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4 Underrated YouTube Metrics to Quantify Your Video Campaign Success

I completely understand how difficult it can be to explain to a client the value of YouTube. It does not help when video campaigns (or YouTube campaigns) are also run through Google Ads. This can set a false expectation that video campaigns can or should perform just like Search campaigns, and in most cases this is not true.
Video campaigns in Google Ads have been my favorite way to build awareness for my clients that can help someone make the decision to buy from your company further down the road. Since that viewer of these video ads may not be ready to convert right away, we cannot look at only conversions as a success metric. There are other KPIs I like to review to see if my ads are engaging the users to perform the actions we want them to take.
Here are my four favorite, underrated metrics to help measure the true value of a YouTube ad campaign.
1. “Video played to” column
It’s no surprise that the main reason people go to YouTube is to watch videos. And even if the goal is to send more people to a specific landing page, the first step in a video campaign is actually seeing the video ad. That is why understanding how long people are engaging with the ad can be a good indicator of how much a user is paying attention to your message.
To view the “Video played to” metrics, you can add the column from the Performance columns menu.
The column will only show you if a user watched the video up to four different milestones: 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100%. This means if a user watched the video up until the 45% mark, it will only count as hitting the 25% milestone. There is no rounding up for these columns.
I always recommend to try and have your most important message (call-to-action, value proposition, etc.) in the beginning of your video if you are running skippable TrueView in-stream ads. This is because if a user skips the video, you most likely don’t have to pay for the ad and still get your message across. But sometimes, we’re stuck with video creative that is not ideal. This is where viewing the “Video played to” metrics can help.
Understanding that video ad creative lengths can vary, let’s assume your video ad’s value proposition is around the 30% mark. If a good percentage of users are not even making it to the 25% mark, it is a pretty good indication that your ad is not engaging enough to keep the user wanting to watch to the 30% mark.
If you are running TrueView discovery campaigns that use longer video creatives, this column is helpful to see how long you are keeping users engaged. This is especially true for an ad format where you are paying for the video view every single time. If you are really focused on call-to-action extension testing, your main goal could be driving traffic, and that will affect how long users watched your video ad. Just try to keep in mind all possible factors on why a user may stop watching your videos early.
2. Earned actions
For a TrueView discovery campaign, advertisers pay every time a user clicks on their ad. For skippable TrueView in-stream campaigns, advertisers mostly pay for video views (at least 30 seconds or the entire video if the ad is less than 30 seconds), but if a user interacts with a call-to-action extension, companion banner, or Shopping card first, they will only get charged once. Any other action a user takes after paying for the first view is free. These actions are called YouTube Earned Actions, and they have their own set of columns within Google Ads.
After an advertiser pays for an ad, any views, shares, likes, subscribes, and playlist additions the viewer performs are free. The best part is we can track all of these post-view actions all within Google Ads. So many of my clients love hearing how we can stretch their dollar out. So even if we are not seeing direct conversions from some of our targeting, I at least want to see if users are still interacting with my brand after they have seen my video ad.
If you build enough of these Earned Action metrics (with the help of whatever organic performance you may have as well), you can actually build audiences from all of these actions in Google Ads Audience Manager. That is right. Advertisers can build audiences from channel views, likes, shares, playlist additions, and subscribers. These audiences can then be used for additional remarketing on Google Search, YouTube, and Gmail campaigns. Any conversions you receive from these YouTube user audiences can then be attributed to your original video marketing efforts, thus proving the value of video even more.
3. View-through and cross-device conversions
View-through conversions showcase conversions that occur when a user sees your ad (impression) but does not interact with it. Then, the user eventually converts on your site. To clarify, an impression is not a view. We already talked about how video views are counted for in-stream ads in the Earned Action section of this post. And those view (actually watching the video or clicking on a part of the ad) conversions are visible in the Conversions column.
Cross-device conversions are recorded when a viewer clicks on one of your ads on one device. Then that same user completes a conversion on a different device. This column has been more important to my clients running video campaigns over the past couple of years. I say this because more and more we’re seeing the majority of our video views coming from mobile devices. This allows us to still attract users to our site using video ads with call-to-action extensions. Then if the site converts better on desktop, we typically see conversions happen later on a desktop. It does not mean the initial mobile video view was worthless.
Both of these columns can help show if your video campaigns succeeded in converting a viewer further down the road. You just have to be really careful with reporting your cross-device conversions. Depending on what conversion columns you use as your main conversion metrics for reporting, cross-device conversions are counted in the “All conversions” column. Cross-device conversions are also included
4. Audience performance
Remember those Earned Action audiences I mentioned earlier in this post? Well those are not the only audiences you can create from YouTube users in Google Ads. Here is the full list of audiences you can create from YouTube users in Google Ads’ Audience Manager.
The first thing I do in any Google Ads account I manage that is running any video campaigns is create a basic audience from anyone who viewed any video from my client’s channel. I will then max out the audience at the full 540 days. This will be the broadest type of YouTube user audience you can create and the best option for smaller accounts with not a lot of video views. I will then go and create as many of the YouTube user audiences you see above if I feel they will have a significant amount of traffic.
Next, I will want to take all of these audiences and layer them into my Search Network campaigns as Observations audiences. This is a targeting setting that is the same as saying “bid only” audiences. My initial goal is not to target the YouTube user audiences separately on search (even though it is definitely an option). My initial goal is to collect as much data on these audiences as possible.
After my video campaigns are running for a while, I want to be able to go back and see if I can get any information on how my YouTube marketing efforts (yes organic YouTube efforts can be included) are impacting my Search Network campaigns. I will be able to see if people in these YouTube user audiences have higher click-through rates, conversion rates, or any other column metric that is important to your company’s goals.
These are technically remarketing lists for search ads or RLSA. And for any audience to start showing data in your Search Network campaigns, the audience needs to have at least 1,000 active users within the past 30 days. That is exactly why I recommend starting with one audience including any video view in the past 540 days. Then continue to add as many YouTube user Observation audiences to your Search campaigns once they hit the 1,000 user mark.
One more grain of salt. This audience data review will only show you how many people come back and interact with your paid keywords in Google Ads. The Audiences report in Google Ads will not show you if they went back directly to your site, if they eventually came back to your site via Bing, or even Google organic. So YouTube user audiences do not show the full picture by any means, but some data is always better than no data.
Moving beyond conversions as the only success metric
Conversions are always important, and conversions should always be kept in mind. But users are not always ready to convert the first time they see an ad. This is especially true for YouTube ads. People go to YouTube to listen to music, watch funny videos, follow their favorite gamer, etc. They do not go to YouTube to with the intent to download your whitepaper or buy your products. But YouTube can definitely build awareness in front of the right user.
If your creative resonates with your target audience, you can influence the user to eventually seek out your brand or products that lead to an eventual conversion. Use the measurement features within Google Ads to find out how well your video campaigns are doing to influence future conversions. There is so much information we can pull from Google Ads to measure true campaign success beyond direct conversions. Take advantage of it.

Prepare your story: Laying the groundwork for storytelling success

30-second summary:
Every interaction has a 33% chance of moving towards a revenue outcome, making it vital that sellers tell the right story, to the right buyer, at the right time.
Telling a story that resonates with buyers long-term has always been a challenge, but is now more difficult than ever with remote working, virtual selling and the need to replicate a successful strategy complicating the matter.
That’s why it’s crucial for sellers to lay the groundwork early on in the sales process, in order to develop the most effective stories instead of sending out content that doesn’t make an impact.
Sellers must prepare their story by getting to know the buyer and their industry better than the buyer knows themselves. This can help sellers validate or challenge their POV when interacting with them and become a trusted sales advisor.

The hardest part of selling in today’s world is understanding what your target buyer actually needs. From there, sellers need to articulate a story that will resonate with them every time, at every stage of the relationship.
To achieve this, sales teams need to know who they’re aiming at. No matter what the industry, this knowledge is critical to figuring out how to tell a unique, relevant and personalized story that compels buyers to take action – as opposed to sending out generic content that doesn’t make an impact.
Why is this so important? Businesses need every customer-facing employee to be able to tell a story that resonates with their buyers because there is a finite number of possible outcomes to every interaction.

In fact, there are just three: wallet share will either decrease, stay flat, or increase. This means that every interaction has a 33% chance of moving towards a revenue outcome.
Although telling the right story to the right buyer at the right time has long been a challenge for B2B businesses, it is now harder to achieve – and more important to get right – than ever before.

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Dealing with disruption
Throughout 2020, several factors have converged to make life particularly tricky for sales teams. Most of these have of course been driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted operations for businesses around the world.
For example, the majority of sellers are now working remotely, which can inhibit communication and lead to disjointed processes.
As a result,  sellers and buyers are now interacting online more than ever. Sellers have been forced to rely almost entirely on digital methods such as virtual selling, without the person-to-person relationship building they have traditionally depended on.
The level of competition in these online channels has increased significantly. Buyers are being bombarded by more marketing materials from businesses than ever before, making a story that resonates quickly even more critical.
So, facing all these challenges, how can businesses ensure they are able to tell the right story to the right buyer at scale across every single seller in the organization? The first step, and the foundation for all future activities, is to prepare the story so that they stand out from the crowd.
For sales teams, putting themselves in the best position to tell a story that resonates with buyers all comes down to up-front planning and research. But it isn’t just about the buyer – sellers must look internally as well as externally.
Laying the groundwork
The focus of any seller should be to become Unconsciously Competent with their company’s story, the key product offerings and their buyer’s world. The goal is to have so much understanding and familiarity with these areas that they become “second nature” and can be explained easily. As a result, they can then be seamlessly integrated into content and messaging.
This allows sellers to focus on what the root cause of the buyer’s problem is and start outlining the story they want to articulate, versus having to spend time asking questions that lead back to product features and functions.
It’s very hard to win consistently if sales teams don’t put in this work up front. Sellers need to lay the groundwork and do the due diligence to understand where to aim, so their story will resonate with the buyer. This is the discovery part of the sales cycle and is the most critical to creating a story that appeals to audiences.
Sellers need to get to know the buyer as well as, if not better than, the buyer knows themselves. That way, they will have a clear understanding of the root cause of the problem and will be able to offer a solution that positively impacts the buyer’s business.
Sellers must find ways to politely validate — or challenge  — the buyer’s point of view on what the problem is and what the solution looks like. This is a major step towards becoming the trusted advisor that guides the buyer through the sales cycle – but isn’t possible without the initial background research.
Get in the know
By going through this process, sellers will learn how to tell their story in a way that is easily understandable, addresses real-world pain points and highlights their company’s strengths – the combination of which will compel buyers to act.
It will also show that they understand the challenges buyers are dealing with. These challenges are likely to have shifted over the course of the year, leading to updated priorities and new plans for the future. As such, taking the time to understand the state of play for buyers and connect with them at a deeper level has never been more important.
When it comes to telling the most effective story possible, sales teams can’t afford to overlook the importance of preparation. More so than ever, sellers must dig deep to understand their buyers and the changes they are experiencing.
Truly getting to know the buyer and where they are in the journey will empower sellers to tell the right story at the right time – one that resonates with buyers, drives action and increases revenue.

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Why aren’t marketers using automation tools to personalize websites?

30-second summary:
The most recent London Research and Act-On ‘State of Marketing Report’ found that just 21% of businesses use marketing automation technology to personalize their website.
Relevant, tailored content is something consumers increasingly demand, highlighting how important web personalization is now, and will be in the future.
Automation technologies make executing advanced personalization a simpler, more intelligent process.
Could the reasons marketers avoid personalization for websites be a lack of confidence that they truly know their customers or the fact that advanced personalization comes with risks and is hard to get right?
Perhaps it’s simply down to resource restrictions. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

The future of marketing is personalization, and automation technology is a marketer’s best friend when it comes to running highly personalized campaigns. 
Yet, the most recent State of Marketing Automation report from London Research and Act-On reveals that just 21% of businesses are using marketing automation technology to personalize their websites for visitors.
Why is this?

The marketing world has been touting the importance of relevance, segmentation and tailored messaging for prospective customers for years now.
We invest in customer journey mapping and create buyer personas to better inform our content. We segment our lists and trigger automated outbound comms based on what we know about our prospects and their behavior.

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Yet, most of our personalization efforts are restricted to email, SMS and other outbound channels.
Websites, it seems, are overlooked.
With the exception of the 21% who are ahead of the curve, businesses see websites as a one-version asset.
Many design their website to cater to their entire audience and every single visitor sees the same content, regardless of who they are.
Now, I have a few theories as to why marketers aren’t using their automation tools to personalize their website. I’d love to hear yours too, so please pitch in with a comment at the end of this article!
Marketers aren’t that confident they know their customers
To send personalized emails, we first require a potential or existing customer to share their personal data with us. 
Depending on the information we gather, we can quickly accumulate a lot of solid data about a person; demographic and psychographic, as well as their online behavior.
This data tells us implicitly that the person fits into one of our target audience segments, or that they have a particular pain point or interest. 
It makes it a fairly simple task to then write a single email or a sequence of marketing messages that speak to this information.
However, there’s a difference between personalizing one email for a known prospect and an entire web page or website, for a mix of known and unknown prospects.
It essentially means creating multiple versions of a page for:
Unknown website visitors (although this could still be personalized by IP address)
Target buyer A
Target buyer B
Target buyer C
… and so on.
To effectively personalize a web page experience, we must know our audience inside-out and be able to tailor the content in a way that really resonates – or else risk alienating them.
Particularly for those businesses with many audience segments, it can be a struggle for marketers to create entire web pages that they are confident will be relevant and engaging for each target buyer.
Advanced personalization is hard to get right 
To echo the point above, simple personalization is something that most marketers have mastered. 
Long gone are the days when simple first name personalization in an email is enough to evoke that feeling of one-to-one communication.
With premium marketing automation technology available, many have moved into more strategic personalization, such as switching out recommended content links in an email based on the job function of the recipient, for example.
Still, there’s clearly a long way to go when it comes to website personalization and not just because marketers aren’t confident they completely know their buyers.
Other factors include:
The time required to plan, produce and execute advanced personalization via automated technology.
Deadlines and internal pressures to deliver projects such as new websites or web pages as soon as possible.
A hesitancy to take the risk of personalizing a public-facing page and making a mistake in the process.
The risk of having complex marketing tactics, such as advanced personalization, becomes a bigger and bigger beast to take care of.
Not having the internal resource to keep multiple page variations up-to-date and relevant over time. 
Of course, there are other resources to consider, which brings me to my third and final theory…
A lack of tech and data resource 
Consider the technical requirements that come with first integrating a website with automation software, and then syncing everything up so that personalization can be delivered via dynamic content. 
While marketing technology tools make personalization on websites much more feasible, they do need to be set up correctly in the first place. 
This usually requires substantial technical expertise, perhaps in the form of a dedicated web developer, IT support team or expert consultant in a chosen automation platform.
Enterprise businesses aside, having in-house technical support for a more advanced marketing integration is fairly rare and budgets don’t always allow for external contractors.
Although, I will say at this point that as a marketing automation consultant myself, once the initial implementation is done, personalizing web content is much more straightforward and can be managed in-house with the right training and guidance.
Besides the technical side, another resource consideration is data hygiene.
Managing a database to keep prospect data clean and accurate is a proactive task.
Granted, marketing automation technology can help to automate aspects of this but when it comes to using data for personalization, you only get out what you put in. 
Without the resource to jump in and ensure data is managed and governed correctly, it can be difficult to use this data in a truly meaningful way.
No doubt there are other reasons businesses with marketing automation tools aren’t using this to personalize their web content but these are the ones that first occur to me. 
As I said earlier, I’m keen to hear other opinions, so please join the discussion by leaving a comment below!
Tom Ryan is the Founder of Pardot consultancy MarCloud Consulting. He’s a Salesforce-Certified Pardot Consultant with ambitions to innovate the Pardot and automation space.

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Marketers’ big test on Black Friday and beyond

30-second summary:
The loss of traditional Black Friday traffic may be a blow to many marketers, but there is plenty of hope and opportunity. Foot traffic is expected to convert to online traffic, and given the rise of digital shopping holidays like Travel Tuesday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, there is opportunity for every industry to benefit from experimentation.
According to the Black Friday’s Big Test industry report, peak season testing is flat for retailers, and they seem to be relying on the same strategies that worked in previous years — not fully addressing today’s disrupted shopping environment.
It might seem like travel would struggle the most in the COVID-19 era, but data shows some innovative experiments and quick pivots are helping industry marketers sell this season.
This year has brought about a new financial reality for many people. Data shows financial marketers at banks are testing ways to ease customer anxiety, fears centered around money and the mental burden of purchasing.
The 2020 peak shopping season may be unconventional, but it’s not impossible for marketers to navigate. And Brooks Bell’s data shows customers can be extremely responsive to small changes — the only failed strategy this season will be changing nothing at all.

It Black Friday and an unpredictable and unprecedented holiday shopping season is officially underway, leaving many marketers to only guess about the best way to reach customers in radically altered retail, travel and financial environments.
Crowds and lines browsing store windows on Black Friday are sure to be smaller due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead, all peak season marketing efforts — which we define as the period between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 — will need to be retooled and retargeted to work in browser windows.

According to new research on the 2020 holiday shopping season, marketers across various industries are sticking to well-worn strategies this season instead of trying out new methods, and it isn’t working.
There has been an 11% decrease in successful tests since the start of the pandemic, indicating the typical pain points customers face when shopping online have changed, requiring testing teams and marketers to improve their online experiences.

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We’ve determined this by aggregating the results of our client’s experiments over time, and parsing which experiments achieved a positive result. What’s more, shoppers have a completely different set of emotions and motivators as they spend this season, and health and safety are at the forefront.
Thankfully, a pivot is still possible for marketing efforts, even almost a month into the peak season. An analysis of data from hundreds of organizations across thousands of marketing tests and experiments reveals that while customer priorities are changing, there are still plenty of opportunities to engage them successfully in the weeks ahead.
Winning strategies for holiday 2020 marketing
The loss of traditional Black Friday traffic may be a blow to many marketers, but there is plenty of hope and opportunity. Foot traffic is expected to convert to online traffic, and given the rise of digital shopping holidays like Travel Tuesday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, there is opportunity for every industry to benefit from experimentation.
Data from illuminate — an experimentation and insights tool created by Brooks Bell for clients and testing teams of all sizes to  use to track and measure the success of marketing tests — backs up this optimism.
By applying the following data-backed insights, marketers in retail as well as travel and finance can experiment with ways to re-engage customers this season and use those lessons to come out even stronger next peak season.
Insight #1: Retailers test simple adjustments to ease shopper anxiety
According to the Black Friday’s Big Test industry report, peak season testing is flat for retailers, and they seem to be relying on the same strategies that worked in previous years — not fully addressing today’s disrupted shopping environment.
On the whole, data shows shoppers are responding to ecommerce and shopping process changes that ease anxiety:
One in five experiments run by retailers during Black Friday and the holiday season in general have been designed to relieve shopper stress, and these experiments have the highest win rate. Retailers can, for example, include calendars on their sites that tell customers the last day they can purchase gifts that will arrive in time for the holidays. Or, they can display information on contactless return and exchange procedures to create less hesitation for shoppers who don’t want to inconvenience a loved one if a gift needs to be returned.
Retailers must also remember that the types of products customers are buying this holiday season are sure to be different. Houseware retailers, for example, are likely to see a drop in sales of large place settings or other products used to host large gatherings. In the short term, retailers need to place extra scrutiny on what items are on sale, and where they are featured on their homepages. Longer term, these retailers need to keep detailed and data-backed notes about the results of the experiments this year, so that they can reflect back on the background and results of those sales next year.
Insight #2:  Travel marketers lean in to testing seamless trips and stays
It might seem like travel would struggle the most in the COVID-19 era, but data shows some innovative experiments and quick pivots are helping industry marketers sell this season.
Historically, travel has tested easing the mental effort it takes for customers to purchase, and we expect to see that trend continue in the following forms:
Hotels have drastically changed their messaging since the pandemic started. Many commercials and advertisements feature contactless entry, a bigger focus on roadside motels and imagery that shows sanitation procedures. All of these strategies show the customer how safe and hassle-free travel can still be — and who isn’t at least dreaming about a quarantine getaway?
Travel marketers must also test better digital delivery of the perks and benefits the hospitality industry offers. Hotel room amenities, in-flight services and other travel experiences are often difficult to wrap up in a bow. This year, it will be even more difficult to give top-notch customer experiences when in-person interactions cannot happen. Marketers looking for creative ways to engage consider ways to tie a physical gift to purchases like hotel reservations, or find ways to deliver digital content about an upcoming trip which can keep the customer engaged leading up to their travel.
Insight #3: Financial marketers test more convenient ways to purchase and give
This year has brought about a new financial reality for many people. Data shows financial marketers at banks are testing ways to ease customer anxiety, fears centered around money and the mental burden of purchasing. Consider the following:
Financial marketers should ensure financial products are easier to buy and give as gifts. In uncertain times, more traditional gifts like savings bonds or cash are attractive to shoppers, and marketers should test better ways to get these product offerings in front of customers as they log into their banking portals. When customers log in, they should see products that can make their shopping experience easier this season, like low-interest credit card offers or cash-back incentives. Additionally, financial advisors and tax professionals can capitalize on the opportunity to reach millions of Americans who are looking to navigate an altered economy.
To ease the mental effort and anxiety of customers, marketers should consider whether third-party financial information can help make customers’ shopping seasons easier. Featuring credit ratings, fraud protection tools or savings calculators on homepages or customer emails is a great place to start — any financial peace of mind that can be offered this season is a winning strategy.
The 2020 peak shopping season may be unconventional, but it’s not impossible for marketers to navigate. And our data shows customers can be extremely responsive to small changes — the only failed strategy this season will be changing nothing at all.
In fact, 2020 may prove to be the best time to test long-held assumptions or hypotheses about customer audiences — and carry those lessons into 2021.

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Key Insights: The two missing pieces of your holiday season digital strategy that influence consumer buying decisions

30-second summary:
2020 has given consumers and brands the most digital-first holiday shopping season.
Consumers are making buying decisions in the “messy middle” stages – namely, exploration and evaluation.
“Cheapest” vs “best”, what’s winning consumers’ search worldwide?
If you’re still looking for ways to finetune your holiday season digital strategy, we’re sharing insights about just the missing pieces.

This week we’re going for a strategy-heavy look at the crucial phases that influence your consumers’ buying decisions and how you can slam dunk sales by bumping up your digital marketing strategy to resonate through sales.
2020 consumers and brands have seen the most digital-first holiday shopping season and consumers are making buying decisions in the “messy middle” stages – namely, exploration and evaluation. 
According to Google’s behavioral science analysis, despite the global economic pressure, people aren’t interested in the “cheapest” products/services. The graph below pits the “cheapest” vs “best” search trend worldwide to establish this observation. This once again emphasizes consumer needs for quality products, services, and communications. Brands, are you listening?

‘Authority bias’ (being swayed by an expert or trusted sources) is one of the top cognitive biases that influence purchase decision-making. If you’re still looking for ways to finetune your holiday season digital strategy, we’re sharing insights about just the missing piece – influencer marketing.

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Influencer marketing: The $15 billion global industry
Trust has been a significant factor that influences consumers shopping online in 2020 which has added more fuel to the influencer marketing industry which is poised to be a $15 billion global industry by 2022.
Three crucial facts on influencer marketing 2020
Gartner’s latest report looked into the scope of influencer marketing and the waves it has made in 2020. Here are three key facts:
79% of consumers followed influencer content 
43% of these consumers want to see more influencer content in at least one product category
Nearly two-thirds of CMOs claimed to increase their marketing budgets in 2020
While the report also identified that 50% of marketers struggled to spot fake followers and content, it also highlighted these recommendations:
Adopting initial low-risk strategies of targeting micro-influencers providing lower costs and high reward prospective through their sphere of influence
Determining stages where influencer marketing can add value in the purchase cycle 
The website experience and online shopping
Nearly 70% of consumers felt that their purchase was most influenced by the brand’s website. This stat in itself has made brands focus more on their digital strategies to:
Minimize fiction in the online shopping experience
Provide improve product knowledge to consumers
Increasing CTR by identifying and fixing silos in the CX

Some key findings from Gartner were:
Of the 91% of retailers that use sort/filter options on their website, only 37% of B2B websites and 13% of banking sites capitalized on them
84% of retail websites offer autosuggest search, however, just 41% of B2B sites use this feature
Essential elements to have in a website were – social media, store locators, and customer service tools
Top action-points that websites need to drive conversions:
Optimizing the search algorithm for improved product discovery
Minimizing the number of clicks needed to land on a product conversion page
Keeping loyalty program pages and high-traffic pages in a one-click reach
ClickZ readers’ choice for the week
This week, our readers have been busy amping up their strategies with our weekly insights, COVID-19 related digital behaviors in 2021, and advanced digital marketing.
Key Insights: Exclusive market intelligence and ecommerce highlights
COVID-related digital behaviors that won’t be going away in 2021
Global Topology International Digital Marketing

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How web-based AR can help retailers boost customer engagement and sales

30-second summary:
This article will look into the benefits of Augmented Reality (AR) content experiences, specifically in the retail sector:
It will define and explain the value of WebAR versus app-based AR experiences – both for the consumer and brands
Dive deeper into holographic WebAR, with examples
Educate on how to unearth the value of WebAR for your business and how to go about putting an AR strategy in place
Finally, it will touch on the future of this new content medium for marketers and advertisers.

Competition for consumer attention is fiercer than ever. Experts suggest that the average consumer is fielding 4,000 to 10,000 ads per day. In today’s attention economy, brands are spending millions of dollars on marketing and ad communications strategies to stand out amongst the sea of digital content that floods consumer’s devices. But the harsh reality is that still so many brands go unnoticed. So how do brands cut through the noise and deliver memorable messages that drive real-world impact? One answer to this challenge is Augmented Reality (AR).
Augmented reality, when deployed correctly and for the right use cases, is proving to be an incredibly successful tool for capturing people’s attention and driving successful campaigns for marketers and advertisers alike.

Not to mention, in today’s COVID landscape, consumer brands have to try even harder to connect, communicate, and sell to customers who are less inclined or unable to safely go into stores. Digital transformation has become critical for the success of any business and augmented reality is an important part of this evolution.
COVID-19 and demand from younger generations require businesses to offer better digital experiences and more efficient ways to shop online. Immersive storytelling and Web-based AR can help deliver on that–creating new ways for companies to reach and delight customers, drive brand engagement, and achieve measurable value.

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AR in advertising and marketing
The AR market is forecasted to be valued at more than 18.8 billion dollars in 2020.
With the introduction of ARKit and ARCore (the iOS and Android platforms that run AR for mobile) and web-based AR platforms such as 8th Wall (we’ll dive into the technical nuances later), advertisers and marketers now have a big opportunity to create innovative campaigns that integrate the digital world into the physical world.
Whether it’s through augmenting product packaging with interactive content, virtual tours in brick-and-mortar shops to display more detailed information, or ‘try before you buy’ at home opportunities (Starbucks or IKEA as two obvious examples here), augmented reality is enriching the customer experience digitally in a way that few technologies can.
AR marketing campaigns are far more likely to convert browsers to buyers. Brands online have between 3-7 secs to convert to a sale but with AR, dwell times are increased to 75 seconds (4x that of mobile video). Memory response to AR is also 70% higher than non-AR.
AR ads are also seeing a 520% increase in intent to purchase over the next six months (95x the benchmark for non-AR). Virgin Holidays ran an AR-enabled email campaign that saw a 40% increase in email rates and a 75% increase in click-through-rates (CTR), a key indicator for engagement.
With the online retail market making up 16.1% or about $4.2 trillion of the overall retail market and expected to reach 22% by 2023, brands know they need to create a standout digital shopping experience for their customers.
For example, Shopify has found that viewing 3D product visualizations result in a 2x boost (200 percent) in conversions.
AR marketing uses are versatile and can break down language barriers for brands looking to expand into international markets. Simply by holding up your phone, consumers can read content in their preferred language. Google translate AR mode provides text in more than 40 different languages.
It’s also an accurate way for brands to capture valuable data on what customers like and dislike for more targeted advertising and to integrate with existing retargeting services like Facebook Pixel, Google Ads, landing pages, or wish lists.
Immersive AR platforms can tell a story that directs people to deeper content engagement through gamification and interaction, bringing consumers into the experience itself since AR is accessible to anyone with a smartphone.
The difference between web-based AR vs app-based AR
Where app-based AR (think Pokemon GO) requires the user to download and store an application on their phone (taking up time and space), WebAR is app-less and requires no downloads.
Like application-based AR, WebAR uses your phone’s camera to register computer-generated information and virtual experiences to the real-world. But where WebAR has the upper hand is its usability and accessibility as it’s initiated through a QR code or hyperlink that runs on your phone, similar to a traditional website in the browser.
WebAR breaks down barriers to entry for users and dramatically improves engagement numbers. All a user needs is the smartphone in their pocket. With approximately 3.4B smartphone devices in the market today that’s a pretty broad pool of potential users!
WebAR is still in its infancy and does limitations today. In many ways, Web AR can be thought of as an extension of a webpage with the corresponding memory and 3D file format constraints which has a knock-on effect on the visual and real-time performance quality.
But big players including Facebook, Apple, Google, and Snapchat are already placing bets on web-based AR with everything from ads, product quick views, and face filters.
In similar fashion to other emerging tech, WebAR is expected to evolve quickly over the next few years and be even more performative with the roll out of infrastructures such as 5G.
WebAR offers the simplest way for big tech players like Apple and Google to build their own AR capabilities straight into their web-browsers and operating systems for both control and ease of use.

The benefits of web AR in retail
The potential of Web-based AR in retail is huge, particularly in terms of attracting new customers and boosting sales. By using WebAR, brands can engage customers in-store using QR Codes to interact with products, services, posters, flyers, receipts, or tags to gain insight into the brand in a way that can educate, engage, and entertain the user.
With 60% of shoppers looking up product information with their phones while in-store, customers are already used to pulling out their phones while shopping, Nudging shoppers to scan a QR code to activate an AR experience that will help inform purchasing or extend product information is a small ask, especially when it’s that easy.
Why should shoppers care about WebAR?
Studies have shown that 91 percent of online shoppers have ordered clothes online that didn’t fit right. More than a third, 37 percent, regularly buy more than one size of an item and return what doesn’t fit. That equates to huge pain for any shopper and huge expenses in return costs for any company.
How does Web AR solve this challenge? Say a customer—let’s call her Jane—loves a pair of pants in green, but the store only has her size in black on the shelf. Using her phone camera and a simple QR code, Jane scans the tag and can now easily see a holographic fashion model (or a 3D avatar of herself in the near future) wearing the green pants in front of her.
Jane then configures her avatar with a pair of black shoes and matching sweater. The app is connected to the store’s warehouse management system and Jane is notified she can have the green pants shipped to her home from another store along with the recommended sweater.
Jane now has the confidence and information she needs to make a more informed purchasing decision. Jane adds both items to cart and buys. Jane is happy and the store just received an upsell with zero sales touch.
Taking this example one step further, customers like Jane don’t even need to go into stores to try on clothes. Saks Fifth Avenue, for example, worked with Rock Paper Reality (RPR) to develop an AR fashion configurator that allows customers to customize a virtual mannequin with the clothing of their choice both instore and at home, add it to their cart, and purchase.
It’s AR experiences such as these that increase a buyer’s confidence and convenience to shop online, especially during a time of social distancing when it’s often safer to remain in your home.
Additional reasons why brands should care about WebAR?
The cost to implement WebAR doesn’t require a native iOS or Android app which reduces development complexity and project costs
WebAR offers the ability to beta test and get real-time feedback from users before fully committing to a large investment up front.
Since WebAR is web-based, it’s simple to get real-time data and ROI on experiences by integrating tools like Google Analytics into the experience.
WebAR offers benefits of scale and reach, since you can target your audience on just about any channel or platform
WebAR helps brands connect more personally with their customers by integrating AR into their CRM and seamlessly pushing out experiences to their customers wherever they are and whenever they need an AR experience most.
WebAR offers proven results – we’ll look at some examples further down this article.

Holographic WebAR in retail
Holographic WebAR uses of volumetric holograms that bring real people into immersive media. People are transformed into these holograms through a process called volumetric capture which essentially involves dozens of cameras filming a user from a variety of angles and stitching it together into a textured, 3D “hologram.”
This process is completed in volumetric capture studios such as the Microsoft Mixed Reality Capture Studio in San Francisco or Dimension Studio in London. For the first time, brands can now connect customers with life-like 3D holographic performances of singers, celebrities, athletes, spokespeople, or anyone who best represents their brand.
Rock Paper Reality—the augmented reality agency— developed a holographic platform that will allow online shoppers to view 1-to-1 scale, photorealistic holograms of fashion models in your home with 3D set designs for added context for clothes.
Think holographic models sitting on virtual blocks of broken concrete for your brand’s urban line or palm trees and beach sand for your new summer season collection.
People are essential to the way we communicate. Until recently, AR/VR technology mostly used cartoon-like avatars in the experiences, losing much of the immersion and wow factor that photo-realistic holograms offer. Volumetric captured content in WebAR bridges the gap between digital and physical storytelling by maintaining the perception of human interaction in the real-world.
With holographic WebAR you can place 3D, photo-realistic holograms of people anywhere including consumer products, bus stops, in stores, and at events as a way to excite customers and create positive associations with a brand that customers will never forget.
Even the Israeli President entered everyone’s living rooms in April this year to deliver a powerful message during Independence day for the country when in lockdown.
Web-based AR case examples
Although it may still be early, WebAR experiences are proving successful for quick and convenient projects that have real impact. Here are a few examples that RPR has developed that showcases how Web AR works and how it’s being used by leading consumer brands today:
1) Saatchi Art
Developed by Rock Paper Reality (RPR) and powered by 8th Wall’s WebAR platform, Saatchi Art’s “View in my room” feature was the largest deployment of WebAR to date, allowing consumers to view over 1 million works of art in their home before buying online.
Saatchi discovered that 70% of art buyers are hesitant to purchase because they can’t see the artwork in advance. By offering the ability to view an artwork via augmented reality on mobile, buyers can now instantly see the beauty of the artwork in their home and feel confident in their purchase.
RPR designed & architected the solution for scalability across the entire site, each art piece is dynamically scaled based on the artwork’s metadata and deployed into AR on a 3D canvas with the approximate real-world dimensions of the physical artwork.

2) Microsoft Mixed Reality Capture Studio #1
Developed by Rock Paper Reality and in collaboration with Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Capture Studio, the Siduri Holographic Experience  is the world’s first holographic WebAR experience for a consumer brand.
Siduri Wines came to Rock Paper Reality with the challenge to create a hologram of their winemaker, Adam Lee, and develop a way that their customers could engage with him without any need for an app across the consumer journey: from digital advertising and online promotion to in-store and product activations.
Rock Paper Reality worked with Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Capture Studio, using volumetric capture technology to create a holographic Adam that users could access via on-bottle QR Codes or an online hyperlink.
RPR then developed an AR experience fused with 3D content that amplified Siduri’s core messaging and brought holographic-Adam to homes and stores across the world, increasing customer engagement, brand retention, and loyalty with the Siduri brand.
See the experience in action here.

3) Microsoft Mixed Reality Capture Studio #2
RPR and the Microsoft Mixed Reality Capture Studio again came together to bring a first-of-its-kind holographic modeling and fashion platform that will soon be available to online retailers.
Users will be able to view a diversity of holographic models wearing clothing items at human scale in the real world.
As noted above, this experience improves buyer confidence around online clothes shopping by bringing you face-to-face with the item you intend to purchase to inspect fit, look, and quality.
So why aren’t more brands jumping on the AR bandwagon?
The metrics outlined above are enough to make most marketing teams jump on the AR bandwagon. And yet, adoption still does not reflect that sentiment. So, what’s the hold up?
A study from the Boston Consulting Group found that while 9/10 brands are using or plan to use AR in their campaigns, but only 1/10 indicate that AR is well integrated into their marketing strategy. An AR campaign with no strategy is a recipe for failure, which is bad for the brand and bad for the proliferation and adoption of AR.

Brands are naturally still hesitant to invest before they have seen what other similar brands are doing, including best practices and benchmarks.
Brands have open questions on how AR users overlay with their target personas and how do they deploy AR to their customers? How much does AR cost? What channels are best for them? Other questions we see include at what point(s) should they insert AR along the customer journey, and how do they go about measuring success?
Without a carefully considered approach to evaluate, deploy, and validate WebAR across your various marketing and advertising touch points, your AR campaign will be at risk of falling short of your goals. In this regard AR is no different than traditional marketing or advertising. It is not a panacea or silver bullet.
RPR’s team of top-tier consultants have developed an AR Blueprint to help customers develop a data-driven launch strategy to set up their AR campaign for success.
Working closely with your project stakeholders to understand your customers, the use cases, and your brand’s marketing or advertising= objectives, RPR ensures that every WebAR experience that we develop is crafted to achieve campaign goals and gather the right insights post-launch to learn, iterate, and improve for greater success.
To best achieve this, RPR maps out the customer journey, capturing the voice of the customer to understand if WebAR is the best tool to solve current pain points, enhance the overall experience, and achieve target KPIs.
What will WebAR mean for traditional marketing?
Experts say print products won’t disappear but instead will adapt with the assistance of AR because AR can be applied to any medium – whether real objects, people, or print. This medium will create an enriched storytelling experience for readers and provide new streams of profit for businesses.
Printed media and AR in retail is a two-way street with each promoting the other. The New Yorker recently introduced cartoons in augmented reality so readers can bring inanimate objects to life through their AR experience
What does the future hold for AR?
WebAR can be applied to just about anything – whether you are launching a new product, looking to wow your customers by bringing a 2D print story to life in 3D, or even as a way to engage a crowd at a physical event or on Out-Of-Home (OOH) advertising.
The opportunities to deliver your message in a unique, compelling, and personal way are endless – bringing yourself, your brand ambassadors or your customers into the new wave of marketing by building new levels of brand loyalty, customer excitement, and ultimately driving sales.
At RPR we love being at the forefront of new AR technology as it unfolds such as WebAR. But what excites us the most is what is yet to come!
Patrick Johnson is Co-Founder of Rock Paper Reality (RPR), a veteran Augmented Reality agency who are experts in AR development, 3D modeling and AR strategy. RPR helps companies from startup to Fortune 500s develop best-in-class AR content and strategies proven to drive brand awareness, customer engagement, and revenue growth.

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How to upgrade from ABM to account-based everything

30-second summary:
Account-based marketing (ABM) has been an excellent strategy for creating more personalized marketing efforts, but it’s time to move beyond this to create more cohesion across teams. Departments across a business should all be aligned on the customer journey.
Account-based everything (ABX) ditches the siloed approach and helps align departments, identify and sync tactics, and segment personalization efforts.
ABX opens internal communication lines between departments to ensure consistency when interacting with a customer and make for a more personalized connection at every touchpoint, regardless of the team members involved.

Account-based marketing (ABM) isn’t the new kid on the block anymore. Today, over 80% of B2B organizations say they use an ABM model.
Then, 2020 happened — and ABM is no longer enough by itself. Account-based strategies can’t stop once an account is closed-won.
B2B marketing and sales professionals are facing many challenges this year, including limited customer and prospect budgets, as well as the elimination of traditional marketing tactics like in-person events and meetings.

These challenges make personalization — a key tenet of ABM — more difficult to execute. And with companies going all in on digital marketing tactics, it’s almost impossible to stand out from the virtual overkill.
The business landscape has changed and B2B marketers must evolve to drive business revenue from a changing customer base. Historic ABM practices didn’t always include existing customers or encourage the importance of continual account-based tactics after an account is closed-won.
Within this evolution, marketers have the opportunity to retool their ABM by applying similar approaches to the entire revenue funnel to create an account-based everything model (ABX).
Why ABM is no longer enough on its own
2020 has shown marketers that there’s no more luxury of using textbook, standard marketing strategies to engage customers. WDan’ith less money to spend, customers are carefully picking and choosing how they use their budget.
If your engagement efforts don’t speak to customers personally, efforts will fall short. In fact, 85% of business buyers said the experience a company provides is just as important as its product or service. More than half of customers (54%) also indicated that companies should expand customer engagement methods in response to the pandemic.
Customer expectations are at an all time high and it’s up to your organization to rework its playbook to meet those expectations. Using account-based tactics solely for marketing is only addressing a small fraction of what customers are looking for as a buyer.
Instead, every relevant department in your organization’s customer journey needs to come together and understand the impact their team can have on the customer experience — which is where ABX comes in.
Welcome to the account-based everything era
Shifting to ABX is a complete change from the reactive, controlled customer acquisition methods associated with your typical account-based marketing strategy. ABX encourages proactivity, adaptability, and heightened personalization.
And with the right approach, you can effectively switch to ABX and engage decision-makers, generate revenue, and drive customer retention as a result. 
1) Align with key departments on purpose
Before executing an ABX-based strategy, your marketing team must align with other key departments that make up your organization’s revenue funnel. For most initiatives, the two main teams marketing should align with for ABX are sales and customer experience (CX) or client services (CS).
Aligning with these teams will establish the goals and audience for your ABX campaign. But to determine what you’re trying to accomplish and who you are trying to reach, you must work with these teams on your campaign’s purpose.
For example, are you looking to drive retention of the top one to two percent of your existing customer base? Or are you aiming to drive new business from companies that fit the same profile of your middle-tier customers?
Determining purpose will help specify your customer segmentation of which prospects and customers fit your ABX initiative. And once those segments are identified, you can use their profiles to create relevant, personalized buyer experiences and set specific account-based goals for each segment.
It’s also important to note that some of your ABX strategies may stretch beyond sales, CX, and CS. Some initiatives may include the product and engineering teams to ensure your target audience’s needs and desires are met on truly every level of the customer experience.
It’s also important to leverage centralized data and unified pipeline reporting to see what everyone in the funnel is doing to work towards your goal. So, if your objective is to increase customer retention by 10% each quarter, consistently hold meetings with relevant teams to assess what’s working, what isn’t, and what needs to be adjusted for relevant outreach and follow ups.
 2) Identify and sync tactics
Given that your ABX efforts will cater to audience segments, high-impact tactics like direct mail, e-gifts and executive outreach allow for more direct contact with prospects and customers. These tactics are also proven to yield promising results — campaigns including direct mail are 27% more likely to deliver top-ranking sales performance.
Once you identify the initial outreach, work with your sales and development teams to determine the appropriate follow-up tactics. Outbound tools such as email, phone calls, and direct messages on LinkedIn are integral parts of the ABX approach, as they help build a holistic customer experience.
Broad reach marketing tools like display ads, LinkedIn ads, and content syndication can also augment the high impact and outbound tools used in your ABX campaign to unify messaging. In fact, one study found that businesses achieved 40% conversion rates when direct mail and digital tactics were combined.
It’s also critical to work with your sales and CX teams on the proper timing for outbound follow-up tactics. Leverage these teams’ customer engagement knowledge to sync the timing of your ABX campaign perfectly for the most effective results.
So, if you send out a customized mailer to a select group of executives, consult your sales teams on how long the cadence should be from delivery to follow up to achieve the best possible response rate from those prospects.
3) Segment personalization efforts
The use of ABX includes everyone in your revenue funnel, which means outreach doesn’t always need to begin with marketing. Everyone in the funnel should always be on the lookout for potential personalized engagement opportunities.
There are three different levels of personalization ABX can provide based off your goal:
One-to-many: A more evergreen, yet personal, outreach tactic like sending a Starbucks e-gift card or relevant white paper, or using targeted digital ads and email messages to reach lower-tier customers (bottom 50%) in your ABX initiative
One-to-few: Customized SWAG items like t-shirts, sweaters or sweet treats to reach mid-tier customers (middle 30%); works well as a post-webinar engagement now that virtual events have replaced in-person conferences
One-to-one: Highly customized and personalized sends for top-tier customers (top 20%); effective tactic to use as a “thank you” to customers up for renewals in the next quarter
One-to-one personalization should be reserved for high tier customers and timely, unique engagement opportunities. So if your CS team is aware that the unified goal is to engage existing high revenue clients that are up for their yearly contract renewal, they can watch for real-time personalized engagement opportunities.
Let’s say the CS team hears a customer’s dog barking in the background on a conference call. Through ABX, they can work with your marketing team and the sales department on sending a dog toy from Amazon the next day to create a personalized experience for the customer.
These kinds of actions can resonate with your target audience as they consider the renewal of your business, since 83% of Americans feel positively about receiving packages. In the end, ABX enables you to adapt the revenue funnel from marketing to any other team department while still achieving the campaign’s purpose.
This year will determine whether your organization pivots to ABX or sticks with the current siloed methods of ABM. By aligning on purpose, syncing the right tactics and using multi-level personalization, you can leverage ABX to generate real revenue and meet the expectations of today’s customers.

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Delivering digital ROI – how to measure your success

30-second summary:
Budgets are under even more pressure than usual so it’s important to target tech investment where it will quickly achieve bottom-line impact and ROI.
98% of consumers leave websites without converting – addressing this dire statistic is key to digital success.
Personalization and experimentation will help and models such as Forrester Consulting’s Total Economic Impact (TEI) will identify the costs, benefits, and risk factors to ensure the outlay is worth it.

Every business aims to be customer-centric but, in reality, there’s a wide difference between the best and the worst. The move to a digital-first world has been accelerated by the pandemic and over the last few months, even the most established bricks and mortar stores with solid offline revenues have had to switch to a new world of ecommerce and digital channels.
With more and more firms competing for the same revenues this all means that delivering the right experience online has never been more important. This should be good news for marketers, but with their budgets under serious pressure it has never been more important to target tech investment where it will quickly achieve bottom-line impact and ROI.
Building a benefits-first business case
When every dollar of spend is heavily scrutinized, getting buy in from senior management is key. Bear in mind that many don’t have a deep knowledge of marketing, and are focused on the bottom line, so make sure you are explaining your investment case in terms of benefits they will understand such as conversions, revenues, and higher margins.

Start with the stark headline figure – 98% of consumers leave websites without converting, meaning that firms miss out on large-scale digital revenues and profits. Minimizing dropouts and boosting conversions relies on delivering the right consumer experience to each and every visitor to your site.
How experimentation and personalization boost the bottom line
Experimentation and personalization give you the ability to provide this optimized experience. Experimentation lets you test new ideas for your digital presence, from text, layout, and CTAs to more complex changes to the customer journey or even entirely new products or services. This allows you to improve the experience for everyone and consequently outpace the competition.

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Personalization is arguably even more important, allowing you to tailor the experience, content, and messages that visitors receive based on their behavior and other targeting criteria to provide them with a completely individual experience. This increases visitor engagement and conversion rates, as well as in increasing lead generation and reducing churn.
For instance, Accenture found that 91% of consumers would be more likely to buy from a brand if it identifies, recognizes and offers them personalized content and promotions. They’re also likely to increase their spend too – research from Boston Consulting Group found that 40% of consumers bought more than they originally planned when visiting websites that were highly personalized.
Collecting the evidence for investment
One of the more persuasive arguments for convincing senior management of the need for better personalization and experimentation strategies is the fact that it is now established best practice. Some 75% of websites that have over one million annual visitors run A/B tests to improve the overall user experience. If you’re not doing it, your rivals will be.
In one of its studies, Gartner estimates that companies that have invested in online personalization will earn 30% more income than rivals. The same report suggests that brands which have adopted personalization early have had time to create a new organizational structure and to gain optimization skills that benefit their competitiveness.
Personalization can also save money on customer acquisition. Research published in Harvard Business Review found that personalization enables companies to reduce acquisition costs by 50%, increase income by 5%-15% and improve the efficiency of marketing spend by 10%-30%.
Prove your case with a recognizable methodology
Once you’ve outlined the benefits you think your experimentation or personalization project can deliver, you need to prove it for your brand and situation.
One way to achieve this is to base your calculations on a recognizable methodology, such as Forrester Consulting’s Total Economic Impact (TEI) approach. This uses a rigorous framework to identify the costs, benefits, and risk factors around a technology investment.
As it places equal weight on total costs and total returns it allows you to carry out a full examination of the effect of the technology on the entire organization.
The beauty of the TEI approach is that you can easily apply it to your own brand in a real-world scenario. Look at your business objectives, such as increasing sales, boosting cross-selling, improving efficiency, and growing margins. Then compare yourself to the example companies in available studies.
This will enable you to put a number on both the quantifiable benefits of new technology investment, and intangible ones, such as greater customer engagement or happier employees.
Sealing the deal – convincing your boss
Now that you have the gathered the evidence for investment you have to overcome any objections that management might raise. One is about the resources you’ll need to commit above and beyond spend on technology.
That means looking at the skills you have in-house, how you can boost them, either with new hires or external agency support, and what this will cost. Take the time to educate stakeholders about the process and any impact on the wider organization to get them on-side.
And of course, once the project is secured this process does not end. It’s therefore vital to identify ‘quick wins’ and show the ROI from them whilst keeping senior management in the loop. This not only reassures them that they were right to back the project but also helps unlock more investment.
We’ve all seen the diagrams – there have never been so many tools available to marketers. This can cause confusion and make it difficult to decide between them, particularly when it comes to your next investment.
Focus on tools that can deliver proven benefits, such as experimentation and personalization solutions, and put together a clear case, based on independent methodologies. This will ensure you unlock budgets, deliver ROI and extend and scale your programs.
Jean-René Boidron is CEO of Kameleoon, a full stack personalization technology platform for real-time omnichannel optimization and conversion. Jean-René has over 20 years of international experience in the digital and software industries. In three years, he has transformed Kameleoon from a pioneer in online conversion optimization into a leader in personalization.

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The digital marketing forecast for 2021

30-second summary:
The team at PowerChord, Inc., offers insight into key digital and marketing trends they expect to impact the marketplace in 2021.
Evolving digital technologies will create more opportunities than ever to create a seamless customer journey.
Savvy brands must take advantage of the latest opportunities to target customers and build online relationships in personalized and meaningful ways
Sound research offers insight into how businesses should expect to reach and relate to customers in 2021 through technology.

Predicting trends is difficult under normal circumstances, but 2021 could present even greater challenges for those in the marketing space.
Rebounding from the upheaval of 2020 to create a strategy that’s both grounded and innovative will take a mixture of solid reasoning and expert guidance. One constant is the knowledge that omnichannel shopping is standard procedure for consumers.
That means businesses have to adapt and provide a consumer journey across digital channels and devices that’s both concentrated and simple to navigate.

It’s vital for a business’ success in 2021 to create a long-term digital strategy inclusive of multiple channels to meet evolving customer needs and expectations. It’s all about meeting customers where they are to tell your brand’s story. Industries across the board are changing to accommodate updated ecommerce requirements in the transitioning digital landscape.
The team at PowerChord, Inc., offers insight into key digital and marketing trends they expect to impact the marketplace in 2021.

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1) Enhanced website search function and product details 
Consumers are spending more time online than ever researching products before making a purchase. They rely heavily on information from search queries to find new products. Because they can’t physically view, compare, or touch products, it’s even more critical for brands to offer a strong online presence including product descriptions, and ratings and reviews.
Brands have to work with local retailers to ensure accurate, consistent product and local pricing information is always available so consumers can follow through with a purchase.
2) Prioritization of mobile functionality
It’s a given now; brands must provide a smooth mobile experience onsite and across digital marketing channels to meet the needs of more than 280 million expected smartphone users in 2021.
Mobile ecommerce sales are expected to account for 54% of all online sales and shoppers will expect a seamless checkout experience. Dependable click-and-collect pick-up options and a variety of payment methods such as online checkout and touchless mobile payments are expected in 2021.
Search engines such as Google and Bing continually update their algorithms making it essential for websites to be mobile-responsive. If not, consumers won’t find a business’ website when they have an intent to purchase. Improved organic search through Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is key.
This includes strong product descriptions that enhance the customer experience as well as SEO rankings.
3) Machine Learning (AI & AR) opportunities
The ability to enrich communications, measure and analyze data in real time and track consumer behaviors through machine learning means customers can get the right digital content at the right time in their purchase journey.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) bring new definition to the online and ecommerce experiences by presenting personalized content, which in turn increases conversions to revenue opportunities. Programmatic ads with real-time bidding will further increase the impact of the technology.
Live, automated chatbots will continue providing more information and help guide consumers to the right product to meet their needs. All this provides the support the customer wants while building data for the marketing team to build even more relevant communication profiles and enhanced chat experiences.
4) Data-driven insights and first-party data
AI technology is one way to gather consumer data to enhance the consumer journey, but with  data collection comes a responsibility to protect privacy. Ensuring consumer data is protected is one of the foremost ways to build trust while still providing a quality experience.
Google Tag Manager allows more digital advertising customization and ensures users actually get the right messaging through their online experience. Email programs can help capture consumer data and extend the relationship after a purchase by asking for reviews or product ratings. All this data then helps in market fluctuations and gaining high value from digital spending.
PowerChord’s proprietary and proven SaaS platform syndicates the local data needed to optimize the customer journey and elevate sales opportunities for local dealers.
5) Visual messaging adds impact
Video marketing is likely to be the backbone for digital marketers in 2021, with visual commerce playing a bigger role in the shopping experience in 2021. Brands will have to engage consumers through product videos to help build confidence and offer inspiration through DIY and how-to visuals.
Visual Commerce will also be a 2021 shopping trend as touchless shopping continues to offer peace of mind. Many brands will likely showcase larger images and create 360-degree imagery or videos for top-selling products. Repurposing user-generated content on product pages can both generate interest and create a tangible connection while helping keep costs down.
6) Interactive social content and the “anywhere” conversion
While new social platforms seem to appear all the time, the top five social media sites include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Whatsapp respectively, remain the recommendation for social advertising in 2021.
These platforms also are forums for customer support and ongoing engagement by enabling businesses to create an ongoing dialogue with their customers, no matter where they are.
This connection can provide a streamlined shopping experience as consumers research then make purchases through social media. No matter the social platform, it’s critical to provide a means to shop and check out in the same digital experience without jumping around to keep the customer engaged.
7) Voice search and commerce
Using voice-activated search through smart speakers from Amazon and Google is becoming more common, making mobile queries an effective lead generation tool.
According to statistics, users are more likely to call the business, visit the website for more information, or visit the store in-person. New research also suggests voice-based shopping is expected to jump to $40 billion in 2022.
8) Mobile app options
We’re living in a world where social distancing makes it more common than ever for consumers to take advantage of quality mobile apps to shop, purchase and interact with a business. Mobile app usage has increased by 20% in 2020 and is expected to increase  even more in the coming year.
Through apps, businesses can lower costs by more accurately predicting sales from advanced orders while providing a seamless experience which leads to repeat business. Users often purchase a wider range of products, especially when apps include loyalty rewards, product information, and push notifications when a user is physically nearby.
9) Values-based digital messaging
Following a tumultuous political season, values-based messaging may play a bigger role in influencing consumer decisions in 2021 as consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that align with their own personal values.
Communications ranging from an emphasis on health and safety, eco-friendly/green initiatives, made in America or even ecommerce messaging such as “curbside pickup” or “buy online, pick-up in-store” can pique consumer interest.
Nikki Vegenski has spent the last 11 years helping her client’s brand-to-local digital marketing strategies come to life. As PowerChord’s Chief Strategy Officer, she understands her client’s long-term vision, her firm’s ambitions, and helps to ensure both sides are in sync. She strives for success in providing thought leadership and strategic guidance across current and future customer adoptions of PowerChord’s SaaS and digital advertising solutions. She is an agent for change within the organization as it relates to product evolution, digital advertising, and cross-department leadership and employee mentorship.

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4 tips for making the most of your holiday email marketing strategy

30-second summary:
Tips for ways brands can keep audiences engaged this holiday season and transacting include:
Keeping messaging personal(ized)
Making content interactive
Having a “Spam Plan”
Reflecting on last year

As you know, the holiday shopping season is in full swing. Unconventional this year, 2020 is defined by a bigger emphasis on ecommerce and digital marketing, in addition to the season being longer than usual (with many saying Amazon Prime Day on October 13th was the ‘kick off’).
Considering the factors of leaning heavily on digital shopping and more budget-conscious consumers, brands are looking closely at tactics and customer approaches that will be effective and beneficial to both brand and consumer.

SparkPost, one of the leading email delivery and analytics platform, took a look at email marketing analytics (the company’s analytics cover over 90% of the world’s email inbox footprint) to glean important tips for brands this holiday season.
Here are four tips to take to tighten your email marketing strategy:

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Keep it personal(ized)
Generic marketing emails will fail. Retailers, especially those who have been leaning on digital marketing more in 2020, would look closely at their data to develop personalized content for their audiences.
Basing information and offers on known interests and products are critical to holiday season success. Coupled with can’t-resist deals, retailers can more successfully turn casual browsers into buyers, especially when 36% of shoppers said retailers need to do more to offer more personalized experiences.
But don’t make the mistake of delivering hyper-personalized outreach only during the holidays. Moving forward, uniquely tailored experiences will be expected throughout the year, as shopping increasingly moves away from in-store and to online. The holiday season will deliver a treasure trove of personalization data that brands should leverage year-round.
Make it interactive
Not only will generic email marketing not work, neither will boring email marketing. Consumers are craving dynamic and engaging digital shopping experiences, but not everyone knows that remarkable impact can be achieved through email.
Since customers can’t see products with their eyes or touch them with their hands, they are looking for ways the digital experience can mirror IRL (in real life) shopping.
Email innovation has made this more possible. Solutions like Google-powered AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) for email have propelled email marketing to the next level. AMP for Email gives senders the ability to enhance messages with interactive and data-driven features that have the potential to transform the way recipients interact with messages.
Have a “spam plan”
Speaking of the spam folder, it’s estimated 45% of all emails are spam, costing businesses $20.5 billion annually. This is a very big, obvious threat to retailers that are trying to ensure their holiday campaigns succeed.
Retailers need to be prepared and employ a spam plan that helps them stay out of the spam folder. Having a solid spam trap network provides organizations the ability to monitor and quickly assess which email domains are underperforming and identifying emails that are being flagged as spam, and why.
Avoid mailing to email subscribers who haven’t opened in 90-120 days or more. The new level of granular detail on deliverability tracking and diagnostics allows email senders to see which emails, by subject line, are landing in spam traps so email marketers can pivot quickly to remedy issues.
Monitoring spam performance regularly and staying nimble will help brands pivot when necessary and get the most reach with email marketing. For holiday especially, as campaigns gain frequency and pace, dedicating time to reviewing spam trap data is critical to keeping your email lists clean.
You can also implement new capabilities like BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification). BIMI is an authentication feature that allows recipients to know the messages they receive are legitimate by showing the brand’s logo right within the inbox; brands use BIMI to build consumer trust and better avoid the spam folder.
Look at what worked (and what didn’t) last year
Although most retailers are beyond the holiday planning stage, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t stay nimble and make changes when/where necessary.
John Landsman, SparkPost’s research analytics manager, advises brands to “not only look at your own data, but to pay attention to what your competitors did last year that worked or didn’t work. That’s a good way to know you’re not wasting your time on ineffective tactics or strategies.”
Things to pay particular attention: subject lines that garnered better open and click through rates; creative; timing; segment activity. Take some time to scrub your segment lists and prioritize according to which one(s) did the most for your brand in years past. Look at data to uncover what works for whom and build campaigns using that as a foundation.
It’s clear consumers crave the personal attention they’d get with in-store shopping, only now they’re taking that expectation to digital marketing.  They want to know that the brand they’re spending their money with is listening to their interests and preferences, all the while preserving their experience and privacy as much as possible.
To maintain a strong customer relationship, brands need to be trustworthy, offer tangible value, and focus on delivering the type of messages people care about most.
For more actionable tips, Sparkpost developed this downloadable cheat sheet.
April Mullen is a proven digital marketing leader currently focusing on strategy and marketing for SparkPost. Bringing experience from over 13 years on the agency, martech and brand sides of relationship marketing, Mullen understands the complexities and challenges that face marketers in today’s competitive environment.

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