Hustle Culture vs. Chill Work

A few weeks ago, Wil Reynolds and I were on a video call together. I think I joined in a couple minutes after him, and the discussion was already starting:

Someone on the call: “… just hustling”Rand: “Ugh, I hate hustle cultu…

A few weeks ago, Wil Reynolds and I were on a video call together. I think I joined in a couple minutes after him, and the discussion was already starting: Someone on the call: “… just hustling”Rand: “Ugh, I hate hustle culture.” Wil: “Yo, Fish*, can you define hustle?”Rand: “Easy one. Hustling is working hard to work hard. It’s valuing…

How to Build a Successful Marketing Technology Roadmap

Technology is an ever-changing landscape that shows no signs of slowing down — especially when it comes to customer experience and marketing. It can be hard to update your current solutions and balance your organization’s goals with the legacy platform…

Technology is an ever-changing landscape that shows no signs of slowing down — especially when it comes to customer experience and marketing. It can be hard to update your current solutions and balance your organization’s goals with the legacy platforms (even those only three years old) that exist today. So how can you be successful in implementing new technology in combination with your existing technology to meet customer expectations? And how do you do that while still reaching your revenue goals?

The best way to align your internal organization for this technology change is to set a strategy and define a roadmap that will deliver on your key KPIs. Easier said than done, for sure, but with a well-balanced framework and these tips, you can provide pave the path to success on several levels.

1. Decide on a capability framework

To best understand how your current marketing platforms and data are working for or against you, you’ll need to evaluate them based on capability. For example, audience segmentation and management is the capability, while Adobe Audience Manager is the platform. By focusing on the key set of capabilities needed to drive your marketing, it allows you to accurately and objectively evaluate where you are in maturity and gauge what’s missing without any bias toward a particular platform sneaking in.

2. Gain internal alignment on current capabilities and gaps

Once you have evaluated your current stack and understand where you excel and where you fall short, it’s important to align with the greater organization on your findings. This is best communicated by providing a set of implications on why these gaps matter to your organization, for example: “If we continue to work this way, goal X will not be achieved because we are missing Y and Z capabilities.

3. Identify the future for your CX vision

Understanding your gaps is good, however the key piece here is to understand your gaps relative to what you want your future state for customer experience (CX) to look like. For example, if you want one-to-one personalization on your website and today you have zero personalization of any kind, you can assume it will be a bigger endeavor to achieve your future state vision. Obtaining clear alignment from your team and leaders on the desired future state capabilities and vision is crucial to setting your strategy.

4. Articulate clear solutions to achieve future state vision

Define the solutions and initiatives that bridge your gaps. It’s important to avoid doing too much at once. Instead, focus on a handful of recommendations that will match your capabilities to your future-state goals. For each recommended initiative, be sure you can articulate a clear business value that will clearly eliminate your capability disparity and provide a pathway to  your ideal future state.

5. Prioritize your recommendations

Once the core set of initiatives are defined, a scoping exercise can be used to prioritize how they fall on your roadmap. This prioritization exercise will rank each recommendation in terms of feasibility and potential benefit which will help you decide how to sequence them over time. Key factors for prioritization include:

  • Effort – the amount of work to implement the recommendation
  • Impact – the effect the recommendation will have on the organization (i.e., revenue, cost reduction, efficiency, etc.)
  • Dependencies – does one recommendation need to come before another?

6. Gain internal alignment and cheerleaders on the plan

With an established roadmap created, this step is perhaps the most important, as selling the strategy is almost as important as building it. This is the time to get internal stakeholders and executives on board with your strategy. Having internal momentum and cheerleaders will ensure that the organization makes the effort and prioritizes the recommendations from both a monetary and project standpoint.

7. Re-evaluate every 6-12 months

This is constantly evolving world. Technology changes and shifts in the market will hopefully continue to make our marketing easier, but you must be flexible and be ready to shift or rethink your roadmap. The best strategy is not “Set it and forget it,” but rather, “Create and iterate.”

To discover more, check out Merkle’s Martech Session, on 9/14 at 3pm, where I will present with DICK’S Sporting Goods’ (DSG) Jason Williams about the success of this process and how it enabled DSG’s technology transformation roadmap. 

Want to learn even more? Reach out to us here and set up a Martech Assessment.

5 UX Rules Tech Startups Need To Master

It’s a challenge for any startup to get off the ground these days. The competition is tough and you need to consider a number of factors to stand out and make your project cut through the industry noise. And one of the crucial factors that are often ov…

It’s a challenge for any startup to get off the ground these days. The competition is tough and you need to consider a number of factors to stand out and make your project cut through the industry noise. And one of the crucial factors that are often overseen is ever-expanding customer expectation. That means understanding […]

3 Key Questions to Consider When Building a B2B Commerce Program

There’s no one right way to build a B2B ecommerce experience that works for all organizations However, all companies have the same goals: deliver a seamless digital shopping experience with accurate pricing, save your customer service team time, and pr…

There’s no one right way to build a B2B ecommerce experience that works for all organizations However, all companies have the same goals: deliver a seamless digital shopping experience with accurate pricing, save your customer service team time, and provide quality customer data to inform sales and marketing tactics that elevate your business above your competition.

Adobe Commerce, formerly Magento, is the leading commerce platform for B2B companies, according to The Forrester Wave™ and hundreds of leading manufacturers, distributors, and wholesalers. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through several exploratory questions to consider when crafting a B2B commerce program.

What's your pricing strategy?

You might be using a pricing structure that’s grown organically over the years, with customers who have negotiated specific price books with the details spread out over dozens of spreadsheets. Replicating a complicated and scattered set of contracts online in a single place can seem like a daunting task, so if this describes you, you’ll need a platform that can support customer-specific price books. You may not want to show pricing to guests or unauthenticated users for some product lines, and you may need give quantity-specific price breaks for bulk purchases.

One of the very first steps in your digital transformation will be to represent your pricing logic in a consistent set of documents and processes that not only represent the current state, but also the future state. Don’t simply replicate everything you’re doing now if there are problems or unsustainable margin-destructive processes.

Adobe Commerce can support these B2B pricing models natively, and it has full API coverage to integrate with back-office systems if these pricebooks need to be managed further upstream.

Where is your product data?

It’s very common to have fragmented product data that is neither customer-friendly nor SEO-friendly. One reason to build an ecommerce site in the first place is to get your catalog online and crawled and indexed by search engines like Google. You may have a brochure or brand site that works well when someone searches for your company name, but what about your products? When a potential buyer starts the buying process, will they find you, or will they find a competitor?

Once consumers land on your site, they’ll need informative product content beyond just a part number. Rich descriptions, images, technical specifications, and product attribute data such as case pack quantity, material, application, size, and other information that will help them to know they are buying the right products for their business.

One of the most important things you must do to get your customers buying online is to establish trust. Not only trust in your organization and your ability to deliver solid customer service, but trust in the information they use to identify the correct product for their plant, store, or customer. If you invest in a transactional ecommerce site, it will not be successful if customers are still picking up the phone to place their order, or worse, going to a competitor.

Adobe Commerce has a highly flexible model for managing your product data - including robust import tools, infinite variations and attributes, and six different product types. Many platforms limit the amount of customization you can have in your product catalog, but Adobe Commerce is famous for its freedom.

How do your customer wants to buy from you?

This can be a tricky conversation for many B2B sales teams. Traditional offline sales teams often view ecommerce as an expensive distraction from the tried and true methods they’ve employed for decades. If your sales reps are primarily order-takers, it’s easy to see why they might feel threatened by a site that allows their customers to self-serve. Your ecommerce site should empower your sales team, not replace them. Would your reps like to have the time to nurture their existing relationships, cross-sell and up-sell, and spend more time finding new opportunities?

More importantly, would your customers like to be able to request a quote, build re-order lists for different locations and seasons, and instantly re-order from their history? Would your customers like the ability to manage buyers on their team, view invoice history, and manage payment methods on their schedule, without waiting for a rep to answer the phone?

Your customers are as busy as you are, and they need the freedom to manage their account and orders 24-7, without being dependent on another person to answer the line. They might want to place orders from their phones in the field, or on their tablet while onsite in a plant. B2B buyers are looking for convenience above all else, because ordering from you is part of their job and they have limited time to do their jobs, just like you. Adobe Commerce’s B2B suite includes support for all of the experiences outlined above, and many others.

Merkle has an award-winning B2B marketing and strategy team, with a proven track record of building Adobe Commerce sites for our clients. Contact us to learn more, and we’d love to talk more about pricing, product data, and purchasing.

Micro Conversions Digital Marketers Should Consider Tracking

Find out which micro conversions your eCommerce business should be tracking and how they can inform your holistic digital marketing strategy.

In the digital marketing world, micro conversions are like the gas for your car. Most of the time, you’re not worried about how it all works, just as long as it gets you to where you need to be, whether that’s your final destination or a customer’s final purchase.

But, if you want to maximize your car’s performance — or make sure your customers actually convert — you have to pay attention to what gets them there in the first place.

As an old Chinese text says, a journey of a thousand steps begins with the first. By tracking your customers’ journeys in increments of micro conversions, you’re more likely to ensure a satisfying arrival. 

In this blog, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about micro conversions in the eCommerce space, including:

  • What micro conversions are and why they’re important 
  • Which micro conversions your online business needs to track
  • And how micro conversions should be a part of your holistic digital marketing strategy

Why Micro Conversions Are Important to eCommerce Success

Conversions in general are actions you want users to take on your website. They can be categorized as macro (a primary goal or conversion) and micro (steps that lead to achieving the primary conversion). For eCommerce businesses, a macro conversion is typically a customer purchase.

Digital marketers tend to focus on conversion rate, as well they should. The higher the conversion rate (purchases divided by total site users), the more revenue or leads you generate. 

Conversion rate is an important metric, but it’s not the whole story. If you don’t also look at your micro conversions, you’re missing out on highly useful data that can improve your macro conversions (a.k.a. purchases). 

Micro conversions register intent, engagement, or interest by your customers. They help online retailers understand the customer journey across website visits, web browsers, devices, and geographies. When you map out these journeys, you get insights into what’s engaging your website visitors, what isn’t, and where you are losing potential customers. 

Most importantly? Micro conversions can help you increase overall conversion rates. Just check out our case study, where we helped one client improve conversion rates by 37% using micro conversion data.

Examples of Micro Conversions

Your business’s micro conversions may be unique, but there are a few common data points for eCommerce retailers, regardless of vertical. Typically, they’re secondary actions like:

  • Providing an email address for newsletter signups
  • Downloading a product brochure
  • Viewing a product page
  • Revisiting a product page a certain number of times
  • Following a company on social media  
  • Watching a video 
  • Adding an RSS subscription feed

Let’s walk through perhaps the most popular micro conversion on a website: adding an item to a shopping cart. For shoppers, it’s the very next-to-last step to clicking the “confirm order” button and completing the sale. And online businesses know how to take advantage of it.

That’s why, when you leave something in your online shopping cart, you’re bound to get an email (assuming you’ve provided one, which is another micro conversion!) nicely suggesting that the sale is expiring at midnight, the product is low in stock, or other copy to prompt you to return and make the purchase.  

When businesses track the instances of customers abandoning shopping carts, those retailers gain insights into why they aren’t purchasing and which products are most often left in carts. Using this data, digital marketers can then trigger targeting to complete the customer journey from the micro conversion to the macro conversion.

In short: The more you can identify users at each micro conversion, the better picture you have of their customer journey — which helps you keep them engaged to your desired end goal (the macro conversion of final purchase).

How Micro Conversions Shape Your Marketing Strategy

Today’s customers are taking longer and longer buying journeys. Fortunately, micro conversions allow you to evaluate their thought processes and small steps of action the whole time — rather than forcing you to wait for the checkout and guessing how they got there.

Because they’re so integral in understanding the customer journey, micro conversions should play a key role in shaping your overall digital marketing campaigns. 

But, before you incorporate micro conversions into your strategy, you need to decide which are most valuable to your conversion funnel. Put on your thinking (and research) caps: 

  • Where are your customers most vulnerable to persuasion? 
  • Which micro conversions indicate the highest probability of a successful purchase? 
  • Which other data points could be useful to your customer knowledge?

Only then can you consider how these micro conversions can influence your paid social media, PPC, SEO, and conversion rate optimization (CRO) efforts.

Let’s keep running with the example from above. Say there’s a high rate of customers leaving items in the shopping cart on your eCommerce website. Your strategy should address this with exit pop-ups and follow-up email newsletters, all geared toward convincing that shopper to revisit the checkout page and complete their purchase, for whatever reason your data supports.

On a more general note, you can use micro conversions in digital marketing to:

  • Identify (and test) the copy and creative you serve to shoppers
  • Deepen your target customer research and information
  • Retarget potential customers across advertising platforms
  • And more

Additionally, micro conversions will be crucial as third-party cookies disappear and first-party data becomes scarce. By tracking your micro conversions now, you can gather similar customer insights that you would from cookies — and put yourself ahead of your competition.

How (and Why) to Track Micro Conversions in Google Analytics

Google Analytics is one of the most popular tools to track conversions, including micro conversions. (For more info, check out this guide to tracking micro conversions in Google Analytics.) Other options include Hubspot, Matomo, and Click. 

Here at Inflow, we’re partial to the data found in micro conversions in Google Ads. We frequently use this data to inform our eCommerce PPC campaigns — and you can, too. In fact, if you’re using Google Ads right now, you’re already set up to track your brand’s micro conversions. 

When you run a campaign in Google Ads, every click on an ad (and the customer journey from then onward) automatically imports into Google Analytics. So, if a customer clicks on your ad, browses certain pages on your eCommerce site, and then “favorites” a few products before ending their session, Google Analytics will tell you.

By analyzing micro conversions in this customer journey, you’ll better understand how your ads are performing, how users are engaging with your site, and which keywords do (or do not) attract engagement. You can also create retargeting lists based on specific page views, number of pages viewed, or other micro conversions as defined in Google Analytics. 

Get started with Google’s tutorial for how to track micro conversions in Google Ads below:

Start Tracking Your Website’s Micro Conversions Now

If you want to know your customers well enough to accelerate their purchase rates, micro conversions are the solution. Evaluating these buying process milestones will be instrumental in getting them across the finish line, whatever it may be.

But micro conversions in digital marketing aren’t always obvious — or easy. If you need some extra help diving into your Google Ads micro conversions or setting up the right strategy for your eCommerce conversion goals, our team is always happy to help.

Request a free proposal anytime to get started, or check out our other eCommerce Google Ads resources below:

Is A Subscription Service Right For Your Brand?

The subscription revolution is in full swing. The ease of online purchasing and ordering, combined with inability to leave the house or interact with people last year, gave way to a huge opportunity that marketers had never seen before. Budgeting app T…

The subscription revolution is in full swing. The ease of online purchasing and ordering, combined with inability to leave the house or interact with people last year, gave way to a huge opportunity that marketers had never seen before. Budgeting app Trubill coined the phrase “power subscribers” to describe those with 10 or more subscriptions and found that its users participate on 17 subscription services on average.

Build vs. Buy: Which is Right for Your Business?

Product leaders often believe it’s cheaper to buy software than build it. But that’s not always the case. You don’t need a large development team or outside capital to build your own software from scratch.  Whether you decide to build or buy, the technology you adopt must align with your business goals. In this post, […]

The post Build vs. Buy: Which is Right for Your Business? appeared first on CXL.

Product leaders often believe it’s cheaper to buy software than build it. But that’s not always the case. You don’t need a large development team or outside capital to build your own software from scratch. 

Whether you decide to build or buy, the technology you adopt must align with your business goals.

In this post, we’re sharing a build vs. buy framework to help you consider the opportunity costs and make an informed decision on whether to buy software off the shelf or build a custom solution.

How to decide when to build versus buy: A decision framework

Gartner forecasts enterprise software spending will total almost $572 billion worldwide by 2022. Companies are investing in enterprise software not just as a platform to run their business on, but the engine that moves it forward.

Whatever option you choose, it must bring real business value. Typically, this value falls into one of three categories:

  1. Differentiation: The features you’re looking to build or acquire will help you stand out among your competitors. Nobody else is offering it, but your customer research has identified a need among your existing users.
  2. Market maturity: Conversely, competitors are investing in a new featureset and thus, they’ve become table stakes. You need to build or buy these features to keep up.
  3. Market share: You may already be a category leader, and growth requires you to expand into new verticals.

Business requirements trump features. Building or buying software that doesn’t align with your business goals or meaningfully help you stand out can be wasteful.

Here are the key factors you’ll need to consider.

The problem your new software or technology will solve

Investing in acquiring or building new software can help you solve a specific problem; one you’re suffering from internally or a pain-point your customers are looking to overcome.

A common barrier to investing in specific solutions often comes from a lack of core competencies. The skills, technology, or experience to build in-house are lacking.

Therefore, acquiring existing software can provide you with a cookie-cutter solution. It can be less costly and faster to implement a “pre-made” solution.

If nobody else has solved your problem, finding existing solutions may be tricky. This is especially true if you’ve found a better way of solving it than existing products in the market.

The scope of the project

To build a new product or featureset, you must fully understand the scope of the project, resources required, and potential costs before enlisting in-house developers.

Poor project planning can lead to development cycles running over budget or over time. Worse, you may end up with a sub-par product because you simply didn’t have the resources to build what you needed.

To avoid these pitfalls, ensure your project scope includes the following:

  1. Clearly defined documentation: Building out user stories and acceptance criteria will help your team understand the value your solution must deliver to users.
  2. Communication and accountability: Avoid misinterpreting requirements by having regular all-hands meetings. Make sure everybody understands the information that is being communicated. Centralize your communication using project and task management tools.
  3. Stakeholder engagement: Keep senior decision makers and the boardroom informed and involved during the entire project cycle. Seeking their feedback at each milestone will ensure the project keeps on track.

In-house teams need the right project management systems and processes to ensure the build stays on schedule and within budget.

Resources, costs, and time needed to complete

The costs associated with building or buying software go deeper than resources and price tags. Proprietary software will have more cost considerations, but even existing software has customizable and ala carte options that add up fast.

Say you decide to build software in-house. How many people will be contributing? And for how long? New development projects will shift resources from other initiatives.

No-code/low-code solutions can reduce costs and development cycles, and are forecast to grow to 23% by the end of 2021. But no-code software can come with the added cost of technical debt.

Technical debt happens from unexpected bugs and additional development work that results from using short-term solutions (like templates or open-source code). When going the no-code/low-code route, make sure you account for these risks. Bugs can be difficult to identify unless properly QA tested.

Integrations

When building or acquiring new technology, integrations must go deeper than “connecting with Zapier.” 

Will your new product need to integrate with your existing product? If there’s an issue integrating the software, who will fix it?

Get clear on the integration plan in your project scope and documentation. If you’re building new technology, get clear on how it will work with your existing software (if it needs to). When buying, evaluate the development languages your acquisition is built on to understand how complex the integration process will be.

Ongoing support once the project is wrapped

Product development and maintenance are important, but you’ll also need customer support when you launch your new product, featureset, or conduct a handover.

58% of American consumers will switch to a competitor due to a bad customer experience. If your customers can’t access the support they need, it won’t matter how impressive your solution is.

Do this by developing training for your customer success teams. Launching to a small cohort of users allows you to identify recurring issues or questions. Use these to guide your customer support processes.

When you can expect to see a positive ROI

Time-to-value also has a direct impact on ROI. Will the software be a part of your business’s core offering? Can you realistically expect the ROI to lead to compound growth?

Shifting requirements is a common hurdle to reducing time-to-value. Development teams must complete the project in a reasonable time frame while making sure the end product solves the problem it set out to.

The faster you can deliver a product and drive value (to the business and customers alike), the stronger your upper hand against the competition will be.

Other associated risks

Risks vary based on whether you develop or purchase software. Consider:

  • What are the security risks?
  • Who is responsible for issues or bugs?
  • What happens if the project goes over budget?
  • How likely is it that the software development will be delayed?
  • What are the risks of working with a particular vendor or platform?

These should all be accounted for in your project scope and development plan.

When to build custom software in-house 

Building custom software makes sense if the problem is difficult to solve, complex, or accessible via your product and development team’s capabilities.

The software is tied to your company’s core competencies 

Look at your most valuable services or core competencies when deciding what software to build.

If your company specializes in email marketing software, building an email deliverability tool in-house would align with your core company competency.

Custom-built accounting software would not.

Specialized competencies can lead to a “snowflake” scenario. The problem you’re looking to solve is so aligned with your software or service that retrofitting an existing software to meet your needs would be too expensive or impractical.

For example, Penske started offering logistics solutions back in the 1980s. Today, they continue to implement proprietary technology and recently launched a truck rental app

Screenshot of Penske's mobile app (acquired)

A truck rental app is a competitive advantage for Penske:

  • It simplifies the logistics for customers planning a move
  • It drives more awareness for Penske’s locations
  • I tprovides a friction-less way to make reservations

You need full control

If your operational processes or software need drastic changes, waiting on a third party can negatively impact time-to-value. Owning the development process gives you complete control over the product roadmap, data, and ongoing support.

For example, WordPress development agency Aktura created a custom client portal, called Content Snare, after feeling frustrated with existing solutions on the market. Their team was spending hours on repetitive administrative and data-entry tasks to collect necessary onboarding documents from clients.

This solution streamlined the process for onboarding new clients and led to higher customer retention rates. Having full control over the product roadmap, they were able to spin off, rebrand, and sell their software to other agencies and web development shops.

Most out-of-the-box software or low-code platforms may struggle to fully integrate with your existing solutions. Developing your own solution will ensure it has full connectivity.

You have excellent project management and support systems in place

Reliable project management systems are critical for successful development cycles. They’ll help you keep your projects on budget and on time, ensuring you stay the course and solve the problem you set out to when starting this journey.

Take into account potential issues like gold plating and scope creep that could delay the process. Ensure enough resources are dedicated to the teams in charge of bringing your software to life.

You can take advantage of economies of scale

The benefits of your software should compound over time. 

For instance, you might build a tool for sales reps that reduces the time it takes to conduct high-impact activities. The more they use your tools, the more deals they’ll close in less time.

If software decreases in value as it ages, even with proper maintenance, it might make sense to pivot to a cheaper, pre-made solution that can fill a temporary need instead.

This starts by building out a new solution. As the software becomes fully built, you’ll need to create a migration plan to transition all users and data onto the new platform with little interruption.

You have outgrown your existing software

This isn’t uncommon for growing businesses. What once worked to scale your business may soon reach a ceiling as your product and growth goals become more aggressive.

Uber moved away from Greenhouse and Zendesk to build their own user support platform. While they shared positive case studies with both companies, eventually they needed a more cost-effective solution that aligned with how users interact with their platform.

When to “buy” and adapt existing software 

If the problem is well defined, common in your industry, and software can solve 70% of it, then you should consider buying, acquiring, and adapting existing software.

Market expansion: The problem you’re solving is outside core competencies

Many companies build software that doesn’t align with their core competencies and waste their investment as a result.

There’s no point in making a large investment to create software that already exists or you won’t fully utilize. If you’re trying to solve a common problem that isn’t specific to your company, it’s likely that the right commercial software is out there waiting for you.

This approach works well if you’re looking to capture existing market share. For example, if you’re a category leader in the CRM space and looking to step into marketing automation, then it’d make sense to acquire an email marketing platform to expand your capabilities.

You have strict time, budget, or internal resources constraints

Predicting when it’s time to move on can be easy as software slowly becomes obsolete. However, surprises happen, and a change may be forced on your due to market conditions or explosive growth.

For instance, the pandemic changed the software needs of companies across the world. You don’t always have the luxury of time. Even with the procurement process, you can still deploy existing software faster than a custom build.

Adobe Experience Platform has witnessed competing companies investing up to three years in developing software and features from their product suite. Many of these companies were still not able to meet the needs of the market.

Software requirements and consumer demands shift fast. Your software must keep pace as it’s being built. Developers must adapt as the project progresses or risk launching an already outdated product.

You have internal resource constraints

You may not have the time, funds, or staff needed to build software from scratch. After the software is built, you’ll still need to dedicate resources to maintaining and supporting the software.

For many companies, this isn’t feasible. Resources that were dedicated to the initial project need to move on to other initiatives. And if the support workload exceeds the capacity of your existing customer success teams, you’ll struggle to keep up with the influx of tickets.

To overcome this hurdle, you’ll need both the technological resources of the software you’re buying and the people that drive its success.

When to acquire a company outright  

There’s a happy medium between using existing software and building a solution from scratch. 

Here’s how to decide if acquiring a software or SaaS company is right for you.

You share core competencies

Take your time to research the company you plan to acquire. Do their core competencies align with yours? If not, you’ll run into the same issues when buying and retrofitting existing software. 

Say you are a leading email marketing software. Acquiring an up-and-coming competitor, who is growing exponentially, is a smart move. 

This competitor has an overlapping audience. Acquiring them as a startup allows your company to capture market share at an attractive price.

You see an existing differentiation 

The company’s software could have significant market share or product differentiation that would be difficult to replicate.

If acquiring the company is cheaper than building the capabilities from scratch, it’s worth pursuing. They’ve already invested the time and resources in developing the solution so you don’t have to.

This is especially true if the company has proprietary technology. If there’s a patent for a cutting-edge AI development, replicating their approach in your solution violates their IP. The workaround? Buy them.

You can tap into network effects or economies of scale

In 2017, Target acquired Shipt, a grocery delivery service. In 2020, it was announced they’ll acquire Deliv:

Screenshot of Shipt delivery (acquired by Target)

These acquisitions gave them new technologies, a fresh user base, and the transportation logistics that made them a success.

This proved to be a major competitive advantage in 2020 with the first and second-order effects from the pandemic.  

Owning the software outright and having an in-house team at Target manage it gives them complete control over the product roadmap, data, and support.

You have the potential to acquire key talent and customers

By acquiring a business, you also acquire their employees. It’s a strategic way to hire specific talent or leadership capabilities your company is actively seeking.

For instance, if you want to build out your team’s software developing capabilities, acquiring a company founded by a niche, senior software engineer can help you do that. 

Just as acquiring talent, buying a business gives you their entire customer and user base. In this way, company acquisitions foster growth in all areas.

If you are ranked second in a competitive market, acquiring the third or fourth player can help you grow your customer base and create leverage to become a category leader.

Conclusion

Deciding whether to build or buy comes down to competencies, capabilities, and growth goals. If you have the internal chops to build a featureset that will give you a competitive advantage, then it makes sense to do so.

Aggressive growth goals require a different approach. Here, it can be worthwhile to buy technology or an entire company outright. Use this guide as a checklist to make the right strategic decision.

The post Build vs. Buy: Which is Right for Your Business? appeared first on CXL.

7 eCommerce Homepage Best Practices to Boost User Experience On Your Website

User experience (UX) is a gauge of how people feel when they interact and engage with your brand through your website, products, and customer support. It’s one of the most critical aspects of eCommerce operations because it can significantly influence the buying decisions of your online customers. Their decisions and actions as they navigate through…

User experience (UX) is a gauge of how people feel when they interact and engage with your brand through your website, products, and customer support. It’s one of the most critical aspects of eCommerce operations because it can significantly influence the buying decisions of your online customers. Their decisions and actions as they navigate through your website can affect your conversion rates, and ultimately, your bottom line.

As an eCommerce store owner, you need to make sure your store’s website user experience is at its peak — and one place we see user experience being neglected the most in eCommerce? The homepage.

Ecommerce brands can put in the work to optimize product pages, category pages, and even checkout processes. But if your homepage is one of the first touchpoints your customer has with your brand, it makes sense to optimize your homepage for the best customer experience that drives more sales.

And how important customer experience has become indeed. We’re also not only referring to the new shopping habits of consumers as we enter a post-pandemic world — where almost 40% of surveyed participants claim that in the future they prefer to do more shopping online but only visiting sites that deliver great experiences.

But we also mean even Google is doubling down on the importance of user experience and how it affects your overall rankings on search. Its newest 2021 update urges users to consider core web vitals and a host of other factors that elevate a user’s experience on your site.

To help you create a better user experience for your site visitors, here are 7 eCommerce homepage best practices that you might want to implement in your business.

1. Design your website for mobile-first

With 7.1 billion mobile users worldwide, more and more people are doing online transactions using their smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. Mobile users are not only searching online, but also performing various mobile eCommerce transactions like shopping, paying bills, and booking tickets. 

Forecast Number Of Mobile Users Worldwide From 2020 To 2025 In Billions
Forecast number of mobile users worldwide from 2020 to 2025 in billions
Image source: Statista

With the rise of mobile eCommerce, it has become necessary for eCommerce websites to follow a mobile-first approach in web development.

A mobile-first approach means designing a website for smaller screens first and then working up towards larger screens. Part of the approach is to have a responsive design, which enables on-site elements to automatically adjust and rearrange themselves to fit the screens of different devices. 

With this approach, the content of the website is displayed in a way that’s comfortable for the users. It removes the need to perform operations like zooming, panning, resizing, or scrolling when users browse through the website. It contributes to the website user experience positively.

According to Alex Williams of Hosting Data, “A responsive site is of prime importance as people nowadays are mostly doing their shopping on their mobile devices. It won’t be surprising if one day we realize that we do most or all of our shopping using our phones in the future. So future-proof your eCommerce store as early as now and check if everything operates right on mobile.”

2. Optimize your homepage loading speed

Page loading speed refers to how quickly your content loads when a user visits a specific page of your website. It’s one of the factors that determine how long a site visitor stays on your website. A slow loading time will turn most people off and go somewhere else. 

But how fast should the homepage loading speed be? It turns out, site users will not wait for more than 3 seconds for an eCommerce page to load. A slow loading time is a contributing factor to page abandonment and kills conversions.

According to research done by Google, as page load time goes from 1 to 6 seconds, the probability of the user abandoning the site (bounce) increases 106%. It’s safe to say, a slow homepage loading speed is a dealbreaker for many site visitors.

Googles Research Shows Us Why Optimizing Your Page Load Time Is Crucial In This Day And Age
Google’s research shows us why optimizing your page load time is crucial in this day and age.
Image source: Think with Google

If the user experience takes a hit, it can have a negative effect on sales for an eCommerce site. The opportunity to engage site visitors and make sales vanishes when they abandon the site.

To speed up your homepage, here are some best practices you may want to keep in mind and implement right away:

  • Compress your images. Large image files will significantly slow down your page, so use compression tools like Smush or Website Planet to squash out excess data that could be bloating up images.
  • Minify your HTML. Another element of your homepage and eCommerce store in general that can tend to slow down your loading speed is your HTML. Minification is the process of optimizing your site’s code, like deleting unnecessary or redundant code or shortening code when possible.
  • Enable browser caching. When you enable caching, any resources and elements that load on your site are “remembered.” What this then does is allows your homepage to load faster since elements like logos and photos don’t need to reload every single time.

3. Simplify search and navigation

A complex website design makes it difficult for users to navigate your site. Unnecessary clicks and extra steps to find the relevant content will negatively impact their user experience. If they don’t find what they are looking for right away, they will give up and move on.

When designing an eCommerce homepage, you should take into account users’ expectations and what they find most useful. Easy navigation enables them to find things more quickly and efficiently within 3 clicks.

A Strategically Placed Search Bar Can Increase User Experience
A strategically placed search bar can increase user experience when customers are given the option to search and navigate your site with more ease.
Image source: WISETR

The design elements must be logical and intuitive, from the placement of the search box to the location of the menu and toolbars. The structure should give users the ability to navigate between pages effortlessly. This contributes to a great user experience and ensures that they stay engaged while navigating through your site.

Because of this, consider adding a search bar at the top of your homepage menu so that users can easily navigate to different products, categories, promos, and even news and blog posts on your site.

For best results, conduct an A/B test for your search bar. Experiment with different search bar positions and designs to see which one brings higher conversions. 

For instance, in this A/B test conducted by Best Choice Products for the search and navigation bar on their eCommerce store, their results found that a bigger search bar on mobile, versus a simple magnifying glass icon, gave them a boost in conversions.

We can infer that this is because users may not see the search bar right away when it’s only an icon on their phones. So by stretching out and revealing the actual bar where they can tap and type their query, it can help facilitate searches through their eCommerce store.

Of course, for your own store, it’s best to base this on your customers’ preferences, so this is where the A/B test comes in handy: you’ll know what’s the best way to simplify search and navigation with actual user data.

4. Maximize the space above-the-fold

Above-the-fold in website design refers to the section on a web page that is visible to the user without scrolling. This concept dates back centuries ago, to the beginnings of the printing press. 

Since newspapers are printed on large sheets of paper, they have to be folded, with only the top half of the paper visible when they are displayed on the newsstands. The newspaper industry found a way to use it to advantage by putting attention-grabbing headlines, sensational stories, and eye-catching imagery above the fold.

In the case of websites, the fold pertains to the scrollbar. So, any content that is not immediately visible and requires users to scroll down is considered below the fold. 

A good example is this page of FreshBooks. All the relevant information, links, and call-to-action are displayed above the fold. This makes it easier for leads and customers to know what to do next when they land on a page using their mobile phones.

Above The Fold In Mobile
Mobile doesn’t give you much room above the fold. Take FreshBook’s example and create something straightforward and simple.
Image source: FreshBooks

Applying the above-the-fold concept to websites is not as simple as the newspaper version because not all screens are the same. Different devices have different screen sizes and resolutions, so it’s quite tricky to determine where the fold line is. 

There are no hard and fast rules but a good starting point is to know how the website’s dimensions appear to the user, taking into account the different screen sizes of devices. To maximize the space above the fold, put the most relevant, the most engaging, and the most important content that users expect to find once they land on your homepage.

Don’t be afraid to get creative and think out of the box. By implementing a split URL test, you can even see how an entire redesign of your homepage might help you boost your conversions and make more sales from your store.

This way, you can really make big changes in your above-the-fold elements to see which one performs best. Experiment with different copy, images, or call to action to see which homepage converts the most over a period of time.

5. Highlight your most popular products

It might seem counter-intuitive to promote products that are already popular because logic dictates that you should be making efforts to draw customers’ attention to products that are not selling well. But there’s a method to this madness.

Popular products already have a lot of buyers. In that sense, these products fulfill a need or solve a problem. People tend to be attracted to products that are popular because their popularity is perceived as a testimonial of sorts to the quality and benefits of the products. 

By highlighting popular products on your eCommerce homepage, you are not only attracting potential buyers to purchase the popular products, but you are also creating an opportunity for them to buy other items from your product catalogue.

Highlighting Popular Products
Casper, on their homepage, highlights the bestsellers and classic items that people might want to see upon their visits to their site.
Image source: Casper

By doing this, you also can provide a better user experience for return customers. Your loyal buyers might be looking to repurchase their favorites. By making it ridiculously easy to spot then purchase their popular picks right from your homepage, you can encourage faster checkout every time.

6. Streamline your checkout process

Getting customers to visit your site is just the first step in their purchase journey. Even if they add items to the online shopping cart, it does not guarantee that they will push through and complete the transaction. 

According to the Baymard Institute, 69.8%of customers who add items to their cart will leave and not proceed to the checkout process. While there are several reasons for cart abandonment, one that deters people from completing a purchase is a long and complicated checkout process.

Creating a streamlined and customer-friendly checkout process has a positive impact on user experience and helps increase conversion rate. You must establish a clear route to the final purchase so that they can go through the process smoothly without distractions such as excessive upselling.

If you bombard customers with too much information and options, they are likely to get confused and abandon the cart out of frustration. You must remove unnecessary steps required to complete a purchase. Fewer clicks mean faster checkouts. Some platforms make it possible to have a two-step checkout process for eCommerce stores. Amazon has a 1-click checkout option which makes purchasing extremely fast.

It’s also important to present a clear order summary with a breakdown of quantity and cost so they know what they are buying. You must also provide an option to remove items and make it easy to go back and continue shopping.

The streamlined checkout process must be complemented by an easy payment process. This requires carrying out research on the payment preferences of your target audience so that you can integrate the payment gateways into your site.


7. Make it easy for your customers to come back

Every business wants to acquire new customers and get repeat sales from returning customers. High-quality products and excellent customer service usually do the trick. But a few strategies can make it easy for your customers to stick around. 

Repeat customers help generate a steady stream of income for your eCommerce business, so it’s important to give them a reason to shop again. Incentives like loyalty programs, discounts, free shipping, and special offers can all be integrated into your eCommerce site so that they will be encouraged to visit more often. 

But more than the incentives, it’s the constant improvements on your site that will make customers come back. If you make shopping more convenient for them, they are likely to return, even with just the occasional email reminder.

Customers want to have an easy way to contact you if they have questions or concerns. You can make your customer service team available through a live chat integrated into the site itself. This also improves your interaction with them and you can get valuable feedback which you can use to further improve your service.

Online purchases require customers to have some level of trust in your eCommerce site. They want assurance that their data is safe when they transact business through your online platform. You must give that assurance for their peace of mind.

The ability to track their orders and shipments is a great way to get customers to come back to your site. If they are on the site, there’s always a chance that a product or an offer will get their attention, which is another opportunity to make a sale. More so, if they get personalized recommendations and tailored content that will encourage them to engage with your brand.

Adding A Recommended Section At The Point Of Purchase
Adding a Recommended section at the point of purchase can be a good boost for your average order value.
Image source: Nosto

Another way to help customers keep coming back to your site is through the use of push notifications. Ecommerce stores and websites have increasingly been making use of this relatively new feature to get their customers’ attention and have them return to their site even if the browser is not currently opened.

Set up a push notification opt-in on your homepage, so when a visitor subscribes, they’ll get notified for any new promotions, offers, or flash deals your store might want to share. And because push notifications get much higher click-through rates than email, you can increase conversions without worrying that customers aren’t receiving your notifications.

Key takeaways

When customers reach your eCommerce homepage, they expect to find relevant information about the product they wish to buy and want a quick and hassle-free online transaction. Your job is to meet and exceed customer expectations by providing them with a positive user experience at every step of their purchase journey. 

Following these seven eCommerce homepage best practices makes it easy for visitors to interact and engage with your brand and it increases the likelihood of completing a purchase. When your customers have an enjoyable shopping experience, they are likely to return and repeat the process all over again.

Developing a Social Media Marketing Strategy that Builds Loyalty and Awareness

Building loyalty and awareness are top priorities for any social media marketer. And for good reason. The greater your visibility, the more your brand is in front of potential followers.  By turning those fans into customers, you can create long-term advocates that spend more money and recommend you to others.  In the past, it was […]

The post Developing a Social Media Marketing Strategy that Builds Loyalty and Awareness appeared first on CXL.

Building loyalty and awareness are top priorities for any social media marketer. And for good reason. The greater your visibility, the more your brand is in front of potential followers. 

By turning those fans into customers, you can create long-term advocates that spend more money and recommend you to others. 

In the past, it was possible to achieve these goals through promotion and advertising. However, the rules of engagement are changing. Today’s social media users are more discerning about where they place their trust. Brands have to work harder and smarter to earn it.

In this article, we’ll look at how the social media landscape has evolved, and what you can do to grow your presence and create a community of loyal fans.

What does a good social media strategy look like?

Recent years have changed social media for better and worse. On the one hand, it’s played a critical role in bringing people together during a pandemic that forced us apart. It’s also provided a platform to speak on areas such as climate action and racial and gender equality. 

On the other, it’s been damaged by concerns over privacy (see The Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal) and fake news.

More people than ever are using social sites, which is good news for social media marketers. But more of these people are using it to interact with friends and family. What’s more, fewer people trust what they see and hear in their feeds.

So, how do you build awareness in a landscape favored for person-to-person interaction? And how do you build loyalty when people are more skeptical?

With a social media content strategy rooted in relationships and communication. 

As Neal Schaffer points out:

“…Companies still look at social media as a promotional and advertising channel rather than as a grand arena to collaborate with social media users, primarily customers and influencers, and work them through a relationship funnel to incite word of mouth marketing for your brand in social media.”

[via Smart Insights]

Edelman’s Trust Barometer study shows that trust is second only to price in becoming a loyal customer. And 70% of people say trusting a brand is more important today than in the past.

To earn that trust, word-of-mouth marketing leads the way.

Communication builds lasting relationships. You have to make social media a two-way street. Neal again:

“The social media algorithms will always favor people. It’s time to wake up to this fact and be the first in your industry to craft a radically different people-first social media strategy that is driven by the voice of your employees, customers, and influencers.”

[via Smart Insights]

More than ever, your strategy needs to embrace and engage people who have an affinity with your brand. They will help generate awareness and inspire trust.

Social selling app Depop does this by combining user-generated content with influencer Q&As.

“A lot of our content on Instagram is just reposting the coolest shit that is on Depop for people to see.

At the core, that’s our strategy. And then we add a little bit of influencer marketing, we have paid marketing on top of that, and everything is interlinked.”

Yoann Pavy, Head of Digital Marketing, Depop [via MarketingWeek]

Microsoft Surface curates content by sharing its users’ art and testimonials and responding to their posts.

Both of these brands involve their target audience. They actively engage with them and create content that’s for and by them.

This helps to break down the barrier between company and consumer. It shows the audience that their brands are accessible, interested in them, and—through customers, influencers, and thought leaders’ validation—trustworthy. 

Regardless of which way social media networks move the goalposts, if you base your marketing strategy on relationships and communication, you’re well-positioned to get noticed and grow a loyal following.

Build a new social media marketing strategy from what you already have

Social media goals should always align with your overall business objectives. Building awareness as a goal is tied with growing the brand.

On the other hand, loyalty falls under engagement and consumer perception (how customers think and feel about your brand). Because of this, it spans two objectives: 

  1. Turning customers into advocates
  2. Improving customer retention

Combining these goals and objectives will give you meaningful metrics to track.

Objective GoalMetrics
Grow the businessIncrease awareness and perceived valueFollowers, fans, shares, retweets, etc.
Turn customers into advocatesIncrease engagementComments, mentions, likes, messages, etc.
Improve retentionImprove consumer perceptionSentiment, testimonials, reviews, customer support and service response time, etc. 

Before you formulate a new plan to meet these goals, look at your existing social presence.

What are you currently doing that’s helping to build loyalty and awareness? 

Start by examining existing accounts, official and unofficial, those you’re active on, and those that have fallen by the wayside. 

Put them into a spreadsheet to keep them organized and consider:

  • Why are we on this social media platform?
  • Does it fit in with our social media mission statement?
  • Is our audience demographic using it?

If an account isn’t contributing to your goals or reaching your target demographic, consider dropping it. This will help free up resources for more profitable accounts. 

Next, check that all social media profiles are consistent.

Are logos identical, branding the same, and descriptions and URLs present and correct? Brand consistency can increase revenue by 33%, as it connotes familiarity and builds trust. Take into account your brand messaging strategy to ensure you deploy customer-centric content that resonates.  

Each profile should also be consistent with the social network. For example, Mailchimp’s avatars are the same across its social accounts. However, its tone of voice differs slightly.

On Twitter, it’s laid back to suit the B2C, creative audience segment. 

screenshot mailchimp on twitter

“Helping you build your thing is our thing.”

On LinkedIn, their tone is geared more towards a professional audience. 

screenshot mailchimp on linkedin

“We’re on a mission to help entrepreneurs grow with our smart, all-in-one marketing and commerce platform.”

Finally, examine how your social accounts are performing. Look at three things here:

  • Followers: Has your audience grown over a period (e.g., six months, a year, two years)?
  • Post frequency: How often do you post? Does posting more make a difference to engagement or follower numbers?
  • Engagement: How do people interact with your posts and in what number? Do certain types of posts generate more likes, comments, shares, leads, and conversions than others?

By running this analysis, you’ll be able to see which elements of your current strategy can fit into future social media marketing plans. It’ll also mean that you’re not completely overhauling your social media and risking alienating fans that enjoy your content.

Find out what the competition is (and isn’t) doing

There are two reasons to dig into how others in your niche manage their social media:

  1. Find out what they’re doing well to improve your social content marketing
  2. Find out what they’re not doing that you can do to stand out

Pick out six to eight brands that operate in the same space and speak to the same audience. Run a takedown of their accounts by asking the following questions:

  • What kind of personality or culture do they promote?
  • How many followers or likes do they have?
  • How often do they post?
  • What types of content do they post, and how do people engage with them?
  • What do they talk about? Are there important topics that you’re neglecting?
  • How many people are talking about them? Does it exceed their follower numbers?

This analysis will give you an idea of where you fit in, which social media channels are the most fruitful, and what you can do to engage your audience.

Combine this with what you’re already doing that works well, and you have a solid platform to work from.

Create and curate content that engages your audience

By this point, you’ll have a good idea of what to publish to social media sites based on your goals and internal and competitive research. 

But social media is driven by trends. And these trends can change fast. 

Take Clubhouse, for example. The audio-only app went from 9.6 million downloads in February 2021 to 900,000 downloads in April 2021. That’s not to say the app is over—retention among users is strong. But with Spotify Greenroom, Facebook’s Live Audio Rooms, Reddit Talk, and Twitter Spaces all offering a similar service, it’s clear that the novelty has worn off.

To keep growing, keep your finger on the pulse and continually analyze your content. As trends evolve, optimize your content to align with audience needs and expectations. 

We’ve already seen how Depop and Microsoft Surface are doing this. Let’s look at some other examples of popular and engaging content to consider as part of your social media strategy. 

Short-form video

A study by Wyzowl found that people share videos at twice the rate of other types of content (great for raising brand awareness). It also found that 84% of people were convinced to buy a product or service based on a brand’s video (a key step in securing loyal customers). 

“Video content is the now, but short-form video content is the future.”

Jess Ostroff, Managing Editor at Convince & Convert [via Convince & Convert]

According to Hubspot, anything up to 2 minutes and 30 seconds in length is considered short-form. But videos can be much shorter than this. And they often are.

On TikTok, videos are less than 60 seconds long. On Instagram Reels, they’re 30 seconds long. 

Those marketing channels are (at time of writing) the dominant players in the space. However, YouTube Shorts and Snapchat Spotlight are also worthy of attention. Naturally, what is popular will get copied in due time, which is why a differentiation strategy is critical for survival.

But regardless of the platform or how short the video is, content must always entertain. 

Whether this is through helping the viewer learn something or solve a problem, like United Nations IFAD does with its informative TikTok videos:

Or inspiring them like Mailchimp does with its Reels: 

In both cases, videos add value. They give people a reason to watch and provide rewards (i.e. value nuggets) in exchange for their time. 

Focus on what your audience wants. Ask them what they’d like to learn and how you can help. Then, create videos based on their feedback.

Live content

Live social media is not a new concept, but its role in connecting isolated people has made it more valuable than ever. Social media expert Danny Bermant explained to Smart Insights

“I work with aesthetic clinics both in the UK and US who carry out procedures such as Botox, laser hair removal, and body sculpting. A major way in which these clinics generate revenue is through open days where patients get to see live demos of new treatment and are able to book the treatment there and then, often at a discounted price. With [COVID-19], however, such events are no longer feasible and are unlikely to be for the foreseeable future.

However, the industry has been fast to adapt and has gone virtual. Instagram live has proven to be the ideal platform, enabling housebound audiences to attend virtual demos whilst giving them the functionality to interact through asking questions and posting comments.”

Live content offers a direct and personal connection to each person watching.

Benefit Cosmetics takes advantage of this by hosting Facebook Live sessions with exclusive offers hosted by a member of its team. 

screenshot benefit cosmetics facebook live session

Not only does this give fans a reason to attend, it increases FOMO. It also gives Benefit the chance to sell the product.

Fitness studio Barry’s Bootcamp engages its followers by running workout sessions on Instagram Live.

The live sessions let them interact with viewers in real-time, delivering words of encouragement to keep them motivated. Following along live is, in many cases, more engaging than a pre-recorded session. 

Barry’s is also able to see how many people are watching along with their reactions to class, helping them glean insights in real-time to optimize future sessions.

Bon Appétit used Zoom and YouTube to host a live stream. From their homes, members of its provided tutorials, played games, ran cooking challenges, and generally engaged its audience in food-related chat. 

screenshot bon appetit zoom live stream

As well as interacting with each other and fans, the live stream brought people together in the comments to chat in real-time. 

The result was over one million views, 21K likes, and 1K comments. It also helped Bon Appétit raise over $200K for World Central Kitchen.

It’s a great example of using technology that people are familiar with to engage them creatively. 

Use live content whenever you want followers to share in the moment, including: 

  • New product launches
  • Major announcements
  • Q&A sessions
  • Behind-the-scenes videos
  • Interviews 
  • Collaborations

Purpose-driven content

Edelman’s Trust Barometer found that 81% of people rate trusting a brand to do what’s right as an important buying decision. It also found that 85% (net) of people want brands to solve their problems and 80% (net) want brands to solve society’s problems.

56% of consumers also say they have no respect for businesses that remain silent on important issues. 

Social media has empowered consumers to be more vocal on social issues, and they expect the brands they follow to support them.

This doesn’t mean speaking out on every issue. But if you have an opinion on an issue and aren’t willing to speak on it or do anything to back it up, expect to be criticized.

Hotjar, Nike, Airbnb, and Ben & Jerry’s are all examples of brands that have acted on their brand purpose and used social media to react to important matters and educate their audiences.

None have been met with universal praise. Often there is a backlash from people that don’t agree with a stance.

You should expect this too. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Staying true to your values will strengthen relationships with followers that care about the same issues. It will also earn you respect from your core target audience, which works to improve loyalty, retention, and even ROI.

While some might have seen the backlash against Nike as a public relations nightmare, the company didn’t waver. And it was rewarded for it. Ten days after the Dream Crazy campaign that prompted the hashtag #boycottnike, Nike reached an all-time high on the stock exchange and made six billion dollars.

Think about your corporate social responsibility. What matters to you and your audience? And what can you do as a business in a position of authority to educate and inform followers?

Social commerce

According to Facebook, 81% of shoppers research products on Instagram. 80% also use Instagram to decide whether to buy a product or service.

On Pinterest, 459 million people use the platform for purchase inspiration, and more than 25% of time is spent shopping. 

Given this data, social media is the natural place to target online shoppers. Selling products or services directly on Instagram, Facebook Shops, or Pinterest lets you provide a complete shopping experience.

Rather than going the ecommerce route and completing a purchase on your website, social commerce lets you take users from research to checkout without leaving the app. 


This seamless process taps into what shoppers want, as Maisie Tomlinson points out:

“Infiltrating social media, where consumers spend a large chunk of their day, improves the shopping experience, and shortens the process. As humans, we’re always looking for simpler ways to get what we want.

Brands want to convert customers as soon as possible, therefore why waste time sending them to your website for them to potentially leave because of user experience issues. Reduce drop-offs by selling directly from your social media post. Marketers will want to focus more on their social media reach, engagement, and the effectiveness; evolution is necessary if you want to survive.”

[via Smart Insights]

Teeth whitening company, Zimba, is a great example of using Facebook and Instagram to engage users.

screenshot zimba teeth whitening company using facebook to engage users

“Because Zimba already had a presence on Facebook and Instagram, and had already uploaded its online catalog, setting up its Shop using the Commerce Manager tool was turnkey and completely seamless.

People could then find Shops on Zimba’s Facebook Page or Instagram profile or discover the brand through Stories or ads. From there, shoppers could browse through the products, add products to their bag and place an order―all without ever having to leave the app.

With the addition of Shops, people could also message Zimba through Messenger or Instagram Direct Message (DM) to ask questions, get support, track deliveries, and more.”

[via Facebook]

The campaign helped Zimba secure 1,200 incremental orders from Shops in one month, with an average order value of 6.7% higher than orders through its website. 

Social commerce makes it easy for followers to become customers, which is crucial in building loyalty.

Where does advertising fit into social media marketing?

In a utopian landscape, we’d all be able to develop and run people-first social media marketing campaigns based solely on organic content.

In reality, organic reach has declined to such an extent that success is a long game. To get quick wins, the likelihood is you’re going to have to pay to play. 

However, it’s important to pay and play wisely.

In the era of fake news and hate speech, social media advertising has a bad reputation. Kantar research shows that as few as 14% say they trust ads as a source to garner information about a business. And only 17% trust social media as a medium.    

On the flip side, a consumer research poll by Iterable found that 58% of consumers feel positive about receiving a hyper-personalized ad.

What does this tell us?

Trust is low. But if you use data responsibly to craft targeted ads that appeal directly to sections of your audience and complement your organic strategy, it’s possible to earn and maintain it. 

Use paid social media to cut through the noise when you need to promote a brand message or offer. But make sure that ads stay true to your tone and personality.

While you want your ads to get noticed to build loyalty and awareness, they should not feel pushy or intrusive.

Let’s look at some examples.

CitiGroup

CitiGroup put ad budget behind content that highlighted its support for Paralympic athletes. 

screenshot citigroup paid ad on twitter in support for paralympic athletes

This ensured the campaign would be seen beyond the company’s followers, bringing more attention to its importance. It also showcases Citi’s social good. 

Promoting feel-good stories is a good way to build relationships without direct selling. 

Headspace

Headspace takes a more traditional retargeting approach to keep its brand front of mind for potential customers who aren’t ready to commit at the first touchpoint.

screenshot headspace traditional retargetting approach using facebook

This Facebook ad grabs attention because of its substantial offer. It’s also on-brand, which helps it stand out in an ad-heavy feed.

screenshot headspace facebook ad

The call-to-action button helps drive traffic to a frictionless landing page using Facebook Shopping; simplifying sign up. This further adds to Headspace’s “stress free” mantra.

Scribd

Scribd also uses a time-tested approach, targeting people who follow similar accounts. 

screenshot scribd ad targeting people who follow similar accounts

This is a great way to raise brand awareness, but consumers may see it as intrusive.

Scribd cleverly uses social proof to appeal to viewers and minimize objections. Rather than Scribd telling you how good its product is, it lets its community do the talking. 

79% of people say they trust online reviews from other consumers as much as recommendations from personal contacts. As mentioned earlier, word-of-mouth marketing is the best way to earn trust. 

Assess, measure, and tweak to stay ahead 

Leveraging social media as a means to keep your finger on the pulse can inform your content.

Like all marketing initiatives, no matter how well strategized, measurement and optimization is key to short and long-term success.

Continuously monitoring metrics via social media analytics tools gives you insight into how campaigns are performing. 

Follow Buffer’s revolving four-part testing process to optimize performance:

screenshot buffer's revolving four-part testing process
  1. Set benchmarks: Look at the average engagement (clicks, shares, comments, and likes) on your posts over a set period and use this as a benchmark, adjusting as your business grows.
  2. Test (launch something new): Video, Reel, hashtag, different length of post—run with whatever you think could be successful on a platform.
  3. Check the stats: Did the test work? Compare the data against your benchmarks.
  4. Make changes: Tweak content that needs to be improved and test again.

This process helps you remain proactive with posting new content (e.g. trying a new medium) while simultaneously optimizing existing posts. It will also help you stay relevant as trends change and algorithms evolve.

Conclusion

Social media for business has always been about audience building. But now more than ever, it’s important to get hands-on with social media management.

Be active on platforms. Talk, listen, and respond to followers. Show you’re there for them and let the content you create reflect that.

If you can do that, you’ll earn their trust, which breeds loyalty, turning customers into advocates that help to amplify your presence.

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