Artificial Intelligence

7 Strategies You Need To Compete With Amazon in Paid Search

Amazon is an ecommerce powerhouse that keeps on growing. Between Amazon’s strong domain authority, trusted customer base, and exclusive shipping methods, it can be difficult for brands to compete with Amazon. By the end of the year, Amazon is expected to generate $258.2 billion dollars in retail sales, which will make up 49.1% of all ecommerce sales. Many brands who feel they cannot compete with Amazon have resorted to selling on the marketplace.

However, you can compete with Amazon in the digital search space. Through carefully thought-out, planned digital strategies, your business will be able to capitalize on some of the weaknesses within Amazon’s digital strategy. So, how exactly do you compete with Amazon in the digital game? Follow these tactics. By utilizing these seven strategies, your online business will be able to find a way to compete against Amazon.

Tactic #1: Bid More on Branded Keywords

You own your brand, so by bidding on more branded keyword terms, you will have the opportunity to take up more of the retail space within the SERP, above the fold. When consumers search for your brand, your paid ads and organic listings will dominate the search engine space, giving you a larger opportunity to gain more customers. Not only will your online business gain more exposure in the SERP, you will have the opportunity to save money. Google will always favor the brand and branded keywords are generally less expensive than non-branded long-tail keywords. Know that there is power in your brand.

Tactic #2: Sell Unique Product Offerings

Consumers love Amazon because it is generic and efficient, but there are consumers who still shop online for an experience. Therefore, a way to compete with Amazon is to offer unique products not sold on Amazon. Think about what products of yours are on Amazon and then create new ads for products that are not sold on the marketplace. Another strategy is to take the products that you sell on Amazon, but make your product offering more unique, like bundled promotions or entering a contest. Entice consumers to click through to your ad with something unique.

Tactic #3: Create a Localized Experience

One of the struggles brands are presented with is competing against Amazon for ad space. They have a large budget in place for CPC but a downfall to this strategy is that Amazon does not bid locally. By placing bids and narrowing down your target market based on location, your online business will have the opportunity to target the right people in locations where consumers convert. Rather than placing bids on all locations, create ads that are location specific. For instance, if you know people in the mid-west typically do not purchase your products, but consumers in New York City and Boston have the highest conversion rates, spend your budget accordingly. Do not devote money to areas that do not convert. Segment consumers based on location and offer high-quality ads to profitable locations.

Tactic #4: Create Strong Content

Part of Amazon’s paid search strategy is that they only optimize on keywords in the first headline and the rest of the ad copy is rather generic. As a result, Amazon’s ad copy and landing pages are rarely optimized. This is a great opportunity for your online business to generate clicks by creating highly targeted landing pages with ad copy full of rich keywords consumers are searching.

For example, there is a major difference between the ad copy in Amazon’s ad and Sony’s ad. Although Sony’s ad is in position number two in the SERP, Sony’s ad copy is full of strong keywords that will entice a higher CTR. By creating better content with optimized landing pages, your online business can generate more clicks.

Tactic #5: Develop and Omnichannel Experience

Similar to bidding on more branded keyword terms, creating an omnichannel experience will enhance your overall presence in the SERP. By creating an omnichannel keyword list that will be utilized in both PPC and organic search strategies, quality score will increase, CPC will decrease, and your ranking in the ad space will have more authority. Take the time to work on organic search and reap the benefits in both PPC and SEO.

Tactic #6: Narrow Down your Target Market into Niche Markets

Amazon is fortunate enough to have a large budget and strong brand authority, and bidding on broad keywords may make it difficult to receive representation in the paid search ad space. Therefore, to compete with Amazon, narrow down your target market into niche segments that have a past of making online conversions. From there create a list of long-tail keywords that these niche markets would search for. By doing this, you have the ability to create highly target ads whereas Amazon ads target a larger audience.

Tactic #7: Create a Free Shipping Promo within PPC Ads

One of the biggest attractions to Amazon is their free two-day shipping for Prime members. With over 100 million Prime members worldwide, shipping can be the make it or break it point when it comes down to your branded landing page or Amazon’s marketplace. Create an ad campaign or ad group that is geared towards offering shipping promos in order to compete with Amazon’s most utilized ecommerce strategy.

Conclusion

In Conclusion, your ecommerce store can offer a unique shipping experience for your customers that Amazon cannot offer them. Follow these strategies, adapt them to your ecommerce goals and business plan to compete with Amazon in the paid search space.

Written by: Tori Oates, Marketing Strategist

EYEO Festival Takeaways Banner

Something Inspiring: EYEO Festival Takeaways

I’ve been to forums in the past where speakers onstage serve up Kool-aid, in the form of flashy innovation, the illusion of collective harmony, or myths of the illusive work-life balance. And, I admit, I’ve drunk it when I’ve been thirsty for something, anything, to get me out of a design funk. But now I know there’s someplace better. In EYEO, I found a festival in which speakers serve up the human side of technological innovation, the power of critical mass, and first-person accounts of successfully, and industriously, making space in life for work that excites us.

This summer, I attended what I hope to be the first of many EYEOs, and the takeaways still feel fresh and refreshing, like the life water we all need to reenergize our careers and reevaluate our creative choices.

EYEO is an interdisciplinary tech conference that encourages collaboration across industries, borders, and cultures. The festival draws driven thinkers and leaders from all over the world, including visual and audio artists, designers, developers, engineers, data scientists, educators, and social activists. Its mission is to show how those identifiers are fluid, how our curiosities overlap, and how our communities can be more inclusive. EYEO encourages participation and the forging of new partnerships; their slogan is “converge to inspire.”

At EYEO, speakers present ideas that rise above sterile case studies or sales pitches. We’ve heard that all before and we sign up for EYEO because we know we deserve better. EYEO attendees instead get eye-opening humility, humanity, transparency, storytelling, comedy, and calls to action. Talks range from academic — like a social history of the American hardware store — to deeply personal —a first-person account of how a tragic event can alter one’s life course — to curated panel discussions that spark a fire in those of us who see injustice in the industries in which we work. Every captivating talk, roundtable, and meetup asks us to think about how we can leverage technology for good, and why we should be.

There is no marketplace and almost no corporate swag, which in itself says a lot about the principles of the event organizers. Instead, EYEO gave attendees a single notebook in which they could memorialize quotes, ideas, and sketches. Classic. Understated. But the magic is how it was designed. Prior to the conference, attendees completed a survey of short questions about their personalities. Are they optimists or skeptics? Are they adventurers or do they play it safe? Then, Accurat, an information design company lead by speaker Giorgia Lupi, transformed the submissions into an abstract data visualization that is printed on the cover, like a secret code.

The brightly-colored notebook is not only a vehicle for ideas, but also an icebreaker, an artifact, and a reflection of how each of us plays a role in a greater community, which can’t be overstated. Now it’s my turn to give back, so I’ll start by sharing my notes from the conference as they can be applied to the working environment and the work that we do at Something Digital.

Notebook + Book
Left: The EYEO notebook designed by Accurat and Pitch Interactive.; Right: “Dear Data”, an amazing book on soft data written by two EYEO speakers and friends, Giorgia Lupi and Stephanie Posavec.

Humanize Data

We have unlimited data plans with which we listen to playlists curated to our tastes, order products that are recommended for us, and monitor our health stats. Data science is literally on the pulse of everything that happens in our lives and we’re producing data all the time. Everything we do, say, hear, and see is data. Although we may not be aware of it, we’re making and processing data, from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed — even while we’re sleeping. Data can be for us to help us measure our own progress, or it can be for a corporation to market products and services to us tailored to our predictable behavior.

From a personal perspective, because of its deeper technological applications, data can often seem out of our control, or like an unreal, mysterious ‘other’ (I know I’m being watched by the device in my hand and on my wrist, but that’s just the world we live in). From a business perspective, because my work is about designing better user experiences based on data analysis —monitoring click-through rates, traffic, and popular searches — data can seem tactical, a means to an outcome.

But a common call to action among many of the speakers at EYEO is to rethink what we classify as data. Slowing down, being present, observing, and taking note: that’s data. Sources of data are everywhere. It could be as banal as the minutes a subway train arrives off schedule each morning or as critical as documenting the daily side effects of the medications we take. Counting something means it matters. Spending time reviewing this kind of data — sometimes referred to as ‘soft’ or ‘folk’ data for its lack of social currency — means spending time with ourselves.

How can this humanistic approach to data be applied in commerce? One way is to allow people to see themselves in data. We create personas by observing real behaviors of real people, making predictions based on their lifestyles and interests, and designing with the intention to show them that their needs are valuable. Data becomes a way to communicate intention. UX design is an industry driven by subjective data, like user feedback. In user testing, we ask questions to lend visibility to data that otherwise goes unseen and unmeasured.

Soft data in the marketing world can be found in social sharing and user generated content. For example, the eyewear store Tens.co features a widget showing visitors in real-time which products other customers are purchasing in that very moment. Instead of promoting only the cross sells or upsells stakeholders think customers should buy, the widget enables customers to see what appeals to the people within their affinity community and be persuaded — or not — by their own observations, giving them credit and entitlement.

Ten.co ExampleTens.co provides a visualization of what other customers are buying in real-time.

The term ‘soft’ data underestimates its merit. Observed data, in conjunction with numerical data, can be more impactful on a human level, because it reminds us that we aren’t nameless hash marks; our personalities, opinions, and stories are as important as our buying power.

Data, after all, is people.

Get Empowered

Another big talking point for speakers was to mix up power structures. Fear, paranoia, the feeling as though we are being violated by giving up data without consent — when nearly our every move is always recorded, it’s hard to not feel disempowered by technology. Add on disenfranchisement and biases that stem from a lack of diversity among the engineers who write algorithms, and it’s no wonder that an atmosphere of mistrust is brewing. And yet! We all still carry our little glowing rectangles with us everywhere anyway.

The message from many speakers at EYEO is that objects of power are only powerful when we put them in the right hands. But how do we make data less disempowering and more empowering?

Or, as Carmen Aguilar y Wedge of Hyphen-Labs asked: “What is it you need from me to see you as human?”

Vimeo Still of Hyphen-Labs ProjectOne of many inspiring projects by the women at Hyphen-Labs.

One way is to think of data analysis as a service rather than self-serving. Use data to diagnose actual problems and identify the right tools and people to fix them, instead inventing solutions to problems that weren’t there to begin with and may produce even more problems over time.

For example, when we take on clients with existing sites at SD, we evaluate their site data as it is and recommend technical debt remediation before launching new marketing initiatives. Broken components and security breaches make customers feel confused and unsafe. We show the clients the holes in their system and offer a step-by-step roadmap to fill them. By tackling the backend problems first — issues customers can’t see but that hinder them from completing tasks — we’re indirectly improving the front-end user experience and flexing our expertise to serve our client’s and their customer’s best interests first.

Another way to do good by data is to mix up power structures. If advancements in technology are predicated on the confines of the platforms and languages we use, how do we use that technology to tell stories that are not written by the marketing department of larger corporations? How do we tell new stories?

Start by bringing new voices to the table, listening, collaborating, and giving those voices due credit. In a panel on diversity, one speaker noted that HR departments don’t have a pipeline problem, they have an effort problem. One reason I’m personally proud to work at SD is that while at first I had little web experience, the managers who interviewed me saw my perseverance and history of work ethic as an advantage, and that as an outsider, I brought another perspective to the creative team. Over the course of my tenure here, I’ve witnessed SD making great strides in recruitment and retention, giving all employees the freedom to directly interact with clients, communicate their ideas, and release their code, strategies, and designs out into the wild right away. New voices that cross cultural, racial, gender, and age lines help organizations approach problem solving at multiple angles, because how each of us sees the world is path dependent and, most importantly, valuable.

Diversity — and openly discussing diversity — within an organization equips teams to be more aware of the needs of users who might otherwise go unnoticed. EYEO speakers also called on those who represent the majority to assert their privilege to protect users who don’t always get the same protections. As a web agency specifically, we need to think about the safety of every community and every individual interacting with our work by:

1. Building accessible sites.

2. Prioritizing data security.

3. Designing not just for personas, but for representation.

What if frequent visually distracting pop up notifications distress users with PTSD? What if we QA test a site on broadband internet, but it is intended to be used in a region wherein access is more limited? What if a brand aims to market their products to ‘everyone’, but the lifestyle images they display on their product pages persistently only show models of one demographic?

This leads me to:

4. Ask questions. A lot of them.

It’s a mistake to assume anything is instantaneously understandable. Coming up with a thorough checklist as a team and asking as many questions as we can is how we break free from expert mind — what we already know or think we already know — and how we prevent faceless data from amplifying our biases. This is how we get closer to actual personalization, the kind that isn’t invasive or creepy, but is humble and constructive. Questioning leads to iteration. Iteration lead to prototyping. Prototyping leads to an evolving product that continually becomes more usable for everyone. It is yet one more argument for making slow observation and human feedback a part of our professional practice.

Go Forth and Do Better

For their encouragement to humanize data, get empowered, play with new people, and to find as many ways into a problem as possible — overall, to just do better! — I can’t thank the EYEO festival speakers and organizers enough. And I encourage you to visit eyeofestival.com to meet the speakers and watch videos of past talks.

I leave you with one last scribble from by trusty yellow notebook: Find delight in the work that you do. For me the delight comes from being able to inventory the data of my own life and add a point on that graph, however its modeled, for the invaluable learning opportunity EYEO afforded me to become a better designer and advocate for SD, our clients, their users, and you.

Written by: Gina Angelotti, Interactive Designer

Bidding on Branded

Bidding on Branded Search Is Not Stupid

As a digital marketer, there are a few common questions that I receive whenever I first engage with a new client. When it comes to the topic of branded paid search, the conversation typically goes something like this:

Client: Should I bid on my brand terms?
LP: Yes.
Client: But why should I pay for brand terms when I already rank #1 in organic search? Won’t customers find my site through my organic SERP listing?
LP: Maybe, but why would you take the chance?

Some clients have a difficult time moving past the idea that branded paid search is a waste of money and that as long as organic is performing well, it just isn’t worthwhile. I’m here to tell you that a) this isn’t true and b) it’s time to start thinking about branded search in a more strategic way.

To start, let’s define exactly what “bidding on brand terms” means. Contrary to what some believe, it’s more involved than simply spending money on variations of your company’s name and calling it a day. When I say “brand terms” I mean any terms that are specific to or synonymous with your company. For example, the awesome female founded company Wildfang (they’re not our client – I’m just a fan) might bid on the following brand terms:

  • Wildfang
  • Wildfang.com
  • Wild feminist shirt

 

You might think, “Hey, wait a second … ‘wild feminist shirt’ is not a brand term; however, it definitely is because it’s synonymous with the brand. Product names or product categories are included when they fall under this umbrella.

 

Now that we’re on the same page when it comes to brand terms, let’s dive into the top 5 reasons (in no particular order) why you need to bid on them.

1. If you don’t, someone else will.

The space might be free of paid ads now, but if your competitors are smart, they’ll see that you aren’t bidding on your own terms and will swoop in and take advantage. If you could prevent someone from stealing your traffic (especially potential new customers), why wouldn’t you? If competitors, resellers, or affiliates are already bidding in the space, then your involvement is an absolute no-brainer. Unless you want customers to only shop at resellers, you absolutely need to buy ads to remind them that you exist and have something better to offer.

2. Brand terms are cost-effective.

They might not exactly be cheap, but they’re definitely cheaper than the broad, non-branded terms you might use for prospecting. Also, ROAS (return on ad spend) is high, sometimes netting you as much as 10-12x back on your initial investment. If you’re a new brand with a limited amount of search volume, you will probably struggle to spend money and won’t see a crazy high return at first, but clicks and conversions will start to grow as you build the brand. In this instance, branded paid search can actually act as a barometer for the success of your other strategies. If you continue to monitor it, mine your search query reports for new terms, and optimize, you will see incremental success over time.

3. You have full control over brand message.

Sure, there are organic strategies you can employ to try to control SERPs (defined meta descriptions and page titles, structured markup), but search engines don’t always abide by your wishes. Perhaps you’re running a sale that you really want to tout in your sitelinks. The sale link might show up in SERPs, but it will definitely show up in paid search if you set it as a sitelink extension. The same message holds true for landing pages. Maybe you’ve built out a really beautiful landing page for bestselling products, but you’ve noticed that organic searches don’t always direct users to it, even when it’s relevant. If you’re running branded search ads, you have the ability to control the first thing users see when they reach your site.

4. Dominating SERPs is always good.

The more listings you have, the more likely it is that a user will reach your site. If you are running shopping ads, paid search ads, and have a high-ranking organic listing, you’re in a great position. According to Moz, “searchers who see an ad may be more likely to click on an organic listing, or they may be more likely if they see a high-ranking organic listing for the same ad to click that ad.” In other words, ad presence can increase organic search click-throughs. The good news? Google charges for clicks, not impressions.

Imagine this scenario: a user sees your paid search ad at the top of the page and is then reaffirmed that your brand is legit when they also see a top-of-page organic listing. The user then clicks the organic listing and buys something on your site. While this paid search listing impression cost you nothing, it directly impacted a user’s decision to click and buy. Why wouldn’t you want this?

5. Bidding on brand terms increases overall traffic from search engines.

Everyone will tell you that spending money on ads doesn’t directly increase organic rankings, but what about indirectly? A 2012 study from Google plainly states the facts: “89% of the clicks from search ads are incremental, i.e., 89% of the visits to the advertiser’s site from ad-clicks are not replaced by organic clicks when the search ads are paused.” In other words, those people who think that they don’t need to pay for brand terms because organic search makes up the slack are wrong. You might be skeptical of a 6-year-old study, but I can tell you that I’ve experienced this behavior firsthand as recently as last month. Whenever branded paid search ads are paused, we always see a decrease in organic search. If you don’t believe me, check out this 2018 study from CPC Strategy.

If you made it to this point and are still a skeptic, all I can suggest is that you give branded search a try. Set up a campaign and run ads with a modest budget for a few months while also monitoring your organic rankings. If you don’t see a decrease in branded organic search terms after pausing paid ads, please send me an email at [email protected] and tell me how wrong I am.

Written by: Lindsay Pugh, Digital Strategist

Dark Social

The Dark Social: What is it and How Can You Make it Work for Your Site?

If the term “dark social” sounds ominous to you, especially in these days of massive Facebook data breaches, don’t be alarmed. It’s actually quite innocuous. Coined by Alexis Madrigal, a senior editor at The Atlantic, in his 2012 article, “Dark Social: We Have The Whole History of the Web Wrong,” dark social refers to users who share content (i.e. links) with one another via channels that can’t be tracked by Google Analytics or other web tracking platforms.

So when your mom emails you a link for a sweater she’s thinking of getting you for your birthday, she’s doing so via dark social. Ditto for your friend who texts you a link to the restaurant to meet up at.

A good bit of the traffic that shows up in your Google Analytics as “direct channel” comes from dark social, and if you’re responsible for managing the user experience on your website, you’ll need to shed some light on it ASAP. To begin, you’ve no doubt noticed that dark social represents a sizeable (and still growing) way for people to arrive on sites and to discover content. And according to RadiumOne’s research, 46% of consumers age 55 and older share via dark social exclusively.

Of course, not all of your direct channel traffic can be classified as dark social. Visitors may have a specific section of your site bookmarked, or their browsers may complete the URLs of pages they’ve previously visited. Dark social applies only to the portion of your direct channel traffic that stems from social referrals you can’t track.

There are a few ways you can get a handle on your site’s dark social channel, which is to say, get a better understanding of the user behavior of people who arrive on your site via links they’ve received from friends, families or colleagues. Keep in mind, none of these strategies are 100%, but combined they can help provide a roadmap to better engage people on your site whose origins are a complete mystery to you.

Begin by looking at your direct channel by landing page, and weed out any pages that are so specific that you can safely assume no one typed it in directly. For instance, it’s not unreasonable for a consumer to type “zappos.com/frye” into a search bar, but it’s highly unlikely they’d type in the specific URL for, Frye Ally 2 band Sling sandals, which is: https://www.zappos.com/p/frye-ally-2-band-sling-white-multi/product/9010107/color/2927.

Once you create and apply the segment, you can then begin to look at it by user type. Specifically, separate first-time visitors from returning ones, which you can do by going to Audience Type/Behavior/new vs. returning user in Google Analytics.

Of your returning customers, it’s safe to assume that 10 – 15% originated from a saved link or via a link they’ve previously visited and that their browser automatically completed. The rest should be considered dark social, and should be watched over time. To do that, either create a custom channel grouping in Google Analytics, or build out another segment to use whenever you perform a channel-based analysis.

How to make dark social work for your site

Whether you manage an ecommerce or a straight content site, it’s important for you to understand which content resonates with your visitors, and what they’re willing to share. If, for instance, you’re an ecommerce brand and you notice a sizable number dark social shares for the same landing page, then you’ll know to optimize that landing page for people who share it via dark social.

BuzzFeed has embraced dark social sharing in a big way. The site’s editors view the URL as a tool to pique interest in the articles its readers might share. At times the URL bares little resemblance to the article itself. For instance, this article:

“It’s Raining So Hard In New York City It’s Pouring Into The Subways And People Are More Miserable Than Ever”

Had this URL:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/tanyachen/where-concrete-jungle-dreams-are-made-of?utm_term=.fvZQrXPgO#.kb5P7Grdj

Another tactic is to create content that’s designed to be shared, such as the BuzzFeed story, “18 Exhaustingly Funny Tweets From Parents With A LOT Of Kids” (URL: https://www.buzzfeed.com/mikespohr/tweets-for-parents-with-a-lot-of-kids?utm_term=.erBadl6g8#.ubVoGRVLl).

If you notice that a large portion of your users share your content, use the opportunity to identify why it appeals to specific users, or to optimize it for more shares based on other behavior insights you may have about your site. At the end of the day, optimizing your site for dark social is all about discovering who your users and how you can better target to them. It’s about identifying, creating and serving your visitors with content they’ll find relevant and shareable.

If you want to learn more about dark social check out our dark social webinar or contact us.

Written by: Lindsay Pugh, Digital Strategist

Launches

Webinar: What to expect when you’re expecting (after your site launches)

Missed our webinar, but still curious about what to expect after your new site launches? Check out the full webinar below. This webinar will give you a good primer on when it actually makes sense to launch your site and what to expect post-launch. Let the SD team walk you through some common pitfalls and challenges that come along with launching a new site.

 

Something Digital is a leader within the industry that fully understands the process of going through a new site launch.  Whether you are rebuilding an already existing site or launching a brand new site, this webinar will help you make the best decisions for your newly launched website.

Want to learn more? Contact us!

 

Transactional Emails

Brand and Deliver: Unpacking the benefits of custom transactional emails

Imagine you’re shopping at Bloomingdale’s, and instead of stepping out onto 5th Avenue with their iconic ‘Brown Bag’ in hand, you’re toting a thousand-dollar watch in a plastic sack with ‘Thank You” printed in garish red letters. Bloomingdale’s would never let this happen; they’re proud of their proprietary branding and managing how they’re perceived at all stages of the consumer lifecycle. Even if your online store isn’t quite at their scale, would you risk sending your customers home with a lack-luster takeaway? It feels cheap, and they’ll notice it, too. That’s a lot like sending generic transnational emails.

The online shopping story doesn’t end when a customer taps the ‘Place Order’ button or scans their thumbprint to buy with ApplePay. As a retailer, if you’re tracking completing checkout as your primary conversion, you’re missing the big picture. Refocus on the follow-through: What are you doing between checkout and fulfillment to keep customers coming back?

Don’t’ be basic!

Instead, close the loop: A quality post-purchase exchange creates the illusion of seamlessness between ordering and fulfillment.

Before you hit send, brand your transactional emails.

Plan for multiple touch points

Bridge the virtual experience of shopping via touch-screen with the actual experience of physically touching an object (in to 2-3 business days, anyway). The steps that come between — transactional emails like order confirmations, shipment and tracking details, arrival notifications, and satisfaction surveys — have the potential to excite and engage your customers. But only if you treat these emails like extensions of the storefront.

Reassure and inform your customers, while also rewarding them with VIP treatment.

Build suspense

While they anxiously await shredding open the box and popping the bubble wrap when their package arrives, remind your customers that they can order almost anything they want…in their pajamas; it’s practically magic! Branding your transactional emails makes their experience memorable from start to finish — and back again. Of course, that means incorporating your site’s User Interface (UI) elements, like logos, colors, buttons, and link styles. But it also means stripping out any scripted language and replacing it with your brand’s unique tone-of-voice.

Look for patterns

Although for ecommerce, amazon.com may not be renowned for visually-stunning page designs, the company is THE customer service trailblazer. And branded transactional emails are a cornerstone of their digital strategy. Within each email, Amazon sets customer expectations by identifying milestones in linear steps, linking to the order details on the site, providing terms and conditions, and even offering related products. Essentially, they teach us the three main reasons you should be branding your emails, too. Branded transactional emails:

1. Show your customers that they can trust you.

2. Increase customer loyalty by reinforcing your brand voice and mission.

3. Give your customers not just the information they need, but also the information they didn’t even know they needed.

…But always be yourself

Unless you’re uncharacteristically ambitious, you didn’t plan for your ecommerce site to compete with the likes of Amazon. Your brand has an online presence first and foremost to generate awareness. Even though Amazon’s transactional emails boast cool features like the ability to dynamically pull in recently-viewed products, they are designed to appeal to every demographic, everywhere. So, while these emails are effective and have a broad reach, they lack flavor.

However, because you likely have a narrower audience, it’s easier to determine their personas and use language and features that really speak to them. No one wants to feel like they’re the average customer. So why be the average retailer?

Stand out by doing what big marketplaces can’t do: Curate transactional emails for your specific customers.

To show how implementing custom branded transactional emails leads to satisfied return customers, let’s look at examples by brands that are bringing their A-game.

Show you are trustworthy

Something Digital recently launched an ecommerce site for Riley Home, a startup luxury lifestyle brand that specializes in high-quality, affordable sheets, duvets, comforters, pillows, towels, robes, and gifts. Recognizing the challenge for new brands to generate buzz and build credibility, our digital marketing strategy included customizing transactional email templates.

Riley’s emails go with the flow.

They share the same UI characteristics as the website, incorporating the color palette, icons, and web-safe versions of the headline and body fonts, so text renders virtually the same across email clients. The emails also scale responsively and can be easily accessed from smartphones, tablets, and laptops alike. This seamlessness gives customers confidence that they’ve made a good investment.

Riley Email Example

Riley delivers a guarantee that customer’s personal information is safe because they look, feel, and read like the ecommerce site. Instead of relying on generic subject lines and filler copy, Riley adds their personal touch. Remember that default language doesn’t represent you. Messages that do what they promise to do, in a familiar tone of voice, are more likely to be delivered to your inbox and less likely to be mistaken for marketing ploys or phishing scams.

Riley also makes the fulfillment process transparent, notifying customers when their orders are placed, invoiced, and shipped and what they can expect when the package arrives. Setting expectations at regular intervals leads to fewer customer service calls, headaches, and follow-ups.

Riley shows accountability by getting it right the first time.

Reinforce your brand voice.

If you wanted transactions to be cut and dry, you wouldn’t have made the effort to design a beautiful ecommerce store. Transactional emails supplement that rich experience. Thank customers for their purchase on the site, while drawing them back to shop again through the words you use in your communications.

Take Native, for example. Native is website dedicated to a single product — natural deodorant — in a variety of scent and strength options. The company’s success is up against two big limitations: a uniform inventory and demand. Do customers buy deodorant in a pinch or are they able to wait for an online order to ship? Are they willing to buy their personal hygiene products from different stores? Are they likely to buy more than one bar at a time? How likely are customers to send personal hygiene products as gifts?

Judging by Native’s transactional emails, they have master-minded a strategy to keep customers coming back for more, even if their medicine cabinets are fully stocked with sweet-scented, non-toxic freshness.

Native Email Example

From a design perspective, Native’s order and shipping confirmation emails are clean and understated, much like the ecommerce site. But the enthusiastic subject lines and bold, personalized headlines are loud and proud. The marketing copy empowers the customer and gives positive reinforcement. Plus, light-hearted, colorful, if fictional, narratives describe how your order was warmly received by the customer service team and how they carefully handled the order to fulfillment.

You might think, “Five paragraphs before the order review table? TL;DR”, but it’s so charming that you get hooked after just one sentence. Personalization brings a kind of intimacy to the buyer-seller relationship. Customers feel cared for and important.

By controlling the content of the email, you can choose what matters to your customers, rather than making concessions for the average consumer. Customers value real interactions, not automations; They want to feel seen. The proof that authenticity works is in Native’s site reviews. Nearly 5,000 customers have rated the shopping experience with 5-stars and they even campaign for the brand on social media.

Engage your customers.

Transactional emails are the gateway drug for marketing engagement. An order confirmation email isn’t just a receipt if it also links to a referral program, cross-sells, or provides coupons for future use.

Third Love, a body-positive lingerie brand, uses inclusivity to its advantage. Their transactional emails welcome customers into a community and offer incentives to return to the site. Essentially, Third Love closes the loop, and from there on out, they invest in maintaining meaningful customer relationships. They appeal to their customers’ needs, reducing subscription fallout.

Third Love Email Example

Within its post-purchase emails, Third Love encourages customers to refer friends for mutual savings, take a quiz to discover their fit for their body, and shop for complimentary products recommended based on their personal tastes. Third Love even reminds customers to show their appreciation by leaving product reviews, which are overwhelmingly stellar.

If your products tell a story, gear up your customers by linking to related blog or social media posts in the order confirmation email. Anticipate that they might not know how to care for or use your products, so include a mini FAQ or demo video in the shipment confirmation email. Keep in mind that not everyone is home to receive their packages, so send a shipment arrival notification to allay delivery fears.

Although not everyone uses gmail, if most of your customers do, consider giving Google’s amp feature a test run. Adding cross-sells and up-sells to transactional emails is a no-brainer, but with amp, they dynamically update to show products that your gmail recipients recently viewed on your site.

And, as always, monitor and A/B test your special-sauce over time to see what resonates with your loyal fan base.

Ship it!

Loyalty is long-game. Regardless if you’re starting up or just getting rebooted, branding your transactional emails can build trust, reward customers, and drive repeat conversions. It is one of the least-expensive customer retention methods with the greatest potential for return on investment. The upfront cost is worth it, because if your customers feel both safe, special, and satisfied, their loyalty lasts a lifetime.

Are your transactional emails missing the mark? If so, we can help! Give us a holla ›

Written by: Gina Angelotti, Interactive Designer

Google Shopping

Why Aren’t Your Google Shopping Campaigns Performing as Expected? A Troubleshooting Guide

If you’re like most online retailers, your company invests a fair amount of money in Google Shopping campaigns, and for good reason: Your ad will appear in the consumer’s viewpoint at the exact moment he or she is about to make a purchase.

But what happens if, despite your investments, your campaign dollars just aren’t delivering the ROI you expected? Rather than jettison your initiatives, spend some time troubleshooting your campaigns. It will take you some time and most of all, lots of testing, but it can make the difference between okay sales and a truly banner year.

A Few Words Before We Get Started

On the face of it, launching Google Shopping campaigns seam simple enough: generate a product feed, send it to the Google Merchant Center for verification, and watch the sales come in. We wish it were that simple, but it’s not.

The truth is, Google Shopping is inherently complex. If you’ve ever Googled “Google Feed optimization” you will have discovered numerous agencies dedicated to the task. And there’s no shortage of thought-leadership articles on the best ways to configure a feed by industry sector.

But if you plough through all of those thought leadership pieces you’ll understand an important take away: There’s no one prevailing approach that works best for all retailers. There’s simply no way to get around the trial and error that’s part and parcel to successful Google Shopping campaigns.

Get a Product Feed Generation Tool

The first step to launching a Google Shopping campaign is to generate a Google Shopping Feed (aka product feed), which can be notoriously complex and rule-ridden. There are many companies that offer Magento extensions to help ease the burden, and you should use one. At Something Digital, we like this Google Shopping Feed for Magento , which, by the way, is also recommended by the Google AdWords team.

Of course, there are others fine tools, such as ChannelAdvisor, but we prefer the aforementioned shopping feed because of the way it walks you through the entire process to ensure your Google Shopping Feed is accurate and complete before you submit it to Google Merchant Center. This is critical, since the Merchant Center checks your product feed to ensure it complies with all of Google’s requirements for campaigns. And it offers a terrific integration and configuration guide.

You can (and should) opt to regenerate your product feed on a daily basis to check for product or pricing updates. If you aren’t checking it daily and it’s out of compliance, you’ll need to spend time correcting it, potentially missing sales while you do so.

Once you’ve generated a product feed, you’ll need to link it to your Google Merchant Center, which you can do via your Google AdWords account.

Your product feed is used to generate the visual and informational components of your AdWords ads, and Google Merchant Center ensures it’s configured properly, and meets all of Google’s requirements. It will also tell you if you’re missing components or data that will help your ads perform better.

Troubleshooting Google Shopping Campaigns

There are many reasons why your Google Shopping campaigns deliver poor results, but some are more common than others. Let’s look at the issues we hear about most frequently.

Setting an Optimal Bidding Strategy

High spending with poor return is one of the most common complaints we hear. Poor ROI may be due to many different factors, and troubleshooting will be required.

Begin by examining your competitors on a campaign level. You may find, for instance, that you’re competing against an Amazon Google Shopping Ad, and that competition is driving up the price. That’s why it’s important that you look at:

  • Who your competitors are
  • What their bidding strategy is
  • How much they are spending per click

 

This exercise will help you home in on your own bidding sweet spot. To find this data, go to the Details tab of the campaign from within Google AdWords. That tab offers an Option Insights section, which provides a breakdown of all the companies that compete with you for Google Shopping real estate. It also provides the impression-share percentage (the percentage of impressions that you and your competitors win).

From there you can do additional research to discover what your competitors bid for each click, but it will require additional tools that provide approximate bidding information.

What happens if you learn that deep-pocketed competitors – eBay, Amazon, Jet.com – are going head-to-head with you? You can:

  • Stop running all of your products in your Google Shopping Campaigns and focus on niche products that are unique to you.
  • Think of Google Shopping as a branding tool rather than a performance one. Of course it will lower your ROI, but it may raise awareness of your shop among consumers.

 

Product Grouping in Feed

Let’s say you’re a retailer that offers many different brands across a range of apparel items. There are many ways to group them: by brand, price and product category (clothing, shoes, accessories); which is right for you?

There’s no one answer for every retailer, which is why we recommend testing multiple configurations to see which delivers the best results. It’s entirely likely that you’ll have multiple product-specific campaigns, each using a different configuration.

For instance, you may need to compete on price for a popular style shoe, in which case, grouping these styles by price is the right strategy. Meanwhile, you may offer a wider variety of jackets than your competitors, and grouping them by category is the way to bring more shoppers to your store.

Touts & Shopping Promotions

Are your ads distinguished from your competition? Are they attracting consumers to your site?

Touts are callouts that draw attention to your ads. There are two types: promotion, such as free shipping, or consumer reviews. You can configure touts using Google Shopping Promotions Feed, but note that this is an additional step.

The Shopping Promotions Feed – like Google Shopping in general – has many rules that must be followed, and it can get rather confusing. You can’t simply offer site-wide free shipping because Google requires an offer code associated to each product There are ways to get around Google’s configuration requirements, but it’s a learning curve to figure out how to get the information you want to show up to actually show up.

Simple vs Configurable Products

This is an area where that may (or may not) make a difference in your site traffic volume. Depending on how your products are set up, you may have the option to configure your products so that your ads reflect the exact information a consumer searches on (e.g. “Joe’s Denim skinny jeans size 28”). This option is warranted if consumers typically want to ensure a site has their size prior to clicking on an ad.

Internal Competition

The final issue we see occasionally is internal competition for ad space, which occurs when a retailer has multiple sites that offer common products. Be sure to check the impression share (mentioned above) on a regular basis to ensure you’re not sabotaging your own AdWords spend.

These are steps you can take on your own. If you check for these trouble spots and still can’t improve your ROI, then we suggest you engage an expert.

If you have questions about your Google Shopping Feed let us know!

Like this blog? Check out this blog on website personalization.

Written by: Lindsay Pugh, Digital Strategist

A/B Testing

Why You Need to Check Your Site Analytics Daily

Ecommerce managers have a lot on their plates, and you’re probably no exception to that rule. As someone who spends my days working with ecommerce teams, I know how stretched you are, and so I’m not quick to recommend that you take on new tasks. But there is an exception to this rule: If you don’t check your site analytics daily, start doing so immediately. Trust me, this small amount of extra work can (and probably will) save you an abundance of time, sales and frustrations later on.

Daily health checks are especially important if you’re doing any sort of digital marketing, running a social media campaign, or making any kind of tweak or technical change to your site. Since there’s little change that you’re NOT doing one of those things on a continuous basis, make a review of your site analytics part of your daily routine to ensure there’s nothing amiss with any of your initiatives.

Here’s why: Let’s say you make a small change to where your email signup button or link is located. That tiny tweak may end up causing numerous problems for your visitors, resulting in fewer signups (and consequently, fewer opportunities to market to new prospects). This isn’t just theoretical; I’ve worked with clients who’ve gone a long time without realizing they were missing new email signups.

Fortunately, checking your site analytics doesn’t have to be a burden. I highly recommend to all clients setting up a custom report in your analytics program, whether that’s Google Analytics, Magento Business Intelligence or Adobe Analytics. All of these solutions will generate and email the reports to you automatically, so you don’t even need to sign in to your analytics console.

Types of Analytics to Check

Obviously, the metrics included in your report should be those that are most important to your brand. That said, I do recommend that all ecommerce managers get a top level report of all your channels, and include top KPIs such as traffic, conversion rate, number of transactions, revenue, social sign ups, etc).

Additional reports for specific channels are also warranted. For instance, if you spend a lot of money for paid search, you’ll definitely want to receive a dedicated paid search report that provides additional metrics, such as your cost per click, competitor percentage, and so on.

Avoid Unpleasant Surprises

Here’s a promise I can make: checking your site analytics daily will help you avoid rather unpleasant surprises. At Something Digital we’ve seen numerous instances where a client launched a new site and then monitored sales by looking at their Magento dashboards. At first glance the site looks as if it’s performing as planned, as evidenced by new sales coming in. A few days later they check Google Analytics only to discover that their GA tracking code wasn’t setup correctly and is reporting 0% revenue for those past few days. This is critical site data that should be used to optimize the site but is lost forever.

We’ve also seen costly surprises crop as a result of changes made to critical processes, such as the checkout page. Ecommerce managers, eager to boost conversion rates, optimize their checkout pages without realizing that a technical issue is causing problems for users at a specific stage.

But a glance at the site analytics will clearly show that visitors are encountering problems at a specific stage in the checkout funnel, and you’ll know exactly where to focus your efforts. I remember a client coming to me after spending an enormous amount of time trying to identify why sales were falling, when the answer was waiting in his Google Analytics all along.

Checking your site analytics is the first place to go when troubleshooting technical issues on your site. I’ve seen clients waste a lot of time digging into other areas when they could have looked into their analytics platform and instantly seen what the problem was.

Setting Up Custom Report in GA

Most clients use Google Analytics and it’s incredibly easy to create a custom report for your site analytics. To begin, Google offers an online tutorial that walks you through the process. Google’s new Data Studio turns your site data into dashboards and reports that are easy to read, easy to share, and fully customizable, and offers a gallery of reports to choose from.

Moreover, other ecommerce managers have created and shared their custom reports which you may be able to use as a starting point for your own. In other words, creating a custom report may be as easy as finding a report template to import into your profile.

I hope I’ve convinced you to begin checking your site analytics on a daily basis. It’s the single most effective way to ensure your site and marketing initiatives are performing as planned, and to identify and resolve issues if they’re not. If you’re having issues with you analytics or want more information reach out to us, we’d love to help!

Written by: Lindsay Pugh, Digital Strategist

SEO Checklist

Ranking poorly for SEO in SERPs? A Checklist for Uncovering the Underlying Issues

There’s nothing more frustrating than creating great content that’s never read by the people you wrote it for. How do you find more readers? The best strategy is to make it easier for people to find, and that means focusing on the search engine results page (SERP) with enhanced SEO.

The science of SEO is designed to do just that by reverse engineering how people look for answers on the web (i.e. “search”). It encompasses:

  • Content analysis, and persona development to ensure you write for the person most likely to search for and read your content
  • Keywords and related keywords that will raise your content higher in the search engine results page
  • Site taxonomy, to ensure your pages don’t compete against one another, and preventing your content from “surfacing” (i.e. get a high ranking in the search engine results)

 

Why Content Ranks Poorly

If you’re not getting the traffic you hoped for, begin by pinpointing the problem areas.

1. Identify the problems – Begin by understanding how your pages actually perform using your website analytics tool. Are they getting good traffic? Do visitors spend time on them, or do they leave just as soon as they land? Prioritize the specific pages that are under performing.

2. Perform a keyword analysis – Once you’ve identified the pages with the best performance identify the keywords that are driving prospects to it. A keyword analytics platform, such as the Magento SEO extension, or SEO Centro, will streamline this process, allowing you to compare the performance of two pages with the same keyword in a single view. Consider deleting the page with the weaker performance.  If you want to keep pages with weaker performance, consider using a related keyword or LSI term in its URL, title tag or H1 tag.

3. Look for duplicate content – Duplicate content is the enemy of SEO. The goal of a search engine is to identify the page that is most relevant to the user who performed the query, and search engines don’t respond well when multiple pages target the same keyword. How does they know which is the most important, and should be served up to the user? In many cases, the search engine responds to that confusion by lowering your site in the search results rankings. To combat this challenge, identify pages that compete with one another by using the same keyword in the URL, title tag or H1 tag.

4. Use Backlinking – Search engines need to look at a variety of signals to determine if a how a page should rank. Backlinks, which occur when another website references your webpage via a hyperlink, is an important metric for Google. In a sense, they’re popularity signals for the search engine, so you should try to get as many backlinks from as many quality sources or related bloggers from within your industry as possible. Social sharing will boost your backlinking profile, so be sure to make it easy for your users to share your webpages on social media.

Fixing Underperforming Pages

1. Republish content for freshness – Your web page may have great content, but if it hasn’t been updated in a few years, search engines will see it as old.

2. Add new content, or update your page – It’s a good idea to review your content on a regular basis and update as needed. For instance, your industry may have adopted new business terms, and refreshing your page to reflect them will boost your rankings.

3. Quick fixes – If you truly have nothing new to add, consider turning headers into questions searchers ask (e.g. When is Tom Brady’s birthday)?

Tips for Getting Your Content Found: Before You Write

1. Research Keywords & Latent Semantic Indexing – The first step is to gain a better understand the current level of interest (or demand) for that topic in the market. Keywords help you gain that understanding. Let’s say your company has introduced a line of meal kits. The first step is to assess the demand (i.e. or number of times) people enter “meal kits” into a search engine.

If the keyword generates a lot of volume, you’ll know it’s a hot topic. The same holds true for latent semantic indexing (LSI) terms. LSI terms are keywords that are semantically related to your primary keyword (e.g. vegetarian meal kits, farm-to-table meal kits, etc.).

LSI terms provide important insight into the direction the market is going. If they’re popular enough, you’ll want to include them in the content you create. You can also use these terms for future blog posts or other content, as well as to inform your company’s product roadmap.

2. Create a Taxonomy and Keyword Strategy Before You Write – Taxonomy refers to how your company classifies the main topics that relate to your business, products and services, so that users can easily find them via a search. For instance, let’s say you have many styles of mobile phones on your site. Your taxonomy will include  mobile phones, and within that folder you may have separate pages for Samsung, Motorola and so on. This is taxonomy.

The trick to successful taxonomy lies in identifying the main topics to emphasize, as well as the relevant sub-topics for each main topic. If your site only sells mobile phones, then “Samsung Galaxy” and “Google Pixel” may be appropriate main topics. If your site offers a broad range of devices, than these terms will be better suited as sub-topics to “smartphones.”

From a URL standpoint, it’s important to give each page a name that describes the content it contains. For instance, if you create a page about portable smartphone charges, don’t simply call it “smartphone.” Doing so will result in attracting traffic that isn’t relevant to your products.

3. Use Buying-Journey Personas to Drive Content – What do keyword searches reveal about the consumer’s intent? Some keywords are used when people are just beginning to research a topic; others indicate a more mature understanding of the topic. By continuously tracking keywords and user online behavior, the SEO industry has learned how to use keywords to develop buying journey personas.

Once you’ve created a list of appropriate keywords and LSI terms for your company, you will be in a position to assess where likely readers of your content are in their buying journeys. This insight will help you craft highly relevant content for the reader.

For instance, if the keyword indicates the consumer is in the early stages of the buying journey, you will want to cover basic information on the topic. If they’re later in the later stages, you can assume they have a solid grounding, and can dive straight into the nuances or complexities they’ll need to consider.

Content marketing is a great way to attract new prospects to your brand — as well as establish your company as a leader in your space. But it only works if people who are important to you can find it. This isn’t a matter of luck, it’s straightforward science. With a bit of upfront planning and thought into the taxonomy, keywords and LSIs you use, you can turbocharge your content marketing.

Dark Social

Dark Social Webinar Recap

Missed our webinar but still curious about dark social and its effect on your site? Check out the full webinar and a little information on what dark social is below.

  • The term “dark social” was coined by Alexis C. Madrigal in this Atlantic article. You should think of dark social as social shares that are difficult to measure. For example, when one friend sends another a link via email or text message. While this should be counted as social traffic in Google Analytics, it’s usually funneled into the “direct” channel.
  • This concept is important to segment out and look at because it can help you optimize your overall social media strategy. According to RadiumOne, “84% of consumers’ outbound sharing from publishers’ and marketers’ websites now takes place via private, Dark Social channels such as email and instant messaging.”
  • It’s also important to try to separate this out so you can get a better sense of what your direct channel actually looks like. How many people are directly typing in your url or coming to your site via bookmarked pages?

 

 

Download the Dark Social Webinar Presentation.

If you’re looking for a few dark social resources, check out the ones below.

Debunking the Myths of Dark Social

Introducing: Dark Social

The Dark Side of Mobile Sharing

Unlock the Value of Sharing this Christmas