This Mother’s Day, Think Digital

Posted by Lauren Murphy on May 8th, 2013 in , , , ,

Mother’s Day is this weekend, meaning you are probably going into panic mode about what to get the mom in your life. Why not go digital? Today’s moms have entered the digital age with full force, in the home and in mobile.

Forbes reports that nearly 70% of moms think technology makes them better. Marketers have begun to focus on moms specifically because they make up a large and influential demographic group. In fact, 90% of mothers use social media on a daily basis, a 20% increase since 2010 according to MediaPost. Moms are not just using social media because it is a fad. They enjoy a high level of engagement from family and friends. Mike Fogarty, the senior vice president and global publisher at BabyCenter, stated “Today’s mom is the most influential and social consumer you’ll meet.” They actually make up 32% of all online profits despite only being 18% of online users. Moms enjoy being active online, spending 6.1 hours per day surfing the web and shopping.

Even when it comes to the busiest of moms, they are still connected through their mobile devices. Social Media Today reports that 77% of moms follow 1 or more brands on social media, redeeming offers as they go. According to Marketing Charts, 83% of women in general are willing to give up their location on their mobile devices for $25 worth of in-store credit. Mobile moms can snag that credit too. With moms 28% more likely to use a tablet and 38% more likely to own a smartphone, mobile opportunities are endless for them and convenient, and that goes a long way. Now, 58% of them are more likely to make a purchase through a mobile device. Instead of pushing a screaming baby through a store, moms can make a purchase from the comfort of their couch as their child’s baby swing rocks away the tears.

Moms are embracing the digital age, so lend them a hand this Mother’s Day and go digital.


Now is the Time to Razzle Dazzle with Video Marketing

Posted by Lauren Murphy on May 2nd, 2013 in , , , , , , ,

Videos are extremely engaging. The proof is in how your husband stares at the television behind you during dinner instead of listening to how your day went. With that, marketers have been tapping into the potential of videos for some time now. Since Google’s purchase of YouTube, the benefits of adding videos into your marketing strategy have increased for businesses of all sizes.

35 hours of content are uploaded to YouTube per minute, according to Social Media Examiner. With so much competition, marketers need to focus on how to stand out from the crowd and draw in an audience. The best way to go about creating content for your brand’s videos is to focus on your customers’ needs. Focusing on your customers’ needs allows you to create content that is most relevant and valuable to them. Business 2 Community reports that customers who view videos are 174% more likely to make a purchase than those who don’t. Relevancy can lead to larger profits.

Chances are slim you will make a video as viral as “Charlie Bit Me,” but you can expand your videos’ reach. First off, always include your brand’s URL in the description of your videos to drive traffic, and also include several tags on your video if using YouTube. These tags will make your video more likely to turn up in a local search. Google’s purchase of YouTube also cannot be overlooked. Now, videos appear at the top of search results. In order to secure a featured spot for your videos, include keywords in the title. These keywords will link your content to the search engine.

Social Media Today states that marketers need to “utilize the social media infrastructure,” meaning connecting your content to other social networking sites. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr all support YouTube videos and offer different paths to consumers. Three out of five consumers will watch a video for a product to educate them about it so they make a more informed decision. The more social networks featuring the video, the more ways to persuade your customer base.

Consumers watch videos to gain greater insight into a product or a brand. The shorter and more concise a video, the better. The end of a video should include a call to action. Give your customers a direction instead of leaving them hanging on what to do next. A specific direction will increase the likelihood of a customer following through on a purchase.

Videos are more important than ever in your marketing strategy. Compose a plan that is most relevant to your audience and put it into motion.


Marshmallows & Chocolate + Big Data = The Best S’mores of Your Life

Posted by Dave Balter on April 26th, 2013 in , , , , , , , , ,

Back in 2011, Tesco’s acquisition of BzzAgent left many scratching their heads. What business did a UK-based, global (non-US!) retailer have cozying up to a Boston-based social marketing firm? Maybe they were just trying to catch a wave of street cred…or maybe they just had a thing for bees?

Think about it like this: BzzAgent’s word of mouth marketing powerhouse is the marshmallow of retail. It’s sticky, delicious, and fulfilling. Everybody loves marshmallows. Tesco, on the other hand, owns a business called dunnhumby – a.k.a. the chocolate. It’s data and analytical capabilities are rich, addictive, jaw-dropping. Layer on open access to the rich datasets powering these companies, and what do you get? The best s’mores of your life, or…the dunnhumby Hack/Reduce hackathon (limited spots, so sign up only if you’re a developer/analyst!).

Gather ‘round the campfire to hear how its all gone down—less than two years after being acquired, BzzAgent is nearly fully integrated into dunnhumby, the big data and customer science outfit of parent company, Tesco. When word of mouth, the voice of the customer, meets actual shopper activities, the possibilities are endless. Already, the impact of tying together this data together has been nothing short of stupendous – now in its 11th year of business, BzzAgent grew nearly 50% last year alone.

While all this was brewing, Boston was building heat, quickly becoming a hub for innovation in big data and a hotspot for startup activity around retail and data innovation. Combine that with dunnhumby’s new integrated presence in the city, and you get ooey, gooey, goodness.

Retail? You think Boston’s a hub for retail startups?! Ya, sure. You betcha. On the innovation front, there are countless transformative models all around the region. Here’s a handful:

  • Aisle Buyer (sold to Intuit): Allow(ed) shoppers to skip checkout lines by paying with their credit card directly on their mobile phone
  • Alignable: (in stealth – and it’s awesome)
  • Card Star (acquired by Constant Contact): Puts all of your membership and rewards cards on a single free app
  • Green Tape:  Provides real time reviews for the in-store shopping experience.
  • Level Up:  Mobile payments for smaller retailers, with amazing analytics ta boot.
  • Locately: Analyzes local data to determine shopper activities
  • Plastiq:  Enables payments via credit card for very high ticket items
  • Privy: Connects online promotions to in-store activities
  • Promoboxx: Connects brands with multiple retailers for co-promotion programs.
  • SavingStar: Saves you money on your groceries without printing or clipping anything.
  • Swipely: Utilizes point of sale terminals to provide transaction analytics to retailers
  • Swirl: Hilmi Olzug’s outfit augments the in-store experience with personalized shopping delivered via mobile phone.
  • True Lens: Appends social data to customer lists to help retailers grow loyalty and improve ROI.
  • Unbound Commerce: Develops mobile commerce for retailers
  • (I’m sure I missed a ton – put in the comments, please!)

And the reason so many retail startups are calling Boston home? Well that gets back to big data. With the development of Hack/Reduce in Kendall Square, there’s a centralized location for hacking big data. And did I mention that MIT, Harvard, IBM, Google, Microsoft, Atlas, Bain Capital, Matrix Partners, Goodwin Proctor, and others are founding sponsors?

All of this is why dunnhumby has decided to throw an all-out, over-the-top, never-before-attempted, retailer hackathon at Hack/Reduce on May 11th, from 9 AM – 9 PM. We’ll provide an actual transaction data set (real customer purchases, anonymized) for analysis, manipulation, introspection, and all sorts of coding madness – with a goal of helping forecast the success of new product launches more effectively.

Winning teams get cold hard cash ($2,500 for first place winner) and there are all sorts of goodies to be had (not to mention food and all that).  But the real gold is the fact that you’ll be working side by side with dunnhumby executives and data scientists, getting exposure to their world and how they have created a Big Data and Customer Science juggernaut.

If you want to hack in person, sign up now or miss out.   Especially if you are working in one of the amazing retail startups in our region — this will be an eye-opening, retail-bending experience that won’t soon be forgotten.

See you there!


Millennials are Breaking the Privacy Norm

Posted by Lauren Murphy on April 25th, 2013 in , , , ,

We all protect our privacy, holding it near and dear. Today, there are many debates surrounding online privacy, and it’s safe to assume most don’t want their personal information out there for the world to see. However, Millennials seem to be breaking this norm.

Ranging from 18 to 34 years of age, USA TODAY reported that the University of Southern California’s Center for the Digital Future in conjunction with Bovotiz Inc. found that Millennials are the most willing of any generation to divulge their personal information online, even more so when there is a reward for them as a result. This is not to say that Millennials don’t enjoy their right to privacy. 70% of them believe no one should have direct access to their information or web behavior, but they do like the benefits they receive from giving it out.

Engaging with companies has become an instinct with this generation. They know the more they engage, the greater the benefits they receive. For example, there can be a 20% discount on a brands site, but if you follow them on Twitter you receive 30% off. Elaine Coleman, managing director of media and emerging technology at Bovitz Inc., stated, ”Millennials are all about exchange of information. [They say], ‘Sure, if you send me a relevant ad, I’ll tell you where I am.’ ” Growing up with technology has fostered this way of thinking because it has always been the path for these young users to connect globally.

Millennials are a significant portion of today’s marketing audience and they have a lot of influence on each other. In Marketing Charts coverage of the report, they noted that at least 48% of Millennials access social media sites several times a day, compared to only 20% of those 35 years old and above. This means Millennials have a greater potential to influence peers than those of an older generation. Millennials also reportedly contact at least 18 people via social networking sites. Since 70% of consumers trust a stranger’s recommendation, marketers need to attract this generation with special offers in exchange for their information to gain better insight into their behaviors and offer a better user experience. This can result in an increase of sales for a brand as well as greater loyalty.

Millenials’ value their privacy, but they are more willing to hand over their information if there’s a reward involved. The more information they give to brands, the more a brand can reward them, gain consumer insight and spur a series of word-of-mouth interactions. Give Millennials special benefits, and you will receive them in return.


What Customers Value Most Online May Not Be What Businesses Thought

Posted by Lauren Murphy on April 17th, 2013 in ,

The Internet has allowed us to reach customers on multiple platforms. Through social media, businesses have been able to connect to their customers and offer them insight into their brand. However, the Harvard Business Review has found that businesses may have incorrectly perceived why customers follow them on social media.

The authors Patrick Spenner and Karen Freeman stated:

Businesses broadly misjudge what consumers want from them online. In particular, marketers often believe that consumers interact with them on social media to join a community and feel connected to the brand. But consumers have little interest in having a relationship beyond the merely transactional.

The image to the right ranks the reasons why customers engage with brands on social media, with the right column showing what businesses perceived that to be. They ranked learning about new products and general information as top on customers’ lists, when only 52% and 51% of customers agreed respectively. Perhaps the starkest difference between brands’ and consumers’ reasons is being part of a community. Only 22% of consumers surveyed responded that they follow brands for that reason, contrasting 61% of businesses.

Customers actually follow brands because of the potential discounts and purchases, which businesses ranked the lowest in terms of reasons. Discounts and purchases are the most relevant to a customer, as they directly benefit from it. Relevancy and value are what draw in a customer’s interest. They don’t rank learning about new products very high because we know that customers prefer and are more receptive to a recommendation for a product by their peers. Instead, they look for information that allows them to gain something.

Businesses need to take a closer look at what resonates most with their customers because that is the path to greater engagement with them.


Instagram is in Command

Posted by Lauren Murphy on April 11th, 2013 in , , , , ,

Acquired by Facebook last year, Instagram has skyrocketed in popularity (even with #nofilter) and is beginning to command the attention of major brands.

In an increasingly visual world, Instagram is a powerful brand marketing tool. We aren’t saying that you need to go out and create a photo campaign of images that look like they could be used on billboards.  The power and beauty of Instagram is the casual air it gives off. According to MarketingProfs, consumers are looking for a more relaxed approach on this social media site, and in turn are more receptive. Instagram should not be used solely for advertisements since consumers can find that anywhere. Instead, brands need to utilize the app to cultivate relationships with their customers.

Brands can still show off their products on Instagram, but in a more natural and beautiful setting. For instance, a restaurant chain can post a photo of a customer eating a meal outside on a spring day. With a wide array of filters to enhance the image, posting a photo that is made beautiful and depicting people enjoying the services can elicit a higher level of engagement.

Aside from showcasing products and services, Instagram is a great way to bring your consumers behind the scenes of the brand. Images posted can pull away the corporate mask to show your employees as everyday people having fun with their jobs. You can show your followers the beginning stages of production, meetings, products being used around the office and employees helping people just like them. Adrienne Erin of MarketingProfs states, “Instagram is a great platform for highlighting what is unique or special about your company—like show-and-tell for grownups.”

Speaking of highlighting, Social Media Examiner suggests that you also highlight consumers. These consumers are the people who keep your brand going, and we already know how powerful peer influence is. We also know about the importance of brand advocates, so why not highlight them in a new way? Showcase your top advocates by posting photos of them. Brand advocates are crucial and their levels of engagement have been growing on Instagram. By showing them off, they’ll show you off by liking, sharing and re-tweeting your photos to their peers and offering a glimpse into your brand experience.

Another advantage of Instagram for brands is that it can be linked to Facebook and Twitter. Cross promotion is extremely important in this social media dominated society. An astounding 98% of photos on Instagram are posted to Facebook with an estimated 274 people engaging with the photo in some capacity. ”Integration between Facebook and Instagram has allowed users to have photos they ‘like’ appear in their Facebook feeds,” Simply Measured says. “The result has been a continued increase in per post engagement and a greater share of brand photos posted to Facebook.”  Twitter sees a lower share rate at 59% with 22 tweets per photo. Still, cross promoting images allows your brand’s visibility to increase along with its reach.

Instagram offers a new path to consumers for brands. By engaging with Instagram, you can engage with your consumers.


What’s Up With the #Hashtag?

Posted by Lauren Murphy on April 4th, 2013 in ,

What wonder the pound symbol, #, holds in today’s world. By simply placing this tiny majestic symbol in front of a word, we can make our thoughts searchable and more viral than ever before. The hashtag is so revered that even social media giant Facebook is in the beginning stages of adding it to its very own site. For such a simple symbol we typically just hit to access our voicemail, why is it so powerful in today’s social media?

In March, Facebook announced that it was working on incorporating the hashtag into its site. A long-term, larger rival to Twitter, both sites compete for the same advertisers and mobile users. The Wall Street Journal points out a stark difference between the two: “While Facebook was the home of close friends and family, Twitter was the real-time broadcasting device for the rest of the world.” It appears that Facebook’s goal of incorporating hashtags is to “prod” users to make their posts more open to the public. Posts will be more searchable and can compiled into one central location. Since Twitter has become more aggressive in acquiring advertisers, it has pushed Facebook to make changes. The hashtag seems to be the most logical for the social networking site because of the power and multitude of opportunities that it can offer.

Hashtags have proven their use over time. Forbes stated that a study recently performed by RadiumOne found 58% of respondents use hashtags on a daily basis. Promotions, unification, conversations, targeting and innovation are 5 reasons why Forbes believes businesses need to get wise and start utilizing hashtags. 51% of survery respondents claimed they would use hashtags more if there was a promotion or reward involved. Hashtags also make it easier to track a promotion, enabling unification. There are now media boards that track the use of a hashtag across multiple platforms while keeping it all in one place. Hashtags pool conversations together and make it easier for brands to begin conversations and track their activity. By tracking conversations, brands can see trends among their consumers and target them accordingly while also innovating products based off of feedback from consumers.

 The hashtag seems to only being growing in usage. Facebook’s pending implementation of the symbol is sure to add quite a large amount of fuel to this social media fire.


Larger Screen Size, Larger Shopping Cart

Posted by Lauren Murphy on March 25th, 2013 in , , , ,

The screen is too damn small! Smartphones are great, but tablets are forging ahead of phones. Many believe its because tablet screens are larger and easier to interact with, but whatever the reason, shopping on tablets is surpassing smartphones and affecting our marketing approaches.

More people are purchasing a tablet from some company, whether it be Apple or Microsoft. In a report by Marketing Charts, Adfonic found tablets have higher click-through rates than smartphones in direct response campaigns and even more so in branding campaigns.  CTR’s are actually 250% greater than those of smartphones. For every 2 clicks on a smartphone, an additional 5 clicks occur on a tablet. Greater response can equate to more sales.

The younger generation may be more mobile than others, but tablets could also be changing that. The devices appeal to those over the age of 50, according to MediaPost. They are more likely to consider purchasing a tablet than they are a smartphone due to the larger screen size, opening a pathways to that demographic for marketers.

Tablets also see more action during the evening. Starting around 2pm, usage of tablets increase and maintains that state for several hours. It’s only in the wee late hours after midnight that smartphone usage outranks the tablet. Tablets also only trail behind smartphones in 2 other areas according to Marketing Charts: fast-moving consumer goods and retail by -61% and social and dating by -65%. Despite following in the tiny devices’ footsteps, tablets dominate smartphones in style and fashion by 100%, lifestyle and health by 99%, and entertainment and media by 81%. As tablets continue to rise in popularity, marketers are beginning to take action.

Tablet owners are more than twice as likely to use their devices to shop online than those of the smartphone. On top of that, 55% of tablet users are more likely to purchase on their device than simply review, research or compare items. In response to the flurry of activity stemming from tablets, retailers have begun creating apps for consumers as part of their marketing approach. Consumers are almost just as likely to make a purchase using an app as they would in a browser (60% v. 69%). And what about those who do not use apps? It’s predicted that 25% of smartphone and tablet users will make the switch to shopping through apps this year. Through a brand’s app, there is a custom experience created for the user focusing solely on the brand and no other browser tabs to distract them.

With a larger screen size at their fingertips, consumers are looking for a better experience in order to fill their carts and marketers will need to deliver.


Raley’s Launches “Try-It” Advocacy Program

Posted by Lauren Murphy on March 18th, 2013 in , ,

Raley’s, a California and Nevada supermarket chain, has taken retailers a big step forward in its approach to building widespread customer advocacy.  Today we announced “Try-It”, a new advocacy program specifically for Raley’s Something Extra members. 

This is big news because “Try-It” is the first grocery retailer to offer its customers an online advocacy platform to enhance its loyalty program.

This is something we are very excited about, and so is Raley’s:

“Something Extra™ Try-It is truly groundbreaking. Social marketing is important for Raley’s and this program helps us identify our best customers online and reward them with experiences they’ll want to share with their friends in social media and in person,”  – David Palmer, Vice-President, Marketing and Consumer Relationships, Raley’s

It’s backed by BzzAgent, so it provides Raley’s customers with the same quality advocacy experience.  In BzzAgent fashion, members will have the opportunity to try new products and share their honest opinions with others in-person, through online reviews, tweets and Facebook posts.  Like BzzAgent, members will get a score based on their participation so active and quality participation is encouraged.

Only Something Extra loyalty program members are allowed to participate, but signing up is easy and can be done online. Once you’ve joined the Try-It program, you’ll receive opportunities to try great products and services for free or at a radical discount with Try-It Kits.

BzzAgent is proud to support Raley’s in providing their customers with a more personal experience. It’s a new approach for retailers to cultivate advocacy and it represents a significant competitive advantage for Raley’s.

Read more about the program in this interview with DM News: Raley’s Launches Social Brand Consumer Advocacy Program and with Progressive Grocer: Raley’s Launches Social Brand Consumer Advocacy Program

There’s something for everyone in Something Extra Try-it, so if there’s a Raley’s in your area, go ahead and Try-It today and let us know what you think!


Pinterest Has Game

Posted by Lauren Murphy on March 15th, 2013 in , ,

Pinterest decided to show the social media world just how much game it has on Wednesday by announcing its own web analytic system. Ad Age reports that this new addition will “shed light on how images shared there resonate with users.”

As we reported in Put a Pin In It, Pinterest offers special business accounts with exclusive opportunities. The new analytic system is only available to verified business accounts, make Pinterest more measurable for brands. Users will be able to track how many times images have been pinned, the number of visitors and how many impressions their content has created. The system will also showcase the most popular pins from their site. With these insights, marketers will be able to gain a more native view of what content is most valuable.

Pinterest’s system will not just measure the number of actions performed, but also the number of people that perform them according to Marketing Land. Along with this, Pinterest offers default views of 7, 14 or 30 days of statistics. Users can also view stats for specific boards as well as clicking on a pin to view its own data. All of this can be exported in a .cvs file for businesses’ convenience.

Pinterest’s product manager for platform Cat Lee expressed that the idea for the analytic platform was to aid brand’s in their content strategies. The insights could lead to a much different approach for brands to the social media site. “There will continue to be a need for the companies that provide an even deeper level of services for businesses,” Lee said.

Instead of outsourcing to companies like Pinfluencer, brands can now collect their coveted data for free. Outside companies have to scrape to collect the data Pinterest’s analytics will have so readily available. Startups specializing in compiling Pinterest data for brands will have to reevaluate their approach. Ad Age spoke with Hearst Digital’s director of audience development and social media Ross Geisel who tested Pinterest’s new analytic system. Geisel stated that “there’s something to be said” for acquiring data directly from a source such as Pinterest.

Pinterest’s launch of its new analytic system offers brands a more accurate glimpse at its consumers’ behaviors. We’d say get on verifying your account and tap into this new feature. Pinterest has certainly shown that it has game.