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.

August 18th, 2016 by Sam Del Rowe

Nearly 95 percent of small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) either already use a cloud hosting service or plan to transition to one, according to a survey from B2B ratings and reviews organization Clutch. The survey included 300 SMBs, with 68 percent of them having 200 employees or less.

One of the reasons SMBs may be opting for cloud hosting services is because of the difficulties associated with web hosting, with 86 percent of SMBs reporting that they have experienced an issue with their web hosting provider in the past year. Additionally, the move to cloud hosting coincides with a trend of data migration within the web hosting sphere. Roughly 72 percent of SMBs say that they switched web hosting providers within the past 5 years, often because they found a better value.

“I don’t think you can truly move forward within a company without using cloud in some way, whether that’s by buying software as a service from somebody or creating your own cloud infrastructure for your business,” Rachel Bair, Director of Hosting and Client Services at Unleashed Technologies, said in a statement. “To stay competitive in your own vertical, cloud hosting will be the way to go.”

August 15th, 2016 by Oren Smilansky

Infusionsoft, a vendor of sales and marketing software to small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs), joined forces with Emergent Research, a research house and consulting firm, also focused on small businesses, to determine how firms with fewer than 25 employees defined success, as well as the challenges they face in attaining it.

To do so, Emergent tapped into Infusionsoft’s model for the “five common stages of small business growth,” for which the vendor survey interviewed 402 United States-based small business owners. The vendor  designated these as the “Solopreneur,” “New Employer,” “Steady Operation,” “7- Figure Business,” and “Growth Company” phases. Emergent built on Infusionsoft’s findings by interviewing 26 small businesses owners and executives.

How Small Businesses Define Success

According to their findings, financial gain is definitely important to small outfits, but not necessarily the top factor they use to measure their achievements. Interviewees indicated that their top metrics included the ability to be bosses, do work they enjoy, have flexible schedules, and freedom to control their operations. They also indicated a desire to exert a positive influence over their customers and communities. To do so, however, most (94%) realized that they must have financial goals in place.

Neither was it the case that these small companies wish to expand to become mid- or enterprise-sized businesses. “Instead, they see growth as a means to reach the financial level needed to achieve their broader, non-financial goals,” the report reads, which could include–I’d assume–the resources for a fishing trip or a new yacht, or extra time to spend with family.

How Small Businesses Attain Success

Infusionsoft also found that regardless of the stage of growth these companies find themselves in, they face common challenges in getting their work done, finding and keeping on suitable employees, and turning leads into customers.

The study suggested overcoming these difficulties with a combination of  technology and coaching.

Technology is vital because it enables quicker communications with employees and customers, as well as a dispersed and diverse workforce. In some cases automation of specific processes may also reduce the number of employees a company will need, or the budget they’ll need. The analytics within the technologies is also likely to reveal key insights into business performance.

Coaching is important because the business landscape is becoming a lot more complex, and requires adapting to more frequent changes, such as new technology implementations. And while the idea of getting your hands dirty might sound exciting, Infusionsoft’s report states that “there is simply no longer the time to ‘learn while doing’ or the margin of error to ‘learn by making mistakes’ as in the past.”

However, when making commitments to service providers, respondents also warned that small business owners should do the proper research to avoid wasting away what’s likely to be a smaller budget on less than helpful advice.

August 12th, 2016 by Leonard Klie

Nearly 60 percent of Pokemon Go players surveyed by marketing communications agency MGH recently said they were likely to enter businesses offering Pokemon-branded products or discounts. Even more alarming, 38 percent were likely to purchase Pokemon-themed product offerings, and 60 percent viewed businesses hosting Pokemon promotions favorably.

The research also found that restaurants and bars topped the list of businesses where players have seen promotions. Facebook (72 percent) and store signage (52 percent) were the mediums where the majority of players saw Pokemon-related promotions.


Other notable stats included:

  • Overall, 94 percent of smartphone users surveyed were aware of Pokemon Go;
  • Of those aware, more than 50 percent have seen Pokemon Go promotions, a number that increases to 66 percent when looking at respondents who have downloaded Pokemon Go;
  • After restaurants and bars (71%), retail stores (44%) and entertainment venues/attractions (42%) were the types of businesses where respondents were most likely to have seen promotions;
  • Of the respondents who downloaded the game, 56 percent were between the ages of 18-29;
  • Female respondents are slightly more likely to have seen Pokemon Go promotions, and slightly more likely to purchase Pokemon-themed products.

“With estimated daily users of Pokemon Go still teetering around 20 million, this survey shows there’s still a great opportunity for business owners to tap into this unique and active audience to not only drive foot traffic into their venues, but get them to potentially purchase a product,” commented Ryan Goff, senior vice president and social media marketing director at MGH, in a statement. “The best part of Pokemon Go is that it’s getting people of all ages out and about; businesses just have to find a way to lure customers in.”

Not surprisingly, though, some sneaky consumers have ways to cheat the game that allow them to catch Pokemon anywhere in the world without leaving their houses. That’s cheating in my book, and defeats the whole goal of the promotion.

Luckily, Niantic is taking steps, banning the accounts of users caught cheating. Some of the reasons for the ban include falsifying your location, using emulators or modified or unofficial software, and accessing Pokémon GO clients or back ends in an unauthorized manner, like through the use of third-party software.

Really, people, get off the couch for 10 minutes and play fair. It’s bad enough that you’re such a slave to the latest fad, but at least do it with dignity.


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