The Smartphone Culture: Get With It

Consumers are prepared to maximize their use of smartphones. With the increasing number of tasks they can be used for and innovative technology they run on it seems that the possibilities are endless.

A recent study by Retrevo.com determined that a number of smartphone users are comparison-shopping in stores with their mobile devices but ultimately end up purchasing the product online from a competitor. The study also found that retailers are not fulfilling the needs of consumers with smartphones. Despite nearly half (43 percent) of participants indicating that they have installed a retailer’s application, just 14 percent have actually used it to make a purchase.

Additionally, it compared all consumers to smartphone owners in determining who checked out a product in a store and bought from some other store online. The findings are represented in the graph below:

 

In another new study by Hipcricket, a mobile marketing firm, found that 46 percent of smartphone users visit mobile retail sites, while 36 percent are searching for offers and coupons, and 13 percent are actually buying something,

The most important conclusion from the study was that there is a good deal of potential for retailers to boost their mobile presence. Currently, only 9 percent of consumers’ favorite brands are utilizing mobile marketing. That leaves plenty of room for future development. As smartphones continue to establish themselves as mainstream the value of reaching consumers on this platform will rise accordingly.

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Ethics and Legalities of Emerging Media

As with anything, someone somewhere is going to take advantage of a good thing. That is no different with emerging media. Hackers are running rampant on the Web and social media sites have taken a big hit. A few simple steps can be taken to protect our security but it is also important for sites to offer users a solid level of security.

This time last year a small Web developer in Seattle created a user-friendly software program called Firesheep that is an add-on for Firefox. The software allows users to have access to individual’s accounts on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live, Amazon and many others. On an insecure Wi-Fi network hackers can use the software to view and manipulate open account connections. Although hackers are unable to view passwords they can gain entry into all other personal account information and even send messages, update statuses, change settings, etc.

Firesheep’s creator claims that the software was intended to send a message to Web sites that it is their responsibility to keep consumers who depend on their services protected.

Around that same time, Facebook faced a rather serious privacy breach. A Wall Street Journal investigation determined that many of the site’s most popular apps were transmitting identifying information, such as people’s names and the names of their friends, which was then sent to more than 25 data and advertising firms. Tens of millions of Facebook users were affected, regardless of how strict their privacy settings were.

Facebook users also use caution with their activities while on the site. In 2010, 23-year-old Zachary Lambert posted a message on Facebook hinting that he may use the strategies of the Virginia Tech massacre to plan an attack of his own. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor for the incident. His punishment was that he had to join the military.

In another Facebook story, radical eco-activist, Rod Coronado, was charged with violating the terms of his parole by simply becoming friends with a well-known environmentalist and direct-action devotee, Mike Roselle, on Facebook. Despite the fact that the two men actually knew each other on a personal basis, Coronado was sent back to prison for four more months. This action was taken even though the only incident on Roselle’s record was an situation where he illegally climbed Mount Rushmore 15 years earlier.

With a society that is seemingly becoming less private by the day, we must always use our best judgment when deciding what information to put out there for the world to see. It seems like almost anything can be used against you these days. As far as sharing information goes, users of any site containing their personal data should be viewed under a secure network connection or they should be prepared to face the consequences.

2.5 Quintillion Bytes of Data Created Daily: The Reality of Today’s Web Analytics

2.5 quintillion? Really?! Yes, according to a recent Global CMO study by IBM. In fact, 90 percent of the world’s data was created in just the last two years. The most difficult part about having so much data is finding the best way to examine it for purposes of determining significant insights and using them to better customer experiences, products and services. This is where Web analytics comes into play. According to Forrester’s recent Web Analytics report, IBM is the lead position in its Wave chart.

One of IBM’s most meaningful characteristics is the importance it places of Web analytics as a major element of its marketing portfolio.

IBM’s study, which evaluated over 1,700 CMOs from 64 countries, showed that most CMOs feel underprepared to handle the impact of the changes occurring in the marketing world.

The findings also determined that only 48 percent of CMOs are tracking consumer reviews, 42 percent are tracking third party reviews and 26 percent are tracking blogs in order to develop marketing strategies. While the future impact of emerging media is still unknown, we know that much of it is here to stay, at least for now, so it is imperative that marketers everywhere learn to adapt.

Social Media: When Being Popular Just Isn’t Enough

In the past, the success of brand pages on social media sites has been evaluated based on the number of “likes,” friends, fans or followers it has, but times are changing. While these “likes” can be the first step in growing a strong customer following and solid CRM they don’t necessarily speak to the personal relationship or level of interaction a consumer has with a particular brand. Although some consumers may choose to only “like” a brand page when they are loyal customers, many will do it on a whim or because an introductory offer is available for those who “like” the page. With this in mind, some brands are dedicating themselves to find ways that can enhance these relationships and convert basic fans to serious fans.

Social e-Commerce experts, Moontoast, developed an easy to follow diagram of the anatomy of a fan:

One of the main ideas here is evolving your fans on five levels (from lowest to highest): potential fans, engaged fans, advocate fans, purchasing fans and super fans. Social media strategist, Amy Porterfield, offers nine marketing strategies for brands on Facebook that want to create super fans:

  1. Give your page a human touch – Entertain fans by communicating with personality.
  2. Become a content machine – Constantly use different media forms to communicate and learn which ones your fans prefer (i.e. video, images, text).
  3. Cultivate engagement with two-way dialogue – Never let a chance to thank a fan for reaching out pass you by.
  4. Create consistent calls to action – It can be as simple as “watch this” or “click here.”
  5. Make word-of-mouth advocacy easy – Consumers trust other consumer opinions more so than the word of a brand, so make it easy for fans to share with one another.
  6. Encourage fan-to-fan conversation – Turn your brand page into a community and let consumers know you appreciate them. Use recognition through “fan of the week” competitions to highlight top contributing fans and openly acknowledge them on your page so other fans can learn more.
  7. Focus on smart branding – Develop your Facebook page as an extension of your Web site so your efforts seem fluid, but avoid the redundancy of information that will bore consumers.
  8. Be deliberate and manage expectations – Don’t create a Facebook page without a goal. When your page is clear about what it has to offer your fans will understand its purpose.
  9. Monitor, measure, and track – Determine what you want to achieve, what elements indicate the page’s success and the regularity of evaluation.

Beyond the various levels of fandom, Facebook recently launched a new metric named “People Talking About.” The statistical rating of People Talking About with be a direct reflection of the page’s level of compelling content. Fans’ actions of posting on a page, “liking” a comment, commenting on a post, sharing a post or content from the page, answering a question posed by the brand, mentioning the page and checking in at your location will all affect your People Talking About rating. The ultimate result here is that brands will find the need to create pages that are more engagement-worthy.

While it certainly sounds like a valuable tool, it will not differentiate between comments or actions that speak negatively of the brand and those that praise it. It seems the idea here is ‘no press is bad press.’

Do you think this will be a valuable metric or will it simply be another way to collect numbers in social media?

Unofficial Company Blogs: Friend or Foe?

Not surprisingly, some of the most popular companies around have the strongest following. While consumers have been participating in their own word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing for their most and least favorite companies and brands forever, the Internet has taken WOM opportunities to the next level. Now, instead of consumers’ thoughts and opinions simply being heard by their peers they are able to broadcast them publicly for anyone with Internet access to read.

This kind of unofficial company resource can have both positive and negative effects on company being discussed. It has been said that this information, like what you would find on an unofficial company blog, is more meaningful to consumers solely because it doesn’t come directly from the company. While unofficial blogs seem to pop up more and more often, some, like Cult of Mac (an unofficial Apple blog), have become quite established and have a significant following themselves.

Unlike official blogs, which tend to be devoted more so to news and factual information, unofficial blogs are an outlet for consumers to discuss company rumors, products, company information and other opinions. They can serve as an incredible resource for creating awareness and buzz with zero effort from the company. However, one downside of unofficial blogs is just that; there is no involvement from the company and, therefore, no regulation of the discussion.

While this allows for a completely candid and honest platform where consumers can vent, compliment and encourage discussion, it also provides a place to air grievances for any reader to see. Additionally, a disadvantage of unofficial blogs is that as word gets carried along from person to person (like a schoolhouse game of ‘Telephone’) details gets twisted along the way, which can lead to downright false information.

A wise company is aware of unofficial company blogs, monitors them closely and uses them to better the company. By observing what consumers are talking about and taking that information to make future adjustments companies can better meet the needs of their consumers. All consumers appreciate being heard and knowing that a company to which they give their business is concerned about their feelings and experiences.

What do you think? Should unofficial blogs be embraced or ignored by companies?

The Power of Mobile

Lately, it seems like mobile marketing possibilities are just endless. It seems that more and more frequently new campaigns are being launched that utilize as many mobile techniques as possible. It got me thinking, is there such a thing as too much mobile?

Recently, Victoria’s Secret began a new mobile campaign to promote the brand’s new line of NFL gear. The site combines location-based marketing, banner ads, advertising in iPhone applications, landing pages and wallpaper. The campaign operates by detecting individuals who are using the Pandora application on their iPhone near a Victoria’s Secret store.

When a consumer is located they are shown a banner ad, which tells them how far away they are from the closest Victoria’s Secret retail store. Viewers can chick the banner that will take them to the landing page.

Here, they can shop the Pink NFL products, download free mobile wallpaper of their favorite team, and access click-to-call number and map features. I think each of these elements are valuable tools for the VS brand but my concern lies mostly with the way consumers receive the ads. Are there really that many girls walking around the mall listening to Pandora on their iPhone? Maybe a simpler blue-tooth marketing method would be more effective and have a larger reach.

On a separate note, an article caught my eye last week about the possibility of mobile daily deals slowly fizzling out. It seems that in theory, daily deals sites seemed like an effective marketing technique for businesses and a helpful way to make things more affordable for consumers. However, as these sites started to make it big, more and more companies wanted to take advantage of this opportunity, which has subsequently resulted in deals that are less relevant to mainstream consumers.

Personally, I have been a subscriber to LivingSocial since last spring but just purchased my first deal last week. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t currently offer deals in Morgantown. I subscribe to deals for Pittsburgh (the closest big city to Morgantown) and Northern Virginia (my hometown area), but I’m not in either area very often anymore, so the deals aren’t really feasible to me.

According to a recent study by Kantar, found that site traffic for Groupon and LivingSocial is down, Yelp Deals is pulling back and Facebook has completely removed its Facebook Deals. Rather than taking things to the extreme by ditching the deals altogether it seems that maybe the sites could develop some kind of customer questionnaire or survey to find out what kind of deals they are interested in and what learn more about their interests. Deals could still be viewable and obtainable to all subscribers but only the most relevant deals would be sent each day.

What do you think? Is there still value in daily deals or should they slowly start shutting down one by one? How could sites like Groupon and LivingSocial help to make deals more relevant to their consumers?

E-mail Marketing for the Masses

It’s no secret that e-mail marketing is the most effective online marketing technique currently being utilized.

In a continuously competitive marketing environment marketers everywhere are trying to figure out how to break through the clutter and get their e-mails read by consumers.

Simms Jenkins of ClickZ Marketing News & Expert Advice offers six e-mail tests to try:

1. Experiment with the brand’s name used in the from line to see which one results in the highest open rate.

2. Test the wording in the subject line and use it to help guide the copy used in future campaigns.

3. Create mobile versions of your e-mail messages and test it so you know exactly what the reader is seeing. The use of smartphones is expected to increase and marketers need to be accommodating.

4. Secure your e-mail list and test its security. Security breaches can be devastating to the amount of trust your customers have in you.

5. Test your e-mail opt-in process. Have friends and family visit your Web site and sign up for e-mails. Ask them about the experience and make adjustments accordingly. Should more resources for signing up be utilized (i.e. at retail locations), was it easy to find and in a logical area on the site, how long was it before they received their first e-mail, etc.

6. Try out your SMS process. Is it easy for subscribers to sign up, edit their information as needed and unsubscribe if they wish?

Most importantly, as marketers we must remember that e-mail is social. Rather than talking at consumers we must talk to consumers. Encourage them to provide feedback, share their thoughts, send you ideas and be a part of the brand.

It’s a Tablet Takeover

As rumors stir about the possible launch of a new tablet created by Amazon.com, the largest online retailer in the world, it seems to be turning into more of a reality. The recent launch of Amazon’s new Web site, released during the last days of August, appears to be the final puzzle piece tech junkies were looking for.

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t believe that site design (i.e. attractiveness, ease of navigation, interactivity, balance of words and images, user-friendly atmosphere) is crucial to the success of any organization’s online presence. Clearly, Amazon is aware of this and has combined this knowledge with the flourishing popularity of mobile devices to create a redesigned ‘tablet-optimized’ site. Additionally, online traffic from mobile devices is estimated to increase greatly over the next six months.

The changes have made Amazon’s site much easier to navigate on a tablet computer or smartphone. Some of the updated site aspects are more white space, the department sidebar has been removed and there is a significant focus on the digital site elements over the physical ones. The new site design highlights links to Amazon’s MP3, Instant Video and Kindle stores rather than its clothing or electronics. Also, the search box is larger making it easier to use for those on a touchscreen.

Here is a before and after shot of the Amazon home page.

In line with IMC practices, one of the site’s best qualities is that its not just easier to use on mobile devices but is also simpler for those viewers on a laptop or desktop computer. The company is also saving itself time and money by not having to develop multiple applications for various platforms.

It is rumored that the site launch will be paired with a release of Amazon’s own tablet device, which is anticipated to be a direct competitor for Apple’s iPad. The device is expected to sell for around $250.

Check out Bloomberg’s take on the story here.

Do you think Amazon’s tablet will give the iPad a run for its money or will it be just another subpar competitor?

Multicultural Marketing in Emerging Media

As the United States continues to see the growth of minorities throughout much of the country it only makes sense that marketers are constantly learning the importance of marketing direct to these groups. The three major ethnic minority groups that represent the most individuals are Hispanics, African-Americans and Asian-Americans. Currently, the Hispanic community is the nation’s largest minority group. They had $1.4 trillion in spending power in 2009 and as a whole, they tend to be a highly brand loyal group, making them more and more attractive to marketers.

As a community, Hispanics are becoming more and more present online. Studies have shown that almost 60 percent of adult Hispanics are online and they are the most rapidly growing group of online consumers. Additionally, three in four Hispanics feel stronger loyalty to brands that advertise to them in Spanish. In its Annual Guide to Hispanic Marketing and Media, Advertising Age discusses the specifics on Hispanics and new media. The report states that the top five largest advertisers on Hispanic Web sites are Verizon, Procter & Gamble, Ford Motor Company, Sprint Nextel and Unilever. Facebook is the leading social networking site utilized by Hispanics, followed by MySpace and Windows Live.

When it comes to language, 38% of Hispanics said that a product label written in Spanish helps them make purchase decisions and 33% said that they remember more or pay better attention to advertisements in Spanish.

Additionally, most Hispanics access the Internet every day and over half of Hispanics with Internet access at home have broadband. Do any of these statistics surprise you? Do you think more attention should be paid to other minority groups in America?

Emerging Media: Who Needs It?

You do!

Products such as the iPad, due to its personal nature, demonstrate that big changes are happening in the way consumers access digital content now and will access it in the future.

In the past, advertising focused solely on getting messages to the public to encourage them to buy. Not only did marketers never consider that consumers weren’t interested in the messages but they also never listened to what consumers had to say because they didn’t have to. Social media has been a game changer because it has opened the window of opportunity for connecting and engaging with consumers. A common mistake marketers make is viewing social media as simply another marketing channel rather than as a platform for building meaningful relationships and creating loyal customers.

Consumer behavior has evolved and so have the ways marketers interact with them. Adding video into a Web site can boost the chance of creating conversation. It can be used to educate consumers about a product and demonstrate its uses as well as modify a brand’s perception and personality. In 2010, 65 percent of highly visible brands began incorporating social media into their marketing and branding efforts. Those who don’t catch up quickly and efficiently will be left in the dust.

As marketers take on the challenge of emerging media they should consider these building blocks of successful digital experiences:

The average consumer comes in contact with various forms of emerging media on any given day. We interact with emerging media when we check the weather online each morning, shop online at our favorite e-commerce sites, catch up on the daily news on our computers or mobile devices, and use our favorite smartphone apps.

Here are some popular emerging media statistics:

As of 2011, there are 750 million active users on Facebook, half of which log on to the site each day. Over 250 million active Facebook users currently access the site through their mobile devices.

Currently, there are over 56 million WordPress blogs viewed by more than 289 million people each month. On an average day, 500,000 new posts and 400,000 new comments are made by WordPress users.

More than 3 billion YouTube videos are viewed a day. In 2010, 48 hours of video were uploaded to YouTube every minute.

Knowledge of various forms of emerging media and how to use them is becoming more and more essential for professional success. A 2009 study by Ball State University concluded that 67 percent of companies were willing to pay employees with emerging media skills a starting salary one to four percent higher than those without, while 23 percent were willing to pay them five to eight percent more.

A combination of Internet access and mobile devices has led to a society of consumers who demand anywhere, anytime connections to brands and people of personal importance. Worldwide mobile ad spending is expected to reach $20.6 billion in 2015.

As digital technologies become more mainstream, emerging media have become part of our digital culture. As a result, consumers have become more reliant on these media channels for information. If brands and products are not accessible through digital outlets they are likely to be ignored and fall behind. Within the next five years, search marketing, mobile marketing, social media, display advertising and email marketing are estimated to make up 35 percent of all ad spending.

One recent emerging media campaign that caught my eye was Domino’s Pizza’s Raising the Bar campaign. In the campaign’s TV spot, Domino’s highlighted its Pizza Tracker technology, a tool which allows customers to track their order from the time it is placed until it leaves the store. The system is accurate within 40 seconds. It also gives customers the first names of the employees who are making and delivering their pizza. Customers are then asked to rate them and give feedback. Along with the TV ad was a 4,630 sqft billboard ticker in Times Square that continuously displayed real-time customer comments from the Pizza Tracker – good, bad or neutral – from July 25 to August 23.

There has been some debate over whether the decision to display customer comments in the middle of Times Square was courageous or foolish. What do you think?