Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Digital Retail

No, this is not about ecommerce. I know the title could be a bit misleading, hence I wanted to clarify upfront that I am not going to write about ecommerce.

How many times we return from shopping and realize that you forgot to buy something or realize that you have run out of that favorite shampoo which you did not put in your shopping list. Many a time, I wish the aisles in the store would magically rearrange and I could straight away find what I need without reaching out to a store assistant. These were the problems that I was trying to solve when I came about this flash on a digitally enhanced store assistant on my mobile device.

The concept is the user (someone like me) creates a shopping list in a retailer website, mobile site gets synchronized on the app (if not already entered using the app). When the user walks into the store, the ibeacon identifies the user and links the app to the store planogram. The Augmented reality enabled app then highlights the exact spots in the store where the products that the user is interested in by overlaying highlights using the store background. It also creates the shortest pathway to complete the shopping faster. Enroute the shopping path, there are opportunities for the retailer to highlight the most relevant offers that the user is most likely to be interested in, and highlighted products that the user typically buys but did not have on the list (as a reminder). The different product listing could be color coded differently, for example the items on the shopping list – red, promotions and offers – amber, and the reminder (personalized recommendations) in green, etc.

This augmented reality app digitally enhances the user’s physical shopping experience. Though there are already apps that use augmented reality to highlight offers and products, the concept of using augmented reality to personalize the shopping route and experience of the user is what I would like to propagate.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Taming the ever moving marketing target

There was an interesting question rather a challenge that I came across recently, well I guess it has been a challenge for a long time, however, this was the first time I heard the challenge articulated so well. The challenge was “How will you programmatically improve marketing while continuously capturing and learning from the iterations”. Well in a way how to focus and again refocus as a team on an ever moving target.
Well the task of customer engagement is an interesting conundrum, because everything is dynamic about it. The customers are growing in their lives from being a student to a bread winner, from living in a downtown apartment to moving out to the suburbs, driving a motorbike to a sedan. They are moving to different cities, states or perhaps even countries. Their consumption of media is changing faster than we realize. My dad read the same newspaper his entire adult life; I switched from watching news on the television to the internet and now the mobile device; And how my kinds perceive and consume media is completely different.
Then again our brands are constantly evolving as well, IBM went from being calculators & mainframe computers to software & consulting services, Apple from a computer to a mobile device, while some are not so drastically as the Xerox, IBM and the Apples' of the world, but nevertheless evolving to a greater or lesser degree because of market conditions, social pressure, acquisitions, mergers, or perhaps even plain boredom.
I don’t think I need to talk separately about technology which is evolving atleast on a daily basis if not quicker. Well I guess I have driven home the message that our target of customer engagement is ever changing.
Now, if you focus internally, everyone realizes that the resources who work on the brand and marketing teams are also changing constantly. I will not even go into the topic of the multiple restructures/ realignment each organization/ team goes through. Then how do we keep the marketing campaigns and brand positioning relevant in the minds of the customer.
The topic of continuous iteration and customer engagement improvement could be handled in two important ways. Firstly enable technology to record the finer interactions and iterations that they do with the customer communication captured at a detailed iteration level as well as at a high level learning from a bunch of tactical campaigns/ marketing initiatives. There are knowledge management tools and ticketing tools when leveraged by the marketing teams with right training and governance could facilitate efficient record keeping. Secondly develop process and the discipline of recording these  abstract findings and quips that the teams learn through the multitude interactions with the customer engagement improvement exercise which could be by the way of campaigns, AB/ MVT tests, customer experience management tools, data analytics report findings, qualitative research findings.
Enterprises could derive immense value by just following the above two in keeping the continuity in our learning about our customers and brands. The next level would be to mine this knowledge base using indexing/ scoring mechanisms to develop algorithms based on text mining to pull right tip/ campaign learning before launching a new one or even have predictive capabilities that alerts when a campaign needs to launched or applications that use the database to spit out possible media mix models or campaign ideas. Well all this may sound futuristic and daunting, but everything starts small before it gains momentum. The time is right to plant this seed.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Innovation Showcase - "Tracking in PDF"

 Recently, I had the good fortune to present on an innovative solution that was developed by some *great minds part of the competency I belong to. I presented the solution at the “Partner innovation showcase 2015” in the annual Adobe Summit held in Salt lake City, March 9th 2015. This solution was on how we could track customer behavior on PDF, while click stream tracking and analytics based on the same has been a main stream analytics solution, till now no one ventured in the realm of “in-PDF” tracking.

“In-PDF tracking” can have multiple use cases especially for B2B companies that provide rich content to their site visitors in terms of white paper downloads. We all know that it is common practice for these companies to track their prospect behavior on how many times they visit the site/ app from which device and do they then download a whitepaper or webinar, etc. Imagine, if we could stitch this with how many times the prospect opens the whitepaper, the interaction on the white paper like filling in a form or forwarding it to friend, etc. Now this insight is possible if the user interacts with the pdf while they are online.

 Well the solution is not limited to B2B sites, it can very well translate to Medical/ Pharma sites that provide additional information on the product/ drug/ prescription to health care professionals or even patients by PDF downloads. An analysis to validate if these additional documents are put to effective use or not, can save huge costs to these companies. Further there are several financial companies that require users to download forms as pdf and then send it over by post after duly signing them. This would directly relate to the revenue potential for the financial companies.

One big area for which this solution was originally developed was in the field of online coupon printing business. I did not know that this online couponing is such a huge business giving out *329 billion coupons in 2013 alone and out of this close to 2.9 billion coupons were redeemed. This apparently resulted in savings worth 3.7 billion dollars to the consumers. This was a huge revelation for me, as I was not aware that the simple coupon that I throw away very often is such large industry both as a business as well as impactful marketing tool. The below cartoon strip puts the emotions associated with coupons in a light yet powerful manner.

 The website tracking is usually done using HTTPGET method, the solution that was developed completely flipped this over and derived the data and information from the PDF documents using the HTTPPOST method. The fact that we can stitch the visitor sessions using the cross device visitor identification methodology, we were able to seamlessly track the visitor behavior across the browser and the pdf irrespective of, whether the pdf was opened using the browser or the desktop application.

Further the possibility of using this technique to track other applications like pdf has opened a whole new world of opportunities and possibilities for the digital marketer.

* Kamal Chembath
*  Courtesy: inmar 2014 Coupon Trends

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Winning the Checkout Race

Winning the Checkout race

In the final and penultimate leg on the relay to conversion, that is after the prospective customer added the product to basket and gets into the checkout process is the most critical step that could very often make or break the game. As with any sport your end game is the clincher and any mistake that you make here could make a huge difference between winning and losing. Hence unlike the opening and middle game the clincher here is not doing something dramatic or sensational but to avoid making mistakes and retain the momentum gathered in the first part of the game and see it to the finish lane.

If we were to draw a parallel to the last lap of the 4 x 400m relay, you need to cover 4 important legs of 100m each - view & manage cart, shipping, payment and order confirmation. The quicker we run through the 4 legs the quicker to finish line and winning the race. Let’s take each step and identify what could potentially go wrong and how we could avoid that and use data/ analytics to facilitate winning.

Source: Forrester May 2010 ‘Understanding Shopping Cart Abandonment’. Note respondents were able to give multiple answers

Add to cart:

This is the first step, which differentiates the casual browser from a serious one. From the moment a visitor adds products to the cart it is important for the brand to steward the visitor to the finish line. We could analyze customer behavior and profile by segmenting those who have added items to basket to those who have not, what is their demographic make-up and visit behavior on the website (how many times they visit in a week, which days of the week they visit, through which referrers, browsers, devices, etc.). Further segment the audience who add products into the cart and the time they took for the same. Did they have 1-2 visits, 3-5 visits, 5-10 visits or 10+ visits before they started adding products into the cart and how it differs by the category that they are shopping and the value of the items added to the cart?

With this analysis we could identify which audience segment to go after and how to prod them to add products to the basket.  For future analysis also have a segmentation ready of visitors who add to basket and never purchase vs. customers who purchase what are factors that sets them apart. Identify is a technical limitation that causing the visitors to quit or page rendering/ application functionality in a certain browser, operating system, device type, etc. More analysis on patterns that determine if customers abandon a particular product category or product group more often than others, value of the cart when it is abandoned and delivery options displayed as well to optimize further.

If you are a multichannel retailer you could also validate of all the customers who abandon their cart, how many buy these products in store and within what period of time. Can this be facilitated by use of coupons to those who abandon the cart to purchase them in store with the value of the shipping cost provided as the coupon value.

Shipping Page:

When the visitor moves from Add to cart to the shipping page it is the next big leap of faith, especially if the shipping cost is not provided to them early on in the process. For any ecommerce site the shipping page is the make or break point, if the shipping cost or options provided is not sufficient customers are not motivated to complete the transaction. This is the point when the customer is going to evaluate how much longer they are willing to wait for the product (they have the option of going to the store and purchasing it for immediate gratification) and the price that they are willing to pay for the delivery. Items in the cart based on the value, size and functionality determines the decision. Analysis on the shipping cost elasticity for different categories through testing will help the brand determine the ideal shipping cost. Further testing on shipping cost barriers could be done using geography and other customer segmentation based on loyalty and lifestyle segmentation.

Obviously providing a free delivery/ shipping option is going to increase conversion immediately, however most ecommerce vendors’ profit margin is linked to the shipping cost. The below provided infographic, clearly calls out shipping cost as the lynch-pin to conversion.

Payment Page:

This is one critical step when the frivolous user drops out as they do not want to give out the credit card information as well as an important step to reassure and make the customer give out the payment information.

At this step analysis such as, what is most often used mode of payment, what are reasons for the same, etc., along with dimensions such geography, time of the year and anonymous vs signed in path could add more insight. We could do tests and optimize the page base on, does security sign play a critical role in ensuring that customer leave their credit card information there. What are the different verification mechanism built in this page and how it affects load times on different browsers, browser versions, operating systems, etc.

Order Review and confirmation:

This is the ultimate clincher. This page should carry as little distraction to the customer as possible at the same time provide options to edit items and quantity in the cart (preferably within the same page). The conversion rate at this step should be close to 85% - 95% and those who drop off could be potential audience for remarketing. Use qualitative information to check why they drop off at this last step to give more insight and fix the issues.

Some ecommerce retailers choose to show the price or additional price like tax, shipping cost, etc at this stage, in that case the conversion rate will go down dramatically. It is better to show the cost upfront if the increase in price due to these additional unexpected charges is much higher. If the price increase is only marginal then dip in conversion is likely to be low.

And once the order has been placed it is important to show and reassure the customer that the order has been placed and they can expect to receive it on a certain date. Use this page to also experiment loyalty building by promoting loyalty programs, social media pages and take them back to the home page.

In short, the checkout process is the most critical step in the conversion funnel and each step needs to be scrutinized and the process fine-tuned with a continuous improvement and optimization program.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

How much was the visit worth?

In retail there are a few core KPIs such as Inventory turnover ratio, Sales per square foot, average spend per footfall, etc. From the store manger, merchandiser and the marketing personnel's point of view it the average spend per customer footfall that explains if the store is attracting the right target audience and after they have made the visit to the store the customer has found the product that he/she is looking for, it is priced right and it has inspired or motivated the customer to part with the money and take the product home.

Technology has not fundamentally changed the essentials; we still need to eat, clothe and shelter ourselves. How we do that and the other needs of safety, education, comfort, etc has gone through revolutionary changes.

In my experience working in ecommerce websites , I find that this one KPI of Revenue per Visit sums up all the other KPIs very well and provides everyone with an actionable metric. It quintessentially measure the money that the website makes every time a customer enters your ecommerce store. Then add further dimensions such as

  • Revenue per visit based on frequency of visit of the customer
  • Revenue per visit split by demographic data such as age, region, etc
  • Revenue per visit by first referrer visit, by last referrer, all 28 day referrer visits
  • By product category
  • By visitor loyalty
  • By Devices ( like smart phones, tablets, etc.)
  • Revenue per visit by marketing channels/ landing pages
  • Revenue per visit with relation to customer satisfaction rating scores 

The product team looks at the revenue per visit on the page and combines it with page view bounce rate, page view conversion report and in relation with the product's importance in portfolio decide on whether the product is meeting it's expectation or not.

Revenue per visit in view with the competitor price index/ position gives us what the pricing team need to do to make the product/ product category more competitive and compelling for the customers.

The promotions team looks at the uplift in revenue per visit to the cost incurred on promotions.

The merchandising team can optimize based on the positive or negative change in this metric on the performance of the new zones/ pages they have created.

Above all to the top management it provides in a snapshot the health of the business and with every footfall the customer makes to the website or ecommerce store, what was the bottom line or top line impact. In short what is the worth of every visit the customer makes to the website through their desktop, iPad, smart phone, online kiosks, smart TV or any other device that is going to enter the market and how much he transacts with the company/ brand.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Six Dimensions of Analysis for a Web Based Business

Most of us are familiar with web analytics thanks to great proponents of this trade, who have really made it large and got web analytics the due credit and recognition it deserves. However as web analysts most of us stop with click stream and do not look beyond that. Today I would like to talk about the other facets of analytics for a web based business which are equally important and would help us as marketer to solve the Rubik.

The First Dimension:

Is off course is what all of us are familiar with the “Click Stream Analysis”, which looks at visitor and customer behaviour on the website. We analyse the various referrers, frequency of visits, number of pages viewed, time spent on the website and more importantly how many converted into sales or leads or any other goals that we have set as success criterion. Another blog on web analytics KPIs which I have written in the past delves in this area.

The Second Plane:

Business/ Trade analysis: This analysis is surely being carried out perhaps in a separate department within your organisation or by business analysts/ consultants who keep the top management updated with regard to the health of the business. The Finance team also carries out this analysis and tracks growth in terms of sales, margin, cost and profit. In case of a business that is done on the web, it is important for the web analyst to understand the sales driven by the website, the profits made from different offering, parameters of growth and other such business KPIs.

To elaborate on the same for an ecommerce website we would look at the year on year/ week on week and other periods of comparison for sales, orders, average order value and growth on these parameters. We would look at factors contributing to growth, what percentage of it is from underlying customers and how much is from new acquisitions. Further also we need to look at operational metrics such as availability, speed and accuracy of delivery, customer complaints, etc. and macro economic factors like inflation, customer spending index, customer confidence measures, etc.

The Third Angle:

The most important element in the entire piece is the customers. How well do we know them? Let’s start with demographics. Who are these customers are they, young or old, male or female, where do they live, what is their educational, cultural, social background, how affluent are they, etc. We also need to look at data on how often customers buy from us, how much they spend and what products/ services they bought. This data is mostly available in our customer databases, which we use to target and market using email or even direct mail. We need to also research and understand what drives these customers, what their motivations to buy from us are and when they leave to our competitors why do they leave. This is usually data that we could get by qualitative research.

Fourth Estate:

Is all about competitors. What is our price and promotions position with regard to competition. We have at our disposal competition intelligence tools. These tools are at many levels, if you only need to know what is your visitor market share and market position, tools such as Alexa and Hitwise can help. However if you want to scrape your website or competition website to compare products, price and promotion information then there are service providers like eClerx, profitero and Netvide. These tools provide data to then build a basket of comparative products and the price index of our competitors with ours. This is very powerful as right price is increasingly becoming more important (especially in the online medium, where comparison is so easy) as the determinant of sale/ conversion.

Fifth Slant:

The marketing effectiveness study is our fifth component. This area of analytics is also a mature one as online advertising and targeting has been around and studied for a long time. There are tools like double click, Unica, etc that measure the return on investment of the marketing spend. They also are so advanced that they manage the end to end process of administer/ target the audience and measure the impact. The most popular online advertising channels are search engine marketing, email marketing, affiliate and online media (such as banners and links). Recent times we have more subtle marketing that has caught the interest of marketers is the social media marketing. You can read more on social media marketing in this blog - Social Media.

The Final Piece:

The final piece to the jigsaw puzzle is the new kid on the block – fraud analytics. Big ecommerce websites are easy targets for fraudsters. Analysis in this area involves identifying patterns of fraud attacks and to build rules to prevent them when they hit the website. This could help us to save not only losing revenue but more importantly reputation as well.

Puzzle Solved:

When we look and comprehend all this data impacting and contributing to the business individually as well as in a combination that is when we could draw more meaningful insight. This would give us a complete picture of how we could improve and optimise the business for better reach, profits, revenue and customer satisfaction.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Social Media is no "Passing Fad"

Social Media is here to stay. A year or so back it was widely speculated that “Social Media” (SM) is a fad and will soon evolve or vanish. However, no one can deny that SM is here to stay and perhaps even revolutionize the way we buy, sell, stay connected, interact and also evolve socially.

Just as the Internet revolutionized the world in the last decade of the 20th century, Social Media and Social Media Marketing (SMM) are in the process of doing the same. Just as with the advent of Internet a whole lot of ancillary industries evolved and are flourishing, the Social Media is nurturing quite a few industries already.

Any powerful invention will find its own use is so true, because social media is traversed all the boundaries that it was perceived to be built with. It is now a truly creative medium just like a canvas or cinema, which you can use to tell any story you want.

Social Media Marketing is of more interest to me as a marketer. Hence I will dwell more into SMM than SM in this blog. I would like to start with the most important phrase in any manager’s vocabulary – “What cannot be measured, cannot be managed”. And yes, SMM can be measured. There are various free as well as paid tools that are available with which you could manage your SM activities.

With the knowledge of we can track what is on SM and hence optimize our spend and increase our returns, let us now venture into how we could be associated and grow our business through SMM. The only prerequisite to be a good marketer in SM is you got to be imaginative and know your fundamentals well.

The Marketer has to follow the customer, if the customer is on the Moon we better be there and so be it for SM. The advantages that we have with SM are that the customer can double up as the marketer as well and when it comes from the horse’s mouth, the recommendation is worth much more. It is as close to as one can get as the product being recommended by a friend or a close associate/ family member and hence it is powerful and we cannot afford to ignore or let it grow organically. As marketers it is our responsibility to seed, grow and nurture these social relationships and what it can do for us and vice versa.

One Size Doesn’t fit all
SMM is by far the most creative as well as complex media that I have come across so far. But it is heartening to see so many creative marketers out there who are redefining many set principles and notions. SMM straddles from being a tactical tool to sell products and services and raise awareness to a tool that can facilitate research and understanding of the market place, target audience preference, etc to being a strategic tool that could facilitate or change the business.

The Different uses that SMM could be put to:

Crisis Management:

Alerts are set to highlight when there is a negative experience shared by consumers/ visitors in a forum or blog to tackle it by providing justification and the necessary corrective action we use it as a crisis management tool.

Selling Channel:
This aspect of SMM is widely and creatively used by many companies. Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are the best resources in this area. Twitter was even used by the present American President Barack Obama in his campaign, need we say very successfully. Youtube is used by different technology manufacturers to promote product acceptance and demos. Facebook has innumerable success stories, please check Facebook marketing success stories

Brand Insight:
It can provide brand insight which is better than any market research. To explain in simple terms - Say for example you are Macdonald and when you find that your customers blogs or on discussion forums use keywords like tasty, delicious, wholesome and in contrast uses keywords like green, healthy snack, low calorie etc to talk about your competitor – Subway. It helps you macdonalds to form associations that your brand has in the minds of the customer.

Trend Insight:

Another area where SM can really benefit marketers is in getting a quick read on a trend. This is typically one of the hardest things to pick up using standard surveys. But social media gives you the opportunity to quickly scan millions of blog posts to see if there are themes emerging. For example look at this chart from Google trends where the red line indicates weight loss and the blue one MacDonald, see the occurrences when there is a spike in weight loss there is a drop in McDonalds. This would indicate an emerging trend to McDonalds, if the red line was steadily going up, it would be a cause of worry to McDonalds and they would react by introducing a calorie free range to their menu.

Consumer Insight:
Social media can help you to know your consumers better. (1) You could track all the topics/ keywords that are relevant to your brand and then evaluate the tempo of the conversations that are accompanied with these topics/ keywords. And then understand who are the contributors or influencers to these conversations online and then profile them (potential customers) and finally target them. Or (2) We identify a group of our customers/ potential customers and then track their behaviour online, which websites they frequent, how much they contribute/ influence their groups, what is their psychographic profile, interests, affiliations, etc.

Hence SMM is not just another channel that we could use to sell our products and services. But it could facilitate a lot more strategic marketing initiatives and helps to build a powerful brand for the new age.