Online Retailers Are Winning Big This Holiday Season

Online Retailers Are Winning Big This Holiday Season

Retail

We’re off to the races with the 2018 holiday season, and retailers are showing some strong results with online sales. Here’s what Adobe Analytics reported:

  • Cyber Monday hit $7.9 billion in sales, making it the largest online shopping day of all time in the United States — a 19.7 percent increase year-over-year.
  • Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday brought in $3.7 billion (28 percent growth year over year) and $6.2 billion (23.6 percent growth) in revenue.
  • Saturday and Sunday, November 24 and 25, set a new record as the biggest online shopping weekend in the U.S. ($6.4 billion) growing faster than Black Friday and Cyber Monday with more than 25 percent on each day.

Not every retailer is winning this holiday season. Only retailers that do these things are reaping rewards:

  • Focusing on mobile. As we have shared on our blog, technology giants such as Google have been launching tools that make it easier for businesses to showcase inventory with shoppable ads. That’s because shoppers are using mobile as a tool to buy, not just search for places to buy. PayPal, for instance, processed more than $1 billion in mobile payments on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday (a first for PayPal on either day). On Thanksgiving, mobile accounted for 54 percent of online sales, surpassing desktop for the first time, according to Salesforce.
  • Prepared their websites. According to Multibriefs, more people were hit with “out-of-stock” messages on websites than they were last year. “Even worse, some didn’t even make it to the company website,” wrote Multibriefs. “Lowes, Target and PayPal all experienced crashes on Cyber Monday.” The companies that failed to prepare for the online buying spike lost out to sites such as Amazon, which reported its biggest shopping day in history on Cyber Monday. Who says websites are dead? If you were ready as Amazon was, you won big.
  • Moving products quickly. Amazon long ago set the standard for speedy product delivery. But many retailers such as Best Buy are catching up. This holiday season retailers are using free shipping and convenient returns as a proving ground, as this news report discusses. Last month, I predicted shipping would provide an edge to retailers this holiday season — but this prediction applies only to those who have figured out how to fulfill the uptick in demand that online ordering brings. Walmart struggled to fulfill online orders during the 2017 holiday season – let’s see how the retailer does when the dust settles on 2018.

If you took steps to prepare yourself for the onslaught of online holiday shopping – especially by attracting mobile shoppers with a strong investment into online advertising and digital commerce – the 2018 holiday season is looking very bright. For more insight into how to win with mobile shoppers, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/holiday-shopping-smartphone-phone-1921658/

The Key to a Successful Holiday Season: Shipping

The Key to a Successful Holiday Season: Shipping

Retail

Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are just table stakes for retailers to compete in the first-ever $1 trillion holiday shopping season. The real competitive advantage is coming from shipping.

Based on the client work I do, I’ve always known that favorable shipping can help a retailer compete more effectively during the holiday shopping season. Low-cost, rapid shipping caters to the needs of today’s on-demand consumer who want products curated and sent to them and oftentimes at the last minute.

But what’s changed dramatically about the 2018 season is the Amazon effect. Earlier in November, Amazon announced free shipping with no minimum purchase required from November 5 onward. Amazon did not announce a cut-off date, but it will probably be December 22. Now, this change to its shipping policy is huge. Amazon accomplishes two objectives with free shipping during the holidays:

  • Beating Target and Walmart. These two retail giants had announced more liberal shipping and returns policies of their own in October. Walmart had announced it would expand two-day shipping to the entire Walmart marketplace beginning November 1. And Walmart also said that products purchased through its marketplace could be returned Walmart brick-and-mortar stores products purchased through its marketplace. Target had announced free two-day shipping with no minimum purchase or REDcard membership required from November 1-December 22. Amazon trumped both.
  • Luring shoppers to Amazon Prime. Amazon hopes that anyone using free shipping during the holidays will get a taste of what Prime members enjoy all the time – and, presumably, sign up for Prime, where many more benefits await. For example, Prime members get free same-day delivery on millions of items and free two-day shipping on many more. Prime is the center of Amazon’s on-demand world, which encompasses services ranging from entertainment to retail.

Smaller retailers have a harder time competing on those kinds of terms, but try they must. If you’re a brick-and-mortar retailer, advertising on-demand services such as delivery, shipping, and online ordering/in-store pick-up is key to winning this holiday season. It’s important that you manage your online advertising, including your paid search and display, to show how well you service the on-demand shopper. If you need help, contact True Interactive.

Image source: Walmart

How Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Can Thrive on Amazon

How Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Can Thrive on Amazon

Marketing

Amazon wants to play nice with small and medium-sized businesses. The technology giant has launched a new section on its site, Storefronts, designed to promote small and medium-sized businesses in the United States. The Storefronts portal directs Amazon site visitors to 20,000 small and medium-sized U.S. businesses, including women-owned businesses and family-focused businesses.

About 300,000 U.S. small businesses operate on Amazon, according to TechCrunch. Storefronts should help them in a number of ways such as:

  • Providing one simple portal for shoppers who want to support smaller businesses, thus making it easier to find them.
  • Categorizing smaller businesses by different areas of interest to enrich the discovery process. In addition to family-focused and women-owned businesses, Amazon curates other categories such as Halloween and Back to School.

The move should be a win/win for Amazon and small and medium-sized businesses:

  • Amazon strengthens its position against competitors such as eBay that have attracted smaller businesses.
  • Smaller businesses enjoy more visibility and support.

Smaller businesses can win in Amazon’s world by:

  • Treating Amazon as one important element of your commerce ecosystem. Amazon should complement your presence on sites such as eBay, Etsy, and Facebook, in addition to your own website and brick-and-mortar storefront.
  • Capitalizing on Amazon’s advertising tools. As we have noted on our blog, Amazon offers tools that make it easier to rely on Amazon as an advertiser. For instance, Amazon’s Marketing Services and Advertising Platform products offer options ranging from Sponsored Products (a keyword-based campaign promoting a single product) to Amazon Managed Service (Amazon manages display ads on an advertiser’s behalf). These products make it possible to capitalize on Amazon’s increasing popularity as a search platform.

Amazon is rolling out an advertising program to support the launch of Storefronts, including a testimonial from Michigan-based Little Flower Soap Co. According to Little Flower co-founder Holly Rutt, “Since we started selling on Amazon in October 2016, our sales have nearly doubled. Due to our success, we have been able to hire new team members from our community, including full and part time jobs.”

For more insight into how to succeed on Amazon, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.

Twitter’s Troll Police Struggle to Separate Humans from Bots

Twitter’s Troll Police Struggle to Separate Humans from Bots

Social media

Tweeting with the Cyrillic alphabet might get your Twitter account suspended. According to The Verge, Twitter users from Bulgaria report that their accounts are being suspended simply because the users are tweeting in Cyrillic. So what gives? Well, Twitter has been cracking down on trolls and Russian bots in the wake of negative publicity about how sites such as Twitter are being manipulated by Russian-managed bots. And since Cyrillic is an alphabet used by Russians, “the very use of the alphabet is being treated as a red flag,” speculates The Verge.

In other words, a Twitter bot-busting algorithm might sweep you into its net along with suspected bots just because you have the temerity to use an alphabet used by untold number of human beings. Unfortunately innocent users are paying a price. As The Verge noted:

Innocent users are able to recover their accounts reasonably quickly after a suspension, but then Twitter still treats them like digital outcasts, showing “tweet unavailable” messages when they respond to a conversation thread and also muting them from sending notifications to others. If you want to know what the term “shadow banning” refers to, well, it’s basically this sort of treatment. It’s especially troublesome because when someone affected by it reaches out to Twitter’s support and help services, they’re told that their account isn’t banned and everything is fine. Except their friends can’t receive any notifications from them or see their contributions to group conversations.

Twitter has a long road ahead of it as the platform attempts to balance the need for free speech with the abuse of trolls. In a recently published column for Adweek Social Pro Daily, I discuss Twitter’s struggle to protect its site from trolls without trampling on innocent users. The experience Twitter is having with users of Cyrillic is the latest illustration of Twitter’s struggle. Will Twitter hire enough competent people to manage its troll-policing algorithm, though? The company is just beginning to enjoy a financial turnaround, and the costs of hiring more editors may be unacceptable to investors. For more insight into Twitter’s troll problem, check out my column and contact us to discuss how to build your brand on social.

Welcome to True Interactive!

Welcome to True Interactive!

Marketing

By Kurt Anagnostopoulos and Mark Smith

Welcome to a new era!

Today we officially changed the KeywordFirst name to True Interactive.

True Interactive reflects how we have evolved to become a trusted digital marketing partner that improves the performance of our clients. The KeywordFirst name served us well for many years and reflects our search roots. At the same time, over the past few years, we’ve been helping clients solve problems that extend beyond search, such as:

  • Managing digital advertising campaigns, including mobile.
  • Developing paid social strategies.
  • Managing analytics programs.

Analysts such as Clutch have noticed our evolution. In 2017, Clutch named KeywordFirst a leader in both pay-per-click advertising and all-around digital marketing — and then in 2018 as a leader for Chicago-based internet marketing services agencies. We received especially high marks from clients for the quality of our work and partnering style, as noted here.

Search is as strong as ever and remains one of our core skills. In fact, our broader experience with digital marketing has made us better at search. And now the True Interactive name reflects our present and future.

Our people and our culture remain the same. We’re as dedicated as ever to delivering results with complete transparency. True Interactive will continue to build our brand through the strength of our talent, client relationships,  and ideas for shaping the future of performance-based digital marketing.

We are excited for what the future holds!

— Kurt and Mark

4 Advertising Trends from Super Bowl LII

4 Advertising Trends from Super Bowl LII

Marketing

The past 24 hours have been full of stories rating the Super Bowl ads. The fact that the ads are even rated at all is a testament to their power. We now treat them like movies, talking about them before the big reveal, watching trailers, and then experiencing the moment, after which we discuss how we feel about them (actually, the discuss occurs in real time now, followed by more detailed analysis). In addition to judging the ads, though, it’s also interesting to watch for trends in their format or differences in how they were unveiled in years past. Here are a few we noticed:

1. The Surprise Drop

Usually ads for movies promote releases that are months on the horizon. This year, Netflix dropped a surprise: a film, The Cloverfield Paradox, that premiered immediately after the Super Bowl. The surprise release followed an approach that musicians such as Beyoncé have employed with surprise album drops. In the words of reporter William Bibbian of IGN.com, “All of a sudden, a film most people hadn’t even heard of was now a very big deal.” But the buzz turned to disappointment after critics actually saw the movie and reviewed it. Perhaps that’s what Netflix had in mind all along: drop the movie during the Super Bowl Sunday and attract viewership before word-of-mouth reactions set in.

2. Fewer Stunts

In years past, brands have used the Super Bowl to unleash amusing stunts such as fake ads. This year, advertisers unleashed fewer stunts with the notable exception of Skittles. As we discussed on our blog, Skittles release an advertisement watched by just one person, employing a tongue-in-cheek tone that made us wonder if the ad and person were real. Well, they were. Skittles did what brands struggle to do amid the Super Bowl ad blizzard: capture attention and create conversation. Otherwise, brands focused on the content of the ads themselves.

3. Longer-Form Narrative

As noted in Business Insider, Super Bowl ads were lengthier, taking a storytelling approach that required viewers to follow storylines, such as Aerosmith’s Stevie Tyler reverse aging as he drove a Kia in reverse. Tide released a series of ads starring Stranger Things actor David Harbour, who appeared in ads mocking the concept of an ad. Apparently Super Bowl advertisers wanted to create more memorable moments during the game itself by telling stories, which might help explain why fewer brands released their ads before the game this year.

4. Measurable Performance

Automobile marketplace Cars.com announced that automotive ads generally drove viewers to Cars.com to check out the cars advertised during the game. According to Cars, the Kia Red Stinger ad resulted in a 4,053-percent spike in traffic to view the car on Cars.com. Cars.com research showed that Super Bowl ads (in the automotive industry, anyway) creature measurable results. Perhaps in the future, brands will dial up their ability to measure and even adjust advertising on the fly based on audience feedback in real-time. With digital, anything is possible.

Super Bowl ads, like Black Friday, adapt to changing times and endure the most withering criticism. The Super Bowl will always be an advertising bonanza. Businesses, though, will tweak their approaches year after year as they try to capture a reward so elusive in the digital age: our attention. For more insight into how to build your brand, contact True Interactive.

 

 

What to Do When You Commit a Social Media Blunder

What to Do When You Commit a Social Media Blunder

Social media

Even superstars commit social media blunders.

Recently, Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant found himself in a lot of hot water for committing a few embarrassing social media gaffes:

  • First, he exercised poor judgment on Twitter by trash-talking his former employer, the Oklahoma City Thunder, including calling out his coach – an action that brought the wrath of the internet down on him.
  • At about the same time, he was caught using multiple fake Internet accounts to defend himself against his critics.

His actions also embarrassed the Warriors somewhat, whose name was inevitably mentioned alongside the negative blowback even though the team had nothing to do with his actions.

But Kevin Durant is not the only one committing gaffes, which seemingly happen to brands every day somewhere. In fact, if your brand has an active social media presence, you should assume that someday your name will get dragged through the social media mud:

  • A video of one of your employees acting rudely might go viral.
  • Someone on your own social media team might publish poorly timed or questionable content.
  • An employee might leak an internal email that probably should not have been written in the first place.

You’ve seen it all and more. So have we. How do you respond? Here are a few tips:

Act Quickly

The moment you see something going wrong (you do have someone on your team actively monitoring your brand name, right?), convene a team charged with taking quick action. A social media crisis is all-hands-on-deck time. Your response team should do many things quickly and simultaneously, such as:

  • Contacting parties involved with the gaffe to get their account of what happened.
  • Involving your legal team to assess your legal vulnerability depending on the problem,
  • Having a PR expert appointed to be your official voice to communicate your response.

Too often, big brands make bad situation even worse by coming across as non-caring and inattentive – problems that could have been avoided had the company responded rapidly.

Communicate Yesterday

As you respond to the problem, let the public know in a very social way that you’re on the case. Even if you are still gathering the facts and are unprepared to make an official statement, at least let your social followers know you are aware a problem has occurred and that you’re getting to the bottom of the issue. If a problem is patently outrageous – say, an employee is caught on camera acting in an unacceptable way – you’re probably going to need to speak out even before you’ve had a chance to get the employee’s side of the story and to verify the facts (“We are disturbed by what we saw on this video. Rest assured we are getting to the bottom of what happened and will follow up immediately. Stay tuned.”

Contain the Issue

If you represent a large brand with a very public executive team, you should assume that they’ll be asked to comment on an unfolding social media gaffe. Coach them to avoid commenting other than to acknowledge that your company is taking action and cares deeply about its customers and its reputation. Seeing your name dragged through the mud can be excruciating, and it’s tempting to take the gaffe personally as you see customers on Twitter, Facebook, or other socials attacking your company name. Coach your executives to exercise calm and discretion, especially if they have high-profile, popular social accounts.

Take Accountability

Kevin Durant took accountability for his mistakes at a TechCrunch Disrupt Conference, where he was coincidentally scheduled to appear in the wake of his social media firestorm. At the event he owned up to his boorish behavior and apologized. He did not utter one of those half-hearted “If I offended someone” or “Sorry if you were offended” remarks. He acknowledged his actions were wrong, period.

Also, it’s interesting to note that the Golden State Warriors themselves did not comment. Good move. Durant’s mistakes, while embarrassing, resulted from poor management of his personal social accounts. Yes, the Warriors name did get associated with the problem, and yes, he does represent the team. But in this case, the team commenting might have escalated a fairly petty issue that will become yesterday’s news quickly.

On the other hand, an employee doing something truly egregious, such as violating the law or the company’s code of conduct, will more than likely demand the employer to get involved.

Plan for the Future

Assess how you responded to the problem, note what you did well and not so well, and make sure you have a game plan for future gaffes – because they will happen. Make sure you have a well-documented escalation plan and that it covers the fast-changing social landscape. (Does your plan cover Snapchat and other rapidly evolving platforms?)

How do you address social media gaffes? What do you avoid doing? Meanwhile, contact True Interactive to discuss how to buid your social media reputation. We’re here to help.