Everything You Want to Know About Email Marketing … and More

With the holidays fast approaching, it’s a great time for email marketing professionals to give their programs a much needed boost. That’s why I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you about eM+C’s upcoming All About eMail Virtual Conference & Expo. This free virtual show will be held Nov. 10 and features industry experts discussing the hottest email marketing topics of the day, including:

With the holidays fast approaching, it’s a great time for email marketing professionals to give their programs a much needed boost. That’s why I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you about eM+C’s upcoming All About eMail Virtual Conference & Expo. This free virtual show will be held Nov. 10 and features industry experts discussing the hottest email marketing topics of the day, including:

  • email marketing best practices and strategies;
  • tips to help improve your email acquisition efforts;
  • an analysis of email data management tactics;
  • best practices for integrating email and social media marketing;
  • strategies around successful email rendering; and
  • much more!

Click here to register for this free event.

As email marketers, I urge you to attend this can’t-miss opportunity to give your holiday emails the edge they need to stand out in this hectic time. I hope to “see” you there!

An Opportunity to Learn From Leading Retailers

What do cross-channel retailers like to do best (besides make money)? Share their stories and insights with their peers so they can learn from one another. Well, eM+C’s sister publication, Retail Online Integration, is giving those retailers a great platform to share their thoughts with its Retail Marketing Virtual Conference & Expo – Fall 2011, which is taking place next Tuesday, Sept. 27.

What do cross-channel retailers like to do best (besides make money)? Share their stories and insights with their peers so they can learn from one another.

Well, eM+C’s sister publication, Retail Online Integration, is giving those retailers a great platform to share their thoughts with its Retail Marketing Virtual Conference & Expo – Fall 2011, which is taking place next Tuesday, Sept. 27.

If you’re a retailer, you don’t want to miss out on this free, informative one-day virtual event. The opening keynote, E-Commerce Retail Roundtable: Holiday Best Practices, featuring Peter Cobb , co-founder and senior vice president of eBags.comOpens in a new window; Jack Kiefer , founder, president and CEO of BabyAge.comOpens in a new window; and Andy Hoar , an analyst at Forrester ResearchOpens in a new window, will provide listeners with tips to make the 2011 holiday season their best one yet.

Best practices that will be discussed include:

  • how to ensure your website is prepared for the holiday rush of traffic;
  • updating fulfillment processes to meet growing demand; and
  • last-minute social media and email marketing tips.

The closing keynote, The Future of Retail Shopping With Augmented Reality, Mobile and Social Media, will discus strategies for integrating these emerging technologies into your marketing mix to help increase conversions and sales.

Other information-packed sessions include the following:

  • At Your Service: E-Commerce Customer Service Trends
  • Social Marketing and Commerce Retail Case Studies
  • Cutting Through the Mobile Marketing and Mobile Commerce Clutter
  • Winning Customer Acquisition Tactics for Cross-Channel Retailers
  • Customer Retention Best Practices

View the most up-to-date agenda here. In addition to the great lineup of sessions we’ve put together, you’ll have the ability to network with other attendees via live chats and social networking, as well as download resources and giveaways. To register for this free event, click hereOpens in a new window.

Hope to “see” you there!

Interact Virtually at InterACT!

I’m excited to tell you about a new virtual event that’s taking place on Aug. 23 produced by Target Marketing, DirectMarketingIQ and Printing Impressions, eM+C’s sister brands.

I’m excited to tell you about a new virtual event that’s taking place on Aug. 23 produced by Target Marketing, DirectMarketingIQ and Printing Impressions, eM+C’s sister brands.

It’s called InterACT! Virtual Conference & Expo, and it’s a free virtual event (attendees can access all sessions from their computer) that will explore multiple marketing channels, tools and techniques and how they work together for maximum success. Topics of discussion include:

  • multichannel lead nurturing — turning prospects into customers;
  • QR codes — scanning your way to success;
  • integrated marketing ideas (that work!);
  • augmented reality marketing;
  • social media case studies; and
  • so much more!

I’m particularly excited about a session I’m moderating titled Customer-Preferred Marketing: Data Predicts What Channels to Use Next. Stephanie Miller, eM+C blogger and vice president of email and digital services at Aprimo, will discuss how marketers gather, analyze and, most importantly, utilize demographic, behavioral and social data to improve the subscriber experience and earn higher response and revenue.

There will also be plenty of opportunities for attendees to interact with their peers via live chats and social networking opportunities, as well as downloadable resources and giveaways to be had. Register for this free event here.

I hope to “see” you there!

What’s On a Retail CMO’s To-Do List?

Focusing on their customers and setting the right expectations for their CEO when it comes to marketing plans are just two of the many priorities chief marketing officers at retail companies are putting on their to-do lists for the remainder of 2011.

Focusing on their customers and setting the right expectations for their CEO when it comes to marketing plans are just two of the many priorities chief marketing officers at retail companies are putting on their to-do lists for the remainder of 2011.

This information was gleaned from a session titled “CMO/SVP Panel: Uncovering a CMO’s To-Do List” at eTail 2011 in Boston this week. Kevin Conway, global director of consumer brands at Savvis; Matt Corey, chief marketing officer of Golfsmith; Lou Weiss, chief marketing officer of The Vitamin Shoppe; Bill Wood, vice president and chief information officer at Brookstone; and Jim Wright, senior vice president of e-commerce and customer marketing at Express, discussed their remainder-of-2011 goals and priorities.

“We’re focused on four specific pillars right now,” said Express’ Wright. “Driving e-commerce, growing the international side of our business, improving our brand for existing stores and opening more stores across the U.S.”

In addition, Wright said he’s focusing on how to integrate the Express brand across channels, optimizing return on investment from marketing programs, and understanding how Express customers shop in-store and applying that information to mobile applications.

“The customer has more control than ever before,” Wright said. “We have to conduct focus groups, ask them what they want from their experience with us, then make those changes.”

Most of the time, Express customers want their shopping experience to be like what they get on Amazon.com. The good news is that “they’re willing to get that experience if they give a little,” Wright said.

Focusing on the customer is also at the top of Brookstone’s Bill Wood’s to-do list. “If we understand our customers better, we’ll understand how to speak with them,” he said. “Two-way communication is important.”

In addition, Brookstone has “eight to 10 initiatives on our plate right now for our website, including video,” Wood said.

For Matt Corey of Golfsmith, setting the right customer expectations about the brand’s marketing plans is top of mind. “All CEOs today are asking their CMOs, ‘What’s the value of a customer on Facebook?’ We just say we’re going to test it, measure it and then decide.”

When discussing marketing programs with your CEO, use “Peter Rabbitt English,” Corey said. This is his term for using basic, plain speech with them. “Don’t use terms they don’t understand. Instead, tell a story.”

Of course, focusing on the customer is also key for Golfsmith. “We have a great online community called the 19th Hole that we turn to all the time for insight,” Corey said. “We ask them about anything from brand messaging to store experiences to taglines. What do they like? What don’t they like?”

What’s more, Corey added, “these types of communities are cool and cost effective. We’re spending less than $75,000 for an entire year to find out what our customers want. That’s a lot less than the cost of small focus groups.”

For Vitamin Shoppe’s Lou Weiss, his primary focus is on the brand’s already successful loyalty program.

“Now we’re trying to figure out how to evolve our loyalty program by integrating it with our social programs, stores and website,” Weiss said.

Another focus? Growing The Vitamin Shoppe’s marketing team. “We’re looking for experts in interactive and social marketing,” he told the audience.

For Kevin Conway of Savvis, his current focus is on cloud computing. “We’re working with several software vendors on putting their applications in our cloud,” he said. “Once in the cloud, the applications can be turned on and off easily to accelerate your business.”

What are some of your 2011 end-of-year priorities? Let me know by posting a comment below.

Mobile’s Role in the In-Store Shopping Experience Growing, Survey Finds

I came across a very interesting report this week from White Horse, a digital marketing agency based in Portland, Ore. The Future of In-Aisle Mobile: A Framework for Consumer-Centered Innovation found that 84 percent of smartphone users have engaged in some type of in-store mobile activity related to shopping.

I came across a very interesting report this week from White Horse, a digital marketing agency based in Portland, Ore. The Future of In-Aisle Mobile: A Framework for Consumer-Centered Innovation found that 84 percent of smartphone users have engaged in some type of in-store mobile activity related to shopping. I think this is a pretty high percentage.

The report examines how consumers use smartphones to supplement in-store shopping while also offering tips on how retailers can take advantage of this behavior. For the study, White Horse conducted 13 videotaped shop-along trips to retailers including Anne Taylor LOFT, Best Buy, Sephora and Bed Bath & Beyond. It then conducted a survey of 390 U.S.-based smartphone users to validate the field research.

The 16 percent of respondents who haven’t used their smartphone for shopping tasks in-store cited very consistent reasons for not doing so: most haven’t found a utility that allows them to shop and gather information in-aisle easily, and many want a speedy shopping experience, according to the report.

Electronics stores are where shoppers are most likely to use their smartphone to aid their purchase decision (79 percent), followed by discount retailers (67.5 percent), department stores (48.6 percent) and supermarkets (42.6 percent).

The report also found that while price-checking is the most common activity for mobile shoppers (72 percent of respondents report doing so), it’s by no means the dominant activity. Searches for product reviews and recommendations (67 percent), and seeking a retailer’s store information (61.1 percent) followed closely behind.

What do you think of these findings? Surprised by them at all? Please leave a comment below.

A Real Mobile Wallet (Finally!)

I heard about an interesting mobile payment technology yesterday from MobilePayUSA. The press release I saw detailed how MobilePayUSA, a mobile payment solutions provider, launched a private beta test of its solution with Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt in Balboa Island, Calif.

I heard about an interesting mobile payment technology yesterday from MobilePayUSA. The press release I saw detailed how MobilePayUSA, a mobile payment solutions provider, launched a private beta test of its solution with Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt in Balboa Island, Calif.

Big deal, right? Well, the release noted that MobilePayUSA launched its test without near-field communication (NFC) technology.

What does this mean? Basically, it means that unlike most other players in the mobile payment space, MobilePayUSA doesn’t require vendors or customers to buy new NFC technology-based hardware to use it. (NFC is next generation short-range, high-frequency wireless communication technology that enables the exchange of data between devices built with this technology. Many devices aren’t yet built with this technology, however, nor have any standards been created around it.)

Here’s how it works: MobilePayUSA’s mobile payment app connects to its cloud service, which gives users access to multiple payment options as well as discount and group cards. Users that sign up for the service enter their credit card information on MobilePayUSA’s website and download the app. Then, when they’re in a store that accepts the service, they simply open the mobile payment app and show the cashier. The cashier hits a few buttons, the transaction is processed and a receipt is emailed to the customer.

Here’s a promotional video showing an actual mobile payment transaction taking place at the Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt store using MobilePayUSA’s app. Pretty neat, huh?

Also unlike other e-wallets, MobilePayUSA doesn’t use RFID chips embedded in smartphones, so credit information is never stored on a phone or shared with the merchant. The company declares this difference will prove to make its solution more secure from the real threat of illegal skimmers and hackers.

I have to admit, I think this is a really great use of mobile commerce technology. It seems to make it very easy for consumers (and retailers) to finally take the mobile commerce plunge. What do you think? Please leave a comment below.

The Social Media Sobriety Test

From the now-I’ve-heard-it-all-file: Ever send a message on Facebook at 3 a.m. after a night of alcohol imbibing that you regretted? Don’t even remember doing it? Then the Social Media Sobriety Test, a free Firefox plug-in from online security company Webroot Software, is for you.

From the now-I’ve-heard-it-all-file: Ever send a message on Facebook at 3 a.m. after a night of alcohol imbibing that you regretted? Don’t even remember doing it? Then the Social Media Sobriety Test, a free Firefox plug-in from online security company Webroot Software, is for you.

The plug-in was designed to prevent drunk people for publishing anything they might regret when sober. It requires users to perform a series of tasks before allowing them to post messages or photos to a social media site.

More specifically, after downloading the plug-in, users of networks such as Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube can choose to block these specific sites at the hours of the day (or night) they consider themselves most at risk to drunken posting. The plug-in asks users to pass a randomly selected sobriety test such as dragging the mouse in a straight line or typing the alphabet backwards before being able to log on.

“Nothing good happens online after 1 a.m.,” reads the web page promoting the plug-in, which promises to help “put an end to the embarrassment that follows regrettable, late-night posts.”

“Pass a simple test to prove you’re sound of mind,” Webroot Software says. “Post away or, if you fail, maybe just go to bed.”

As evidence of the need for its service, the app’s page features a scroll of Twitter posts (some with the hashtags #drunk or #drunktweet) that could have been avoided:

  • “THANK GOD, it worked. Now I better not be charged for stalking.”
  • “I better get to sleep. I have to get up early to call in sick to work.”
  • “wah I hate my boss.”

Google also offers a tool for its Gmail service designed to prevent users from sending drunken emails. Mail Goggles forces users to solve five simple math problems in less than a minute in order to send a late-night message.

I’ve yet to try either service, but might after a few drinks during the upcoming Fourth of July holiday. Have you tried either? If so, please let us know how they worked by posting a comment below.

4 Hot Topics From eTail

Here are four hot topics in cross-channel retailing that are being discussed at eTail 2011 in Palm Desert, Calif. this week:

Here are four hot topics in cross-channel retailing that are being discussed at eTail 2011 in Palm Desert, Calif. this week:

1. Customer acquisition is back in vogue. OK, customer acquisition is nothing new for retailers. But after a few sluggish quarters, retailers are back to spending money on ways to find more customers. Both traditional and innovative acquisition trends were discussed in the following session: Developing a Long-Term Sustainable Mix of Acquisition and Retention Channels.

Traditional channels work best for Musicnotes.com, according to Bill Aicher, the e-tailer’s web director, as well as a panelist at the session. Paid and natural search, affiliate channels, and word-of mouth are the acquisition marketing techniques his company relies on. Testing is important too. “We test a lot of programs, and if we can get a 2 percent or higher response rate, we consider it successful and put more money into it,” Aicher said.

Search engine optimization is a leading acquisition tool for Motorcycle Superstore, said Erick Barney, vice president of marketing for the online retailer and another speaker at the session. “While search has been around for such a long time, I still think of it as a channel that’s progressing,” he said. “There’s so much more we as an industry need to learn about it.”

An innovative customer acquisition technique was raised by panelist Sara Ezrin, senior director of strategic services at Experian CheetahMail. It focuses on the growing use of iPads in retail stores. “Salespeople in retail establishments are using iPads more and more in-store to collect email addresses and other contact information from customers,” she said.

2. Social commerce getting mixed reviews. The concept of social commerce — i.e., using social networks in the context of e-commerce — has also been a hot topic at the show. Some e-tailers were on the hunt for Facebook developers who could help them create Facebook stores. Payvment, a Facebook shopping platform, seemed to have a crowd at its booth consistently. In general, however, retailers are approaching this concept cautiously.

Consider Tony Bartel, president of video game retailer GameStop, who spoke at a session titled Navigating the Retail Rapids. Bartel said that while GameStop does have a Facebook store, most of the company’s e-commerce transactions take place on Gamestop.com. “We have a lot of interaction with our 1.8 million Facebook followers,” he said, “but we’ve found that when they want to buy something they go to our website.”

Bartel wasn’t quite sure why that’s the case. “Maybe it’s because there are only a few items for sale in our Facebook store, and we don’t have all the bells and whistles there,” he said. “But we’ve been testing the concept for two months now, and will continue to do so.”

3. Retargeting marketing programs are picking up speed. Retargeting, a marketing technique that enables retailers to reach consumers who have visited their sites by serving ads to them post-visit on other content sites across the web, was a heavily discussed subject at the show. Most retailers here believe the tactic is effective because enabling consumers to receive multiple marketing messages from them means their brand can be top of mind.

4. E-commerce media is on the rise.
E-commerce media, a form of online media that allows retailers to target shoppers with product-specifc ads on their sites, was another popular theme. HookLogic, a company that creates product and media placements on e-commerce sites, announced that Shoebuy.com will be using its services to offer premium brand and product placements from its partners within its online store.

DiJiPOP, a company that offers “digital shelf space solutions,” announced that Wal-Mart Canada has selected it to power the digital shelf space monetization efforts of its Walmart.ca online property. The solution will allow Wal-Mart Canada to offer premium placement to its vendor partners, creating a new high-margin revenue stream. Just as a vendor pays a retailer for prime shelf space in-store to stimulate sales, the acquisition of optimal digital shelf space achieves the same goal.