Use your data to make 2018 the year of good business

It’s the time of year when we commit to doing better things. Columnist Malcolm Cox believes 2018 should be the year of consumer trust and data responsibility.

2018. A new year. And with each new year, we’re all routinely asked for our predictions, resolutions and hopes for the coming months. My hope is that in 2018 we in the marketing industry do a better job of explaining to customers the benefits derived from being trusted with their data — as it really does bring terrific benefits.

Identifying what customers need and delivering it profitably is the essence of marketing. We know that delivering products and services easily, conveniently, at the right time and at the right price should deliver corporate profits. But doing it responsibly is a must today, too.

Corporate responsibility isn’t just about caring for the environment and our charity strategy (important as they are); it’s about how we behave responsibly with the trust consumers have given us with their data.

Data controversies loomed large in 2017. Consumers were concerned about hacking, privacy and lack of accountability from the brands and firms they trust.

We need to restore that trust. Change in laws like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will have a global effect and make some responsibilities compulsory. But why should we wait to be told what to do? Let’s lead by example.

We need to restore trust in our practices and actively promote the benefits that sharing data can bring to consumers. 2018 can be the year to deliver real benefits to consumers in so many sectors.

1. Finance

Financial institutions can offer real benefits by handing back access of data to their customers. Too many product areas, such as mortgages and other loan products, require endless paperwork to be completed.

Of course, checks need to take place. But companies can provide a more seamless approach, such as Zillow with its mortgage marketplace offering product comparisons. Data access can cut unnecessary paperwork, speeding up the application process and offering real choice.

Businesses such as Mint have paved the way in offering easier web-based personal money management. And companies like Personal Capital operate a hybrid model between digital finance data management and a personal touch from professional advisers. Presumably, the model allows advisors to spend less time on paperwork and more quality time with their customers.

2. Health

The prospect of sharing medical information sounds quite scary. After all, it can be the most private of all our information. Yet some medical breakthroughs are only possible when patients feel confident enough to share their records.

Algorithms today can analyze billions of documents to find patterns that will lead to medical breakthroughs in a fraction of the time it took before. Akiri, a new company formed out of an incubator backed by the American Medical Association, claims to be building a network-as-a-service platform that uses information technology, including blockchain, to securely share information.

This process is key to fostering trust between patients and physicians. However, the end value is enormous: the potential to speed up the diagnosis or prognosis of many ailments and diseases.

3. Transportation

If we all shared our driving data with each other, journey times could be better optimized. Yet I’m not sure which apps I can use when. Do you know in which states you can legally use mobile apps while driving? Some state laws target hand-held devices only, while others affect both hand-held and hands-free devices, and other states ignore the issue altogether.

Google’s Waze courts controversy by alerting users to speed traps as well as broken-down vehicles on the road ahead. And Uber has found its business challenged in Oregon due to concerns that it uses technology to evade regulators. In the UK, concerns have been raised over the way the company treats drivers. And here in New York, several Uber drivers have requested that I use an alternative app, as they believe that they are treated better financially by the competitor.

We need to show how using driving data responsibly benefits motorists, passengers and the authorities, ultimately making more journeys quicker and safer.

4. Food

Data analysis can be used to determine the optimal growing conditions for plants: soil quality and temperature, managed irrigation balanced with nutrient provision and light intensity analyzed for optimal plant development. MIT has taken this learning and developed the OpenAg Food Server, a shipping container-sized, controlled environment agriculture technology capable of growing fresh vegetables indoors at scale.

Meanwhile, Evogro in the UK supplies Michelin Star restaurants with indoor units that grow perfect micro-herbs to improve the appearance and taste of the most sophisticated dish. Optimal growing conditions are only achieved through analysis of data and the application of machine learning.

Yet the media narrative around food technology still gets distracted by the genetically modified food agenda. Let’s focus on showing how data makes better-tasting food all year round.

5. Advertising

Consumers get concerned when brands turn up in the wrong place — and alarmed when they read headlines about brands funding terrorism on YouTube. They also get spooked when brands appear to stalk them around the internet.

But consumers are delighted when they’re served information that matches their needs. Music fans want to know when their favorite artists’ tickets go on sale. People with new pets want to know how to get rid of carpet odors. Today’s data technology makes all of these consumer conversations possible.

Most consumers like advertising when it informs them of something relevant or entertains them. Brands have a responsibility to inform, entertain and engage. With the implementation of a smart data strategy, it’s not just possible, it’s probable. Above all, it makes good business sense.

Let’s make 2018 the year of data responsibility. Let’s show our customers that we can be trusted, and let’s demonstrate the real benefits this can bring to their lives. Let’s make 2018 the year of good business.

‘Mom, are we going to die today? Why won’t you answer me?’ – False Nuclear Alarm in Hawaii Due to User Interface

Image from the New York Times The morning of January 13th, people in Hawaii received a false alarm that the island was under nuclear attack. One of the messages people received was via cell phones and it said:“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Today, the Washington Post … Continue reading ‘Mom, are we going to die today? Why won’t you answer me?’ – False Nuclear Alarm in Hawaii Due to User Interface


Image from the New York Times

The morning of January 13th, people in Hawaii received a false alarm that the island was under nuclear attack. One of the messages people received was via cell phones and it said:“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Today, the Washington Post reported that the alarm was due to an employee pushing the “wrong button” when trying to test the nuclear alarm system.

The quote in the title of this post is from another Washington Post article where people experiencing the alarm were interviewed.

To sum up the issue, the alarm is triggered by choosing an option in a drop down menu, which had options for “Test missile alert” and “Missile alert.” The employee chose the wrong dropdown and, once chosen, the system had no way to reverse the alarm.

A nuclear alarm system should be subjected to particularly high usability requirements, but this system didn’t even conform to Nielson’s 10 heuristics. It violates:

  • User control and freedom: Users often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked “emergency exit” to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. Support undo and redo.
  • Visibility of system status: The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.
  • Error prevention: Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.
  • Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors: Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.
  • And those are just the ones I could identify from reading the Washington Post article! Perhaps a human factors analysis will become regulated for these systems as it has been for the FDA and medical devices.

    Are you keeping up with your peers? Internet Retailer recommends asking these five questions when evaluating vendors

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    Optimize for Buyer Intent to Increase Conversions

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    Your customers are omnichannel—so why aren’t you?

    I have one big prediction for 2018. (Yes, I know the year has already begun, but I can almost guarantee many of you haven’t laid out your plans for 2018 either.) I predict that omnichannel will become more than…

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    How Pearle Vision Is Redefining the Data-Driven Organization

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    Measuring how offline marketing drives website traffic: The fundamentals

    Looking to track your offline marketing campaigns? Contributor John Lincoln walks you through the process and the tools you’ll need to help you determine which offline marketing channels are the most effective.

    You may still favor “old school” methods to get the word out about your website. But how do you track this offline marketing?

    If you don’t measure the success of your effort, you’ll never know if it’s giving you a positive return. Fortunately, there are cloud-based solutions to help you with that.

    In this article, we’ll go over some of the ways you can track offline marketing with online tools.

    Set up Google Analytics and Search Console

    Before you can track your offline performance, you first need to set up a couple of online tools. Start with Google Analytics.

    You can get Google Analytics set up by just installing the tracking code on your website. Google is happy to walk you through that process.

    Also, you should set up your site with Google Search Console. That tool will give you important search analytics about your site.

    Fortunately, Google offers a step-by-step tutorial on setting up your website with Search Console as well.

    Once you’ve got your tools set up, it’s time to start looking at how to track offline marketing campaigns.

    Use specific URLs

    One of the best and easiest ways to track the success of your offline campaigns is with custom URLs.

    How can you do that? By creating a separate landing page and URL for each offline channel.

    Then, include the channel-specific URL in marketing literature.

    Let’s look at an example. Suppose you’re running print ads in your town’s newspaper and also hand-distributing fliers at a local trade show.

    You want to track the interest you get from the print ads and the fliers. So, you create two separate landing pages, each with its own unique URL.

    Then, you put one URL on the print ad and another on the fliers. People who visit your website from the print ad will go to one URL, while people who visit it after looking at the flier will go to another URL.

    After a while, check to see how much interest you got from the print ad versus the fliers.

    To do that, fire up Google Analytics. Click on “Behavior” in the left-hand menu and select “Overview” from the drop-down menu that appears.

    Scroll through your most popular URLs. You might have to click “view full report” on the lower right-hand side to see everything.

    Look for the URLs that you included on the print ads and the fliers. Specifically, make a note of the number of visitors for each URL.

    Click on the URL to get additional info about your visitors, such as the average time on page, bounce rate and unique page views (and, of course, conversions).

    If you find that you’re attracting a lot of visitors with one type of promotion, it’s a good idea to invest more heavily in that promotion so that you can get even more visitors.

    A word about custom URLs

    It’s important to take a step back here and look at the types of custom URLs you should use in your marketing literature.

    For starters, avoid really long URLs. That’s because you want your URL to be something that’s easy to memorize just in case the person you’re trying to reach loses the literature.

    Also, long URLs are a pain to type out, even for people who haven’t lost your ad.

    This is an example of a bad URL: http://xyz.com/landingPage/visitHere?from=flier&date=10-22-17

    It’s not only too long, but it’s got too much punctuation, and it’s case-sensitive.

    To get around the problem of using really long URLs, some marketers visit a URL shortener and create a much shorter URL. That’s usually not a good idea, either.

    Why? Because shortened URLs typically aren’t branded.

    For example, head over to the Google URL shortener and plug in the link to this article or some other site you’ve visited recently. Chances are, you’ll get a shortened URL that looks like this: goo.gl/rUdXr5.

    As you can see, your domain name appears nowhere in that link. Also, it’s using mixed case that can easily confuse people who aren’t tech-savvy.

    It’s usually best to use branded URLs. Take a look at these examples:

    http://mycompany.com/flier

    http://mycompany.com/printad

    Both of those URLs include the domain name. Obviously, you’d substitute your own domain name for mycompany.com.

    As the text implies, the first URL is the one you’d include on a flier. The second one is one that you would put on a print ad.

    People who visit the first URL found out about your site from reading the flier. People who visit the second URL found out about it from reading the print ad.

    The good news is that you can add as many different URLs after your domain as you want to. Your hosting provider might have some restrictions, but they’re probably fairly generous.

    Some marketers also like to use “vanity URLs.” Those are separate domain names that you create just for marketing purposes.

    For example, if your domain name is jessesbluejeans.com, you might create a vanity like jbjeans.com. Then, you’d use the vanity in your marketing literature.

    From a technical perspective, you’d redirect the vanity URL to a landing page on your site with a much longer URL. Or you would have a rel=”canonical” in place.

    Keep in mind, though, when you opt for a vanity URL with a separate domain, you’ll have to fork over some cash to keep that domain alive. It’s usually not that expensive, though.

    Watch out for duplication!

    When you use custom URLs with separate landing pages, you risk running afoul of Google’s good graces with duplicate content. That’s because each landing page will have much of the same content.

    In some cases, they’ll have exactly the same content.

    Fortunately, there’s a way around the duplicate content problem. Just tell Google not to index your landing pages.

    How can you do that? With a meta tag.

    It looks like this:

    <meta name="robots" content="noindex">

    Place that anywhere in the <head> section of your landing page and Google won’t index it.

    Use geofilters

    A great way to tell if you have an increase in foot traffic after some type of online promotion is with the use of geofilters.

    If you run a local radio spot and notice a surge in traffic shortly thereafter, that’s a pretty good sign that your ad was effective.

    It’s an especially great idea to use geofilters if you have multiple locations. You can also make sure to mention a custom URL in your radio spot.

    Check non-referral traffic analytics

    Another way to track offline marketing is by looking at your non-referral traffic analytics.

    Head over to Google Analytics and click on “Acquisition” on the left-hand toolbar. Then, select “Overview” from the drop-down menu that appears.

    Select a timeline (in the upper right-hand corner) that begins with the date when you launched your latest offline marketing campaign. Then, take a look at “Direct” hits to your site.

    Those are people who visited your site by typing the URL into a browser. In other words, they didn’t get there by clicking on a link somewhere else.

    It’s likely those people saw the URL in your literature. That’s why they went to your site.

    Use that metric to gauge the success of your recent offline venture.

    Look for changes in brand name search volume

    Next, check out changes in your brand name search volume. For that, you’ll have to use Google Search Console.

    Launch Search Console and select your website property. Then, click on “Search Traffic” in the left-hand sidebar. Select “Search Analytics” from the drop-down menu that appears.

    On the main screen, select a date range (with the “Dates” radio button). Specify a custom date range that begins when you started your offline marketing push.

    Then, click on the “Queries” radio button. Take a look at your top queries for that date range.

    If you see your brand name in the list of queries, that means people actually typed it into the search bar. It’s likely that those people learned about your brand name from your offline marketing literature.

    Take note of the number of times people searched for your brand name. You can even check it on a day-by-day basis and create some comparisons.

    Discount codes

    Another way to track offline sales is with the use of discount codes. That’s an especially great idea if your offline marketing is advertising an online sale.

    Just include a channel-specific discount code with each of your different marketing efforts. Again, though, make sure the discount code is memorable.

    For example, in a radio ad, you might use the discount code “RADIO20.” In hand-distributed fliers, you would use something like “FLIER30.”

    After a while, simply check your e-commerce analytics (with whatever tool you use for that purpose) to see how many people used the various discount codes. That will give you some insight as to which offline marketing channel is the most effective.

    Wrapping it up

    Yes, you can use the wonders of modern technology to track offline marketing. First, though, you have to set up your website with a couple of popular (and free) tools: Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Then, use those tools to determine which channels are giving you the best bang for your buck.

    Big data and how to use it: Our top 10 Analytics & Conversion columns for 2017

    In this roundup of the analytics topics that caught our audience’s interest this year, you’ll find techniques for utilizing sophisticated tools, as well as tips for landing page success and effective ad targeting.

    Much has been written this year about dealing with the influx of data that modern marketers now receive as a matter of course — it’s an issue that many of us are facing these days. You’re expected to take advantage of all this data but not get overwhelmed or spend too much time focusing on the wrong things.

    This year, Marketing Land columnists tried to ease this pain with articles about ways to zero in on the most impactful tactics, such as getting in-depth with Google Analytics and Attribution, improving your landing and product pages, and employing data to target ads on Facebook and elsewhere.

    Following you’ll see our list of the top columns of the year in the Analytics & Conversion category, where you’ll find plenty of actionable info worth employing in the coming year.

    1. Are you leveraging these underutilized Google Analytics features? by David Booth, published on 2/27/2017.
    2. A 9-step guide to increase your landing page conversion rate by Khalid Saleh, published on 2/20/2017.
    3. A Google Attribution (and Attribution 360) readiness checklist by David Booth, published on 10/9/2017.
    4. 9 studies for landing pages that work by Brian Massey, published on 1/26/2017.
    5. UTM tags + Facebook ads = awesome by Brett Middleton, published on 3/22/2017.
    6. Digital analytics industry veteran roundup: What’s in store for 2017 by David Booth, published on 1/3/2017.
    7. How to inject urgency into your product pages by Ben Jacobson, published on 7/3/2017.
    8. If you want to deliver relevant ads, you’ve got to get better at using data by Grace Kaye, published on 5/8/2017.
    9. 4 advanced targeting strategies for B2B marketers by Jessica Cameron, published on 3/24/2017.
    10. Cheap data: You are about to get so much better at marketing by Brian Massey, published on 1/4/2017.

    How Office Depot Used 1:1 Personalization To Send Revenue Through the Roof

    Office Depot currently ranks as the 13th largest online retailer in North America. But, like so many other businesses, they started out as a small local company with a single storefront. What’s the secret to the tremendous growth t…

    Office Depot currently ranks as the 13th largest online retailer in North America. But, like so many other businesses, they started out as a small local company with a single storefront. What’s the secret to the tremendous growth they’ve...

    Why brand marketers often win the battle but lose the war

    What’s the point of CTR if you’re not paying attention to ROI? Columnist David Rodnitzky believes marketers need to look beyond the basic metrics to ensure they’re measuring revenue impact.

    I recently received an email from an ad tech company with exciting news about TrueView — those minimum five-second pre-rolls you see before watching a video on YouTube:

    “We officially launched our self serve AI for DBM TrueView a couple weeks ago . . . All of our clients are currently seeing a 50-70% increase in performance and are able to manage ~25x more campaigns.”

    I’ve struggled to make YouTube work for our clients from an ROI perspective, so “a 50-70% increase in performance” got my attention. I scheduled a call.

    The salesman explained that clients were seeing dramatic reductions in their “Cost Per View,” or CPV, on YouTube after using this technology, and he gave me an example where a client went from a $.08 CPV down to a $.04 CPV — as promised, a 50 percent improvement.

    I then asked the logical question that any performance marketer would pose: How does a CPV reduction result in more ROI for the client? The salesman paused and then said, “Our clients are brands and brand agencies — they only care about getting video views from the right people at the lowest cost possible.”

    So how much ROI would this drive?

    Optimizing cost without measuring the impact on revenue is like an NBA team drafting players based on how tall they are, without regard to whether they have ever played basketball. And yet, this is apparently a normal enough strategy that a technology company is using artificial intelligence to optimize against it.

    Imagine optimizing your Google AdWords campaigns exclusively for click-through rate (CTR) without concern for ROI? It would actually be pretty easy: Just create ads that say “Everything on our site is free! Heck, we’ll give you $100 just for visiting our landing page!”

    Or how about optimizing for cost per click (CPC) only? Here’s an easy solution: Switch your geo-settings from the United States to Angola — I guarantee you that the clicks are a lot cheaper there.

    The problem with traditional branding is that the measurements of success haven’t changed much from the 1980s, when the best gauge of effectiveness was a “lift study” to figure out whether more Americans had positive feelings about your brand after running an advertising campaign.

    Stopping at CPC or CPV is a mistake

    Measurement today has the potential to be a lot more precise. A combination of hold-out tests, incrementality analysis, attribution, cross-device tracking and even point-of-sale (POS) data can be (and should be) used to come up with some sort of correlation between, say, a view of a video and whether that view increased the likelihood of an actual downstream revenue event. Stopping at CPV and declaring victory is insufficient.

    No, this will never be as measurable as a purely digital, direct response campaign, such as AdWords or Facebook. But somewhere between the precise ROI of an SEM campaign and the asinine “Hey, we’re paying less to have people watch our video!” is a suite of metrics that allow savvy advertisers to feel good that their mid- and top-funnel campaigns are directionally driving profit.

    Brand marketers are going to have to figure this out, or they’ll become obsolete. Performance marketers are going to have to figure it out, too, or they will never be able to grow their customers beyond the hand-raisers of Google and the highly targeted browsers of Facebook.