3 Trends to Survive the ‘Every Channel’ Paradigm

Savvy companies realize they’re finally in a position to benefit from the shifting tides of digital transformation. Now more than ever, shrewd marketers realize they are in a position to retrench themselves with compelling content that can cut through the noise.

In 2005, YouTube broke the media monopoly on content creation by turning everyone into a content creator. In 2012, Facebook reached 1 billion users globally embedding social channels as the most important outlets for content distribution. In 2013, The Boston Globe, unable to monetize a digital world, was sold for a 93% loss.

It’s no secret that the underlying force causing media strife for nearly two decades is digital transformation. More than a distribution approach, digital is a lifestyle that shifts the balance of power to consumers by providing greater freedom and choice.

Savvy companies realize they’re finally in a position to benefit from the shifting tides of digital transformation. Over the last decade, it has become increasingly clear that quality content remains the foundation for success. The value of this content is evident as user-generated content powerhouse YouTube has developed its studio content. Now more than ever, shrewd marketers realize they are in a position to retrench themselves with compelling content that can cut through the noise.

So how can marketers take advantage of the change? Three significant trends are converging to drive marketers to further heights: personalization, multichannel optimization, and new revenue opportunities.

1. Content Must Be Personalized

The ability to understand, segment, and deliver relevant content has never been more critical.  Because of the Netflix-Amazon effect, people expect deeply personalized experiences from media.

Content creators have approximately six seconds to capture reader/viewer attention—and keeping users engaged requires anticipation and delivery of relevant additional content. Personalizing content drives results across channels. For example, HubSpot reports that the open rate for emails with a personalized message was 17.6%, compared to 11.4% without personalization.

Understanding user preferences, patterns, and behaviors start with data collection. However, it’s not enough to collect the data; you must analyze, derive insights, and then use those insights to create a solid content strategy with personalization.

Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, and other advanced algorithms packaged via readily available APIs, in theory, make personalizing content easier. However, following consumers across channels, devices, and ecosystems—while not running afoul of increasingly stringent privacy laws—is creating a paradigm of heightened consumer expectations alongside growing technological and security-based complexities.

Developing a robust but realistic personalization strategy is essential. Get the basics right first—such as personalizing emails and calls to action (CTAs). Then, move on to customizing recommendations on site and later add additional channels into the mix. This approach allows for experimentation, optimization, and acceptance.

2. Optimize Your Approach for Every Channel

According to comScore, users spend 69% of their media time on smartphones. Amazon’s Alexa boasts more than 25,000 skills. More than 473 million people subscribe to over-the-top (OTT) video services. The proliferation of channels is favoring companies with the content to support them.

However, engagement with relevant, compelling content per channel is just the beginning. To take advantage of the six seconds of viewer attention, marketers must also deliver the right content on each new and emerging medium in an optimized way. There are over 60 different channels to contend with from social media and web, to voice, audio, smart speakers, TV, apps, and video. The plethora of channels that potential audiences inhabit makes marketing with an omnichannel experience the new imperative.

You should be able to fully control the experience for each channel, with the help of the right technologies. For example, mobile users spend two times more time on Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) than desktop sites rendered on mobile. This is but one example of how optimized content outperforms non-optimized content.

3. Use the Data at Your Fingertips to Drive New Revenue Streams

Real-time data is becoming the new currency, and is increasingly valuable when combined with hyper-targeting strategies to open a world of new revenue opportunities.

Some examples include:

  • Native advertising in the form of branded content, allowing marketing messages to deliver relevant value
  • Premium content subscription tiers that offer opportunities to surpass the competition
  • Affiliate revenue, which helps online entities to form “partnerships” to promote one another through their content and channels
  • Selling user information or database access, like e-mail addresses collected from lead generation efforts
  • Brand licensing that allows product and service companies to leverage well-known publishers for hefty licensing fees
  • Events and conferences with growing attendance numbers and high-dollar sponsorship
  • Content delivered in cutting-edge formats to drive subscription revenue or revenue from technology partners developing the format

It’s clear that users are now willing to pay for their content, especially if it’s highly personalized. There are many additional potential revenue streams worth exploring and carefully considering, including social, video, and memberships.

By personalizing communications, delivering the appropriate types of content in a channel-optimized way, and maximizing potential channel revenue opportunities,  companies will be well positioned to attract and retain customers and effectively compete in the digital era.  Are you ready to embrace the change?

Learn to Fly Without a Pilot’s License

The savvy traveler of the 21st century expects more of everything when planning trips, from the booking experience to the transportation options, from the destination to dining. The overall experience must deliver, and travelers are not afraid to vote with their dollars. I know I’m sure not afraid to do so — I do a ton of research ahead of a trip to ensure I get the best experience for my investment, whether it’s for business or personal.

Travel has been on my mind a lot lately. On Sunday, I’m flying out to sunny LA to attend DMA’s &THEN Conference, then coming home for about 48 hours before hitting the road to visit one of my best friends just outside of Buffalo for a long weekend.

So that’s over 5,400 miles flown, then an additional 750 miles driven round trip. Woof.

Foo Fighters' Learn to Fly
Dave Grohl can be my captain any day…

Two weeks later, I board a plane for a red-eye flight to Madrid, Spain for a quick layover, then to my final destination of Lisbon, Portugal so I can attend the 2016 Web Summit as a speaker (more on that exciting news later!)

My round-trip travel for that will be over 6,800 miles … so in less than 30 days time I will have traveled more than 13,000 miles, stayed in two hotels, one AirBNB rental, had countless meals out, taken taxis, Ubers, subways … now can you see what travel’s been on my mind so much? (I think I need a nap just thinking about it all.)

The savvy traveler of the 21st century expects more of everything when planning trips, from the booking experience to the transportation options, from the destination to dining. The overall experience must deliver, and travelers are not afraid to vote with their dollars. I know I’m sure not afraid to do so — I do a ton of research ahead of a trip to ensure I get the best experience for my investment, whether it’s for business or personal.

In late July, we hosted our annual Integrated Marketing Virtual Show, and I had the opportunity to bring together a stellar panel with moderator Kae Lani Kennedy, social media manager for Matador Network, as well as the following panelists:

  • Jennifer Andre, Director of Sales, Media Solutions, Expedia
  • Christy Ciambor, Destination Marketing Manager, Travel Juneau
  • David Naczycz, Founder, Urban Oyster/NYC Urban Adventures

The focus of the panel was to look at travel marketing in the Internet Age, and as I rewatched the presentation, a few things came to mind:

We All Can Learn From the Travel Industry

Actually, all marketers can learn from every industry outside their own. I think that’s a given and something we all need to do a little more of. But what I believe the travel and hospitality industry really caters to customer desire. Sure, the automotive industry caters to my desire of driving a wickedly sweet car (I’m looking at you, Dodge Challenger), but it’s not a desire that can be met easily … but an $900 vacation to Paris? A $350 long weekend in Washington DC? A $40 walking tour of Brooklyn? These are all more quickly attainable than a $27,000 car.

The travel and hospitality industry can let consumers itch a desire now. But I think it could teach other marketers how to do this, too.

Mobile Is Here to Stay ALWAYS

That subhead says it all. Mobile was one of the big issues our panelists discussed during the travel roundtable, and it’s such a big issue that we’re hosting the All About Mobile virtual show in December (shameless plug, yes yes I know!).

As a marketer, if you don’t have a seamless marketing experience, you’re going to lose consumer confidence and customer share. Pure and simple.

User-Generated Content Builds Trust

Fun fact: Loyal customers and fans want to contribute! So let them! You can do this in so many ways, from running regular Instagram photo contests to sharing thoughtful reviews. In the end, the marketer gets wonderful content to share with the wider audience and the user gets to share his or her voice.

Anyway, I highly recommend taking 30 minutes to listen (or watch!) the travel roundtable (no registration necessary) so you can take a look at what the industry is doing, and see if you can “steal smart” and incorporate a few ideas into your next strategy meeting. You know … learn to fly without a pilot’s license (yes … yes I am a Foo Fighters fan).

Now if a marketer could just figure out how to deal with the email/travel issue so that we wouldn’t have to come back to an over-stuffed inbox … there’s a billion dollar idea.

Travel and email meme

Are User Reviews Hurting or Helping?

A 2016 research study conducted by Censuswide for the Chartered Institute of Marketing found that 25 percent of consumers claim they’ve seen a fake online review — and the problem seems to be getting worse. What can you do to ensure user-created content is seen as truth-worthy?

Search and Success: How to Make Your Website, Content and SEO Pay OffI have long been fascinated with neuroscience and the role it can play in marketing ever since that legendary case study of an upscale hotel in Amsterdam selling a hamburger for $20 (in the days when one was typically sold for under $3). In that case, the restaurant presented its menu in a very heavy block of transparent plastic, and discovered that “haptic sensations” (the sensation of touch) created a positive impact on the customer and thus the over-priced burger had a perceived higher, more positive value.

In 2016, as more and more decisions are made digitally — without the benefit of a tactile encounter — marketers have been seeking ways to tap into a consumers subconscious. When, in 2004, Yelp provided a platform for user-generated reviews, brands quickly discovered that the court of public opinion could make (or break) a small business.

One short year later, a user-generated content (UGC) strategy had gone mainstream, but with the brand itself firmly in the driver’s seat. These days, sites ranging from Amazon to the local car dealership encourage customers to provide feedback immediately after purchase. But to what end?

In 2014, a research firm called Impowered partnered with Nielson to study which type of content was most instrumental at various purchase stages in terms of driving a purchase decision. The result? Eighty-three percent considered “expert content” to be more valuable than user reviews.

If expert content is the hero influencing brand purchase decisions, why do companies continue to persist in their pursuit of user-generated content?

Eighty-four percent of Millennials report that UGC on a brand’s website has at least some influence on what they buy, compared to 70 percent of Boomers. In fact there are many purchase decisions, both big and small, that Millennials won’t make without UGC. In fact, one report claims that UGC is the best way to push Millennials further down the conversion funnel since they trust it 50 percent more than any other type of media.

But in a new twist, a 2016 research study conducted by Censuswide for the Chartered Institute of Marketing found that 25 percent of consumers claim they’ve seen a fake online review — and the problem seems to be getting worse.

In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), an independent government department, cracked down on a company that was caught posting more than 800 fake reviews on behalf of 86 small businesses across 26 different websites. And Samsung agreed to pay a large fine to Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission for posting fake positive reviews about its products, and fake negative reviews about its competitors’ products.

Assuming that most brands are not trying to game the system, what can you do to ensure user-created content is seen as truth-worthy?

  • Encourage your customers to provide honest, genuine feedback. Don’t try to unduly influence outcomes in the way you ask the questions. One client asked us to remove the 1-10 rating range of “likelihood to refer” (a Net Promotor Score strategy) and replace it with a yes/no option because in their mind, they knew everyone was “happy” so why not lay claim to 100 percent happiness?
  • Acknowledge all reviews — don’t ignore the negative ones. Instead, turn them into opportunities to educate that customer and prospective customers who will see the review, demonstrating your brand is respectful of all opinions, and is thoughtful about resolving them in a fair and positive way.
  • Timing is everything. Unless it’s a review of a restaurant, don’t send out a survey 24-hours after the product is delivered. How could you possibly get an honest response when the buyer has barely had time to open the box, let alone experience your product? When a mattress company sent me a survey after only one night’s sleep on it, my response, of course, will be positive considering I was replacing a 20-year old incumbent.

Creative Cage Match: Travel Edition

The weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer … and vacation is on my mind. Luckily, I have a trip planned for June to trek off to the Adirondacks, but that leaves plenty of summer days to do more traveling. And my inbox agrees.

Travel DogeThere’s a reason that pro-wrestling is so popular — and it’s not just the juicy drama and bespangled costumes. People love a good fight, and have for millennia, dating back to the gladiators of Rome and beyond.

So, once a month I’m going to select two marketers and toss them into a Creative Cage Match. I’ll be looking at everything ranging from email to direct mail, website to mobile site. It’ll be a mix of objective and subjective, and each time a marketer will walk out of the ring triumphantly.

The weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer … and vacation is on my mind. Luckily, I have a trip planned for June to trek off to the Adirondacks, but that leaves plenty of summer days to do more traveling. And my inbox agrees.

In this corner, weighing in at 16 years old and chock-full of user generated content by way of customer reviews, we have TripAdvisor. The site is home to robust travel forums, Best of 2016 lists and a selection of apps. TripAdvisor claims to have more than 60 million members and over 170 million reviews. That’s a lot of vacations.

Across the ring we have 8-year-old travel and hospitality juggernaut Airbnb, disrupting the industry in ways that delight travelers — and home owners — worldwide. The startup site allows hosts to list their properties for rent and provides travelers with the opportunity to rent lodgings and “live like a local.” Airbnb has more than 1.5 million listings in 34,000 cities in 190 countries. Talk about options!

Email vs. Email

First, let’s look at TripAdvisor, which hooked me with this subject line: “And the new #1 island in the world is …” Ooh yes please. I want to know this.

Tripadvisoremail_topTripadvisoremail_bottomAs you can see, this email is PACKED. Let’s unpack it:

  • The tease for the No. 1 island (including a bunch of clues on the form of images and review snippets).
  • Call to action to book a hotel in TripAdvisor.
  • Locations for the 25 best beaches in the world.
  • Airfare rates for a selection of cities — some I’ve been to — from my local airport, PHL.
  • A bunch of special offers for hotels and resorts.
  • The call to action “Where’s this?” (Sadly the link wasn’t working for me)
  • And one more call to action about finding and booking a hotel on TripAdvisor.

It’s a little overwhelming, but if you want to cruise through the email and click on the content that is most interesting to you, it’s easy because everything is neatly compartmentalized.

(Oh, and that No. 1 island? It’s Maui … some place I have yet to go!)

So from gorgeous images to teasing text and plenty of content, TripAdvisor’s email gives you something to spend a little time on. Now let’s look at Airbnb.