The Evolution of Black Friday: From In-Store to Online

Black Friday falls on November 29th this year. With the renowned shopping holiday just four days away, we’re looking back on Black Fridays past — drawing predictions and analyzing the bigger story behind this annual gold mine for retailers.

Black Friday in Review

The term “Black Friday” first appeared in 1869, the day of an epic stock market crash in the US. Clearly, the term has done a 180, now signifying the opposite of economic collapse as consumers gear up for some of their biggest purchases of the year.

The day following Thanksgiving has been associated with shopping since the 1930s, when advertisements in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade enticed growing crowds of onlookers on the streets of New York City. Fast forward to today, and Black Friday is now an internationally observed day of spending.

Black Friday 2018: From In-Store to Online

Black Friday has gotten a makeover in the information age as retailers notice shifting consumer trends and try to keep up. Unsurprisingly, the most notable of these trends is the popularity of online shopping and how fast it’s growing.

Research shows that in-store Black Friday traffic has been declining since 2016. But thanks to ecommerce, that doesn’t mean dwindling profits for retailers.

Black Friday 2018 raked in 6.2 billion in online sales, a growth of 23.6 percent year over year.” And the kicker: Cyber Monday yielded $7 billion worth of merchandise soldmaking it the largest online shopping day of all time in the U.S.”

One source showed that smartphone sales reached an all-time high of $2 billion, and more shoppers chose to buy online and pick up in-store than in previous years. source

Of course, many shoppers want to avoid the chaos, crowds, and long lines to shop deals from the comfort of their home – but how exactly are they shopping online?

On Cyber Monday 2018, direct website traffic ranked highest for driving revenue at 25.3 percent share of sales, followed by paid search at 25.1 percent, natural search at 18.8 percent, and email at 24.2 percent. Similar to past years, social media continued to have minimal impact on online sales at a 1.1 percent share.

Large retailers, on average, had more success with smartphone sales, while small retailers offering more specific items did better with desktop sales.

All of this data brings us to the fundamental question: Is Cyber Monday slowly phasing out Black Friday? Aside from Cyber Monday, we’re seeing other trends that draw focus away from shopping on Black Friday itself.

Black Friday 2019: What’s in Store

In the past, not waking up early to brave the crowds meant missing out on deals. But ecommerce has changed the game, providing easier ways to buy.

Some suspect that 2019 may be the first year Cyber Monday deals overshadow Black Friday deals.

The likelihood of trend continuing is high, considering how web shoppers aren’t really missing out on anything. Historically, it’s been shown that most supposed in-store only deals are actually online too. source

Along with Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday has also gained significant traction in recent years to encourage consumers to not forget about small businesses. In addition, big brands like Best Buy and Walmart have already started announcing deals the week before Black Friday. The Kohl's online Black Friday sale is already underway as of today (November 25th).

With all of this hype leading up to Black Friday and after it, the holiday is quickly extending into a full week.

“As stores moved their Black Friday Sales on Thanksgiving Day, they faced a backlash. To avoid the backlash, more and more stores are moving their sale online on Thanksgiving Day by still keeping their physical stores closed. As a result, Thanksgiving Day is emerging as one of the main days for online shopping. The Wednesday or more specifically Thanksgiving Eve has also emerged as another time when several stores start their Black Friday Sale.” source

This brings us to another fundamental question: will Black Friday eventually expand into a month-long series of deals and discounts?

Both consumers and businesses are reverberating this pattern as more shoppers report starting their holiday shopping in October. It’s also not uncommon for retailers to start advertising their Black Friday week deals in October.

Data Drives Retail Decisions

Data allows businesses of any size to take maximum advantage and forecast the best Black Friday results. There are several ways retailers are already doing this.

For big brands, using the prior year’s Black Friday data to prepare and make predictions for this year is standard practice. With more in-depth analysis, businesses can also identify the most in-demand products so they know what deals to offer. Tracking revenue also helps businesses aim higher each year and know what decisions helped them achieve that lift.

Machine learning helps brands predict how much a customer will spend using deep neural networks. These networks take unstructured data sets and comb through layers of information. Just as Netflix offers recommendations based on a customer’s unique views, businesses can offer specific products to customers who are most likely to want them. By experimenting with different models, data scientists can extract precise information that gives brands the best chance of success – and on a holiday like Black Friday, that can have a major impact on revenue.

Black Friday Prep for Small Businesses

If you’re offering Black Friday deals, there’s lots to do in preparation for the big day. Checking inventory, making sure your site can handle the extra traffic, selecting items to discount, beginning email marketing campaigns, optimizing for mobile buyers, and, of course, tracking your performance.

Studies show that retargeted ads are hugely impactful for Black Friday sales. “Apps running retargeting enjoy a significant revenue uplift on Black Friday compared to those that don’t. The gap was most pronounced in the US, with a staggering 14 times difference.” source

Whether you’re a Black Friday fan or not, it’s useful to observe the digital trends that have transformed the holiday over the years. It’s these same trends that are influencing small business sales both on and offline.


AI Has Arrived: What Can It Do For You?

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer the next big thing. It is now a big thing in digital marketing.” - Richa Pathak

From young startups to large corporations, companies are reaching for AI-powered marketing tools that make life easier. From better marketing campaigns to smarter advertising, predictive analytics and AI-based automation are already transforming how marketers work.

Many companies have barely had time to recover from the rise of data analytics that turned day-to-day operations on its head. But there’s no time to waste as AI emerges to the forefront with an even more impressive set of capabilities for small business. 

A Quiet Arrival

One of the most interesting things about AI is how it can be so seamlessly integrated into our lives – often without us even knowing it. According to a 2016 survey by HubSpot, many people didn’t know they were using AI when they actually were. Another 2019 study showed similar findings – that the majority of those surveyed were already using AI-powered tools or devices and didn’t realize it. 

Illuminating Customer Needs

The focal point of every successful marketing strategy is meeting a need. To do this, digital marketers must understand customer motivation – what matters to them? Knowing your customer’s needs is about as easy as mind-reading. Often, the educated guesses and assumptions businesses make turn out to be surprisingly false. 

Social listening is one strategy that has become more popular as businesses recognize its importance. AI tools are helping businesses keep their finger on the pulse of what customers are saying about their brand on social media. In addition, some AI tools are now able to use past industry trends to predict what customers might want in the near future. What’s better than a brand that knows what its customers want before they even express interest?

Confidence in Strategy

Perhaps the most coveted thing AI offers business owners is peace of mind - knowing that their marketing strategy wasn’t chosen haphazardly. Instead, strategic decisions are based purely on statistical findings about customer behavior - what worked and what didn’t. And as these findings inevitably shift, businesses will be aware and able to shift their strategy along with them. 

The value of analytics is that businesses can start to recognize surface-level patterns that lead to even deeper knowledge about how, when, and where to interact with customers. One of the limitations of things like customer surveys is that often, people aren’t sure why the prefer one thing or another. AI takes human error out of the equation and shows what customers reliably do and how companies can meet them where they are. Whether it's making changes to the website, choosing new content marketing topics, or redesigning a social media campaign, AI provides key insights for improvement.

A Restructured Workspace

Marketing and analytics departments are currently taxed with the burden of managing data – reviewing reports, crunching numbers, and figuring out what it all means. Imagine if technology handled more of these complex tasks, freeing up entire marketing teams to get creative and dream up new ideas. This is just what Chief Data Officer Dale Lovell is proposing:

There’s just too much data in many ways for the human mind to process. So you could either hire a thousand people in your team — which is not scalable — or you could use an AI tool to help create insights that inform your marketing and effectively lets marketers do what they do best which is be creative.

He also eases workers’ fears about being replaced by AI technology, saying that jobs will instead change and become more specific. Instead of a marketing professional having a broad range of overwhelming tasks, they will have a specialty area to focus in. 

Ecommerce Chatbots

Another facet of the AI revolution is its implications for online stores. Customers are apparently far more open to chatbots than many initially expected. 47% of HubSpot survey respondents said they would be comfortable getting assistance from a chatbot that gave personal product recommendations. A Ubisend report also found that 40% of respondents wanted to receive special offers and sale notifications from chatbots.

While many businesses have already employed basic customer service chatbots on their websites, AI enhancements would take it a step further to provide each shopper with a more customized experience. Brands like Sephora, eBay, and H&M have already popularized this technology, using simple questions to guide customers to the precise products they’re seeking. Companies can rest assured that customers may ask questions and have problems solved by AI 24 hours a day rather than waiting to reach a real person.

Already a billion-dollar industry, the predicted growth rates for AI in business are striking. As far as how many companies are using AI now, estimates vary widely from source to source. But one thing is for sure: Adoption rates are skyrocketing. A Gartner survey of more than 3,000 CIOs from around the world revealed a 270% jump in AI adoption from 2015 to 2019.

And of course, it goes without saying that businesses must learn how to use AI responsibly, thoroughly testing any tools they use from a UX lens. Brands can shape this new technology in ways that feel helpful rather than intrusive for consumers who are on the fence about AI.

For business owners looking to get started, Entrepreneur recommends looking at industry-specific use cases to see how different platforms work. Talk to companies who’ve already integrated AI, try out demos, and explore the options. There is no one right way to implement such a multi-faceted tool, so it’s crucial for business leaders to get clear on their goals. 


Marketing Automation and Big Data: A Perfect Match

In an age where digital data is not only valuable but ubiquitous, organization and automation becomes a marketing agency's pillars of time management and financial advantage.

 

More needs to be done to understand the motivations of a consumer. Content creation and targeting are only the tip of this iceberg and the start of a deep dive to converting a customer into a lead or sale. It's data that educates a marketer on what makes an individual tick. Through data, they'll be able to establish what exactly triggers them and the most efficient way to do so.

 

To do so, you need to build a customer profile:

 

"Through marketing automation systems, we should be able to build better-rounded customer profiles through variable data field capture during different communication touch points."

 

Using big data can gain a marketing agency advantages when it comes to developing relevant content and messages, collecting and analyzing data on how customers interact, and delivering a more consistent, positive customer experience across devices.

 

Digital advertising isn't just posting an ad online and hoping for the best. Leveraging automation enables agencies to determine what type of content is best at attracting leads, how they find you, and why they chose to connect with you. It can help figure out how, when and where customers tend to interact with you, as well as what platforms and devices they're reaching you on.

 

Even though we're online, you still have to imagine a face and personality behind that screen.

 

Online marketing may have muddied the border between buyer and seller, but it hasn't completely eroded it. The intimacy of conversation may get down to bare bones quicker, but getting to know one another, in order to build up a level of trust from the seller's side and understanding from the buyer's side, has not been completely lost.

 

Now instead of asking questions, you're simply provided with profiles through those variable data fields we just mentioned. You get to know their behaviors, tendencies, and interests, while marketing automation and big data work "together to create an effective way to collect, sort and gain insight from thousands of data points about customers, campaigns and products or services."

 

This can partly be done by the miracle of predictive analytics, which can predict the future by mining the past. Consider Amazon; they gather past purchase data, wish lists, similar purchases and customer ratings to predict future shopping patterns. They simply acquire all the data they need to build up an accurate enough profile that will efficiently usher you from point A to point B:

 

"With the increased accuracy of self-learning algorithms, marketers will be able to better deconstruct big data to create incredibly targeted and optimally timed user experiences."

 

Getting a customer from each of those points requires a meld of data and automation; the data working as the blueprint, and automation working as the tools, delivering quickness, accuracy, and an improved user experience, one that puts the user in the driver's seat:

 

"They can access the exact information they want, how and when they want it. But every potential customer isn't necessarily going to want exactly the same information. With automation, you can also create multiple paths, so each person can have a different experience, based on their own needs and interests."

 

When "80% of your sales come from only 20% of your customers", automation is a necessity to pinpoint just what type of customers will react and how. For example, say you're running an email marketing campaign and you're trying to deliver the best possible user experience, you might monitor:

 

  • When your customer open emails
  • When they engage with content
  • What content they engage with
  • The frequency with which they choose to engage
  • Conversions that take place

 

Platforms like AutoPilot can deliver a tailored experience that accommodates each and every one of your leads as a unique individual, rather than just another part of the catch-all. Sure they might share similarities by way of being interested in what you're selling, but they all have different triggers and ways of going about things.

 

On the other end, the Zapier platform can help gather that data and turn it into data you can use to create a more efficient workflow and finish routine tasks quicker.

 

These platforms and tools will not only help you get better organized, but they'll help you draw in more leads. You can't treat your audience as a monolith. They might all like your product or service, but they all arrived there differently, are using different devices, react to different content, and come from different areas where the product or service might serve a different purpose.

 

You may not see them, and that disconnect and widening gulf isn't helping, but there's still a person behind the screen and the only way to turn them into a sale or lead is treating them like one.


The Art Of Podcast Marketing

Where the people go, the brands and money will follow. Podcasts today are as popular as they've ever been because its convenience allows listeners to forgo traditional information outlets in favor of condensed lessons from their preferred dispenser.

 

That information can be anything. Whether it's financial advice, TV show breakdowns, history, or just your favorite comedian rambling into a microphone for an hour, there's a niche for everybody. If an interested listener wants to hear about a specific topic, there's a strong likelihood that podcast exists.

 

It's all a part of the drive for convenience. Humans have always invented for the luxury of convenience, but modern technology has ushered in an era where convenience is expanding at a breakneck speed. Why read or waste time listening to the news waiting for the information I need? I can find a podcast from someone more knowledgeable and in-tune with the subject to educate me.

 

For example, the 'Hardcore History' podcast, while extremely lengthy at times, can condense everything you need to know about World War 1 into a series of five episodes. So rather than reading through tedious detail after tedious detail, I can get all the important, need-to-know info from the guy who studied it for years.

 

Think back to the examples provided in the second paragraph and consider where the value is. A financial advice show will likely come from someone respected in that industry. A TV show breakdown podcast would be from an industry insider or someone who has developed an online following. A comedian with a successful podcast is likely genuinely funny even off stage and has an infectious personality beloved by their fans.

 

A digital marketing podcast will likely be from someone who else but a digital marketer.

 

Those are the keys to podcasting: being so passionate about a subject that you can talk for hours about it, and providing value by showcasing your expertise on a subject people want to learn about.

 

Its value shows. "Podcast listening grew 23% between 2015 and 2016, while "Libsyn, a podcast hosting service, found that podcast downloads increased to 3.3 billion requests in 2015 from 1.2 billion requests in 2012.

 

 

Podcasts being listened to on a smartphone or tablet has increased to 64%

 

While it's no surprise that digital startups and websites like Buzzfeed, Slate, and Radiotopia have made investments in podcasts over the past three years, it is noteworthy that legacy media like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have also done the same thing. They saw where the people were going and addressed it, before they got left behind.

 

Now let's say you want to start a podcast. Where do you even begin?

 

As mentioned before, you start with what your podcast is going to be about; obviously something you're extremely passionate or knowledgeable about. If you love history, talk history. If you love basketball, talk basketball. If you love cooking, talk cooking. Remember: you're trying to provide value, so talk about something where you know things that less-informed people want to know about but don't have the time to learn.

 

Now you may know a lot about a subject, but need to organize it. People enjoy being educated about a subject they're interested in, but they're probably not interested in hearing that in the form of rambling that jumps from tangent to tangent. Instead, create and follow an outline that you make before every podcast:

 

"A podcast should have an intro, body and conclusion. You don't have to write a script that you read word-for-word, but just a bullet point list of what you'll talk about and in what order."

 

You also want to make it as long as necessary to cover the essentials, but short enough to keep it interesting. For example, I have a fascination for history and a specific time in history. That history podcast I mentioned earlier knew his audience well enough to break up his feature on that historical point into a series of episodes. So instead of what would have likely been a 20-hour podcast, it was instead five 4-hour podcasts.

 

Building off of that, segment your content. It's an effective way at "breaking up the rambling by providing structure of where you need to go during the show." I listen to a popular comedian's podcast and even though rambling and going off on tangents is a hallmark of the show, it can get exhausting. He recognizes this and breaks it up with ad reads and emails from fans.

 

Also, don't try to be too out-of-the-box when creating your podcast's name. It's fine to make a catchy or clever name, but ensure that it's a name that will show listeners that your show is on the topic they are interested in:

 

"Don't choose a name that needs further explanation to communicate what your show is about. No clever name is necessary if you can convince the potential listener that your show is precisely on topic."

 

So you got your podcast's content, its name, and its subject, now comes the hard part: building your podcast and sticking with it.

 

It cannot be reiterated enough how integral it is to be consistent in your posting. If you're that serious about podcasting, you can't become discouraged early on because nobody's really listening besides your friends and family. It's going to take a lot of podcasting and a lot of hard work. If you even stop for a week, it'll affect your positioning on iTunes podcast rankings.

 

Maximizing your iTunes rankings, and optimizing your podcast overall, is a different beast. Here are a few tips from a popular podcaster:

 

  1. Link to iTunes rather than to your site: "By doing this, the people who listen to the episode on the computer, go through iTunes and count toward downloads in iTunes. If you link them to iTunes, they are counted toward your iTunes SEO...iTunes usually takes about an hour to show new podcast episodes after you publish. So publish your episode and then wait an hour and post on social media with the iTunes link."
  2. Reducing keywords for episode titles: "iTunes separates the rankings of individual episodes. Release a series of episodes targeting all of the keywords your show is about with only one word: the keyword. So if your show is about online marketing, release an episode called SEO, an episode called Internet Marketing, an episode titled blogging, etc."
  3. Keywords: "Unlike Google that does not even make use of the keyword meta tag in determining search results, iTunes relies heavily on it."
  4. Video vs. Audio: "iTunes does have tools on some of its search methods to separate audio and video podcasts, but when results are combined, video shows often rank unbelievably high when compared to audio-only shows."
  5. More keywords: "The number of keywords your show could rank in: 'Reduce the number of keywords your show uses to target one main keyword.'"
  6. Reviews: "Apple Podcasts app is using reviews as a key ranking factor."

 

Understand the direction podcasts are going in, as it could very well be yet another medium that replaces traditional legacy media. "9 out of 10 marketers believe that podcasting represents uncharted territory and opportunity" and "overall, podcast listening increased from 11% to 36% [as of 2016], translating into an estimated population of 98 million."

 

Even more important are the age demographics:

 

"One in four Americans ages 12-54 listened to a podcast last month. Just 11% of Americans 55+ listen to podcasts monthly."

 

If trends can predict anything (and they always do), it's that the younger generation dictate them. Seeing as they're gravitating towards podcasts, then it's fair to assume that the podcast market will grow. It remains a burgeoning industry with unlimited potential that allows for independent broadcasting with no strings attached.

 

Sound familiar? That's YouTube, another rising star in the media madness.

 

You want some perspective of just how much podcasts and YouTube are winning? Joe Rogan, host of the Joe Rogan Experience, claimed he gets 30 million podcast downloads per month. By comparison, Fox News Channel, Cable TV's most watched-network in 2016, averaged "2,429,000 total prime time viewers and 1.4 million total day viewers."

 

YouTube's top entertainer PewDiePie had 109,563,8282 views between April 17-30th over 18 uploaded videos. You no longer need to work your way through the ranks to join a newspaper, online magazine, or even to get your face on the news anymore to cultivate a following.

 

All you need is a microphone, a concept, and an idea. No wonder more and more people are gravitating towards podcasts and YouTube as professions and outlets of information.

 

Did you hear that sound? That was the changing of the guard.


YouTube Demonetization and Why It Should Worry You

Sometimes what's good on paper doesn't mean it's good in practice. Sometimes it veils something far more nefarious in its intentions.

 

Take YouTube and their recent controversy. In order to combat their definition of 'extremist content', the worldwide video-sharing platform responded to threat of a mass advertising boycott by "implementing 'broader demonetization policies' around 'content that is harassing or attacking people based on their race, religion, gender or similar categories'".

 

Honestly, it's tough to blame them for this approach when "analysts are predicting that Google will lose roughly $750 million as a result of an international ad boycott that kicked off last month, when marketers discovered that their campaigns were running against extremist videos on YouTube."

 

"The latest companies to pull their ads from the video platform include Pepsi, Walmart, Starbucks, FX, General Motors, Dish, JP Morgan, Johnson & Johnson, and Lyft, Variety reports. They join AT&T, Verizon, GSK, and Enterprise Holdings, which pulled their ads earlier this week, citing the same concerns."

 

Sounds great, right? While YouTube is headquartered in America, the hub of equal and free speech, it still exists as a private company, meaning it can ultimately decide which content it wants on its platform. So if they find a video that promotes harassment and just blind hatred, they have the right to 'demonetize' those videos or flat-out remove them.

 

Demonetization is the process of decreasing the money a channel can make off a video once it reaches a certain view count threshold:

 

"While creators can get revenue from ads, individual views don't account for much money until they reach the hundreds of thousands. Making sure your videos can reliably have ads matched with them is essential for creators being able to have long-term revenue."

 

Here's a list of things that may result in demonetization, according to YouTube's new policy:

 

  1. Sexually suggestive content, including partial nudity and sexual humor
  2. Violence, including display of serious injury and events related to violent extremism
  3. Inappropriate language, including harassment, swearing and vulgar language
  4. Promotion of drugs and regulated substances, including selling, use, and abuse of such items
  5. Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown.

 

How idealistic. Unfortunately, I, as you should as well, have two major issues with this. For one, most of it is completely subjective, and two, it's vague. The fifth point, in fact, is absurd in how broad it's defined:

 

"Guidelines that contain something as broad as 'subjects related to political conflicts' do not provide creators with useful information. It makes it sound as if YouTube is no longer going to monetize channels that cover current events, which of course is not the case."

 

And in the case of subjectivity, who is ultimately deciding what constitutes as hate speech, especially in this day and age where something as simple as challenging a different opinion can be defined as such. If I'm a conservative with millions of subscribers and I have thoughts on illegal immigration, what's to stop enough people with different beliefs and a large following to report me enough times to have my video demonetized.

 

Take for instance the YouTube Heroes program rolled out last September; perhaps one of the greatest attacks on free speech based on subjectivity you'll ever witness on a social media platform:

 

"YouTube heroes gives users the option to flag a video for being inappropriate, and as a result you can get your video demonetized by it becoming age restricted or removed completely, which will add a strike to your channel and possibly lead to it being deleted."

 

 

Oh, but it gets better. And by better, I mean much, much worse. Here's the five-step process:

 

  1. Become a hero
  2. Learn more in seminars
  3. Unlock super tools that allow you to mass flag videos
  4. Get behind the scenes access, contact YouTube staff directly, and try new products first
  5. Top hero perks, basically become a full-time unpaid Google employee.

 

Imagine my shock when I saw comments were disabled on the official video, which currently sits with a Like/Dislike ratio of 30,722:956,895.

 

This is where a huge problem lies. A video can get demonetized simply because it offended the wrong person or people. What offends some may not offend others. This isn't as simple as a hardcore racist saying "I believe Race X is better than Race Y and Race Z is worse than all of them!".  A vast majority of the time it comes down to innocuous beliefs that other people simply don't agree with.

 

But again it isn't as simple as that, either. What it appears to be is an outright attack on YouTube content creators with good intentions. Because this demonetization process isn't just attacking the likes of virulent racists like David Duke. It's going after creators like H3H3 Productions, Philip DeFranco and even Jenna Marbles, who "have all had hundreds of videos no longer qualify for advertising revenue, and other YouTubers are claiming they didn't have a chance to appeal to their demonetization."

 

 

 

"It isn't just large channels that are being affected by these changes -- YouTuber Tim TV, who has been a fulltime YouTuber for about six months, told Kotaku that he saw that his revenue was, 'tanking faster than ever before,' and that he found the changes 'terrifying'".

 

Here's a little background from H3H3's Ethan Klein on just how out of line and lacking in transparency YouTube can be when it rolls out these vague stipulations:

 

 

You heard that right. Even tagging things like 'Suicide', 'Rape', and 'Drugs' can get your video demonetized, not taking any of the context whatsoever into mind. That means someone who tagged 'Suicide' because they wanted to give advice on suicide prevention, or a rape survivor who wanted to tell their story and tagged 'Rape', or a doctor who wanted to give medical advice and tags 'Drugs' would have had their videos demonetized.

 

And the worst part of it all? YouTube didn't even warn the creators. Just read how lacking in foresight this approach was:

 

"In 2012, YouTube began demonetizing videos based on new advertising-friendly guidelines. This was not done by people, but by an algorithm that looked at metadata of videos and other factors to decide whether it was likely to be something as an advertiser wouldn't want to be associated with."

 

But don't worry, because everything is better now, right? Well..

 

"Google currently uses a mixture of automated screening and human moderation to police its video sharing platform and to ensure that ads are only placed against appropriate content."

 

Look, we get it. YouTube is a massive platform with billions of videos from all over the world. Sometimes automation is the only way to keep some things in check that a human can't reach. However, this is a significant issue when YouTubers like Matan Uziel is no longer getting ad revenue on their videos dealing with "women about hardship, including sex trafficking, abuse and racism."

 

Why did it get pulled? Isn't it obvious? One of those automated screeners saw "sexually suggestive content", maybe some "violence", and "controversial or sensitive subjects and events", and was programmed to demonetize the video of a creator with obvious good intentions.

 

But they're not alone:

 

"Dr. Aaron Carroll runs a channel dedicated to healthcare policy and research and discovered this week that 27 of his videos were demonetized and had been for months. It seems likely that the algorithm regularly flagged a program discussing prescription drug costs, the opioid epidemic, and treatments for diabetes because it thought those videos were celebrating illegal drug use."

 

How is that for a precedent set by YouTube? If you dare used your large following to discuss the evils of addictive drugs or tell the stories of abused victims, no ad revenue for you. Oh, and like Ethan explained in the video, they wouldn't tell you about it, either. You wouldn't get notified and your video wouldn't even become age restricted. Your video would just be demonetized.

 

Fortunately, this policy changed last fall. YouTube now:

 

  1. Lets you know when a video has been demonetized
  2. Shows a notice next to demonetized videos
  3. Allows you to request a manual review of demonetized videos
  4. Re-monetizes videos that the review finds to be not in violation of YouTube's ad-friendly policy.

 

It's a great gesture sure. But why did it take four years to correct, and why were channels not even notified in the first place?

 

It was a shoot first, ask questions second policy. By thinking they're doing the right thing and acquiescing to the demands of their advertisers (Not surprising considering YouTube operates at a loss), they negatively affect innocent YouTube content creators who treat the platform as a full-time job and livelihood.

 

As YouTuber Arin 'Egoraptor' Hanson' said, "he wanted YouTube to 'be more clear about what advertisers are opposed to having their ads displayed on. What can creators do specifically to make their content more advertiser friendly?'"

 

But to really get into the meat of YouTube and its advertisers' intentions with subjective censorship and constant threats of demonetization for ThoughtCrime, I don't think we can go anywhere until we explore what I have dubbed The PewDiePie Situation.

 

For those who don't know, PewDiePie is basically the face of YouTube. He has over 54 million subscribers, and his videos are basically him talking into a webcam talking about one thing or another. His audience is mostly made up of the younger generation, mainly middle and high school kids.

 

But about a month ago, PewDiePie was attacked, seemingly at random, by the Wall Street Journal who took some out-of-context jokes and videos and decided to go on a character assassination spree.

 

"According to the Journal's analysis, over the last six months the YouTuber posted nine videos that included either anti-semitic jokes or Nazi imagery, including one, posted on January 11th, that featured two men holding a banner that stated: 'Death to All Jews'. Another video, posted January 22nd, featured a man dressed as Jesus saying, "Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong."

 

The entire premise was based on Fiverr, a company that asks buyers to pay just $5 to do absurd things, like having two people dressed in traditional native garb to hold up a sign that says 'Death to All Jews', or having a man dress as Jesus and saying "Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong." PewDiePie was convinced they wouldn't do it because of how insane the statements were, but they actually did it.

 

Out-of-touch, narrative-driven journalists who worked for traditional outlets discovered the videos and went on a crusade to take down the evil PewDiePie empire. They went through his videos, chopped up more out of context clips in his videos, and said, "See! See! Look how evil he is! How can parents let their children watch this?"

 

PewDiePie was not contacted by the WSJ to defend himself for their first hit piece.

 

As a result of this attack, PewDiePie actually lost out on a partnership with Disney's Maker Studios. Also as a result of this attack, PewDiePie's 50 million+ subscribers realized traditional media outlets are using out of context video clips to defame the character of a YouTuber who had exhibited zero anti-semitic or racist tendencies in the past.

 

The Wall Street Journal, worth noting, has 2.1 million subscribers. It was also voted as one of the least cool brands by 18-24 year olds.

 

And isn't it just ironic that the author of the original hit piece of PewDiePie was written by Ben Fritz, who composed a tweet in 2009 stating: "Just attended my first chanukah party. Had no idea jews were so adept at frying." Here's another in 2015 talking about having a "hard on purely for the Nazis" and one more stating "well obviously I'm not counting jokes about black people. Those are just funny."

 

So what's the meaning of this? Why is the Wall Street Journal of all publications going after YouTube's most popular YouTuber? Well, I did some research into the WSJ and have a theory, but let me preface it with this response from PewDiePie on the whole ordeal:

 

"Old-school media does not like internet personalities because they are scared of us. We have so much influence and such a large voice, and I don't think they understand that. The story was an attack towards me by the media to try and discredit me, decrease my influence."

 

While I would like to personally cite and specifically quote the Wall Street Journal's findings and rebuttals, I can't because I need to pay for a subscription. It's exemplary of how a bitter, dying, and desperate publication from the old guard is lashing out and attacking the new; latching onto a statement or joke that could be misconstrued as racist or anti-semitic, which is basically a death sentence to someone working in the public eye, and selling that to uninformed users.

 

In perfect media collaboration, the Washington Post, Vox (who had the slimy audacity to, once again, use an out of context clip of PewDiePie raising his arm and equating it to a Nazi salute as their cover image for the article), Wired, and Salon were all quick to jump on the "Is PewDiePie a Nazi/Alt-Righter/Racist?" bandwagon.

 

YouTube content creators, people like PewDiePie, H3H3, and Philip DeFranco, are independent and don't answer to anyone other than what appeals to their subscribers. They don't answer to advertisers, high-profile donors, boards of directors, executives, or producers. These are people armed simply with a webcam, a microphone, and a platform reaching tens of millions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BBmu_kFHrs

 

To the traditional media, this isn't just terrifying, it's a threat to their information monopoly.

 

Independent media, courtesy of the unbridled internet and social media platforms like Twitter and YouTube, have been on the rise and have shaken traditional media to its core. Distrust in these institutions is sewn as more and more people realize they're not getting the full story, while independent media, free of influence, is providing a perspective that's never discussed.

 

How do you attack these independents when they don't have a higher power that they answer to? It's simple. You hit them where it really hurts: Their ad revenue, their character through out-of-context clips, enlisting critics with opposing beliefs, employing other mainstream outlets to join your crusade, broad and extremely vague definitions of 'extremism', and using the platform they post on to crackdown on them.

 

But this isn't just an attack on popular YouTubers. It's an attack on counter-narratives and content creators not shackled by the constraining chains of producers, boards of directors, and advertisers.

 

So it's only natural that these dying publications in their death throes, like a cornered animal, are lashing out at its threats. Like YouTubers with over 50 million subscribers, or simply any YouTuber who is developing a following strong enough to take eyes off traditional outlets that are pushing a narrative delivered from on high.

 

Remember: "Whoever controls the media, controls the mind." There is nothing more integral to controlling the whims of the masses than the control of information. There should be nothing surprising that in the age of "fake news" a popular YouTuber is getting randomly attacked, advertisers are threatening boycotts, and traditional media outlets are doing their best to defame independent sources of info.

 

The only question that remains now is, just how long do the traditional media outlets think they have left?


Data-Driven Marketing is the Best Way to Improve Digital Performance

We live in a world driven by statistics and data. This new age we’re living in has made up-to-date metrics essential in companies deciding what's their next step. No longer do they need to rely on gut-instinct or intuition.

 

They have metrics do the job for them.

 

Modern technology has granted access to ubiquitous metrics that ultimately eliminate guessing over seemingly every aspect, in seemingly every industry. A retail giant can find which products sell and which don’t. A local government can judge the success of its funding efforts.

 

A digital marketing agency can base its entire philosophy on data. And for good reason. An agency’s job, after all, is to research, strategize, execute, and finally to report.

 

Notice what that proven plan is bookended by: Data-driven influencers. A marketer can’t begin to strategize and execute without first doing their research, nor can they report on their findings without heavily relying on data.

 

An agency without first doing its research would be the blind leading the blind. An agency then not reporting on their findings without utilizing data is misleading. It should be no surprise then that determining the successes and failings of a brand are contingent on what the metrics say.

 

Since statistics don’t lie, and never will, deciphering metrics for use in future campaign efforts is something every marketing agency should practice.

 

For example: Finding the right audience. According to Forbes…

 

“Whereas collecting and integrating large and disparate data sets to glean useful insights has been costly and time- and resource-prohibitive, technology has progressed such that the insights are ‘in the box’, can be tailored to the brand and business goal, inexpensive, and at your fingertips.”

 

These same technologies can be used to identify the best audience for a given campaign. Perform initial research into the brand by locating their audiences and then targeting them. You dilute your message less by sending it out to the broad masses. Instead, narrow the targeting to an audience that would be more receptive and inquisitive of the message for a more accurate perception.

 

Locating your audience is one of the most challenge parts of your campaign efforts because there seems to be a lot of guesswork involved. Technology, however, is catching up, as indicated by the same Forbes’ article:

 

“Front-end technology is catching up with the back-end such that ‘programmatic’ applies not just to the media buy, but also to the identification and creation of an audience.”

 

Targeting people who make $75,000 in the Northwest is good. But targeting people who make $75,000 per year, interested in mountain climbing, drive a Tesla, and likes Netflix and National Geographic is better. Your targeting yield might drop from 5 million to 1 million, but again you don’t want to dilute your message and waste it on those who it doesn’t speak to.

 

This way you can design campaigns around a 100% audience you know will listen.

 

This is all possible to identify through targeting. Facebook, in particular, allows marketers to target their campaigns through variables such as as income, location, interests, and behaviors.

 

Consider these before you run a campaign. That way you have a greater understanding of your target’s “actions, habits and propensities; their associations, networks and influencers; and the descriptive characteristics that influence and distinguish the group.”

 

That’s just one flap of the book, though. We can’t neglect the other side where we report on the campaign’s progress.

 

This is where metrics really start to shine, and where it showcases just how evolved this industry is. On the outside, metrics look to only be on the surface; likes, comments, replies, shares, retweets, etc. But indicating successes and failures goes far deeper, especially depending on the campaign’s purpose.

 

This isn’t to say those types of surface stats can be suitable indicators. They absolutely can predict which types of posts work well and which don’t. If one type of post is getting 100 likes on average, while another is getting only 25 on average, then it’s clear that one post obviously resonates and engages more with users.

 

But it’s the below-the-surface stats you really need to pay attention to; those available through deep insights and the tools needed to access them.

 

Surface stats won’t explicitly inform you of how many link clicks a post received. We actually saw this in practice with one of our premier clients. Although we were receiving tons of likes, comments, and shares, we noticed that we were basically garnering little-to-no link clicks on these same posts.

 

It wasn’t until we began to A/B test where we found the issue, and altered the posts. Only then were we able to boost our link clicks, albeit at the sacrifice of our engagement totals. Nevertheless, it was interesting to learn for future reference, such as running an awareness campaign vs. an engagement one.

 

But we can plunge even further into the sloping depths of digital metrics.

 

Metrics like bounce rates can indicate where users go after landing on your website. When you uncover and unleash the power of metrics, you can find out everything you need about the tendencies of people to improve your marketing approach.

 

As digital marketing grows, measurement platforms follow. With so many brands going digital, it only makes sense for ambitious entrepreneurs to take advantage by creating platforms that can measure and track metrics on their performance.

 

And since we live in a flourishing capitalist society, competition occurs that motivates these innovators to measure more metrics than the other. So when one platform can track how many seconds you spent on a specific website page, another platform sees that and creates a tool that does the same AND which page they’re going to after.

 

The insights just go deeper until marketers get the best available POV from their target audience. Remember that the greatest motivator to all of this is to nail down an audience’s behaviors and tendencies. That way a marketer can predict exactly what they do and how they make the transition from curious shopper to conversion.

 

This is the basis of what marketing was built on: Appealing to consumers within their sensibilities.

 

It was a lot more difficult to achieve that in the ancient time before measuring platforms came along. Marketers actually had to talk to people, hold focus groups, and stage surveys. Now they can pay a fee to have a website track what goes through the mind of their collective audience.

 

We wouldn’t want it any other way. Neither would you.

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5 Important Insights From 2016's Holiday Sales

1. “According to Adobe, total e-commerce sales (November 1 to December 31) hit $91.7 billion, representing growth of 11% year over year.”

 

Online shopping is the new normal, and it's surprising that more people aren't participating. As we'll see in a later stat, the percentage of shoppers that actually bought products online still paled in comparison to what was spent in stores.

 

Still, as it's been proven time and time again, we love to consume. And now that we have the internet, it has only opened up new avenues for brands to reach out to consumers. Website optimization, search engine optimization, the expansion of social media as an advertising platform, and email marketing have all played key roles in this uptick in eCommerce sales:

 

 

This is the third consecutive year of growth for retail eCommerce holiday season sales. It has reached its peak since data for the study began accumulation, starting in 2010. Also, notice how online sales rose in 2015, despite a decline in overall holiday season sales. Both sales rose over a full percentage point from last year to this year.

 

Unlike the slide from 2011 to 2013, this trend of online shopping will likely continue to rise, unless brick-and-mortar sales offer more incentives to visit. However, even big retail chains like Wal-Mart are offering the same deals online that you would find in stores.

 

Rather than force Black Friday down their customers' throats, retail giants are beginning to follow the trend of eCommerce spending. The stigma around the weekend, whether for its mob-like crowds or its lack of actual deals, has created an aura of degenerate materialism and lack of compassion for others that has turned people off.

 

Instead, we should expect more of the numbers that we've seen over the past three years. Especially when you consider just who is shopping online...

 

2. “Milennials were the segment most likely to shop in stores (81%) compared with Baby Boomers (62%) and Gen Xers (73%)."

 

 

Well this is surprising.

 

Here we thought Milennials would obviously gravitate more towards online shopping. Meanwhile, there is no demographic more likely to shop in stores than them; even when compared to their parents and grandparents.

 

The older generations preferring to shop online isn't much of a surprise. It's safe to say parents and grandparents would rather shop online than deal with all of those Milennials that are frequenting the mall and retail stores.

 

Why Milennials are finding themselves shopping in stores, and so overwhelmingly at that, is befuddling to say the least. After all, they're the social media generation. They spend so much time online that surely their shopping habits would carry over, right?

 

Apparently not. The tradition of going to a store and picking out a gift is more appealing to Milennials than simply shopping online. Maybe it's a hipster thing and shopping online is too mainstream now.

 

But that hasn't stopped brands from trying to reach out online.

 

Where the Milennials go, the brands will follow. Otherwise, you wouldn't have restaurant chains and presidential candidates on Twitter painfully trying to connect with young voters through their supposed lexicon.

 

Although Milennials are not big spenders, yet, they will eventually move into income brackets that will have them replacing baby boomers and gen xers. They are the first generation to be exposed to the internet's ubiquity and social media. They are the first to be exposed to and embrace social media AND the first to build on it, mainly as an advertising platform.

 

Now retail brands are catering to their Milennial audience, because they noticed the generation's tendency to spend more time online, specifically on their phone. Websites have also become optimized for easier mobile navigation, seeing as the reliance on phones as a tool to access the internet (often) will not be disappearing anytime soon.

 

However, while mobile optimization has become a priority for brands, they're still facing some issues with the checkout process....

 

3. “Traffic to retailers were split evenly between the desktop and mobile, but sales still heavily favored the PC. Mobile devices accounted for 31% of sales, and the desktop generated 69%, according to Adobe’s estimates.”

 

Take note of all the parts of that initial sentence. Visits to a retailers' website were split down the middle between desktop and mobile, yet desktop purchases overwhelmingly beat out mobile purchases by a substantial margin.

 

Why? Let's work out a couple theories:

 

  1. Mobile isn't fully optimized yet
    1. Not every major retail brand has fully optimized mobile yet. Wal-Mart is a great example of a brand that has, however. It's clear how much they know their audience and their tendencies, placing the best deals and best sellers at the top, and creating easily navigable listings separated by industry.
  2. It's easier to buy on a desktop
    1. It'll be intriguing to see how brands optimize the mobile checkout process. With all of the information that has to be input, it's simply easier to input all of that info (Name, address, billing info, credit card info, etc.) with a standard keyboard on a desktop. Not to mention that some mobile sites are so poorly made that all of your info will be erased if a single input error is made.
  3. People feel more comfortable buying on a desktop
    1. If you're as neurotic as I am, you want a full visual of what you are buying when checking out. You want to see the breakdown of what you're paying for (Product price, tax, shipping) and the product itself and the quantity to make perfectly sure it's correct. Obviously this is difficult to do on a mobile, simply because there's not enough space.
  4. People are more likely to buy when browsing on a desktop rather than a mobile
    1. It's easier to find yourself navigating over to Amazon or some other retail giant's website while on a desktop. Plus, and this goes back to the issue with screen size, there's more room on a desktop to survey the product landscape.

 

These are only theories. But there is a significant discrepancy between mobile and desktop purchases that has no doubt already caught the eye of retailers. Perhaps when Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2017 roll around, we'll see a completely different layout to the way people make mobile purchases.

 

4. "Sales on Amazon amounted to almost 40 percent of online spending, according to Slice Intelligence."

 

 

When you run a prosperous business that sells a little bit of everything instead of just one thing, these types of numbers should be expected.

 

No company makes searching for and finding a product easier than Amazon, partly because it has everything. There's no limit to the products that are available on the online retail giant, nor is there a limit to just how many products can be sold. This is the benefit of running a company that bases its success on independent sellers in need of a large platform to sell on.

 

In fact, it's surprising it's not higher.

 

5. “Total holiday sales exceeded $1 trillion; online was just over 9%”

 

Neither of these metrics show any sign of decreasing:

 

“In 2015, approximately 103 million shopped online while 102 million bought in-stores. This year, the Internet had a clear advantage: More than 108 million purchased electronically, while only 99.1 million bought in stores.”

Unless there's another Recession in the near future, which would likely cause a downturn in sales similar to what happened between 2011 and 2013, we should only expect more sales, especially online.

You're not going to convince Americans to not buy things for the holidays. Start considering how to optimize your mobile website, navigation, and checkout page so that no conversion is left behind.


How A/B Testing Can Help You Fully Reach Your Audience

One of the toughest things about achieving a successful campaign, as a marketer, is first figuring out the components of generating that success. There’s no instruction manual to advertising placements, whom to target, what to write, or what images to use, so marketers are left to sift through research and past campaigns.

 

Things are only more complex now with the wide range of ways to consume content. The internet may have taken some of the attention off traditional mediums, such as TV or radio, but now there’s the issue of what to advertise and how to advertise it.

 

Thanks to the rise in mobile usage, now everything has to be truncated and adjusted, in order to fit accessibility requirements.

 

We all know that the purpose in advertising is to generate an emotional response from the user, which will inevitably lead to a conversion. To do so, the content needs to engage and connect with their needs. But with so many outlets and mediums to reach them through, the only way to fully understand and comprehend our target is through experimenting with the content.

 

That is why we test. Because the only way to get a proper read of an intended audience is to introduce options, uncover the responses, and then apply the results to the next campaign you run for them. Therefore, you are presenting them with what they prefer.

 

Generally, you want to limit your testing to two options. Otherwise, you may saturate your efforts and end up with a number of ads that are showcasing results that are too close to each other to make a proper judgment on.

 

So presenting two options and getting a 60/40 result in favor of one side, as opposed to running four options and getting 35/30/25/10, provides better indication of what to run with.

 

Now, there’s nothing wrong with testing multiple options, but only in the right circumstances. This is called Multivariate testing. Here’s a brief description:

 

“Multivariate testing changes many different elements in an email or landing page. It’s great if you need to test multiple variables but you don’t have the time conduct a series of one-off tests. They’ll help you discover which version performs the best, but you won’t be able to pinpoint which change had the biggest impact on the performance of your campaign.”

 

https://www.act-on.com/blog/ab-testing-optimization/

 

Plus, it’s far more expensive and time-consuming to create all of those variations.

 

Today, we’re going to talk about A/B Testing, which is essentially two identical tests with one variation.

 

Say, for example, you have a landing page users click to for a little more info, before downloading a white paper. Now everything is the same—the info, the form to fill out, and image—but with one difference: the CTA button to download.

 

For Test A, the CTA button reads “Download Now”

 

For Test B, the CTA button reads “Download Now”

 

The difference? The color. Test A’s CTA button is green, while Test B’s CTA button is red. While this may seem minor, even something as simple as a change in color could dramatically affect the action of a user.

 

Here’s reasoning, as cited by a Entrepeneur.com study, as to why a red CTA button boosted conversions by 21% over a green CTA:

 

1400103493-psychology-color-marketing-branding-personality-get-started

 

“Take a closer look at the image: It’s obvious that the rest of the page is geared towards a green palette, which means a green call to action simply blends in with the surroundings. Red, meanwhile, provides a stark visual contrast (and is a complementary color to green). “

 

All of that just because of a simple change in color! Now let’s take a look at a change in type, albeit with a few more than two examples:

 

1400103851-psychology-color-marketing-branding-personality-download-1

 

And the results:

 

1400103962-psychology-color-marketing-branding-personality-results-1

 

Was that the answer you were expecting? Let’s examine it and see how there could be such a stark difference in conversion rate between the top performer and second place.

 

Remember the previous example of color contrast? It has that; the main CTA is a bright red, while the bottom text is a dull grey that’s almost difficult to see, so there’s a little bit more intrigue there.

 

Notice the contrast between the sizes, too. The top text is prominent, while the bottom text is so small you can barely make it out upon first glance.

 

Of course you’ll also see one of the greatest words in the history of marketing: FREE.

 

Now, this isn’t to say that red is a better color than green or that bigger/smaller texts are going to work every single time. These are just some examples you can try with your campaign. As mentioned before, what matters most are the circumstances of what you write, how you write it and where you place it.

 

What you should take away from this are how subtle changes you may perceive as insignificant can actually make all the difference between five sales and two.

 

Similar results are applied to using certain words.

 

Here’s an example I discovered and placed in another blog:

 

“Social psychologist Ellen Langer tested the power of a single world in an experiment where she asked to cut in line at a copy machine. She tried three different ways of asking:

 

‘Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?’

 

‘Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?’

 

‘Excuse me’ I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?’

 

60% said OK to the first sentence. The other two? 94% and 93%, respectively. The only change was ‘Because’.

 

Notice how weak the reasoning after the two instances where ‘Because’ was used is, yet it made a stark difference in the result. “I’m in a rush!” is an obvious reason that many of the other people in line could be experiencing, while the other reason isn’t a reason at all.

 

‘Because’ was a trigger word that convinced those in line to let the subject cut, despite seemingly giving no good reason to do so.

 

Once again, allow this to be an indicator of just how much of a difference one word can make. As much as this blog is about testing different styles in persuasion, it’s also about realizing the importance of certain words, colors, or placements and just how much of a difference they can make.


What Stops People From Converting (And How to Make Them)

"The more they pass their heart around, the more jaded that they become."

 

I never thought I'd reference a Drake lyric when discussing conversions, but it's actually appropriate for the topic we're about to dive into. I'm talking of course about the buyer's journey.

 

Allow me to explain.

 

First, let's examine the lyric. What Drake is making reference to is how women can become more suspicious of a person's motives with every break of their heart. The more they try to love, the more suspicious they become of perfidy and that they may get hurt again.

 

drakehotlinebling-2

We've all been guilty of putting our trust into someone that turned out to be deceitful. You learn from your mistakes and take that newfound experience with you, but you also become dubious of a person's intentions. As a result, you sometimes paint with a broad brush, rather than tacking it up as a singular event.

 

Now, let's apply this to a potential buyer on your website and why they're cautious about buying. We'll conveniently ignore any financial issues and assume that the buyer is well-off, but remains hesitant about pulling the trigger on a purchase.

 

There are several reasons for this, and one of them is they don't want to get burned and garner the loathsome feeling of buyer's remorse again. This, too, we've all been guilty of. We've all seen a shiny new product and allowed a salesman to smile in our face and convince us that "You absolutely need this!", and "How much it will change your life!", and "How life will be so much simpler and easier!"

 

Then we bring it home and realize it does nothing that was promised. Not only are you out however much money you spent on it, you also feel bamboozled. You always believed that you'd never be the one to make a poor purchase, yet here you are now with five three-packs of Shamwow's when you could have just bought ordinary paper towels for more than half the price.

 

You just might require counseling if you let people know about your purchase and become a source of mockery as the 'Shamwow Guy'.

 

Naturally, you become more guarded. Your arms become shorter when you reach into your pockets and you catastrophize every future buy. You don't want to lose out on anymore money and you certainly don't want to feel like you were bested, so you question each purchase more and more.

 

Now you're looking at the purchase button with a cart full of books, just to use an example, and are hesitant to buy. Because some books you've bought in the past haven't been as resourceful and helpful as you thought, however, maybe you reconsider this haul.

 

You question it, and the more you question it the less likely you are to buy. So you decide to wait another day when you have more money, or if you could find it online for free, or if you even really need them anyway.

 

The full cart is now left in purgatory, overflowing with books that will never be read by their prospective buyer.

 

It's up to the marketer to navigate the buyer through this process and prevent them from abandoning for one reason or another. There needs to be a level of trust between the buyer and seller that promises the buyer they are going to receive exactly what they're expecting.

 

Transparency is an effective way of bridging this gap between seller and buyer. If you're selling a book, why not allow the buyer to get a small sample of what they'll be buying by offering them a chance to read a few pages first.

 

Amazon and eBay excel at transparency because they provide access into the seller's habits. There's a star rating, a counter of how many sales they've made, access to their full online store, a description of the product and reviews of the product from other buyers. In my experience, the first thing I do when buying a product on Amazon is look for the seller with the most customers and highest star ratings.

 

Let's say you're a traditional seller, though, and don't rely on individual sellers to set up camp on your website and sell their products. I liked this suggestion from Copyblogger:

 

"Everything on your site needs to show you can be trusted: Real contact information. Your photograph. Thorough responses to FAQs. Clear, reasonable calls to action."

 

Putting a face to your product shows potential buyers that they're not dealing with some faceless corporation that could care less if you're satisfied or not following your experience. When a seller puts their face and name to their product, they're plunging into precarious waters because they're putting something as important as money on the line: Their reputation.

 

A person only has one name and one face. If they're deceitful, it will follow them everywhere because they staked their reputation on it. If John Smith sells a lemon of a product, it would only take me one Google search of John Smith to know not to trust him, especially since his face will be accompanying him in those searches.

 

Everything you do when selling a product needs to revolve around creating a trustworthy environment for your buyers. The product is an extension of yourself and your identity. It's your idea come to life, so treat it as such. If you thought it was a good enough idea to turn it into something tangible, then you need to be honest with your potential customers.

 

Trust is difficult to cultivate, especially with someone you just met, mainly because of their past experiences. Your buyer's jaded and you need to lay it all out there that you're different. The only way to break through someone's tough exterior is to make yourself vulnerable first by genuinely letting buyers know who you are and what your product does.

 

Once the customer is satisfied with their experience, the all-important foundation of trust has been laid.


Are Heatmaps the Best Metric for Digital Marketing Success?

In the digital marketing setting, success is obtained by a thorough understanding of your audience and what they need to click 'Buy'.

 

Sounds easy? It isn't. Humans are unpredictable, fickle, erratic, and are generally influenced to make purchases either through necessity or triggers. Our ads may reach hundreds of thousands of people, all of which fit into our intended audience, but only hundreds will act and click on the ad, with the rare chance that a few make a conversion.

 

Attempting to gain perspective on human tendencies is no easy feat, which is why brands come to marketing agencies. We have the tools and the experience to at least comprehend and extract perspective.

 

There are plenty of metrics available to answer any question you ask:

 

  • Are people clicking on my ads? There's Click-Through Rate (CTR) for that.
  • Are people staying on only one page on my website? There's Bounce Rate for that.
  • Are people reacting well to the keywords I'm using? There's Cost Per Click (CPC) for that.

 

However, there is one tool out there that may have them all beat and it doesn't include numbers at all, nor is it even specific to marketing:

 

xqj6mcz

 

No, this isn't a weather report gone wrong. This is what we call a heatmap. For sports fans out there, you definitely know what this is, since it's popular in basketball to see where a player/team is hot and cold:

 

screenshot2013-09-19at12-23-29pm_original

 

and baseball to see where a batter is connecting/missing or where a pitcher's throws tend to go:

 

 

mlb_e_jurrjens_heat_map_b1_576

 

To this huge sports fan (I cannot emphasize this enough), heatmaps are one of the greatest tools you can use to learn about the tendencies and success of a player.

 

Let's use the basketball heatmap for an example. That player is clearly great at shooting from a certain area beyond the three-point line. If I'm that player's coach, am I going to look at this heatmap and run plays in that red area where he's hot? Or am I going to make him take a few steps in and shoot where the map is green and cool?

 

The heatmap tells me I should run plays for that player either straightaway or to the right of the basket, similar to how the first map tells me that most people have their cursor frequently in those red areas.

 

But not all heatmaps are alike. We have....

 

1. Hover Maps

 

These maps track mouse movement, rather than just where people click. Digital marketers can use these maps as a metric to track where users keep their cursors and how they read a web page.

 

Image Source

 

But this isn't always the greatest indicator. Unless the website is entirely click-based, most users are going to ignore where their cursor is. In fact, as I write this, I have the cursor randomly sitting in a spot on a website.

 

Some stats from Dr. Anne Aula, Senior User Experience Researcher at Google, shows this to be true:

 

  • "Only 6% of people showed vertical correlation between mouse movement and eye tracking."

 

  • "19% of people showed some horizontal correlation between mouse movement and eye tracking."

 

  • "10% hovered over a link and then continued to read around the page looking at other things."

 

That 3rd stat is near to what I'm guilty of committing right now. I'm reading around on a website, ignorant to where my cursor is.

 

2. Click Maps

 

Click maps are useful in seeing where and what exactly people are clicking on, but it's also very easy to know what people are clicking on. It's a stat thats widely accessible on every platform.

 

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However, you can also see where people want to click on. From my personal experience, I will come across websites with a certain word highlighted or italicized. Thinking it's a link to further information, I will scroll over and click, only to realize the word or image was just that, nothing more than a word or image.

 

By applying this to a website you run, you can add links to the words or images where users were clicking.

 

3. Scroll Maps

 

Image Source

 

No, this isn't Pink Floyd's latest album cover.

 

This is a scroll map, and it allows marketers to discover how far users scroll before exiting the page. Its most essential role, especially for long-form sales pages and longer landing pages, would be letting website designers know where the essentials of the website need to be placed.

 

If users stop scrolling at a certain point (as we can see in the image above, users are stopping around the last 25% of the page), the website's architect can determine that the essentials of the website need to be placed higher.

 

This would greatly assist a marketer determining where to place something like a banner ad. Are they going to pay extra to have their ad placed at the top or in the middle, or are they placing it at the bottom? Judging by the scroll map, placing the ad at the bottom of the page would be a waste.

 

Scroll maps are also a great way of judging overall interest in the content on the website. For one, you can learn just how interesting the content is at the top. If, as seen in the image above, users are at their most active in the middle, you can figure that's where your best content is and where people clicking off the page.