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Ecommerce: 6 takeaways from a 42-day analysis of major retailers’ holiday marketing

In today’s MarketingExperiments blog post, we’ll look at the 2014 holiday campaigns of Amazon, Best Buy, Apple and Walmart and see what you can learn from their efforts. If you sell anything at all — from books to electronics to glow-in-the-dark toilet paper — you compete with at least one, if not all, of these retailers.


More than 500 data points gathered and analyzed over 42 days

To understand the information you’re about to see, let’s take a quick look at the methodology. 16 Web Research Analysts from MECLABS Institute (MarketingExperiments’ parent research organization) spent 42 days during the Black Friday (November 17 – November 29, 2014), Holidays (December 7 – 29) and New Year (December 30 – January 4, 2015) sales periods, analyzing three to five desktop webpages per retailer. This effort was led by Jonathon Yates, Market Intelligence Manager; Sarah Russell, Research Manager; and Gaby Paez, Associate Director of Research.

They assessed the campaigns using the MECLABS Value Proposition heuristic, asking:

  • How appealing (relevant, important and urgent) is the offer?
  • How exclusive is the offer?
  • How clear is the value of the offer?
  • How credible is the offer?   


Below are the key lessons you can learn from these major brands.


Lesson #1: Answer shoppers’ questions before they think to ask them

Your shoppers likely come to your website with a few key (but subconscious) questions in their mind. If your site doesn’t clearly and quickly address them before these questions actually bubble up to their consciousness — “Wait a minute … is this really a deal?” — they will bounce and look for a gift somewhere else.

So let’s take Black Friday as an example. Many shoppers are specifically looking for deals, so show them where they can get deals.

To give you an idea for your own site, here’s how Amazon prominently displayed its Black Friday deals. 


Best Buy used a flat background color with short headlines to capture visitors’ attention quickly.


But “Can I get a Black Friday deal?” is only the macro-question. There are likely micro-questions under that macro-question, such as …

  • How much am I saving?
  • When does the deal end?
  • Is this a good deal?

Best Buy showed customers how much they’re saving for each product (“Save $75”), clearly labeled each product as “On Sale” and reinforced the message with a “Get the Deal” button. This call-to-action copy communicated to shoppers that this was not simply a purchase; it was a unique deal.

Amazon.com similarly provided clarity about the savings, choosing a percent (33%) off approach instead of Best Buy’s actual savings (“Save $75”) tactic. It also included information about when the deal ended (“Ends in 14h 22m 10s”) and added some social proof to show that these were good deals because other people were buying them (“100% claimed”).


Not only does answering customer questions on your website help increase conversion, answering their questions using the language they would use could help with organic search as well.

“During any major holiday, consumers are searching for ‘deals’ (e.g., Black Friday deals, Cyber Monday deals, etc.),” Gaby said. “Not using these terms in your holiday marketing is missing a significant portion of organic traffic.”


Lesson #2: Plan offers with the holiday calendar in mind

Elements of the offer that are important to shoppers change throughout the holiday season. What shoppers are looking for early in the holiday season can be vastly different from what they need two days before Christmas or Hanukkah.

Early in the holiday season, Amazon and Best Buy were very deal-focused (see the screenshots in Lesson #1).

“We know consumers do research online to find the best possible deal. Digital marketers’ jobs should focus on making consumers’ research so easy and pleasant that they don’t have to think twice to purchase from you,” Gaby said.

“Moreover, digital marketers should bank on the ‘convenience’ benefit of buying online to convince people to shop earlier. Amazon and Best Buy know it and they [made] sure their customers knew it too — ‘Beat the Black Friday Rush, Get a jump on Black Friday, Black Friday deals start now online, etc.’”

Note how Amazon changed the focus of its offer later in the holiday season. On December 19, saving money was still important, but Amazon also promoted its “Day 9” of a “12 Days of Deals” encouraging shoppers to buy stocking stuffers.


Then on December 22, Amazon used the same homepage real estate to advertise a product that can be delivered electronically — “Amazon Gift Cards. Email now for instant delivery.”


Your consumers have likely heard about (or even experienced) serious delivery issues of last-minute gifts, which may make them less likely to trust the reliability of physical product delivery so close to the holiday.


Lesson #3: Drive visitors to holiday-focused offers and landing pages

No matter where visitors landed on Amazon’s website, they could get easy access to holiday campaign pages. Ads were placed strategically on highly visible areas of the most popular webpages — the hero image on Amazon’s homepage, above filters on gridwall pages and in the top-right corner below the cart icon sitewide.


Apple had clear calls-to-action throughout its site as well — on its homepage, on the Apple store homepage and on the iPhone 6 landing page.


“Project timelines, approvals and processes tend to get in the way of thinking through the customer experience,” Gaby said. For the 2015 holiday season, she recommend digital marketers keep two simple tactics in mind:

  • Have at least a single landing page that presents all your holiday offers in one place and allows customers to shop from it (e.g., for Black Friday have a Black Friday offers page, for Christmas have a Christmas offers page, etc.)
  • Make sure you have highly visible ads with very simple and clear holiday message sending traffic to your holiday offers page(s)


Lesson #4: Communicate clear urgency

There are many reasons marketers love the holidays, but one of them has to be the clear deadline that forces a purchase decision — December 25 (and for Jewish shoppers, December 6 to 14 in 2015).

But that isn’t the only deadline marketers can leverage. Best Buy presented clear communication of deadlines throughout the holiday season and a good use of design elements to make urgency messages stand out.

There was a prominent deadline for its Black Friday sale (November 29).


On December 19, it presented deadlines for “free 2-day shipping” (December 22) as well as “free store pickup” (December 24).


On December 24, the deadline focus became “Order today by 4 p.m … Pick up by 6 p.m.”


Lesson #5: Provide tangible incentives

During Thanksgiving week, Apple offered an incentive that had two benefits — a branded gift card that came with a donation to (PRODUCT)RED, a licensed brand that raises awareness and funds to help eliminate HIV/AIDS in Africa.


Shoppers are impatient. They don’t necessarily want to wait until the holidays to get something. With this incentive, not only are they checking an item off their list (buy a gift for someone), but they get an immediate gift for themselves as well. By getting an iTunes gift card they can use right away, the value is much more tangible to the shopper.

I may make shoppers sound greedy, but they are truly altruistic this time of year. After all, this is the giving season. So partnering with a charitable organization multiplied the impact of the gift card for Apple shoppers.

It pulled each lever of the triumvirate of the giving season:

  • Something for the gift recipient
  • Something for the giver (the purchaser)
  • Something for charity as well


Lesson #6: Don’t overlook the brick-and-mortar experience

In August 2015, MarketingSherpa (MarketingExperiments’ sister publishing brand) conducted research with 2,021 American consumers. When asked how customers like to discover new products, the most frequent answer (given by 59% of respondents) was “in-store browsing,” more popular then “using a search engine” (47%) or “through online advertising” (27%).

There is something special about the holiday shopping experience. The massive Christmas trees and menorahs in the mall. The nip in the air. Holiday tunes triggering childhood memories.

Amazon tried to replicate that experience by making its Prime Holiday playlist free to all customers — “Listen free while you shop. An Amazon Exclusive Playlist to get you in the holiday spirit.” (As a secondary benefit, this free sampling may also have encouraged purchases of Amazon Prime memberships as well.)


Of course, if you’ve ever been shopping in a physical store during the holidays, you know it’s not just candy canes and “Ho Ho Ho”s. Walmart tried to offer a solution to the downsides of holiday shopping, offering to help customers “beat the rush” and “plan your store trip.”


The sale doesn’t end with the purchase

One thing I didn’t mention in the above analysis is brand. You could use the exact same tactic as one of the above retailers, and get significantly worse (or better) results.

These tactics are only one part of the customer-decision making process. If they have a shopping experience — from initial purchase to received product value to customer support — with any of the above brands, that experience will heavily influence how customers view these messages. So make sure to not just focus on the sale, but deliver the value you promise in the offer after the sale.

That way, you can set yourself up for a successful holiday shopping season in 2016 as well.


What would you like us to research next?

We’re currently planning our next research project from MECLABS Institute, and ecommerce is a likely subject area. What research would help you improve results and better serve customers? Feel free to propose an ecommerce-related research question in the comments section below.


You can follow Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS Institute, @DanielBurstein.


You might also like

Translate Holidays into Dollars: How to Structure Your Offer’s Metamorphosis

Holiday Marketing: 3 last-minute ideas to boost conversion [From the MarketingSherpa blog]

Ecommerce Fulfillment: Preparing for the holiday shopping season [From MarketingSherpa]

MarketingSherpa Summit 2016 — At the Bellagio in Las Vegas, February 22-24

Click Here For Original Source Of The Article

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10 Crucial Steps for Launching Your B2B Podcast Into the Wild

Hey, friend, have you heard the good news about podcasts? 

Given the most recent stats, it’s highly likely you have. Over half of all Americans over 12 years of age have listened to at least one. Podcasts have well and truly hit the mainstream. In other words, the gold rush is on for brands looking to connect with a highly-engaged, long-attention-span audience.

However, getting a podcast up and running isn’t as simple as publishing a blog. We recently published an entire B2B podcasting webinar to walk you through the entire process, from conception to publication. This post will zero in on the choices you need to make and the steps you need to take to release your podcast into the wild.

B2B Podcasting Launch Checklist: 10 Steps

Sure, you could just upload your audio to your web server, add an RSS feed, and call it good. But if you want people to actually find and listen to your podcast, there are a few extra steps you should take. This checklist will help your podcast find an audience and start building a subscriber base.


#1: Choose Your Hosting Platform

A podcast syndication platform makes it easy to publish your podcast and get listed in directories. Think of it like WordPress is for your blog — it hosts the files, makes them look pretty, and makes it so people can find them.

Most platforms will also give you embed codes for embedding episodes in blog posts or on a landing page. You’ll also get stats on how many people are downloading episodes, and on what program they’re listening.

We prefer Libsyn as our hosting platform. Podbean, buzzsprout, and Blubrry are also solid options. They all have a free tier of hosting, but you’ll want to pay a few bucks a month for bandwidth and analytics.

#2: Upload Your First Three Episodes

Podcasting is all about establishing a regular cadence (more on that later). But for launch, you’ll want to have at least three episodes ready to go. There are a few reasons for publishing multiple episodes for your debut:

  1. One episode may not be enough to convince people to subscribe. 
  2. Multiple episodes show you’re committed to keeping the content coming.
  3. Most importantly, Apple podcasts requires at least three episodes to qualify for their “New and Noteworthy” section. 

So before you publish, have at least three episodes completed, and be ready to follow up with more at your promised publishing cadence.

#3:  Register with Podcast Directories

Podcasts are peculiar in terms of content delivery. Your hosting platform makes the files available, but most people will listen to your podcast on their chosen podcast app. Each app maintains its own directory — think of it as a search engine for podcasts. 

Your podcast needs to be listed in their directory, or people won’t be able to find you. I recommend registering with at least these six:

  1. Apple Podcasts
  2. Google Podcasts
  3. Stitcher
  4. Podbean
  5. Spotify
  6. TuneIn

Each of these sites will ask for the RSS feed of your podcast, which your hosting platform will generate for you.

I created a podcast tracker to keep track of all these directories — sign up for the webinar and you can download it for free.

B2B Podcast Tracker

#4: Promote Internally

Gaining visibility on a podcast directory is tricky business. Apple and Google are where the majority of your listeners will be, and each employs an algorithm to promote podcasts in search results and feature pages.

How do you get an algorithm’s attention? Engagement! Start by promoting your podcast to all of your employees. Encourage them to subscribe on Apple or Google, give a rating, and write a brief (and honest) review. What’s more, draft some social messages and encourage everyone to promote the podcast to their networks, too.

That base level of initial engagement will help your podcast start finding its audience.

#5: Activate Your Influencers

Most podcasts are Q&A-style interviews with influential guests. If your podcast includes influencers in your industry, make sure they know as soon as their episode goes live. Give them the tools to promote the podcast easily:

  • Sample social messages
  • Social media images in the correct sizes
  • Embed codes

If your podcast doesn’t feature influencers, it’s worth re-evaluating your strategy for your next season. Influencer content not only is more valuable to your audience, it’s an indispensable channel for promotion.

#6: Publish Blog Posts

The one downside of audio content: It’s not super crawlable for SEO purposes. Granted, Google has started to auto-transcribe episodes and add them to search results, but the technology is still in the early stages.

To truly get some SEO juice from your podcast, we recommend embedding each podcast in a blog post. This example from the Tech Unknown Podcast by SAP* shows how simple it can be. All you need is an introduction, a few pull quotes, some key takeaways, and a transcript.

#7: Add Paid Promotion

As with any content, you want to use every tactic available to make sure it gets seen by your target audience. That’s especially true with podcasts, since podcast search engines are incredibly competitive.

Targeted, paid social promotion can help establish your subscriber base and get your new podcast some much-needed visibility.

It’s also worth considering cross-promotion on other podcasts. Consider both paid advertising and trading guest spots with a podcast that shares your target audience. 

#8: Solicit Listener Feedback

Ratings and reviews are essential to your podcast’s success. They’ll help provide social proof for new listeners and boost your search visibility in podcast directories. 

The best way to get ratings and reviews? Ask for them. Make it part of each episode’s sign-off. You can even encourage thoughtful reviews by reading the best ones on future episodes. You will engage your listeners and solicit more reviews at the same time.

#9: Keep Up Your Cadence

As with blog content, there’s no single “right” frequency to publish a podcast. Some of my favorite podcasts publish weekly, biweekly, or even monthly. The best cadence for your podcast is “However frequently you can reliably, regularly publish quality content.”

Choose your cadence with an eye to long-term sustainability, and tell your listeners explicitly how frequently you’ll publish. Whether it’s “See you next week,” or “PodcastTitle is a monthly podcast that…” listeners will find it easier to make your podcast a habit if you stick to a schedule.

#10: Repurpose, Repurpose, Repurpose

In my last post on the content marketing benefits of B2B podcasting, I mentioned that podcasts are a content machine, and I’ll say it again. It’s easy to finish an episode, publish it, then forget it and move on to the next thing. But don’t do that! 

Pull snippets of audio content for social media. Turn them into short videos, too: Add a still image or a simple looping GIF for visual interest.

Use your transcriptions as fodder for future blog posts, quotes for influencer marketing, or even a stand-alone asset. 

Any way you can reuse that content can help bring more listeners to your podcast. What’s more, putting the content in a different medium can reach an audience who might not be into podcasts (yet). 

Check, Check, One Two

Launching a podcast is a little trickier than launching a new blog, especially if you’re new to the format. But if you follow this checklist, you can make sure your podcast is available on all the right channels and is ready to start attracting an audience.

Need more podcasting help? Check out our B2B Podcasting Webinar. In addition to learning the Four P’s of podcasting success, you’ll see me make this face:

B2B Podcasting Face

*Disclosure: SAP is a TopRank Marketing client.

The post 10 Crucial Steps for Launching Your B2B Podcast Into the Wild appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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