Earlier this month, IKEA emerged as the sleeper champ of retail’s augmented reality arms race. On the AI front, companies like Emarsys and Edgecase released ecommerce products that use advanced machine learning techniques to automate time-consuming data analysis and predictive forecasting strategies for retailers.
With such tools available to manage mass audiences and their data, this is an opportunity for tech-minded shops to get a leg up on the competition. As a result, we can expect to see some large retailers (those who fail to adapt) fall behind in a relatively short amount of time. Survivors of this retail purge will make themselves known in the next year or two as these technologies become cornerstones of ecommerce. Here are some big changes to expect in the new paradigm of online shopping that everyone will be adding to next year’s budget.
“The IKEA Effect”
Diving into Apple’s ARkit early-on, the home furniture & appliance giant successfully launched an AR app that lets users view how IKEA’s furniture will look in their home by selecting products from an online store. Released with iOS11, the brand was primed for a massive market reaction. Sure, the items still have some issues (they don’t adapt to lighting too well and their textures aren’t quite realistic), but as the first retail brand to jump into AR, the starting gun has been fired, and many companies are racing to capture value through this technology.
Redstage CEO Adam Morris sees huge potential for AR in ecommerce, stating, “There’s certain industries that I see really benefiting from AR, especially companies where seeing the item in-person plays a huge factor. I believe jewelry sales could be completely revolutionized with AR, and then on to home goods like furniture.” However, Morris notes that the ecommerce industry typically lags a few years behind the latest tech trends, relying on major user adoption for companies to jump on the bandwagon. “For instance,” he recalls, “we talked about ‘mobile-first’ for years, well before companies would begin implementing it. Most didn’t pull the trigger until they had no choice — when mobile users made up more than thirty percent of their user base. It’s easy to argue that the industry is still doing a horrible job at mobile commerce, even now with roughly two-billion online shoppers using mobile.” Perhaps the companies that have been slow to catch up with mobile will double-down on AR, or risk giving up their market share to the brands that do.
So what happens when health and beauty retailers jump onto this train? If Snapchat can already morph your face and add eye-shadow, will brands like Ulta Beauty and Maybelline step up to the challenge? How will consumers react to no-longer trying on makeup in-store, or to saving bundles of cash testing it through your app? Years down the line, this may even change the supply chain, because stores can test products without actually making them, without buying in bulk, and never worry about hemorrhaging money selling-off failed product. Will proactive make an AR filter to show what you’d look like without acne? Will Schick and Gillette face-off for a chance to show you how to carve up that beard? Furthermore, what will become of Snapchat, now that the company announced it will let brands create their own AR features? The possibilities are endless, and the brands that don’t engage AR or continue to view it as a passing trend will feel it in their bottom lines sooner or later.
Emarsys’ ecommerce platform is taking the world by storm. Using artificial intelligence to automate various customer retention and acquisition strategies, the AI uses machine learning to quickly create the perfect online shopping experience for each customer. Designed by Forrester, the system quickly crunches oceans of data about site visitors to cater to their needs and desires. After uploading two years of historical user data, ecommerce companies can maximize ROI on existing users. For new users, the Emarsys AI takes an average of 8 weeks to optimize the customer journey and activate recurring campaigns to keep engagement high. While there are many AI competitors out there, Emarsys boasts a robust, user-friendly platform that creates a truly personal experience for each shopper. As Morris describes it, “AI is becoming essential to work personalization into ecommerce, and machine learning systems offer huge advantages over rule-based systems. Marketers do not need to spend nearly as much time tweaking and administering a rule-based system when the AI is optimizing it automatically.” He adds, “We had a customer that doubled their newsletter list from 50k subscribers to 100k. However, since they did not employ any personalization strategies for what products were beingpresented, they only received a 15% increase in revenue from that channel.” As ecommerce threatens to surpass in-store sales (Business of Fashion) personalization of branded messages is critical. What are you doing to cater to each customer?
Fringe Shoppers Beware
We all do it. We’ll aimlessly surf Amazon or another online retailer looking for something cool to buy, even when we don’t know exactly what we want. Edgecase, the company formerly known as Compare Metrics recently released a new product that helps convert shoppers who have a vague idea or even no idea of what they want. In a time where ecommerce and marketing penetrate the lives of every consumer, tools like Edgecase that help convert the shopping addicted masses are becoming hugely important. When integrated with an online store, the software makes selections for users based on what they’re thinking of (i.e. a blue dress in a certain size) rather than a specific brand. Users can also receive lists of recommended items when shopping for a specific event like a wedding or graduation. As we enter that special time of year, consider how a system built to convert fringe shoppers can have massive impact.
As the holiday season looms, companies taking advantage of AR and AI pose the biggest threat to your bottom line. As the ecommerce arms race ramps up, winners and losers will be defined by how they spend their 2018 budget. Make sure you’re planning to implement these tactics by next year’s holiday rush, or risk being left out in the cold.
Possibly the most memorable viral marketing event in recent memory, the viral spread of this campaign made it an immense success. Whether it was the celebrity endorsements, the chance to show your support for a good cause, a dare from a friend, or simply being bored on a hot summer day, millions of participants drenched themselves, creating more than 2.4 million videos on Facebook alone. The result? One-hundred and fifteen million dollars in donations. What’s more, you’d be hard-pressed to find a person in the U.S. today who doesn’t know about A.L.S., the terminal illness that claims 100,000 lives per year. This is the pinnacle of viral marketing.
So what’s the recipe?
Step 1: Keep It Simple
Much of the Ice Bucket Challenge’s success resulted from the ability of anyone, anywhere, to take part. Unlike guerrilla marketing stunts that require prospects to be in a specific location or attending an exclusive event, most people have access to ice, water and some kind of bucket. Other memorable campaigns include the #nomakeupselfie campaign that generated $2 million for cancer research. The campaign worked because it resonated with a global population of women frustrated with beauty standards. Like the IBC, this went viral because millions of people were potential participants. If you can’t think of an activity almost anyone can do themselves, plan to host events in a variety of population centers that maximize exposure for your cause. New York, D.C., Miami, Chicago, L.A. Find a place with tons of foot-traffic and use it to your advantage. Today, Uber gives out ice cream on hot days in more than 252 cities around the world. Almost anyone can eat ice cream right? Now with the recent launch of Uber Eats, this campaign is more important for the brand than ever before.
Step 2: Inspire Spreadability
Without social media, none of the previously mentioned campaigns would be possible. You couldn’t stand on a curb in Manhattan and request a donation from someone after dropping a bucket of freezing water on them (you’d probably be unconscious). If you want your viral marketing to work, it needs to inspire shares. Redbull skydiver Felix Baumgartner fell 23 miles to earth from the edge of space, hitting a maximum velocity of 833mph and breaking the sound barrier with his torso. The key ingredient? Hosting the video live on YouTube, resulting in 8 million live views. Before the event, a content-fueled countdown of shareable articles, photos, and videos packed newsfeeds, building up the hype as much as possible.
After the jump, the spreadability of the content kept it in the minds of consumers everywhere, marking Redbull as the most badass brand on the planet. However, it was incredibly expensive. $65 million in fact. But it worked. Redbull saw U.S. sales skyrocket 7% almost immediately, roughly equivalent to $1.6 billion in sales. I’d say that’s solid ROI.
A year later, a low-budget video called “How Animals Eat Food” (below) received 88 million views at the cost of a camera and one man’s self respect. Of course, one is a video of a man accomplishing the impossible and the other features a man smashing his face into a kitchen table. Virality is not an exact science, but it’s borne out of a consumer’s desire to share what they’ve seen with their friends, family and co-workers. In addition to simplicity, spreadability is paramount.
Step 3: Leverage Influence
While influencers like social media stars and celebrities aren’t always paid during viral marketing events, their impact introduces the campaign to massive new audiences. Without them, many campaigns would simply lack that viral, global boost. An endless number of celebrities participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge, continuously expanding its reach to their fans. Imagine how many people only participated because they saw their idol taking part. In an age where we vicariously live through the lives of the rich and famous, consumers want to feel connected with them any way they can. However, influencers don’t always have to be celebrities.
Some companies have seen success giving free merch to popular students on college campuses, well known community figures, or a child who wants to be batman for a day. It doesn’t matter who your influencer is, so long as they help broaden your exposure through strategic means. In a controversial stunt, marketers of the dating app Tinder took a slightly different approach… They attended college parties at large universities, standing on tables at fraternities telling guys young women were waiting for them on the app. Then they ran over to sorority parties and told them the men were waiting.
How you create viral marketing for your ecommerce site depends on your understanding of consumer interests. If you get it right, your campaign could bring millions of new customers to your site. It might be as simple as a clever product video like “Will It Blend” or as disturbing as the Squatty-Potty commercial (above). Perhaps asking your fans to make videos of themselves using your product is a better route. Maybe it’s worth it to give free swag to a YouTube celebrity. Just make sure it’s simple, spreadable, and you get the right people to expand your reach if need be. Otherwise, you might as well stick to coupons.
As a group of seasoned ecommerce pros, the Redstage creative team constantly devises ways for clients to increase sales online. If you’re in need of a creative strategy for your site, give us a call: 1-888-335-2747
Imagine the year is 2020… You awake in your home of the future. The light buzz from your smartwatch pleasantly rouses you from your slumber. You hear the steadily crescendoing notes of your favorite song play through wireless Bluetooth speakers. Morning sun filters into the room as the smartglass on your windows transitions from opaque to clear. As you step out of bed you notice your connected shower is already running, set to the perfect temperature. Meanwhile, your Wi-Fi-enabled coffee machine prepares to brew just in time for your arrival in the kitchen. This is the automated dream of the Internet of Things, and believe it or not, these patterns emulate how B2C companies should be marketing by 2020.
According to Adam Morris, CEO of Redstage, “The most profitable companies in 2020 will be those which seamlessly integrate content, product development and lifestyle marketing into the customer journey — and benefit from the data.” As an IoT enthusiast (already automating his household with Google Home), Morris believes “top brands will meet customer needs almost instantly, anywhere, and make customers view brand interactions as a constant benefit to their lifestyle.” In this world, your coffee would never be too hot, and your shower, never too cold. It combines elements of growth hacking strategies from the world’s most successful marketers to the best “freemium” channel managers. However, there’s one bump in the road to this bright, utopian brand vision… B2C companies are still playing catch-up with today’s technology.
Thinking Ahead: Winners & Losers
As Forbes reported in 2015, “only 10% of companies are using marketing automation.” However, in 2016 marketing automation exploded, rising to 49% of B2C companies on average. Still, we’re not seeing the utopian lifestyle we were promised. Why? Blame the learning curve. Because marketers are
still getting used to the software, the investment has not yet matched the results for many. While millennial companies are diving right in, established giants are taking time because this software is changing centuries-old business models, and mass firings of outmoded workers don’t resound well in the minds of shareholders… At least for now… Regardless, young or old, many companies are still not using automation to its full potential.
As a marketing professional, I recommend taking a look at this list here. These marketing platforms have near-endless integrations with programs most companies already use, and that’s the point: Automate and optimize your existing operations, then innovate, restructure and repeat. One notable member of this list, Magento, contains such immense customization capabilities for B2C and B2B marketers that there are now numerous sites solely dedicated to downloadable integrations for the software.
Preparing for 2020
Companies like Redstage, Zapier, IFTTT (If-This-Than-That) and even freelance developers constantly build new programs and apps to simplify massive processes for businesses. So if you know your company isn’t ready for the next wave, what’s your excuse? It’s time to hop on the innovation train or risk falling behind when 2020 Marketing comes around. And just in case you’re the one writing the budget proposal, start with the bottom line. As CMO.com reports, “77% of CMOs at top-performing companies indicate their most compelling reason for implementing marketing automation is to grow revenue.” The recipe works. What’s your excuse?
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When it comes to ecommerce, email is the most vital and potentially profitable channel in your marketing arsenal. According to the Direct Marketing Association, “Segmented and targeted emails generate 58% of all revenue”. That number alone should get your blood pumping, but if your email campaign ROI is lacking, it’s time for some big changes.
1. Use Clear CTAs.
The subject line and opening text are the first part of the email anyone interacts with. The shorter the subject line, the more space the first bit of text in your email will occupy in their inbox (So make sure your opening line isn’t the default “Can’t Read This? View in browser” text… Use this real estate for something more valuable). This is your elevator pitch in ~72 characters. MAKE. IT. COUNT. Be sure to use a subject line that is catchy and engaging. Most customers won’t bother to open an email if the subject fails to pique their interest or at least stand out from the multitude of other marketing emails they receive.
Intend to resonate with the specific demographic you’re targeting, and avoid generic sales words. If it sounds too sales-y, you’re damned to the spam box. Too specific, i.e. “Hi John I saw you looked at our page…” and you’re creepy. Seek balance, and don’t be afraid to A/B test. Your subject line should always inspire someone to click, so aim for powerful call-to-action words like “Jumpstart,” “Command,” and “Unleash” (if applicable).
2. Segment Your Customers.
As I mentioned above, subject lines should be specific to the intended target. This could be 1 person or several thousand, as long as you can get a little specific and make your target feel like the email was tailor-made for them. No customer is created equal, but if your customer analytics are up-to-snuff, you should be using that data to segment your audience by demographic location, gender, age, product category, or at least their general interest area. Amazon isn’t sending emails to middle-aged men about hair dryers. Neither should you.
3. Make Yourself Known.
Your email sender ID can make or break your response rate. Use a welcoming, approachable email ID to send out emails to customers. If there’s a photo section, choose a happy-faced employee’s headshot rather than a cold-faced logo. It’s simply more personal. Lastly, and this should go without saying, you’ll get more feedback from customers if you use and email they can reply to… Instead of using an email such as [email protected] or from [email protected], use a person’s name. Humans enjoy talking to humans. Be human.
4. Personalize the email.
Personalize the email by using the customer’s name. This makes the customer feel valued and inherently makes the connection more personal. You can use *first_name* tags in the body of the email, as well as the subject line (with some email clients).
5. Content Is Everything!
Don’t underscore the importance of style when writing your customers or clients. All images and written content should be of the highest quality (especially because misspellings are usually seen as spam indicators). Less is more: To grab the attention of recipients, keep your copy simple and to-the-point.
Avoid ALL CAPS at ALL COSTS. Refrain from overuse of exclamation marks, images and gifs. Many studies have shown that more images lead to lower response rates. Not only are multiple images too heavy on the eyes of your customers, but your email could fall victim to loading time or formatting issues. These are common on certain devices, which can severely distort your message. If you’re showing off a product or something else that’s photo-heavy, put a “learn more” button that links to a page on your website for external content. It’s easier on them, prevents distortion of message, and if you’re tracking clicks, this can help qualify interested leads. It’s a win-win. Most importantly, the content of your email should be something your customers look forward to, so offer something valuable instead of asking them for something (if you can avoid it).
“Of the 100+ e-commerce companies that I’ve worked with over the past few years, the most successful are those that take the extra time to formulate and execute well-thought out e-mail marketing campaigns. Your e-mails are being seen by all of your clients and prospective clients; optimizing these touchpoints will help you increase sales while strengthening your brand.” -Dave Gardner, Senior Account Executive & Team Lead at Redstage
One Final Note
According to the Direct Marketing Association, only a mere 7% of SMBs use emails as a branding tool. In fact, most Magento users aren’t customizing their transactional emails at all. Luckily, Redstage is launching a new product, offering unlimited customization of Magento Transactional Emails. Our team will work with you to create stunning email templates tailored for your specific needs. You’re already sending at least 4 emails to every new customer – let’s optimize every one of them to enhance your customer experience. Learn More >
We have an awesome webinar coming up this week, Thursday, April 27 from 1pm – 2pm EDT.
We will further our discussions about Thriving in an Amazon World and how to compete with goliath-sized ecommerce companies. There are cost-effective business model changes you can implement into your ecommerce store to boost your sales and competitive advantages that we would love to share.
We will be joined by Shopify to enhance the breadth and value of the session with their vast ecommerce and marketing expertise offering insights about their platform and additional, advanced and modern strategies & tools to gain new customers and win the ecommerce game against the Amazons in the industry.
Growing an eCommerce business with intense competition from behemoths like Amazon is more challenging than ever. Redstage has identified and will share some of the common key business model elements of successful retailers, and Shopify Plus will share the tools your eCommerce business needs to stay top of mind with the consumer. This session will explore various aspects on how merchants keep their customers away from Amazon and help continue to gain new ones.
Everyone uses Pinterest, and why not? It’s only the third most popular social media site in the world. Online stores have been taking advantage of its popularity by creating Pinterest accounts where customers can make purchases right in the Pinterest app or on the web without visiting the online store.
Pinterest is reportedly responsible for more than 23 percent of web traffic referred by social media sites according to Covestor. Shopify collaborated with Pinterest to gather data about the use of the Pinterest platform. Their research concluded that Pinterest can be a powerful driver of traffic and big ticket sales.
Why is this so?
Some important facts from the data they gathered answers this question.
Pinners are Shoppers: 2 Million people post product pins per day. That means they will buy it or they have intention of returning to buy. Even if they don’t purchase that product, someone else will see the pin and It will spark an interest for them to.
Average spent per order is more than other social sites: Pinterest has a $50 average order value
96% of product users use Pinterest to gather product information, specifically to see what others are posting about a product they may be interested in.
As mentioned before, everyone is using Pinterest: Originally mostly used by women, new data suggests this is no longer the case. Male users have doubled from 2013 to 2014. There are 73 Million Pinterest users monthly which is more than the population of the United Kingdom.
How can you use this information to increase your e-commerce conversion rates?
The majority of business pins saved (2/3rds to be precise) are saved directly from a company’s website. You can add the “Pin It” button to your website to make it fast and simple for visitors to save pins to their Pinterest board directly from your website.
Pay Attention to Pinterest Analytics. This information can be used to determine what drives the most traffic and revenue; this information is helpful to you to provide guidance for your presence on Pinterest and how this results in the ROI.
Check out Shopify’s Ultimate Pinterest guide for your online store for help creating your presence on Pinterest to increase your conversion rates.
Shopify Plus has extremely powerful tools you can use to boost your traffic with social media including advanced tools for Pinterest! As a Shopify Plus Partner, Redstage can help you use these tools to increase your sales.