Posts filed under 'Internet Marketing'

Attention Is Monetizable But Shouldn’t Always Be

The reason apps that don’t have any revenue but millions of users are worth so much is because “attention is monetizable”. The assumption is that once advertisers are able to access all of that attention they’ll pay a lot for the privilege for putting their ads in front of it. But money shouldn’t always follow where the most eyeballs are. It’s possible that all the attention in the world can’t make up for a medium that is just bad for advertising.

I really like Bob Hoffman’s idea that the best mediums for advertising are those that are entertainment mediums like TV and Radio because you are accustomed to entertainment media carrying advertising. The internet is part communication medium, part information medium, and part entertainment medium. Meaning that when you are using it for any reason other than entertainment the advertising gets in the way, is ignored and is ineffective.

From Bob:

“What if you picked up the telephone and instead of getting a dial tone you got an ad?

What if you picked up a dictionary and instead of finding a definition you found an ad?

In both cases you’d be angry. Why? Because the telephone is a medium of communication and you don’t want to be slowed down. The dictionary is a medium of information and you don’t want to be sidetracked.”

Those high value/high attention apps are more like telephones and dictionaries. This isn’t to say that advertisers won’t spend a ton of money on ads in front of that attention – the ways advertising budgets are squandered are infinite – I’m just saying it could have been better spent elsewhere.

Add comment August 13th, 2015

Purchasing Channel Versus Decision Making Channel

94% of retail sales are still generated at brick and mortar stores. This stat is usually referenced to defend traditional retail when people see Amazon increasing their revenue from 2009 to 2013 by $50 billion, and state that the death of the traditional retail store is a foregone conclusion. The big effect that the internet makes on shoppers is not on their purchasing channel, it’s where they make their purchasing decisions that has changed.

This is why most consumers know what they want before they show up at the store. The reaction between stimulus and purchase is not going to the store, but the customer accessing the internet with questions like “how do I keep diapers from leaking through the night?”, “what kind of jeans is Beyonce wearing” and “what will remove crayon marks from my wood dining table?”  Even if TV advertising is the stimuli, the internet intercepts the purchase funnel at some point.

You wouldn’t think this insight has been made if you were to review most multi-channel retailer’s today. Online marketing efforts are still overwhelmingly focused on driving sales online. A big part of the problem is calculating how much revenue is driven offline from online advertising. Since online advertising’s effect on online sales is easier to measure, it has a bigger budget.

There is a change coming to the marketing departments of multi-channel retailers and that is, all advertising for retail stores will soon be online (the day is coming when TV and the internet are one in the same, and those ads will be scrutinized with the same criteria as online ads). Regardless of which channel the customer chooses to purchase from it will all be from digital advertising.

Add comment September 12th, 2014

Fulfilling Demand vs Creating Demand

Fulfilling demand is advertising where you help people who are already inclined to buy make a final purchase decision. Creating demand is advertising that puts an idea in the person’s head to go out and buy something they hadn’t previously considered.

Fulfilling Demand vs Creating Demand

The reason why TV ads are so good at creating demand, I think, is because it’s in a medium aligned with entertainment. You’re passively sitting back, letting the TV take you where it wants, the ads act as mini stories that you’re already expecting to see.

The internet is much more of an active, informational and communication-driven medium. You go to the internet to find things out just as much, if not more, than for entertainment. This is why display ads generally suck – they don’t fulfill demand, and if they do any creating of demand it’s minimal because the user is not in entertainment mode, they are in research/communication/info gathering mode.

Content that is interesting/informational/helpful/entertaining is a little closer to nirvana – it can fulfill demand: people looking for answers can find them in your content, which hopefully refers them to purchase from you, and it can create demand: the content can be convincing enough to create a new need in their mind to motivate them to buy something. But quality content doesn’t scale in a linear proportion like paying for ads does and it’s hard to always be original.

We will reach advertising nirvana (maybe) once the internet more closely resembles television so that it becomes more of a passive medium while retaining it’s active capabilities, and some new forms of advertising are invented that better facilitate the two.


Add comment June 19th, 2014

The Big Flaw With A/B & Multivariate Testing

Multivariate testing allows marketers to test unlimited combinations of elements on a web page in a live environment and measure the significance of those changes on the site’s conversion rate by allowing the visitors to vote with their clicks.

The typical mindset for testing content on a website is to find which variation of site elements performs the best, and then implement those changes permanently: make a test, discover the winner, turn the test into what 100% of visitors see, and then move onto the next test.

There is a big flaw with this mindset: it assumes visitors don’t change preferences over time. The winning variation was good this week but that is no reason to think that it will be the winning combination the following week. One of the least understood aspects of e-Commerce is how much web visitor behavior changes from one time interval to another.

Giving the test more time to run doesn’t really solve this problem because all visitors who visit once the test has been declared over could be different than the ones that visited during the test. A winning variation is only winning during the time it was running.

The solution is to have the variables run constantly. A winner is never declared and implemented permanently because there isn’t only one clear cut winner. As the seasons and visitor preferences change, the system changes with it. For example: the combination of variables that are successful in the summer, when the products are full price and customers weigh pros and cons, read reviews and analyze costs to benefits, will be very different than the variables that succeed during holiday, when visitors are under a time crunch, want nothing more than a low price and to get in, buy and get out.
For this reason saying something like, “we need to do some testing to make sure our site is in tip top shape for holiday,” can cause some serious problems. How visitors act now is not how they will act then.

Add comment January 20th, 2014

The Limits Of Data Driven Marketing

Online marketing has up to this point claimed that big data which allows more precise targeting is the solution to all of marketing’s woes. I think that data can go a long way but there is a point when more data isn’t the answer. Focusing on the data too much can have some negative impacts.

First, left to their own devices, the data-driven direct response people will compromise and dumb-down everything to the point of complete blandness with the excuse of “it’s what the visitors want!” People don’t always know what they want. This is something that Steve Jobs knew well according to Guy Kawasaki:
“Apple market research” is an oxymoron. The Apple focus group was the right hemisphere of Steve’s brain talking to the left one. If you ask customers what they want, they will tell you, “Better, faster, and cheaper—that is, better sameness, not revolutionary change. They can only describe their desires in terms of what they are already using—around the time of the introduction of Macintosh, all people said they wanted was better, faster, and cheaper MS-DOS machines. The richest vein for tech startups is creating the product that you want to use—that’s what Steve and Woz did.”

Second, as soon as managers pick a numerical metric as a way to measure whether they’re achieving their desired outcome, everybody starts maximizing that metric rather than doing the rest of their job.

Third, data isn’t enough to motivate others. From Seth Godin: “In my experience, data crowds out faith. And without faith, it’s hard to believe in the data enough to make a leap. Big mergers, big VC investments, big political movements, large congregations… they don’t usually turn out for a spreadsheet. The problem is this: no spreadsheet, no bibliography and no list of resources is sufficient proof to someone who chooses not to believe. The skeptic will always find a reason, even if it’s one the rest of us don’t think is a good one. Relying too much on proof distracts you from the real mission–which is emotional connection.”

Add comment January 7th, 2014

Would We Be Better Off If We Could Measure Less?

The day is coming where users online will be tracked via their phone’s geo location so that a click on an ad will be tracked all the way to the in store visit. Revenue from the store visit will be attributed to paid search ads and ROAS will plummet. Investment in paid search will go up but only to a point.

I think more surety that every sale is being attributed to sales accurately will give more false confidence that the amount being invested is exactly the right amount. Marketers will be convinced further and will become more entrenched in treating paid search solely as a direct response medium – you put X amount of money in and you get Y out, both online and instore. Budgets will be under an even bigger microscope because there won’t be any question of how many people are being driven in store and online.

The full effect of advertising is unmeasurable. The intention, motivation and inception of attribution for the majority of traffic is is utterly unknowable. More tracking can give a false sense of understanding.

Advertising drives sales but it also has a less appreciated side effect. Bob Hoffman explains in this post that it also buys business insurance. This is the reason why Apple, even with no new offerings and lackluster advertising is still producing incredible returns. He explains, “the prevailing attitude among marketers that everything is immediately measurable completely ignores the insurance value. One of the reasons people continued to spend their money to purchase Apple products was not likely the result of advertising that they ran in that quarter. It was because of the advertising that Apple had run the previous 25 years. It bought them insurance.”

The long term effects from advertising don’t show up in the paid search report that you are running. More data won’t help. In fact, more data might lead some to believe that if it’s not in the data, it doesn’t exist.

“Where is the Life we have lost in living? Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” T. S. Eliot

Add comment September 23rd, 2013

Marketplaces The Future Of Ecommerce?

Amazon, Ebay, Sears, WalMart and Newegg are a few examples of the stores that offer marketplaces for third parties to sell their products alongside the company’s own inventory (won’t be long until Facebook and Apple are there too). These marketplaces are making huge strides to weeding out competition and consolidating the ecommerce landscape by providing incredible solutions to both retailers and customers. The landscape for future of ecommerce could very well be made up of a handful of huge portals where the majority of transactions take place.

1. Any ecommerce retailer that wants to sell overseas faces translations, currency and payment processing hurdles that require incredible investment to handle. Amazon, Ebay and others are bridging these hurdles for anyone interested in selling online. By the time all the other US retailers figure out how to set up their websites all over the world, Amazon and Ebay will already have huge market share overseas.

2. Mobile shopping is exploding but the user experience for mobile websites continues to be difficult. Every site a visitor goes to is unique, requiring them to relearn where to find their purchase history, store locator or customer service number – if any of those features even exist on the mobile version of the site at all. These big marketplaces give customers a familiar, uniform place to shop.

3. Amazon, Google and Ebay are moving towards crazy fast and efficient shipping models. Google Shopping Express, Ebay Now, and Amazon Lockers are all creating shipping experiences that other ecommerce players are too far behind to ever compete with due to lack of scale. As soon as customers are used to free incredibly fast shipping, they won’t settle for anything else, forcing more retailers to sell through these marketplaces.

4. More on mobile shopping – Any brand who has ever made an app has quickly discovered how hard it is to get people to download it. App discovery is a mess. Not only that but getting someone to download the app is only the beginning of the problem, once it sits on the 3rd or fourth page of their iPhone home screen it rarely gets used. Enter the marketplace: Ebay app users spend 108 minutes within 34 sessions a month on their app. Why go through the expense of creating and marketing an app when you can create a shop within the app everyone is already using?

5. Customers are loyal to these marketplaces. Especially Amazon Prime members. Anyone who has Amazon Prime is going to first look on Amazon for the product they want to buy because they will get it fast and for free (showrooming doesn’t only happen offline, users do research on other sites online and then go to Amazon to buy too). Why bother with loyalty programs from all the other brands out there? If practically everything you want is already on Amazon along with your favorite loyalty program, tied into all the other media you consume, with the device that makes it all super simple – then you’re done.

6. Amazon, Apple, Ebay and Google all have hundreds of millions of credit cards on file and are poised to be the portals that everyone uses to store their credit cards and purchase online – they are secure, offer great fraud protection to sellers and are familiar for customers to use by storing their credentials. Google Wallet, Paypal and Amazon Payments are making big inroads as being purchase options on many big ecommerce sites, increasing conversion rates because they give customers more confidence – furthering the size of their reach.

Add comment May 13th, 2013

The Two Sides Of Online Marketing

There is the storytelling side of online marketing and the data-driven side of online marketing. Just because its measurable doesn’t make it better.

Storytelling entails all the visual, front-end stuff like email, facebook posts, tweets, custom designed landing pages, commercials, catalogs, sliding images on the home page, etc. There is some analysis of data to make decisions here but most of it is a creative endeavor fueled by gut decisions.

The other side of online marketing is the data-driven optimization side. This side entails optimizing advertising channels based on strict data. Paid search doesn’t tell stories. Writing meta-data for better ranking organically, landing page multivariate optimization, getting better data into product feeds for comparison shopping engines – it’s the evergreen stuff always running behind the scenes that fits into this category.

The data-driven stuff is very measurable so it’s held to a higher standard than the storytelling stuff – much to the chagrin of the direct response marketers, but measurable isn’t always the only thing that matters. The people in the company responsible for doing the storytelling stuff don’t actually want better data. If you’re not sure what’s working, you can’t get blamed. And since you can’t get blamed, you get to decide, to be creative, to create stories that reinforce purpose, instead of nitpicking every last detail.

The truth is you need both. Left to their own devices, the data-driven direct response people will compromise and dumb-down everything to the point of complete blandness with the excuse of “it’s what the visitors want!” You need the storytelling side to balance this out and aim for higher aspirations and lead customers to where you want them to be.

Add comment April 29th, 2013

In Defense Of Being Tracked Online

Are you ultimately responsible for your purchase decisions? In other words, are you powerless to resist the most hyper-targeted and relevant sales pitch? Hopefully the answer is of course not – if you don’t want to buy something, no advertising, no matter how well designed can convince you otherwise.

That frame of mind is important to keep when articles come out that get people fired up about their lack of privacy online. Recently there was a New York Times Magazine article where Target’s data mining was described as being able to detect when a teenage customer was pregnant, before even her own father knew. I don’t think the negative outweighs the positive. At its worst Target is trying to make their catalogs more relevant in hopes someone will be influenced to buy, at their best Target is removing spam and junk advertising and delighting people by helping them find the products they need.

The perceived threat out there is that there’s so much data collection going on that users don’t know about, but so what? Offline tracking has been intrusive for a long time and no one has ever been hurt.

The steps being taken in congress with The Privacy Bill Of Rights will require the net’s biggest online ad networks to respect a “Do Not Track” setting in browsers. Ok, thats fine – giving people a consistent and clear way to not be tracked is not a bad idea. But those people who choose to not be tracked will have an inferior experience on the web as a result.  Taken to extremes, policies like this could lead to damaging the web for everyone.

Personalization is where online retailers predict what you’ll want to buy using all the data they have on you – showing mens jeans on their home page instead of kids socks because they know you’re male, looked at jeans last time you were on the site and don’t have kids. This is what makes TV ads so intolerable is that they have no clue who is on the other side of the TV so they can’t help but be irrelevant. I will only be better off if I never see another commercial for tampons.

Do you want your barber to forget what kind of haircut you like each time you show up? These are the value adding benefits that tracking has. Content online is funded with ads so less relevant ads means there are less advertisers who want to advertise because the returns go down, which means less quality content being produced on the web.

I like being tracked. So far for me its all been upside – more relevant ads and personalized website experiences.

2 comments March 27th, 2013

Product Adoption Curve Marketing

Most marketing campaigns are tailored to the Innovators and Early Adopters and then prematurely abandoned. I’ve been thinking about what a long term marketing plan would look like if it were based on the diffusion of innovation bell curve. Below is a marketing plan to build a sustained campaign that meets consumers at their level of product adoption rather than trying to get them to become innovators or early adopters.

These people are itching to go first and be the ones to share with everyone else their opinion. Your objective here is to build buzz for everyone who comes later.

  • Create coming soon trailers for the product. (Kickstarter is pretty much just a giant “coming soon” site for introducing new products)
  • Seed product to a select few – typically niche bloggers and tastemakers who are hungry for exclusives and breaking news for their audiences
  • Presale to the best customers and allow them to flaunt their exclusive invitation through social media
  • Send an email to your best customers giving them first dibs, stroke their ego by giving them something to share that fits their personality
  • Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook status updates are applicable here. Social media is short lived and focused on breaking news

Early Adopters
Encourage those that get a thrill out of being the first to explore, adopt and adapt. Make them the heroes on your site. This is as far as most project launches go.

  • Create the hub of content on one your site. This page will be the place all in-bound links point to and aggregate all external content
  • Gather the early reviews, re-tweets, reactions, youtube “unboxing” videos and sort them all on this dedicated category page on your site
  • Use display ads hyper targeted to be on the most important niche blogs and sites of interest to the target audience
  • Be as relevant as possible about the exciting new release

Early Majority
Social proof is important to the early majority. Leverage your content hub page to give them this proof.

  • Use product reviews in emails to convince them of the consensus of the crowd to overcome their risk averseness
  • Create content around the product – Highlight all the use cases that have been identified from the early adopters
  • Paid search – broad category keywords to capture people who are in the market for your product but uneducated to your offering
  • Incentivize affiliates to post about your offering

Late Majority
Statistical proof is important to the late majority – in their minds just because it’s popular doesn’t make it worth it.

  • Build campaign landing page with keyword research and backlinks in mind to grow in organic rank in search engines (if your product is on the first page of google it must be good)
  • Promote all reviews together in quantitative format showing average review over time
  • Paid search – product specific keywords to capture people who know exactly what they are looking for
  • Advertise on comparison shopping engines for these people who know what they want but are looking for the best deal
  • Use remarketing display ads to remind past visitors of your offering to keep the purchase top of mind

They are risk averse, skeptical and patiently waiting to make the best choice.

  • Put it on sale
  • Use affiliates to promote the product with coupon codes

Mostly all of these tactics can run in tadum (except for the tactics for innovators and laggards) because each customer is at a different point in the curve at a different time. Just because something doesn’t take off right away doesnt mean its not worth sticking with – especially online, it doesn’t take much effort to design something to last.

Add comment March 4th, 2013

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Hi, my name is Zach Olsen, internet marketing professional, web entrepreneur & proud dad. Read more...

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