Retail

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October 18, 2014

Perks That Work: Getting the Most out of Your Employees

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Running a small business requires a lot more creativity than running a major corporation. Throwing money at every single problem is not an option. When your resources are limited, you have to think smarter and work harder. 

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but the adage is scant consolation for cash-hobbled entrepreneurs with grand ideas which simply can't be executed without a few hefty checks being written. All too often, budgetary constraints lead to a frustrating number of creative ideas being nixed at the proposal stage.

One of the ways in which SMBs feel financially strangled is their inability to offer the perks-of-the-job absorbed so easily by Fortune 500 companies. Competition for the best employees is fierce, but even if you can’t offer the same salary as the biggest brands in your industry, you can attract bright minds by offering the right perks.

It’s not all about free meals and X-Boxes. If potential staff members can see real world benefits as part of the package, and they have faith in your company culture, they may well take a smaller salary. After all, if they believe in your brand, they will understand that it’s only a matter of time before their wages will rise in line with the company’s fortunes. With that in mind, we’ve trawled the employee packages offered by a variety of small and medium-sized businesses to give you a few ideas for perks that really work.

 

Cycle to Work

D.C. company Summit LLC hit on an innovative way to keep younger employees excited about going to work. They saw that more than 50% of their workforce did not drive and responded by purchasing annual memberships to the Capital Bikeshare program. Of Summit’s 75 employees, more than half opted to sign up for the program, which costs $75 per membership. Like all good benefits, the advantages of the scheme were felt equally by management and staff: avoiding traffic and public transportation delays increased productivity by ensuring staff showed up earlier. The positive effect of exercise on cognitive function is well-documented. For the future health of staff and revenues, that’s a few thousand dollars well spent.

 

Free Laundry

Venice-based JibJab Media offer a free laundry service to all staff-members who arrive to work by 10am on Mondays. The contents of one laundry bag gets washed, folded and returned to employees the following day. Crossing such a simple chore off the daily lives of staff does wonders for loyalty, and it’s a relatively low-cost endeavor.

 

Mandatory Out of Office Hours

In this smartphone age, so many workers are expected to be constantly ‘on’ – and it’s a major cause of anxiety among those who feel they can’t switch ‘off’. One CEO has boldly coined the phrase ‘Zmail’ to describe his no-email policy between the hours of 10pm and 6am. Dan Calista, head of healthcare management consultancy firm Vynamic, asks employees with the urge to email at 11pm to write a draft and send it the next morning. The policy was implemented in response to an internal survey that showed 40% of employees were stressed out at work. Now, Vynamic reports a lower-than-average staff turnover rate, and they send regular reminders about the policy – before 10pm, of course.

October 14, 2014

4 Effective Geo-Targeting Techniques

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More and more advertisers are implementing geo-targeting in their marketing campaigns, but challenges form when limiting location, specifically in regards to volume. Cookies and private browsing also limit ad number, yet a few creative location-targeting techniques are helping advertisers improve ROI. Geo-targeting focuses on city, state, region, country, zip code, designated market area (DMA), radius around a point or location extension targeting, or some combination of these. Let’s take a look at four effective geo-targeting techniques for advertisers wanting to fine-tune campaigns without losing volume:

 

1) Exclusion is Okay

AdWorks makes it possible for advertisers to exclude certain locations so ads don’t appear there, such as a convenience store chain excluding locations free of their stores. Running reports indicating where locations clicks are coming from, sorting by low-quality clickers and excluding these areas or using bid adjustment all contribute to improved ROI. Bid adjustments refer to increasing or decreasing bids in specific locations for performance optimization.

 

2) Use Keywords Only

Another geo-targeting technique is using keywords rather than locations to limit targeting. For example, a car dealership could create a separate campaign targeting people searching for “car dealerships Philadelphia” as opposed to relying on geo-targeting only. Because car dealerships serve specific areas or regions, people looking for dealerships are more likely to use geo-modifiers when searching. Using keywords therefore functions as a competitive strategy and a way to drive traffic.

 

3) A Mobile Focus

Mobile-only AdWord campaigns are important when looking to geo-target mobile audiences. This is especially essential if targeting on-the-go professionals, such as real estate agents, as well as consumers looking for specific services when “out and about,” such as towing help if stranded.

 

4) Implement Weather-Related Bid Adjustments

Google Scripts makes it possible to make bid adjustments based on weather. For example, marketers can send ads for indoor activities on cold and/or rainy days, and those for outdoor fun on warm and sunny days. A simple spreadsheet is all that’s required to create this bid, and advertisers are excited about the possibilities that weather-related geo-targeting offers. The weather affects purchase and activity decisions, so ads based on how warm it is or not on a certain day is a powerful marketing tool.

A little creativity is all that’s necessary to make geo-targeting work for your business! The potential of precise, location-specific marketing cannot be underestimated, and is set to revolutionize the way people do business. 

October 12, 2014

How Geo-Targeting Has Become a Precision Marketing Tool

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Recent geo-targeting improvements has this marketing tool poised to become the “next big thing” in mobile advertising.

Once upon a time, advertisers sent ads into universe, not knowing if they would be viewed or attractive to the user. Geo-targeting provided advertisers the ability to leverage smartphone GPS data and subsequently create ads relevant to the user’s location, and track user proximity to competitor businesses. This serious increase in ad relevancy has resulted in marketers looking to further develop geo-marketing practices. 

Two Techniques

Geo-tracking also offers targeted messages to consumers who patronize various businesses more than once. Two popular techniques that go beyond standard geo-targeting involve creating targeted ads based on either the user’s “passion points,” i.e. favorite businesses/establishments, or favored brands. Monica Ho, the vice president of marketing at xAd in New York, notes about one-third of the company’s brand campaigns are utilizing sophisticated geo-targeting techniques, a significant increase compared to previous campaigns. Indeed, the company’s location platform has grown an astounding 300 percent in 2014.

New Strategies

New strategies regarding geo-targeting include addressing the issue of delivering mobile ads “at scale with location-based targeting,” since most consumers don’t share their location unless engaging in specific activities. Another problem is ad placement at the “expense of reach.” However, Michael Boland, senior analyst and vice president of content at BIA/Kelsey in Chantilly, Virginia, notes “...using location instead to profile and target audience segments broadens the locus of targeting beyond impression-depleting locales.”

The Challenge

The problem with geo-targeting is frightening off users when marketers make it obvious they know where they are and what they’re looking for. This is also the most effective way to engage with customers, however.

“If someone in Atlanta mentions getting engaged on Facebook and starts asking brides where they got their dress, a local bridal shop could combine that interest with geo-location data and reach out with information about a sample sale," said Kam Desai, cofounder of newBrandAnalytics.

"Combining location with interest for a targeted promotion that’s very relevant to that particular consumer," he said. "If you’re sharing authentic, relevant information, consumers will value that. Knowing location is just another tool to be able to customize campaigns more effectively."

Additionally, marketers are looking to user location history for ad creation. This is thanks to the combination of mobile and big data. 

“Signals being captured by smartphones and processed through apps and cloud platforms are unlocking all kinds of valuable data by which to target ads not just by location but location-oriented factors like weather and demographic patterns,” Boland noted.

Marketers will no doubt continue their work with geo-targeting, resulting in even more sophisticated ad campaigns. 

October 08, 2014

Mobile Marketing Budgets are Smaller Than They Should Be

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Mobile devices have quickly become powerful marketing tools, yet brands are still not investing in mobile advertising as they probably should. Despite practically “everyone” owning a mobile device, mobile marketing accounts for a mere 5 percent of the average brand’s budget. Why? Usual reasons include difficulty tracking performance and gauging ROI.

According to recent Forrester research, 62 percent of marketers surveyed felt “confident” about measuring mobile ad campaign ROI, yet only 18 percent felt “very confident” in their ability measure ROI. Marketers want to see hard numbers if heavily investing in mobile, which many experts find “counter-intuitive.” 

“Consumers now spend over half of their leisure time on mobile devices,” says Gal Oppenheimer, senior product manager of built.io, a mobile back-end and application development platform. “Mobile advertising is clearly important, but it needs to get easier to track brand awareness and consumer spending.”

Other experts say marketers are too busy comparing mobile and desktop metrics, which is essentially a waste considering how different the mediums are. Marketers are used to cookie-based tracking, but such tracking doesn’t really work in the mobile world. A single cookie isn’t capable of tracking consumer actions as they go back and forth between mobile browsers and apps, nor can they follow consumers who click on mobile app download ads. The latter is a common mobile ad unit that encourages consumers to download a brand’s app. 

Mobile marketing is definitely a work in progress, yet current efforts are encouraging. Groupon, for example, works with at least three different mobile ad networks, and places ads on a wide range of publishers’ mobile sites and apps. The online retailer works with mobile advertising vendor Fiksu Inc. to discover which mobile attribution methods are best for tracking ad effectiveness.

Facebook is also working on a solution to the “mobile puzzle.” The social media giant introduced a mobile ad unit in April of this year, Audience Network, which allows marketers to target and place ads across an assortment of mobile apps utilizing what Facebook knows about its sizable user base. The network is designed to result in more relevant ads on apps, which leads to improved click-through rates, and subsequently a better ROI for the advertiser and more revenue for app developers.

Marketers are still hesitant, but if tracking abilities improve, more money will go into mobile ad efforts. “Forrester found that if marketers could track more reliably, 86 percent would allocate more of their budgets to mobile,” wrote Mike O’Brien in a recent post for ClickZ. “And 93 percent would run more cross-channel campaigns, something only 13 percent said they felt confident measuring.”

 

October 07, 2014

iBeacon Goes Mainstream in Mobile Marketing

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According to CMO.com, iBeacons and geomarketing are quickly becoming mainstream tools for marketers.

The iBeacon is defined by Apple as "a new class of low-powered, low-cost transmitters that can notify nearby iOS 7 devices of their presence.” It relies on Bluetooth low-energy proximity sensing to” transmit universally-unique identifiers”picked up by compatible apps or operating systems. These identifiers may be looked up via the internet to determine the device's physical location, or result in action, such as a push notification or check-in on social media.

Geomarketing involves geographic information used in the planning and executing of marketing strategies. It allows marketers to target advertising campaigns and subsequently appeal to consumers based on where they live or shop.

A U.S.-based team researching mobile marketing found some 18 percent of mobile marketers are utilizing Apple iBeacons, which is expected to double in 2015. Additionally, 49 percent of marketers noted they would use device positioning to deliver content, while 48.8 percent plan to add such capabilities to their mobile marketing strategy over the next year.

The Adobe Digital Team Index recently found 33 percent of average mobile users look to their mobile devices for help when shopping in-store, and 9 percent have used mobile wallets over the past three months. This percentage rises to 22 among “mobile elite” users. Adobe also discovered bounce rate referrals from social networks are higher on mobile devices than desktops at 61 and 53 percent, respectively.

Adobe’s digital team researched other mobile dynamics and trends as well, including social channels. They discovered Pinterest is the “most mobile” social network, with 64 percent of its referred traffic coming from either smartphones or tablet devices. Twitter is at 62 percent in terms of mobile use, and Facebook at 41 percent. Tumblr has the highest revenue per visit from mobile devices--$2.57--with Facebook coming in second at $1.85.

The company’s Mobile Benchmark Report was based on aggregate data from some 18 billion visits to retail, media, entertainment, financial services, and travel websites in June 2014. Behavioral data from companies using Adobe’s Marketing Cloud solution, Analytics and Mobile Services platforms was also studied. The report researched, in total, 700 million mobile app use sessions, 3,000 mobile users, and over 10,000 U.S. websites and apps.

With so many companies jumping on the iBeacon and geomarketing bandwagons, mobile ad campaigns will only become more and more location specific. 

September 23, 2014

5 Reasons Why Mobile Marketing is Top Dog

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Mobile marketing is now so sophisticated and ubiquitous, it’s easy to forget just how new the phenomenon is. Web marketing has been around since the advent of the internet, but apart from a few rather crude SMS blasts, the concept of mobile marketing didn’t really exist until the first wave of smartphones came out less than a decade ago.

It may have taken a while to come of age, but mobile commerce has been making up for it over the past few years, with sales derived from tablets and smartphones expected to reach $100 billion by the year’s end. Google analysts predict mobile search volumes will outstrip desktop by 2015. Every business worth it’s salt is pursuing some kind of mobile marketing strategy, each hoping to corner their share of a smartphone audience that accounts for more than half of the population of the United States.

We’ve identified five key reasons why mobile has become the top priority of businesses great and small:

It’s Local

Right now, 40% of mobile searches are local; 77% of those take place from a user’s home or workplace, indicating an active preference for mobile even when alternatives are available. This is tremendously important for small businesses serving their local area. By targeting local keywords, a small business owner can conduct an effective mobile marketing campaign on a relatively tight budget. Which brings us to…

It’s Affordable

Before the mobile revolution, effective marketing campaigns were expensive. Really expensive. Television, radio and billboard advertising cost a lot of money, way more than your average small-to-medium sized business owner can afford. Big corporations got bigger and everyone else was priced out. SMS messaging has changed all that, allowing start ups to have a realistic chance of success on shoestring budgets. The ROI for mobile advertising is also easy to track, with analytics providing invaluable data like peak search times and customer preferences. With mobile, businesses can tweak their service according to consumer behavior and make their ad spend go further.

It’s Fast

Four out of five mobile conversions happen within five hours of the search. This is critical because searches turn into leads, and ultimately sales. Make yourself available via mobile and you can grab more customers faster than ever before.

It’s for Everyone

The first generation of cell phone owners are now in the valuable 55-64 demographic – and their children are even more tech savvy. Mobile growth is happening across all age groups and ethnicities, which is a solid gold gift for marketing managers.

…and Everything

The top five tasks performed on smartphones are making phone calls (83%), checking emails (74%), search (67%), taking photos (62%) and accessing social media (57%). There’s hardly an online activity that isn’t conducted via mobile. Another gift for marketers, who can focus variously on each task as part of their campaign.

Mobile marketing is here to stay, and it represents a real revolution for small business owners who no longer have to be drowned out by corporate clout. Get on board with your own mobile marketing campaign and you’ll find out for yourself why mobile is top dog.

September 17, 2014

What to Expect from the iPhone 6

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This week Apple unveiled a triad of new devices: the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 plus, and the iWatch. The anticipation mounting over the new technology has the blogging world abuzz, but most of the talk is about the oversized iPhone 6 plus (which many iPhone users scoff at), or the iWatch (which nobody seems to take seriously). Unfortunately for the iPhone 6, the blogosphere seems to have failed to represent what she has to offer.

LARGER

The iPhone 6 has undergone a major revision in its latest release. Perhaps the most interesting thing we noticed about the new iPhone – it is a little larger than the last generation, the iPhone 5S, by about a half an inch. It appears that the designers of the latest iPhone have been interpreting the data about the competition: a little more than one-third of mobile users prefer to use a smartphone that has a larger screen. The smartphone is also heavier than its previous incarnation, weighing in at about 4.5 ounces.

SLEEKER DESIGN

The design of the body has been altered as well. The iPhone 6 has veered away from square edges, and now has a more rounded yet significantly slimmer shape (a little bit thicker than a quarter inch). This makes it one of the thinnest devices on the market. The power button has also been moved from the top of the phone to the right edge.

In the weeks leading up to the unveiling, Apple claimed that the glass in their screens will be upgraded to handle many more bumps and scrapes before shattering – good news for any mobile user who’s dropped their iPhone before. Also with the new Retina HD screen, the iPhone 6 has received a significant upgrade from its cousin, the iPhone 5S. When compared to other models though (like those of Samsung’s line of phones), many would argue that the screen designers could have gone further in creating a better display.

UPDATED HARDWARE & SOFTWARE

The camera has been upgraded in the new iPhone 6 to one with a wide-angle lens. Called the iSight lens, it incorporates a 2.2 aperture with noise reduction and an autofocus that’s twice as fast. The rear camera also has a slo-mo video mode to enhance slow motion recording. The front facing camera is much better too, now an HD camera with a 2.2 aperture that allows in more than 80% more light.

But there’s one big question about the operating system. Will Apple update its iOS – yet again – for the newer available iPhones? The answer is no. Apple is running the new iPhone 6 on the same platform it unveiled earlier this year, the iOS 8.

All in all, the new iPhone 6 will be exciting to see in action, due to the attention the designers have paid to the model. It may not be exactly what the critics would’ve asked for, but it will certainly prove to be an excellent addition to the Apple line of products. Due to hit the shelves on September 19th, the price will be comparable to previous versions (about $650).

September 16, 2014

Touchpoint Device Incentivizes Brick and Mortar Customer Tap Ins

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Getting push notifications in front of customers is one of the primary concerns of the modern mobile marketing campaign, but it’s important to remember that sending your message to smartphone screens is a highly personal – invasive, even – activity. That’s why any mobile marketing campaign must be conducted with care and sensitivity.

Enter Tapcentive. The San Francisco-based firm recently launched an automated platform that allows customers to earn coupons, points and other rewards by tapping their phone to a $35 ‘Touchpoint’ device. The small device contains a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon and a near field communications radio (NFC), both of which detect the tap of a customers phone. Android phones already carry NFC chips, and Apple is expected to follow suit with its latest iteration of the iPhone. Here’s how it works: 

  • A customer taps the Touchpoint device when they enter a retail store
  • The store’s app launches automatically or, if the customer does not have the app, can be downloaded via the Touchpoint platform (along with an instant reward)
  • A mobile marketing communication channel is now opened between customer and brand – all instigated by the consumer

This last point is crucial. The thinking behind Tapcentive is that greater engagement with the opt-in process translates to greater long-term engagement with the brand. It’s a cocktail of pull notifications, push notifications and straight up incentives. 

And, according to the brains behind the innovation, there’s a lot more to come. Tapcentive plans to add more features capable of reaching the customer via social media, website, email and text messaging.

The notifications themselves are also breaking new ground, representing part of the ‘gamification’ of mobile marketing. For example, a store might set up a game in which the customer wins a coupon for going around the store and tapping Touchpoints in four different departments. Another game might reward every 25th customer who taps a Touchpoint, or register them in a sweepstakes.

It’s all centrally managed via a web portal which plans the types of content available at each Touchpoint, and the triggers by which the platform will start communication with customers. There’s also the standard built-in analytics tools to measure the effectiveness of each mobile marketing campaign. If you’re interested in mobile marketing innovations, keep an eye out for the telltale Tapcentive Touchpoints in stores near you!

August 30, 2014

Are You Talking to Me? Tailoring Messages to Different Customers

 

When creating text messages for customer engagement, it is essential to create messages that will resonate with clients not just financially but emotionally. This can be a difficult task: nearly every customer wants something different, and they all want to feel special. By tailoring text messages to individuals, however, businesses have a better shot at attracting new customers while keeping existing clients satisfied.

The process of tailoring messages is called list segmentation. Basically, list segmentation entails dividing clients into separate groups based on any number of factors. Each group should will common elements by which they’re filtered, such as: age, location, behavior, or history with the company. All of these commonalities give companies an idea of how to market to these groups, thereby allowing marketers to create unique messages for each group in order to hit home with customers.

Here are a few ideas as to how to properly segment lists for more personalized engagement:

1)     Separate prospects from current customers

Current customers do not want to be treated as prospects, and with good reason. Existing customers may be upset if they see an introductory deal that is better than the one they were originally offered. The two groups should be addressed and rewarded differently. First-time offer deals go to new clients, while special VIP loyalty discounts go to existing customers.

2)     Cater to your biggest clients

Create a segment for the big spenders, particularly if they are purchasing ten times more than the average customer. Decide on particular metrics to determine at which point a customer becomes a “big spender” and be sure to add them to this segment. Develop messages that will reciprocate their loyalty: give them platinum status that includes perks like gifts or free shipping. Listen carefully to the needs of these clients, and show them special appreciation.

3)     Resurrect relationships with inactive clients

Be aware of which Customers have fallen off the grid and haven’t engaged with or purchased from the brand for at least 6 months. In this segment, create a special message to lure these one-time clients into a brand-new relationship. Invent a reactivation campaign that will incentivize these specific clients to reactivate their relationship with the company.

4)     Pay attention to demographics

Analyze zip codes, gender, age, occupation, and other important demographic factors. With this information, segment clients into specific groups (i.e. old versus young; high-income versus low-income; etc.). Utilize programs that can help to insert the right information into text messages, which adhere to the demographics of each segment. This is very important: a business who addresses a text to the wrong demographic could quickly start to lose some customers; while companies who target particular demographics with extremely relevant offers and information will increase engagement.

5)     Pay attention to habits and behavior

Segment clients by spending habits, and continue to offer them relevant follow-up deals or upsell items. Also, segment lists according to click-through habits, separating out clients by the particular messages and links that appeal to them. By segmenting customers according to purchasing and traffic data, businesses can convert sales more often and continue to track their successes.

Update your segments frequently, as user data continuously changes and brand messaging is always evolving. Consider which campaigns are superior to others, and track new ones to make sure your segmenting is valid and effective. In the end, list segmentation is critical for successful advertising through text or any other form of mass communication, and marketers can expect great returns from a well-segmented mass marketing strategy.

August 25, 2014

How to Create a Low Cost Loyalty Scheme with SMS

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Customer loyalty programs are one of the most effective drivers of sales. Few would disagree with that. But some businesses remain reticent to develop mobile marketing tactics that they believe – wrongly – are prohibitively expensive to set up.

This misconception is a hangover from the age of traditional advertising channels like television and radio, which have historically charged high premiums for ad space. Even with space bought and paid for, a compelling creative campaign from an agency could easily set you back $25,000. Add to that the hit taken by the loyalty promotion itself – be it coupons or other freebies – and a loyalty scheme could easily run into six figures. 

A mobile marketing campaign – and in particular an SMS messaging campaign – needn’t be in the same ballpark to be effective. In fact, small businesses on limited budgets can drive real growth with a modest, localized text message campaign. There are a few key steps to take if you’re looking to set up a low cost loyalty scheme. Let’s take a closer look…

Building a Database

One of the primary functions of a good mobile marketing campaign is to grow your user list. But you can make huge strides towards this goal before even engaging with the online world. Start in the right place by developing ads specifically for in-store visitors. Encourage them to sign up to receive future SMS messages (and the promise of rewards) – you might be surprised how many contacts you can build just from walk-in traffic.

Post-Click Experience

For a loyalty scheme to provide a decent ROI, you need to ensure it generates a healthy level of conversions. That means providing a great user experience from the moment they click on your ad. There are a number of ways to do this. You could direct users straight to a landing page or, if you have the budget, your mobile app. But if money is tight, there is still a lot you can do. Offer a survey or quiz, or another form of engaging content that will keep consumers’ eyes focused on you. Above all, offer an incentive for opting in. Sign-up discounts work well, and give new users the chance to sample your product without investing too much themselves. 

Ad Buys

There are basically two kinds of mobile ad networks: blind and premium. A blind network gives you little in the way of transparency in terms of where the ads appear – but that’s mitigated by the low cost of the campaign. Premium networks are more expensive, but they allow you to target your ads at apps more appropriate for your brand.

The key to executing a successful mobile marketing campaign is starting small but diverse in order to find out what works for your company. Try a few different approaches, track the success of each, and begin to focus only on the most rewarding strategies. True brand loyalty is a slow-burner: throw tonnes of cash and little thought at the task and your audience will see straight through it. It may well work for some, but others will be turned off. Start small, experiment, and you’ll soon carve out a space all of your own.