday is no longer a day, but a multi-day phenomenon, with retailers promoting online deals the entire week of Thanksgiving. In fact, major retailers were hosting Black Friday deals online before Thanksgiving week. Retailers are making Black Friday an element of a broader shopping experience.
  • Thanksgiving is becoming a big shopping day. As Adobe reported, Thanksgiving Day saw an 18.3 percent increase in online spending to $2.87 billion. In addition, a Foursquare report suggested that brick-and-mortar stores open on Thanksgiving – and open earlier in the day – would have an advantage over stores that were closed. Stores that promoted Thanksgiving Day sales, both online and offline, were likely to benefit as consumers combine shopping with eating on Turkey Day.

We expect a robust consumer spend during the holidays. Note that with Christmas Day occurring on a Monday, shoppers will accelerate their spend to avoid the problem of having to ship last-minute purchases over the weekend. Meanwhile there is still plenty of shopping to be done. Businesses that have planned ahead will win. It’s never too early to start planning for the 2018 holiday shopping season. To optimize your online spend all-year round, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Image source: https://stocksnap.io/photo/RZWM4T2UAD

How to Use Your Google AdWords Account to Compete with Amazon

How to Use Your Google AdWords Account to Compete with Amazon

Marketing

Amazon is so popular for product searches that retailers who rely on Google AdWords to drive online sales may be wondering how to compete with the $136 billion giant. For some, the answer is to start selling on Amazon themselves. For others, advertising on Amazon might not be the right fit. Although many people search and shop on Amazon exclusively, many others continue to search first on Google. And comparison shoppers are loyal to no site. In a previous blog post, I discussed why Amazon devotees head there first: they like the large variety of products, reviews, the amount of deals, and free shipping opportunities. With an understanding of why people like Amazon, a retailer can use different functionalities in AdWords to attract similarly minded customers.

Google Shopping Ads

Reasons people like Amazon include reading customer ratings and reviews and learning about products and promotions. Using Google Shopping ads is a great way retailers can capitalize on those reasons.

According to a 2016 PowerReviews study, of the people who start their product searches on Google, 52 percent said they’d click on Google Shopping ads next, followed by Amazon or a retailer site, at 41 percent each. To use Google Shopping ads, a business should link its Merchant Center to AdWords. Once linked, the product data dictates how and where ads will show. Management of the shopping ads is done in AdWords, where organization and promotion of items is done using ad groups or campaigns. Unique ads do not need to be created manually. Rather, Google pulls information such as an image, title, price, and store or business name from the feed into an ad. In the new AdWords experience, advertisers can even use Showcase Shopping Ads, which is an ad format that shares information about several related products.

Shopping ads come with their own set of enhancements, which are similar to ad extensions for text ads. Opting into these enhancements is where there’s the opportunity to showcase many of the features that make Amazon attractive to online shoppers. Currently, these are the available enhancements:

  • “Special Offers” with Merchant Promotions – uses a promotions data feed, promotions shown as “special offer” links alongside the Product Ads.
  • Product Ratings – provide critical information to shoppers using a 5-star rating system and count of total reviews. Reviews are specific to the individual products and not reflective of the store or business and they are based on aggregated ratings from multiple sources.
  • Google Customer Reviews Badge – A badge available to those who’ve opted into the Google Customer Reviews service. The badge associates the retailer website with the Google brand, can be placed on any page of the site, and displays a seller rating using the 5-star system.
  • Seller Ratings – A score that can appear on shopping ads. An automated enhancement that utilizes consumer reviews on post-purchase feedback to generate an “XX% Positive” Rating.

Ad Extensions

Ad extensions are another great way to share information about a company or products, and also make text ads stand out against the competitors in the search engine results. Using them is also a way to showcase detailed product information, which people look for while shopping on Amazon. In addition to the basic extensions like sitelinks and callout extensions, there are also a few other extensions every retailer should be using:

  • Structured Snippets – show a preview of the advertised products before a searchers clicks to the website, using a predefined header and the retailer’s choice of supporting details. Some of the relevant headers for retail are Brands, Models, Styles, and Types.
  • Price Extensions – display up to eight cards that people can view to see different products or brands and prices. From the price menu, people can click directly to their area of interest. This feature includes a header and small description, similar to sitelinks. Pricing qualifiers include from, up to, and average, allowing for flexibility in the offering.
  • Promotion Extensions – highlight sales and promotions, catching the eye of those people who are looking for the best deals. They include the option to emphasize holidays, special events, coupons and offer codes. Scheduling guarantees the promotions will only show up during the designated time frame.
  • Review Extensions – share positive third-party reviews or awards with potential customers, giving them a good impression of the business even before they click on the ads.
  • Seller Ratings Extensions – an automated extension that uses the 5-star rating system. Google displays a rating after gathering enough information from reputable sources that aggregate business reviews. Ratings normally reflect the overall consumer experience with the business and show if a business has 150 unique reviews with a rating of 3.5 or better.

Custom Ads for Specific Audience Lists

Audience lists that are layered into search campaigns bring another opportunity to capture competition from Amazon. With IF Functions, it’s possible to write customized ads for different audience lists. For example, if an advertiser wanted to use a text ad and highlight a percent off offer on all items, they could choose to have a separate offer for people who haven’t been to the website before. Using the IF Function for audiences, the current customer list could be shown a 20% off text ad while people not on the audience lists could be shown 30% off. Or if the products being sold are considered commodities and buyers commonly jump around from site to site looking for the best offer, the opposite can be done and current customers can receive the larger discount.

By using Google Shopping Ads, Ad Extensions for text ads, or writing custom ads using IF Functions for specific audience lists, a retailer can provide a shopping experience that can appeal to an Amazon shopper. And regardless of where a searcher starts out, most people want the same thing: a good customer experience. Showcasing as much relevant information as possible before someone clicks on an ad helps create a good customer experience because it tells the searcher what to expect and if the product matches their need. Highlighting the amount and type of products available, relevant reviews, discounts, savings, and promotions encourages people to choose your products even before getting to your website. If you need help setting these features up, contact us at True Interactive.

Tips for Incorporating Amazon into Your E-Commerce Strategy

Tips for Incorporating Amazon into Your E-Commerce Strategy

Marketing

Sears gave its investors reason to smile July 20 when the iconic and embattled brand announced that it would sell Kenmore appliances on Amazon. The value of the company’s stock rose 19 percent in the wake of the announcement. It’s easy to see why: as I discussed in a recent blog post, many consumers start searching for products on Amazon first. Sometimes they may visit a search engine after perusing Amazon. In other cases they might stay on Amazon and never see products sold by advertisers who rely solely on paid and organic search to attract traffic to their sites. If you are experiencing flat or declining online sales, now may be the time to incorporate Amazon into your e-commerce strategy.

According to Amazon, there are more than 95 million unique visitors a month on the site. Listing your products there gives you ample opportunity to attract new customers. Selling on Amazon also allows you to capitalize on Amazon’s brand. Amazon is a well-known and trusted brand — in fact, Amazon ranked Number 1 in reputation for 2016 according to a Nielson survey. People trust Amazon to have good products and sellers. Some of that trust will automatically be given to you when you sell your products on Amazon.

Getting Started

The first step in competing with other companies selling products on Amazon is to list your products there. A Professional Account is for those who plan on selling 40 or more items a month, and costs $39 per month in addition to some other selling fees. Once you have an account, you can list your products and start selling quickly. The set-up process is easy, and Amazon has many resources to help answer any set up or implementation questions.

Advertising on Amazon

Once you are all set up with a Professional Account, you can start advertising on Amazon. Amazon has an advertising platform that utilizes many similar features as Google AdWords, including keyword-, product-, and interest-based targeting methods. Running additional advertisements on Amazon puts you in front of more new customers and differentiates you from other sellers not using these features. As a seller, you can use Sponsored Products, Headline Search Ads, or Product Display Ads to increase your product sales and brand awareness. Here is a breakdown of how the ad types are different from each other:

Sponsored Products

  • Promotes a single product.
  • Keyword-based campaign structure using broad, phrase, and exact terms.
  • Ads drive shoppers to the product detail page.
  • Sponsored Products show above, alongside, and below the search results and product detail pages.
  • Utilizes daily budgets similar Google AdWords.

Headline Search Ads

  • Promotes three or more products.
  • Keyword-based campaign structure.
  • Ads drive to a brand or custom landing page on Amazon.
  • Headline Search Ads appear above search results.
  • Utilizes daily budgets and “All-campaign” budgets.

Product Display Ads

  • Promotes a product through a display ad.
  • Product or interest-based targeting options.
  • Ads drive to the product detail page.
  • Ads show on the product detail, search results, review, and offer listing pages as well as Amazon-generated marketing emails.
  • Costs based on a cost-per-click model.

All these ad types are similar to ad options on Google AdWords. So if you are already doing search or display on Google, you should have an idea of what keywords or interest targeting works best for your products. Taking your top-performing, product-related keywords from AdWords and trying them out on Amazon would be a good way to gauge performance on the Sponsored Products or Headline Search Ads. While the costs across the platforms will be different, Amazon lists many case studies where sales and revenue have increased substantially.

Product Fulfillment

Listing on Amazon gives you access to the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) services. With this service, you can store your products in Amazon’s fulfilment centers. Amazon takes care of picking the product out, packing, shipping, and handling any customer service requests. Using FBA opens up access to Amazon Prime customers, which make up nearly 60 percent of Amazon users. Doing so also places the work of managing orders to a specialized team of people, freeing up your time and allowing you to focus on other business needs.

While selling products and getting advertising set up on any new platform can seem overwhelming, it’s hard to ignore the benefits that come with adding Amazon into your online e-commerce strategy. Being on Amazon places your products in front of more customers on a trusted website. And because many people who shop on Amazon stay on Amazon, you also are less likely to compete against yourself in other channels.

If selling and advertising on Amazon sounds like something you would like to try out, we at True Interactive would love to help you manage your seller account and advertisements. Contact us to learn more.

Image source: Waste360.com

Amazon Takes a Bite Out of Search

Amazon Takes a Bite Out of Search

Search

If you haven’t incorporated Amazon into your search strategy, it’s time to reconsider your strategy. Over the last three years, Amazon has surpassed search engines as the place to start shopping online for products. According to a PowerReviews survey from 2016, 38 percent of people start their product searches on Amazon versus 35 percent who start on Google. A more recent survey from financial services firm Raymond James states a larger variance, with 52 percent starting at Amazon and only 26 percent starting on a search engine. No wonder Eric Schmidt of Google famously called out Amazon as its biggest search competitor in 2014.

I was surprised the first time I heard this information about search behavior on Amazon because Googling things has become second nature to me as a search marketing professional. Then I thought of my experiences as a new mom with an Amazon Prime account, and the numbers started to make more sense. Every time my son suddenly grows, or we’re almost out of some baby toiletries, or I don’t feel like making that third (or fourth) trip to the store, I go directly to Amazon. I can’t remember the last time I started shopping for a product on Google first.

Why are more people heading directly to Amazon? As it turns out, the main reasons most people start their searches on Amazon are:

  • The large variety of products.
  • Free shipping.
  • Better deals.
  • The number of product reviews available.

Another factor to consider is how many people who have an Amazon Prime account. According to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, 60 percent of Amazon customers are Prime members, and Prime members make up about 80 million people from the United States. Why would a person paying for a Prime account look somewhere other than Amazon first when online shopping?

So what does this information mean for companies that rely on paid search and SEO as the main drivers of online sales? Shoppers who start their search on Amazon may very well stay on Amazon if they find what they want when they want it.  For those shoppers, it does not matter how greatly organized and efficient a brand’s AdWords account is or how high the organic results are. People who start a search on Amazon and stay on Amazon will never see the ads and are very unlikely to purchase products from these companies. Brands that rely on e-commerce should continue to advertise on search engines. But it is also important for advertisers to take a serious look at their marketing strategy to see if incorporating Amazon into the mix makes sense.

Need help in figuring out if adding Amazon to your plan is the right strategy for you? True Interactive can help. Contact us for more information.