Saturday, April 11, 2020

Covid-19 Digital Playbook

With shelter-in-place (SIP) and a likely recession due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, now is the time to double down on digital marketing and sales!

With store closures, many retailers, such as Nike, are reporting Black Friday sales levels and conversion rates! And I've been seeing similar results for my clients.

In fact, in its recent quarterly report, Nike's CEO said it was able to engage its fans via its app and other digital channels while they were quarantined at home, and their free exercise services translated into strong digital sales that helped offset store closures.

Some brands or OEMs who previously had channel conflicts from wholesale/retail partners or their own brick-and-mortar stores suddenly see their direct-to-consumer channel as the only game in town during SIP.

That makes this a critical time to dig into your website and mobile app analytics!

See what part of the site is getting the most traffic, what's selling now that wasn't before, what is the makeup of the customers who are shopping now vs. before, where are users dropping off or hitting UX roadblocks?

For many of my clients, I've seen a spike in mobile web and mobile app traffic especially throughout the day and not just during commute hours. No surprise as people are home due to SIP. Also, historically, lots of office workers shop on their work desktops during the weekdays. It's not uncommon to see high conversions on Mon mornings before lunch as workers tackle their "to do" list after a relaxing weekend. But suddenly they don't have access to those work computers and must go online on their phones. So make sure your site is optimized for mobile, now more than ever!

Re-evaluate all your advertising

Online ad prices, especially banner, native, and video ads, that run on publisher sites are dropping as supply outstrips demand because advertisers have pulled back on spend because of SIP (e.g., travel industry can't really promote bookings), recession fears, and brand safety concerns (i.e., brands don't want their ads to show next to coronavirus content, especially on news sites). However, if you are less brand sensitive or develop a more targeted blacklisting strategy, you can make out like a bandit for your media buys. For example, Facebook CPMs have fallen to their lowest levels in 2 years.

Facebook CPM Falling (Source: Gupta Media)
It's also a good idea to assess the competitive media landscape. You may discover some competitors have pulled back on their paid advertising in search, display, social, video, or mobile apps. Time for you to grab market or mindshare, likely at lower ad prices as mentioned above. For some of my retail clients where Amazon used to compete with them on search, there's been less competition. Not that Amazon doesn't have the money to bid against them, but more likely because Amazon has more than its hands full now from organic traffic with everyone turning to the online retailer during SIP. (More on that below.) So check your Google Auction Insights reports. On the flip side, depending on your industry, you might see quite the opposite competitive pressure and everyone is getting more aggressive to capture as much demand as possible right now. Think about the fiercely competitive online video conferencing space right now where you have Zoom, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, and Webex duking it out.

I expect performance media campaigns to see less budget cuts than branding campaigns.

Also, make sure your ad messaging is on target and appropriate for these times. For example, yesterday morning I heard a local radio ad that asked "Taking your kids to school? Listen to us in the car." Really? Schools have been closed for a month during SIP! Someone at the station clearly sleeping behind the wheel.

Take stock of and promote your most relevant product and service features during these times.

By now, as a consumer, every company has probably sent you an email and driving you to their Covid-19 landing pages to explain how they are reacting to the pandemic and SIP. And most importantly, what special services they are offering during these uncertain times.

So, as a brand, what are you going to promote?

If you have interest-free payment plans or "layaway" plans like Afterpay, it's time to promote that. Amazon features it prominently on higher ticket price items (see below). Some auto companies have rolled out 0% interest, 72-month auto loans even!

Amazon's interest-free payment plan

Right now consumers are very concerned about supporting small businesses who risk going under. For smaller businesses who are reaching out to their community for help, now's a good time to setup and promote online gift cards. Square, which is quite popular with small businesses, has even created a Give & Get Local site to make it easy for local merchants to promote their e-gift cards to consumers. I've seen when merchants promote this in email campaigns, consumers are buying them to keep their favorite businesses afloat, hoping to patronize them later when we get through this. Facebook is also offering small businesses grants.

Offer curbside pickup following social distancing best practices? Promote that. Are your shipping and delivery times still unaffected? If you compete with Amazon, you may have an advantage now against the Prime shipping program as Amazon is swamped with traffic and orders, forcing them to prioritize some items over others. I don't blame them. I was about to buy an item that was eligible for Prime shipping. But at checkout, it said it won't ship for 1-2 months! That's crazy. #abandoncart

Amazon delayed shipping warning
Sports retailer Sports Basement has been sending out emails that promote online events to help customers stay fit, such as live workouts with a trainer via video conference and healthy recipes to try at home (side note: there has been a spike in baking and home cooking with SIP). And of course, discounts for shopping online! Similarly, REI has 6 Ways to Mix Up Your At-Home Workday. Both are great examples of brands staying true to their brand positioning while producing relevant, engaging content for their customers.

Sports Basement workout tip
Also, make sure you are monitoring online chatter using social media tools. How are consumers reacting to your company's response? For many brands, they are dealing with significant customer service complains on social media, online chats on their sites, and of course their call centers. But also use this data to see what's trending? How do you weave your brand into the conversation? The key is to be authentic, empathetic, and not too salesy.

Get the word out!

When you've identified relevant content to share with the community, it's time to put the CRM team and tools to work! Leverage that email database you got! For small businesses using Square, Square is offering Square Marketing, its basic CRM program I previously reviewed, for free right now. Yelp is also offering some of its premium marketing services for free for small businesses. Take advantage of these tools! Most are very easy to use without a huge learning curve.

Of course, take it to social media channels. Remember when just a few weeks ago, the government and consumer privacy advocates wanted to take down Facebook and Big Tech? Now, consumers are spending more time than ever on Facebook and almost every single social network has seen engagement shoot through the roof! When you do post, do some #hashtag research to maximize visibility.

And this goes without saying, but make sure your website can handle increased traffic, especially if you're a retailer and your stores are closed. You might also consider a code freeze like most online retailers normally do Nov-Dec. Don't risk rocking the boat when it's the only sales channel you got right now!

Lock-in long-term behavior changes

Lastly, all this time at home and SIP has forced consumers and businesses to change their behavior, largely favoring online activity, and you should take advantage of making these behaviors long term habits. Just to name a few benefactors -- online video conferencing, online banking/mobile app banking, online grocery delivery, esports, virtual medical professional services like SteadyMD or Talkspace, not to mention multi-channel retailers who have struggled to get in-store shoppers to go online or use their mobile app. Post-SIP, all these industries will benefit from an injection of new users; the key will be to keep as many as they can as paying customers for years to come.

My Covid-19 Digital Playbook:
  1. Dig into your web + app analytics data for insights
  2. Re-evaluate your media buys and messaging
  3. Develop relevant content for Covid-19 behaviors due to SIP and be useful to consumers
  4. Be active on social media and email channels
  5. Be prepared for how to exploit long-term behavior changes after we get through this to capitalize on your short-term wins
Now I only wish there was a digital solution for haircuts because I need one badly! =( And I don't just mean an AR filter for my video calls or socialpost!

Stay safe and sane out there...


Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Examples of Bad Blogger Outreach

A while back, I wrote about "How I Became a Data Plumber" that talks about the work I do for clients to help audit their existing ad tech and mar tech systems and devise a better data strategy in order to improve their end-to-end reporting and optimization from marketing and sales efforts.

Little did I know that it would lead to one of my posts with the most comments ever. Sadly, all of it was spam =(

We all know the SEO practice of getting backlinks to improve search engine rankings. Blogger outreach is one way to do that. However, those that employ black hat tactics like commenting on articles blindly #FAIL poorly.

I felt compelled to share examples of these pitiful attempts for backlinks. Most appear to be from offshore users who clearly did not read my post closely. I wasn't talking about the normal plumber you hire to fix a leak. But these examples below are from such regular plumber services. I won't give them the satisfaction of getting any visibility from their cheap hacks so I've redacted their names and web links.

Without further ado, here's some good laughs...

James from AZ writes:
Thanks for your suggestions. Everyone homes needs a reliable and trustworthy plumber. Learn from the experts about how to find a plumber. Residential plumbing services Arizona

Nency from UK writes:
I am happy to find this post Very useful for me, as it contains lot of information. I Always prefer to read The Quality and glad I found this thing in you post. Thanks Plumber _____.

Brittany writes:
Awesome article! I want people to know just how good this information is in your article. It’s interesting, compelling content. Your views are much like my own concerning this subject. Professional Plumbing Installations

Scott writes:
Great share! Usually I never comment on blogs but your article is so convincing that I never stop myself to say something about it. If you you are looking for bets plumbing service or solution then you can check out here _____

At least the above were kinda related and were in the plumbing industry.

These examples are just blatant, gratuitous self-promotion with nothing to do with the topic I wrote about!

Riva from India writes:
Wonderful Blog!!! Waiting for your upcoming data... thanks for sharing with us.

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Gino writes:
really enjoyed very much with this article here. Really it is an amazing article I had ever read. I hope it will help a lot for all. Thank you so much for this amazing posts and please keep update like this excellent article.thank you for sharing such a great blog with us.
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PK writes:
We’re eager to see your comment. However, Please Keep in mind that all comments are moderated manually by our human reviewers according to our comment policy, and all the links are nofollow. Using Keywords in the name field area is forbidden. Let’s enjoy a personal and evocative conversation.

Wait, what?!? Weren't YOU the one who commented on my site and not the other way around?

And this one makes no sense at all!

James from UK writes:
Being an internet marketer I know how beneficial it would be to add my plumbing services in the Search Frog Australian directory and be found by the potential customers much easily.

This comment was left on my post "The 3 C's of Social Media Marketing Tools" and not even my "How I Became a Data Plumber" post. Go figure.

The same social media marketing tool post also received this comment:

Looking for paper cloth bags manufacturing machines? Then we are the best for you, who suit your expectations. We have huge experience on this field. We are 100% dedicated to find you paper cloth bags manufacturing machines.
We are dedicated to manufacturing and sales of a wide range of paper cloth bags manufacturing machines.
You can find here your best one.
If you want to know more, Please check out _____

Thanks! If I ever come across a client who needs paper cloth bags manufacturing machines, I know just who to call Winking Face Emoji (Apple/iOS Version)


Sunday, November 24, 2019

Ford Making a Branding Mistake with Mustang Mach-E

A week ago, Ford unveiled its new 2021 Mustang Mach-E.

Mustang Mach-E (photo: Ford)

I think Ford is making a huge branding mistake naming its first all-electric, sport crossover SUV the Mustang Mach-E.

Also, I think this new all-electric vehicle from Ford's new EV architecture does warrant a silver bullet brand name, with the opportunity to lift the overall Ford brand, like what the Audi TT did for Audi or Miata did for Mazda. In fact, Audi created a new brand name called E-tron, which is in a similar all-electric SUV class as the Mustang Mach-E.

Yes, I get why Ford wants to make muscle cars attractive and relevant for more socially-responsible and eco-conscious Millennials. But eroding an iconic brand is blasphemous and not the way to go!

For 55 years, Mustang has consistently stood for Ford's 2-door pony car, representing power, acceleration, exhilaration, and your hair blowing in the wind. I can see Ford management's desire to leverage the speed and performance from the Mustang brand to its new high-performance electric SUV. But from a brand extension perspective, this is a "double jump". (Ok, I coined that term so you won't find that in marketing or branding books...yet.)

Here's what I mean. Ford is taking the "Mustang" brand into both the (1) electric vehicle space and (2) crossover SUV space.

  1. Electric Vehicle space: The Mustang brand could probably extend into the electric vehicle space with a branded technology name associated with it, as long as it was still a high-performance sporty vehicle. Similar to how Ford used EcoBoost for its turbocharged, direct-injection gasoline engines and there already is a Mustang EcoBoost Premium model. Or how Toyota adds an "h" to the model numbers of its Lexus hybrid versions of their vehicles, such as the Lexus RX450h. 
  2. Crossover SUV space: But using the same brand name across class sizes (e.g. compact car, sports car, truck, SUV) is extremely unusual as attributes for purchase consideration varies between auto buyers for different classes so it is very difficult for the same brand name to embody the brand benefits across classes. It is even harder when the brand is very well-known in one class size. In this case, the Mustang brand stands for sporty 2-door muscle car and I don't think extending it into SUV space is a good idea.   

I have long praised Ford for its brand architecture on its SUV model names, all starting with "E" and sounding like "ex", such as Explorer, Excursion, Escape, and Expedition. All these SUVs and words represented outdoor, active lifestyles. So one idea could be that Ford creates a new SUV brand with this "E"-lliteration =)

The "Mach-E" name may have been sufficient to add to a new model name like a branded technology or variant to indicate electric, high-performance, as "Mach 1" has been used on past high-performance Mustangs. So perhaps a new model name that starts with "E" to follow Ford's SUV alliteration and indicate it's an SUV, followed by Mach-E to indicate electric, high-performance. (E.g., E_____ Mach-E.)

I get Ford needs to out gun Tesla and its upcoming small Model Y compact SUV. But I don't think diluting the Mustang brand is the right path.


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

How to Switch Disney+ Plans

Last week, I reviewed my first 24 hour impressions with the new Disney+ service.

During the free trial, I decided this is pretty good and worth keeping. Then I had to decide if I wanted to commit to a full year and save a few bucks or pay monthly. After a long deliberation, I decided to go for the 12-month $69.99 plan!

Little did I know it was going to be impossible to switch my payment plan from monthly to annual (and vice versa) during the free 7-day trial after I had selected monthly $6.99 plan at sign-up. I was not thinking about the 12-month option at such an early stage in the purchase consideration cycle and thought there would be a simple toggle in my account later that I could just switch plan options easily. WRONG!

I tried from a web browser, mobile app on Android and iOS, iPad, and via Roku on my TV. From the Account page, it would show my "Monthly" plan section under Subscription, but no way to change it. And I wasn't interested in switching to the Disney+/ESPN+/Hulu bundle!

Account page's Subscription section
Clicking on Billing details was my only option from this screen and that only offered 2 options:
  • Switch to Disney bundle, like on previous screen, or
  • Cancel Subscription
Billing Details page

I also tried to search in the Disney+ Help section. Nada! I tried to initiate a live chat with Disney+, but after waiting in the queue for over 1 hour, I gave up. So I tried to call them and the IVR warned me the average wait time would be about 90 mins!

Horrible customer service experience so far! I get it's due to its popularity, but it also speaks to perhaps Disney wasn't quite ready for launch and did not fully anticipate all customer needs.

Then I did what any sensible, desperate consumer would do -- Google it! Surprisingly, I couldn't find anything either in Google or YouTube.

Anyways, I finally figured out a solution and thought I would share it to save others the same headache. Here's how to switch your Disney+ plan:

  1. Cancel your free trial before the period ends and your credit card is charged based on the existing payment plan shown in your Account
  2. Wait until your service is actually cancelled
  3. Disney+ will email you a "We are sorry to see you go" email when they cut you off with a "Restart Subscription" link
  4. Click on the email link to reactivate your account
  5. You will get a Welcome Back! screen that let's you switch plans!

Switching Disney+ Plans During Re-activation
From what I can tell, the same steps are required to switch your plan not just during the free trial, but also when you're a paying customer because the Account page looks the same as above now that I'm a subscriber. Disney+ says any changes to your account won't take effect until the end of the current billing cycle and they do not offer partial refunds. That likely explains why they never thought through this use case very well. #FAIL

Hope that helps!


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

[REVIEW] First 24 hours with Disney+

Unless you've been living in a cave for the past year, you probably heard about the launch of the new online streaming service from Disney called Disney+ yesterday. Disney is estimated to have spent $20 million in advertising for the service. I signed up immediately and here is my first impressions after 24 hours of use.

First of all, signing up was super easy.


From the home page, there is lots of ways to browse and explore Disney's vast library of content.

  1. Search - This keyword-based search feature is prominent in the global nav on all devices 
  2. By Featured "Brands" - For lack of better words, when I say "Brands", I am referring to Disney's major studios or franchises, namely Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic. (How did Nat Geo make it to this list? Maybe Disney did some consumer research and found this to be a popular content channel). You can see this on the home page below the home page promotional carousel (see screenshot below, located below Mandalorian promo)
  3. By Collections - To help you explore, they have created "collections" for popular franchises or characters. For example, an obvious one is Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga Collection, which includes all 8 Episodes of the motion pictures. They even have a Darth Vader Collection if you seek the "dark side" that includes the main Star Wars movies Darth Vader has been in, along with Star Wars Rebels cartoons and LEGO animations he's also been in. I was also happy to see a Spider-Man collection, which was a custom set of cartoons and some movies Spider-man has been in (more on that below). 

Disney+ Home Page (Desktop)

Disney+ Collections


After years of holding out from all the major streaming and download services, Disney+ has finally made all the Star Wars movies available online, except Solo, which it says is coming July 9, 2020. (No biggie since I thought that was a bad Star Wars movie. But you will find Rogue One, which I loved!)

I had to watch the much-hyped Star Wars: The Mandalorian show. Not bad so far. I'll give it time for the storyline to unfold and character to develop. The production quality is very high, like a full feature Star Wars movie! This appears to be a weekly series and the whole season is NOT available at once for binge watchers. Call me old school, but I actually prefer weekly releases so I can enjoy it over a few months =)

There is also a confirmed Kenobi: A Star Wars Story series coming to Disney+ next year starring Ewan McGregor again and set between Episodes III and IV!

While it appears all the Star Wars movies (except Solo) and the animated TV series, such as Clone Wars and Rebels, are available for streaming today, that's not the case for Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies.

I'm in the midst of re-watching all 23 MCU movies in chronological order (not theatrical release date order). Only 16 of the 23 MCU movies are available today. What's missing:

  • Incredible Hulk (2008) - Not found. This was kinda, but not really, part of the MCU series in my book anyways
  • Spider-man: Homecoming - Not found
  • Thor: Ragnarok - Available 12/5/19
  • Black Panther - Available 3/4/20
  • Avengers: Infinity War - Available 6/25/20. Oddly, Endgame was available.
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp - Available 7/29/20
  • Spider-man: Far From Home - Not found
Disney+ states the reason for the delayed releases is due to prior agreements. I get that. But my biggest disappointment is none of the recent Spider-man movies from MCU are even showing up in search results, as if they never existed. This is probably due to Marvel's prior contract with Sony when they licensed the Spider-Man character to Sony years ago and the recent contract disputes they've had. Luckily they resolved those issues and there will be more Spider-man MCU movies with Tom Holland coming. I hope they cut a deal soon to include these movies in Disney+!

Also, Disney's acquisition of Fox assets means the X-Men are coming back supposedly to Disney/Marvel. But you won't find any of the X-Men theatrical releases here...yet. Just some old X-Men cartoons.

All the Pixar movies appear to be available: Toy Story, Incredibles, Cars, Inside Out. No Toy Story 4 or latest Lion King yet.

Pixar on Disney+

Also from the Fox deal, all 30 years of Simpsons episodes is available! "WOO HOO!" as Homer would say.


Let's talk about some of the nice, unique features in Disney+.

"Skip Intro" button: Lets you skip the opening credits on TV shows. It appears on the lower right corner when credits start, similar to how the Skip Ad button appears on YouTube videos.

High Concurrent Viewers: You can stream on lots of devices at once. While you can maintain up to 10 devices logged into your Disney+ account, you can stream on 4 devices concurrently. Both are quite generous. As a comparison, my Hulu+Live TV normal subscription only allows 2 concurrent viewers.

Chromecast: Built in Chromecast icon in upper right let's you easily throw a show from your mobile device to a bigger screen.

Download: Easily download any program and go (see below), but it's only available on mobile devices and tablets. Not PC and TV. I'm actually surprised it's not on PC for road warriors who like to watch movies on laptops on planes. This is a huge benefit for families on road trips that want to download content on a tablet for their kids to watch in the backseat!
Mobile: Add to Watchlist, Download, or Chomecast


Overall, I didn't notice any performance issues while streaming. There were reports from others about logging in, which I also faced. When I first signed in to the mobile app, it appeared to not let me login (see below). But when I clicked on the search icon on the bottom nav, it let me enter and seemed fine after that.

Error Message on Mobile App
Also, I when I tried to edit my profile image, it crashed. When I tried again a few hours later, it worked.
Error Message Updating Profile Image

The Watch List is hard to find on the mobile and iPad apps. It's actually under your profile icon on lower right. But on a TV, it's a main menu item and not buried under your profile/account settings.

Also, on my Roku version of Disney+, if you rewind or go forward, there aren't thumbnails to show where you are, like other services. You have to solely rely on the time stamp to guide you! But this wasn't a problem on the mobile app or iPad. So why the inconsistent user experience?!?


I wish there was a Hulu+Live TV bundle with Disney+. (Yes, I'm a Hulu+Live TV user.) And not just the basic Hulu, ESPN+, and Disney+ $12.99 bundle.

That being said, $6.99/mo is a bargain for all this content. The $69.99/yr plan, which is less than $6/mo is a great deal! Even if I watched 1-2 things a month, it's way cheaper than renting a movie which can cost $4 minimum and up to $6 for new HD releases. So the 12-month plan is a great deal because you're basically getting 2 months free. Instead of $84, you save $14 or 17% off. I wish my Hulu+Live TV offered a discounted 12-month option because I would definitely do that and probably save enough to cover my Disney+ subscription! YOU HEAR ME, DISNEY?

Even with this low price, the best part (so far) is they are not supplementing their subscription income with ads, like Hulu and other OTT streaming services. I hope it stays that way!


Everyone talks about this as a Netflix killer. No doubt, especially as Disney continues to remove its content from Netflix as licensing agreements expire.

I can see this threatening YouTube too, especially among kids. Parents who put an iPad or phone in front of their kids can now have a safe, ad-free option to "babysit" their kids when they're eating out or need some "me" time. And kids love watching same thing over so this is perfect! Remember Frozen and hearing Let It Go for the umpteenth time for weeks?! That may happen again.

This will alter my movie rental behavior for sure. Instead of renting from Amazon Prime a new release for $4-6 per movie, I'll wait until it hits Disney+.

Given how no streaming service has ever licensed the Star Wars movies, there is a lot of pent up demand for these movies alone that make the low monthly fee worth it. Disney CEO Bob Iger is very optimistic about this new service, and I think they will get millions of subscribers easily. I wouldn't be surprised if they surpass Hulu in subscribers.

To sum things up. Disney+ is...

Best for: those seeking very affordable entertainment option for the entire family with no ads
Not for you if: you have no self control binge watching, as there is so much content here that you may not go out or sleep for months!
Final word: Definitely sign-up for the free 7-day trial. I'd be shocked if you or your kids didn't find something to watch!


Thursday, July 25, 2019

Funniest Amazon Customer Question Ever!

As you all know, has a section on the bottom of product listings called Customer Questions. Usually, prospective buyers want to know about the actual size of the product, is it compatible with X, does it work for Y, etc.

And then once in a blue moon, one comes across a hilarious question that I still don't know if the person who asked the question was serious to begin with.

 Check out this listing for a pet feeder on Amazon.

Pet Feeder
If you look at the first Customer Question, you'll see this:
Can I use these for cereal and milk for kids?

I thought that was a strange question for a pet feeder. Curious, I clicked into it and read the most hilarious thread ever...and possibly the most disturbing if the person asking the question was serious, as well as the people who answered back seriously about the types of cereal and milk that would work with this pet feeder.

I was ROFL. The community loved it too because it got 37 votes to keep this question pinned to the top.

Read it here and judge for yourself. Enjoy!
Customer Question

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Can't Blame Amazon Completely for Barnes & Noble's Downfall

As 2 suitors, Elliott Management and Readerlink, possibly fight over Barnes & Noble, the beleaguered bookseller, I can see why the chain is dying and the hard work cut out for its new owner.

The media always blames for B&N's misfortunes. But I found out first-hand that it's also B&N's own doing. In fact, smaller independent bookstores have seen a resurgence, despite B&N's demise.

Recently, I was looking for a Funko Pop gift online and found it at Better yet, it was 25% off according to its website. I didn't have time to have it shipped so I went to a nearby store and didn't see the need to buy online and pickup in store because I wanted to see it live first.

At the store, there were 100s of Funko Pops across 4 large display shelves, stacked at least 2 boxes deep! Of all the stores, this B&N had the most Funko Pops I've ever seen. Normally, such a large selection is great. But not today. I tried to ask a worker to help me find the one I wanted, but I had no luck in tracking someone down nearby. I eventually found it myself.

Now all I had to do was pay for it. Easy, right? Sadly, no. B&N makes it really hard to checkout when a customer is ready to actually buy!

First, I couldn't find anyone at either of the 2 Cashier stations. So I walked over to the Customer Service counter and a worker there tries to explain to me that it is "normal" for no one to be at one of the counters because the workers are on the floor. Then why is there a Cashier sign to direct customers to go there and pay if you don't expect a worker to man that station? As for the second counter, she pointed back towards the Cashier counter and said a guy was walking over there now. No apologies at all during this whole exchange and she made me feel like it was my fault for even asking her where is a cashier so I can pay.

So I walk over to the Cashier area, and they had an "Enter Here" sign pointing customers to the far right. But there was no one in line so I thought I'd walk right up to the cashier who saw us coming. He looks at me and nods his head to his left (my right), as if signaling me to follow the sign and queue the long way around to the other end of the cashier counter, only to work my way back down to if B&N ever has long lines or a stampede of customers these days.

When I finally reached the cashier, I told him that the $39.99 price on the box was higher (48% to be exact) than what I saw on their website. I showed him on my mobile phone the price on (see below). product page shopping cart - sales price ($26.99)
B&N in-store price on box ($39.99)
He said no problem. He can price match. Great! But wait, there's more! He said he could only match the $29.99 price. But online, as shown above, had another 10% off with promo code SUNSHINE. So the price before taxes was $26.99.

He said he "had no way of price matching AND applying a discount." Why is that even 2 different things in his mind? If he's going to ring up any price into the register to price match, why not entire the $26.99 amount instead of $29.99?

Frustrated by the whole experience so far, I just accepted the $29.99 price to get out of there. I can't believe how complicated their price match policy was. And it's not like I was asking him to match a COMPETITOR'S offer. This was their own website for crying out loud!

I guess it's not entirely the workers' fault for the horrible in-store experience. When business is dying, I guess B&N is not used to customers actually buying something in their stores!

TIP: If you ever see something on sale on that you must get that day, you should always buy online and pick up in store, instead of assuming you can easily walk in to buy it!

Ultimately, successful retailers today have to offer consumers a compelling reason to go into a physical store and when consumers show up, retailers have to offer helpful customer service and a consistent omni-channel experience, especially when it comes to price. Is that too much to ask?

#FAIL for Barnes & Noble.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Google Marketing Live Day 1 Takeaways

Ok, it's late. I just finished watching the Golden State Warriors destroy the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference playoffs. My mind is still racing from attending today's Google Marketing Live 2019 event. And while my fellow GML attendees enjoy a free concert tonight with Katy Perry, here I am writing about my takeaways from today's product announcements for you, my readers. =)

Google's main themes were focused on:

  • Be responsible - Gee, I wonder why they led with this? Perhaps because of the consumer backlash around online privacy and the threat from regulators to breakup the online duopoly?
  • Be there - Google plans to reach you across its vast ecosystem 
  • Be useful - Google spoke a lot about personalization, understanding user intent, and predictive analytics 

To that end, a lot of the new ad products further exploit machine learning and AI to automate things from bidding to optimizing placements to even creative development. Google is also expanding ads across more of its properties, even Google Images. I suspect Pinterest's success has inspired Google to try to monetize its Google Images site. And there was lots of talk about using all it knows about users and users intent to anticipate their needs...while protecting user privacy.

If you're an e-commerce retailer, there were some exciting announcements from Google. Here's a few that caught my eye.


As a long time Android and Google user, I never noticed the Discover button on the home page of the Google app or But apparently lots of people do as Google claims 800 million people use it monthly! So, naturally, Google is going to try to monetize those eye balls and Discovery Ads aim to do that. Discovery Ads are essentially mobile-first native ads that appear in multiple Google properties with feeds: Google home page feed, Youtube home page feed, and Gmail. (Not sure how Discovery Ads in Gmail will conflict with regular Gmail Ad buys though. And I suspect Discovery Ads reporting won't be too transparent with reporting by placement like with Google Smart Shopping. We're just asked to trust the black box algorithm to automate things for us.)


These large, visual ads have been around for a few years and drive user engagement on mobile. I've seen success with these with my retail clients. So when Google announced Showcase Shopping Ads will expand to Google Images, Discover feed, and YouTube feed, lots of people got excited naturally.


It's frustrating when my mobile ads drive users to my mobile web site, even when my customers have our app downloaded on their phones. So it was huge news when Google announced Search, Shopping and Display campaigns will now link users directly into the mobile app. In its tests, Google saw 2X conversion rate lift. No surprise! Google also announced improved mobile app reporting if you also use Google Analytics for Firebase.


Google has redesigned the Google Shopping site experience to be more personalized and centered around the customer journey. And it will prominently focus on driving sales for advertisers by encouraging users to either (1) buy directly on an advertiser's e-commerce site, (2) go to a local store, or (3) buy directly on Google leveraging Google Express.

Also, as part of their Shopping Actions Program, this shopping experience will also extend to, Google Assistant, YouTube, and Google Imagesto  allow users to buy directly from these Google properties!

Alright time to call it a night. Unlike Katy Perry, I am no longer "Wide Awake." If you want to learn more, check out the Google Ads blog.


Monday, April 8, 2019

Samsung Galaxy S10: Life 1 Month Later

I can't believe it has only been one month since I upgraded from my Samsung Galaxy S7 to the S10. I just love it! Here are some of my favorite things about it.

Prism colors! I got the blue one. I usually get a black phone, but this time I saw the prism blue and how it reflects in the light (see below) and it was love at first sight.

Huge screen. I didn't think it was a big deal at first to not have a black bezel on the top and bottom of the front screen. The physical size of the S7 and S10 are very similar. But once you get use to the longer screen, it's hard to imagine going back. There is only a small dark circle in the upper right corner for the camera. This really opened up a lot of usable screen space, which is most noticeable when viewing photos.

Hi-res screen. Speaking of screens, the screen resolution is so crisp and the letters are so smooth. You can go up to 3040x1440 (a.k.a., WQHD+).

Telephoto lens. At one point, I was considering the S10E, which doesn't have the telephoto lens. I didn't think I really needed it, but I discovered I use the 2x photo lens all the time for far away action photos.

Bixby routines. While this is not new to the S10, it's new to me. It's convenient for programming some things you do frequently. For me, I created a custom Bedtime routine that shuts down a lot of things. I was surprised you can even customize the 2 bottom shortcut buttons on the Lock screen. And you can also lock the screen orientation. You know how when you reach for your phone while lying in bed still, sometimes the screen rotates on you when you don't want it to? I set it to Portrait mode at bedtime. Lastly, having a set time for my bedtime routine that includes Airplane mode has the additional benefit of ensuring I limit my screen time at night.

Bedtime Bixby Routine 

Scan document feature on camera.
This feature is amazing! It's under Scene Optimizer. With this mode on, somehow Bixby recognizes when I'm taking a photo of a document and it reorients it so it's straight and crops it, even if you shoot it at an angle.

BEFORE: "Scan" hint while taking pic of a document

AFTER: Photo of document auto-cropped and auto-oriented

Apps Edge.
 I gotta admit I never saw the benefit of the Edge screen when Samsung rolled this design out a few years ago. I thought it was partially a parlor trick to create the illusion of an infinity display. But I have finally found a good use for it. Samsung lets you select Edge Panels. I especially like the Apps Edge panel to create custom shortcuts and folders. This has cleared up space on my home screen to tuck away popular apps that I use frequently, but not all the time.

Edge Panel customization options

Gestures for navigation bar. This is an Android Pie feature and not exclusive to the S10. This is also similar to what Apple iOS got last year. But the gestures are a lot more customizable on the S10. For example, Samsung gives you the option to:
  1. Not use gestures at all (if you like the classic 3 Navigation buttons -- menu, home, and back -- to still show 100% of the time on the bottom of your screen)
  2. Get hints for gestures with 3 grey lines along the bottom of your screen to remind you to swipe up. I am slow to change, so I chose this mode for now :)
  3. Go all in with gestures with no visual hints
Setting Gestures for Navigation Bar

Horizontal recent apps menu. This horizontal carousel view is also borrowed from iOS and is a Pie update. I like how it shows open apps side by side instead of vertically stacked cards behind one another because it's large enough that I can read the screens as I flip through them.

Bixby button remap. This is a new ability to re-assign the Bixby button on the left of the phone to do something else.

My one complaint is actually one of the most touted features on the S10: ultrasonic fingerprint sensor. The fingerprint recognition is not as responsive as the physical sensor. Often times, I give up after 2-3 times and use my PIN. Sometimes it thinks I'm off or it says to press harder.

Bonus tip: If you are looking for a slim clear plastic case to show off your gorgeous prism-colored S10 like me, I highly recommend this Trianium Clarium Case on Amazon. Best $9 you will ever spend for a case of this quality. It fits perfectly and snug, even along the bottom where the ports are. And the cutout for the camera lens on the back is not very deep, like other cases I've had in the past.

Prism Blue S10 in Trianium Clear Case

Overall, the S10 is a home run!


Sunday, March 3, 2019

YouTube Should Make Channel Owners Moderate All Comments To Serve Ads

Controversy is brewing again between YouTube and major advertisers. In case you haven't heard, YouTube has recently disabled comments on videos with minors due to predatory behavior. That was after major brand advertisers, such as Disney and Nestle, pulled their ad budgets. That tends to get YouTube to act.

And YouTube says they've fast tracked a new tool to identify inappropriate comments automatically.

I don't think this is solved by technology alone.

If a person or company wants to have a YouTube channel, it implies they want to connect with users. And with that should come a serious level of responsibility to monitor what happens on your channel and one can't expect technology to do it for you.

I also feel like the broader user community can't be expected to flag issues for YouTube. That could help be part of a larger solution.

YouTube can't put the burden on advertisers either to flag inappropriate comments because that's not an advertiser's core competency. Advertisers just want to make a media buy and trust their ad will be shown in a brand-safe environment.

Instead, what if YouTube put the responsibility on YouTube channel owners who wish to monetize their channel to actively moderate their comments? If you choose to sign up with YouTube to make your channel eligible for showing ads, YouTube should set all comments to require moderation by the channel owner and not post comments automatically. This would force the channel owner to ensure a brand safe environment. Otherwise, YouTube should not allow a channel to run ads. This has the benefit of aligning incentives for all parties because both Google and the channel owner want to make money from advertisers and advertisers want to invest in online video advertising.

Some owners of popular YouTube channels may balk at this idea, saying they get too many comments or views to moderate them all. If that's true, they must be making lots of money from ads! So guess what? You have to invest some of that money on moderators or community managers to continue to make money and maintain your brand-safe advertising environment!

As they say, it takes money to make money...


Sunday, February 10, 2019

WARNING: Hulu (No Ads)+ Live TV Has Lots of Ads!

I've been using Hulu + Live TV for several months after evaluating all the major OTT live TV streaming providers. I initially signed up for the $39.99/mo plan. Having come off of Dish TV with its ad skipper functionality on its DVR, I grew used to not watching ads on my favorite TV shows. So when I got Hulu + Live TV, I was so excited to discover that for an extra $4/mo more, I would not have to watch ads. Seemed like a great deal to remove this inconvenience and I was surprised they didn't promote this more on their website. According to Hulu's fine print, with the exception of a few shows, there's no ads.
My current plan

If you click on the Learn More link, Hulu even lists the shows that are subject to ads. Since I didn't watch any of them, I didn't think it would impact me.

But I soon discovered all, but 2, of my shows I watch regularly have commercials on playback. I understand when I watch live TV, I have to sit through real-time ad breaks. But I am watching these shows on delay (not live!) from their VOD library, not even from my cloud DVR. These ad breaks vary from 2 minutes to sometimes nearly 4 minutes of unskippable ads. From NFL Prime Time to Madam Secretary to S.W.A.T, I had to actually spend 30 minutes to watch a 30 minute show again! How is this possible with my $4 add-on plan? 

Their list of shows with ads was very short. But where are the shows I watch with ads? Why aren't they listed? Then I found this buried deep in their site. 

If you subscribe to Hulu (No Ads) + Live TV, please note that you will still see ads during live streams, DVR recordings and the additional on-demand content that is offered directly by each network.

The fine print

Apparently, this "network on demand" content from their live TV service is totally different and outside of their "standard" Hulu (No Ads) VOD library for $11.99/mo.

It's so confusing, that Hulu even has a help page dedicated to this question!

Even more confusing, the same show in their VOD library may have ads for newer season episodes, while older seasons will have no ads! All due to their negotiated contracts with ad networks. As a consumer, you can't even tell where that line is drawn until you're cruising along happily binge watching your favorite show without ads, and then BAM! You hit a 2-minute commercial break.

It gets worse. Here's an example of an even more lame user experience. When I watch ESPN and sometimes they don't sell out their ad inventory, they show a placeholder still frame for 30 seconds with an annoying elevator muzak loop. Why would you make a viewer watch dead space on delayed playback (not live TV use case here!) that clearly was not monetized? Just give us 30 seconds of our lives back and cut back to our favorite show earlier, people!

ESPN 30-sec non-commercial commercial break splash screen
Fast forward to present day and the new price hikes announced by Hulu earlier this month. This made me re-evaluate my current plan. While in my account, I looked for the fine print on my "no ads" plan.

I now realize the name of the service offering is very deliberate and subtle. I thought I had subscribed to Hulu + Live TV (No Ads) plan. However, it's actually called Hulu (No Ads) + Live TV plan. So it's technically true that the Hulu's original video on-demand library has almost no ads, but they are not claiming that for the "+ Live TV" portion of the service.

Here's something else I discovered. If you upgrade to their Enhanced Cloud DVR add-on for $9.99/mo (previously $14.99), you can fast forward through ads on your DVR recordings. But that does not apply to content in their VOD library still so watch out! Plus that's a hefty price premium. I honestly would be willing to pay probably an extra $10/mo for no ads across the entire Hulu + Live TV experience if they offered it!

Hulu is also apparently testing a new Pause ad unit with Charmin and Coca-Cola. I hope this works actually because maybe it will then allow Hulu to lower the ad load during my favorite shows.

It all boils down to improving Hulu's marketing and user experience:

  1. As a marketer, I can see why Hulu carefully names their service this way. I'm sure they thought about it in the boardroom: Hulu+Live TV (Lots of Commercials) does not sound as alluring as Hulu (No Ads)+Live TV. So is Hulu committing false advertising? You decide.
  2. The inconsistent user experience between ads shown with video content from the standard Hulu library vs. network partners is confusing. How is the average consumer supposed to tell the difference in source? Not to mention the fact that they shouldn't. It's ONE Hulu service to me and I don't want to split hairs. So I removed my $4/mo "no ads" add-on. With their newly announced price adjustments, this means my total monthly price only will be $1 higher now ($44.99 vs. $43.99), instead of $7.
I really do miss the ad skip button on my old Dish TV remote...


Sunday, November 11, 2018

FIRST PEEK: Amazon 4-Star Store

This week Amazon opened a new 4-Star store (its third one ever) in Berkeley, CA, and I just had to check it out! Readers of my blog know I'm a big Amazon fan =)

The 4-Star store is located on 4th Street, a cute little commercial strip in west Berkeley that includes big retailers, such as Apple Store, Sur la Table, Z Gallerie, as well as local merchants and eateries. The 4-Star store actually replaced a Crate & Barrel Outlet I liked that closed earlier this year.

Amazon 4-Star Store, Berkeley
If you haven't heard of 4-Star stores, it's different than Amazon Go cashierless stores. 4-Star stores are manned by real people and you can check out at a normal register counter. They appear targeted towards consumers who don't want to wait for delivery, have security concerns with packages left at their doorsteps, or just want to physically see and touch a product, so they prefer to buy from a physical store.

Also, as the name implies, all the items are rated 4 stars or higher, as well as items that are new or trending based on what Amazon's website knows about shopping patterns in the surrounding area. A store employee told me inventory will constantly change based on local preferences and sales data. Yay, BIG data!!!

The store stocks hundreds, maybe 1000s, of products, ranging from books, toys & games, kitchen appliances and gadgets, home goods, consumer electronics, and of course, Amazon-branded Echo, Kindle, and Fire TV devices.

Inside Amazon 4-Star Store, Berkeley
I liked a section called Amazon Launchpad that featured products from start-ups. I actually saw the Rocketbook I bought for a friend's gift last year here.

Amazon Launchpad section
I have mixed feelings about the store layout. While it was semi-organized by department with big signage, such as "Devices and Electronics" and "Home and Kitchen," there was also lots of random stuff on tables in the middle of the store. While this created a sense of discovery, much like what has made discount stores like TJ Maxx or Ross popular, at times it felt cluttered and overwhelming.

I was really impressed by the dynamic price tags or "shelf talkers". It makes sense these are dynamic because an item's price and ratings are update regularly and I presume Amazon has to reuse these tags from the revolving inventory of items stocked in the store. The price tags are very easy to read and appear to be based on the same e-ink technology from their Kindle reader.

Dynamic Price Tag (a.k.a. "Shelf Talker")

The price tag often has 2 prices: a "regular" price and a lower price for Amazon Prime members. I was told non-Prime customers can sign up for a free 30-day trial and instantly receive the Prime price in-store.

I thought the bar codes on the left side of the price tags would allow me to scan the bar code with my Amazon mobile app to learn more about the product online, such as product details and actual reviews. But it didn't work when I tried it on a few items. So I don't think that is the intent of these bar codes, but IT SHOULD BE!

As you might expect, you can drop off Amazon returns here for free. But just know that you still have to initiate the return process online first and pick this location as a drop-off location. You can't just walk in like a traditional retail store with your receipt and expect them to process it for you in-store.

It would be cool if the Amazon site or app could check the 4-Star store's inventory and allow for store pickup if it knew I was near this store.  This would be similar to how traditional brick-and-mortar stores, such as Best Buy, Target, and Barnes & Noble, let you order online and pickup at a local store. But when I tried to do this from my Amazon app, it did not even show the new 4-Star store as a location for pickup (see below). Even if it was listed, it's not actually the same customer experience as these traditional retailers who are actually picking the product off the shelf in a specific store by searching its inventory management system. Amazon still says it will be available for pickup at your chosen pickup location in a few days, which makes me think it's still being shipped from its nearby warehouse. So much for instant gratification.

Where is the Amazon 4-Star Store on 4th Street in its App?

Overall, I liked the 4-Star store and can see myself coming back during the holidays for gift ideas because I like how it's curated. Or if I need to pop in for some cable or Amazon Essentials product. And I do like touching and feeling some products before buying. It's convenient especially for playing with the consumer electronics, which aren't just on display, but are actually connected so you can really test them out.

Happy Shopping!!!


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

6 Questions to Determine if You're a Data-Driven Marketing Company

Competitive companies know they must be more data-driven today. That in turn requires a combination of technology and talent.

Data management is not easy. In a recent survey, 47% of marketers said it was difficult.

Data Management is Difficult
Here are 6 questions to ask yourself to see if your company is a data-driven marketing company:

1. Is your data centralized?

I often find data scattered across an organization with any one group only having visibility into part of the customer journey. Centralizing data would also help break down data silos across systems and departments. Sometimes I find different answers from different sources, presumably answering the same question. For example, why is online sales from our CRM system different from the web analytics? There's bound to be some discrepancies due to tracking methodology. But you do need to agree on one source of truth for reporting purposes.

2. How's your data hygiene?

It's hard enough centralizing all your data and stringing it together with primary keys and join functions. But you also need to spend time on data hygiene as an ongoing maintenance plan. Data integrity is key to combatting what I call "garbage in, garbage out."  You should be routinely looking for things, such as missing data, weird outliers, and duplicate records. Ultimately, you need to trust your data before you can rely on it.

3. Are you democratizing your data?

Are you empowering the right people with the right data in a timely manner so they can make informed decisions? For example, are social media campaign results accessible by not just the marketing team, but also the PR team? Are the marketing folks who are responsible for lead gen able to access sales data from the sales team to know the quality and close rates of their leads? And vice versa.

Often times this leads to the development of a shared online dashboard, such as Tableau, that let's users drill down to the data and analysis they need. But make no mistake about gathering business requirements first to know what internal stakeholders really need in order to design the right dashboards for specific users so they are not all swimming in a sea of data! 

4. Can you tell stories with your data?

Since we were babies, we have loved bedtime stories. Guess what? Executives and managers still love stories! Can you translate data into actionable insights? In my experience, I see lots of reports that's just numbers in Excel or on slides. In a recent study, many marketers find this to be one of their biggest challenges actually.

Importance of Storytelling with Data
Here's an example of translating data into insights. Let's say you ran an A/B subject line test for an email campaign. A good analyst will report out the open rate for both versions, calculate the lift % and significance level, and determine the winner. A better analyst will have a hypothesis on why the one subject line might have won and propose the next A/B test to run and why. Give something for the copywriter/marketer to work with.

5. Do you have top down support from senior management?

This is critical to know if the culture at the company truly supports data-driven decision making. Are executives willing to invest in the tools, resources, and personnel to enable data to flow freely across the organization? Are executive ready to rely on data to make big business decisions vs. their gut/experience? Or is it lip service?

6. Do you have strong partnerships between Marketing, IT, and Analytics/BI teams?

If you don't have top down support, this one will be even harder! At the minimum, this triumvirate is required to connect the disparate data sources...or what I refer to as data plumbing. To be successful, communication and trust across these teams is critical.

If you answered yes to all of the above, CONGRATULATIONS! You're a data-driven company well positioned for the 21st century.


Thursday, September 6, 2018

Marketing Analytics: Why I Obsess Over Rates

I don't mean interest rates on my savings account, which is still paltry BTW. =)

I see marketing analytics reports all the time from clients that focus on absolute numbers like visits, conversions, clicks, opens. These are good to know, but I find these metrics meaningless in a vacuum. Is 10,000 clicks in a month good? It depends...

Instead I like to focus on relative metrics like calculated rates and ratios.

Rates are great to track metrics over time, to offer context, and to compare to industry benchmarks because rates are normalized. This means you can compare rates over different time periods to see if something is wrong or if something is doing surprisingly well all of a sudden. This also allows a smaller company to compare themselves to a larger company, generally speaking.

Let's look at how to use rates in common digital marketing reports to reflect the most insights.

Website Analytics

Example 1: Conversion Rates. Every website needs to have a primary goal or "conversion" event that is clearly and cleanly tagged on the website. That can be an e-commerce transaction or lead gen form completion. Everyone always then tracks the number of "conversions" each week or month in absolute terms.

Most, but not all, clients look at conversion rates. Yes! But there are multiple ways to define "conversion rate." Some define it as conversions / site visits. That's not bad and Google Analytics offers this in their standard reporting. The problem with just looking at this "start to finish" conversion rate is it does not help you identify where the leak in the conversion funnel is. Furthermore, this is often a very low number like 0.05% so it's really hard for senior management to fully understand such a metric.

What every marketer should do is also break down the customer journey into smaller bite-size paths. In the illustration below for an online lead gen site, by simply breaking the customer journey in half to calculate a Consideration Rate and a Completion Rate, you now have more actionable insights.

Purchase Funnel Rates
This helps identify where you have leakage in the funnel and how to address it. For example, if form completion rate is low, maybe your form is too long or confusing. Also, this completion rate should be easier to digest because it usually ranges between 5%-50%. So if you have a completion rate of 10%, you can ask yourself does that feel low when 9 out of 10 people bailed. Much easier to comprehend than the 0.05% conversion rate example above.

This form completion rate is also ideal for industry benchmarking because the "scope" of your metric is just a form and form completions. If you used the 0.05% conversion rate, the scope of that metric is all visits to your site for whatever reason and all the pages on your site. So it's really hard to compare apples to apples on such a broad conversion rate. Take retailers who live and die by shopping cart abandonment rate, which is the reverse of completion rate. Industry-wide cart abandonment rates are relatively easy to find and benchmark to your own cart abandonment rates.

Before moving on from this example, I wanted to mention the Consideration Rate. This is worth monitoring because if it's low, it means users are not showing any interest in your product. So you have to ask yourself questions like "Is our CTA not prominent enough?" or "Are people really not interested in our product offering?" The former can be a user experience issue, while the latter is a product or product marketing issue.

Example 2: % of Totals. This is a very simple ratio and calculation, great for providing a frame of reference. Take the classic Top Pages by page views report.

% of Total Pageviews Example

Most clients will quickly grab this data from their web analytics tool that shows pageviews in rank order, but sometimes discard the % that is often in the dashboard. I like to also provide the third column that is % of Total Pageviews because then you can better appreciate how popular a page is relative to other pages on your site. It's usually harder for senior executives to understand if 72K pageviews for the Product Overview page is low or high, but 25% of all pageviews is easy to grasp and to conclude it's very high for one page to garner.

I calculate this % of Total for a lot of site metrics beyond page views, such as % of Total Video Plays and % of Total Downloads. Again, the goal is to show if activity is concentrated among a handful of content or assets or more fragmented and distributed across all of them. If it's more concentrated, figure out what makes them so popular and do more of that!

Example 3. CTR. Clickthrough rates (CTR) are often associated with paid media ads and email links. But I like to calculate CTR for website analysis when analyzing CTA button clicks or on-page analysis to see what users chose to click on when presented with a host of options. Here's an example from a directory search results page. CTR is calculated for each link based on link click / page views. This is also a more visually appealing way to show these stats than a standard table. I also like to develop a similar slide for CTRs on the global navigation menu. One critical tip: usually you must setup custom click tags to calculate the CTRs I've discussed.

CTR Website Example
In terms of benchmarking, CTRs are great because you can compare pre- and post-launch CTRs if you redesign your website.

Email Performance

Most clients already focus on open rates and CTR. 👍 But I still see reports like this occasionally:

Email Report Without Open Rate Example
For most marketers, the opportunity here is for benchmarking rates. Epsilon publishes a great quarterly report that is free that is full of email benchmarks by industry and by types of emails (e.g., editorial/ newsletter, marketing, service)!

Last comment on email metrics. Don't forget to look at CTOR (Click-to-open rate), which is clicks / opens. CTOR is different than CTR, which is clicks / delivered. Monitoring and benchmarking CTOR can help you address issues with the content or CTA within the email body and usually rules out an issue related to the subject line.

Social Media Campaigns

Engagement Rate Example. For social media campaigns, paid or organic, one of the most popular primary KPIs is engagement rate. Most marketers define engagement rate (a.k.a. interaction rate) as (reactions + comments + shares) / posts. But if I'm a marketer, what constitutes a good engagement rate? A social media analytics tool, such as Quintly, is great for answering this question. It not only allows you to compare yourself to other competitors, but it has also created industry averages. In the example below, let's say I'm BMW USA. I can compare not only my Interaction Rate to direct competitors Audi and Mercedes, but Quintly also shows the average Interaction Rate for the Top 10 US Auto manufacturers. Quintly has other useful social media benchmarking tips on a recent blog post so I won't go into any more details here.

Quintly Interaction Rate Example

Paid Media Campaigns

Example 1: SEM & Display. Almost all media managers report out on CTR, CPC, and CPM for paid search and display campaigns. Yay! The suggestion I have here is be sure you ask your media partner or publisher who you are working with for industry benchmarks on these common media metrics. For example, your Google rep will often put together a quarterly report showing you your SEM spend, CTR, etc., relative to other advertisers in your category or industry (see example below). They will usually slice this by brand vs. non-brand and desktop vs. mobile. One caveat with these Google benchmarking reports. It will almost always show you are under-spending and under-performing because you are being compared to a Category Leader Average not the entire Category Average. Google obviously has an incentive to motivate you to spend more 😉

Google SEM Benchmark Example

Similarly, for display campaigns, find out what's the industry CTR from your vendor. If you're running rich media unit ads, find out what's a good engagement rate for user interaction with your unit in your industry.

Most digital advertisers also look at efficiency using Cost Per Acquisition (a.k.a., Cost per Conversion or Cost Per Lead). I also like to look at Click-to-Conversion rates.

Example 2: Video. For video ads, you need to look beyond video starts or plays. For sure, look at video completion rates. Or even better, look at milestones like quartiles. Below is an example of a Video Completion Rate Funnel with quartile milestones. This helps you identify where people are dropping off. For example, in pharmaceutical videos, users often drop off when the super long Important Safety Information (ISI) begins to play so I often place a milestone marker at the ISI start.

Video Completion Rate Funnel Example

For benchmarking purposes, ask your media partner or publisher for average completion rates for your industry. For example, they should be able to tell you the average completion rate for a :30s video is 30% in the financial services industry.


So there you have it. Now you know why and how I am obsessed about Rates and Ratios for my clients' marketing analytics reporting. All of the above are very simple concepts. You just need to spend a little bit of extra time in developing your measurement and tagging strategy and also on reporting. But in return, you become awesome at storytelling with data!


Disclosure: I am a strategic advisor to Quintly.