24 Nov 2015

Last-minute Black Friday & Cyber Monday Marketing Tips

As two of the most important days for holiday shopping approach, ecommerce marketers who've left planning late could be feeling the pressure to increase sales. Marketing planning for Black Friday and Cyber Monday should have started months ago. But there is still hope for marketing dawdlers, thanks to the following tips that could save your holiday marketing!
Adobe has released its 2015 Digital Index Online Holiday Shopping Prediction for this year’s Christmas shopping season, defined as the entire months of November and December. 
According to this report, the UK will have the largest peak online shopping day in Europe with a total projected spend of £474 million on Black Friday (27 November). On this day, the average online spend per person will be £8.06.

The data analysis – based on more than one trillion visits to 4,500 retail websites over the last seven years - predicts that UK consumers will spend £17.7 billion online this Christmas, a 7% increase over the previous year.

More than half (57%) of Christmas shopping is predicted to be online, according to a separate survey of 400 UK consumers. Low prices and good deals remain the biggest driver to shop online, with over two thirds (67%) of consumers ranking this among their top two motivators. 
Although some shoppers have already made their initial holiday purchases, Christmas sales — which may account for 19 percent of total U.S. retail sales this year, excluding gas, groceries, and travel — will start in earnest on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.
Marketing planning for Black Friday and Cyber Monday should have started months ago, but there is still hope for marketing dawdlers …
Online retailers that have waited to focus on marketing for these days may still have hope if they are willing to send email fearlessly, offer smart discounts, be active on social media sites, speak directly to top customers, and spend money on advertising.

1. Send Email Fearlessly

On Sept. 3, 2015, Practical Ecommerce advised merchants to “Plan Cyber Monday 2015 Email Now.” The article recommended to have offers prepared, build a list specifically for Cyber Monday, and plan segmented, targeted messages.
Now that there is no time left, the plan is to blast them.
According to published reports, nearly half of shoppers will learn about Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals from email. Armed with a couple of freshly minted Black Friday and Cyber Monday discount offers (see tip 2., below), plan to start emailing immediately.
Back in 2013, A Better Lemonade Stand founder Richard Lazazzera suggested an email schedule that went something like this.
  • Monday before Thanksgiving. Send an anticipation email, letting folks know that your Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale is coming. If you have time, have a landing page ready.
  • Thanksgiving Day. Reveal your Black Friday or Cyber Monday offer and remind folks that the sale will start soon.
  • Black Friday. Use strong calls to action to get sales immediately.
  • Cyber Monday. Similar to your Black Friday ad, get sales right now.
  • Tuesday after Cyber Monday. Send a sale extension offer, earning a few more hours or days of sales.

2. Offer Smart Discounts

The best Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers are planned. Do not make crazy offers. Instead, offer smart discounts. Find overstock items, things you would likely close out in January, and offer those closeout prices now.
Or make a general offer, like £10 off of any £50 purchase. If your shopper spent exactly £50, you’d be giving a 20 percent discount, but don’t be surprised if the average order value is as much as £80, making the discount percentage much less.
If you sell gift cards, another option is to offer a free gift card with purchase, such as a free £25 gift card with every £100 purchase.
And free shipping is mandatory.

3. Be Active on Social Media

If you’d planned ahead, you could spend Thanksgiving Day eating turkey, spending time with family and friends, or watching football. Instead, you need to be tweeting, pinning, and posting actively.
You have two goals for your last minute social media marketing.
First, without completely annoying your followers and social media friends, post about your offers. Use a schedule similar to the one described above for email.
Second, respond to customer posts. It is that simple.

4. Send a Message to Top Customers

The folks at Springbot, an ecommerce marketing platform, suggest that you “take a cue from individuals who send special holiday greetings to their friends and family and do the same for your customers.”
Select your top customers. This might be 10 folks for a very small business. A mid-sized ecommerce retailer might have 1,000 or 2,000.
For each of these customers, send a special shopping invitation with a special offer. Keep two things in mind.
First, the special offer really needs to be special. It should be better than the offer you are sharing with the masses via email and social media.
Second, personalize this message. Rather than just sending another email, consider sending a card or handwritten note via mail. If you start scribbling now, you’ll still have time.
… “take a cue from individuals who send special holiday greetings to their friends and family and do the same for your customers.”

5. Buy Ads, Especially on Facebook

If you can afford it, buy online ads. Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers are going to be looking for sales and offers. In many cases, they will search for those deals on search engines or on social media.
You want your Black Friday and Cyber Monday ads to show up when they search.
Black Friday Starts in...
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Christmas is in...
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10 Nov 2015

Use Shopping Surveys to Increase Conversions

Original article from Practical Ecommerce

If you ever want to know what online shoppers are thinking, ask them. Shopping surveys tell you what’s working and what isn’t. They can also tell you things you never thought about. No matter what you sell, if you’re not asking for real feedback, you’re missing one of the best ways to determine why people leave the store without buying.
There three main types of surveys (also called feedback).
  • In-session requests. The visitor is asked to complete a survey either right then or at the end of the shopping session. These are typically general surveys that ask questions about the website and how it functions.
Foresee is a popular feedback service used by big etailers.
Foresee is a popular feedback service used by big etailers.
  • Exit surveys. Driven by behavior (typically by an actual or expected exit from the site), these surveys ask why the user is leaving.
  • Post-purchase surveys. Typically used to ask shoppers about their experience, and whether or not they’d recommend the store to others. These are usually delivered via email.
While in-session pop-up or popover requests are the norm, most visitors close them because they interrupt the task at hand. They do, however, provide some of the greatest detail when it comes to site usability, primarily because they’re completed while the site is fresh in one’s mind. Exit surveys are actually more intrusive — it’s like stopping someone on his way out of Target, asking, “Why are you leaving?”
Whichever methods you choose (and you should be toggling feedback requests for usability and reasons for buying), be sure to ask what’s important, and ditch what isn’t.
Focus on what matters.
  • Don’t ask too many questions. If you’ve ever taken a shopping survey, you know how frustrating it is to be prompted with “next page” buttons. Try to ask no more than seven questions.
  • Don’t make them read or think too much. Who really wants to answer a plethora of stock questions on scales of 1 to 5 or 10, such as “How likely are you to share xxxx.com with others?” Instead, consider a yes/no question. For example, “Would you share xxx.com with your friends?”
  • Gather their thoughts and emotions. You want to know if they were thrilled or disgusted by the experience. Instead of a sliding scale, ask them straight up if they had a good experience. Leave room for collecting a detailed comment.
  • If you want to ask for demographics, make it optional. While it’s important for companies to understand their consumer base, detailed analytics already gives this insight. Don’t force shoppers to get so personal.
And ditch what doesn’t matter.
  • Don’t waste valuable real estate by asking how visitors found you. Analytics will tell you this for the bulk of your shoppers. And while you might be interested to know if they heard about you from a friend, what you’re more interested in is if they will tell their friends about you.
  • Don’t ask if they follow you on social networks. This is often used as a ploy to gain more followers. Instead, include links to social profiles on the thank you page.
  • Don’t ask for phone numbers. Email addresses should be optional in case they’d like to be contacted for follow up.
  • Avoid questions and responses that make you look like you’re already aware of a problem. Instead, provide an “other” option and a comment field.
The typical unsubscribe survey includes options like, "I receive too many emails from you." This indicates that you are already aware you send too much. Same goes for permission. <em>Source: Get Response.</em>
The typical unsubscribe survey includes options like, “I receive too many emails from you.” This indicates that you are already aware you send too much. Same goes for permission.Source: Get Response.

Survey Software

There are many online services and tools that can be used to collect information. Survey tools often provide reports so you can see overall ratings, but online forms can also be used if you don’t expect a great deal of responses or want to manually review each one.
Then there’s the simplest of all tools. GrooveHQ.com – which offers help desk software – found the response rate on surveys sent to customers who canceled to be quite low – just 1.3 percent. GrooveHQ ditched it and focused on one specific question, which it sent via email.
Asking one, simple question can garner the highest number of responses, as well as more detailed replies. <em>Source: GrooveHQ.com.</em>
Asking one, simple question can garner the highest number of responses, as well as more detailed replies. Source: GrooveHQ.com.
The response rate on the email was more than 10 percent, and it provided Groove with valuable information, including bugs and hang-ups the company didn’t know existed. Testing the psychological response to “why” vs. “what”, they found that asking “What made you cancel?” instead of “Why did you cancel” boosted the response rate to 19 percent.
Whether you use a full-blown service or a manually operated tool (like email), be sure to follow these pointers.
  • Read comments. This takes time, but you’ll be surprised how many ideas you’ll have that can help increase sales.
  • Respond appropriately. If a responder had a bad experience and included his email address, reach out to fix the problem. Likewise, if he gave you a good idea that you implemented, let him know.
  • Don’t ditch “ridiculous” responses. Log them and analyze to see if more of the same comes in. You may find that seemingly oddball issue is a pain point for many.
  • Create an actionable list. Any website should be constantly improving. Use responses to schedule updates designed for better experiences.
  • Analyze often. Compare the completed actions list to current responses to make sure you’ve done things right.

6 Nov 2015

Promo Codes: Discounts vs. Benefits, for Ecommerce

Shoppers will be looking for discounts on holiday items in the next few weeks. If designed right, a promo code can offer the discounts shoppers seek, and help merchants increase sales and profits. Creating a promo code isn’t as simple as sticking a 10 percent off label on everything. It needs to be designed to drive maximum benefit to your business.
In this post, I’ll address how to create an effective promo code.

What Is a Good Promo Code?

A good promo code is one that helps a site’s shoppers as well as the business itself.
A promo code should be attractive to shoppers. There are three rules to remember to accomplish this. The promo code should be:
  • Easy to remember;
  • Easy to calculate;
  • Easy to apply.
I’ll touch on each of these. An easy-to-remember promo code uses everyday words. For example “Thanksgiving2015” or “BlackFriday2015” are easy to remember. “PROMOA342” is not. Make it easy on the shoppers, not on you.
The promo code discount should be easy to calculate by using round numbers. For example, 10 percent off is much easier to compute than 14 percent off. Similarly $20 off all orders over $100 is easy to calculate.
Finally, the easier the promo code is to apply, the more it will be used and the more transactions you will have. This means it should have minimal restrictions on date, product type, locations, and other factors. Do not make your shoppers think. When they think, they hesitate. And when they hesitate, they might leave your site without purchasing.

Holiday Business Goals

Not all businesses will have the same goals for the holidays. Some might want to obtain a certain gross profit while others might want to drive awareness. Three common goals of ecommerce merchants are:
  • Hitting a certain gross profit target;
  • Acquiring new customers while not losing money;
  • Moving surplus inventory.
These three goals can be boiled down to the same promo code calculation with a few variations. I’ll use an example to explain. You will need access to your analytics data to adapt this calculation to your situation.

Sample Promo Code Calculation

Assume a company, Cool Widgets, sells gadgets on its website, which has the following key metrics.
  • Monthly traffic: 25,000 visitors.
  • Average conversion rate: 3 percent.
  • Average order value: $100.
  • Gross profit margin: 50 percent.
Based on its marketing efforts, Cool Widgets expects to receive 20 percent of its monthly traffic on Black Friday. It is considering offering a straight discount across all products, and it assumes the conversion rate will increase as the discount increases.
While that is a reasonable assumption, there will likely be a point where, despite increasing the discount rate, the conversion rate will stabilize. But let’s say that conversion does increase as the discount offered increases.
So what needs to be calculated is the incremental benefit Cool Widgets should expect as a result of offering a promo code.
First, if Cool Widgets did not offer any discount on Black Friday, it can expect to make $7,500 in gross profit on Black Friday. Here’s how we arrive at that calculation.
Calculate Cool Widgets' expected gross profit as: <em>Traffic x Conversion Rate x Discount Rate x Average Order Value x Gross Profit Percentage</em>. (5,000 x 3% x $100 x 50% = $7,500.)
Calculate Cool Widgets’ expected gross profit as: Traffic x Conversion Rate x Discount Rate x Average Order Value x Gross Profit Percentage. (5,000 x 3% x $100 x 50% = $7,500.)
So, offering discount promo codes needs to generate more than $7,500 of gross profit to be worthwhile. Cool Widgets believes that offering a discount of 5 percent across the board will increase the conversion rate from 3 percent to 4 percent.
Calculating the incremental benefit is easy.
Offering a discount of 5 percent across the board will increase the conversion rate to 4 percent, which will produce an extra $2,000 of gross profit.
Offering a discount of 5 percent across the board will increase the conversion rate to 4 percent, which will produce an extra $2,000 of gross profit.
So Cool Widgets stands to make an extra $2,000 if it offers a discount of 5 percent across the board. By repeating the above calculation for a range of discount rates and conversion rates, we can now determine which discount rate will drive the maximum benefit.
Applying the calculation for a range of discount rates and conversion rates, Cool Widgets can determine which discount rate will drive the maximum benefit.
Applying the calculation for a range of discount rates and conversion rates, Cool Widgets can determine which discount rate will drive the maximum benefit.
The highlighted cells, above, show how the incremental benefit changes by discount rate offered and by conversion rate increases. Plotting the same table on a chart makes it clear what the peak for Cool Widgets benefits is.
A discount of approximately 30 percent will give Cool Widgets the maximum incremental benefit of $7,500.
A discount of approximately 30 percent will give Cool Widgets the maximum incremental benefit of $7,500.
A 30 percent discount will produce the maximum incremental gross profit of $7,500 to Cool Widgets, assuming that the conversion rate will increase as the discount offered increases. So Cool Widgets now has a formula to double its projected gross profit on Black Friday from $7,500 to $15,000.
This is a simplistic model that assumes a straight discount across all products. To apply it to your business, tweak the model for the goals you want to hit, such as acquiring new customers at breakeven or getting rid of surplus inventory.
Depending on the nature of your business, here are a few things to consider when building your promo code model.
  • Memberships. Existing members show more loyalty than non-members. If members account for most of the site’s revenue, then offering a promo code may not increase overall conversion rate by much.
  • Product mix. If the mix of products on the site have a large price variance, then the average order value may be misleading and the products may need to be evaluated using multiple discounts and conversion rates.
  • Channel focus. If the Black Friday traffic will have a different channel mix — i.e., paid search, organic search, social, email — compared to an average month, then adjust the conversion rate based on the expected channel mix.
In short, taking time to carefully design your promo codes can pay off for your business this holiday season. And while you can include a slew of wrinkles into the model to increase the accuracy, the basic idea is to get to a ballpark figure of what the discount percent should be, and not necessarily to get it down to a decimal point of accuracy.