How Starbucks Employed AI for a Better Customer Experience

In 2017, Starbucks launched what would become its most advanced AI-driven initiative yet. “Deep Brew,” the brand’s custom-made recommendation platform was built to reach customers across multiple channels, including the Starbucks ordering app. 

Today, Deep Brew is driving growth, providing deeper customer understanding, and allowing Starbucks to seamlessly adapt to changing customer preferences with little effort. With this foundation in place, the company is already planning several other AI-driven projects to enhance the customer experience.

Unprecedented Growth

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Part of the reason Starbucks executives have pushed for more AI technology is the brand’s recent growth spurt. The industry-leading Starbucks Rewards Program has continued to flourish since its introduction in 2007.According to their website, “Membership has grown more than 25% over the past two years alone, climbing to 16 million active members as of December 2018, a 14% increase over the prior year. Starbucks Rewards transactions accounted for 40% of tender in U.S. company-operated stores in the same time frame.”

Central to the rewards program is a focus on nurturing customer loyalty. A new tiered structure was created, along with new rewards options. Customers can earn points to received customized drinks, food options, or Starbucks merchandise – sometimes as soon as 2-3 visits after becoming a rewards member.

And while stocks have slipped in recent months, there’s an overall uptick in value since the beginning of the year.

“Deep Brew will increasingly power our personalization engine, optimize store labor allocations, and drive inventory management in our stores,” CEO Kevin Johnson told reporters. “We plan to leverage Deep Brew in ways that free up our partners, so that they can spend more time connecting with customers.”

How It Works

So what exactly is Deep Brew and why is it so valuable? True to its name, Deep Brew utilizes deep learning technology to gather information from unstructured data. To understand the innerworkings of Starbucks’ new AI deployment, we need a lesson in reinforced learning capabilities.

Reinforced learning is a type of machine learning that allows organizations to determine the best possible course of action in a specific situation. Simply put, it’s a type of AI that answers the question: What option should be chosen based on what is currently known? The algorithm learns through trial and error, using each piece of feedback as evidence supporting its next decision. Reinforced learning works sequentially and continuously collects customer data to create a unique profile around their tastes.

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Using Microsoft’s Azure cloud infrastructure, factors like location, weather, inventory, and price are taken into account for each person’s order. If a customer frequently buys non-dairy drinks, it will automatically be remembered. This technology is how Starbucks is able to recognize and adapt to the desires of its millions of customers each week. Starbucks Analytics and Market Research VP, Jon Francis sees these tailored recommendations as an extension of the in-person care a customer would receive from a barista. It further strengthens that connection and sense of trust with each buyer.

Along with personalized recommendations, Starbucks has another AI trick up its sleeve. Their Mastrena machines, originally debuted in 2008 to release shots of coffee faster, contribute to the customer experience in a more covert way:

“Those machines have Internet of Things sensors built into them. And so we get telemetry data that comes into our support center. We can see every shot of espresso that's being pulled and we can see centrally if there is a machine that's out there that needs tuning or maintenance. And that allows us to improve the quality of the shots that we're pulling…with the Deep Brew and our predictive analytics, we're going to be able to determine if a machine needs preventative maintenance on it before it breaks.” – CEO, Johnson

All store equipment is synced up to Azure Sphere, and over 5mb of data can be collected in a single 8-hour shift. Rather than shops being slowed down by sudden equipment issues, they’ll be prepared and aware of any potential problems.

Starbucks VP and CTO, Gerri Martin-Flickinger says their next project will be leveraging data for a better drive-thru experience. Because personalization is more difficult in a drive-thru line than in a mobile app, store sales history and other criteria will be used. Drivers will be greeted by a customized drive-thru screen that displays what is most likely to interest them.

The Future of Coffee

In an industry where convenience, speed, and customization are so pivotal to the customer experience, there’s plenty of room for optimization.

Starbucks self-serve kiosks are popping up around the world, providing more evidence that the brand intends to fully embrace automation and AI as a key customer service feature.

Aside from Starbucks, a company called Cafe X is gaining fame for its ‘robot barista,’ which can make 120 cups of coffee per hour. Such inventions have many people asking, “Can a robot make a better coffee than a human barista?” And if so, will it eventually mean a radical shift in how coffee shops operate? Café X’s machine is said to eliminate margin of error and is expected to become more popular in upscale commercial buildings in the next decade.

It’s safe to say the coffee industry is in the early stages of an innovation boom as AI becomes more accessible and affordable. We’re just beginning to see how these developments will reshape the coffee-drinking experience in years to come.


The Hottest Digital Marketing Trends in China Right Now

China is a digital marketing powerhouse. It boasts the world's second-largest search advertising market and spends more on digital advertising than Japan, Australia, Indonesia and South Korea combined. With the world's largest population -- more than 1.4 billion people live in the "Land of the Red Dragon" -- breaking into this market could prove lucrative for your organization. Here are three of the hottest digital marketing trends in China right now.

1. China is a Global Player When it Comes to Voice Marketing

Chinese brands have invested heavily in voice marketing technology in recent years, and experts predicted that the country's intelligent voice market was worth more than 6.21 billion in 2015. Millions of consumers across the country use their smartphone to search for goods and services with just their voice.

"One of the obvious reasons for more rapid adoption is the complexity of the Chinese alphabet," says Eye for Travel. "With thousands of individual characters, typing on a small screen is rather more difficult than for those using the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet."

While intelligent voice assistants like Alexa and Siri dominate the U.S. market, innovations like Baidu's Raven H lets Chinese consumers access information with simple voice commands. Raven H looks nothing like the Amazon Echo or Google Home -- it's essentially a stack of multi-colored squares.

As more people in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen purchase smart speakers and voice-enabled mobile devices, expect China's intelligent market to grow even bigger in the next few years.

2. Artificial Intelligence Marketing in China is Booming

China uses more artificial intelligence (AI) devices than any other country in the world, according to a recent report. Twenty-one percent of the country's population already has an AI device like a home robot or autonomous car and 52 percent plan to buy one in the future. In the United States, only 16 percent of people own an AI device.

The booming AI market has prompted Chinese marketers to engage with consumers in new and exciting ways. Marketers here use the latest AI technologies to personalize communications and offer customers unique interactive experiences that increase brand awareness.

Take AI apps, for example. Customers can immerse themselves in virtual environments where they can learn more information about a brand's products and services.

3. Search Engine Optimization Still Dominates

China has the world's largest online population -- around 772 million and growing -- which proves profitable for brands who break into this market. Despite recent technological innovations like voice-enabled devices and AI, search engine optimization (SEO) is still one of the most popular (and powerful) digital marketing methods here.

Although SEO is a little different to the US and other Western countries, the process is essentially the same. Websites that rank the highest on search engines like Baidu, Sogou and Qihoo 360 generally receive the most traffic. Marketers optimize sites in order to increase their position on search engine results pages.

One of the biggest differences between SEO in China and SEO in the US is mobile search. Mobile device owners in China make up the bulk of search users, with 88 percent of the online population searching for information through their smartphone or tablet.

Want to grow your organization's impact in China? The three trends on this list are a great way to generate leads and improve brand awareness. Use voice search marketing technology to target potential customers, AI to enhance the customer experience and SEO to move buyers through your sales pipelines. Expect these three trends to keep dominating China's digital marketing landscape over the next few years.


How Watson Is Changing Marketing

Most people have heard of IBM's Watson artificial intelligence software. Watson has come a long way since winning Jeopardy and is being used for a variety of applications. Brands and marketers face more competition than ever before and are awash with data they are only just beginning to use. Watson can parse through that data and provide actionable insight to help brands make lasting connections with consumers.

1. More Targeted Promotions

The holy grail of advertising is being able to sell the right product to the right consumer at the right time. Traditionally, advertisers paid for spots during television shows or sporting matches to reach a particular portion of the larger viewing audience. Over time, advertisers have been able to drill down to more granular target audiences and tailor their messaging accordingly. IBM Watson takes targeted advertising a quantum leap forward. Watson can target even more specific subgroups and offer dynamic advertising based on a variety of factors. For example, IBM is partnering with personalized data marketer Jivox to craft real-time contextual ads. If the weather turns cold, customers can be presented with ads or coupons for nearby coffee chains; ads can even include animated snowflakes if it begins to snow outside. Weather is just one of many data points that can be used to power data-driven digital marketing campaigns that boost sales.

2. Live Testing Advertisements

Another area where IBM Watson can support marketers is analyzing reactions to live testing advertisements. Normally, marketers and brands test early versions of advertisements in a simulated environment and then make adjustments based on feedback. This could be focus groups or other small test environments with a small number of subjects. Live testing involves analyzing reactions to marketing messages in real time and make adjustments automatically. For example, a car brand wants to develop a marketing campaign for a specific vehicle. The brand might make dozens of versions of the advertisement highlighting specific aspects or selling points. IBM Watson can test combinations on Facebook or other platforms and zero in on the most successful combination, creating an ad that is more likely to sell cars.

3. Predictive Analytics

Collecting data doesn't mean anything without the tools to parse through that data and find relationships in the numbers. Watson's Predictive Analytics tools help marketers identify those relationships and develop actionable insights. For example, a fast food chain wants to determine the attractiveness of offering a 20% off coupon during the fall. Watson can parse through spending data from previous quarters to determine which customers are most likely to respond to a coupon. That analysis can be based on previous behavior with coupons, income levels, and the length of the customer relationship. Watson can even determine when during the fall such a coupon would be most effective. This allows companies to maximize their marketing budgets and get the most bang for their buck. Predictive Analytics is also iterative; the longer the relationship with a customer, the more accurate and effective a promotion becomes.

Marketing is increasingly becoming data-driven and marketers need the tools to parse through data and make actionable insights. Watson gives companies the ability to better understand their customers by finding those quantitative relationships. Whether it's trying to understand which customers to target or what marketing messages will best resonate, Watson is changing the face of modern marketing.

 


Get to Know Your Next Customer with Predictive Analytics

You ready yourself for an oncoming storm because predictive analytics advised you it was approaching.

 

You stand at bat against a pitcher and swing at a certain area of the strike zone because predictive analytics advised you that’s where they’re most likely to throw.

 

You defend a basketball player and force them to drive left because predictive analytics advised you that’s where they’re weaker.

 

Predictive analytics are integral to providing a company, an athlete, or a storm-prepper with crucial info to get a forewarning. You use them "to identify the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data." Without them, you're preparing with the storm on the horizon or guessing your way through at-bats and defensive possessions.

 

They're a necessity in a digital marketing, where success is contingent on analyzing data, before, during, and after a campaign.

 

All data analysis begins with predictive analytics; targeting groups based on variables, predicting customer behavior, and recommending certain products and services they’d be most prone to buying.

 

This is the most important segment of the analytical stage. It’s how and where you find your audience. You can have the Ernest Hemingway of copy and the Basquiat of graphic design on content. It won’t produce nearly the same results without segmenting, predicting, and filtering beforehand.

 

Utilizing predictive analytics is where retail giants like Amazon and eBay excel. They target groups based on numerous variables, including behavioral clustering, product-based clustering and brand-based clustering.

 

From there, they evolve from the segmenting phase to the prediction phase, utilizing propensity models. This is where customer behavior is predicted; variables such as engagement likelihood, and their propensity to unsubscribe, convert, or buy.

 

Then begins the filtering phase. This is where eBay and Amazon earns their notoriety. They’re always seem to know just what you want to buy and when you need it. They know this because of your past buying behavior. It allows those retail giants to predict what you’re likely to buy next will be in the same vein.

 

And it works.

 

It comes down to understanding people:

 

“Knowing the customer type or behavior you want to replicate, the predictive modeling starts with a sample of the consumers you want more of, otherwise known as seed. The predictive model is then able to create an audience that is tailor-made to your business and objectives.”

 

To reach the point of understanding your customer’s behavior, your predictive model must first identify “consumers based on who they are rather than exclusively focusing on a recent behavioral signal, thus exponentially expanding your pool of potential prospects”, based on the predictive model.

 

Furthermore, “predictive modeling evaluates all available data to classify the relative importance of each point in identifying your target audience. The resulting formula pinpoints which consumers to target, allowing you to capitalize on both scale and precision.”

 

The underlying current of predictive analytics is tracking the online behavior that takes them from point A to B. It’s focused on pinpointing who’s most likely to buy, when they are at their most willing to buy, what product or service they’re most likely to buy, and what’s going to prompt them to buy.

 

Even more important, however, is differentiating between high-value customers and those you might suspect of just browsing. Again, predictive analytics can aid in qualifying and prioritizing leads based on their likelihood to take action.

 

This is possible by “identifying and acquiring prospects with attributes similar to existing customers”. If your online patterns and behaviors are similar to the majority of customers on that website, you’ll be treated as a high-priority lead.

 

Here’s an example from Marketing Land on how this works:

 

“Applying predictive and analytics on a range of digital and offline data sets, we were able to identify just how valuable different online behaviors were to an offline, in-store transaction and activation later in the purchase cycle.

The data told a story with many elements we might have expected: Add-to-cart actions and beginning a checkout process were indeed predictive of an impending offline purchase, and locating a nearby store also showed up as an action predictive of purchasing intent. But browsing device galleries and using the chat feature were among the more valuable actions, and the single most important factor in purchase intent was interacting with the current special offers.”

 

Sounds like a science experiment, right? You lay out a couple of variables that act as triggers for your candidates and then wait for the results to play out. From this particular experiment, it was clear that offers were the trigger that turned the most potential customers into actual customers.

 

Notice how many variables were weighed as well. It goes so much further beyond whether or not a potential customer clicks through your ad. It comes down to what type of ad they’re clicking on, what they’re leaving behind in their cart, how far they went out in the checkout process, what they were browsing, and if they were using the chat feature.

 

The analysts went as far as tracking if their candidates were searching for stores nearby.

 

Ushering your potential customer is a delicate process that requires extremely precise timing, a task which links back to customer segmentation and leads to personalized messaging.

 

Predictive analytics also greatly assists in the fact that "73% of consumers prefer to do business with brands that use personal information to make their shopping experiences more relevant." So not only are you helping yourself in the long run, you're also assisting in directly getting sales through re-targeting efforts.

 

In fact, personalization overall greatly assists in drumming up more sales:

 

  • "86% of consumers say personalization plays a role in their purchasing decisions"
  • "45% of online shoppers are more likely to shop on a site that offers personalized recommendations"
  • "40% of consumers buy more from retailers who personalize the shopping experience across channels"
  • "80% of consumers like when retailers emails contain recommended products based on previous purchases"

 

This shouldn't be surprising. At every juncture of an Amazon transaction, the website is listing 'Top Picks for You' or 'Recommendations for You' or 'Customers who bought this also bought...'". All of these tactics are naturally going to elicit more orders. Your interest is already piqued in your purchase and you're likely excited about it, too.

 

It's kind of like a checkout line at a grocery store. You think you got everything, but don't you need some gum once you finish eating? And how about one of those magazines with the big headlines to relax with after?

 

Those weren't put there by accident. Stores analyze their customers' buying habits to see what they were buying at the end of a checkout line. Just like Amazon and eBay places certain recommendations before, during, and after your transactions, it's all based on using predictive analytics to forecast what you're most likely to buy along with that item.

 

In the same vein as any marketing agency's work, predictive analytics is utilized to get that extra sale that would have never been found without discovering who your customer is and how they behave beforehand.


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.


7 Mobile Application KPIs You Need to Pay Attention to for Better Results

First and foremost, no mobile application metric or KPI is going to be more important than the star rating. Before we can delve into the crowded world of digital marketing statistics, let's just get it out of the way: the star rating's superficiality is what will enable many users to decide whether an app is downloadable or not.

 

A star-rating is so important that it could even deter users from downloading the app of a brand they like. When you see low stars, what immediately comes to mind? Probably crashes, long load times, misleading features; an app that doesn't deliver what it promises.

 

So to reach the point where an app's star rating is high, developers and whoever else is in charge of production, execution, strategy, etc. needs to focus on the numbers that will facilitate optimized performance and relevant, helpful, and engaging content.

 

Only through optimization and delivering a polished, quality product can you expect people to download the app and, most importantly, to continue using it.

 

It's natural to assume downloads would be the key metric. After all, that's how developers make some of their money back if they did in fact create an app that charges for use. However....

 

"'The number [downloads] means nothing without context. Downloads only enable an app to succeed, they do not indicate actual success,'says Brant DeBow, EVP of technology at BiTE Interactive. Too many brands are still concerned with eyeballs, treating apps as if they were a TV ad.

 

The best ads have stickiness and offer something inherently valuable to users.'"

 

That term stickiness is going to show up frequently here. What Brant says makes perfect sense. You can't simply create an app just for it to be downloaded. It needs to offer a "clear solution to a problem their users face with success affirmed by users visiting the app repeatedly."

 

It needs to have Lifetime Value (LTV), which is "the value of a mobile user as compared to a non-mobile user - if your mobile user is more loyal, spends more, and/or evangelizes more than your regular consumer, your mobile strategy is working."

 

Is someone going to recommend an app or give it a five-star rating simply because they downloaded it? Or are they going to give it that premier rating because of the features within the app? Getting an app downloaded is just good marketing. Retention within the app is the key KPI to measuring success:

 

"Retention is one of the biggest challenges of mobile apps today, as 65% people stop using them three months after install,' says Cezary Pietrzak, director of marketing at Appboy...Anyone can download an app, but it takes a special kind of app to compel people to use it with regularity. Your monthly active users (MAU) or daily active users (DAU) are your key users."

 

Now the question is how do you retain users? To start off, you need to consider the app you're marketing and which KPIs are more applicable and significant to that type of app:

 

"For games where ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) is naturally very low per individual user yet there may be many active users, a good KPI may be focused on keeping users engaging as long as possible. For a SaaS (Software as a Service) app where most users are freemium users, the best KPI is most likely focused on how well you can convince free users to become paid users."

Here's a few KPIs that every app should consider:

 

  • LTV
    • "How you quantify value depends on your vertical...The point is that knowing the value of various consumers means you can compare users and identify key segments of successful users as well as cohorts that need improvement, says Cipolla."

 

  • Session Time
      • "Just like page views versus time spent on the web, session length on an can help mobile strategists quantify the depth of a person's relationship with an app, says Pietrzak. You want a sticky, compelling app; stickiness lends an app toward longer sessions."

     

    • "Measured as the time period between app open and close. It indicates how much time your users are spending in your app per individual season. The more engaged they are, the longer their session length."

 

  • In-App Purchases

 

Basically what this means, and let's use a game as an example, is delivering the most basic tenets of the app, but holding out the best stuff for those that either play the game long enough (Retention!) or cave in and buy those extra incentives.

 

Take for instance a free Poker app I've become accustomed with. Now I can play hand after hand, day after day to reach a certain chip count so I can play with the high rollers, or I can shell out $10 or so and reach that point in a single transaction.

 

Or, as another example, the extremely popular The Simpsons Tapout game where you get to build your own version of Springfield. I can spend day after day giving characters tasks to complete so that I can have the money and XP to buy certain items. Or I could just spend $20 and get those items with a click.

 

These are the hallmarks of an effective gaming app. The games are addictive, entertaining, and free, at least to start off. It's not until you play for so long, however, that you're almost required to pay if you want to keep playing. You're left with the choice of either trudging your way through task after task or game after game, just paying to move up a level, or quitting that highly-addictive game.

 

  • Number of screens/pages visited

 

This KPI speaks not only to how engaging the content is on the app, but how high-quality the app's performance is as well. A user should be able to seamlessly launch the app, load new pages, make purchases, play the game, or whatever it is the app promises, without thinking, "What's taking so long?"

 

That momentary delay in seamless transitions can disrupt an entire experience. It's like reading a good article and stumbling across a grammatical error. It just throws you off. Even worse, it makes you want to experience something that isn't buggy and filled with problems that should have been worked out before.

 

  • Grant Permission
    • "A surprising yet important engagement-based KPI is when users grant permission for the app to access personal information. This KPI is important because it signifies a bond of trust between the user and the app which isn't inherently given to every app."

 

  • Performance
    • App crashes, app load per period, network errors, etc.

 

The number one reason an app gets deleted is because of technical issues.

 

This is where the editing and fine-tuning process play a critical role. It doesn't matter how much you strategize, how quality the content is, how addictive the game is, or how engaging the material is, your app will be deleted if it does not work, is laden with errors, or crashes upon opening.

 

  • Retention Rate
    • Highlights your most engaged -- and valuable -- users, creating better targeting opportunities and personalization of the app experience.

 

This, no matter the type of app you choose, is the most valuable KPI to build off of. It's how you know users are satisfied with the app because they'll keep coming back. Your app's accessibility, navigability, performance, content, and longevity have all passed the test if that's the case.


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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Guide: How to Inject Personality Into Your Website and Stand Out

Your website is often the first impression a prospective buyer will garner of your business. And seeing as studies have reported that “you have less than 10 seconds to impress and engage a new visitor to your website”, it’s of extreme importance that your website is fully optimized.

 

It needs to be clean. It needs to be strategically concise in some areas, but lengthy and descriptive in others. It needs to be accessible. It needs to present a clear understanding of who you are, what you do, and why you’re the best for the job.

 

Basically, it needs to act as an extension of your business’s personality. Remember that this is essentially the first thing your next client (or buyer depending on what industry you serve) will see.

 

If I’m running a marketing agency and I can’t properly communicate my message, there’s a high likelihood that visitor will take their business elsewhere. How could they trust me to communicate their message when I can’t even communicate my own?

 

In broader terms, if you’re on a first date, are you not going to take the time to prepare yourself and put the best version of you out there? Of course you are! Because when your date sees you for the first time, you want to provide them with a clean, well-kept image before you even open your mouth.

 

Effectively communicating your services on a website goes beyond copy, which we’ll get to momentarily. Just like how you can communicate without saying a word, simply based on your appearance, mannerisms, and demeanor, you can do the same on a website through its design, layout, accessibility and quality.

 

Take pride in your website! After all, this is a representation of who you are. Ensure the photographs are colorful, original, and eye-catching. If you’re going for more of a sleeker, modern design, then be consistent. If you’re relying on neutral colors from the beginning, stay the course the entire website.

 

Accessibility, for both desktop and mobile, is perhaps the most notable and necessary website feature, in terms of the digital era we live in now. There is no better way to instantly lose website visitors than if your website is confusing, devoid of direction, and lacking key info.

 

Let’s step into the real world for a second again. Place yourself at the front of a large department store with a need to find a specific item. You enter and look up for the placards hanging from the ceiling to indicate which aisle has which items. They’re not there. Immediately your shopping experience is negative.

 

 

So you go through each and every aisle. You’d ask for help, but there are no employees in sight to reach out to. After awhile, you finally find your item. Now it’s checkout time. Oh, what’s that? You can’t even find the registers. Forget this. It’s too frustrating, so you just find somewhere else that’s easier to navigate.

 

Now apply the same principles to a website. You want something from a marketing agency—let’s say lead generation help—and you enter the website hoping to find if they can help. Instead, you can’t find anything. There’s information in there about lead generation, but you just can’t find it.

 

Maybe you can find someone to help? While it would be nice to have a ‘Live Chat’ or ‘Contact Us’ option, those, too, are nowhere in sight. After awhile, you get frustrated and leave to find a marketing agency that can actually cater to your needs.

 

Had your website been organized, helpful, easily navigable, and accessible, you wouldn’t have lost that potential client. This is the first step people are taking in this sort of territory and having them meet an inaccessible, confusing website is the worst possible scenario.

 

Make everything as clear as possible. In laymen’s terms, idiot-proof it. Ensure everything is right where it needs to be found and can easily be accessed. Place your contact information right at the top of your page so it’s the first thing they see. Have a search box available. Implement a live chat that pops up at the bottom of the screen. Give visitors a clear call-to-action button.

 

However you design it, just keep it simple and ensure it’s organized. The same goes for mobile, where “over 38% of web traffic now comes from”. That percentage may not seem like much, but it would be foolish to alienate four out of every ten visitors to your page because you’re not mobile optimized.

 

Once you have your layout setup and organized, you can begin the fun, and my favorite, part: Writing the copy.

 

Revisit what I said in the first paragraph: “You have less than 10 seconds to impress and engage a new visitor to your website.”

 

That quote applies to copy as much as it does your layout. You need to address what your business specializes in and it needs to be done in a dynamic way that’s going to get attention. Of course, this goes back to your layout. Copy can be stimulating, but layouts are the first thing people are going to notice.

 

Take for example our very own One Twelfth website. We capture the attention of our visitors immediately. The copy we place is concise, but it’s on a slideshow featuring several dynamic, interesting images that shifts every few seconds to the next one.

 

It’s quick. It’s efficient. It’s simple. You don’t want a wall of words as the first thing your visitors see. Making a creative, striking layout with branding and a basic readout of what your business serves does pass the test. However, you always want to offer your reader something that’s really going to capture their attention like, for instance, a slideshow.

 

Your website’s copy needs to consist of everything you can do in the most efficient way possible. But before even writing that copy, first create an outline and a flow that will effectively demonstrate your company’s services. Nail down all the pages you’ll be creating and what each will consist of, as well as which you think are the most important to your reader.

 

In the same way a retail business will showcase its best sellers at the top of its page, an agency can put its top services at the highest pedestal.

 

You want to separate yourself from the pack and there’s no better way to do this than through your copy. This is the opportunity to inject personality into your brand. That means avoiding common buzzwords you’d expect every other brand in your industry would use. It doesn’t mean to avoid them altogether, just not to harp on them continually.

 

Instead, have fun with it! Unless your brand is already well established and known, you have to find a way to stand out to convince clients to hire you. Here’s an explanation on how it works:

 

“People trust brands they know. If the voice of your website copy is bland, boring or cold you’re missing out on that magic connection. Use your personality to build that connection and draw people into what you’re talking about.”

 

That first point really rings true. It’s far more likely if you provide potential clients with transparency, as opposed to relying on the crutch of sterile information and cliché buzzwords, that you’re going to build a mini-relationship right then and there.

 

Plus, it gets them a little more intrigued. Again, you’re doing everything you can to stand out while still maintaining professionalism. You need to be informative and professional, but also instilling that unique personality only you can provide.

 

Pull back the curtain a little bit for visitors to see just who they’re dealing with. Exhibit how cohesive of a team you are by displaying pictures of your team taking part in after work activities; showcase any charitable work you’ve done; show life inside the office.

 

Transparency has become huge in today’s social media age. People now more than ever want to see who they could be potentially working with, simply because they know you can provide that.

 

Once it’s all said and done, give it time to see how well it performs. Use tools like heat maps to see where people are clicking and where they’re scrolling. That way you can make adjustments to your page to optimize it. You’d be surprised just how simple adding a CTA button can increase conversions. We’ve made numerous observations at our agency, when checking on a client’s website, where visitors click around on a certain space thinking it’ll redirect them to another page, only to leave disappointed.

 

And if you need any help doing this, I know of a certain marketing agency that specializes in website copy and design. Maybe you’ve heard of them.


Generate More Sales and Acquire More Leads with Programmatic Advertising

Creating a narrower, personalized buying experience for online shoppers has become one of the most imperative methods to securing conversions and generating leads in a campaign.

 

There are simply too many voices speaking at the same time to make a lasting impression on someone. Social media platforms are inundating users with ads that are making the overall online experience less appealing.

 

Spam emails may be on the decline, but that hasn't stopped advertisers from encroaching platforms in new ways; whether it's a promoted tweet on your Twitter stream, a sponsored ad on your Facebook timeline, or an unskippable 30-second ad on the YouTube video you want to watch.

 

So rather than painting potential targets with a broad stroke, the idea now is to narrow the audience to those most receptive and likely to buy. This approach limits dilution of the advertisement, costs less money, wastes less resources, and displays your advertisement to audience members that may actually purchase.

 

This is where programmatic advertising steps in, and why it's become so popular among marketers:

 

"Programmatic is all about delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time. It will give your creative team the data they need to improve branding message and make them more personally relevant. Using audience, contextual and environmental signals, you can create highly impactful dynamic creative that performs to each audience segment."

 

As any advertiser knows by now, "successful advertising all comes down to how well you know your customers -- not guessing or assuming their behaviors, activities, or intent. In the telecommunications industry, for example, the use of CRM data resulted in online campaigns that were 39 times more effective, according to Neustar."

 

The art of storytelling and investing in perfecting the buyer's journey and experience is becoming a consensus view:

 

"The general theme coming from thought leaders throughout the marketplace is to build a better experience for the consumer through great content and creative, innovative advertising. The power dynamic has shifted in consumers' favor, which means that marketers and advertisers will only engage target audiences and generate new business if they stop talking at audiences and start creating relationships with them instead."

 

As we'll soon learn, there are plenty of resources available for marketers to gain a deeper understanding of their audience, thanks in part to programmatic ad buying's capabilities.

 

Programmatic ad buying is at the forefront of this movement, and growing in popularity, because it "allows brands to pinpoint the audiences that they want to reach. This ensures they deliver the perfect message, in the perfect location, at the perfect time."

 

This is the most effective approach to targeting while still optimizing. Here's the process and why you'll soon see how it became so popular:

 

"Programmatic systems can analyze online profiles to determine if the potential customer is the decision maker, and deliver ads and content that can be customized for each step of the buying process. This help to ensure that decision makers see the ads or content, and it allows companies to guide potential buyers through the buying process."

 

But how does it do it?

 

"When a potential customer reads a white paper, visits a company's website, views a webinar, or reads a blog article; the programmatic system detects the behavior and display ads and content that are relevant to the potential customer. This can expand a company's existing lead base, generate interest, and establishes a company's authority on the subject."

 

There is no guessing or assuming. What you will possess, as a result of the metrics provided by programmatic, will be indicative stats of what works and what doesn't. Although skepticism in data-driven marketing spiked with Facebook's overestimations, it certainly hasn't deterred marketers from realizing numbers reliance is the future:

 

"The recent industry-wide drive toward data-driven marketing has set the stage for a creative renaissance, one rooted in and informed by a deeper, more precise foundation of consumer profiling facilitated by technology.

 

We now have the ability to apply data to discern the actual moment that people are planning vacations so we can serve them relevant and compelling messages about beach clothing, or to know when they are researching cars to serve them auto ads."

 

Is this not the overall endgame with any approach to marketing? The greatest challenge and responsibility of marketers is perspective; putting yourself in the shoes of your audience and finding out how they get from point A (wanting to buy something) to point B (buying that something from you).

 

Advertisers, more prominently before digital marketing's advent but even still practicing it to this day, employed every method you can think of to get a better idea of their audience's behavior and tendencies. Focus groups, phone and in-person surveys, and man-on-the-street interviews were all employed. But this only represented a small sample size, based mainly on anecdotal accounts.

 

Now you can narrow your audience and also collect vital info for future marketing efforts. This certainly isn't as personal as talking to someone one-on-one, but it is far less time-consuming and more resources can be devoted to the creative side of things:

 

"Customer data, also referred to as first-party data, paints a valuable picture and enables SMBs with the ability to draw meaningful conclusions about consumers from multiple channels....

 

Once data is collected, marketers are now able to unlock the full potential of their first-party data by uploading offline data (such as audience segments in a CRM system) to the online environment -- a process called data onboarding or CRM matching. Once there, it can be matched with digital data and activated for a variety of purposes within a Data Management Platform."

 

Through a lead generation campaign, you can have "names, addresses, emails, lifecycle stages, demographics, purchase histories, and even triggers of your existing customers and most qualified leads."

 

These are the keys to generating leads and sales. Once you have the metrics at your disposal, you can adjust your creative strategy to their preferences.

 

The entire process is fluid, as well. If you were to create an ad that wasn't performing well, "programmatic marketing enables the company to make changes to campaigns in real-time without extra expenditures. This means that companies can further refine their campaigns to change which content or ads are displayed to different target markets during the buying process, without starting new campaigns from scratch."

 

It shouldn't be a surprise then that "According to eMarketer, 83% of all ad buying activity will be programmatic by 2017."

 

One of the more effective, and most popular, personalization techniques is remarketing. Not every interested buyer is going to pull the trigger upon first glance of your website. They might want to buy something, but for any bevy of reasons they want to delay it. As an example, I have three items sitting in my Amazon cart. This doesn't mean I don't want the products. It just means now is not the right time.

 

Rather than rely on the user to make their way back to close the sale, you send hints in the form of retargeting ads. In the case of Amazon, it's not uncommon to see ads on the side of my Facebook of those very same items in my cart. If you had recently looked into flight information to a specific city, you'd likely find ads relating to hotels and popular destinations around that city.

 

 

It all leads back to one constant: You have to know your audience if you want to make sales and generate leads. And programmatic marketing is especially adept at this.


How Hotjar Provides Landing Page Insights Metrics Can’t

Understanding audience tendencies is imperative to facilitating success, no matter the cause.

 

In digital marketing terms, it is especially important when creating a landing page or website that serves your audience. It must create enough convenience that the user easily finds everything they were looking for.

 

As important as metrics are, they can only tell us so much. Sure they can tell us how many times a button was pushed, but can it show us the user’s behavior beforehand? Can it show us where they had to scroll to find it? How far down they are scrolling to find what they need before giving up?

 

Hotjar, which considers itself “a new and easy way to truly understand your web and mobile site visitors”, specializes and excels in measuring this type of audience behavior.

 

Our team of analytical experts heavily utilize two key features to improve landing pages and websites:

 

  • Heatmaps
    • “Understand what users want, care about and interact with on your site by visually representing their clicks, taps and scrolling behavior

 

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  • Recordings
    • Identify usability issues by watching recordings of real visitors on your site as the click, tap, move their cursor, type and navigate across pages

 

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These features provide us with the advantage of seeing exactly how our audience behaves on a specific website we are monitoring.

 

When finding out just how much it helps, I asked Emira Oliveros, One Twelfth Performance Ninja (her words, not mine), to provide a specific example.

 

I got two.

 

She regaled me in a pair of success stories that centered on a recently constructed website for a new client; one about the placement of a ‘Learn More’ button, the other about the lack thereof.

 

The subscription service being offered on the website wasn’t receiving as many clicks as it should have. A lot of visitors were also leaving way too early, especially on mobile.

 

When she looked at the mobile website on Hotjar, she noticed the ‘Learn More’ button was well below the fold. With the main CTA being so low on the mobile site, users gave up and left. Considering the importance of mobile optimization, the inefficient design was practically turning away conversions.

 

It wasn’t until we recommended placing the button higher that subscriptions via mobile began to pour in. Users also stayed on the site longer.

 

The other case is something we’ve all dealt with at one point. You go to a website, see the product information on the top image, and assume this is where you click to access the products.

 

Instead, users were met with a dead end. The image wasn’t clickable, no matter how many times the user clicked. We were able to see this thanks to the Recordings feature, which allowed us to see sporadic clicking from numerous users on the website’s main image.

 

Our recommendation was to create a ‘Learn More’ button overlying the main image that directs users where exactly to click. Suddenly, the random clicking around stopped and memberships started to roll in.

 

The main learning was to include as much relevant info and a direct CTA above the fold that would require little scrolling.

 

While you who made the page may understand where everything is, you have to put yourself in the shoes of your audience and assume they know nothing. Do everything you can to help them out by placing all the key info and CTA’s they need to convert right in front of them.

 

People want everything provided to them instantaneously. Make it as convenient as possible to ensure as little critical thought is necessary and that they don’t need to go on a scavenger hunt.

 

Where Hotjar really came through was the fact that this was a new business that was only just starting to gain traction. Sample sizes were going to be too small to appreciate a collective outlook, so we had to take an individualized approach.

 

Our client being a new business actually helped our cause because it allowed us to set the foundation for our audience’s behavior. Since we were able to understand where people clicked and what drove them away, it set a precedent for the future of this website and any other pages that may follow.

 

Measurement tools like Hotjar stand out because they offer marketers a different take on indicating marketing success. It should be in the best interest of every marketing professional to utilize every resource necessary. Hotjar obviously won't help you figure out the best strategies for your website, but it can help you create a fully optimized, easily navigable website.

 

Have you ever used Hotjar? Leave a comment on our Facebook and let us know what you thought of it!