The Demotion of the Open Rate

For years, marketers have been tracking open rates and using this stat for everything from choosing the best time to send to validating the deliverability of a particular email-automation vendor; and well, everything in between. With more and more email being opened on mobile devices, Gmail caching images, and fewer recipients choosing to download images (perhaps accounting for as much as 40 percent of your audience), the open rate simply isn’t what it used to be—not that it was ever all that accurate

For years, marketers have been tracking open rates and using this stat for everything from choosing the best time to send to validating the deliverability of a particular email-automation vendor; and well, everything in between. With more and more email being opened on mobile devices, Gmail caching images, and fewer recipients choosing to download images (perhaps accounting for as much as 40 percent of your audience), the open rate simply isn’t what it used to be—not that it was ever all that accurate.

Charting a high open rate does not necessarily equate to clicks or conversions, but this has always been true. You might have written the most fabulous or enticing subject line and enjoyed a very high open rate, only to have failed to deliver the message and lost in the long run.

The Mobile Effect
Mobile devices are lowering the dependability of the open rate for some analysis, too. Most people scan emails on their devices and save only those they wish to read or act upon later. Emails that don’t answer an immediate need, or that are not relevant, may be deleted prematurely and without much recipient consideration. Even with responsive designs, the recipient is less likely to take advantage of an offer on a smartphone than on a tablet or desktop device, it’s simply easier to engage on a bigger screen.

Open Rate Increases
Gmail’s new image caching system automatically downloads images, and, for those recipients using Gmail or Google Apps, this can further affect your open rate tracking—your open rate will likely increase. The first open will be tracked correctly by most ESPs, but subsequent (repeat) opens by the same recipient will likely decrease. Unique opens, like opens, will become more accurate.

As with Gmail and Google Apps, iPhone and iPad devices download images by default. If you’re tracking your stats year over year, this increase in open rates by Gmail and iOS users will affect your ability to accurately assess your campaigns.

You may find that your open rates increase, but click-through rates do not, resulting in lower click-to-open rates.

Best Time to Send
Some email automation systems, such as Variant4, are able to send messages at the same time as the last open from the recipient, and this can be useful, but determining the right time to send based upon open rates alone will be misleading for the reasons stated earlier. When possible, opt for the previous engagement time, since if the open occurred on a mobile device, the click or conversion may have taken place later from a desktop device and that actually represents the better time for future sends.

Ensuring your content is on the mark is more important than ever as this is the driving force behind clicks and conversions (and not opens). Getting your audience to engage will gain you future priority placement in the inbox rather than a continued relegation to the promotion tab of Gmail.

Still Some Value
As undependable as the open rate has become, it does still represent some value—especially for segmentation and A/B testing of subject lines, for instance. Show caution when basing your conclusions on open rate alone and take the necessary steps to validate your finding through other supporting metrics.

Design Wins
As more email providers download images by default, we as marketers make a major win in the design arena. No longer will we have to design text formats and forfeit brand recognition. Our emails will be displayed in the manner in which we had intended all along.

A Turnaround Idea for Slow 4Q Sales

Only about 30 days or so are left in the holiday season for 2013. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are around the corner. And if you’re looking at your early Fourth Quarter results and can see you need a jolt of energy to turn things around, keep reading. Today we reflect on a shopping trend that began a year ago, and we you offer an idea you can implement

Only about 30 days or so are left in the holiday season for 2013. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are around the corner. And if you’re looking at your early Fourth Quarter results and can see you need a jolt of energy to turn things around, keep reading. Today we reflect on a shopping trend that began a year ago and we you offer an idea you can implement yet this season.

A year ago, early online holiday shopping broke sales records. While forecasts for this year appear to show modest overall growth over last year, there will be winners—most likely online direct marketers ready for the growing number of consumers who purchase via mobile devices. Even if you didn’t plan for mobile marketing, it’s not too late to move into action to help your organization take its place in the winner’s column.

The migration of online shopping will most likely continue its shift from desktops to mobile. Last year it was the Apple iPad making headlines. Consumers used iPads by a factor of nine-to-one over any other mobile device, doubling the year before. With Apple’s 52 percent market share, their users accounted for 88 percent of online shopping traffic, according to IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark Report.

Of course, that was then, and this is now. Recent data tells us 170 million iPads have been sold. A substantial number of people have them, and use them.

As direct marketers, you have an opportunity to take advantage of the sheer number of iPads, and the trend toward using it for shopping, by optimizing your website for mobile applications (if you haven’t done that, make it a 2014 priority). In addition, when you use tools that work well on iPads and hold your prospective customer to the screen longer, your odds for success improve.

One of tool that works great on iPads, and has proven to lift sales, is online video.

Consider these stats:

  • Video is a driver of consumer confidence. Consumers are willing to watch videos 60 percent of the time they are found, and 52 percent of consumers report that they are less likely to return a product after viewing a video (Website Magazine).
  • 52 percent of consumers say that watching product videos makes them more confident in their online purchase decisions. When a video is information-intensive, 66 percent of consumers will watch the video two or more times. (Internet Retailer).
  • Shoppers who viewed video on product pages were 144 percent more likely to add to cart than other shoppers (Internet Retailer).
  • Shoppers who viewed video were 174 percent more likely to purchase than viewers who did not (Retail Touchpoints).
  • Looking for higher email click-through rates? Link to a video. About half of marketers who use video in email campaigns see increased clickthrough rates, time spent reading the email, and more sharing and forwarding. (eMarketer).

So what do you do today to test online video in the remaining days of this shopping season?

  1. Conduct a competitive analysis of what your competition is doing with online video. Look at competitor websites for video, search on YouTube and social media. Check the length, and examine their format.
  2. If you don’t have a video, record one (or more)! If you don’t have expertise inside your organization, there are multitudes of creative resources that can help you out. The fact is, an inexpensive camera, and someone with editing skills, can create a video for you in no time. While a bootstrap approach may not be ideal long-term, it’s a place to start.
  3. Load the video on YouTube (10 ways to optimize for search here and 12 overlooked ways to help your video rank higher here). Place it on your website or a landing page.
  4. Send an email to your customer list to promote it. Use the word “video” in your subject line—testing shows your open rate will increase. Since we’re talking mobile here, make sure your HTML emails are using responsive design. If they aren’t, readability on smartphones is challenging, so readership and clickthrough rates go down. Most email portals—e.g., ConstantContact, iContact, Mailchimp, and others—offer responsive design email templates.
  5. Include a link to your video on social media. After about 24 hours, check your social media metrics and you should see a spike in engagement with your followers.
  6. Mail a postcard. You have time. Make it graphically obvious on the postcard you have an important video (story/product demonstration/testimonial) and direct your customers to your landing page. Use an oversized “Play” symbol on a thumbnail that you create of your video. Use a QR code or a PURL to more closely track response.
  7. After bringing prospects to your landing page, you’ve got them started at the top of your sales funnel. Now it’s time for marketing automation software to takeover (more about this topic in a future blog) and convert the lead to a customer before the books close for 2013.

If you haven’t tried video, especially when it’s proven that customers love mobile devices like iPads, now is your time. It’s proven that consumers watch videos, confidence is lifted, and they’re more likely to add a product to a cart and purchase after watching a video. Now is the time to test your organization’s ability to be an agile direct marketer.

Overwhelmed by the Complexity of Mobile Marketing? Start Here

When talking to small business owners,  I hear a lot of reasons as to why they haven’t added mobile to their marketing mix … These excuses illustrate why it’s important to educate folks on the benefits and use cases of mobile and to demystify how it all works in order to eliminate the fear and uncertainty that prevent businesses from moving forward with mobile.

When talking to small business owners, I hear a lot of reasons as to why they haven’t added mobile to their marketing mix …

“I don’t have time to manage one more thing … ”

“I’m not sure where to start … ”

“I feel like my competition has already done that … ”

“I can’t keep up with how fast the technology is advancing … ”

“I can’t afford to use mobile for my small business … ”

These excuses illustrate why it’s important to educate folks on the benefits and use cases of mobile and to demystify how it all works in order to eliminate the fear and uncertainty that prevent businesses from moving forward with mobile.

As those businesses begin to understand that mobile is just a piece of the puzzle they become less confused and you hear more of …

“OK, well. There are so many options. So how can it work for MY business?”

Well, I can tell you that if you’re asking yourself that question, you’re already two steps ahead of most business owners.

And you know what? It’s OK to be confused. The truth is, it’s overwhelming.

Mobile websites, responsive design, SMS marketing, MMS marketing, mobile optimized email, QR Codes, location-based services, augmented reality, smarpthone apps, tablets, NFC, the mobile wallet, mobile commerce …

Holy smokes!

Warning: If you try to jump into all of these areas at once, you will most definitely fail.

If you break down your mobile strategy into smaller parts, integrating one aspect at a time, it will become less overwhelming and you’ll be in a position for a successful mobile program without disrupting the rest of your business.

Remember … mobile is just one part of your marketing strategy. Take it one step at a time:

1. Start by planning how it will play a part into your existing initiatives. Mobile is the most dependent marketing channel to-date. You can’t view it as a solo initiative.

Plan accordingly and make sure it will play nice with your other channels, meaning there is one voice and one message. Chasing the “latest shiny object” thinking it will save your business will get you nowhere fast.

2. Focus on what works and what will delivers results to your business.
You’ll most likely start with your mobile site.

The most important thing to work on is making sure your mobile website is friendly. You’ve probably heard people say that having a mobile-friendly website will give you a competitive advantage.

To some degree, this is true—if your competitors are slow to execute. But, to be honest, a mobile-friendly website is now a cost of doing business.

As a small business owner you’re foolish if you don’t have a mobile friendly site. Let’s say you own a restaurant … A recent Google study stated that 88 percent of total search volume for the keyword “restaurant” comes from mobile devices. Do you own a bar? About 97 percent of search volume for the keyword “bar” is coming from mobile devices.

In fact, “restaurants near me” receives 10,000 searches a month from desktops. Guess what? It’s four times more on mobile devices.

This is the reason that you see restaurants and bars listed in the top of search results in Google from your mobile device but not from your desktop.

Small business owners seem slow to adopt mobile. Surprisingly, a restaurant study stated that 95 percent of independent restaurants do not have a mobile website, and only about half of chain restaurants have some sort of mobile site.

This means a lot of unhappy mobile searchers and no repeat visits.

3. You see, mobile searchers have a different intent than those on a desktop. They are looking for different things. When it comes to local locations like a restaurant or bar they most often look for your location, hours, directions and how to contact you.

4. What’s the cost of not offering these folks a mobile friendly version?
That’s easy … a whole lot of sales.

The same Google study found that 94 percent of U.S.-based smartphone users look for local information on their phones and 90 percent take action as a result, such as making a purchase or contacting the business.

90 percent take action …

Read that again.

Basically, if your site is not mobile friendly when a prospective customer is looking for you, the odds of you losing a sale are close to 100 percent.

5. Speaking of being more “findable” … If you list your business in the various directories AND location-based services, such as Google Places, Foursquare, Yelp, Facebook, etc., you’ll put yourself in a better position to be found. It’s like adding your listing to the Yellow Pages.

6. OK. So you built a mobile-friendly website. Now what?

Your mobile website is what many would consider a “pull” channel. This means that it doesn’t offer you the level of outreach that other channels do, but allows you to be right there when your customer needs you.

So next time, we’re going to dive into the second aspect of your mobile strategy to put in place. It’s actually the most overlooked part of mobile, in my opinion.

Seeing as how you are going to start mobilizing your website right now, you have time to prepare for the second part of your small business mobile strategy … mobile-friendly email.

12 Reasons to Fuse Direct Marketing and Video Marketing Now (Part 2)

Direct marketing formulas applied to video sell products, generate leads and raise money for non-profits. The leap to online video is exploding, and if you keep up with what’s hot today, you know it’s video. But too often, the video effort doesn’t bring in responders because of the lack of structure and call-to-actions

Direct marketing formulas applied to video sell products, generate leads and raise money for non-profits. The leap to online video is exploding, and if you keep up with what’s hot today, you know it’s video. But too often, the video effort doesn’t bring in responders because of the lack of structure and call-to-actions that a disciplined direct marketer includes. That’s why, if you’re a direct marketer, video can be profitable for you because you’re not afraid to sell, you know how to test, and you track the analytics.

12 Reasons to Integrate DM and Online Video (Part 2 in a 2-Part Series)
In our last blog post, we outlined the first of six reasons to fuse direct marketing techniques with the reach of online video marketing. We continue today with the final six reasons on the list:

7. Video can go viral. But don’t count on it. Your chances of a video going viral are about like that of getting struck by lightening. A recent example of a successful new product launch for what we as direct marketers would consider a classic DM continuity program is the Dollar Shave Club. You’ve probably heard about it. Thousands of orders, small start-up cost, everything you admire if you’re a marketer. But consider this: a few years ago it was impossible to make money selling a $1 a month (plus S&H) continuity program. The marketing cost was too high. The Deep Dive: With effective online marketing, marketing costs are slashed and you can make money selling a commodity product via a continuity program using a low price point.

8. Use a short video on your website to convince someone to opt-in to the rest of the story in another, more in-depth video delivered immediately. You can set up an intriguing premise, reveal a little of the story, and importantly, you bring people into your sales funnel when you capture an email address. The Deep Dive: if selling your product doesn’t typically happen on impulse, and you must first build trust, you can tell your story over short, strategically sequenced video clips, delivered via email autoresponders over time.

9. You can bring a complicated story to life. Imagine trying to describe the inner workings of your artery and heart using video footage! Suddenly, what was difficult to show in print can be brought to life in a video and the viewer is engaged. Using the opt-in strategy as identified in #8, over a few doses of video, you engage the viewer more so that they salivate at the idea of getting your product. This is a good strategy for selling products that require more explanation. The Deep Dive: Video can shortcut the visualization-and engagement-of a complex concept that words on a page can’t accomplish quickly enough before the reader loses interest. The willing suspension of disbelief can magically transform your viewer to a place unachievable with still photos and words.

10. Video can describe products that appear in a catalog. Catalog-browsing apps on mobile devices are now commonplace, but soon that could be replaced with short videos that can be watched on a tablet. By 2014, it’s predicted that more Internet content will be viewed on mobile devices than desktop/laptops. The Deep Dive: Watch the mobile space and video closely. Convergence of technologies will enable consumers to be entertained while using a mobile device, giving you opportunity to prompt intrigue and build a relationship.

11. Non-profits can save an enormous amount of fundraising cost by moving online and creating compelling video for constituents. Interview people you’ve touched. State your case. Engage. You bring your non-profit to life online and at a fraction of the cost of other media. The Deep Dive: If you’re a non-profit, get your advocates and supporters on video and let them tell your story for you. It’s more credible, and it builds community.

12. Integrate social media with online video and encourage comments, recommendations, and shares. It’s easy to add the feature for people to post their comments and share your video with Facebook plug-ins. Its costs you virtually nothing and is the most powerful way to get your word out. The Deep Dive: you can no longer afford a silo approach to marketing. You must integrate outbound, inbound, social media, search, text, video, desktop, mobile, and so on.

In a future blog, we’re going to illustrate how to convert a successful direct mail letter that has been mailed to millions of consumers, could be converted into a direct marketing video. When that blog appears, you’ll see how using direct response copywriting techniques in video script writing can work. In the meantime, comment below and tell us your video marketing successes or what you’d like to read in future blog posts.

The Mobile Nexus—If You’re a Marketer, Be Prepared to Live or Die By It

It’s no secret that the mobile channel is exploding in our lives. Unless you’ve recently been living under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly come across some jaw-dropping stats on mobile usage. Here’s a couple more to chew on. According to a recent article in Mobile Commerce Daily, mobile retail dollars doubled between April and December 2011 alone. That’s just eight months! And, Mobithinking.com reports that approximately 25 percent of Americans access the Web only on their mobile devices. Kowabunga!

It’s no secret that the mobile channel is exploding in our lives. Unless you’ve recently been living under a rock, you’ve undoubtedly come across some jaw-dropping stats on mobile usage. Here’s a couple more to chew on. According to a recent article in Mobile Commerce Daily, mobile retail dollars doubled between April and December 2011 alone. That’s just eight months! And, Mobithinking.com reports that approximately 25 percent of Americans access the Web only on their mobile devices. Kowabunga!

Many marketers refer to the mobile device as the Third Screen, after the television and personal computer. In this post, I’m going to propose a bold new idea here about the Third Screen, and why recent technological advances mean this exciting new channel is going to change our lives in ways we cannot possibly fathom today. This idea is predicated on the fact that in its new form, mobile essentially presents us with an entirely new paradigm in not only the way individuals interact with technology, but also how companies engage with and market to individuals. Let me explain.

Remember in the movie Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise, in which stores changed their signage when you entered, using your profile data to create a custom experience? Well, to a certain extent, that’s what’s possible now with mobile. Using location services, you see, mobile knows exactly where you are. Not where you live. Not where you’ve been. Where you are right now. It’s effectively marrying your personal profile to your geographic location. But that’s not all. Mobile also connects you seamlessly to your social networks—friends, followers, networks, reviews, blogs posts, etc. This provides a truly three-dimensional user experience. I call it the Mobile Nexus.

The Mobile Nexus is the intersection of three major elements in our lives—Personal Attributes (your demographic and psychographic profile), Geographic Location and Social Media. In theory, this confluence should enable marketers to craft marketing messages and personalized promotions based not only on who you are, but where you are, while at the same time giving users the ability to interact with your various social media networks to get more information, invite friends, share opinions, post reviews, and so on. The possibilities are simply staggering.

Sure, one could argue that mobile phones have been around for a while. But it was the recent emergence of the smartphone connected to the Internet and enabled with location services that, in my opinion, at least, changed the rules of the game for marketers. And although smartphones only came on the scene a few years ago, they’re gaining traction fast. In fact, according to MediaPost, smartphone penetration in the US is currently at 44 percent. What’s more, Mobile Marketing Watch reports that, as we speak, an astounding 75 percent of all new mobile phone contract subscribers are for smartphones. So count on the number of devices in the marketplace to skyrocket in coming months as old contracts expire. Can you say, “game changer”?

Of course, anyone familiar with the interactive marketing world could easily argue that geographic profiling is nothing new. Yes, it’s true that many websites and pretty much all ad serving networks drive personalized Web content based on IP address location. But, location services takes geo-targeting to an entirely new place, by providing real-time dynamic location data while you go about your day—not where your computer happens to be plugged into the Internet.

Turning to the social media component, if you look at current usage stats, you begin to appreciate its pervasiveness in our lives and why it’s playing such a big role in the mobile channel. Facebook has 600 million users. Twitter has 175 million. Meanwhile, 10 million foursquare members “check in” at more than three million locations a day, and consumers have posted more than 20 million business reviews on Yelp, and counting. So the numbers are eye-popping. Now with smartphones becoming the norm, accessing social media on the go is becoming mainstream, too.

Hype aside, let’s not forget that the mobile channel is still in its infancy and it will need much more time to reach maturity. At this early stage, enterprising firms are only now releasing the first generation of tools, while innovative agencies and consultants concoct new techniques to harness its power for business. In fact, we can see the preliminary results of the Mobile Nexus already.

Want to go out to eat? How about searching for a local restaurant nearby using your mobile device? Then use an app like Yelp and it’s not hard generate a list of nearby places, based on your preferences, along with user-generated reviews, hours of business, contact details, etc. Are you a traveling salesman in need of some fresh leads to visit? Well, install the Hoover’s “Near Here” App and, voila, you can search for look-alike businesses in the surrounding area based on proximity and business type. And if technology like this already exists, imagine what the future will hold?

“Those who call themselves ‘Mobile Experts’ only have two to three years of experience in the field,” explained a friend of mine who works as a consultant at a major management consulting firm. He and his team develop multi-channel sales and marketing strategies for their clients. With the recent proliferation of mobile technology, it should come as no surprise that many, if not all, of their new projects have a mobile component.

At this point, even the most experienced consultants have overseen no more than a handful of mobile implementations, and successful mobile marketers probably have no more than a dozen successful campaigns under their belts. “But things are changing so fast. Those who jump in now will be able to call themselves experts within a year’s time,” he explained. In other words, the best is yet to come.

Are you getting involved in the exciting new Mobile channel? If so, what success have you enjoyed? I’d love to hear your comments.

Building a Mobile Presence

Mobile is a revolution. The power of the personal mobile device has created the potential for businesses to build stronger and more mutually valuable relationships with their customers. Nothing gets a marketer closer to their customer than mobile. Many marketers realize this, at least instinctively. They know that a mobile relationship has to be invited, built upon and cultivated. However, either due to lack of experience or training many marketers don’t know how to do this.

Mobile is a revolution. The power of the personal mobile device has created the potential for businesses to build stronger and more mutually valuable relationships with their customers. Nothing gets a marketer closer to their customer than mobile.

Many marketers realize this, at least instinctively. They know that a mobile relationship has to be invited, built upon and cultivated. However, either due to lack of experience or training, many marketers don’t know how to do this.

Today’s brand imperative is to include mobile in the marketing mix. A key element is to establish a mobile presence. Marketers leveraging mobile may use any number of the elements at their disposal to engage, entertain, enrich and delight consumers. These include:

  • mobile websites;
  • mobile applications;
  • SMS, MMS and email messaging;
  • voice;
  • mobile enrichments, elements and experiences;
  • mobile search;
  • location-aware plug-ins;
  • mobile social media;
  • mobile advertising (from text to banner to rich media);
  • mobile commerce;
  • response codes;
  • personalization and privacy management tools;
  • optimized mobile content (e.g., text, images, video);
  • mobile access points;
  • feature phones;
  • smartphones;
  • tablet computers and other connected devices;
  • use of traditional media; and
  • market verticals.

The versatility and capability of the channel means that building out mobile campaigns could employ any combination of the above. However, conducting a campaign that simply leverages one or more mobile elements for a finite period of time is simply a mobile tactic, not a mobile presence. It shouldn’t be considered core to the marketer’s strategy.

To develop a strategy, consider mobile from every side and dimension. In developing a strategic marketing plan, brands can no longer just rely on linear models. Marketing today is a multidimensional problem set requiring nonlinear solutions and thinking.

Without a strategy to hold these elements together, your mobile engagement could suffer. One key to a mobile strategy is where you’ll establish your mobile presence. There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to building a mobile presence. Just as mobile is a personal choice for the consumer, the right combination of the mobile elements outlined above will vary based on particular marketing objectives, firm resources and customer needs.

You may not need mobile apps or mobile advertising may not be the first thing you start with. You must figure out the mix and sequence that will meet the needs of your brand. One of the first steps in building a mobile presence is ensuring that you have a mobile website that functions well on mobile devices in terms of form, function and content. These aspects of a mobile website should complement a marketer’s objectives and industry.

For example, a retail site may focus on providing consumers with product information, discounts, loyalty-building programs, store locations and maybe even direct commerce options. Whichever combination of these services a marketer employs, they need to get it right by making the features accessible and easy to use. A recent Limelight Networks’ study found that 20 percent of consumers may complete their research efforts but vow to never return to the site. An additional 18 percent will stop immediately and move on to another site. By not creating an effective mobile presence, marketers are clearly losing business.

Repurposing your site for mobile may feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t need to be. In fact, being able to envision how your site reads or works as a mobile site has become much easier. There are several tools available that can help you build out your mobile web presence. One such tool was launched last month when Google released GoMo. By entering your website’s URL into HowToGoMo.com, you can see what the site looks like on a mobile device. GoMo goes a step further, making suggestions and showing alternatives that will help you make adjustments to ensure your site is mobile optimized.

GoMo also gives examples of effective and engaging mobile websites to show what’s possible. It also offers a selection of leading mobile site developers. GoMo is an extraordinary resource to help you see what your customers see when accessing your site on their mobile devices, including the challenges you face in making your site as accessible and useful as possible.

Yet however critical it is, having an effective mobile website is just one of many mobile tactics. You must consider all the mobile touchpoints listed above. See how they integrate with your objectives at every stage of the consumer consideration funnel, then adjust your execution based on your needs and those of your customers.

In the end, creating a mobile presence is about providing a better user experience across all channels to help consumers engage with your brand at any state of the consideration funnel from any device or location. In the mobile marketplace, mobile presence is essentially the front door of a business. Making it accessible, useful and easy to approach isn’t just an added service or a smart business tactic that’s essential to effective customer engagement, it’s a business imperative in today’s mobile world.

Holiday Paid Search Analytics Reveal Insights Into Today’s Cross-Channel Shopper

When analyzing early holiday paid search data, it’s readily apparent that shopping is truly a cross-channel endeavor. For instance, the majority of this year’s Black Friday shopping occurred in-store, but consumers used search engines in droves before setting foot in a store. Search helped shoppers map out their in-store Black Friday strategies, informing them exactly where and when they could find the best deals on the products they wanted.

When analyzing early holiday paid search data, it’s readily apparent that shopping is truly a cross-channel endeavor. For instance, the majority of this year’s Black Friday shopping occurred in-store, but consumers used search engines in droves before setting foot in a store. Search helped shoppers map out their in-store Black Friday strategies, informing them exactly where and when they could find the best deals on the products they wanted.

Search played a major role in driving in-store traffic this Black Friday. Performics tracked a huge spike in Google paid search clicks for its clients on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Paid search clicks increased 87 percent year-over-year on Thanksgiving and 65 percent year-over-year on Black Friday. Additionally, this year saw the most mobile paid search clicks and impressions ever seen on Black Friday — 400 percent more than 2010.

#INLINE-CHART#

For the second consecutive year, Black Friday clicks surpassed Cyber Monday clicks. The adjacent graph shows three primary spikes in 2010 and 2011 fourth quarter paid search clicks. Black Friday represents the biggest spike, with Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday (which were close to each other) following behind.

Cyber Monday has historically been the biggest online sales day of the year, not Black Friday. In terms of online sales, Black Friday historically ranks behind Cyber Monday, Green Monday (the second Monday in December) and Free Shipping Day. Black Friday drives the most clicks, but the fourth most online sales.

This indicates that consumers use search engines heavily on Black Friday to discover the best in-store deals. Post-recession shoppers are researching on their computers and mobile devices more than ever to find the right combination of quality and price. The rise of mobile, highlighted by the 400 percent year-over-year increase in Black Friday mobile clicks, is the biggest indicator of true cross-channel shopping.

Not only are on-the-go consumers searching for your store locations, but they’re also conducting competitive price searches and looking for product information on their phones/tablets while in your store. According to Performics’ 2011 Social Shopping Study, 62 percent of consumers perform competitive price searches on their mobile devices while in a retailer’s store and 41 percent look for product information.

To capitalize on this cross-channel shopping behavior during the holiday season and beyond, marketers should do the following:

  • integrate online and offline promotional planning;
  • create strong mobile websites;
  • use paid search extensions (e.g., addresses, phone numbers, click-to-call) to aid searchers looking for your store;
  • let searchers know that products are in stock in your stores;
  • ensure visibility in mobile search for keywords likely to be used by shoppers searching for your store while on the go or in-store; and
  • create comprehensive local paid and organic search campaigns.

Marketers should invest in analytics to understand exactly how search marketing affects offline sales. Uncovering insights through data will help you best allocate budgets and create marketing strategies to maximize cross-channel performance.

Strategies for Growing Your Mobile Marketing Program

You’ve seen all the numbers. Heck, just look around. People are increasingly reliant on their mobile devices to meet the needs of their daily lives. They’re consuming content via mobile devices and interacting with the physical world in a wide range of ways.

You’ve seen all the numbers. Heck, just look around. People are increasingly reliant on their mobile devices to meet the needs of their daily lives. They’re consuming content via mobile devices and interacting with the physical world in a wide range of ways.

The importance of mobile in our daily lives was recently reflected in a July 2011 report from Metacafe:

  • 31 percent of survey respondents said they can’t live without their mobile phone;
  • 22 percent said they can’t live without their smartphone;
  • 19 percent said they can’t live without their video game console; and
  • 7 percent said they can’t live without their tablet.

If that weren’t enough, the other categories in the survey show that consumers also find radio, newspapers, magazines, TV, laptops and PCs, and e-reader devices to be of value as well, all of which are increasingly taking on a mobile hue. Mobile is fundamentally shaping how the modern-day consumer interacts with the world.

It’s certainly exciting watching the growth of mobile and its use for consumer engagement and marketing. However, when you look at the adoption numbers of mobile, as well as all the ways consumers are using their mobile devices, we’re not seeing an equal growth of media spend within the mobile media and advertising categories. True, there’s a number of forward-looking brands that have embraced mobile as a medium to engage their customers, but for the majority of brand marketers mobile still eludes them.

They don’t have a mobile presence; that is, the majority of marketers have yet to deploy a mobile-optimized website, application or messaging solution that seamlessly interfaces their core brand message, offerings, content and customer relationship management solutions.

It’s clear that brand marketers are beginning to emotionally understand the strategic imperative of mobile, but when it comes to allocating budget the results speak for themselves. Most marketers haven’t moved past the emotion of knowing they need mobile to the next stage of critical decision making in order to allocate larger portions of their budget to mobile.

There are a number of factors that, if addressed, can help brand marketers make informed investment decisions in the mobile space. What brands want or need are:

  • comparable case studies and benchmark metrics from players within their respective market sector;
  • research that provides directional evidence of brand marketing spend allocations across industries and media;
  • efficiencies in mobile presence development and media buying/targeting across all media; and
  • education on why and where spending can be effectively applied to meet specific objectives, how to execute programs that enhance engagement at every stage of the consideration funnel, and when programs should be developed and delivered — and in what sequence.

Research, education and experience sharing (i.e., case studies) are all factors that can be addressed in short order. Market players (e.g., brand marketers, agencies, media and advertising companies, and the myriad of mobile experience enablers) need to join forces with the common understanding that the world is mobile. A collective force — e.g., the global Mobile Marketing Association membership base in partnership with the Association of National Advertisers, the Direct Marketing Association and others — can create the momentum needed to address the above factors, as well as reduce industry friction and serve the consumers of today who clearly have the world in the palm of their hands. They just need guidance on how to embrace it. A great place to join forces is at trade events, within association committees, with our respective customers and communities, and, most importantly, within our own firms. To embrace tomorrow you must embrace mobile today. Life is mobile.

Optimizing Paid Search Campaigns for the ‘Third Device’

It’s time to think of tablets as a distinct “third device” and devise performance marketing strategies to engage tablet users. Advertisers must take advantage of the ability now offered in AdWords to target smartphones and tablets separately.

Tablets are the fastest-selling consumer technology device in history. According to eMarketer, 24 million U.S. consumers will own a tablet by the end of this year. By the end of 2012, 12.8 percent of people in the U.S. will own a tablet.

As of June 1, Google AdWords began separating “tablets with full browsers” as a distinct device within AdWords reporting. Previously, tablets were grouped with all “mobile devices with full browsers” (i.e., smartphones). Thus, June gave us our first look into tablet paid search impression and click volume. Impressions and clicks were immediately high in June, showing that tablets have likely been materially contributing to Google mobile paid search share for a number of months.

For Performics’ aggregate client base, 12.1 percent of all June desktop and mobile paid search impressions came from mobile devices. Of this 12.1 percent, 14.3 percent came from tablets. Based on these numbers, tablets now compose 1.7 percent of all paid search impressions. Additionally, tablets contributed to 13.3 percent of all mobile paid search clicks. Tablet cost per clicks track at about 50 percent of PC cost per clicks. The bottom line is that consumers are now on tablets searching for your brand, and it’s not expensive to engage them.

It’s time to think of tablets as a distinct “third device” and devise performance marketing strategies to engage tablet users. Advertisers must take advantage of the ability now offered in AdWords to target smartphones and tablets separately. At Performics, we’ve seen that tablet usage patterns resemble mobile patterns — people do most of their tablet searching in the evening. However, people use tablets differently than smartphones, which reveals opportunities to optimize your paid search campaign for the third device.

Unlike smartphones, tablets feature advanced scrolling functionality. Since tablet users can scroll with a gesture, they’re more likely to peruse search results and landing pages. This makes tablet users more likely than smartphone users to click on search results that are further down the page. Thus, bid strategies should differ when targeting tablets versus smartphones.

Tablets have bigger screens than smartphones. Tablet traffic should therefore be driven to desktop — not mobile — landing pages, where users have more room to browse.

A different device means different copy optimization opportunities. Once tablets are separated into distinct search campaigns, copy and links can be geared specifically to tablet users — e.g., “purchase now from your tablet” or “buy an accessory for your tablet.”

As the device landscape becomes increasingly fragmented, performance marketers must capitalize on every little opportunity to optimize advertising by device. Brands that tailor advertising to support tablets will achieve a first-mover advantage as tablets increase in popularity. This advantage comes in the form of data — e.g., nuances in how your customers use different devices — which reveal opportunities to engage consumers in more effective and efficient ways.

Have you noticed ways that your customers interact with tablets differently than smartphones or PCs? If so, please leave a comment below.