Innovation – not talking drones – updated 6/24/15

I t is the innovation decade and sweetening of the e commerce value proposition continues. This time it is not drones.

Innovation often seems to emerge with a vengeance when outside forces encroach on industry revenue, as with legislation. There are few companies who see through this matrix and insert themselves early to solve, innovate and genuinely take a page out of Ideo’s book.

Digital innovation thankfully is not restricted by geography. With a billion plus strong users in China and plenty of capital influx there are some companies to closely watch, considered upstarts by some and frequently ignored by others. They are vehemently beginning to flex to connect the dots and making the experience simpler, nimbler and easing the customer journey.

Tencent, the 4th largest internet company behind Google, Amazon and eBay is attempting to marry messaging with Smart TV, along with a seamless payment solution; messaging to mobile to the living room with an integrated wallet solution. This brings social TV to a whole new genre; within one interface chat, watch and pay.

Can we put this on the watch list together? What would impress me is a purchase decision channeled by my brain wave (chip in my brain not an option); not to forget a confirm and accept prompt for my brain. I would not be pleased if my dreams were misread and during my morning jog I find a Lambo sitting in the driveway with a bow on it.

Keep me posted on efforts underway…I am optimistic.

Update July 2015

Close to a year ago I had written a post about Ten Cent, a messaging company in China.  There are a lot of Fin/Ins companies who have been behind the curve with social and digital transformation while a limited few finance & insurance companies have forged along  with  JV’s/partnerships and acquisitions type relationships

Close to a year ago I had written a post about Ten Cent, a messaging company in China.  There are a lot of Fin/Ins companies who have been behind the curve with social and digital transformation while a limited few finance & insurance companies have forged along  with  JV’s/partnerships and acquisitions type relationships.

Two observations from a year ago

  1. Ten Cent and like + (Socially & digitally transformed with mobile and tablet experiences in the cross hairs for millennials), these connected Fin/Ins companies’ are forming these collaborations and have begun to emerge in social and mobile. Kudos!!.
  2. Ten Cent is still a bull.

However it is an Alert! –  For global fin/ins companies to innovate with new demographically regional/state /country specific product designs which are uniquely positioned for the millennials. Innovation, Sales. Social + Digital Marketing + UX should have a  tighter bond.

Where is the ROI?, not the beef

I was going back in the time machine and recalling one of the jobs I had out of college with a degree in Commerce – working as a Cost accountant in manufacturing. It was a numbers oriented job working on the AOP, boring ledgers and keeping tabs on the monthly variances from paint to man hours. Development of the AOP meant precision. Every imaginable fixed and variable cost from power to man hours, from paint to parts would play a role into the projection. The past several years historical and cyclical trends and actuals would finally finesse the dreaded AOP. My presentation of the AOP to the boss blissfully matches the ‘woman sitting in the chair with the boss’ image accompanying this post. Notice the stiff arms? Well, that was me.

The following fiscal year would prove if the projection met the 0 to 60 in 4.3 seconds test. I would track the variances monthly and would have a beaming smile some months. End of the fiscal year a minimal $ true up was all that was needed. It felt good.

Ok, enough of this accounting conversation. I am really a marketing guy inside, which I thank a mysterious unscheduled meteor shower.

Fast forward the time machine ## years to the digital, search and social marketing world which I thoroughly and passionately enjoy. I sometimes hear a whisper in my ear gently reminding me how crucial the ROI component is to the meticulously and creatively developed marketing campaigns we endeavor to run all year, for the enterprise.

It is a stamp of approval to the thoughtfully planned fiscal year ‘marketing roadmap’ as well as the ‘marketing plan’; providing the confidence to the business, and perpetual smiles for the marketing group.

There are indeed market variables abundant in digital, search and especially in the very dynamic social media ecosystem. An ideal world – each digital and social channel pumping real time analytics to the analytics hub with built in campaign ROI assumptions. These efficiencies help make the MOR’s robust and very KPI oriented.

Result = serving, understanding and knowing the customer in this omni channel world.

Shhhh, it is about attribution and ROI, not ROO (return on objectives) which seem to breathe new life into the next fiscal marketing year.

Upselling and beyond, a balancing act

Was thinking about sending some food stuff (online seller name, intentionally left out) to my sister whom I have not seen in a long time and do my impulsive ‘family good’.

I did a ‘food stuff’ search for a deal and promptly landed via an affiliate link, on to a ‘major food site’.

Still intent on proceeding and encouraged by a $39 deal, I, in mechanical fashion moved through to ‘Add to cart’ to complete the transaction. To my not so shocking surprise I was presented with an upsell for $39 + $ 19.99. Still enthusiastic with a Czech pilsner comfortably urging me on, with finger flickering hesitation, I waved myself through – ‘Why not, I feel the love”. I clicked on “Add”. Yes, I felt good.

It was at that moment that things began to unravel – an ‘Upsell and Beyond” deal popped up for an additional $79 ‘food stuff’ combo”. I was perplexed and confused. I almost had it in my grasp. Almost.

Could we refrain, and not get carried away with the ‘Upsell and Beyond’ selling strategy?. The Pilsner only works for so long. I had it and I lost it. I hate it when that happens.

I know I have not been a customer before with this ‘major food seller’, so predictive analytics, even with cookies would not have kicked in, perpetuating this unfortunate eventuality.

All in a Sunday afternoon, where I wanted to do a little bit of good. Alas, it is unfortunately no more. I ‘xed’ out of the browser tab. The moment had elapsed and my attention had shifted.

Social amplication, curated style

An entirely new job description is emerging in the social/content space – ‘ Social Curator’. This new job is emerging out of a natural evolutionary process of sharing and collecting. Think Pintrest as one of the destinations.

A social curator would ‘curate’ external content, although not necessarily one’s own (spoon content from other sites, blogs, etc ). Think of these newly created posts or pages as a destination which would begin and perhaps end with a short intro and/or ending from the curator, mixed in with links to valuable external content.

This customer centric content could potentially be ideal for brand engagement and retention. Although with clever UX, acquisition could be folded into the mix. Socially curated content goals should be very clear from the beginning. The recipe and servings may be different for B2B and B2C.

For SEO diehards, the very principle of sending links to external sites would initially appear like assisted suicide, however the social amplification effects which would likely occur via social sharing may win the SEO contingent.

There are several important considerations before proceeding down this path. Some of these could be:

a. Content destination/s
b. Content logistics and calendaring
c. FTE support
d. Compliance considerations
e. Clear and well defined goals for the business
f. Measurement of ROI or ROO
g. Web analytics

Have fun curating.

Responsive design, responsibly

My recessive geek gene appears to wake up when I think of this new possibility of cascading the content down to different devices; does give me goosebumps. All the HTML5 action and the CSS wizardry. Nice.

A great explanation from Smashing Magazine “Responsive Web design is the approach that suggests that design and development should respond to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation. The practice consists of a mix of flexible grids and layouts, images and an intelligent use of CSS media queries. As the user switches from their laptop to iPad, the website should automatically switch to accommodate for resolution, image size and scripting abilities” Read their detailed post here

Back to my other side of the brain here – Prior to consideration, a deep discovery and inventory of existing content today, versus proposed, is certainly not only warranted, but perhaps a must.

A first step is a dive into your analytic’s package which may uncover some gems focusing on the intent of the user. Next, inventory any tools you may have on your site. Then, inventory all your content and begin to categorize – organic traffic v/s onsite v/s google v/s social traffic

3 T’s (text, tools and tasks) will eventually emerge. Juxtapose these against market research/ethnographic studies/Customer experience/Consumer insights and it will all begin to make more than a pretty picture at this point. Exciting patterns should now begin to emerge.
Keep your proposed content ambitions in check at this point (easy to slip these in).

Now, align these patterns with the proposed priorities to the discovery; this time juxtapose the findings against engagement, acquisition and retention. Yep, we are good. Think of your vertical (crucial) and what your customers want (include the the C/X team). You should have most of your answers to your responsive design do’s and don’ts at this juncture.

Establish a matrix This resulting matrix should reveal the desktop, tablet and smart phone 3Ts by the final matrixed priority. It is an artful science. There is no one size fits all. It is an exercise which requires lots of conversations, analysis, and back and forth with the content strategist and the analytic’s champ.

To climate control these experiences by devices, these exercises are prudent to perform to determine what size fits you.

Do share if you have achieved success or other strategies you may have employed.

How to Multiply your Facebook brand page Likes

One of the measurable KPI’s for Facebook marketing is the number of ‘Likes’. More ‘Likes‘ translates to a deeper digital marketing penetration.

If you wish to expand your network and/or get a massive bang for your digital campaign/promotion, the reveal tab concept is definitely something you would want in your digital marketing arsenal. This concept is a must component for an integrated digital marketing strategy. The reveal tab reveals itself when the ‘Like’ button is clicked and the page changes to uncover a reward/promotion (think of a lotto scratch off ticket). The reward has to be genuine and made visible only after the ‘Like’ button is clicked.

The wins:

1. The user feels special and privileged and would likely continue to be engaged with your brand
2. The user becomes an insider (think of the early Frequent Flyer Card concept)
3. Increase in the conversion rate for campaigns
4. Massive increase in the number of ‘Likes’ to impress your boss

Give it a try. The FBML code is below. Just replace the Image Links and Source. Hint: I used Photobucket to store my images.

Tuning and configuring enterprise site search

We all know that a good enterprise site search experience not only positively fosters the brand but also compensates for any navigational and UX related deficiencies.
So, let’s talk enterprise site search and look at considerations you should have when improving the search experience for your site and your users.

Understanding how your users search is of course paramount –

Couple of Prerequisites please:

1. Partnering with business is a must. Direct-loaders (people who go straight to your site and then use your site’s search facility) need their searches to be looked after by the business, the guys who understand the products and how they are marketed and sold to the customer.

2. Deep understanding of the target site. Rely on yourself. Familiarize yourself with the site. Get to know the users. Peruse through the persona matrix.

Begin with a Search Term Analysis by extracting the analytics data associated with site search (This data may be hooked with Coremetrics/Omiture, etc, or the search engine logs/reporting platform, depending on what your site search product is).

Look for searches which retrieve zero results. These are the list of terms that users have entered and yielded zero results. Check for the following issues which may be leading to the zero results

-Misspelled Words
-Users entering terms that do not relate to the meta data
-Users searching for content which you do not have
-Technical issues with the way your search product is configured

Remedies may include
-implementing a spelling correction feature
-optimization of site content (adding content what the customers are searching for)
-optimization of meta data (usage of Beauty on the site when the customer means Makeup). The dreaded industry jargon – leave it at home.
-understanding and reacting to the language of the customer (hmm, personas anyone?)
– reconfiguring the way content is indexed (tweaking the relevance rankings, stop words. Consideration of pure content, product pages, brand pages, video, images, etc.)

Next, extract a ‘commonly searched for terms‘ report. Typically, a small number of search terms account for a high percentage of site queries. Yes, the classic 80/20 rule of long tail shows itself once again. This should be a top priority to ensure that the most popular search terms return optimal results by fine tuning them individually.

Then, extract a report which contains a list of Uncommonly Searched Terms. This report may fill a gap, and is especially crucial for a multi channel retailer where a user may search by entering a Sku # which they perhaps noted down from a TV show or a brick and mortar. This report may represent fewer searches but in the long run it can pay off to track these less popular searches over time. This report can show emerging and waning customer interests, which you can then translate into trends and implement appropriate fixes.

Embarking on improving search tuning can be a daunting task. However by taking a carefully planned approach the process can be tactically simplified.

Does the search product meet the site’s objectives? Perform a gut check and ask the following questions-

Is it fast enough?
Are the results accurate enough?
Are the displayed results on the page complete enough?
Does it integrate well with the rest of your systems?
Does it fit your business goals and deliver on your brand’s promise?
Are users finding what they need?

If the answers to these questions are not satisfactory then it makes sense to tune up the search engine.

Configure or Reconfigure your search product

Beyond the issues of server load, simultaneous users, response time there are some adjustable functions you could look into. The existing configurations may be no longer valid and should be revisited often.

Some common configuration options-

Turning on and tuning predictive search

Many users have come to expect that a search engine will offer them tips and suggestions on the results page. These suggestions could take the form of spelling corrections. If your search engine offers spelling suggestions, you may be able to modify the dictionary that supplies the corrections to add common misspellings found in your search logs. Synonyms are another form of suggestion offered by many search solutions. It is important for the search engine to recognize and interpret the language the user is accustomed to.
It is estimated that 20-30% of all search terms used on the internet contain a misspelling or a typo. If that is the case and your search engine doesn’t manage to auto correct them or the typo is on a made-up word such as a brand or product name, then your customers will get zero results, the dreaded dead-end.

The solution; find out the terms that customers are using that return zero or few results and setup a synonym to the term that does match products.

Some examples where you would use synonyms include :
– Numbers – equate 2 with ii and two
– Acronyms – to equate product-acronyms with the full product title e.g. LOTR -> Lord of the Rings
– Common misspellings e.g. cart kart
– Made-up product titles with spaces taken out e.g. (wii) motion plus = motionplus
– UK / US spellings (if not auto-corrected) e.g. color colour, metre meter

Tweaking the relevance ranking

Most search engines feature some type of relevance ranking for results. Sometimes the method or algorithm for ranking results is transparent to users, and sometimes it is purposefully obscure. Some solutions allow you to adjust the algorithm to give more weight to certain results. For example, it might make sense to tell the search engine to calculate a higher relevance score for content found in a particular channel of your site (e.g. depending on user needs, product descriptions might rank higher than press releases; product pages w/videos may rank higher than product pages w/images).

Revisit your Stop Word List

In most circumstances, there’s no point in a search engine searching for words that are so common that they appear in large numbers of product titles or descriptions. It results in too many, often irrelevant, results for the customer and wastes the search engine’s resources in matching them. Typically these words include ‘a’, ‘an’, ‘of’, ‘the’ ‘i’, ‘is’ etc but the business really ought to work out for itself which words are so common that the search engine should ignore them. This may include some words that are core to the product set being sold e.g. a entertainment retailer might get the search engine to ignore DVD, CD etc. Be wary of adopting the standard set provided by the search tool vendor. For example, a ‘stop word list’ provided by a search tool vendor may include the word ‘that’, but for a CD retailer, this would not be an appropriate stop word if it meant that it made searches for CDs by ‘Take That’ of lower relevance than results that don’t contain the word ‘that’. Try it, you’ll find there’s a band called “Take”

Enforced or Automatic Phrasing

If your customers are getting too many results for certain search phrases, of which you find that many are irrelevant, then you should instruct your search engine to only consider results where there is an exact match to the phrase (words and their order). e.g. “32gb ipod touch” – assuming you didn’t want the search engine to return 4/8/16gb ipods or ipod nanos in the results set)

Search Keyword Redirects

Sometimes it is desirable to redirect a customer to the landing page that makes the best representation of a product or product set that the customer is looking for. This gives the customer a better experience than the presentation of a product list (which may well not show the full range of potential product type matches on page 1). It is a common occurrence for customers to search for types of products e.g. Toys for 5 Year Olds, so a redirect for such types of searches would be a good idea.

Best Bet Results

Frequent searches and most important pages could have a ‘best bet’ result. You are probably familiar with seeing paid advertisements on public search engines like Google. In these cases, organizations have paid for their listing to be associated with particular keywords. The idea of tying certain results to keywords works well for site search, too—even when paid advertising is not part of the game.

The perfect site search is a moving target. The out of the box search engine is a myth. It has to be constantly nurtured and tweaked to cater to the evolving demands of the consumer related to the evolving product catalog of your site.