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4 Last-Minute Holiday Email Ideas

THE MAGAZINE FOR WEBSITE SUCCESS DECEMBER 2016

AmpliďŹ ed

Analytics INSIDE THIS ISSUE... A Guide to Website Redesigns Checklist for Publishing Quality Content Upping Your Delayed Conversions Game

PLUS

0 5 P O T Analytics ns o i t u l o S

WEBSITEMAGAZINE.COM


Amplified Analytics It can be challenging to know definitively what the driver of conversions or engagement events are on a digital property, but it is becoming much less complicated thanks to the increasing experience of Web professionals and the powerful technologies supporting them.

THIS MONTH IN WEBSITE MAGAZINE Digital Advertising Trends

App Ideas to Forget

The New Year will usher in its own set of trends, not least of which will be a move back to principled 1:1 relationships between advertisers and publishers using credible partners.

By steering clear of these bad-app traps, developers will be able to create better software people will love to use—increasing their chances of succeeding.

CRO for Delayed Purchases

Affiliate Marketing’s Seat at the Table

Visitors dictate the pace of conversations with brands, ultimately deciding when it’s over. Marketing that’s optimized for converting post-visit is more likely to increase overall conversions.

Many companies avoid affiliate marketing because of its reputation. With a little bit of work, however, it can become an effective and targeted way to earn new business.

Last-Minute Holiday Email Strategies

Critical Takeaways from Adobe Max

If marketers remember the best practices outlined here, they will wrap up the sales year with cheer and will be prepared to hit the ground running in 2017.

An investment in creativity is good business. So why is it that so many enterprises are keeping it off their agendas? And what tools do professionals really need to be creative?

EXPLORE WEBSITE MAGAZINE’S DEPARTMENTS Stat Watch:

Small Business Lab:

The Future of Connectivity

Surviving Economic Busts

Quiz Time:

E-Commerce Express:

Understanding the App Explosion

Lookbook for 5 Email Types

Enterprise Ready:

Design & Development:

The Web of Experiences

A Website Redesign Primer

Top 50:

Mastering Search:

Modern Analytics

Content Quality Checklist

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DIGITAL SCOOP Check out Website Magazine’s email newsletters covering search, e-commerce, social, design and more at wsm.co/webscoop.


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From the

EDITOR Analytics Matter There has never been a better time to be a ’Net professional thanks to the immense amount of data that can be utilized in the effort to improve enterprise performance – from a business, user experience and organizational standpoint. The problem, however, is that it is easy to become overwhelmed by the increasing number of data sources and the highly detailed metrics coming from a rising volume of channels and technology platforms. Econsultancy’s “Measurement and Analytics Report 2016” (produced in partnership with Lynchpin) for example, explored how organizations are using data strategically and tactically to generate insights and improve business performance – and the results were intriguing. The report revealed that the vast majority (84 percent) of marketers agree that their understanding of the customer is increasing over time, and 64 percent say that they are currently using data-driven customer insights to adapt their marketing strategies and influence business decisions. Despite the obvious increasing importance of data, the proportion of analytics data used to drive decision-making within organizations dropped by seven percentage points compared to last year’s survey. What’s more, while 77 percent of marketers believe digital analytics important to their company’s digital transformation, fewer than one in five consider digital reporting to have a “very influential” role in supporting business decisions. In this month’s feature article in Website Magazine, readers will be exposed to the trends that impact the collection of data and the tactics that can be used to put the insights gathered into action. While Web analytics is a broad practice area and can be quite complex at times, it serves each ’Net professional well to have a solid foundation. In addition to this insights shared in Website Magazine’s December 2016 feature article, readers will have access to other helpful articles on topics including e-commerce, Web design, search marketing and more from some of digital media’s brightest minds. This issue also offers useful information on conversion optimization, mobile and digital advertising as well as a list of 50 of the most popular digital analytics solutions. As always, we hope you enjoy this issue of Website Magazine and encourage you to join us on the ’Net where our editors and industry contributors share the technologies and insights that matter most to Web success. Best Web Wishes,

The Magazine for Website Success Reaching the largest audience of Web professionals of any Internet industry publication

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*CONTRIBUTORS:

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2017 Media Kit Now Available Find out what’s on the editorial calendar, learn more about the variety of

Website Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 12, December 2016, (ISSN# 1942-0633) is published 12 times a year, January through December by Website Services, Inc., 999 E. Touhy Ave., Des Plaines, IL 60018. Periodicals Postage Paid at Des Plaines, IL and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Website Magazine, 999 E. Touhy Ave., Des Plaines, IL 60018. Canada Post: Please send undeliverable items to: 2835 Kew Drive, Windsor ON, N8T 3B7

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Copyright 2016 by Website Magazine. All rights reserved. Materials may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission. For reprints of any article, contact the editor.

in Website Magazine’s 2017 Media Kit available at wsm.co/mediakit17.

*The opinions expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of Website Magazine.

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Now Your Development Team Is Just a Click Away Don’t turn down overdue or vital Web and software jobs because you don’t have the development team for them. With Vertex as your partner, you can take on any project – applications, mobile apps, e-commerce, portals, intranets, legacy database integration, content management systems, Web API’s, social media apps, email marketing. We’re Microsoft Partners and Elastic Search specialists, C# virtuosos, WordPress wizards, JavaScript gurus, social media savants, masters of SQL and SEO and API – and ROI. We’ll provide you with a completed project, from design to deployment, on time and on budget. No hidden fees or bait-and-switch. And we don’t charge for fixing reproducible bugs on fixed bid projects, as some development firms do. Save on recruiting fees, talent searches, labor costs, HR, insurance, rent, software licenses, data centers, servers, workstations, IT support, benefits, PTO, payroll taxes. Grow your bottom line - not your head count. If you have a project that you’ve been putting off because you don’t have the team – or the time – to get it done, call 877-610-0049 or email sales@vertex.com for a free quote today. And get it delivered on time, on budget, per spec. We make the Web work. For you. For your customers.

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Net

BRIEFS

MARKETING NEWS Social Inuence to Like It turns out that social media does, in fact, infl uence customers on their path to purchase according to a new study from Crowdtap. The report found that 75 percent of consumers visit Facebook during the pre-shopping planning stage in pursuit of recommendations and advice from friends and family. One-third of consumers take several days to plan their purchases, while another third plan only a few hours before.

Mobile Opens by Weekend Warriors Mobile now accounts for 73 percent of email opens for retailers according to Yesmail’s analysis of 3 billion email opens, with that number spiking to 78 percent on Saturday and Sunday. This fi nding suggests those are either the best days to send e-commerce emails or that people have held onto the messages until they have downtime to read or review.

Holiday E-Commerce Still Growing, Just Not As Fast While online retail sales are certainly still trending upward, they are not expected to have the same growth as in holidays past. Adobe predicts that 2016 will see 1.7 percent less growth than 2015 but still $9.1 billion more than 2015 for a total of $91.6 billion overall. And, for the first time, mobile will exceed desktop shopping visits for the full holiday season (53 percent). While mobile traffic has hit a tipping point, visits from these devices will only contribute to 34 percent of online sales.

Access holiday predictions based on 1 trillion website visits at wsm.co/hpredict.

$ WHO GOT PAID $52 Million Wavefront, a metrics monitoring service for cloud and modern application environments, announced that it has secured $52 million in a Series B funding round. Existing investors, Sequoia Capital and Sutter Hill Ventures, were joined by new investor Tenaya Capital and other equity holders.

$100 Million Five-time NBA champ Kobe Bryant and business partner Jeff Stibel (former CEO of Web.com) announced a $100 million venturecapital fund for investing in data, media and technology companies.

$25 Million Baobab Studios, creators of virtual reality animation entertainment, announced the close of $25 million in Series B funding, bringing total funding to date to $31 million.

$12.4 Million Apptimize, a company that offers an optimization platform for A/B testing of mobile apps, has announced it has secured $12.4 million in Series B financing.


TECH UPDATES Start Using a Secondary DNS October’s epic DDoS attacks against Dyn’s network forced many enterprises to examine their existing domain name system (DNS) configurations. What they found, however, does not bode well for the state of Internet security. Looking at the top 100 domains at Alexa, DNS Made Easy found that 58 percent of those outsourcing their DNS were still using only a single provider. The company, and many security experts, suggests that a secondary DNS should be a standard practice among large brands who value performance and reliability.

All In a Day’s Work What do developers do all day? It’s probably not what most people think. Results from a survey conducted by ClusterHQ shows that 42 percent of app developers spend between 10 and 25 percent of their time debugging application errors discovered in production, rather than developing new features.

No HTTPS? Now You Should Panic Starting in Jan. 2017, Google’s Chrome browser will begin marking any page with a password or credit card fields as insecure if the page is not on HTTPS. As it stands today, more than half of Chrome desktop page loads are now served over HTTPS. Google also reiterated its plan to eventually mark all non-HTTPS as not secure. Access our “Step-By-Step Guide for Using an SSL” at wsm.co/guidessl.

POPULAR WITH WM READERS Should SEOs Guarantee their Work? +

wsm.co/seomoneyback

Over the years, businesses have learned that any “guarantee” for SEO work is the fi rst sign they should run. This advice often centers around the concept that companies offering guaranteed results are focusing on short-term, lowquality or even black-hat tactics.

9 Questions to Ask Social Media Candidates +

wsm.co/socialhires

Handing over brand messaging to a social media manager can be a difficult decision, particularly when hiring a new person for the role. Here are nine questions brands should be asking candidates, or themselves if they need a refresh of current best practices.

Gmail Promotions Tab: Retail Friend or Foe? +

wsm.co/wphire

Gmail’s “Tabs” update panicked both end-users and the marketers trying to reach them. Research after the fact, however, paints a different picture of the change and highlights how recipients across generations are using email to communicate with brands and each other.


Net

BRIEFS APP FOCUS

WEB TECH WATCH Check out what has the digital community all abuzz with Website Magazine’s #WebTechWatch series, a monthly roundup profiling emerging and established technologies and some of the most useful solutions for today’s Web workers. Submit your own recommendations by tweeting us at @WebsiteMagazine.

Zendesk 3.0

Fuzzy.ai

New version built around customer relationships

An AI decision-making API

Origami Studio

EMERGE App

Adobe Magic in Spark Post Designers know the pain of being asked to create graphics for every conceivable channel and social media managers experience similar anguish when trying to generate images on their own for all the different networks. Adobe Spark Post provides iOS and desktop users with easy-to-tweak, professionally designed templates that are pre-sized to fit optimally on the top networks. Users simply pick a photo, add some text and apply themes. To customize the graphic further, they just tap on the screen to get new layouts, color palettes, typography styles and filters. Designs can easily be added to social platforms, tests or emails.

NeverBounce Largerio

A tool for designing interfaces from Facebook

Multi-channel order and inventory management system

Real-time email verification and email cleaning services

Microsoft Teams

Sizzle Analytics

Mailytics

Parrot QA

Team communication/ collaboration

Multidimensional analytics for CSV data

Monitor and analyze competitor email campaigns

Automated bug testing

Shows the technologies used on websites

Have tips, stories, funding or acquisition news to share?

Tweet us @WebsiteMagazine


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Stat

WATCH

Changing the Future of Connectivity:

How Pokémon & Augmented Reality are Bringing New Life to the Digital Experience While many enterprises are desperately just trying to keep up with current demands from the always-on consumer, the digital community is moving past simple mobile optimization and omnichannel capabilities, and connecting people via technology in ways never before imagined. Readers of Website Magazine’s November issue (wsm.co/wm1116) learned, for example, how Microsoft is enabling augmented reality (AR) video conferencing that teleports a 3-D projection of participants in real-time so that people can communicate as if they were face to face. Developments like these no doubt contribute to Goldman Sachs predicting augmented and virtual reality will be an $80 billion market by 2025. Pokémon Go no doubt will contribute to AR’s growth as well. The app brought augmented reality to the masses, even adding in some unexpected benefi ts. According to a Microsoft Research and Stanford report, Pokémon Go added 144 billion steps within the first 30 days to U.S. physical activity. Those figures are not even as impressive, however, as the five new world records it broke according to Guinness: 1. Most revenue grossed by a mobile game in its first month 2. Most downloaded mobile game in its fi rst month 3. Most international charts topped simultaneously for a mobile game in its fi rst month (downloads) 4. Most international charts topped simultaneously for a mobile game in its fi rst month (revenue) 5. Fastest time to gross $100 million by a mobile game Despite all this, the effects on the local business economy missed the mark with San Francisco/Portland startup Womply unable to uncover any meaningful impact after reviewing its company’s database of over 2 million merchants – regardless of reports indicating otherwise. Still, the app’s overnight popularity proves we’re one digital step closer to having the technology we’re creating now, being what will inform us in the future, perhaps in 3-D humanoid form. 10

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200.1

Worldwide sales of virtual reality headmounted displays (HMDs) will reach 200.1 million units during the period from 2015 through 2020. By the end of that period, HMD shipments are forecast to reach 76.7 million units annually. (Tractica, 2016)

49%

Nearly half (49 percent) of survey respondents say wearable technology will increase workplace efficiency, and two in three want their company to pay for their wearable tech. (PwC, 2016)

12.4

The production of new automobiles equipped with data connectivity, either through a built-in communications module or by a tether to a mobile device, is forecast to reach 12.4 million in 2016 and increase to 61 million in 2020. (Gartner, 2016)

11%

When asked about when they connect to social media during their workday, about 40 percent of respondents said during lunch and intermittently throughout the day respectively, and 11 percent said during bathroom breaks. (Bambu by Sprout Social, 2016)

30%

By 2020, 30 percent of Web browsing sessions will be done without a screen. (Gartner, 2016)

Million

Million


Quiz

TIME

Understanding the App

EXPLOSION How many apps do you have on your mobile phone? If you’re like most modern consumers the number ranges anywhere from 11-20 (Pew Research), and the time you spend interacting with them is growing at record pace. Globally, time spent in apps grew by a staggering 114 percent on Android phones from 2014 to 2016 according to App Annie Intelligence, with communication and social apps like WhatsApp Messenger and Facebook attracting the largest share of time spent. Time spent in media and video apps (like YouTube) has also grown by 212 percent over this period and is on the brink of overtaking games. Even so, app retention remains a critical issue in this ecosystem with 75 percent of all app users churning within 90 days (Localytics). Despite this challenge, many brands are considering tapping into this competitive yet potentially lucrative market. Knowing the factors that contribute to app downloads, engagement and revenue is a good place to start. Take this months’ Quiz Time to test your app-savvy and see if your app idea has legs based on 2016 data from App Annie.

Access the answers to December’s Quiz Time by scanning the QR code on the left or visiting wsm.co/qtdec16.

1.

The global revenue opportunity for publishers of mobile apps is forecast to grow by 270 percent — from $70 billion in 2015 to this amount in 2020: a. $189 billion b. $1.2 trillion c. $250.93 billion d. $727 billion

2.

What were the top three paid apps by iOS and Google Play revenue in the first half of 2016? a. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Facetune and Terraria b. Monster Strike, Clash of Clans, Game of War - Fire Age c. Facebook, Snapchat and Selfie d. Shutterfly, Minecraft and Pokémon Go

3. Which country recently surpassed the U.S. in iOS App Store revenue? a. Japan b. Russia c. Brazil d. China

4.

Not all apps are created to generate revenue through the app stores or in-app advertising. We’ve listed some of the strategies of popular apps below. Which one is not true? a. HBO Go: Allows current subscribers to stream content on the go b. Uber: Drives mobile transactions that are processed outside of the app store c. eBay: Drives online shopping conversion d. Venmo: Uses augmented reality to let users see how furniture would look in their homes

5.

True or False: While there are more app downloads on Android devices worldwide by a factor of 7:2 due to its larger base of users, iOS leads on revenue generated from apps by 3:2 due to its more affluent user base. D E CE M B E R 2016

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Enterprise

READY The Experience Business

From a Web of Pages to a Web of Experiences By Kevin Lindsay, Adobe

We’re in a major period of transition, as our Web of pages shifts to become a Web of experiences. The “last millisecond” and the behaviors it triggers have become less a consideration and more the norm in this always-on, customer-first universe. Consumers don’t just expect, they demand, more spot-on experiences and personalized journeys from the brands they frequent. They don’t want websites. Websites are boring – necessary evils in their fully integrated lives. Web experiences, though, are something special. That’s what pulls consumers in and inspires purchases, viral chatter and other key actions. A Web experience is something we, as consumers, can climb on board for, feel good about or get behind. It’s something we can all relate to on a bigger level. This shouldn’t surprise us; we’re in the experience business and have been for a while. The next phase is optimizing those experiences with our collective eye on creating perfect experiences. It’s doable. Since you have a site, you already have the data, the content and the context – three key pieces to building a Web experience. The next step is to tap into the brave new user experience (UX), design and tech worlds to create something even bigger and better: a true experience.

THE WORLD OF NEW UX & THE NEW WORLD OF EXPERIENCES Brian Solis, a thought leader in the space, unpacks this even more in his book, “X: The Experience When Business Meets Design.” He mentioned that this is

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“...a new era of business in which your brand is defined by those who experience it.” A marketer’s job is to understand how customers experience their brand and work to define those experiences to benefit both sides. No longer are great products enough to win over consumer sentiment, he explains; instead, we all need to be razor-focused on building and cultivating the most meaningful experiences possible – experiences that stretch across all of our brand platforms. Why does it matter now? Because, we’re in a website crisis, really. On the average website, nearly two in five users don’t complete even the simplest tasks. Design and UX are issues. The simplest transaction is loaded with steps and page after irrelevant page of info. It’s not surprising that so many people ditch their carts before buying their shoes, downloading their music or booking their flights; they’re just not good experiences. They’re not meant to be. They’re meant to be websites. And the average person will give a website about 60 seconds before calling it quits – that last millisecond is a powerful pull.

HOW WE’LL SHIFT TO A WEB OF EXPERIENCES This goes beyond just finding (or not finding) our way through cluttered and poorly organized pages. Once upon a time, websites provided dazzling new ways to communicate our brands. They were cutting-edge methods that boasted transactional experiences without the hassle – things that, prior to the Internet, we had to do in person or over the phone (the horror). Fast-forward two decades, and now, we casually toss around the term “digital experience” to describe


the exchanges that have become utilitarian in nature (e.g., booking a flight, contacting customer support, ordering new sneakers, paying a credit card bill). They’re totally transactional, but still, we assign the term “experience” to them, too. Today, everything has become a brand experience. Is it really though? Within a typical website, there’s a set construct – it’s a Web PAGE, after all. As technology has evolved, and we’ve seen things like CSS, Angular and app-development take center stage, a new path has begun to take shape – and it’s filled with opportunities for more elegant experiences. A good example? We can accomplish things on one screen that once took many — gone are the days when users had to be catapulted from one section of a site to another to download PDFs, check size charts, and review dates and times. We can now engage consumers in ways that truly reflect the way they do things in “real life.”

CHALLENGES BEHIND CREATING AN AMAZING WEB OF EXPERIENCES A large media brand recently shared its plans for the next iteration of its website—and it’s really cool. The new visually striking homepage is comprised of modular content blocks or tiles. Tile-based design is growing in popularity among designers, and many brands are testing it on their websites with great results (check out Thomas Haustein’s Pinterest board, screenshot above, to see some great tile-based design). In this case, what’s so interesting is not so much the design or tiles themselves, but rather the engine behind the experience they want to deliver. Some design lends itself better to personalization than others do, but something as modular and, therefore, flexible as a tile-based UX provides seemingly unlimited abilities to personalize. In the case of my media-company example, there is no shortage of tiles – content with offers, stories, programming suggestions and much more. So, how do they decide which tiles appear when and to whom given the context variables of the interaction (such as device type)?

The challenge, when it comes to any kind of personalization, lies with the “decision;” how do we decide which piece of content or experience variation should manifest for a particular person in a given moment? We compound this challenge when we increase the number of decisions that users must make, which is why today’s companies are starting to heavily leverage data and automate personalization through machine learning. This is, hands down, a Web experience. We’re talking so many experience permutations that, literally, no two individuals ever need to see the same “page.” My media-company friends are beyond excited about data science’s potential to help them deliver hyper-relevance at scale. They acknowledge that this is the only way to figure out the right experience for their large and vastly diverse customer base. The result of this design-meets-data-science marriage? They’re architecting something that’s infinitely bigger, bolder and better than just a website. As always, testing and optimization are critical here. Does this experience prevail over that one? Are customers more apt to apply for credit cards, book flights or buy those sneakers within a Web page—or within a Web experience? Is this the right thing, or do customers still prefer the page over the experience? What wins? Done well, the power is unparalleled. Done right, brands will craft powerhouse experiences that are so rich, so authentic, and so enjoyable that consumers will want more, more, more—and, they’ll travel across platforms and other interactive experiences to fuel that desire.

START BUILDING Take a lesson from experience pioneers like Steve Jobs and advice from experts like Solis; then, look to your own experiences across the incredible brands you love: step back from the page and start building the experience. It’s where Web is going, and where you need to be now. By tapping into your data, content and context, you’re already halfway there. The rest boils down to UX and human-centered design. Kevin Lindsay heads up product marketing for Adobe Target.

5 Brands Nailing UX Learn their tricks at wsm.co/5nailedit.


Top

50

RANK WEBSITE

Analytics for the Digital Future ’Net professionals have never been in greater demand – content is king, experience is queen, but only those with a deep familiarity with the science of data will ensure their spot in the Web’s royal inner circle. Today, analytics is simply apart of everything we as ’Net professionals do – in fact, there is not a virtual area anywhere that is completely untouched by the detailed access to data and it’s becoming a driving trend for enterprises looking to achieve success in the years to come. Traditional Web analytics leaves a great deal to be desired, however. While it has almost always been possible to know what pages people are visiting, how long they stay and even which channels convert the best, the most sophisticated enterprises know that only paying attention to these top-level metrics and performance indicators of this nature will never be enough to help them achieve genuine success in the years to come (considering the competitive landscape). The savviest ’Net professionals are becoming increasingly sophisticated, analyzing each unique customer journey and then determining the relevant commonalities between them, in order to help optimize their experience. This provides an ability to go well beyond the outdated method of simply understanding unique and often unpredictable visitor behaviors. With inside-out analytics, they can pull deep insights from individual customer journeys by aggregating them into meaningful audience segments and then engaging those segments differently. Never before has this been possible. In this month’s Website Magazine Top 50, readers will discover some of the top digital analytics solutions available to ’Net enterprises. There are thousands of offerings available for those looking to gather better data and put the insights they find to good use. Let this month’s Top 50, however, serve as Web professionals’ starting point as they explore the opportunities they have to maximize their investment in and return from analytics.

Next Month:

The Best of 2017

Website Magazine’s January 2017 issue will feature 50 of the most important technology solutions and platforms for ‘Net professionals like you – including tools and offerings for every field of endeavor. Do you have a recommendation? Share it with a tweet to @WebsiteMagazine, using the hashtag #WM2017.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50.

google.com adobe.com ibm.com tableau.com appannie.com kissmetrics.com optimizely.com hotjar.com clicky.com mixpanel.com domo.com adjust.com chartbeat.com piwik.org chartio.com localytics.com geckoboard.com parsely.com segment.com woopra.com mouseflow.com gosquared.com amplitude.com inspectlet.com urbanairship.com heapanalytics.com clicktale.com looker.com luckyorange.com sitemeter.com sisense.com insightsquared.com webtrends.com gooddata.com keen.io leanplum.com awstats.org atinternet.com birst.com swrve.com openwebanalytics.com grow.com count.ly goingup.com usabilitytools.com webalizer.org dundas.com haveamint.com statpedia.com gaug.es


Small

BUSINESS LAB

How Your Business Can Survive & Then Thrive After an Economic Bubble Bursts By Brian Toolan, The Plan Collection

Remember Pets.com in 2000? What about Lehman Brothers in 2008? While eight years apart, both of these companies experienced impressive growth during a bubble – the dot.com bubble and the housing bubble, respectively – only to ultimately collapse and fail once those bubbles burst. Failure, however, isn’t the only option. Some companies caught in the downdraft of a market collapse do find paths to great success. Left for dead by public investors after the dot.com bubble, Priceline.com today is a multibillion dollar corporation. While not every business is destined for such levels of success, plenty of companies do survive and a number of them subsequently thrive beyond expectations. How? We’ve identified five critical, common traits among those who succeed.

Manage Debt Wisely Debt is a core element of any business and potentially one of the greatest tools for fueling growth, when used responsibly. Companies should avoid becoming too reliant on credit for regular operating costs, even during a strong market, otherwise they could quickly find themselves dealing with unhappy creditors during an economic downturn. As a general rule, it’s important to balance the use of short-term credit and revolving loans with other forms of more stable capital, including long-term debt which can offer greater financial security. This may help companies avoid exorbitant interest rates or penalties, as well as maintain their existing debt long enough to ride out a recession.

ties arise. An experienced investor can bring years of experience and insight that can do more to help businesses get through the burst than just access to capital would.

Cash Flow, Cash Flow, Cash Flow Cut unnecessary and discretionary spending and take this chance to redefine what “core” spending really means. A business owner can often identify projects or spending that is not necessary for their business, which can translate into major long-term savings. If an owner concludes that she needs to conduct layoffs or close satellite offices or branches, she should do so as soon as possible instead of dragging it out and sowing doubt among her employees. Don’t focus just on expense cutting. Consider alternative ways to improve cash flow, such as negotiating longer payment terms with vendors. Another option is offering a small discount for early payments of invoices, which can help you improve cash flow and reduce outstanding receivables.

Lead with Confidence While it’s important to brace for rough times during the burst phase of any bubble, it’s imperative that business leaders don’t use a “hunker down” mentality with their employees or clients. This attitude can send the signal that they aren’t prepared for what’s happening and don’t think the company will make it through. Instead, they should lead with confidence and show everyone that they believe in the company and are actively making changes to guide it through the storm. Actions like taking a salary cut show that they are committed to the success of the business and value the efforts of every employee.

Be Ready to Take Bold Action In almost any field, new opportunities present themselves all the time and sometimes a down market is the ideal time to acquire a competitor or even branch out into something new. The key is not to overextend or push beyond available means. An opportunity might be in the form of a major client looking to leave a competitor who can’t adapt to the changing climate or a new niche among customers created as a result of larger economic struggles. Whatever it is, business leaders have to be ready to act quickly to make the most of the opportunity and translate it into a lasting benefit. As Warren Buffet says, “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful.”

Embrace Equity, Consider Partners Building equity can be expensive and challenging, but it can often be far more beneficial to the long-term success of a business than relying on banks to provide loans. Outside investors who have faith in the business will often still be there when times get tough or when new opportuni16

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Brian Toolan is Co-Founder & CEO of TPC Interactive, a Web-based business focused on growing a digital media platform in the home construction, remodeling and design sectors. The company currently operates under The Plan Collection and Houseplans. He is also a partner at Araquot Partners, an investment firm.


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E-Commerce

EXPRESS

Lookbook for 5 Email Types By Amberly Dressler, Managing Editor

Hundreds of billions of emails are sent each day, and sometimes it can feel that we as individuals are receiving the majority of them. Deleting promotional emails in our inboxes is a daily task and one that senders (retailers in particular) hope to eradicate. Let’s look at five email types worthy of opens and why they routinely catch the eye of digital consumers as well as who should be the recipients of them.

The Timely Send Whether it’s the World Series or the Presidential Election, more often than not there is a way to tie current events into email marketing messaging in hopes of higher opens and better click-through rates because the message speaks directly to what recipients are currently interested in. Brands should be careful to stay neutral if they are engaging in a sensitive topic, however. In this instance, Shutterfly was smart to send two free gifts to recipients on the day after the 2016 Election when people were either celebrating or in mourning. Shutterfly’s email would be good for recipients with high average order values (AOVs) because it would serve as a “thank you” and recipients would likely spend more than just the free gifts allow. 18

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The Apology Statement Those responsible for marketing messages within an organization often schedule campaigns (within both email and social media channels). Doing so eliminates work later on and ensures campaigns are sent at the optimal time, but it’s difficult to predict what could happen between the moment a message is scheduled and when it is delivered. In Aug. 2016, for example, World Market sent an email with the subject line, “Summer like an Italian with 2 for $12 Torani, Salute!” Typically that message would be innocent enough, but it happened to be delivered the day a devastating earthquake hit central Italy, which prompted World Market to send a statement of apology in a follow-up email and donate proceeds from the promotion to those affected. The coincidence likely went unnoticed by most recipients but World Market’s apology was in line with the advice that many public relations professionals would offer: admit fault quickly and be sincere. When brands make a blunder (whether it’s an insensitive remark, a mistake in the copy or a broken link), the follow-up email should go to everyone receiving the original email.

The Expectations Email Consumer expectations have the potential to make or break an experience. When someone


expects A, B or C to happen – and it doesn’t – they will view a brand negatively. On the other hand, when expectations are met or exceeded, buyers won’t soon forget. Confirmation emails are multipurpose in that they confirm a transaction has been officially processed and then they set expectations as to what happens next (building anticipation). Fabletics confirmation email is particularly impressive in that it offers a visual progress bar of sorts to convey this is the confirmation email and the person should expect a shipping notification email next (likely contributing to higher open rates for the subsequent email as well).

The Cross-Channel Push If the last couple years have taught retailers anything, it is that customers do not think in channels. They expect to access local inventory through a brand’s website, the ability to buy online and pick up in store and get near real-time help to customer service issues on social media. So, it is not a stretch to ask engaged email recipients to follow a brand on social media or engage in a contest on the page. Carter’s knows its audience well in that its social media sweepstake asks parents to tag Carter’s in pictures of their “sleepyheads” for a chance to win a gift card. As they do, Carter’s not only improves social media engagement and creates brand advocates but it is also able to leverage all of that user-generated content for more relatable campaigns.

The Feedback Request Consumers are asked to provide feedback nearly everywhere they go, from restaurants and retailers to dentists and doctors. So many requests over the years have made them insensitive to the plight of businesses trying to collect valuable feedback. Macy’s, however, does a couple things right with its feedback-request email shown below. For starters, the subject line, “Special invitation from Macy’s” is alluring. Secondly, the body of the email is personalized to the recipient by name (greeting) and by location (where the person recently purchased items). Adding personalization is likely to improve Macy’s click through and completion rates. Brands should take into account the journey a buyer goes through when deciding on timing for these emails. A person purchasing a high-ticket item, for example, may not be fully able to review the product until they get it home and try it for a lengthy amount of time. On the other hand, if purchasing experience is being surveyed, that email can be sent right away as the transaction is fresh in the recipient’s mind. There are hundreds of email types to choose from when scheduling campaigns this holiday season and beyond. Understanding what the competition is doing well, however, is a good way to narrow down the emails that should and shouldn’t be sent.

3 Email Types You Aren’t Sending But Should Get in the know at wsm.co/3etypes.


Design and

DEVELOPMENT

DIGITAL CHANGES

Practical Solutions for Overcoming the Inherent Challenges in Website Redesign Projects By Peter Prestipino, Editor-In-Chief

In the course of an enterprise’s digital lifespan, the time will inevitably come when the redesign of a website becomes necessary. Whether it is to take advantage of the latest trends, freshen what has become a stale brand or to simply keep pace with the competition, there are plenty of reasons to engage in a redesign project and it can be both exciting and terrifying for those responsible for the project’s success. Website Magazine regularly addresses the reasons that Web design (and specifically a redesign) should top the list of an enterprise’s priorities and the content readers find each month in the print edition and daily on the ’Net within our Design & Development channel (wsm.co/desdevdigest) provides an excellent starting point for those in the process of determining if the redevelopment of a digital property makes sense. While there will undoubtedly be companies satisfied with the current look and function of their website, redesigns often end up being necessary. For example, savvy Web workers know that faster load times means lower bounce rates, but the only way to achieve better

Know Thy Users A poor understanding of a website’s intended audience will quickly turn a website into a depreciating asset. Develop data-driven personas and create experiences that satisfy the needs of users.

performance is to start with the right architecture in the first place. So too can the “right” color palette lead to significant increases in conversion, and the placement of calls-to-action (CTAs) literally make or break an enterprise, but changing even a few elements of a website likely won’t be significant enough on their own. As a result, a redesign from the virtual ground up is almost always a better course of action. That, of course, requires a great deal of investment and effort.

Establish a Plan & Process Perhaps the best advice that Web professionals responsible for a redesign project will receive (important if they are a designer or an enterprise employing one) is to learn from the successes and failures of others and the aims and objectives of the finished product. Even if the processes seem to be somewhat over-the-top, it is important for those ultimately responsible for a redesign project to do what they can to understand the scope of the project and the expectations for it. Conducting interviews with key stakeholders (discover several possible questions for a design-related interview at wsm.co/redesqs), developing detailed project briefs, performing competitive analysis, keeping the lines of inspiration open and establishing feedback loops, is simply the optimal way to approach a website redesign project. Employing these approaches at each and every state of the process will improve the chances for its success. There are, of course, numerous other considerations that enterprises engaging in a redesign project


today and in the coming year should address. Let’s take a look at what should be top of mind before, during and after a redesign and explore what makes such a project successful.

Ensuring Responsiveness There once was a time when Web professionals had to choose between a dedicated mobile website or a responsive one, but once Google indicated its preference, it was responsive all the way. Website designs that are responsive adjust to the screen size of the different devices they are being viewed upon – increasingly important as mobile devices are overtaking the desktop (and in some industries, like visits to retail sites, surpassed it). Hundreds of rules can be at play depending on the complexity of a website however, so consider regularly monitoring how each and every change impacts the design/aesthetic experience. Check out three ways to check the responsiveness of websites at wsm.co/3check.

Branding Consistency Agreeing upon the color palette, fonts/typography and other design elements will ensure that a digital experience is consistent and will create trust among visitors and strengthen a brand’s credibility. Consumers are often willing to pay more for a product if the brand delivers a positive branding experience, making the consistency of key elements an absolute imperative in a website redesign. There are challenges to achieving this consistency, but solutions do exist (digital asset management, or DAM, solutions for example) that aim to help brands prevent problems from arising. Learn more about why DAM is essential to marketing, design and the user experience at wsm.co/damrole.

Access to Image Assets Pictures are worth a thousand words and the images (and the quality of those assets) that brands use on their websites have been shown time and again to influence the digital experience. The impact on conversion rates are significant and while investing in custom photography can be outside of the allotted budget for a redesign project, investing in image assets that help convey the quality and essence of a brand is critical. Designers not only need access, but they also need guidance as to the appropriate use. Providing designers pre-approved image assets will go a long way toward ensuring a redesigned website meets expectations. One of the cardinal sins of redesigning a website is failing to provide a vision for the structure. Formal-

One Thousand Words Discover the top three image sources for today’s professional Web designers at wsm.co/sourcepic. izing the essential navigation options in primary locations in the user’s field of vision will help accomplish the goals and objectives of the enterprise. Invest in a proper wireframe solution or sit down with a pencil and paper and formally sketch out exactly what needs to be the key pages of a website experience. Take every page into consideration – from the home page to a blog post, a product page to the privacy page – and determine what users need at each point in the digital experience.

Conversion Elements It is not always the obvious elements that impact conversion rates and degrees of engagement; it’s often the subtle things that make the greatest difference. Agreeing upon the visual and contextual style of elements including headlines, sub-headlines, calls-to-action, interactions, etc., can make the difference between design success and failure, between a user-friendly digital experience and one that is so overly complex that it negatively impacts the enterprise. The famous David Ogilvy said that five times as many people read the headline as the body content so placing key conversion elements above the fold (the visual area that can be seen without scrolling) is essential. Take advantage of the “Serial Position Effect,” which suggests that people tend to pay more attention to and retain information better, to those things that appear at the beginning and end. Undertaking a website redesign project can be rewarding, but there’s a lot of work to be done to get it right. Visit Website Magazine on the ’Net to discover brands that have recently redesigned their digital properties and see what they’ve done right, or wrong along the way.

SEO from the Get Go SEO must be addressed in the early stages of a website redesign. Understand the trends that are influencing the market today and will likely do the same in the future, concentrating on ways to add greater value for consumers.


Mastering

SEARCH

Rinse & Repeat:

Quality Content Checklist By Amberly Dressler, Managing Editor

These days, everyone is a publisher, or so it seems with the creation of blogs, graphics, videos and similar material to persuade audiences to buy, try or “like” a company’s products or services. Content marketing has impacted nearly every industry – and its adoption is simply incredible. Aberdeen Group recently found that 83 percent of its marketing respondents practice content marketing, and, guess what? Many of their efforts benefit enterprises with increases in site traffic, lead generation, customer acquisition and retention, social media engagement and search rankings (check out must-know content marketing stats at wsm.co/statscm). After so many years of publishing content to achieve these rewards, however, a natural decline in quality can occur. With many efforts, practice does indeed make perfect but that’s not always the case with content. Sure, the more one writes the more confident they become as a writer, but if they aren’t careful, publishers (whether that’s a blogger, an SEO, a journalist) can become out of touch with what his or her audience really wants, how to effectively analyze efforts, the best ways to produce content and the optimal channels to share it. Let’s check off items from this quality content list for, well, everyone. 22

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Conduct a Monthly/Yearly Content Audit Reviewing past content successes and failures is a smart way to understand what has worked and what hasn’t in order to make more effective decisions going forward. Unfortunately, not all content producers have access to analytics other than page views and social shares, but reviewing and documenting even these basic metrics and then sorting them in Excel by most-viewed and most-shared, respectively, is a valuable practice (if their content management system doesn’t already offer access to more meaningful data or provide some integration to do so through a third-party provider). SEOs may start to notice trends in the topics that are high performers and under performers, sparking their creativity to repackage (like turning a popular blog post into an infographic or a slideshow into a video) or update (e.g., version 2.0 or 2017 edition) content that was previously popular. Once an audit system is established, they can start to add other attributes like most-used keywords to analyze even more trends in performance. Merging two popular topics into one could be a hit like, “Virtual Reality’s Impact on SEO.” Likewise, if one’s CMS doesn’t create word clouds for them, using a tool to generate their own, like Wordle, WordItOut or Tagul (based on the keywords that most-often appear within highly viewed/ shared articles) may be just the spark – because of its


visual representation – they need to complete an editorial calendar (more on that below) that fuels great content all week/month/year.

Establish a Cadence Like in email marketing (wsm.co/6automate), establishing a regular content publishing schedule can prepare readers/viewers to expect when new material will be out – helping to increase traffic and read rates while reducing bounces for those hosting content on their sites. A person, for example, who expects a software company’s blog to have daily posts because that has been the case in the past, will be disappointed when there is no fresh content to meet their expectations. The likelihood of them revisiting older content or diving deeper into the site is slim while the probability of them leaving for a competitor is much greater. Companies need to evaluate how much content they can reasonably create without impacting other key areas of business (if hiring additional creators, taking on freelancers or opening up publishing to guest contributors is not an option). Treating content creation as an afterthought or as an annoyance will not bode well for the company’s rankings, reputation or revenue. Readers reward thoughtful content by recommending it and spending time with it – signals the search engines will reward too. The frequency at which a company publishes isn’t as important as creating the right content for their audience and delivering it based on their expectations.

Create a Calendar Traditional publishers don’t conduct business without an editorial calendar – a document outlining their coverage for a set amount of time – and SEOs, bloggers and the like shouldn’t either. Planning content – whether it’s for the week, month or year – supports the previously mentioned cadence by keeping writers on task and advertisers, for the case of many, privy to publishing plans to meet their own agendas. Using the previous two checkpoint items can help creators with their calendars: what has been popular, what hasn’t worked, how often should publish and what does our audience expect from us? It is wise to look at editorial with both a short- and long-term view. During the week, this content is published on this day (e.g., Mondays are devoted to makeovers

whether that’s a local landscaper or a beauty salon, Tuesdays are focused on tip-based content, Wednesdays are how-to videos, and the list goes on). Website Magazine, for instance, breaks down the week by our channels, devoting Mondays to E-Commerce Express, Tuesdays to Mastering Search, etc. By doing so, we hope our audience knows what to expect from the content on the site and the content being delivered by email. What’s more, it makes it easier to schedule from an email administrative perspective, allowing recipients an opportunity to self-select the content they want and providing advertisers a targeted audience. A more high-level view of the year should also be recorded – which is particularly timely considering the New Year is now just weeks away – as it allows for content creators to tailor material to their industry (e.g., e-commerce software providers may provide research around reasons to replatform in November and December knowing that retailers will take on these projects immediately after the holiday season). Likewise, popular topics could be revisited each year as they are likely to change in some ways.

Be Consistent Local merchants, software vendors, airlines, hotels, retailers and other verticals are all keeping writers employed – relying, in many cases, on those with journalism backgrounds to give their content initiatives life. With that, however, enterprises must be willing to adapt to their experience where calendars are created and style guides are adhered to. If a style guide doesn’t exist within an organization, it should be created for consistency. It can be difficult, for instance, for someone not familiar with the Associated Press Stylebook to forgo their Oxford/serial commas or understand when to spell out numbers (e.g., one, two, three) versus using the figures (10, 20, 3 million). Whether it’s AP Style, Chicago Style, a homegrown guide or a hybrid of different approaches, being consistent is key and allowing content creators to establish that consistent style, as well as edit for it, is part of quality control.

Read More There’s perhaps nothing more writers like doing than to write about writing, so our editors have compiled more to this checklist (including the importance of vetting guest bloggers, improving “scan-ability,” investing in education, etc.) online at wsm.co/cqcheck.

Top B2B Content Marketing Metrics What they are and how to track them at wsm.co/b2bmetric.


Amplified ANALYTICS Trends for the Digital Future By Peter Prestipino, Editor-In-Chief

It can be challenging to know definitively what the driver of conversion or engagement events are on a digital property, but it is becoming much less complicated thanks to the increasing experience of Web professionals and the powerful technologies supporting them. What the digital realm makes possible is to know what strategic efforts, promotional initiatives and design experiences are most effective, providing an opportunity over time to identify the elements that encourage users to engage and those that prevent greater levels of success in general. The insights that can be gathered from the vast pool of available data today, not only informs brands about where their resources are best invested to acquire new customers, but how to plan and project for future growth (and revenue) as well.

In the digital decades past, marketing and advertising – as well as user experience (UX) initiatives – lacked the finite measurability that allowed those responsible (the campaign managers) to determine return accurately. Most professionals are familiar with the famous John Wanamaker quote, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Fortunately, this clever phrase is quickly becoming irrelevant. The good news for today’s enterprises is that the digital realm is incredibly data-driven. In addition to the nature of “track-ability” inherent in digital, there is an abundance of solutions available that provide impression and conversion costs included at their core, and that has made it easier than ever before for Web businesses to determine the return so many desperately rely on, providing access to the data and insights required to drive growth.


In this month’s edition of Website Magazine, explore the trends shaping digital as well as the tactics and tools to make an investment in analytics generate a positive return.

TRUST THE DATA Master the Complexities of Analytics There are some significant challenges facing those interested in understanding more about the performance of their promotional and optimization initiatives. Today’s digital experience, for example, is incredibly fragmented – users are on multiple devices, visit different channels with regularity and hop between these experiences frequently. That creates a terrible mish-mash of data that is almost impossible to make sense of and measure – at least for the uninitiated. What makes matters even worse is that even as companies are investing in analytics most simply do not trust the data (and insights) they discover. In fact, only 38 percent of respondents, according to a survey by KPMG and Forrester Consulting, have a high level of confidence in the insights they gather, and only onethird trust the analytics they generate from their business operations. That, of course, does not change the fact that brands are aware of the importance of analytics and are actively using it. Half of those surveyed, in fact, reported using data and analytics tools to understand their existing customers, 48 percent reporting using them to find new customers, and another 47 percent use them to develop new products and services. “As analytics increasingly drive the decisions that affect us as individuals, as businesses and as societies, there must be a heightened focus on ensuring the highest level of trust in the data, the analytics and the controls that generate desired outcomes,” said Christian Rast, the global head of data and analytics and a partner with KPMG in Germany, in a statement. “Organizations that continue to invest in D&A without determining its effectiveness could likely make decisions based on inaccurate models, which would perpetuate a cycle of mistrust in the insights.” Success with anything requires a plan and in the realm of analytics the same holds true. And when enterprises know their audience and their preferences, it becomes easier to turn data into dollars.

START WITH THE ANALYTICS ESSENTIALS Those enterprises that are content to only measure the basics, confident in their ability to spot both macro and micro-level insights on their own without much digging, have a long list of metrics to monitor on an ongoing basis including: those related to traffic generation (overall site traffic, traffic sources, mobile traffic, click-through rate and cost-per-click); conversion (conversion rate, cost per

Stay Up to Date on Data Visit Website Magazine’s Analytics Insider channel to learn more about current trends and important developments about leveraging Web and mobile data at wsm.co/affiliate16. lead, bounce rate, average page views per visit, average cost per page views, average time on site, rate of retuning visitors); and yes, of course, revenue metrics (return on investment and the cost to acquire a customer). For those just getting started with analytics, review Website Magazine’s “Guide to Getting Started with Digital Analytics” at wsm.co/startics. Those with more a more advanced expectation of analytics, however, have plenty to concentrate their efforts upon.

GET IN THE USER’S MIND Know Every Audience Segment with Analytics In terms of user experience, analytics makes it possible for brands to become hyper-aware of behavioral triggers – from something as simple as a click to something deeper such as loyalty. While many Web workers will be content to measure website traffic, engagement and conversions (and there is almost always a sufficient amount of data to do so), it’s also possible to analyze website visitors. Fortunately, there is plenty of information that professionals can gather from even the briefest glance and many analytics solutions makes it incredibly easy to do so, providing insights for example on the geography, demographics, interests, technology, behavior, and level of engagement of an audience or customer base. Customers don’t have identical characteristics and they most certainly don’t behave in the same way. As marketers increasingly employ different marketing tactics for each group, however, segmenting should be a core practice in their digital strategy. While it’s actually quite common for some basic segmentation to occur, the abundance of data today makes it possible to move beyond the traditional (age, gender, etc.) to a far more sophisticated break down of audiences. That’s a good thing for ROI-hungry Web workers. At Adobe Summit, Adobe introduced Segment IQ and is now announcing the first live feature within that category: Segment Comparison for Analysis Workspace. In what is expected to be a first in a series of audience analysis and discovery tools within Segment IQ, the new capability essentially makes it possible to discover the differences between sets of target audience segments through automated analysis of all known metrics and dimensions.


“In speaking with customers, we saw analysts spending an incredible amount of time comparing various segments with each other in order to understand the actionable differences between them,” wrote Trevor Paulsen of Adobe’s Analytics team. “Segments often overlap with each other or have non-obvious differences lurking deep within the data, and uncovering these insights is like picking a needle out of a haystack – sifting through these cascades of data manually to find the most significant differences is often impossible.”

Use Analytics to Prioritize Business Opportunities Empowering marketers is the name of the game for many of today’s technology platforms, whether it is the ability to make changes on the fly with minimal or no IT support or a way to transform data into actual strategy. The latter is exactly what a new product from BrightEdge hopes to provide, particularly when it comes to creating content that matters to individuals in their moment of need like when they are searching for answers. BrightEdge’s DataMind is a deep-learning engine that identifies important search trends, competitive threats and market shifts in real-time and works with other BrightEdge products (like the recently announced Content IQ and Intelligence Experiences solutions) to provide accurate and actionable insights to drive better content strategies and avoid guesswork to identify potential content topics with high demand. Personalization platform Bloomreach announced improvements to its Compass application as well that are worth a closer look for digital merchandisers. The Bloomreach innovations leverage algorithmic intelligence, which prioritizes content opportunities while predicting the impact on revenue. Digital merchandisers can face hundreds if not thousands of content and product decisions daily; what Compass now provides is insights and suggestions into what they should do with their products, categories, navigation and site-search queries, and even ranks the opportunities by their potential monthly revenue impact. “Compass represents a market shift toward role-based analytics that are immediately actionable,” said Raj De Datta, co-founder and CEO of BloomReach. “All too com-

Explore Attribution in Analytics The savviest digital enterprises measure the impact of messages and channels at every step of the user journey. Discover how greater familiar with attribution modeling can provide significant returns at wsm.co/attlytics.

monly, analytics platforms crunch a bunch of data and then spit out pages and pages of reports, making the user determine what they should do. We redesigned Compass to bring together data from every consumer interaction to one place, and give digital merchandisers and site-experience managers a prioritized list of opportunities to accomplish their goals.”

Bridge Conversion Gaps with Analytics The overarching trend for those in e-commerce/retail is to explore analytics to find answers to user-experience questions, retention problems and conversion issues. Magento merchants, for example, will soon be able to analyze their retail businesses better thanks to the company’s acquisition of RJMetrics, which was picked up for an undisclosed amount. Types of information that can be gleaned from RJMetrics include improved segmentation and personalization abilities, better insights into merchandising decisions (like promotion, placement), customer lifetime value info, churn analytics and more. For the latter, as more retailers look to take advantage of a “subscription economy” they can identify when a shopper is ready to cancel their membership – leading retailers to miss out on that valuable recurring revenue. Not only are subscription-born companies like Stitch Fix, Fabletics and others leveraging monthly programs, but also retailers like Amazon and Target for items shoppers purchase on a regular basis (e.g., household goods, baby items, beauty products).

The Simplification of Analytics One of the reasons there are not more digital analysts available to do much of what is described above is because it is very complex and involved – but that is starting to change thanks to the trend toward the simplification of analytics solutions. Google, for example, rolled out a new Google Analytics app (iOS and Android) that offers machine-learning powered insights that will be very attractive to brands. The insights can point out the good (e.g., increases in sales or new users) and the bad (like decreases in average session duration or conversion rate). That’s a big step up from analytics solutions of the past, but there are still other providers that are also doing much of the analysis on their end to the benefit of ’Net professionals.

Visual Analytics for VoC Data If marketers are going to improve the customer experience it is imperative they understand the story behind the metrics. Audience research solution iPerceptions released a rather interesting solution recently that will enable its users to dig more deeply into their voice of customer (VoC) data in order to better understand the customer experience.


The new “Advanced Exploration” feature allows marketers to leverage the power of visual analytics and business intelligence solution Tableau to perform analysis of their VoC data to uncover insights. Customers of iPerceptions will now be able to create reports (with 24 different chart types to choose from and custom colors to match branding), share unlimited viewer licenses, subscribe to automated emails and get insights tailored to their specific needs. Another way that enterprises are beginning to simplify their analytics initaitives is to develop workflows to optimize their internal tasks, projects and processes. Content intelligence platform Conductor has launched a new solution designed to improve the workflow and productivity of digital marketers by surfacing important business insights through a live feed of personalized and very “plain-English” recommendations. Conductor’s new Insight Stream aims to surface relevant information that will offer marketers suggestions to manage, optimize, and measure their content marketing and SEO efforts. The solution will leverage data found from Web crawling, competitive intelligence data, Web analytics Without knowing systems and search engine marketing metrics. Additionally, the platform dewhat needs to be livers combined insights from thirdmeasured, there party tools like Google and Adobe Analytics, Google Search Console, and will be no oppor- site-audit tool Deep Crawl to provide with that much discussed tunity to optimize marketers and highly coveted “holistic” view of anything. organic performance. There’s been an increase over the past few years of companies wanting to provide those “simple human insights” and brands are reaping the rewards. “As a manager overseeing multiple teams, it’s critical that I get a full view of how our marketing channels are performing,” said John Schulenburg, group leader of content marketing and SEO for Intuit Quickbooks. “With Insight Stream, I have a proactive understanding of the impact of our organic marketing activities and have a single experience where I can effectively manage and collaborate with my team.” It is often easy to miss the point of analytics and investing in these initiatives. What professionals are really after of course is the discovery of something that will move an enterprise in a positive direction and for content marketers the opportunity is immense.

Embedded Analytics In this age of cloud-based software, many tools and products employ outside platforms for specific functions that complement their core, such as Stripe for electronic pay-

ments, Twilio for communications or Amazon Web Services for cloud computing services. San Francisco-based Keen IO is making a bid to become the analytics equivalent of those services, with the release of its Native Analytics. It is a white-labeled platform that, via a software development kit and API, offers analytics and advanced visualization that can be customized, branded by the client company, and embedded natively into an app, website or service. “Nobody else offers this analytics-as-a-service,” KEEN COO Will O’Brien told Website Magazine. Point solutions like Mixpanel, Amplitude and Google Analytics, he said, have specific capabilities, while Native Analytics is highly adaptable. The chief competition, he continued, comes from developers who choose to take months to build their own analytics stack. Previously, Keen’s platform was designed for integration by developers, but now it’s been productized, expanded and white-labeled. E-commerce automation platform Bluecore, for instance, white-labels Native Analytics to provide realtime dashboards and shopping cart data, customizing the platform for clients, while visual marketing platform Pixlee offers a Keen-powered analytics dashboard that describes user engagement and conversion. Likewise, online publication Mic.com employs Native Analytics to integrate user engagement stats with its content management system (CMS).

Invest in Analytics Solutions As digital marketers continue to accelerate the pace of their content development and customer experience initiatives and take advantage of more channels and Web-based promotion opportunities, the amount (and variety) of data can seem overwhelming at times. Layer on personalization and behavioral data, and the situation becomes far more complicated. Fortunately, there are many data-related solutions available that make quick work of not only aggregating all the information, but also processing it to a point where actual insights can be gained and, of course, put into action. Website Magazine published some insights (wsm.co/smblytics) back in the Aug. 2016 issue on a few of the more interesting options available for startups and small and mid-size enterprises today (although these can also be used on the large, enterprise level as well).

Start Measuring, Optimizing with Insights Analytics is an essential element to Web success. Without knowing what needs to be measured, there will be no opportunity to optimize anything. Get started with an amplified analytics plan now and greater revenue and a better user experience is just around the virtual corner.


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Net

ADVERTISING

2017 Digital Advertising Trends

By Daniel Bornstein, Demand Media

The digital advertising space is complex and oftentimes opaque. Its functionary, ad tech, is a conduit intended to drive transactions within milliseconds, provide valuable data, and piece together a nuanced Web of prospective partners and technologies. Things move fast and are always changing. The New Year will usher in its own set of trends, not least of which will be a move back to principled 1:1 relationships between advertisers and publishers using the strongest, most reliable and credible partners. With that as a barometer, let’s unpack a few trends likely to be salient in 2017. Opaque Transactions, Take Rates and Middlemen PWC and the IAB teamed up to analyze the inefficiency in digital advertising spend. The subsequent report they published posits that only 45 cents of every dollar spent makes its way to a publisher, the entity that actually owns the assets. The above illustration from Ad Tech player AppNexus clearly illustrates the issue. While this is not a new concern, revelations from influencers such as Hamish Nicklin (CRO of the Guardian) that as little as 30 percent of spend sees its 30

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way to the desired location will fuel heated debate and, for the first time, action in 2017. There are several things that are likely to happen: (1) demand-side platforms and supply-side platforms will become more transparent in their pricing; (2) SSPs will have to lower their take rates to compete; (3) rates will start to shift from percentages to flat rates per transaction; and (4) larger platforms will consolidate smaller niche players within the value chain and provide all-inclusive offerings that are priced more aggressively. Both advertisers and publishers will stand to gain when the moat separating them recedes. Ad Blocking and Page Speed This was the year the topic of ad blocking hit fever pitch. The common sentiment seemed to find all players in the ecosystem guilty of degrading the user experience. It’s important to note that publishers are not the only ones to blame; an influx of vendors separating advertisers and publishers have heralded in too many pixels that cause latency resulting in overburdened advertising experiences. According to eMarketer, more than 15 million more Americans are expected to layer on blockers in 2017. Even more alarming is that according to PageFair, 22 percent of the world’s smartphone owners are blocking ads. At the same time, consumers, by in large,


prefer free content, and content sites need to keep the lights on. With so much money at stake, 2017 will be the year that we reach the point of inflection and the large platforms (Google and Facebook) that account for the lion’s share of global digital revenues will lead the way by further articulating their positions and leading the industry with tangible solutions. In today’s fast moving and mobile world, page speed is a key barometer of user experience. Both Google and Facebook have already broached this issue with the launch of Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP (Google) and Instant Articles (Facebook). While both these solutions greatly decrease latency they have not been able to match rates of monetization for publishers. In 2017, we will witness a wider adoption of these protocols and users will begin to notice. Moreover, both Google and Facebook will likely release lightweight advertising solutions within their frameworks to solve for monetization. Publishers both large and small will follow suit. Data Big data will continue to be a focal area ushering in meteoric change for both consumers and businesses. To date, the pace of change has felt glacial as piecing together and deciphering massive data sets for concrete application has been a challenge. Large, well-capitalized organizations such as IBM (the promise of Watson), Salesforce (the acquisition of Krux) and Oracle have both the resources and the foresight to substantially innovate on faster timelines. On the digital advertising front, data management platforms (DMPs) should continue to innovate, moving past somewhat unreliable third-party data to more reliable data. In addition, transacting on second party data should start to move into the mainstream. Reliable and trusted DMPs will act as credible arbiters in the brokering of incisive non-personally identified information data between marketers and publishers. Although a platform is needed to execute on this effectively, this bridge will allow these primary parties to transact directly and create new, meaningful links that will foster enhanced and multi-faceted cooperation. Header Bidding For the uninitiated, header bidding is a snippet of code placed within the header of a publisher’s site that allows multiple demand sources to compete for an impression simultaneously (also known as pre-bidding), thus serving the highest priced bid and enabling the publisher to realize the true value of its inventory.

In late 2015, the stage was set as Tom Shields from AppNexus and Jonathan Bellack from Google debated the merits of header bidding. Shields spoke about the democratization of bidding and creating an even playing field, while Bellack spoke about latency, degraded user experience and ad blocking. Publishers, for their part, adopted header bidding in droves (according to OpenX, adoption increased 300 percent over the past year) and many publishers have quoted significant yield gains as a percentage. As possibly the most talked about programmatic trend in 2016, expect 2017 to offer a definitive answer to the question of yield versus latency. Google’s announcement that they are rolling out Exchange Bidding will get us one step closer to the answer. With multiple exchanges having the ability to bid within the Google ecosystem, the democratization of bidding could surface via the ad server thus decreasing latency. In tandem, it is likely that more sophisticated publishers will measure latency not only as it relates to user experience but also as it relates to overall yield (e.g., higher CPMs v. the ability to load more ads with incremental page views). From an advertiser perspective, this brings inventory one step closer as it promotes access to premium first look inventory, further separating the good inventory from the bad and shining the light on quality publishers with quality audiences. Programmatic Programmatic advertising continued to be the unequivocal buzzword of 2016. To deny its ascent as the dominant force in digital media buying would be obtuse. Growth is currently being driven by mobile and video. With platforms like Google and Rubicon leading the way, direct buying will gain a transactional efficiency (programmatic direct) but will also lead to discoverability. The discoverability aspect is of paramount importance to buyers as IO-based request for proposals (RFPs) tend to be biased and highly subjective. While programmatic platforms will take part of the margin when utilized in these transactions, their margins will be small relative to the data-based rigor they’ll provide – in this particular instance they will add value by further uniting the respective parties directly. Daniel Bornstein is the senior vice president of media monetization and operations for Demand Media, which owns and operates a host of content-rich sites like eHow and LIVESTRONG.com.

An Update on Click Fraud See how much of your traffic is fake at wsm.co/clickfake.


Conversion

CORNER

Upping Your Delayed Conversions Game By Martin Greif, SiteTuners If the visitor wants to have an extended conversation with a brand, it should have a game plan. An enterprise’s delayed conversions effort should be as good as their overall conversions game – anything less is leaving money on the table.

Don’t be the one to end it

There’s a working model in the user experience (UX) field that states, roughly, “Your website is a time-delayed conversation between the site owner and the user.” The site owner provides potential answers in the site’s pages – the user arrives, asks their questions and decides when the conversation ends. Exactly when that dialogue stops depends on several factors: Maybe the user has converted, and bought something from the site. Maybe the site just isn’t right for a particular visitor.

BOTH HAPPEN ALL THE TIME There is, however, a third possible outcome: a visitor who teeters in between those two states, neither converting nor wanting to end the conversation then and there. That can happen for a lot of reasons. The user may like the website’s offer, but still wants to compare prices. The visitor may almost be ready to buy, but will only decide after one last round of research. Most websites are unprepared for this in-between state, and basically give up on the sale. If there was any doubt, that can’t be you. 32

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Before making sure a marketer is ready for extended conversations with users, they first must make sure they don’t shoot themselves in the foot and end it too early. Likewise, brands need to ensure they know which types of conversations tend to do well for the company.

Have funnel-focused plans Many sites lose out because they are built solely for people who are ready to convert. That’s a terrible approach, and one that is likely to make the user want to leave if he or she is in the research phase. A site should have educational content for top-of-the-funnel visitors and sale-optimized pages for those in the bottom-ofthe-funnel.

Know high-conversion terms This is tougher to see now that Google blocks visibility into organic search engine traffic, but marketers need to check Google Webmaster Tools for very specific product searches and AdWords for sale-leaning terms that lead to their site. Not all conversations have the same shot at conversions, and brands need to be able to identify which conversations are likely to end in a win.

FIX LOW-HANGING “ENDERS” If a marketer is ready for the different types of conversations and is collecting data about which ones tend


to do better for their business, the next step is to make sure they do not make basic mistakes when talking to people who are ready to convert.

Shipping cost revealed too late This is a conversion-killer, plain and simple. Brands must show shipping cost early in the process – say upfront how much they need to order for shipping to be free, and don’t lose sales to this. A shipping calculator that shows costs even before the customer starts checkout helps considerably.

plete the checkout. What usually happens is they compare prices, or they just forget to come back and complete the purchase. Brands will want to do themselves a favor, and make sure they save the state of the cart – all the items users added to the cart should still be there if they come back. If brands lose the cart state between visits, they’re basically telling the user to go take his or her business elsewhere.

Use AdWords remarketing No phone number Marketers cannot stand to lose credibility when trying to make a sale, and phone numbers are critical to establishing user trust. It assures customers that a site is a legitimate business, and that they can reach them if they hit a snag.

GATHER DATA ALONG THEIR VISIT As a brand converses with the user, it needs to provide enough value to ask for permission to contact the visitor down the line.

Use progressive disclosure for forms Instead of having very long forms on one page, brands will want to consider having multiple pages for the form, broken out into easy to fill fields. They will be less intimidating to the users, and after they’ve completed one page they are more likely to fill out the rest – that’s the psychological value. On top of that, though, even if they don’t complete the fields, they will have given marketers enough to potentially keep the conversation moving. Ask for the user’s email address when value has been shown. Another reason progressive disclosure can increase conversions is if, after providing the user something of value, a marketer can get his or her email, then they’ll have a shot at restarting the conversation with that user at some point. This is one of the things marketers need to get good at post-visit conversions.

DON’T END THE CONVERSATION YOURSELF Now let’s say that a company’s sales funnel isn’t especially leaky, and it’s converting at a decent rate. That still doesn’t mean that brands can afford to give up on people who almost converted. There are a few ways to ensure that brands don’t end the conversation with the user the moment they leave their site:

Save the user’s cart state Some users add things to their cart, then do not com-

After people leave the site, various sites consider the conversation ended but that does not necessarily have to be the case. Marketers can use AdWords retargeting to advertise to people who viewed an offer on the site. And because they have shown a deeper interest in the offer than the standard visitor, a brand’s conversion rate with that crowd should be higher.

Use email special offers That email they filled out from on a site’s form? Marketers can use that to present visitors with special offers. Brands should be careful with this tactic and observe the data so that they don’t overdo discounts. Essentially, someone who viewed a particular product is more likely to respond to special offers about that product. Marketers need to get the technology right and match the user to the product, and also, to not send the same email to people who viewed the product and bought it – that’ll just be annoying. Test emails - Needless to say, brands need to test their email open and click-through rates for special offers. Test offer pages - Likewise, the page users get to when they click through need to be tested, and they can’t be the same product page shown to everyone else.

WHEN OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS Visitors dictate the pace of the conversation with brands, and they ultimately decide when it’s over. It is impossible to convert everyone – every site has a ceiling. That said, those that give themselves an opportunity at converting after the visitor has left the first time are more likely to increase overall conversions in the long run. Martin Greif brings 25-plus years of sales and marketing experience to SiteTuners where he is responsible for driving revenue growth, establishing and nurturing partner relationships and creating value for its broad customer base.

20+ Tips to Speed Up Sales Get customers acting faster at wsm.co/swiftsales.


Email

EXPERIENCE

Last-Minute Email Boosts to Keep Retail Sales Strong Through the Holidays By EJ McGowan, General Manager of Campaigner

December is here, and the longawaited holiday season is upon us at last. This month represents the busiest time of year for promotions and the biggest sales season for many retailers. It’s also the last month of the financial year for retail businesses operating on an annual fiscal calendar—meaning it’s their last chance to turn their bottom line from negative to positive and close out the year on a high note. In these final weeks of the year, retail marketers should fine-tune their email marketing tactics with some last-minute modifications to wrap up the holiday season. Consider the following tips to be a holiday gift—one that will help retailers achieve email marketing success through the holidays and into 2017.

Test and tweak for standout subject lines

Inbox Spirit Learn how non-retail brands send holiday email campaigns at wsm.co/inboxspirit. 34

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Toy manufacturers don’t ship new holiday toys to children without testing them for product faults and market interest first. Nor should retail marketers send holiday campaigns to their subscriber base without first testing elements of the email messages. Shoppers will be receiving a larger than usual amount of email during the holiday season, so marketers should use whatever tactics will give them an edge. A/B split testing, for example, can help determine which subject lines, email body content and images will be best received by customers. Marketers can also test subject line emojis and personalization tactics to determine what helps messages stand out in customers’ crowded inboxes.

Drum up interest for ongoing interaction The next few weeks will be filled with holiday event after holiday event, and retailers certainly don’t want customers to miss theirs because it slipped off their radar. Throughout the month of December, marketers should build awareness of and excitement for their holiday pro.com

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motions and events with ever-increasing volume of teaser emails. They should steadily increase the cadence of these messages—from once a week early in the month, to every day of the week while the promotion runs—to generate hype early on and keep the momentum going throughout an email campaign. Even after the holiday promotion has passed, marketers must maintain a regular flow of content to customers so they are used to seeing the messages in their inboxes and engaging with the brand.

Shift to suggestions for last-minute shoppers Many holiday shoppers aim to have their gift-getting done well in advance of the holidays, but those plans often go awry as the holidays sneak up. Retailers can make it easy for last-minute shoppers to give great gifts by focusing promotions on items that can be downloaded or shipped quickly. The closer the holiday is, the more the content should highlight gifts—whether e-books that can be downloaded or hardcover novels that can be shipped next-day—that will arrive in time for the holidays.

Simplify the purchase process Consumers can have long holiday shopping lists and may be overwhelmed with their holiday preparations. Marketers should make the purchase process as quick and easy as possible so customers can cross off shopping from their lists and move onto their holiday planning. If possible, they should implement “buy now” buttons or one-click purchasing into their email marketing content so shoppers can take action and purchase products without even leaving their inboxes. If marketers remember these best practices in the last few weeks of the holiday season, they will wrap up the sales year with cheer. Not only will a strong December help marketers finish strong in 2016, but it will also prepare them to hit the ground running in the New Year.


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Mobile

MATTERS

Stay Away From These Six App Ideas By Hunter Jensen, Barefoot Solutions

There are 2.2 million apps in the Google Play Store. Apple’s App Store features 2 million of its own. With more than 4 million products between Android and iOS alone, there are some great apps out there — and some really bad ones, too.

To help their users, developers must pay close attention to their app’s onboarding steps. A wellplanned onboarding process gives the user a solid understanding of an app right from the start. After that, the app should be simple enough to use to avoid frustration – and deletion.

We’ve all experienced bad apps like ones that never load properly, or are difficult to use because of the many built-in ads that interfere, are poorly designed or try to do too much. Mobile app development is a competitive industry, which means users are not quick to forgive apps that don’t meet their standards. To make your app one of the greats, steer it away from these pitfalls.

BUILD YOUR BUSINESS MODEL ON LOTS OF ADS

THE MORE COMPLEX, THE MORE FUN A developer has an idea for an amazing adventure game, and he knows bigger equals better. He decides to throw in every feature he can think of and a few most users will have never seen before. It will be so much fun for users to explore every aspect of the app, right? Think again. Complexity is more likely to lead to frustration than fun. There are fewer things more frustrating than taking the time to download an app only to find it difficult to use. The most popular apps are typically the easiest ones to use. 36

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It’s OK if some ads appear in an app. It’s not OK when they start overwhelming the app itself. Advertisers usually pay mobile app developers per view or click. Each time someone who uses an app and views or clicks on an ad, that’s money that comes to the development company. If a brand is thinking it’s a good idea to include as many ads as possible, they’ll want to resist that impulse. Being too trigger-happy with ads could result in them becoming intrusive and irritating to the user, which means fewer views and clicks and less ad revenue. Rather, developers will want to tastefully integrate ads into their app. They can do so by thinking about the ad’s design and placement and not making it obvious that ads are ads by looking into native advertising. As a rule of thumb, app builders will want to focus on quality over quantity when it comes to in-app advertising.


BASE YOUR BUSINESS MODEL ON CHARGING FOR YOUR APP People are not going to be willing to buy an app if the developer charges too much for it (or possibly if they charge for it at all). Nearly half of all app revenue comes from in-app purchases anyway (Microsoft, 2015), and in most cases, developers want to lower an app’s barrier to entry in order to make it easier to get those in-app purchases. The average price of mobile apps and games is going down. The general market is moving toward freemium apps — apps that are available for free with additional services or ad-free versions available at a premium. This, combined with the integrated ads discussed above, is more likely to increase a company’s revenue than charging $6 for the app. Unless an app is offering something of huge value, six bucks won’t fly.

MAKE THE APP YOU WOULD LOVE It seems counter-intuitive, but it’s a bad idea to build an app solely based on how the developer wants it to look and what he or she wants it to do. It’s not what they want that matters, it’s what their audience wants. If a developer’s favorite color is red but the audience finds it too aggressive, it shouldn’t be the primary color of the app, regardless of how much the developer or other stakeholders like it. On the other hand, one person of a development team may hate a particular feature, but if the app’s target audience loves it, they need to consider including it. Of course, companies won’t know anything about what their audience likes without proper market research. Without market research, all they can do is make assumptions. Market research tells stakeholders who their target audience is and what their needs and wants are. Developers shouldn’t assume they know what’s best for them; they should take the time to find out.

Mobile app development is a competitive industry, which means users are not quick to forgive apps that don’t meet their standards.

IGNORE YOUR COMPETITORS With 4 million-plus apps in the marketplace, it’s possible someone is already offering the great idea a developer only has plans to act on. While it shouldn’t stop them from developing a similar app—there are more than 28,000 health and fitness apps in the Google Play Store, for example—they do need to figure out what makes their app idea unique. Again, it’s important to conduct market research before developing an app. Stakeholders will want to identify their competitors, see what they’re offering and focus on ways to make their app a bit different or a bit better.

CREATE A MOBILE VERSION OF YOUR WEB APP Don’t do it! A mobile app cannot do as much as a Web app can, and that’s okay. Users want their mobile apps to have one specific purpose, not 10. There’s a reason Google Drive and Google Calendar are separate apps. Even Facebook has taken to splitting the functionality of its website into distinct apps, such as when it created Messenger as a messaging app separate from its regular mobile app. Developers will want to take a cue from Google and Facebook. They can create separate apps if necessary, but each one will be better if it does one thing and does it well rather than doing lots of things poorly.

YOUR TOP-CHARTING IDEA By steering clear of these six bad-app traps, you will be able to develop stronger, better software people will love to use—increasing your chances of seeing your app climb to the top of the charts.

Set Your Creativity Ablaze

Prior to founding Barefoot Solutions, Hunter Jensen spent years wearing every hat imaginable in the software development process including programmer, designer, marketing specialist and janitor.

Get seven ways to generate new ideas at wsm.co/7ablaze.


Affiliate

INSIDER

How to Sell Affiliate Marketing to Your Peers By Jamie Birch, CEO of JEBCommerce

Whether you’ve been managing marketing efforts for a decade or are new to the scene, odds are you’ve personally experienced the frustration of being left out of key decisions within your enterprise. The affiliate channel has experienced just this problem for the entirety of its existence, with a reputation that precedes it. Since the early days of the Internet, affiliate marketing has always been a part of the marketing mix. Its biggest selling point, on the side of the affiliate publisher, has been the low barrier to entry. Create a website, post links, build traffic and the checks will come. To this day that hope of a full-time check with part-time work is still a highly cited promise.

THE ARGUMENTS

One bad apple really should be one bad apple, not a bad channel.

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That strength quickly turned into one of the main weaknesses of the channel, however. Along with the solid business plans and strategies came an onslaught of poorly designed websites that did nothing more than annoy the channel managers and create more work to turn them away. Add to that the history of many bad apples overwriting other affiliate publishers’ commissions, dropping cookies on advertisers’ other campaigns (in effect taking credit for sales that wouldn’t otherwise be attributed) and using additional nefarious means to “earn” commissions, and it’s easy to see why many have viewed affiliate marketing with a skeptical eye. There’s another trend in the affiliate channel that lowers its likelihood to be considered a top channel, and that’s the tendency among different players in the space to consider the channel as unique and somehow above the scrutiny advertisers place elsewhere. This sort of arrogance hasn’t helped the affiliate industry earn its rightful place among the many digital marketing options.

THE REALITY OF THE CHANNEL The affiliate channel has been one of the pioneers in the areas of display, search, retargeting and every other marketing tactic available with no signs of slowing down. In 2016, Commission Junction by Conversant, a major affiliate network, surveyed its 4,200 advertisers globally .com

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and reported that 72 percent responded they were “likely” or “extremely likely” to increase their spend on the affiliate channel in the years to come. The affiliate channel has a few characteristics no other channel can claim. Within any well-managed affiliate program exists tremendous expertise, experience and years of demonstrated success. It’s the only channel that offers this breadth and depth of experience. It is also proven to be cost-effective and targeted, so let’s look at five steps to get its rightful seat at the table.

EDUCATE As with any channel, education within an organization is key. The other departments and channel managers need to know what it does, how it does it, how it helps the company achieve its goals and how it can help them achieve theirs. Too many times emerging channels, as well as long standing ones like affiliate, refrain from shouting their successes within the organization. Leaders of these channels need to inform and educate across the board.

SCRUTINIZE Affiliate programs need to be measured with the same metrics in mind as the other marketing channels. Too often the channel is grouped together as one entity, but each partnership needs to be evaluated on its own merits. One bad apple really should be one bad apple, not a bad channel.

BOAST The affiliate channel does a horrible job of sharing each other’s successes as an industry. When it is done, data is limited and a theme of protecting one’s secret to success is always apparent. For any digital channel to be viewed in the proper light, our broader industry must be able to see real successes.

COOPERATE All too often digital marketers get isolated within silos, and the affiliate channel is no different. This breeds a hesitance to work with other departments in an organization. This isolation leads to misunderstanding of the channel, its strengths and weaknesses and is a huge part of why it is marginalized within many organizations.

EXPLAIN The affiliate industry has always had a familiar tone in how it talked about itself. It has done the channel a disservice and kept the outside world from understanding the true power and skill of the affiliate industry. This lexicon needs to change internally before the greater digital community fully understands and appreciates the unique skill set and abilities the affiliate space brings to digital marketing.


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Web

COMMENTARY

Critical Takeaways from Adobe Max By Amberly Dressler, Managing Editor

Today’s marketers are given drag-anddrop interfaces to quickly create everything from social graphics to landing pages, analytics are dissected and given priority over time to create, and websites can be built with templates and even artificial intelligence – all advancements that have the potential to put creativity and collaboration at risk. Creativity was the topic of conversation at Adobe Max in San Diego recently where a crowd of more than 10,000 professionals hung on every word from keynote presenters like fashion designer Zac Posen, film director Quentin Tarantino, photojournalist Lynsey Addario (who covered many of the major military and human conflicts of the last two decades) and artist Janet Echelman (who is responsible for epic art sculptures in cities across the globe). To say each was inspiring in their own right would be an understatement. How many of us can say our work was worn by award-winning actors; our creativity will go down in filmography history; we were kidnapped on assignment; or we displayed our art from skyscrapers? Our day-to-day responsibilities for creating content, landing pages, applications, images, promotional materials, presentations, reports – anything requiring opening a document and starting from

scratch – may not match that scale but every element counts in the broader scope of delivering product to stakeholders and, more importantly, providing value and genuine engagement. With so many external and internal influences, however, our creativity is impacted by everything from budgets and deadlines to processes and people. All of these influences play to the natural self-awareness, scrutiny and showmanship that creative types notoriously struggle to balance. Even Echelman, whose sculptures transform cityscapes like London and Singapore and establishments like SFO and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, says, “Every project I have no idea how we are going to get there.” Get there she does, collaborating with everyone from local fisherman and computer systems to skyscraper owners and city planners – noting that “our colleagues are our biggest assets.” With such high priority on purchasing technology that allows more people to conduct more tasks outside of their skillset, however, we’re cutting out the wrong people, which is a disservice to our audiences who will grow tired of uniformity. Some systems, for instance, are allowing marketers to build apps, Web pages, graphics, sites (you name it, really) without coding knowledge, IT or designer intervention. Technology can’t be stopped nor should it, but our goal shouldn’t be to isolate ourselves or work with less departments in the name of saving time and money, but rather improve collaboration processes so that the people who know how to solve problems A through Z are trusted, allowing us all to be more creative within our niche. After all, creativity pays. Adobe’s “State of Create 2016” global survey found that a business that invests in creativity is more likely to increase employee productivity (78 percent) and have happier employees (76 percent). The customers feel the impact of creativity as well with businesses investing in creativity having more satisfied customers (80 percent) and being more competitive (79 percent). Despite the positive impact of creativity on society, Adobe states, there’s a gap in execution. Only 41 percent of survey respondents describe themselves as “creative” and 69 percent report they are “not” living up to their creative potential. “An investment in creativity and design is simply good business,” said Mala Sharma, vice president and general manager of Creative Cloud at Adobe. “Creativity and productivity go hand in hand, but investing in creativity isn’t on the agenda for enough of today’s leaders. This survey provides a big wake-up call to businesses that they need to think differently and give employees the tools and freedom to be creative.”


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Website Magazine December 2016  

It can be challenging to know definitively what the driver of conversions or engagement events are on a digital property, but it is becomin...

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