Monthly Archives: January 2018

How to Uplevel Your Content Operations

At some point B2B executives realize that adding resources and technology to the traditional content operations process produces only marginal improvements. Digital era content requirements are rising exponentially. They will not be addressed with the current process.

This will become even more evident when marketing begins to adequately support B2B sales content requirements, as well as those of the sales channel.

That will probably require you to uplevel content operations.

Background on B2B Content Operations

All content is outsourced, or should be. By this I mean sales and marketing people, and their audiences, use and consume content. They don’t create it. They rely on internal or external content development teams.

I also mean subject experts who possess the knowledge that informs content should not create it (mostly). They have a “day job.” Their domain expertise may not include the skills required to design and create effective content.

Subject experts don’t know the specific context and purpose for which that content is required. They don’t know how to create content to meet digital era requirements.

When it comes to B2B customer-facing content, there’s too much assuming going on.

Marketing assumes they know how to create content. Sales assumes marketing or product teams know how to create sales content. No one assumes anything about the sales channel. Channel organizations are usually under-served when it comes to content. Yet they are a critical part of many organization’s expansion, customer acquisition, and revenue growth plans.

Assumptions about how to create content are based on the traditional content operations model, which is outdated and insufficient for digital era needs.

If all content is or should be outsourced, and the traditional process can’t meet new requirements, especially to scale without unacceptable tradeoffs and costs, this article will consider what it means to uplevel content operations.

Missing Foundation to Content Operations

Why do so few organizations have a well-considered, documented content strategy?

Please consider these important questions:

  • How is your content strategy developed cross-functionally, at the business level, not just within siloed functions?
  • How are content priorities and investment decisions made?
  • What foundational preparation and planning work is conducted, that informs and supports ALL marketing and sales content development?

Typical answers to this question include: it’s too complicated, there are too many stakeholders, there’s no clear overall ownership or accountability, too many factors must be considered, not enough time.

I would add, companies lack an effective content strategy framework, and discipline to a process that simplifies this activity. It is inherently complex, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

An ineffective content strategy is a major constraint to content operations.

Without the right foundational planning and preparation, this work falls to each content initiative and creation activity. This is inefficient. The best resources for this task aren’t applied to the job. There isn’t enough time to do this well.

Upleveling content operations starts with more robust and thorough business level content strategy.

To Uplevel Content Operations Change Your Approach

Each functional group can use this approach and the steps below to define their content requirements and priorities. Better inputs for function-specific content are an important way to uplevel content operations.

To begin, think knowledge more than “content” or even “information”. When you use the word “knowledge,” people focus more specifically on what’s required.

Define knowledge requirements using the buyer’s decision process as the design point. This produces the clearest results and priorities in an efficient and effective way.

Knowledge must be delivered to cause action. This is a communication and conversation requirement.

Design key conversations that deliver this knowledge. This means think through and produce detailed outlines or frameworks for each important conversation. This thinking identifies where both communicators and audiences will need “support”.

Communicators need support to prepare, deliver, and provide post-delivery content. Examples include: background information, checklists, questions to ask, answers to anticipated questions, and visual support.

Audiences need visual support to understand and re-deliver complex or nuanced ideas. They also need topic and situation-specific content to read for deeper understanding and proof.

Each use case will require many, and different kinds of assets.  Primary examples include:

  • Versions for different topics, audience types, industries and roles, as well as decision stages
  • Micro, short and long-form text and documents;
  • Graphic, audio and video formats

These inputs to content strategy result in better decisions about what content to invest in and how they should be created.

Content development teams that produce content require detailed specifications for each asset. When it comes to content creation, details matter. Quality content briefs will improve the content development process, as well as outputs and business outcomes.

Content development proceeds faster and easier when supported with well-designed frameworks and templates. Here is a simplified example of the kinds of detailed specifications your content developers require.

Develop Foundational Support for ALL Customer-Facing Content Initiatives

To uplevel content operations requires developing and documenting universal inputs to content initiatives.

Under-appreciated constraints to the content development process are inadequate and inefficient inputs for new content. Too much information must be acquired for each content project under tight timeframes with limited resources. This applies to approval decisions as well. These can be mitigated with documented preparation.

Clarify and document your primary customer issues and interests that you will speak to and support with content. Do the same for your key points, messages and insights.

Develop an Information Architecture of those Topics and sub-topics, associatedConcepts, and your primary Themes and Message points. This work will naturally reveal the quality and sufficiency of the current state of these essential inputs. It will illuminate gaps and work to be done.

Develop a purpose-built taxonomy based on your information architecture. Taxonomies are “the DNA of content.” Publish this to all content stakeholders. They provide a common language for thinking and talking about content.

Taxonomy simplifies tagging, finding and retrieving content. Taxonomies are a living, evolving entity. Don’t worry about getting them right, to start. Get the primary pillars right. Your taxonomy will evolve organically, if you executed with disciplined procedures.

Adopt continuous content acquisition and curation practices. Acquiring inputsfor content projects is typically a major time and effort task. Research is conducted. Subject experts are identified and interviewed. Perform this work continuously, when its most convenient, independent of specific content projects.

Curate internal as well as third party content that can provide inputs to your new content. Assets to curate include: articles, research, webinars, quotations, graphics, etc. Do this based on your Topic, Concept and Message taxonomies.

Create micro-content assets by extracting re-usable elements from curated assets. Stand-alone micro-content are very effective assets. They can also supplement primary assets when linked-to. This gives audiences the ability to go broader or deeper in specific areas of interest, without adding length to primary content. View any of the links above as examples.

Maintain a Content Source repository.

 

Content source is a repository of source elements acquired and curated. Inputs acquired from subject experts and other sources that are not used for a specific content project should be maintain for possible future use.

Re-use optimization is a major objective and result of this practice. It significantly reduces the time and effort to source new assets.

It’s key to making content assets richer and more interesting, by providing relevant research, quotations, graphics, stories, video and other elements that simply aren’t discovered in the time allotted for projects.

If you only adopt one practice from these recommendations implement this approach. Beware, they all work together synergistically to deliver an exponential impact! 

Adopt a Leveraged Content Supply Chain Process

To uplevel content operations requires execution through a more leveraged content supply chain process than the traditional process. For more on this please see What is a Leveraged Content Supply Chain?

The post How to Uplevel Your Content Operations appeared first on Avitage.

Artificial Neural Networks: What Every Marketer Should Know

Artificial intelligence in marketing is a subject that is dominating the industry right now. From all the current applications in marketing automation and predictive analytics, to the all-important question: What’s next?

To get a better understanding of where this profound shift in technology is taking us, let’s take a look at the thought processes that are driving the change – the computer thought processes, that is – the artificial neural networks.

What Are Neural Networks?

Artificial neural networks are an important subset of machine learning. They are what computer scientists use to work on complex tasks, such as making predictions, strategizing and recognizing trends. Unlike other machine learning algorithms, which may organize data or crunch numbers, neural networks learn from experience. Like humans.

Neural networks, as the name suggests, are modeled after the neural networks of the human brain, which are responsible for human decision making. The brain takes in information and then attempts to connect the dots to come up with a conclusion. We don’t always get it right at first, nor do the machine learning algorithms. But through trial and error, we, and likewise the artificial neural networks (ANN), start coming up with better outputs.

How Do Artificial Neural Networks Operate?

Currently, most ANNs are relatively simple when compared to the complex neural interactions that take place when a human mind makes decisions. There is an input layer, an output layer, and a hidden layer sandwiched in between – where there are hundreds of virtual nodes the algorithm connects and reconnects to when trying to reach an outcome.

Image via Ecommerce-Digest

To ‘learn’ with each input experience, the algorithm will alter the internal connections until it figures out how to achieve a desired output within a specified level of accuracy. Once the algorithm has learned, more inputs can be entered and the  ANN provides a workable prediction.

What About Deep Learning?

Deep learning, or DL, refers to a more intensive version of machine learning. Remember the single hidden layer in the artificial neural network? With DL, there are multiple layers.

Not only are deep learning neural networks more complex, but it is here that there exists the hope (and the fear) that the algorithms will take off and begin learning on their own. Where the technology is right now, whether it’s basic machine learning, NN or DL, the algorithms are still dependent on the provision of inputs from external sources, i.e. humans.

How Neural Networks Are Used in Marketing

ANNs are used across industries – in medicine, engineering, finance, and others. They are also transforming the available set of marketing technology resources, giving marketers new, more efficient and more dynamic tools for:

  • Predicting consumer behavior
  • Creating and understanding more sophisticated buyer segments
  • Marketing automation
  • Content creation
  • Sales forecasting

The most widely used application of artificial neural networks is in the field of predictive analytics. In this case, the neural networks can help marketers make predictions about the outcome of a campaign by recognizing the trends from previous marketing campaigns. While neural networks have been around for decades, it is the more recent emergence of Big Data that has made this technology incredibly useful for marketing.

With a virtual sea of data to input into a neural network, it’s now possible to achieve sophisticated, accurate predictions that can help CMOs make smarter decisions about what actions to take and what channels to allocate more resources to.

Likewise with market segmentation, sales forecasting and content creation and distribution, the neural networks, fed with enough data, are able to provide more precise insights and predictions, helping marketing decision makers better gauge expectations. This technology is also allowing for a more dynamic level of automation, which isn’t only evolving the marketing workflow but is creating an even more seamless experience for the consumer.

Examples of Neural Networks in Action

Microsoft’s BrainMaker – Microsoft took a set of variables, such as the date of last purchase, the number of products bought and registered, and the number of days between a product release and purchase, and plugged it into BrainMaker to learn which customers were most likely to open their direct mail. They also bought data relevant to their customers, including the number of pieces of employer and income data. By using BrainMaker’s neural network software, Microsoft increased their direct mail response rate from 4.9 percent to 8.2 percent, which translates to, according to company spokesman Jim Minervino, “the same amount of revenue for 35 percent less cost.”

LinkedIn and Bright – LinkedIn purchased Bright in 2014 to integrate its algorithms to create better matches between employers and job candidates. This NN takes variables like past hiring patterns, account location and job descriptions to give each potential match a ‘Bright Score,’ which correlates with how relevant the match may be. This then dictates the potential employee or employer matches users find when using LinkedIn.

Under Armour and IBM – Under Armour is using IBM’s Watson for its branded health tracking application, Record. The app tracks consumer data, including workouts, nutrition and sleep data, which can come from wearables, third-party apps and manually entered data. It then plugs in these variables to create custom tailored content for users.

The Grid for Website Design – The Grid is an AI-empowered website design platform. It uses inputs from users for everything from content goals to style preferences in order to automate the design process. The grid’s algorithm, Molly, is still something of a work in progress according to reviewers, but the potential of a website created by artificial intelligence is pretty remarkable. Whether it’s Molly or another ANN, applications like this one are just the beginning.

From Microsoft’s innovative use of a NN to boost their mailing response rate, to image recognition software and deep sentiment analysis for social media, these computer ‘brains’ are already deeply immersed in every area of marketing. Understanding how they work today and what their predicted capabilities are for tomorrow is essential for grasping what all the thousands of martech companies out there are developing for the industry and how much of an impact AI will have on marketing in the next few years.

And, don’t forget the tech giants, like Google’s DeepMind and Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence initiatives, which have been recruiting the top computer science minds in the world for years now. The conventional wisdom is that we are on the verge of another shift in marketing, and in business in general, as tech companies figure out how to develop smarter artificial neural networks.

And we thought the digital transformation for marketing was profound. We ain’t seen nothing yet.

Can You Defend Yourself from these Digital Marketing Campaign Killers?

By 2020, digital marketing ad spend across the world is expected to reach a collective – wait for it – 335 billion dollars to grab the ever-increasing prospects of connecting with customers online. However, this great opportunity for success also comes with an increasing chance of failure – in fact, a CoSchedule survey found that only 6% of marketing teams are able to always meet their campaign goals.

It is no doubt a tough place out there for today’s digital marketer, and to say that competition is fierce is a grand understatement. With every passing day, it becomes more challenging to catch the attention of a customer, and the list of challenges keeps getting longer. If your marketing strategy is unable to defend itself from common threats, there is no way that it can ever be effective. Let’s discuss how digital marketers can defend themselves again three major campaign killers.

Click Fraud – Invest in PPC Protection

Search Engine Marketing is the lifeblood for smaller businesses to get their names on the map. PPC campaigns can offer incredibly high returns (Google reports that businesses earn $8 for every $1 they spend on their platform) as well as that initial push for brand awareness.

Automated click fraud occurs when online bots are programmed to click on paid advertising links in order to sabotage PPC costs and diminish return rates. Sadly, this devious strategy is quite common for businesses with fierce competitors vying for ad placement space. In 2016, a staggering 20% of online advertisers’ budgets were wasted due to fraudulent clicks and invalid traffic.

Detecting click fraud after the fact can help you put a stop to it, but it is much better to protect yourself before it occurs. This is where machine learning comes to the rescue. AI-based fraud detection systems such as ClickCease work much better at click fraud prevention by integrating with all your Google or Bing PPC campaigns and tracking every click to determine whether or not it is valid. As soon as suspicious activity is identified, ClickCease will block the IP or proxy server from future engagement. Further, it automatically creates reports for AdWords refunds with detailed documentation on the fraudulent interactions.

Any good marketer worth his salt knows that an unprotected campaign runs the risk of click fraud from sneaky competitors. Investing in click fraud protection could save your campaign from utter failure.

Missed Engagement – Measure Brand Sentiment

It is very difficult to accurately gauge your audience’s view of your brand. To give you an idea, 85% of brands surveyed by mobile operator Unlocked believed that their mobile ads provided a positive experience for their customers, yet, nearly half of the customers completely disagreed!

Take the clothing company Gap as a great example of sentiment disconnect. While the retailer was a huge hit in the 90s and early 2000s, sales were slipping as they failed to capture the attention of younger consumers. Their marketing team sought to rebrand with a new logo in trendy Helvetica font and pack their advertising campaign with celebrities.

However, their efforts did nothing to sway their intended audience which still considered the brand to be geared to an older audience. Gap eventually scrapped the redesign and reverted back to their original logo.

This misadventure costed them an estimated $100 million. Ouch!

Brand sentiment is all about the way that consumers view a brand, and what words and descriptions they associate that business with. Failing to measure this important detail could derail a marketing campaign instantly.

This is a complex endeavor fraught with uncertainty and potentially missed data. Sentiment analysis software makes this task much easier, and systems like Rapidminer can offer your business a subjective analysis for more accurate reporting. By extracting information from digital sources like online reviews and social media mentions, Rapidminer gathers insights to evaluate the overall attitude that your audience has towards your brand vis-à-vis industry trends. It will also identify the best channels to reach them and gather feedback from ongoing campaigns for a complete report.

Accurately assessing brand reaction and audience response is so important for marketing teams because it helps them better understand the cause of their results. This is a non-monetary result from advertising campaigns that many “ROI-driven” reports fail to catch or measure. By using a sentiment analysis tool that breaks down the context of every brand mention, marketers can identify opportunities for positive engagement in future and address areas of weakness in the brand messaging.

Stagnant Targeting – Gather Data and Experiment

The marketing world is constantly changing, and strategies or ads that worked one day may be irrelevant the next. In fact, using the same advertisements repeatedly could cause branding fatigue, in essence pushing your audience to disengage and become bored.

Which is why marketing campaigns must be data driven in order to be successful. Where does this data come from, you ask? Why, from your customers! Nearly 60% of consumers surveyed by Salesforce in their State of the Connected Customer report said they were willing to share more information if a business sends them personalized content as a result. In fact, they actually expect brands to use their personal information for better recommendations, prices, customizations and service.

Make sure to monitor customer touchpoints, social media, competitors’ sites, and other digital platforms religiously, bearing in mind the right industry keywords, in order to compile the necessary data for more targeted strategies. Then use this data to your advantage for a deeper understanding of your target audience. Remaining stagnant with targeting campaigns could eventually diminish your hard work, and eventually, reduce reach. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your digital marketing; you never know when you will strike gold.

Take ‘Em On!

There are more obstacles in a marketing team’s path today than ever before. We must constantly stay on our toes to protect our campaigns from sabotage or “Duh” inducing mistakes that could bring all our hard work to a disastrous halt.

By staying aware of and dealing with possible pitfalls, accurately gauging audience sentiment, and bravely trying out new strategies, marketing teams can combat their fiercest opponents and come out on top.

8 Principles of High-Converting Landing Pages

Landing pages are distinct, standalone pages on your website that serve as a tool to convert your visitors into leads. What distinguishes them from other pages is that they drive user action via a lead-capture form. In exchange, users gain access to exclusive content or marketing offers.

In other words, your landing page is a way for you to compel your target audience to convert. That’s why it’s extremely important that you incorporate effective copy and design aesthetics.

Apart from generating leads, landing pages are also an efficient way to collect information about which of your visitors are converting or engaging with you. With this information in hand, you can gain a deeper insight into your audience to help your brand nurture them along the sales process.

Due to the importance of landing pages to your B2B marketing campaign, you’ll want to make the most of the traffic to this page and maximize the number of conversions. That being said, optimizing conversion rates on your landing pages becomes much easier if you keep these fundamental principles in mind:

1. Focus on Your Offer Instead of Your Brand

It’s understandable that you to want to grow your company but, keep in mind that landing pages are meant to direct your prospects to a particular offer and not toward your organization in general.

As soon as your prospects reach your landing page, they should instantly see the same content they have been offered in the ad or call-to-action button that they clicked. Resist the urge to include a lengthy list of your company’s achievements in your niche market.

Apart from matching the content on your CTA and landing page, you can also use similar design elements on the two as a way to indicate that your prospects are on the correct landing page.

2. Get Rid of Distractions

Your landing page should be free of clutter such as multiple CTAs or top/side navigation bars, as these can confuse your prospective customers and drive them away from converting.

A proper landing page should look quite simple, offering a single, easy way for your visitors to perform the action they need to do to access their offer.

3. Use Simple Conversion Forms

The lead-capture or conversion form on your landing page should be easy and fast to fill out. A good rule of thumb is to ask for only the basic information, enough for your sales or marketing team to qualify them as a legitimate lead.

If you have to ask for more than their personal information, like their company affiliation or what their annual revenue is, be ready to match the amount of time and effort they put in with something really useful for them, such as exclusive content or extremely well-targeted content.

Conversion forms should also be easily submitted on mobile devices, so you have to ensure that the text is visible on mobile screens and the buttons are large enough for touchscreens.

4. Create Compelling Copy

From the headline to your CTA, the text on your landing page should be clear and concise. Including straightforward descriptions of what your landing page visitors will receive when they complete the registration process.

For SEO purposes, include keywords that are commonly used in relevant search queries as well. But your copy should focus on explaining what the offer is and how it will benefit the user.

5. Avoid Too Many Links

The Kaizen Principle, “A place for everything, and everything in its place” can be applied when choosing where to put your links, and it’s certainly not on your landing pages.

You want your prospects to click your CTA button and nothing else, especially not an external link as that might mean a lost opportunity to convert someone.

6. Enable Social Sharing

Your landing page message is a great opportunity to create something shareable on social media. Including social buttons makes it easy for your visitors to spread the word about your offer.

Social shares of your landing page serve as a trust indicator, highlighting your status as an industry expert or authority among your visitors.

7. Enhance Your Page with Images

You can add a touch of creativity and personality to your landing pages through videos and images that help you connect with your audience on a more personal level. Images capture a user’s attention and increase the chances that they’ll linger on the page longer, giving you more time to deliver your message to your prospective customers.

Adding images or videos is also a practical way of showing snippets of the actual content that you’re giving your visitors. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

8. Keep It Above the Fold

The space “above the fold” is simply the content that a visitor sees as they land on your page. So, it’s important that you include everything you need to immediately convince a reader of the value of your offering in that space.

Make sure you’ve got a compelling headline that catches the user’s attention and that your CTA button is clearly visible. You’ve got short amount of time to convince a visitor to stick around, so make sure you knock their socks off as soon as they arrive on your landing page.

Landing Pages Need to be Tested

As tried and true as these principles may be, remember that they’re just guidelines for establishing your landing page design. The work doesn’t stop there!

At this point, you need to collect performance data on your landing page by gathering feedback or using an analytics tool. Proper analysis should indicate where potential improvements can be made, and allow you to make educated decisions on what to A/B test.

Think about it as a continuous process that you’ll have to continue over time. For optimal results, keep gathering and analyzing your landing page data, making improvements one step at a time.

The post 8 Principles of High-Converting Landing Pages appeared first on PureB2B.

Building a Story-Driven Sales Deck That Wins More Business

How many people do you know who are overwhelmed by information? You know, the colleague who has an inbox with 2,000 unread emails, the friend with 31 open browser tabs, the overwhelmed customer who returns your time sensitive call 12 days later?

The problem is information. There’s too much of it, and it can be paralyzing. We’re now into the third decade of the Information Revolution, which has been fascinating because we now have the entire world of knowledge at our fingertips. But as the tidal wave of content and info has grown and grown and grown, we tend to think and work in tighter and tighter circles without ever really thinking about whether we’re really moving in the right direction. (Hint: tighter and tighter circles are not the right direction.)

For sales and marketing, this is the opportunity. And, in particular, it’s a reality that should inform how you build your sales deck.

As you certainly know, the way people buy things has changed. Today, people—your customers, whether you’re in a B2C or B2B business—don’t want to be sold; they want to be helped. But that’s only the half of it. The reality is that customers are in charge of the relationship now; they decide when and how they shop, how much information they need, and when it’s time to buy. This is the new buyer’s journey, and the success of any business requires an understanding of it.

And that means we can’t sell the same old way. Rather than talk about our features and products, or what makes us different from the competition, we need to help the customer see what’s possible for them.

Rather than get down in the weeds of product details, let’s help them envision a brighter future. Let’s thrill them, not deliver a mountain of drudgery.

Less selling, more helping.

More and more, that means ditching the sales pitch and telling a story that captures attention and begins to make sense of the customer’s dynamic world. Stories might sound soft, but there’s hard science behind it—a good story gets our neurons firing and excites our brains.

Figuring out the story you want to tell isn’t a matter of diving straight into PowerPoint and starting to build some slides. It begins with determining what your company stands for; this creates a unifying mission and vision for your company, and it should explain the benefit you intend to deliver to your customers.

From there, numerous marketing and sales materials flow. Which brings us to your sales deck.

There’s a good chance that your sales deck focuses on what your company offers. That seems logical, doesn’t it? But it’s wrong. The purpose of the sales deck is to pull your prospects along their buyer’s journey by having an exciting conversation about the future.

The problem is that many sales decks are inward looking. They focus on what the company can deliver, rather than what the prospect needs to succeed. Take a look at your deck, and if it’s all about you, it’s time for a change.

Let’s fix it. Here’s the flow that a story-driven sales deck—and all your business conversations, really—should take.

Identify the big shift that’s happening. For instance, at Scribewise we focus on (this is getting meta) navigating the Information Revolution. What is the big honking change in your industry that is both exciting and terrifying? Identifying and naming this trend creates the context in which you can have a more meaningful conversation with potential customers. Every good story has this context (“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”).

From there, what makes the story interesting is dramatic tension—making it clear that there will be winners and losers, and that while winning will be fantastic, losing will be cataclysmic. If your prospects don’t commit to winning in this emerging battle, they will be left behind to wail and gnash their teeth. Well, at least that’s the type of juxtaposition you want to create.

Describe the bright future. In a well-trafficked post on Medium, Andy Raskin described this as the “Promised Land.” It is a land of milk and honey, where man and AI work together in synchronicity. Or whatever. But what you’re focused on here is a better situation for your prospect and their customers. Importantly, this is not about the experience they’ll have in working with you; it’s about what is possible.

Of course, they’ll need help to achieve this future state of bliss.

Now, finally, you can discuss your features. This used to be your starting point, but it never had context. You’d never given them a reason to care about those features, which is why so many of your sales meetings ended.

Now you should position them as tools that help the heroes of this story vanquish the competition.

Prove that you deserve a role in their story. And then demonstrate how others have succeeded by following this path, i.e., by using your company’s service or product. Case studies and client testimonials are the best way to accomplish this. This is where all those logos you’re so proud of should go.

Every company needs to know, understand and be able to tell a compelling story—one in which the customer is the star. This is a mindset shift for most organizations. It isn’t easy, but selling during this Information Revolution calls for something new—an acknowledgment that your purpose is to serve the customer and help them navigate this brave new world.

The post Building a Story-Driven Sales Deck That Wins More Business appeared first on Scribewise | Philadelphia Content Marketing and Public Relations.

The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence: What Kind of Society Do We Want to Have?

As someone who has worked with big data for some time, I have pushed the boundaries where this idea of relevance morphs into creepy (remember the infamous case study: How Target Figured out a girl was pregnant before her father did?). I am acutely aware of its lure to big business, and at the same time, the fear it creates among consumers.

As data becomes more abundant and consumer digital footprints become commonplace, more understanding of their lives are analyzed and contextualized. The average consumer is becoming increasingly educated about what they share and how it’s used by business, many times without the user acknowledgment or consent.

AI is accelerating its pace and with it, the massive data sets allow analysis and contextualization of information that has inherent benefits… but also vulnerabilities to individuals and society, real and yet to be revealed.

In 2012 I wrote this post on my company blog Genx Think Tank: It’s all about Privacy. At that time, everyone agreed that use of social platforms is a fair exchange of user data collection. Julie Bernard, CMO of Macy’s said,

There’s a funny consumer thing… They’re worried about our use of data, but they’re pissed if I don’t deliver relevance. … How am I supposed to deliver relevance and magically deliver what they want if I don’t look at the data?

Some more sophisticated users were unwilling to give any one company too much of their information and would opt to use different browser services. Ghostery and other ad blockers allow users to see who was tracking them. This makes it more difficult for ad networks to effectively monetize. More importantly, it reduces the amount of information companies could track about their users.

Fast Forward to Today…

It is now 2018 and adoption of Ghostery and other tracking systems has grown significantly:

Adblocker usage surged 30% in 2016 (according to PageFair) …There were 615 million devices blocking ads worldwide by the end of 2016, 62% (308 million) of those mobile. Desktop ad blocker usage grew 17% year-on-year to 236 million.

Dr. Johnny Ryan, PageFair’s Head of Ecosystem concluded:

In 2014 we were dealing with early adopter users of ad blocking. These people really care and understand the real problems of privacy and data leakage in ad tech. I think what happened is the industry’s lack of an approach or interest in privacy let the ad block genie out of the bottle.

More recently, I posted an article on Facebook about the dangers of Google Home in response to this article: The Google Home Mini secretly recorded peoples’ conversations and played into a big fear about smart speakers.

It was clear from this chat that while people were educated about the information they were giving up to Facebook, they were not entirely aware of the extent to which they were sharing.

 

The point I was making was a matter of CHOICE.

It’s NOT that “we may not say anything interesting”.

It’s NOT that people should be paranoid about the things they share in public.

My point was that “what we share” may not necessarily be our choice.

That choice is determined by the platforms. The data they collect –public or private — in and of themselves, provide enough fodder to create more defined social graphs of anyone and everyone.

Recently, HBR Published this article: Customer Data: Designing for Transparency and Trust

They published these stats about consumer awareness of what data is shared. The question is how much is the average consumer aware of what’s being collected? Secondly, if they did know, would they be concerned?

 

These days, however, there is this idea of fair exchange between the user and companies who collect or analyze data. Consumers expect much better service and more relevant communications by the company in exchange for information they share.

The chart from HBR’s article depicts this notion of fair exchange. The more data a company collects increases the consumer expectation levels. For companies like Facebook, whose primary business includes highly targeted advertising from its data collection of users, the analysis required to profile and predict user propensities ultimately will drive more revenue for the company.

 

 

And as this demand grows, the price for increased contextualization at the individual level will also rise. The more a company understands user motivation and user intent, the more they can develop more effective campaigns with the higher prediction of consumer response.

AI: Where Context is EVERYTHING

I work in AI. I see the data. I also see what’s possible. At Humans for AI, I also speak to data scientists who analyze vast amounts of information every day. We are all aware of the advantages and pitfalls of correlating this information.

During my discussion with one of our founding members, Neeraj Sabharwal, also a former big data architect/engineer with Horton Works, he relayed the importance for every consumer to bear responsibility for what each one of us shares on our devices. What we divulge, publicly or privately and how we share this information may be used to extract insights in aggregate or at an individual level. Neeraj noted Venmo users share all of their activity publicly by default unless they choose to share the money transfer in private or friends only. This article by Wired explains in detail how Google tracks you and how you can avoid or reduce the tracking.

Awareness is the key and once we know the data lineage (what, how,
where and who accesses our data) then we can be more conscious of our decisions.

We discussed the work that Elon Musk and Open AI were doing with AI and governance. OpenAI focuses on “Discovering and enacting the path to safe artificial general intelligence. “ As per Musk:

I think AI is probably the single biggest item in the near term that’s likely to affect humanity. So it’s very important that we have the advent of AI in a good way, that it’s something that if you could look into a crystal ball and see the future, you would like that outcome. Because it is something that could go wrong… So we really need to make sure it goes right.

Consider the data is more than what we share on different social networks, our email, our transactions, our customer service chats. It is about the aggregation of information from all these disparate data sources… and correlation of information through AI that has the ability to find patterns with an unprecedented capability. For the first time in history, this combination of data, computing power, increased interconnectivity and advances in pattern analysis are making contextualization entirely possible at (and this can be arguable at this nascent stage) increasing accuracy and precision.

What today’s privacy regulations may not consider is the user’s right to give permission to use the information in a variety of contexts that go beyond customer service or communication implications. This may include:

1) At a personal level — providing health recommendations and notifications, or providing daily task reminders

2) At an aggregated level — helping medical research to better diagnose conditions or preventing potential threats to security.

Information will now evolve beyond what we share on our social networks and to companies. We will be instrumenting our homes, our work, and our bodies with sensor and AR devices. Our quest for increasing convenience through automation may yield unwitting results in the process — the risk of bias, intentional or not.

Facebook’s recent announcement to change the Newsfeed algorithm to prioritize friends and family content over brand promotions shows every indication that Facebook is serious about moving away from its core media business and become a significant data player in this next stage of AI. With the troves of user information it captures, this move solidifies Facebook’s intent to encourage more user behavior in the wake of “content collapse”…

… that is seeing people share less intimate information — and move instead to newer and smaller sites like Snapchat or Instagram to do so.

Contextualization in Play: China’s Social Credit Rating

I’ve been following China’s Sesame Credits for some time. Recently it was announced that China plans to launch its social credit system in 2020. The article entitled, “Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens” is putting into place a platform that probes into the social behavior from its 1.3 billion citizens in an attempt to judge their “trustworthiness”. The scoring system is a dynamic value that rises and falls on individual behavior. Trustworthiness is defined by the Chinese government and it’s a system — worse than prison — that keeps citizens compliant. This form of gamification brings BF Skinner’s Operant Conditioning to life through AI, a punishment and reward system where people’s data are now being used against them.

AI’s nascency is an opportunity to take early control of what we WANT to remain private

Western civilization and our citizens, no doubt, are not immune to massive data collection, aggregation, and analysis at a much granular level. But we do have choices and freedom affords us certain entitlements.

Dr. Ann Covoukian — former Privacy Commissioner of Ontario and now Executive Director of the Privacy and Big Data Institute and leading global advocate for individual privacy has effectively communicated the belief that “privacy and freedom are inextricably linked”. Ann dismisses the “zero-sum” mindset that people must choose between privacy or security, but can’t have both.

She believes that we do not have to forsake individual privacy in order to keep our society safe. If we’ve to move to a common acquiescence of mass surveillance we relinquish our individual freedoms. With the advent of big data, this does not have to be the case.

And this conviction is widely held in Canada, and now with the implementation of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force by May 2018, a widespread more harmonized system of data privacy is being enacted. Systems and policies will now be required to proactively enforce this. Please read here about how users will gain much more control over their social data.

Regardless, we all have a responsibility to, as Neeraj alluded to, be accountable for what we share and how we share it. As our children grow up in this world of increasing transparency, they will need to understand the limitations of this new world and ultimately have control over their personal information.

This post originally appeared on Humans for AI  and is the subject of discussion for the event in Toronto January 23rd

Omnichannel eCommerce Strategies: A 3-Step Plan To The Perfect Customer Journey

Creating a seamless customer journey is the key to generating recurring sales. Making every touchpoint and every user experience flawless. First, they land on your website. Next, they shop in the store. And finally, check out on a mobile app. Omnichannel strategies have the power to create memorable, lasting experiences for consumers. And the better the experience, the higher chance you have of landing higher lifetime value customers. But that’s easier said than done.

Omnichannel is a new type of strategy that is tough to implement. Most often it gets confused with multi-channel, which is a vastly different strategy.

Thankfully, there are a few companies that are already leading the charge in omnichannel eCommerce.

Today we’ll dive deep into these strategies and analyze how you can replicate them.

Here are three ideas to create your perfect customer journey with an omnichannel strategy.

What a perfect omnichannel eCommerce strategy looks like

So, what does the perfect omnichannel strategy look like?

What even is omnichannel?

Let’s dive into some basic definitions to get you more familiar with successful omnichannel experiences happening right now.

According to BigCommerce, omnichannel strategies focus on designing a cohesive, integrated user experience for a customer at any given touchpoint. This is vastly different from a traditional multi-channel approach where you optimize individual channels as their own entity. Instead, you want every touchpoint to be a well-rounded step in the user experience.

For example, Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods was a perfect display of omnichannel adaptation to create a deeply connected customer journey.

Square summarized this key distinction in their own definition:

“Meeting people on the channels where they are shopping and buying, whether it’s in a physical store or an online store or on social media, and connecting the dots between those channels.”

Connecting the dots between these platforms is the key factor in a successful omnichannel strategy.

For example, can someone shop in your brick-and-mortar store, use an in-store tablet to see design styles, add those products to their cart and purchase later at home?

Omnichannel strategies succeed when each touchpoint is capable of delivering a connected customer experience. Your end goal shouldn’t be to drive sales to one platform. It should focus on being able to drive sales no matter what touchpoint the user is on.

With that being said, what does a perfect omnichannel strategy look like?

One of my favorite examples of omnichannel success is Disney.

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Disney is the shining star in the omnichannel world. They’ve virtually perfected the user experience to be seamless from start to finish. In the old days, you’d just buy a ticket at the park and enjoy the experience. Now, you buy your tickets ahead of time online. Next, you download the mobile app to scout plans, consume content and prepare for the trip. When you’re physically at the park, you use the app to find Disney characters on a live interactive map. You use it to see wait times for your favorite rides. Then you head to a shop at the park and get your picture taken with Mickey. Later you get home and download it on your desktop.

The key here is that every single touchpoint is deeply connected.

A user can buy products anywhere at any time, and it all carries over to the next experience. It goes beyond simply having a presence on different channels. Instead, it’s an active connection between them all, with each touchpoint improving the user experience.

As Google says, omnichannel strategies find success when they are focused on enabling customers to convert on any channel.

Brian Solis touches on this point too, saying that experiences are becoming more important than products.

Disney is a prime example of a user experience based omnichannel strategy in action.

Here are a few ideas to create the perfect customer journey with an omnichannel strategy.

1. Make every touchpoint a shopping haven

One of the most common aspects of a successful omnichannel strategy for perfecting the customer journey is making each touchpoint shoppable.

With Disney, you can buy anywhere:

Theme parks, Disney stores, mobile app, online.

The best omnichannel strategies know that enabling sales on each channel is huge. Thankfully, with updates in social media, you can make every channel a shopping destination. Even without spending money.

To get started, take a look at the existing channels where your business is most active. Do you have various social media platforms?

If you use platforms like Pinterest and Facebook, you can enable online sales on each to make a seamless customer journey.

For example, let’s say you’re selling backpacks. More than likely, people will be checking out your social media. They’ll find your Facebook page and browse your photos. Next, they’ll head to Pinterest to get some style ideas. But then they get tired and bored. They didn’t have anywhere to convert and didn’t end up making it back to your site.

This is an all too common scenario that can be fixed by turning each channel into a shopping haven.

Both Facebook and Pinterest have large average order values, too:

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Meaning they are amazing platforms to enable online shopping.

To get started, you can enable buyable pins on Pinterest.

Buyable pins are a great evolution for omnichannel eCommerce.

When you head to Pinterest and explore product ideas, you can see which ones are buyable directly within Pinterest:

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Clicking on any of the results will pull up the product and allow you to add it to your bag.

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You can even check out directly on Pinterest for a seamless experience:

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Now a user doesn’t have to browse on Pinterest only to search over and over again for the actual product on your site. Instead, they’ll find a perfectly integrated customer journey directly on Pinterest.

Right now you can set up these pins with Shopify, BigCommerce, and Salesforce:

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Each has their own setup guide that you can access above. When setting up your buyable pins, always make sure to enable the checkout on Pinterest feature. If you want to give your customers a true omnichannel customer journey, this is key.

Reducing friction and steps can help you give a seamless experience and drive more conversions.

You can do the same exact thing on Facebook, too.

Simply head to your business page on Facebook and navigate to the settings page under “Edit Page:”

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From here, make sure that your online shop is enabled on your page:

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Next, make sure to enable “Check Out on Facebook” to provide the deep integration that omnichannel requires:

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Google’s studies found one critical element when it comes to omnichannel strategies and perfecting the customer journey:

Making each and every touchpoint shoppable.

Allowing any platform to convert.

Start implementing online stores on all of the social platforms where your business exists.

2. Harness the power of mobile apps

Mobile has already surpassed desktop in terms of online internet usage worldwide.

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On top of that, the worldwide mobile app market is expected to grow 270% to $189 billion by 2020.

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It’s safe to say that more people are using and enjoying mobile experiences than ever before. And mobile apps play a massive role in how we interact with the world on a daily basis. Whether it’s social media apps or specific brand applications, we all use them. And some of the best companies are using them to perfect the customer journey and enhance their omnichannel eCommerce strategy.

For example, Crate and Barrel is revolutionizing their omnichannel strategy with mobile apps.

Now you can scan gift registry items in the store with your mobile device:

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These gifts then get imported straight into your online account. Friends and family can tap into the account, purchasing online or in store, too.

The user experience has never been better.

Each touchpoint is interconnected to create a seamless journey from in-store registry to mobile app scanning and final purchasing.

Starbucks is also dominating the omnichannel sphere with their mobile app, allowing users to collect stars for physical, in-store purchases.

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The customer journey is now flawless, allowing users to add money back to their mobile app and use it in store, seeing direct rewards from those purchases.

Now Starbucks can generate sales and build high lifetime value customers even when they don’t visit physical stores.

If you want to create a better customer experience, mobile apps are becoming the bread and butter.

Using a tool like BuildFire can help you create a mobile app for your eCommerce business without breaking the bank.

Plus, you don’t need to know any coding to get started.

If you decide to develop an app, make sure you tap into these key factors:

  1. Your application needs to be integrated with your business. I.e., it has to be a shoppable touchpoint.
  2. Your application should serve to further improve the user journey beyond just sales. Provide valuable content and experiences within the app.

Mobile apps are dominating the online world.

And omnichannel eCommerce is all about reaching users anywhere they may be.

Consider developing an app to aid in the customer journey and acquisition process for your business.

3. Exist on multiple marketplaces

BigCommerce defines omnichannel strategy as selling on multiple online channels, wherever consumers are already spending their time.

And if we know one thing, it’s this:

Amazon is the place to be.

According to Statista, Amazon’s net sales in 2016 were 136 billion dollars. On top of that, they were the most popular online store in 2016.

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Amazon simply dominates the eCommerce marketplace:

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But that’s not all:

According to CNBC, roughly 55% of consumers start their online shopping journey on Amazon.

More than half of users are ditching the traditional search engine for Amazon.

Why?

Because Amazon carries almost anything you can imagine and allows you to view related products too. But more importantly, this data is critical for an omnichannel strategy that matches the customer journey. Knowing that the majority of people are starting their customer journey on Amazon, that should signal one thing:

The need to be present on that channel.

The whole goal of omnichannel eCommerce is to be integrated everywhere and anywhere your customers exist. That includes a third party marketplace like Amazon. Especially considering how many consumers use it to start their journey.

Sellers are finding big success on Amazon, too.

One seller found a strategy to drive $5,000 in sales for every hour spent on the platform.

Simply getting your product on Amazon gives you more chances to drive sales and increase brand awareness.

The brand awareness alone will help drive more traffic to your site, bringing the customer journey full circle.

To get started selling on Amazon, follow their online setup process that will integrate with your current shipping and ordering processes.

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Creating a great customer journey is all about reaching the customer at each point of their experience.

Users don’t always buy on the first visit.

And most of those first visits occur directly on Amazon.

Be sure to get your brand and product in front of your users to bring your customer journey full circle.

Now it’s your turn

Omnichannel eCommerce has huge potential. Users are craving better experiences both online and offline, at each and every touchpoint. Buying should be a process where the user interacts with the brand in ways we’ve never imagined. Implement these three omnichannel strategies to give your customers the experience they desire.

Follow in the footsteps of major brands like Disney and Crate and Barrel by making every touchpoint a shopping haven.

Harness the power of mobile apps to give users a seamless experience from brick-and-mortar to online purchasing.

Make sure your products exist on any shopping destination online.

Marketplaces like Amazon dominate the online retail landscape, and perfect customer journeys often involve an Amazon search.

Now it’s your turn.

Put all of these together to give your users an integrated customer experience.

The post Omnichannel eCommerce Strategies: a 3-Step Plan To The Perfect Customer Journey appeared first on Sellbrite.

35 Marketing Automation Tools To Personalize Your Customer’s Journey

One of the most empowering abilities marketers have gained from the digitization of the marketing function is marketing automation.

Today, every organization out there is using some form of software as a service (SaaS) platform to share content (CMS), to streamline their communications with customers (CRM and Marketing Automation), and to draw insights (Analytics) from the data these solutions provide.

As a result of all these evolving resources, we know more about what our customers want. Their pain points, reservations and expectations. We can better understand the how, when and where of their preferred interactions.

And, we can deliver our messaging in a way that feels like it was created just for them. Right?

Well. Sort of.

Even with all the audience targeting, workflow automation, and competitive intelligence tools available today, personalization is far from perfect. We’re still struggling with problems, such as:

  • Real-time personalization – 60 percent of marketers struggle to deliver real-time personalized content
  • Not enough time to get it right – 46 percent say they don’t have the time to deliver personalized content
  • Lack of consistency – 65% of buyers are abandoning the buyer journey because of a lack of consistency in the experience

However, today, we’re marketing within the surge of neural networks and machine learning, which means the algorithms are getting more powerful and marketers are becoming more empowered. The number of martech resources is increasing every year – 2017 was given the nickname Martech 5000 for reaching 5,381 tech solutions, created by 4,891 unique companies.

We do have the resources to deliver more sophisticated personalization. Here is a list of some of the tools to consider for your organization, from the simple platforms to the enterprise-level personalization solutions.

The Top Multi-Function Marketing Automation Platforms

You won’t just be able to better personalize your marketing messaging with these comprehensive solutions. These are dynamic SaaS platforms to build landing pages and forms and to create, manage and track personalized email marketing campaigns, event marketing campaigns, webinars, demand generation and content marketing.

According to independent software reviewer, G2 Crowd, the top three marketing automation platforms – for each organizational level – regarding market presence and performance for 2018 are:

Small Business

Mid-Market

Enterprise

Other Top 10 rated Marketing Automation Platforms include:

Some of these tools have sophisticated AI-based personalization engines, and others may be developing similar functionality.

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Specialized Tools for Better Marketing Personalization

I have already covered “what you need to know about personalization and the technology behind it.” Check that post out for the top vendors in the personalization space. Onespot, Idio and SailThru are the content personalization engines I have seen the most at the clients I work with.

And the elephant in the room of many marketers is Adobe Target, one of the more established personalization engines that I’ve also used in a number of companies. I also should mention IBM Watson’s Personalization tool for large enterprises.

On top of those well-known companies, here is a list of specialized tools useful for helping you to personalize every facet of your overarching marketing strategy.

Google Optimize 360 – As part of the Google Analytics 360 Suite, Google Optimize lets users create custom segmented customer experiences. Then you can test those segments to learn what factors cause certain segments to take action on your website.

Segment – For B2B companies, this platform gathers customer interaction data, making it easier to create more personalized campaigns, and to adapt to your segments by using different tools.

Statsbot – A dream for marketers having trouble managing customer data, this platform monitors important metrics like web traffic, number of users and conversions to let your organization known when you’re getting close to goals or falling behind. It’s a great program for adding clarity to your campaigns, so you know where you’re getting the customer experience right.

Certona – Aims to create a personalized, real-time, omnichannel customer experience. It hones in on customer data to develop intelligent predictions so marketers can create highly individualized experiences on the web, mobile, email and in-store.

RichRelevance – Like Certona, RichRelevance makes omnichannel personalization possible, covering website recommendations, personalized browsing, content and search. Its AI-based solution is only available at the enterprise-level. The advanced machine learning being used has made this platform a top choice for global companies.

Growbots – This platform uses machine learning to generate tailored content lists and to automate email campaigns that people want to see in their inboxes. You’ll be able to see which campaigns are performing well, and which aren’t, so you can eliminate the techniques that aren’t working.

Monetate – Want one-on-one personalization? For e-commerce businesses, Monetate takes all your customer data from all your data sources and then uses machine learning to make smarter predictions and decisions. This is a continual process, giving marketers the best insights about customers as those insights evolve – at scale. Monetate has an open architecture that connects different channels. This means you can deliver a one-on-one experience, to all your customers, across all touchpoints.

Evergage – Similar to Monetate, Evergage is a pure personalization platform that uses machine learning to deliver individualized experiences. You can promote relevant content to keep readers on your site for longer, to promote the most relevant offers to help generate leads, and to upsell without driving customers away. With opportunities for A/B and multivariate testing, you can make the platform’s algorithms smarter to drive even better results.

Optimizely – Delivers targeted content and experiences in real-time across multiple customer touchpoints.

Bunting – This tool offers a sophisticated level of website personalization for e-commerce sites. Its algorithms take customer data and use it to learn more about how users are interacting with your website. The platform makes it easy to automate individualized web content, product recommendations and email campaigns, all fed by real-time data.

Quuu – This is a handy tool for more personalized social media marketing. You choose relevant interest categories, and Quuu sends hand-curated content for you to share with followers, saving you time on collecting relevant, sharable content. It’s human curation vs. machine learning, but who says we should outsource all our marketing tasks to robots?

Yala – Yala uses machine learning to auto-schedule social media posts. This way, you can optimize your posts to get the most engagement. It’s a cool little platform that learns when your audience is engaged across your social networks, then auto-posts based on the insights Yala learns.

Persado – You can integrate this innovative tool with your other software solutions like Salesforce or MailChimp. It uses AI to generate email subject lines that will perform better with your target market. The algorithms work to create more engaging subject lines, which can be filtered to align with your brand voice, the emotional context you want to present, and any desired personalization. Then, the platform’s analytics can be used to track performance.

These are just some (36!) of the many personalization tools out there available today, not to mention all the personalization tools that are being created for marketers of the future. What are your favorites?

4 Hot Digital Marketing Trends to Warm Up Your Leads in 2018

Marketing operates on a foundational set of principles that shift with turns in technology and society. Think about it; when society relied on newspapers for information, marketing gravitated towards print advertising – but now with people looking to search engines and social media for their news, digital marketing has gained traction. With the close of 2017, a year when digital media was more present in our lives than ever, new digital marketing trends emerged to meet consumers head on.

We’ve rounded up 4 of the hottest digital marketing trends predicted to grow stronger in 2018. Learn what they are and how you can integrate them into your marketing to warm up your leads this year.

Voice Search

Digital marketing’s continued prevalence in society is guaranteed as the world continues to digitize nearly every aspect of daily life. One trend that’s made its way to the forefront of the digital marketing movement is using smart speakers to search the web.

As the popularity of smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home increase, search behavior is changing accordingly. In fact, 7 percent of Americans now own a smart speaker1 and subsequently most search queries are taking the form of spoken questions as users search the web without ever touching a keyboard. To cater your marketing strategy to web surfers who are talking through the web, rather than clicking through it, retool your existing keywords and create permutations of successful ones in the form of a question. Consider a few examples:

  • Best manufacturing companies Vs. What are the best manufacturing companies?
  • Supply chain management Vs. Where are supply chain management companies in my city?
  • Industrial Lighting Vs. What is the cheapest industrial lighting for a warehouse?

AMP Mobile Sites

As more and more users continue to do their online shopping and searching from mobile platforms, the marketing potential on mobile devices is skyrocketing. Google is moving towards mobile first indexing and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) making mobile marketing even more critical.

Google recently announced that there are now over 2 billion AMP pages covering some 900,000 domains that are loading twice as fast as non AMP mobile pages. To make sure your web presence is optimized for mobile first indexing and AMP, follow these tips:

  • Have a separate sitemap for your mobile pages so Google’s bots can crawl it more efficiently
  • Build your mobile pages using AMP; it’s free and effective!
  • Make sure your pages load quickly on mobile devices; mobile pages have a 40% higher bounce rate compared to desktop, mainly due to pages loading too slowly

Interactive Content and UX

Anyone can make a stagnant website with bodies of text and a few images – but how valuable is it really to the user?

With sites like Buzzfeed racking up views in the millions due to interactive quizzes and features, consider applying the same interactive principles to your website. Animation, interactive elements and creative presentation are critical components of an involved user experience (UX) on your site.

Pro-tip: Include a quiz as an introduction to a product or service; Paradigm Life’s financial literacy quiz is an excellent example of this. It allows the visitor to have an interactive experience that serves as a natural transition into the business’s products, resources and webpage.

Making visitors to your site feel like they’re really having an influence on the viewing and purchasing process of your product or service can help drive loyalty to your brand and more visitors to your webpages.

Video, Video Everywhere

While traditional ads have their place, when it comes to digital marketing videos are a must. With 87% of marketers using videos as their most common form of content4, it’s nearly impossible to peruse any social media platform or company website without seeing at least one video.

Videos continue to be one of the most effective digital marketing methods available, from full blown video ads that highlight a product or service to longer explainer or demonstration videos. For leads nearing the end of their buyer’s journey, a live or pre-recorded demo video is a proven technique for moving them closer to signing on the dotted line.

Wrapping Up

Digital marketing is undoubtedly the way of the future. Sure, traditional marketing has its place in an integrated marketing program, but as the technology advances, along with the interconnectivity of the online experience for millions of users, digital marketing is a trend that cannot be ignored in 2018.

With the continued domination of established digital marketing mediums and the availability of versatile digital marketing tools, we surf and the emergence and adoption of once futuristic technologies, like smart speakers that verbally relay search inquiries back to you, 2018 will continue to see digital marketing tactics dominate the field. By employing these hot trends from 2017, you can give your brand the leg up it deserves in the New Year while also giving your leads the user experience they desire.

Sources:

  1. NPR survey: Americans love their smart speakers, 42% call them ‘essential’, Search Engine Land
  2. Google’s AMP now powers 2B+ mobile pages and 900K domains, loads 2x faster, Tech Crunch
  3. Mobile vs Desktop Usage: Mobile Grows But Desktop Still a Big Player, Stone Temple
  4. Report: The state of content marketing, Outbrain