6 Best Practices for Omnichannel Marketers

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It wasn’t too long ago that the consumer in the market for new home exercise equipment would visit her local department or sporting goods store to test out the options and compare the prices. Maybe she would buy a new treadmill on the spot, or perhaps she would first talk to friends for recommendations, or read some reviews in a magazine like Consumer Reports. Once convinced of the right make, model, and price, she would pull out her credit card or checkbook and make a purchase.

Fast-forward to 2015, where the buying landscape couldn’t be more different. Thanks to the Internet as a whole, social media, online reviews, the proliferation of online retailers, and the growth of web-based behemoths like Amazon, the same consumer takes a decidedly different approach when buying exercise equipment (or buying anything for that matter). Add laptops, mobile devices, and smartphones to the mix and you create a selling environment that includes everything from bricks-and-mortar sales to website purchases to smart TV shopping.

In this “omnichannel marketing” playground, companies have to balance a growing number of customer touchpoints with the need to deliver a consistent and seamless experience across those various channels. Here are six essential practices that will help marketers achieve this goal:

1. Focus on delivering a unified experience. It sounds simple enough in theory, but maintaining consistency across various shopping channels is an ongoing challenge for today’s omnichannel marketers. To overcome this challenge, take a holistic viewpoint on all marketing, advertising, sales, and even product return activities. The overarching goal should be for the customer to feel like she’s shopping at the same store and being treated the same way – whether it’s online or offline. In some cases, this may mean taking the focus off individual channel performance (i.e., different revenue goals and/or reporting mechanisms) and structuring the organization in a cohesive and holistic manner.

2. Adopt integrated strategies across all channels. For best results, omnichannel marketers need to adopt integrated strategies across their various advertising channels (TV, online, print, etc.) and then use multivariate testing (i.e., a technique for testing a hypothesis in which multiple variables are modified) to determine landing page conversions, display ad effectiveness, and other important measurements. Look at how the consumer engages with your brand across all platforms, and then use that information to draw insights into response frequency, buying preferences, and transactions.

3. Put your customers at the center of your omnichannel strategy. As you break down any organizational silos mentioned in principle #1 above, think about putting your customer at the center of your omnichannel approach. Understand that social media and mobile shopping aren’t going away, and that consumers expect, if not demand, to be able to use these tools to research product options, explore opportunities, and make their ultimate buying decisions (i.e., reading product reviews on their smartphones while they’re standing in the retail store aisle, for example). Bottom line: Put as much information as possible at your customers’ fingertips.

4. Make each piece of the consumer’s experience consistent and complementary. In The Definition of Omni-Channel Marketing – Plus 7 Tips ,marketing automation provider Marketo says that today’s omnichannel marketers need to provide a seamless experience, regardless of channel or device. “Consumers can now engage with a company in a physical store, on an online website or mobile app, through a catalog, or through social media,” according to Marketo. “They can access products and services by calling a company on the phone, by using an app on their mobile smartphone, or with a tablet, a laptop, or a desktop computer. Each piece of the consumer’s experience should be consistent and complementary.”

5. Brace yourself for a lot of testing and learning. One of the biggest mistakes companies make in the omnichannel space is believing they’re going to find the magic formula on the first or second attempt. This clearly isn’t the case. In fact, identifying the right formula and putting it in place takes time, patience, and perseverance. And while digital media allows you to obtain results very quickly, it doesn’t necessarily prepare you for a consumer response, nor does it answer the question: How are consumers going to find our products or services?

6. Use data analytics to make the best possible omnichannel decisions. Having all of the numbers and statistics at your fingertips is one thing, but actually using the data effectively is a completely different exercise . Use the data to predict where the consumer is going to be, how he or she will be buying, and how you can reach him or her in that setting – and at the right time. Use the data to stay ahead of the curve and to not only execute on a one-time basis, but also to duplicate the data in a way that allows you to repeat the successes and avoid the mistakes.

By factoring these six essential practices into your company’s omnichannel marketing strategy, you’ll be well braced to take advantage of the benefits of omnichannel without having to allocate excessive time and energy to the task. Be patient with the progress and results, always test new techniques and selling strategies before officially launching them, and – perhaps most importantly – always keep your customers at the center of your approach. Only then will you be able to fully benefit from the very real power of omnichannel marketing.

This contributed article was written by Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO of Hawthorne Direct.

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6 Best Practices for Omnichannel Marketers

The Mythical Affiliate Manager: Why An Agency Is A Better Fit For An Online Merchant

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When a brand decides it wants to properly attack its marketing, it seeks out experts to help them do so. Sure, they may have a marketing manager in-house to oversee the marketing process but when they need heavy lifting in the form of an integrated advertising strategy that plays out across multiple media in multiple markets, they turn to an advertising agency.

It’s no different when a brand decides to enter the affiliate marketing channel.
Many merchants entering the affiliate channel believe a workable solution is to delegate all affiliate marketing responsibilities to an in-house affiliate manager and/or hook up with an affiliate network’s managed services offering. But an affiliate manager is just one person and an affiliate network is just a platform, a technology provider and not a marketing expert. Much in the same way Google Search is a platform for search engine marketing and does not offer search marketing expertise.

Neither solution is the best solution for a merchant who truly wants to maximize returns through the affiliate channel. Let’s take a look at several reasons why a merchant should consider an affiliate marketing agency for its affiliate marketing program.

Turnover – An affiliate marketing agency is stable in the sense that it is a corporation that consists of many people who work as a team to accomplish effective affiliate channel management for merchants. Yes, people come and people go but the team stays in place. While a great affiliate manager aims to do the same great things as an agency, they are just one person, not a team. And when they leave, and they will, the merchant, effectively, has to go back to square one.

On average, affiliate managers — like any one in any marketing professions — last about 14 months before they move on to their next gig. And when they do, most of the processes, procedures, practices and amassed knowledge disappear with the exiting affiliate manager.

Continuity — Akin to the aforementioned turnover, continuity, as it relates to merchant revenue, can be lost. When an affiliate manager leaves a merchant, it’s a dramatic revenue disruption. Processes, procedures, practices and knowledge leave when the affiliate manager leaves and a new affiliate manager must get up to speed of be trained.
While that is happening, the merchant’s affiliate program is not running at 100% and that can lead to a disruption in revenue. Existing relationships with affiliate networks that have been built up over time with the in-house affiliate manager walk out the door along with the exiting affiliate manager and the merchant has to build those relationships all over again.

Expertise — With an affiliate manager, you get a warm body in a chair who is lucky if they can keep up with anything more than the very mechanical aspects of managing a merchant’s affiliate channel. This is not meant as a disrespectful jab, simply an observation that an affiliate manager is one person, not a team. An agency gives you a team of experts who are adept at optimizing campaigns, customizing creative, building and maintaining relationships with affiliates and networks.

Clout — If an affiliate can have a phone call with an agency and bang out a program with 200 retailers at the same time versus have a phone call with one affiliate manager at one retailer, who do you think that affiliate is most likely to answer the call from. This is a serious stumbling block with the in-house affiliate manager model.

Agencies have clout. Just like any large entity in any segment of marketing or the broader business world, they can get stuff done because they have a much bigger reach and a larger command of the affiliate channel. An in-house affiliate manager simply lacks the bandwidth to do everything necessary to run a full blown affiliate program.

Cost Effectiveness — When a merchant hires an individual affiliate manager, they are taking a risk in that they don’t always know what they are getting. When an agency is hired, it’s a simple fee. With an in-house employee, there’s benefits, vacation, sick days, bonuses, training costs and other unforeseen costs.

In addition, agencies are on 24/7. Certainly an individual affiliate manager can work their ass off but, again, they are just one person, not a team like an agency.

And then there’s cost-related risks. Is the affiliate manager exceptional? Are they just OK? Or are they terrible and will need to be replaced in 6 months? With an agency the proof is in the portfolio and tenure of clients. Sure, an agency can suck too but there are more solid metrics on which to judge that agency.

Experience — A single affiliate manager has a limited set of experience. That just comes with being a single person. An agency brings to the table a stable of experience, an overlapping army of expertise spanning many years working with many different merchants, networks and affiliates. Yes, people can come and go from an agency just like affiliate managers come and go from merchants but an agency team can retain the collective knowledge much more effectively than an individual person. With an agency, a merchant gets continuity of experience.

What about Network Managed Services? — Yes, networks can bring scale to a merchant’s affiliate program but there are limitations. Chiefly, the merchant only has access to the affiliates in its network. That’s limiting if the merchant wants to explore all options.

And then there’s the question of strategy. If a network offers strategic advice to a merchant, it’s questionable at best. Why? Because any advice that network gives is going to involve pointing the merchants money right back at the network whether or not the network’s solution is best for the merchant. The network has no motivation to seek out and discover options outside its network that might be a better strategic direction for the merchant.

As a merchant, you want the best possible return for the affiliate channel. To get the best possible return, a merchant has to be able to get an unbiased, 50,000 foot view of the affiliate channel and, in addition, reliable, consistent expertise that will never walk out the door and sap affiliate channel revenue.

This guest article was written by Greg Shepard, CEO of affiliate agency AffiliateTraction.

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The Mythical Affiliate Manager: Why An Agency Is A Better Fit For An Online Merchant

Instagram ROI: What Your Brand Can Expect from Working with Influencers

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When we think of social media ROI, we tend to only measure value by numbers. So much attention is given to number of followers, reach, impressions and likes; but while these markers are very important, there’s a much broader story that can be told, particularly on social networks like Instagram where photos create an opportunity to paint a much bigger brand picture.

Sure, Instagram has some limitations in what campaign parameters can be measured — engagement rates act as the major metric — and this can raise the question of what a brand really gains from influencer marketing. However, Instagram, now one of the top three social networks with over 300 million users, gives brands an opportunity to tap into the influence of Instagram power users and leverage their existing follower relationships in order to reach a broad audience.

Why is this important? Well, today’s fast moving social media culture creates a challenge for brands to engage consumers on social networks as feeds are overflowing and polluted with constant updates, making it easy for your brand message to slip by unnoticed.

What some brands don’t realize is that there’s value in a deeper level of influencer marketing where results are more than just stats that can be recorded on a report- this type of brand marketing is about creating familiarity, establishing trust and building relationships.

Influencer marketing requires informed goal-setting in order to fully measure the outcome. Here are the main returns your brand can expect from working with influencers:

1. Targeted Content

Instagrammers have a following that are loyal to their interests so by choosing an influencer to evangelize your brand, your product or service has a better chance at being exposed to your target audience through content that is relevant to those who see it.

Through a variety of Instagram influencers that are well suited to your brand, your message can be spread in many visual forms, each tailored to the audience it is intended for and reaching them in a natural and unobtrusive way.

2. Brand Trust

Actions are difficult to track on Instagram however, according to a Nielsen report, trust and action often go hand in hand. The report highlights how word-of-mouth marketing spurs on actions, showing that peer recommendations are more credible than other forms of advertising.

Although consumer trust in traditional advertising is declining, people are looking to social media to influence purchase decisions. If your brand is associated with a popular Instagrammer, it gives you credibility in the community.

3. Brand Image & Community Building

When it comes to social media marketing, brands not only have to play the game, they have to play it right. When an influencer creates content for your brand, you know that it will fit the Instagram style and resonate well with the community, in turn building your brand image.

An influencer campaign can also help to grow the community of your own Instagram account, generating a following with which you share your own content and engage on a consistent basis.

A perfect example of an Instagram campaign that got it right is the Mercedes Benz “Take the Wheel” campaign. The CLA model was aimed at a new consumer group, who typically wouldn’t see Mercedes Benz as a part of their lifestyle so, to redefine their brand image and target a younger audience, Mercedes set five influential Instagrammers on the case,

The campaign ultimately earned roughly 87 million impressions and 2 million Instagram likes.

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During the month of the campaign, visits to the Mercedes website hit an all-time high, reaching a younger target audience with the lowest average visitor age in the brand’s history.

When the CLA launched two months later, it broke sales records and by working with influencers, the brand was able to closely tie itself to its brand mantra: “it’s not how far or fast you go, it’s who follows you.”

This guest article was written by Brandnew IO CEO Francis Trapp.

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Instagram ROI: What Your Brand Can Expect from Working with Influencers

Lingerie-Clad Woman Admires Her Hot Body, Pulls Tight Jeans Over Booty In Sexually Suggestive Smartphone Ad

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This! This is how you sell a smartphone! Who knew?

Yes. You get a super hot looking woman and have her prance around her apartment as if she’s about to have sex with herself. You make sure she stares longingly at herself in the mirror, bites her lower lip, runs her fingertips over her breasts and down her thigh, squeezes into a pair of tight jeans and iron her shirt in an ejaculatory orgasm of steam.

And then you have her pull her phone out of the shirt pocket she just ironed over because, well, the phone is so slim she didn’t even know it was there.

The ad was running in the UK before Britain’s Advertising Standards Agency banned it for being sexually suggestive and a breach of the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising.

Of the ruling, an ASA statement read, “The ASA noted that much of the ad focused entirely on the actor in her underwear, including scenes that featured several close-up shots that lingered over her breasts, buttocks and lips, which we considered were sexually suggestive. Additionally, this was heightened by the suggestive nature of the music and voice-over and further reinforced because the focus on the woman bore no relevance to the advertised product.”

As is always the case in these situation, the marketer, Kazam, defended the ad saying it was meant to be “tongue and cheek.” Hmm. More like drooling tongue and bootylicious ass cheek.

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Lingerie-Clad Woman Admires Her Hot Body, Pulls Tight Jeans Over Booty In Sexually Suggestive Smartphone Ad

9 Companies Rocking the Affiliate Marketing World

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Online marketers and just about everyone who plays in the space has a reputation for being a leader and an innovator. After all, back in the day, anyone who had anything to do with online marketing had to move mountains, jump through hoops and put forth Herculean effort to convince their decidedly offline bosses that anything .com was even worth talking about.

Much like those early online marketers, affiliate marketers are great innovators, inventors, over-achievers and, well, all around heroes when it comes to developing newer and better ways to sell products online.

Let’s take a look at a few innovative companies in the affiliate space who have developed new and unique methods which have improved the online retail shopping experience.

Coupon startup Honey (http://joinhoney.com/) has developed new coupon code toolbar that allows the retailer to dynamically change their offer based on where the consumer came from. And, as a Chrome extension, acts as a shopping aid to the consumer at the same moment they are considering a purchase. For example, Forever 21 can offer 20% in the next 10 minutes to consumers coming from H&M. This can help merchants “buy” market share from their competitors based on the consumer profile.

Software brand Wymsee (http://www.wymsee.com/) has created an application which can be used by costume, hair, makeup, and props departments on movie and TV show sets. These departments use the app to inventory items used in scenes, make sure there is continuity, keep track of wardrobe, etc. Now, they are taking that information and creating a real-time second screen shopping experience for consumers/viewers.

For example, as someone is watching a TV program, they will be able to pull out their phone or tablet and see that a character is wearing a specific top, which would have an affiliate link directly to that top on the brand or retailer’s website.

Wymsee has this data for almost every piece of clothing worn by every character on many major TV shows. They are still testing the exact interface, but it’s almost like Shazam for clothes instead of music.

Keep.com (https://keep.com/) is a Pinterest-like fashion site and app that allows the consumer to buy direct form the app. They recently launched an affiliate program which offers a universal cart with minimal integration for merchants. They also offer an editorial blog for their retailers.

Digidip is a network of bloggers and content creators which operates much like any other sub-affiliate network such as SkimLinks or VigLink, etc. The main difference with Digidip is that they do not accept any code or loyalty affiliates. Digidip prefers to recruit content sites. They are signing with Elle Magazine and Vogue to to help those sites optimize their links for the first time. Digidip can also parse out traffic relative to the location of the client.

Spring Shopping is a new mobile app which merchants can use to target mobile consumers. It is a universal cart much like Sporing.com. Merchants can set up shop to access the network and users follow brands much in the same way people follow other people (or brands) on Twitter and Facebook.

Wear It Her Way (http://www.wearitherway.com/) is an interesting one. It’s sole purpose to help men buy things by accessing a network of women who review a man’s shopping cart and comment on his selections. Men browse clothes and create lists from online retailers and add them to your lists to be reviewed. Then the men can submit their lists of items to female friends on Facebook friends (or a selected demographic) and get their thoughts on what clothes to buy. Men then review the recommendations and buy the clothes on their lists that are most popular with girls in your demographic. Perfect for the fashion challenged man. And the merchant who knows the man has money but can’t seem to open his wallet!

Netotiate (http://www.negotiate.com) offers added website functionality. When a customer has stopped moving their mouse or are moving their mouse towards closing the website, Netotiate re-engages with the shopper and lets the shopper set their own price for an item.

A button appears below the “Buy” button on the product page and that button is customizable by the retailer such as “Try Your Luck” or “VIP Special” or “Make Your Offer.” Then a window pops up where the customer can put in the price they are willing to pay for that product. If it’s too low, the shopper has one more chance and a red/green bar will indicate how likely it is the customer’s bid will be accepted. The proposal is then either accepted or the website counters the offer.

Pradux (http://www.pradux.com/) uses the virality of social media to increase the chances of purchase. Users log in with Facebook and share their top products with friends – or even embed them directly into a blog post – and start getting rewards. When a person engages with a product that’s been shared, the poster will get a Reaction Point which can be used to unlock exclusive experiences with merchant brands and retailers.

When someone purchases a product that’s been shared, Pradux will then split the commission of the sale, 50/50. With an incentive in place for consumers to earn cash rewards by promoting a brand, the chances that item will see a larger grouping of potential buyers is greatly increased.

FlipGive (http://www.flipgive.com) is a charity platform which allows the public to raise funds for charities while merchants can also see a return. Essentially with every purchase made, up to 50% of proceeds will go to charity of choice. A representative from FlipGive says, “Based on the learnings with the Raise the Game program for Under Armour, which drove UA AOV’s 40% higher than norm and delivered 80% new customers, we know the opportunity is ripe for all parties: fundraisers, brands and the sport associations, technology and media players that we’ll be using as distribution partners.”

Success in the affiliate channel calls for continuous innovation. The above are but a few examples of the many companies who have radically changed things for better in the space. Are you one? Do you want to become one? Take a page out of the above companys’ playbooks and put it to use in your own world of innovation. Who knows? Maybe you’ll make a list like this someday.

If you’re a merchant, you’ll want to dig deep into what these companies have to offer. And not just specifically what they offer but also how the gist of their innovation can be put to work for you in your affiliate channel.

This guest article was written by Greg Shepard, CEO AffiliateTraction.

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9 Companies Rocking the Affiliate Marketing World