Monday, March 19, 2018

6 Offline-to-Online Marketing Integration Best Practices

Despite all the doom and gloom in the retail sector, such as the planned liquidation of Toys R Us, some retailers are doing some great things in terms of marketing. While Bed Bath and Beyond (BBBY)'s stock price has fallen by over 33% the past year, its latest in-home mailer offers some great examples of O2O integration across its digital and offline marketing programs.

When I first received their Spring 2018 mailer, it is clear they are migrating to more of a lifestyle brand catalog, like Pottery Barn. It's thicker (84 pages!) and on higher quality paper stock. In the past, it was a few pages and the paper was junk mail-like paper quality.

Spring 2018 in-home catalog


Open up the first page and BBBY immediately and prominently promotes its mobile app, telling you how you can easily shop the catalog via mobile by just scanning the catalog's front cover with the app's AR scanner.
Mobile app promotion


Also on the same page, since they're talking mobile, BBBY promotes its Instagram profile. But I'm surprised they did not also promote its Pinterest page, because home decor is so popular!

Cross promotion of BBBY Instragram acount


One of my favorite tactics is their suggestion to enter specific keywords into its website's search bar to see all the same products laid out in its catalog:

Shop the room: Search keyword cues in catalog

Close-up example of keyword: airy living room

If you type "airy living room" on its site, you see the below landing page, which is a great hand-off from the catalog. This is so much easier for consumers than trying to recall a long website URL path to manually enter in a web browser.

My only suggestion for improvement is to make the room photo interactive so if I click on an item I like, it has an anchor link on a hotspot to take me directly to the specific product description rather than scroll through the extremely long landing page with all the products listed below the main photo.

Landing page if you search for "airy living room" on
From an analytics perspective, the keyword CTA is great because from your web analytics tools, such as Adobe Analytics that BBBY uses, you can see the exact search volume for each keyword entered to truly gauge how popular this tactic is! Because let's face it, no one in his/her right mind will think of entering "airy living room" without some kind of prompt =)


Throughout the catalog, BBBY has CTAs to go online using vanity URLs. Near the end, it even has one page that promotes many of its offerings online.

Vanity URLs galore from catalog page!
All these URLs resolve and redirect to longer URLs. For example, redirects to redirects to BBBY's credit card partner Comenity's website:

What is noteworthy here is that Comenity has assigned a unique campaign tracking code to this URL. This gets passed to its Adobe Analytics as a campaign parameter to easily and surgically track the session of a user that came from this ad placement in BBBY's catalog. Perfect! Unfortunately, BBBY does not have these detailed campaign tracking codes in the vanity URLs that drive to its own website for some reason, so that's a big analytics miss.


Typical 20% off coupon
As many of you know, BBBY is extremely generous with its distribution of 20% off coupons. This direct mail catalog was no exception. While the retailer thought about weaning itself off of such promotions a few years ago, it hasn't. But I'm glad to see that if you're going to offer a coupon, track the heck out of it! Here's what they are doing that more retailers need to do. BBBY's direct mail coupons have unique bar codes on them for tracking purposes. These are unique based on customers in its CRM system. When a user redeems the coupon in a physical store (or online), this tracking code is captured and BBBY knows you actually bought something in store.

But many retailers stop short of doing something useful with this insight. BBBY sends a personalized email (see below) a few days later to (1) thank you for your recent in-store purchase and (2) ask you to rate the purchase to help populate its user reviews on its website. This is a great example of tying your print, web, email, and CRM marketing campaigns together with a bow!!! All this is done without me ever realizing they matched, on the back-end, my email address from an online order I made once a long time ago to my CRM profile. I didn't have to give my name or email to the cashier in the store. It was all tied to the physical coupon seamlessly!

Thank you email tied to recent purchase
(BTW, if you didn't know, these BBBY coupons never really expire despite the expiration date printed on them.)


Last year, BBBY bought, an online interior decorating service that matches a consumer with a designer to design a room together in one's style and budget. The catalog is sprinkled with new Pro Tips throughout from designers on and encourages readers to go to to learn more.

Decorist promotion

In summary, most of this #O2O goodness can be done by any retailer with nominal investment. Marketers just need to be willing to invest in strategic planning and coordinating efforts across departments to do what's best for their brand and customers!


Monday, October 23, 2017

How I Became a Data Plumber

The other day I realized that big data, business intelligence, and dashboards may sound sexy in my strategy and analytics world. But all that and the insights they promise is not really possible without the less glamorous work of what I call "data plumbing." Yes, mom, all my years of schooling and work experience has led me to a career as a plumber =) Having a modern plumbing system in place is not only critical for your home, it's also essential for marketing.

Let me share a real life example of one of the many things I do as a Data Plumber. In this example, the role of the Data Plumber is to make sure all the pipes are connected end-to-end for more precise data to flow to improve tracking and optimization.

Here's a common use case: To optimize paid search campaigns, we need keyword level data for offline conversions. This happens a lot for lead gen campaigns where sales are closed offline, especially for B2B clients and B2C clients whose products or services require more hand holding than ordering a book from Amazon to close the deal.

First, I work with the media team to generate and pass a unique click ID to the landing page when a user clicks on an ad. The click ID will provide granular keyword level tracking. That's the first upstream plumbing connection from the search engine to the client's site. This is like getting water from the main line in the street to your house.

Then we need a way to pass the click ID to the client's lead management or CRM system. This is where years of experience talking "tech" with developers and "data fields" with database administrators pays off as I make the business case on why the Marketing Department needs these changes.

I visit the client's CRM team to see if they can create a field for me to house my new incoming click ID from the client's site. In plumbing speak, I need to make sure there is a faucet in the house that can receive the water from the street once I hook up the pipes under the house.

Once that is taken care of, I am off to work with the web development team to pass my click ID at the point of lead generation, usually when a user submits a lead gen or order form on the site. Normally this involves altering the API to the lead management/CRM system to capture the click ID upon form submission. Now we got pipes to allow water to go from the street to the kitchen sink!

But we're not done yet. We need a way to drain the used water back out of the house. I'm back with the DBAs and the CRM team to create a way to send us the data we need via an ETL or dropping a file regularly to a FTP server. We are creating a conversion file that passes every lead and sale with our associated click ID back to the media team's search campaign management system...ideally in real-time (or near real-time) for bid optimization, as well as reporting.

Almost I go back to where I started with the search team. We create a process where they can consume the client's conversion file and match the data back to click ID. What's powerful about all this is you don't just tell the campaign management tool that a keyword led to a sale or not (which is binary), but you can also pass the amount of the sale, product type, and even the customer segment for even more insightful reporting!

Without such plumbing in place, you can optimize at the keyword level on web leads, but not sales. Now, you may find you've been spending a lot of media budget on a keyword that generates a lot of leads, but has either a low sales conversion rate or a higher CPA (cost per acquisition) than you thought because you've been optimizing to CPL (cost per lead). Or perhaps you weren't getting the quality of sales or the right customer or product sold than you thought for some keywords. That's like having hot water enter your house, but only warm, foul-tasting water may be coming out at the tap unbeknownst to you because you just saw water coming out of the tap (assuming everything was working fine), but you never felt the temperature or tasted the water to realize something was wrong.

So, there you have it. Just a day in the life of a Data Plumber. =) Actually, in this case, the above would have taken me weeks, not a day, to setup in partnership with my client, media teams, web dev teams, and CRM/database administrators. But when it's all done, it feels great!


Friday, September 22, 2017

Taylor Swift's UPS partnership to promote new Reputation album - WHY!?!?

Spotted a huge picture of Taylor Swift yesterday in the street. Thought it was one of those moving billboard trucks until I realized it was a UPS truck!

First of all, I think it's interesting that UPS is pimping out ad space on its trucks, like a public transit bus. I didn't even realize they had an interest in building out an ad business. Perhaps the fight with FedEx has them looking to expand to other revenue streams. It's not a bad idea for UPS to monetize that huge boring brown space across their fleet of trucks.

Some might say the UPS partnership is a good offline marketing vehicle. It's 100% share of voice. And people don't go to record stores (R.I.P. Tower Records!) anymore and even the Best Buys and Targets of the world aren't really selling many physical albums these days to warrant in-store promotions as users are digitally streaming or downloading music.

But if you're TAYLOR SWIFT, why do you even need to spend money to advertise your new album? She's world famous with reporters, radio DJs, bloggers, and her fans hanging on her every word and ready to buy her latest music!

She's recently released 2 singles, Look What You Made Me Do and Ready For It, from the new Reputation album weeks apart and both are getting lots of air play!

Not only that, but social media was supposed to be the great equalizer for artists to build direct connections to fans. And it certainly has been for Taylor. She has a huge social media fan base:

YouTube (Taylor Swift) - 1.7 MM subscribers
YouTube (Taylor Swift VEVO) - 24 MM subscribers
Twitter - 86 MM followers
Instagram - 103 MM followers

All she has to do is post on her own social media channels and call it a day.

In fact, Tay Tay is already doing it. Her YouTube channel is totally promoting her new album's drop date of Nov 10th:

It's also on the comments of her Look What You Made Me Do video on TaylorSwiftVEVO:

Her other profiles are all promoting it too. In fact, it's a great example of integrated marketing as all the channels have the same Reputation album cover photo and call to action to get her album on Nov 10th. You may recall she caused an Internet frenzy when all her social accounts went dark last month to prep and coordinate all this stuff.

Taylor has always been a very respectable, smart business woman. But I just don't get why she did this UPS deal...


Friday, September 1, 2017

Star Wars' Force Friday: Toys R Us vs. Target

Earlier today...way earlier, like 12:01am, was the start of Force Friday, a huge retailing event ahead of the next Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi, that would unveil new toys and merchandise associated with the new movie coming out this December.

It so happened that the shopping center I had planned to go to had both a Target and a Toys R Us that were participating in this event, so I decided to see how the 2 stores ran Force Friday. But which store should I hit first?

Toys R Us was going to be my first destination. Why? Because they had promoted a free t-shirt and poster giveaway while supplies last. So I showed up at 11:30pm and found a short line of about 15 people had already formed. Mostly adults, but I also saw a few kids way past their bedtimes on a school night!

When the doors finally opened shortly after midnight, the crowd had grown to about 50-60 people, as we all beelined through the front door in an orderly fashion. A Destination: Gateway to the Galaxy cardboard archway greeted us.

Toys R Us archway at front entrance

Inside, employees had lined up short (maybe 3 feet tall) Star Wars figures a few feet apart, pointing shoppers to the special Star Wars section for the event. It was like a Hansel and Gretel bread crumb trail.

But I, along with other shoppers, was disappointed that it was primarily just one aisle in the store. A very cramped aisle. So we had to queue up to just get into that aisle. There weren't as many new items as I would have expected. I also noticed all the workers were gathered up front at the registers. Surprisingly, none were in the Star Wars section --- likely because there was no room! But the workers didn't really engage and chat with customers about Star Wars either.

After I made my purchase, I received my free Pop t-shirt (shown below). But there was no poster =(

Free t-shirt at Toys R Us

At this point, it was 12:20am, so I ran across the parking lot to Target.

Target had been running a big "Bring Your Rey Game" campaign for Force Friday. I thought it was quite clever, capitalizing on current trends around gender equality and empowered women (e.g., equal pay for equal work, work force diversity, success of Wonder Woman movie that was also directed by a female director, Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In).

Inside the store, it was well-lit and a few large Star Wars cardboard displays cordoned off the Star Wars merchandising area.

Target Star Wars: Episode 8 display
Immediately, it was obvious this Target had more merchandise than the Toys R Us I went to. In addition to stuff I saw at Toys R Us, such as action figures, LEGO sets, and Nerf guns, Target also had video games, drones, videos, clothing, plush toys, Halloween costumes, and more! One thing I had missed somehow before today was Target had generous coupons for major purchases:

Also, Target employees who were obviously Star wars fans were working this section of the store, chatting it up with customers. There was no freebies here, but this store was running a raffle at 12:30am, giving away an X-Wing quad drone and a BB-8 playset. Sadly, I didn't win :-(

Star Wars Force Link BB-8 2-in-1 Mega Playset
Propel Star Wars T65 X-Wing Battle Quad Drone

As I walked out of Target at 12:40am, I was reflecting on my 2 shopping experiences. I expected Toys R Us to "go big or go home" for this event, given their focus on TOYS and since Toys R Us has been losing ground to Walmart and Target in toy sales. But I felt like the energy, the selection, and the staff were better at Target. 

There was probably some foreshadowing. I had called both stores yesterday to verify they were participating in Force Friday. When I called Target, the sales associate immediately said yes, they were participating and that doors open after 12 midnight only for buying Star Wars items. She explained that because the store normally opens to midnight. When I called Toys R Us, the sales associate wasn't sure, asked me if "that was the Star Wars thing", and then put me on hold for 5 minutes to ask someone to confirm. So I said, "Thanks, see you tomorrow night." She said, "No, it's Friday night." I said, "Wait, it's Thursday night, right?" She replied, "Duh, you're right." Enough said.

But this is just one Jedi's observations. All-in-all, it was a good night for my first Force Friday event!

May the Force Be With You


Monday, August 14, 2017

Voice-Activated Assistants Face-off

With the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung unveiled Bixby, it's new voice-activated assistant. Since my February 2013 blog post on vocal SEO, a lot has changed as "AI" and "voice assistants" have taken off, largely thanks to Amazon's Echo. It's hard to imagine Alexa wasn't even around back then. So let's see how the top tech company's latest assistants stack up. Unlike my 2013 challenge, this contest will be judged solely on the assistant's AUDIO responses and not what is displayed on-screen. So let's go...

Question: What is the weather in San Francisco tomorrow?

"Ok, here's the weather for San Francisco tomorrow" and she displayed the 7 day forecast on-screen (but we're not counting on-screen results)

"Tomorrow's forecast for San Francisco is 66 degrees and partly cloudy"

"Tomorrow in San Francisco, California, you'll see intermittent clouds and can expect a high of 68 and a low of 60"

"Wednesday we''ll have some sunshine with a few clouds" 

ADVANTAGE: Alexa because it provided useful information audibly without requiring me to look at the screen, even though it couldn't show me a multi-day forecast (which is ok since I didn't ask for that). Google was a close second.

To see if any of these assistants can offer an opinion, I tested these...

Q: Should I watch Spiderman: Homecoming?

"Sorry, I can't play movies"

"Reviews scored 8 out of 10 on IMDB"

"Sorry, I'm not sure about that"

"Here is some information about Spiderman: Homecoming" and then it showed a Google description of the movie

ADVANTAGE: Google. While not providing an official recommendation, it did tell me what the average review score was.

Q: Who do you think is going to win the A's vs. Royals game?

"The Athletics play the Royals on Monday at 7:05PM"

No audio response and was just a regular Google search results page for my query translated to text.

"I can't see the future"

"Ok, here is what I found on the web" and then showed me search results

ADVANTAGE: Siri was the only one that provided any relevant info on the game. So I guess she wins this round.

Q: What is a good Japanese restaurant in New York? 

"OK, here's what I found" and then it showed me 15 results on-screen.

No audio response and was just a regular Google search results page for my query translated to text.

"Here are a few of the top rated Japanese restaurants around New York" and then she proceeded to read out 4 of them out loud to me

"Here is what I found on the web" and returned a bunch of results on-screen.

Advantage: Alexa for providing a full audio response with a few top selections.

Then I wanted to see if any of these assistants had a sense of humor...

Q: Are you a robot?

"Let's just say I am made of silicon, memory, and the courage of my convictions"

No response and it just did a Google web search

"I like to imagine myself a bit like an aurora borealis. A surge of charged multi-colored photons dancing through the atmosphere. But mostly though I am just Alexa"

Bixby returned different responses when asked a few times:
"I'm not a big fan of labels"
"I'm more complex than that"
"This is getting personal"

ADVANTAGE: Bixby for having multiple responses. And I have no idea what Alexa was talking about!

Q: How much wood could a woodchuck chuck?

"42. That can't be right"
"I suppose it depends on whether you are talking about African or European woodchucks"
"Just because it could doesn't mean it would"
Siri offered different witty answers when asked multiple times. But these were actually the same from my 2013 test.

"According to Quora, according to a Cornell publication, the answer is approximately 700 pounds"

"A woodchuck would chuck all the wood he could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood"

"Not sure, but it sounds like one industrious woodchuck"

ADVANTAGE: Siri, even though her answers didn't evolve in 4 years. They're still funny. All but Google actually had some fun with this canned question.

Ok, for the final round, a RAP BATTLE...Props for PhoneBuff for this video:

ADVANTAGE: Bixby and Alexa. Both had great raps. (Note: PhoneBuff added background music to all the raps to make the video more engaging than the actual raps with no beats, except Bixby which actually has its own background music in its rap.)

Overall, voice assistants have evolved a lot in 4 years! And no clear winner emerged in my mind. The exciting thing is we consumers are the winners as this technology continues to improve.

Which virtual assistant do you like?


Monday, May 22, 2017

Elon, it's not too late to rename TESLA Model 3!

Confusion over the upcoming Tesla Model 3 and how it fits into the Tesla model line-up is a great example of a brand architecture gone wrong! Sorry, Elon, you're a great visionary, but not a brand strategist.

While trying to be cute to spell a word with his cars, Musk wanted to spell S-E-X but Ford stopped them from making a Model E. So, being clever, he chose to make it the Model 3 (a backward E).

And now there are rumors of an upcoming compact crossover called the Model Y, modeled after the Model X, to spell S-3-X-Y. Really?!?

It's imperative for automakers to have a clear brand architecture and naming convention to signal to consumers how their portfolio of cars fit together as a lineup. Let's face it -- consumers are not that smart or too lazy often times to try to understand a brand's cleverness. Was anyone else besides Musk really thinking S, X, and 3 had a hidden meaning?

Acura learned a hard lesson in the 1990s when research showed consumers did not recognize the Acura brand and could not associate the beloved Legend and Integra model brands to their parent brand Acura. So they switched to the more common alphanumeric naming convention that most luxury brands use today, such as RL for the Legend. While RL is not as cool sounding as Legend, the intent is to concentrate the brand equity on the parent brand Acura. So if consumers can't recall if they have the RL or TL, the hope is they can at least say, "I have an Acura sedan." It's similar to how people say they have a Bimmer or Mercedes, even if they can't always name the exact model letter or number.

Tesla will eventually need to evolve its brand architecture so consumers can understand how the cars differ. Model S and X model names were a great start. Even the "battery configuration options" (e.g., P100D and 90D) make sense. It's really the Model 3 that are messing things up for several reasons. It deviates from the 1-letter naming convention like "S" and "X". Also, "3" also is the 3rd generation of Tesla's vehicles, but when consumers hear next generation, they assume it will have the most advanced technology in it. But, it's really being positioned as a more "affordable" version of the Model S, as Musk keeps proclaiming! The Model 3 runs the risk if greatly disappointing its new owners if it doesn't meet their over-inflated expectations.

BMW is one of the cleanest and classic case studies in brand architecture. For decades, it's naming convention for its models has been simple and logical. Take the 3 Series, 5 Series, and 7 Series sedans. Folks knew that a higher number meant it was bigger, better, and more expensive. In past years, the last 2 digits referred to it's engine size. (e.g., 330 was its 3 Series sedan with a 3.0-liter engine). It's crossover SUVs all start with X and follow a similar numeric convention X3 and X5.

It's not too late, Elon. Rename the Model 3 before you deliver the first model. Abandon your cutesy brand strategy!


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Social Content Optimization: The Rise of Social Copywriting

At the turn of the century, savvy marketers realized they needed to optimize their websites for search engines in order to be found online. This led to the birth of an entire industry that sprung up to help companies with search engine optimization (SEO). SEO became an art and science, always trying to keep up with Google to "game the system" for search visibility. Traditional copywriters had to be re-trained to write for SEO. Analysts focused on keyword research, keyword density on a page, tags and meta data, etc.

While SEO is still important today, writing for social has become increasingly important for social networks and good ole fashion websites. You need to think about the best # hash tag to use or the type of content to convey your marketing message (Does this call for a video or photo?).

Using social listening tools can help marketers see what is trending and to inspire content developers and copywriters. Who can forget @Oreo's awesome and timely tweet during Super Bowl 47's blackout?

Such #winning moments don't happen very often like that. So it's important to note that it's not about hitting a home run every time at bat. Instead, it's about being smart in order to get a single or double each time you post.

Using tools like Quintly, you can see engagement of your or other user's content by type and time of day or day of week (see example charts below). Then you might learn that Mondays at 3pm is the best time for posting that cat video! =) Right time, right content.

User Posts By Day of Week - Quintly
Post Reactions Table - Quintly

At a Quintly Meetup event a few months ago, a team from IAC talked about how they are taking an analytic-driven approach for publishing content on their recently launched site and Facebook page. They were using Quintly reports on a weekly basis to empower social media community managers to measure user reaction and engagement on content in order to make decisions on what to post next. The site is quite an interesting experiment.

So, as you think about what to post online, keep in mind social content optimization. And be sure your content is not only searchable, but likeable and shareable.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Is Amazon Getting Too Aggressive With Speedy Shipping?

We've all heard about Amazon's ambitions to leverage drones for faster and cheaper package delivery. But while that may be 1-2 years away, I've recently noticed Amazon really pushing same day delivery to Prime members.

Here's what happened to me recently. I was browsing on my Amazon app at 7:30am one morning. I was just researching something and wasn't really planning to buy it during this session. However, as I was reading the reviews on one product I was considering, I saw a note: Buy in the next 1 hour 39 minutes and get it the same day by 9pm. And it would be free as I am a Prime member. Wow, I couldn't believe it! So I bought it and was cautiously optimistic.

Image result for amazon same day delivery

From a supply chain management perspective, I was so intrigued by how Amazon could be so confident they could pull this off. First, I thought they must look at my default shipping address, checking to see the nearest warehouse the item I was looking at would come from. Then, quickly check to see if there are planned deliveries near my house from that warehouse. Lastly, if all this works out, they see I'm a Prime member and this special shipping over is served up.

All this has to happen in seconds because I saw the same day shipping offer when I initially pulled up that product page. So, that means it takes lightning fast back-end logic to make this user experience sooooooo seamless, like magic!

Later that day at 4:24pm, Amazon informed me the item was shipped and would arrive by 9pm. I was getting excited.  But 9pm came and went, and nothing. At 10pm, I was notified about a delay. But it wasn't just a one day delay. Instead it gave me a range of 1-3 days! What? That's worse than if I stuck with regular 2-day Prime shipping in my original order! How can Amazon have such imprecision for shipping, given the advanced logistics they are known for?

What's worse in this case was it actually came after the usual 2-day Prime shipping! And once it was delayed, Amazon no longer provided up to the minute tracking as if the package was in some unknown limbo. It just said if you don't get it in 4 days, come back for more options. What a horrible user experience!

One consolation prize came out of this at least. As a Prime member, I contacted Amazon about this delay in guaranteed delivery and I got an extra month added to my Prime Membership, roughly an $8 value.

But I ask: Is Amazon setting the bar too high for itself with such aggressive shipping promises?


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Website Overlays Pose Technical Challenges for Marketers

Overlays, also known as interstitials or lightboxes, are pages that appear before or over an expected content page of a website.

They are often used as marketing “pop ups” that look better than the old pop up windows of yesteryears. At first, they were commonly used for serving ads while the main page loaded underneath. Nowadays, you'll see them used for all sorts of reasons:

Special promotional offers when users first visit a site
Age verification prior to site entry
Newsletter or email sign-ups
Solicit users for site survey
All of these use cases are intended to “interrupt” the normal user experience to get the user’s attention for a brief moment, but is not intended to prevent the user from easily continuing on his/her merry way to the intended content page. In theory, a simple Close [X] click is all that is required (with the exception of the age verification use case).

Lately, I have noticed some sites use full-page overlays as part of the core site experience with the belief that it creates a better user experience. In these cases, a content page that would normally be a “regular” HTML page with a unique page URL is instead an overlay without a URL.

Full-page overlay example
While it may be a better UX, here are some challenges I have come across with overlays as "real" content pages.
  1. Not great for SEO - Search engine spiders are not able to index these overlays. 
  2. Without a URL, you can’t drive traffic to the page via paid media to use as a destination landing page. Users also can't share the overlay since there is no URL, severely limiting social sharing and viral marketing. 
  3. Tracking, specifically web analytics tools like Omniture and Google Analytics, will not include basic metrics like page views from the standard configuration. A workaround like virtual page views can help address the tracking issues, but it does require custom coding from a developer who knows what s/he is doing. 
  4. Sometimes if not done well, the responsive design layout can lead to an awkward user experience. My pet peeve: a small [X] to close the overlay or the [X] is off the screen on my mobile device and you have to try to expand the screen or swipe to get to the [X]! 
Viant overlay ad is too wide on this MediaPost mobile page

So while overlays may be nice for special marketing offers or confirmations that do not contain critical content you want indexed, web developers should be careful using it for content-rich pages to avoid a #FAIL.


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Multi-Channel Retailers Still #FAIL to Manage Channel Conflicts

In today's world of shopping, savvy mobile shoppers and price transparency are the norm. 

There is a lot of talk these days from Target to Best Buy to Wal-Mart to better leverage their physical stores as a competitive advantage against Amazon. They are trying to combat showrooming, which was a big concern about 2 years ago. More and more retailers are putting in place pick-up in-store capabilities, which is a great option for consumers.

However, I have found that some major retailers are still charging different prices (usually higher prices in store) between the online and offline channels, indicating there are still silos in these companies and channel conflicts have not been resolved. 

Exhibit A: Petco. It is not uncommon to find prices online that are lower than their in-store price. In the example below, the aquarium appears to be on sale for $8.99. I lobbed in a mystery shopper call to my local Petco and found out they would charge me $14.99 if I walked in to the store. I asked why is it cheaper online and the store clerk really had no idea and just said that online prices are different than the store. No apologies and no offer to match their own online price! Not even if you are in their loyalty program and shop there all the time! In this case here, if I bought it online, there was a $5.99 shipping charge, which made online 1 cents cheaper than in-store, but that doesn't account for the delayed gratification and gas savings from online shopping.

Exhibit B: Verizon Wireless. Despite being the #1 wireless carrier, Verizon's online, call center, and local retailer channels are often not aligned. Online and the call center tends to offer the same prices and deals. But local retailers sometimes have different offers and can't match their online prices.

There are back-end data issues as well as in-store reps often say they can't see certain customer info that the call center can. No idea why as that seems to be more of a problem a decade ago!

Exhibit C: Best Buy. Best Buy has had a rough few years and is a poster child of how mobile shopping and showrooming really disrupted their business. But they have made bold moves by redesigning their in-store experience and putting in place an aggressive price match policy. I was first shocked to learn they even price match again Amazon! Yes, I said Amazon. On a few occasions, I found a lower price on when I was looking for product reviews while shopping in-store. When I asked a sales associate about the lower price, I was happy to learn they matched their own online sale prices!!! What a novel idea! You hear that, Verizon and Petco? It's a pretty wild concept to match your own prices.

I suspect many retailers have lower prices online (even if they are doing pickup in store) because of the price transparency from online shopping that creates cutthroat pricing strategies (a.k.a. the Amazon effect). Google Shopping and its Product Listing Ads that often show on top of the SERP further exacerbates the pricing transparency problem for retailers.

Despite retailers trying to create a seamless multi-channel experience leveraging their stores better, I am shocked how many still #FAIL.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Predicting Super Bowl 50 Winner with Facebook Data: Carolina Panthers

Here we are on the eve of the biggest sporting event in the world, Super Bowl 50.

Last year, I wrote about how I used social media benchmarking tool Quintly's Facebook data to predict the Patriots as the winner of Super Bowl XLIX based on the interaction rate on the Seahawks and Patriots Facebook pages. Based on how the Patriots' Interaction Rate that last Friday before the Super Bowl, I thought the Patriots would win it.

But let's be honest, football fans, the Seahawks should have won that game if they just handed the ball to Marshawn Lynch and that absurd interception by Butler would and should never have happened. But I digress...

So, here I go again this year, back to the Quintly well to see who it predicts will win Super Bowl 50.

Using my same methodology as last year, I looked at the Facebook Interaction Rate for the past 12 days for the Broncos and Panthers.

Panthers consistently higher than Broncos

As one can see, the Panthers have had about 2-5 times the engagement of the Broncos' Facebook page every day. This is despite the fact that Denver has twice the fan base and more than double the number of posts during this time:

It turns out that the Panthers' content, especially photos and videos, generate much higher interaction rates than the Broncos:

Analyzing more closely what might be causing the higher Panthers interaction rates, it's not due to a few photo or video posts. It's quite common for a post to get 2000 or shares, while the Broncos usually see only hundreds. In fact, the Panthers Facebook fan base just seems more engaged overall. Maybe it's because they are coming off an amazing year, QB Cam Newton is a rock star, or all those free football giveaways to kids after a touchdown is generating tons of goodwill!

While I would love to see Peyton Manning win one more Super Bowl before he retires, it does not look likely. Based on this analysis, the Super Bowl 50 winner will be the CAROLINA PANTHERS.

Enjoy the game, folks!

Disclosure: I am an advisor to Quintly.