August 29th, 2016 by Oren Smilansky

Google last week introduced a seemingly small rule that could have a potentially heavy impact on marketing organizations. Beginning in early January of 2017, the Internet company will penalize sites that include invasive pop-ups (or what it calls “interstitials”) on their mobile Web pages, by lowering their search engine rankings.

According to a blog post from Google, the mobile browsing experience has improved significantly in the two years since the company began factoring mobile-responsiveness into its search algorithm. So much so that 85% of documented sites have earned the “mobile-friendly” stamp of approval, and, for the sake of presentation and simplicity, the company will no longer bother to label sites this way.

However, once users get through to the sites to view the content they were looking for, they’re often hindered by advertisements they have no choice but to click out of.  These marketing pop-ups, as we all know, are frequently designed in a deliberate fashion that prevents us from dodging them. How many times have you been misled to a page totally unrelated to what you were looking for, despite trying to click an impossibly small “x” button?

Marketers are right to feel threatened by this change, as some writers have pointed out that the pop-ups serve as one source of revenue. But in the long run, the adjustment could be a blessing, as HubSpot points out. Such frustrating experiences with a site can lower a user’s opinion of those companies responsible, and possibly lead them to ditch the brands altogether. At a time when customer experience is being commonly regarded as a crucial element in the enterprise, such minor annoyances can add up and do some serious damage.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, and Google acknowledges them. The banners may be annoying, but they aren’t always without purpose. Pop-ups that aim to fulfill a legal obligation–such as permission for cookie usage, or age verification– will not be touched by the new signals. Similarly, sites that are protected by paywalls, or require a user log-in, will go unpunished.

It’s important to recognize also that Google will still allow “banners that use a reasonable amount of screen space and are easily dismissable.” This means that advertisers who wish to use this method to get their messages across will simply have to be a bit more careful, and smarter, in how they do so.

August 26th, 2016 by Leonard Klie

Instagram this month began rolling out a “Contact” button that allows customers to contact businesses via phone, text, or email, directly from within content on the social media site. The button was part of a number of business tools for companies that Instagram introduced in the United Kingdom and a few other parts of Europe, with plans to launch them globally by the end of the year.

The addition to Instagram comes as Twitter continues testing a direct messaging feature that lets customers start their conversations with businesses via DM rather than in full public view of the site’s millions of users. Twitter introduced this capability to its site earlier this year, and has now made a slight change to the way that option is displayed on mobile devices. The new button for mobile takes over the space in the mobile app where the “tweet to” and “message” buttons used to reside.

For Instagram, the Contact button is one of several new business tools the site is rolling out. The others include the following:

  • Business profiles, enabling companies to post pertinent information about themselves, such as Web site, address, and description, at the top of their Instagram profiles.
  • Insights: a new analytics tool that gives businesses insight into the posts that resonate most with customers and additional demographics data about their followers.
  • Promote: this tool allows businesses to turn a popular Instagram post into an ad right within the app.

Several high-profile companies, including Nordstrom, Benefit, Garnier, Laura Geller Beauty, Delta, and Denny’s, have already added Instagram’s Contact button to their feeds. The numbers are much higher for brands using the Twitter feature, but these moves by two of social media’s powerhouses reinforce the popularity of direct messaging as way for customers to get things done. Social media is definitely proliferating as a customer service channel, whether analysts like it or not.

Now we’ll just have to wait to see if Instagram will make the contact button open up as a direct message.

August 25th, 2016 by Sam Del Rowe

75 percent of employees are struggling to access information in their enterprise systems and applications, according to a Forrester Consulting study conducted on behalf of micro app provider Sapho. Based on responses from more than 100 line of business and IT leaders with application purchasing or modernization authority, and found that users are becoming increasingly frustrated with enterprise systems, with some even refusing to use applications that take too much time to accomplish a task.

Employees are struggling in particular with the vast number of systems they need to use on a daily basis—the number of applications that employees use has grown by 25 percent, according to the study. Furthermore, 65 percent of employees reported that they will ignore data when they need to pull from multiple systems to make a decision, and 62 percent said that they delay completing tasks that require them to log into multiple systems.

Personalized data feeds are the preference for many employees, the study finds, with 74 percent saying that they’d prefer to access a subset of personalized data rather than a comprehensive data set for data collection. Additionally, 30 percent of employees would appreciate personalized notifications for tasks, while 28 percent believe that a personalized feed of individual actions and updates would improve the way employees approach and take action on information.

Despite the fact that 69 percent of employees indicate a preference for a mobile-first work experience, 55 percent of organizations have implemented three or fewer mobile apps. While many companies have introduced mobile email and calendar applications, there is much room for improvement in this area if they want to meet employee expectations.

“In my own experiences at CBS and in speaking with my fellow executives, we are all shocked by how little our employees actually use the systems we have invested billions of dollars into,” Fouad ElNaggar, co-founder and CEO of Sapho, said in a statement. “Enterprise software usability is so clunky and its usefulness so siloed that it has become impossible to use, so maybe we should not be surprised that our employees barely use it. These findings paint a bleak picture and confirm the importance of our mission at Sapho: to deliver the future of work today by helping enterprises offer personalized work feeds and simple, single purpose micro apps to their employees that don’t have the time – or patience – to submit to the work software status quo.”

August 22nd, 2016 by Oren Smilansky

A major emphasis at this year’s eTail East conference was placed on the potential reach of content, and the opportunities retailers have to distribute their marketing materials to customers outside of traditional channels.

One underutilized platform that could be of help to businesses is Pinterest, suggested Michael Yamartino, the Web and mobile application company’s head of commerce. According to Yamartino, Pinterest is the world’s largest “catalogue of ideas,” and “every one of those ideas is curated by a person, and links to a way you can take action on it.” Last year, the company got serious about that last part when it partnered with five commerce platforms to launch Buyable Pins, thus enabling transactions from directly within its platform.

Pinterest_logo-3But despite the fact that Pinterest has over 100 million users, and 55% of them have used it to shop with the 20,000 merchants who are now live, many are still confused about the platform’s purpose, Yamartino said. “We see our mission as helping people discover and do what they love,” Yamartino explained. “That may surprise you if you’ve been thinking about Pinterest as a social network, because there’s nothing here about connecting with your friends, broadcasting your message to the world, or following celebrities. This is all about you. It’s about finding the product, finding the ideas that inspire you, collecting them, and ultimately doing them.”

Two retailers who are now using Buyable Pins, spoke about their Pinterest strategies, highlighting what has worked for them so far. Max Harris, vice president of e-commerce at Gardener’s Supply Co., explained that the platform has enabled the company to further extend much of the informational content it already includes on its Web site. “One of our tenants is to be a partner in your gardening success,” Harris said. And rather than just sell items, the company makes it a goal to help its customers improve as gardeners, and make the best use of its products. “[We] have 500+ how-to articles on our Web site and in our catalogs, and we’ve really syndicated those into our feed boards on Pinterest.” The platform has also enabled Gardener’s Supply Co. to distribute photos of its products “in situ”, which has helped the company stand out from competitors, as these kinds of photos resonate with Pinterest users, since they tend to appreciate seeing the products placed in action.

Jess Jacobs, director of marketing at Wayfair, explained that Pinterest is a great environment for distributing its content. As an example she mentioned a recent article they distributed to show the” top five outdoor finds for summer fun,” which featured top-performing Wayfair products. According to Jacobs, the company has seen increased sales that can be attributed to the Pinterest articles.

Since “going buyable,” Harris said that, compared to the prior year , the company has seen about three times more traffic on Pinterest, more than double the revenue attributable to Pins. “And it really just works our other social channels,” Harris said. “We see about 20 times more traffic to our Web site from Pinterest than we do from the other big social channels.” It also helps the firm attract new, and younger gardeners, to make up for the aging core customers whose gardening budgets are shrinking, Harris said.

Jacobs said that, since launching and growing its Buyable Pins program earlier this year, Wayfair has doubled organic traffic referrals to its Web site.

August 19th, 2016 by Leonard Klie

Social media has been around for a while now, but companies still haven’t figured out how to use it, according to a study released this week by Sprout Social, a social media management company.

The research found that many companies are still having a hard time finding the right tone on social media. Whether it is incessant promotions or awkward jokes, companies can—and do—still annoy and alienate their customers on social, and that negatively affects the company’s digital presence, reputation, and bottom line.

The research also gave some very revealing insight into what leads people to stop following companies on social and how those actions impact sales.

While 85 percent of social media users currently follow brands on social, many companies use the medium solely for promotional purposes rather than truly engaging with their followers. Excessive promotions lead nearly half of people to click the unfollow button. Considering that 57 percent of people are more likely to buy from companies they follow and 75 percent have actually purchased something because they saw it on social media, that could mean real dollars are lost.

The report also found that there is a fine line between companies being informational and annoying. While nearly 60 percent of people initially follow companies because they’re interested in promotions, 46 percent of people will unfollow companies that post too often. And when they do post to social media, the messages themselves are very important. Companies that try to be anyone but themselves tend to turn off followers, and nearly 40 percent of people find companies that use slang to be irritating; 32 percent are annoyed when companies to be funny.

Surprisingly, repetition can improve how messages are received on social, According to the research, 60 percent of people need to see messages two to four times on social media before they purchase and nearly 20 percent need to see it five to eight times.

“Social media has moved beyond the solely promotional platform it once was,” said Scott Brandt, chief marketing officer at Sprout Social, in a statement. “The stakes are higher, and any brand that hasn’t adapted to meet expectations isn’t just going to lose their audience, they’re risking a decline in their marketplace perception and sales.”

Sprout Social obviously is trying to scare companies into buying its products and services, but the implications are still the same.


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