The Technology Behind Black Friday Deals

Every marketer or web designer knows that a website has under three seconds to grab a users attention. Any form of friction will result in your target and audience going elsewhere. But, once again there is an increasing number of tools that are helping brands test the user experience of their digital products and services.

As our inboxes start to bulge with the deluge of marketing messages, many are already beginning to experience Black Friday fatigue. While marketers and business leaders pat themselves on the back for another successful campaign, tech-savvy consumers are creating mail rules to send any message containing “Black Friday” directly to their junk folder.

The problem is that customers now expect a little more than a generic email with Black Friday in the subject. The big question shoppers are asking is, what’s in it for me? If Netflix and Spotify know how entertainment preferences and Amazon knows what items we might want to buy, why are we still getting a marketing message containing products that we have little interest in?

Technology is now at the heart of every customer touch point. While consumers prepare to satisfy their insatiable desire for a bargain, the reputation of the world’s biggest brands is heavily reliant on technology.

For the busiest shopping day of the year to be a success, a website must work quickly and seamlessly without interruption. Digital audiences have little regard for how complex systems will work when faced with ten times more visitors. They just expect it to work.

Any break in connectivity or change in the speed of a transaction on an already overloaded website is catastrophic. Essentially, its the modern equivalent of bringing the shutters down of your store on the busiest day of the year. Behind the scenes, many have invested in content delivery networks (CDN) to reduce load times. But this is only one example of how technology is the real day of the day.

IBM AI Powered Ads

These rises in expectations from consumers are forcing marketers to think a little differently and embrace new technologies. For example, IBM recently announced that its latest AI-powered interactive ads will be used by LEGO Systems. The ads are aiming to recommend the right gift set to the right holiday shoppers using technology. Many brands will be watching from the sidelines to see if hyper-personalization and actionable insights can deliver tangible results rather than just more hype.

Lego is joining a long list of household names such as Lufthansa, Best Western, and TruGreen that are all bravely navigating unchartered digital waters to secure an early competitive advantage. Only time will tell if this emerging technology impacted their Black Friday sales.

71% of brands are still relying on generic marketing messages. But there is a realization in the industry that they need to do something different to stand out from the advertising clutter online. The problem is that we are only just learning how these new technologies can make the dream of personalized, targeted messaging across every touchpoint a reality.

Eye Level Is Buy Level

Every marketer or web designer knows that a website has under three seconds to grab a users attention. Any form of friction will result in your target and audience going elsewhere. But, once again there is an increasing number of tools that are helping brands test the user experience of their digital products and services.

H&M turned to Tobii Pro Sprint’s eye tracking platform to create a clear path of purchase for online shoppers and to validate design decisions on their site. The company are also using similar eye-tracking technology on online banking portals, music, and video streaming services, work portals, and believe it can transform any digital product or service

By tracking eye movements when testing websites, businesses can discover how users visually navigate the digital interface. The platform not only highlights what our eyes notice or what they ignore, but also areas where users encounter friction points as well as the things they see or ignore, the areas they get stuck on, and where they naturally gravitate to.

The eye tracking company are on a mission to ensure that technology works in harmony alongside natural human behavior. The technology enables companies to pinpoint potential causes or indicators of usability issues when working on software applications and websites.

The use of smartphones to make purchases online in the holiday season is unsurprisingly up 44% compared to last year. Welcome to a new digital age of the always-on mobile shopper. Digital natives are increasingly checking their mobile devices for bargains throughout the day.

Shoppers are increasingly attracted by discounts, sales, personalization and the convenience of doing it all from their mobile device in any location. How marketers leverage technology to create unique mobile experiences that deliver these minimum requirements is paramount.

Delivering the wow factor and remaining online will determine how successful retailers are during the holiday season. Meanwhile, marketers are faced with both challenges and opportunities of how to engage with the always-on customer without being creepy.

In the Land of Shiny Objects

I am honored and excited to become a regular contributor on Target Marketing. I am excited at the prospect of generating vibrant conversations on a set of topics that represent one of the biggest challenges marketing leaders face today. As a marketing consultant at the intersection of data, technology and customer strategy, I have observed — frequently — that there is a vast divide between brand/ customer strategy and data/technology strategy.

shiny object
(Image via The Marketing Moron)

I am honored and excited to become a regular contributor on Target Marketing. I am excited at the prospect of generating vibrant conversations on a set of topics that represent one of the biggest challenges marketing leaders face today. As a marketing consultant at the intersection of data, technology and customer strategy, I have observed — frequently — that there is a vast divide between brand/ customer strategy and data/technology strategy.

Multiple industry surveys report that few executives feel their analytics and technical implementation are well-connected and strategic. Despite the fact that most customer interaction is becoming tech-driven, the abundance of affordable tech options is leading to highly tactical and sometimes confusing customer experiences. The core issue is rarely the technology itself. Most solutions can work just fine at driving greater customer engagement and building brand equity. The real impediments are often organizational and strategic in nature.

The Real Problem in Marketing

Organizational challenges include overall resistance to change, but also the presence of silos where they do not make much sense. Although much has been written about this topic under the umbrella of digital transformation, it’s incredible how challenging the organizational factor remains. I hope to unpack some of the critical underlying factors in subsequent postings.

The strategic issues, on the other hand, are discussed less often. The problem begins with the marketing technology industry, itself. Driven by billions of dollars in investments, the industry has thousands of solutions in the market, each desperately trying to prove its unique value. I refer to this as the “land of shiny objects.” As marketing leaders attempt to navigate this landscape, it is easy to lose strategic focus.

In this blog, we’ll discuss ways in which marketing organizations regain their strategic bearings and leverage their tech stack for both short-term and long-term gains.

Cool Tech for Content Curation, Project Management

When assessing the best tools for content curation and project management, it’s important to identify what your needs are before diving into possible solutions.

When assessing the best tools for content curation and project management, it’s important to identify what your needs are before diving into possible solutions.

Need to share reliable social media content, quickly? Try Buffer. Want to keep better tabs on your editorial and social media calendars? Experiment with Trello. Looking for a marketing automation tool to synchronize your messaging across platforms? Go for IFTTT. These tools not only enhance workflow, they help streamline team communication and collaboration.

content curation, project management

Content Curation, Social Media Scheduling Tool: Buffer

buffer-connectBuffer is useful for those with small blogs (like this) who are managing social media calendars on-the-go. One of the best features is “Content Inbox,” a source for curated content tailored to the interests of your followers. You can easily push this content to your Twitter, Google+, Facebook and Instagram accounts to keep your audiences engaged throughout the day and your messaging consistent. Visit the “Analytics” tab for more on how your posts performed and even schedule top performers to Re-Buffer at a later date.

twitter-analytics1Buffer is also useful for social media scheduling with its built-in queue. You can either set your own post schedule or let Buffer choose for you based on past user engagement data.

buffer-schedule

There’s no doubt that Buffer is essential for social media marketers, content creators and anyone else looking to take control of their many social media accounts. Give Buffer a try to keep your curated content flowing without any hiccups.

Editorial Calendar, Project Management Tool: Trello

Trello is by far the most intuitive, visual and powerful tool out there for small blog creators to keep tabs on their editorial calendar. Trello is incredibly easy to learn for any type of user (whether beginner or advanced). Create lists and then drag-and-drop cards within them to supercharge the publishing process.

Trello

Label cards, add team members and use Power-Ups to integrate with Google Drive, Twitter, Slack and more. This is incredibly important for small bloggers, as content should be strictly managed and shared with the team throughout the conceptualization process.

Trello scheduling Kia Street

We use Trello for just about everything at st-tech — including our own personal to-dos. The platform’s versatility and usability make it a must-try.

Marketing Automation Tool: IFTTT

IFTTT is a fascinating automation tool in which you can create recipes that allow communication between your devices, apps and systems via the Internet of Things (IoT). This tool is heavily used for marketing automation, as well as boosting personal productivity. The interface is simple and designing recipes is even easier now, thanks to IFTTT applets.

How to Use IFTTT

IFTTT Kia blog post tech

If This, Then That is best for those who utilize a ton of Web apps and services on a daily basis. So, how does IFTTT work? You start by selecting a recipe and turning it on. Recipes are easily programmable to fit your needs as you’re able to use “ingredients” that add custom specifications.

IFTTT Kia blog post

Crafting your own recipe is perfect for those who wish to have more targeted control over their relationship with the IoT. However, there are also tons of preset applets from IFTTT’s collections that are widely beneficial, as well.

Here are three recommendations for small bloggers using IFTTT:

  1. Use Google Calendar to keep track of your Buffer posting schedule
  2. When you create a new Trello card, add an event to Google Calendar
  3. Archive every time you’re @mentioned on Twitter to a Google spreadsheet

Whether you’re a content contributor, small blogger or community manager — these tools will help you take your content to the next level.

Which tool is your favorite? Let me know in the comments section below.

Key Elements of Complete Personalization

I have been writing about using “model-based” personas stemming from a 360-degree customer view for proper personalization for some time now. This time, I would like to cover basic elements other than data and analytics. Too often, even advanced data players have a hard time executing personalization due to shortcomings in other areas. If consumers do not get to see personalized messages in the end, what good is all that data and analytics work?

Check out even more content about personalization with this case study about Amara on BRAND United.

I have been writing about using “model-based” personas stemming from a 360-degree customer view for proper personalization for some time now. This time, I would like to cover basic elements other than data and analytics. Too often, even advanced data players have a hard time executing complete personalization due to shortcomings in other areas. If consumers do not get to see personalized messages in the end, what good is all that data and analytics work?

Last month, I introduced a personalization framework that separates outbound and inbound personalization. Then I divided the inbound part into two groups again, one for cases where the target’s identity is known, and the other where the identity remains unknown. Such division is necessary as we are all living with marketing divisions created based on marketing channels and it is nearly impossible to identify all targets (refer to “Personalization Framework”).

Now, let’s examine another set of checklists for complete personalization. When I say “complete,” I am counting both “reactionary” personalization that is popular in the tech community; and “planned” personalization based on past transaction, promotion and response history, as well as demographic data.

Regardless of channels or types of personalization in the mix, marketers would need to connect all of the following elements to get the job done right (i.e., target consumer actually gets to see customized content through their preferred channels).

complete personalization

  • First, starting from top-left, we need technology that enables us to show different content to different targets. If it is about the website, the site must be modularized. If it is about email, we should be able to swap different content in and out easily. If it is about mobile apps, such content drivers should be built in. If it is about online chat, then customized scripts should be triggered at the right time. If it is about offline, well then, marketers must train their store employees to ingest information from terminals or hand-held devices and pamper customers accordingly.The bottom line is that we need some technology to drive customer engagement. But one should never treat this part as the end game. Too many marketers fell into that trap, considering the job done by setting some commercial personalization engine on an auto-pilot. That is the source of many “bad” personalization efforts: ones that are annoying, invasive, irrelevant and, ultimately, boring.
  • Moving clockwise, at the risk of stating the obvious, marketers must have an ample amount of content to display. In the days when commercial use of digital images and CGI (Computer Generated Images) is widely available, creating a library of content should be a matter of commitment. But a great many marketers suffer from content shortage, or on the reverse side, content overload, necessitating a decent content management system. There is no complete personalization, even after procuring the latest personalization engine, if everyone gets to see the same old generic images or messages.
  • Then of course there are data. I have been talking about this subject ad nauseam, so let me just reemphasize that data must be the primary driver for all customized messaging. Various types of data from disparate sources must be realigned to create a “customer-centric” view (or commonly known as a “360-degree view of customer”), as personalization should be about the person, not channel, division or products. Too many marketers get overwhelmed at this stage, and sheepishly resort back to the default setting of a commercial personalization engine with rudimentary segments based on some intuitive rules. That is a real shame in this age of abundant data.
  • Speaking of abundant data, to drive a personalization engine in near real-time, all of these datasets must be “summarized” in forms of personas, segments or model scores. Each score is essentially a summary of hundreds of considered variables, and they are in the end just another set of “small” data feeding into personalization engines. In the age of Big Data, making data smaller and more digestible using modeling techniques is an essential activity, not an option. On top of that, such statistical work also improves targeting accuracy. Even the worst model outperforms rudimentary rule sets designed based on human intuition.

Now the question would be “Jeez, where do we start”? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is “It depends.” It depends on the state of available data, technology platform, content library, types of developed models and segments and, most importantly, commitment level of the marketing leaders in the company.

With October Behind Us, Amazon Wastes No Time Kicking Off the Holiday Shopping Season

On its Black Friday Deals Store, Amazon began rolling out thousands of holiday deals with new sales and promotions launching nearly “every five minutes.”

Some of your kids (or, heck, maybe even you) are still trying to scrub off that Halloween makeup from all of the trick or treating that went on, but if you haven’t already started sending out the latest info on your holiday deals and curated gift guides, you’re already losing ground to Amazon.

In a statement published promptly at 12 a.m. Seattle-time on Tuesday, the e-commerce giant announced the launch of its Black Friday Deals Store and more than a dozen different curated gift guides.

Through its Black Friday Deals Store, Amazon began rolling out some tens of thousands of holiday deals with new sales and promotions launching “as often as every five minutes” on everything from HDTVs to kitchen appliances and toys. The store will remain open through Dec. 22, and will include dozens of daily “compelling Deals of the Day” that will involve big-ticket items.

“Customers love discovering the best deals on the most sought-after products, and our Black Friday Deals Store and curated Holiday Gift Guides offer them a place to do just that – plus enjoy the most convenient shopping experience with tons of super-fast shipping options,” Doug Herrington, SVP of North American Retail at Amazon, said in the statement. “This holiday season, we’re offering more deals than ever before and – for the first time ever – giving Prime members an opportunity to use Alexa voice shopping for purchasing their holiday gifts hands-free. They can make purchases simply by asking Alexa-enabled devices, like the new Echo Dot, while relaxing at home with family and friends.”

The curated gift guides harken to those big and beautiful F.A.O. Schwarz books that used to come in the mail around this time of the year and get all of the neighborhood kids talking about their holiday wish lists. The obvious difference being that Amazon’s guides will be digital only. The most likely-to be scoured by kids and self-shoppers alike: the Electronics Gift Guide, the Home Gift Guide, and (an Etsy-esque competitor) the Handmade at Amazon Holiday Gift Guide.

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-8-15-56-am

Of course, the one that resonates with us, and you, has to be the Electronics Gift Guide (pictured above). Looking through the list of products, retailers can get a sense of what products Amazon expects to deliver the best returns this year. What’s more, retailers can get a look at what they’re up against as far as pricing is concerned.

A quick tour through the Electronics Gift Guide shows that the emerging tech categories are expected to be front and center this year. In particular, Amazon places an emphasis on things like smart home tech, wearables, drones, and robotics. Mixed in, though, are some of the staples of the holidays—things like gaming, TVs, headphones, cameras, and more.

The standout category on that gift guide though? The little box in the top left corner of the screen: those electronics gift ideas that come in under $100. During the holiday shopping season, most consumers are looking for the “big deal.” They’re not looking to spend a fortune on themselves or whoever they’re gifting for, and that under-$100-price-point serves as a clickbaity headline. And listed in the Under $100 portion of the guide is everything from smartphones, cases, and bluetooth speakers, to toothbrushes, razors, and portable hard drives.

Calling out your major deals is great, but the strategy here by Amazon—that every retailer can learn from—is their ability to hit the nail on the head with the core online shopper. Categorize those lower price point items into an under $XX amount, and let your e-tail customers effectively impulse buy right from your website.

The biggest takeaway from all of this Amazon news for retailers? Now is the time to start running those holiday deals of yours. If you’re just planning for Black Friday now, you’re well behind the eight ball. It’s 2016, and if Amazon hasn’t made it clear enough for us all these past three years or so, let it be said here and now. The holidays no longer officially start on Black Friday. They start the second all of the pumpkins are down and candy has been handed out. So, finish that Kit-Kat you’re chowing down on, and get to popping. The holidays are here.

Business IS Personal, and Other Leadership Rules

“Business is one of the most human things in the world,” Simon Sinek said early on in his presentation during &THEN. He shared that when he hears someone say, “It’s not personal, it’s business” he just laughs to himself. No, no it’s not … business is personal. It’s human.

I have a new marketing crush. It’s Simon Sinek.

Simon SinekHe was the Monday morning inspirational keynote speaker during DMA’s &THEN event last week and I’m still running over in my head all the things he discussed in under an hour, a week later, because he gave us that much to chew on.

His wonderfully dynamic speaking skills aside, Simon was able to be upfront and frank with a hall full of marketers.

“Business is one of the most human things in the world,” he said early on in his presentation. Then he commented on that when he hears someone say, “It’s not personal, it’s business” he just laughs to himself. No, no it’s not … business is personal. It’s human.

business_personalAnd human is something we could all stand to do a little better, and a bit more often. Especially in leadership roles.

Simon spoke about how in this ever-connected world, technology shouldn’t replace human contact. Instead, it should bring humans together. And leaders need to take the charge.

Certificates Don’t Make a Leader

“[There’s an] incredible lack of leadership across the world today in every industry,” Simon said. It may seem harsh, but hang on before you brush off his point.

As humans, we like intensity because its easy to measure, and this is how leadership is often taught:

  1. Attend a leadership seminar
  2. Earn a certificate
  3. ”I’m a leader now!”

It’s the intensity we crave, but that’s not how it works. Consistency matters more than intensity. Good leaders are built over time, energy and actions.

Another point of his I really liked was that good leaders create an environment of vulnerability, which allows people to speak up and honestly ask for help and feel safe. If you know you can ask for help with a project and not fear a layoff or something else, employees will do so. This builds trust and stronger teams (trust me, THIS WORKS).

Put the Phone Down

We’re all saying this, but Simon both reinforced points and made some new ones.

When someone’s smartphone is out — whether in their hand, on a table or anywhere else visible — it makes the other person in the conversation feel less important. Why? Because at any moment it’s understood that a notification can go off, and attention gets transferred directly to the phone.

During a meeting, a smartphone on the table announces to all “you’re not important.” And yes, Simon let us all know that flipping the phone over in an attempt to be polite is still just as bad. And it’s true! How many meetings have you sat through with all the buzzing from phones being set to vibrate … or the phone with the ringer still on?

It’s distracting, but we all do it … and probably because a fair number of the people in leaderships roles are doing it. Not to be jerks, but because of this need to constantly be connected. Here, the tech gets in the way of the relationships.

Toward the end of his presentation, Simon said, “Whoever understands people the best wins.” “People” are our prospects, customers and even our fellow employees. Make it personal … because that’s just what good business is.

There will probably be a couple more blog posts in the future that will reference Simon’s presentation at &THEN 2016 … he gave me a lot to think about.

Millennial Microaggression: Aren’t All Seniors Digital Dimwits?

In both my consulting business and my teaching I frequently hear Millennials talk about seniors not being tech savvy. While the term “seniors” has different age boundaries, some as low as 50-plus and others as high as 70-plus, the message comes through that most Baby Boomers and those older than them don’t have the digital chops to receive messages online and through their smartphones.

gen yIn both my consulting business and my teaching I frequently hear Millennials talk about seniors not being tech savvy. While the term “seniors” has different age boundaries, some as low as 50-plus and others as high as 70-plus, the message comes through that most Baby Boomers and those older than them don’t have the digital chops to receive messages online and through their smartphones.

So when an agency’s digital media specialist says, “We’ll need to do some offline stuff for the senior market” or a student working on a marketing project says, “You can’t reach the older demographic on social media,” I have to say, “You know, you’re talking about people my age.”

It makes them pause because they may be friends with me on Facebook, or they may be one of my 1,000-plus LinkedIn connections. They may have collaborated with me on digital campaigns for their clients or been coached by me in the Collegiate ECHO Challenge. Some have even been lucky enough to take an Uber with me to a lunch that I booked on OpenTable (I usually have to buy). So they know my capabilities, but don’t seem to connect the dots that there are others my age and older who know their way around the digital space.

Some of the older digital natives have a vague recollection of accessing AOL on dial-up, and some may remember texting using the telephone keypad of a flip-phone (press the number two three times for the letter C). But that’s about as far back as their technology journey goes. They’re amazed when they hear stories of a workplace before email or even fax machines and primitive home electronics. “How did you get anything done?”and “OMG, black and white TV?”

Pew Internet data does show that fewer people aged 65-plus have smartphones and broadband access than younger age groups. But my personal experience has been that, more than age, the factor driving the digital divide is workplace experience. If someone in their 60s worked in an environment where they used a personal computer most of the day, they are more likely to be tech-savvy than someone half their age who works as a skilled tradesman and uses a different set of tools.

So while the recent focus on microaggression is centered mostly on racism and sexism, let me add ageism to that mix. Recently over dinner with a student, I was discussing a marketing project aimed at Boomers and he said, “So you have to figure out what all these old people want.” Really!?!