The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Paid Search and Meeting Visitor Expectations, How The Right Ad, Right Offer, and Right Landing Page Can Lead to Increased Conversion in SEM


East Coast Photo meeting customer expectations in Paid Search (SEM).Leading up to the holidays, it’s only natural that paid search campaigns heat up. Companies start pumping more dollars into their campaigns knowing that people are more apt to buy. Being neck deep in paid search, I always keep and eye out for great examples of SEM. And by "great", I don’t mean ultra-elaborate (and I’ll explain more about that soon). In SEM, I think a lot of people end up paying an exorbitant amount of time on keywords and ads and not enough attention on landing pages and meeting visitor expectations. This always seems odd to me, since the goal of SEM is to not only drive targeted visitors to your site, but to convert them. Also, when companies actually do focus on landing pages, I think the tendency is to focus on the design and slickness of the page versus the functionality. Although I think that’s a natural tendency to have, it’s amazing what a well though out landing page can accomplish… And I’m not referring to slick design, beautiful imagery, or an award-winning UI. I’m simply talking about meeting visitor expectations based on what they searched for. I know, that’s a novel idea, right? :)

The Search Marketer Becomes The Consumer
This brings me to my latest SEM experience (as a consumer and not an online marketer). Since I’m the person that’s typically launching paid search campaigns, it’s always a bit strange when I become the prospective customer (AKA the searcher). This past Saturday, I found myself in buying mode. I needed a new rechargeable battery for one of my digital cameras and started searching the web for the right product, at the right price, and with the right offer. I launched Firefox and started entering searches in Google. It only took a minute or two to find a great example of how paid search should work. So I did what every Search Marketer does in this situation, I launched Photoshop and started taking screenshots! :)

Right Ad, Right Offer, Right Landing Page, and Right Price
Armed with the manufacturer and camera model, I began searching for a new battery. I saw an ad from East Coast Photo ranking third in paid search. The ad title was a perfect match for what I was searching for and the description included their offer for free shipping. That offer for free shipping was extremely important to me, since the price of the battery probably wouldn’t be more than $20. It always bothers me when shipping is almost as much as the product you are buying!

Paid Search Advertisement for the Battery I Was Looking For:
Paid Search Ad Text Using Descriptive Title and Special Offer

So I clicked through and was taken to a landing page that took me from visitor to customer in less than 30 seconds. It wasn’t beautifully designed, I wasn’t in awe of the functionality on the page, and it probably won’t win any awards (unless there’s a category for conversion at the next Webby Awards). The landing page simply made it easy for me to convert. When other sites drove me to pages that made me dig to find the right battery, East Coast Photo made it simple. I think everyone with an electronic gadget has been in a frustrating situation when trying to buy parts. There are so many models and you don’t want to choose the wrong one. If you’re off by even one character in the model name, you could end up with a battery that won’t work, and more importantly, you’ve wasted valuable time.

The East Cost Photo Landing Page
What made the landing page so good? East Coast Photo sent me to a pre-populated version of their battery finder (with the correct manufacturer and model already selected). Underneath the battery finder, there was a photo of my camera and a product listing for the battery I was looking for. It was so simple, yet so powerful. Since I was able to see the selection of my camera in the battery finder, I knew this was the right part for my needs. And even if it wasn’t, I could easily use the battery finder to locate the right part. Brilliant. The price was right and they were offering free shipping (like I was looking for). So, I immediately added two batteries to my cart and started the checkout process.

Was it sexy? No. Was it efficient? You bet. Did I find what I needed in less than 30 seconds? Yes. And are other people going through the same process right now as you read this blog post? Absolutely.

Paid Search Landing Page With Pre-Populated Battery Finder:
Tailored and Effective Paid Search Landing Page by East Coast Photo

What About the Competition?
Upon clicking other paid search advertisements, I was sent to product pages without knowing if the products being displayed were the right ones for my camera. I was also dropped on holiday sales pages without any battery listings, and I was dropped on generic “camera battery” pages. Dropping me on product pages would be ok if I knew those pages contained the exact product I was looking for. Unfortunately, there was no sign that it was the right product… Dropping me on a holiday sales page is a waste of money for advertisers, given my specific search. And, the generic “camera battery” page was a complete waste of money for the advertiser and even looked a little suspicious… Remember, I entered a specific manufacturer and model along with the keyword battery. If someone enters that query, then they aren’t looking for a holiday sales page or a generic camera battery page… They want that product and fast.

Key SEM Learnings From This Example:

1. Keep it Simple and Meet Visitor Expectations
If someone is looking for a specific part or product, make sure you take them to a page holding that product or part (with confirmation that’s it the right product for their needs). I know that sounds overly simple, but it doesn’t happen often enough in paid search. Think about the difference in conversion by sending someone to a page that holds the product they are looking for (and with additional signals that it’s the right product). East Coast Photo provided a photo of my camera and a pre-populated version of their battery finder, based on my query. It took me less than 30 seconds to see that this was the right battery for me. I also ended up adding two batteries, which is something I probably wouldn’t have done unless I knew I was getting exactly what I needed.

2. Be Specific in Your Ad Text and Include Special Offers
You don’t need to be an award-winning copywriter to craft an advertisement that converts well. But you should be as specific as possible. If you take the time to set up paid search for specific products, then make sure you add the product names in your ad text. I searched for a particular manufacturer and camera model and the ad I clicked on had that manufacturer and model in the ad’s title. In addition, I was specifically looking for free shipping, and the ad provided that in the description. If you are providing special offers, then make sure it’s in the ad text. I’m not sure I would have clicked through so fast if East Coast Photo didn’t have their offer listed in the advertisement.

3. Take Prospective Customers As Far As You Can Into the Process of Finding What They Need
In my opinion, there are too many companies dropping paid search visitors off on their homepages, category pages, and deal pages when they are searching for specific products. If someone searches for a specific product, take them to that product, and make sure they know it’s the right one (as mentioned above). The web provides a unique opportunity for e-commerce merchants. They can leverage intelligence and functionality to provide a user experience that’s unrivaled in the offline world. Use that power to take prospective customers as far into the process of finding what they need as possible. For example, East Coast Photo leveraged their battery finder to pre-populate the tool with the manufacturer and model that I searched for on Google. I can tell you that their extra effort led to me converting quickly on their site. Think about the functionality you already have on your site and how it can be used in conjunction with your marketing campaigns. And don't just think about search engine marketing…think about email, display advertising, social media marketing, etc.

“Wrapping Up” this post – hey, it is the holiday season! :)
If you are running paid search for your business, then think about the entire process that prospective customers go through when clicking your ads and visiting your site. Are your search advertisements strong enough? Do they clearly explain the products and offers you have? And does your landing page meet their expectations? Creating tailored and effective landing pages doesn’t require award-winning designers and developers. You just simply need to think about what people are looking for and provide that information in an easy to use format. If you do that, then you have a much greater chance at converting browsers into buyers. You never know, it could be as easy as providing a battery finder.

GG

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Monday, August 24, 2009

The 4 Pillars of e-Commerce Excellence, Why Amazon.com Has Earned the “First In Mind” Advantage


The Pillars of e-Commerce Excellence and Amazon.comWhen I work on e-Commerce optimization projects, I often take clients through several examples of what I consider to be e-Commerce excellence. While I go through this process, it usually doesn’t take long before I mention Amazon.com. Amazon consistently exceeds my expectations with selection, ease of use, access, security, and customer service. I've written previously about how strong Amazon is, including a post last year about mobile e-Commerce. I explained how Amazon blurred the line between making a purchase via your browser and your mobile device. It's just another example of how Amazon goes above and beyond to ensure customers can access, browse and purchase across devices. So, after placing yet another order with Amazon late last week, I started to think about the reasons I visit Amazon over other e-Commerce websites. I also started to think about how those reasons apply to other websites (and possibly yours).

Here’s a quick, yet important question you should ask yourself (and yes, I understand that every website can’t be like Amazon):

In your industry, are you the knee-jerk reaction for buying online?

It's such a basic question, but can mean the difference between thousands or millions of dollars in revenue… Do customers think of your business first when they need to buy something? For me, Amazon is often the first website that comes to mind, and there are several reasons for this. As I was writing down the core reasons that I buy at Amazon so much versus other websites, I noticed that I was inadvertently listing the pillars of e-Commerce excellence. More on this shortly.

An Impromptu Friday Afternoon e-Commerce Purchase
Last Friday I needed to buy something quickly. I was in between meetings and only had a few minutes. Literally the first business that came to mind was Amazon.com. I could have purchased the item at a number of websites, but Amazon was my knee-jerk reaction. I also could have stopped on my way home, but Friday evening and New Jersey traffic don’t mix well, to say the least. So I opened up a new tab in Firefox, accessed the website, searched for the product, visited the product detail page and added it to my cart. I then quickly checked out and completed the purchase in less than 90 seconds. From an e-Commerce perspective, that's simply outstanding. I closed the tab, received a confirmation email and was back on another conference call. Then, less than two hours later, I received a shipment notification.
{Update: I just received my order on Monday afternoon using standard shipping. Simply outstanding.}

OK, remember the pillars I mentioned above? Let’s take a look at each pillar of e-Commerce excellence and how Amazon has successfully achieved a first-in-mind advantage.

The Pillars of e-Commerce Excellence:

1. Accessibility and Simplicity
Amazon.com makes it easy to access their website across devices. Amazon also makes it simple to find products, read reviews, view product information, check technical specs, find out what other people have purchased, etc. On Amazon, I'm able to visit the site, search for what I need quickly, and view all of the necessary information in order to make a purchase decision. There are no hoops to jump through, and I don’t necessarily need to be in front of my computer to buy something.

2. Speed and Organization
Amazon.com loads fast, provides an easy to navigate organization of categories, which is almost unnecessary based on how good their on-site search is. Amazon’s search functionality enables you to easily search within their main categories. It’s fast and provides outstanding search results. Product detail pages on Amazon provide a thorough breakdown of valuable information. Note, I said thorough and not elegant and I’ll explain more about that soon. As I explained earlier in the post, I can make a purchase in less than 90 seconds. I can always quickly find what I need, add it to my cart and then check out in a flash. My order is always quick to arrive, but that’s included in another pillar below. A quick recap of pillar #2: Fast, fast, fast, and fast. :)

3. Trust and Security
Security is a big concern in e-Commerce, and it will only become a bigger concern as time goes on and technology progresses. For e-Commerce managers, a lack of security and trust can become a horrible barrier to conversion. However, if you can have prospective customers feel confident that their security is first and foremost, then you can reap great rewards revenue-wise. I always feel 100% confident when I’m buying at Amazon. If you put yourself in the mind of a consumer (and not a marketer), you can quickly understand how people browse through sites and what might be a problem conversion-wise. Some questions pop up like “who owns this site?”, “how long have they been around?”, “where are they located?”, “what happens if I need to return something?”, “how secure is this website?” …so on and so forth. The more you build trust, the easier it is for a person to click “Buy now” or “Proceed to Checkout”. Personally, I don’t even think about security when I’m on Amazon. That’s how much trust they have built up with me. I’ll cover my points system later in the post.

4. Communication and Customer Service
I’m not sure there is anything more frustrating than buying something and then having to jump through hoops to track the order, view order information, contact customer service, or return merchandise. It’s definitely a problem with buying online, and rightfully so based on some e-Commerce operations. Amazon makes it easy for customers to find any information they need, from invoices to tracking information to returns. Simply clicking on Your Account brings you to self service screen that enables you to handle a wide range of customer service tasks. Amazon knew this was important, and knew it could also save them money (a lot of money). Amazon empowers customers to handle various account related tasks by themselves. By far, it’s the fastest and most cost-effective way to handle this. Again, they make it easy for me to want to buy from them...

The Self Service Account Screen on Amazon.com:
Amazon.com Account Screen

The Glenn Gabe Virtual Points System
You may not think about it this way, but you probably have a points system too. Every time I deal with a company and have a good experience, they earn virtual points in my mind. During an average experience, no points are awarded. During a negative experience, several points are deducted, and it depends on how serious the problem was to know how many points should be deducted. Over the years, Amazon has earned a mountain of virtual points. In fact, it has earned so many G-Squared points, that it has earned rollover points. That’s right, it means Amazon could actually screw up a few times, and I would probably still go back. And unlike my friends at AT&T, my G-Squared rollover points don’t expire. ;-)

A Quick Tangent About Website Design and Conversion:
For those of you that obsess about ultra-slick web design, head over to Amazon.com now. Amazon is pretty well known for their continual e-Commerce optimization. From a design standpoint, their pages are relatively plain, they are text-heavy, and it seems like images are thrown around the page. But let me tell you, they convert! They provide all of the necessary information in order to convert browsers into buyers. The pages load fast and have valuable segments of information that push you closer and closer to buying. It proves you don't need crazy functionality or a beautiful design to be a leader in e-Commerce. My advice is to optimize for conversion, and not for awards. :)

Strive for e-Commerce Excellence
So yes, Amazon is the proverbial knee-jerk reaction when I need to buy something online. And I’m sure it won’t surprise you to know that Amazon is probably the knee-jerk reaction for thousands of other people too. But they deserve it and have quite a few G-Squared rollover points to play with.

Here are some quick takeaways:

1. In your industry, is your business the knee-jerk reaction for buying online? If not, which company is? What can you do to get closer?

2. How does your business fare when it comes to the four pillars of e-Commerce excellence I listed above? Can you improve any of the areas quickly while developing a plan to tackle the others?

3. Are your customers writing blog posts about your business like the one I just wrote about Amazon.com? How can you get them to become company evangelists?

Now that you know how I feel about Amazon, I’d like to hear about your favorite companies or e-Commerce websites? Why are they your knee-jerk reaction for buying online?

GG

Related Posts:
Mobile e-Commerce, How Amazon.com blurs the line between web and mobile purchase

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Banana Republic Meets and Exceeds My Valentine’s Day Challenge


Banana Republic Exceeds the Valentine's Day ChallengeIn my last post, I traveled across the web to see which online retailers were targeting (and looking to help) Valentine’s Day last minute shoppers. I found a range of targeting (or lack of targeting) during my journey, including some websites without a mention of Valentine’s Day and others with dedicated sections for Valentine’s Day. Of the websites that I visited, Banana Republic was the winner, providing clear calls to action on the homepage, identifying next day delivery for last minute shoppers, and providing a dedicated section for Valentine’s Day gifts. They did a fantastic job.

My Challenge to Banana Republic
At the end of my journey on February 12th, I decided to purchase a gift from Banana Republic, trusting that their Next Day Delivery Service would come through. So, did Banana Republic come through? I know you’ve been eagerly awaiting the results, talking about my challenge at the water cooler, and even picketing outside my office to know the results. OK, that might be a stretch…but here are the results. :-)

Banana Republic not only met the challenge, they exceeded my expectations. Not only did I receive my gift-wrapped Valentine’s Day order the next day, I received it before 10AM. I was extremely impressed to see an online retailer make a promise to last minute shoppers and then exceed expectations. And, I don’t believe we are at the stage yet from an e-commerce standpoint where this happens often…

The Bigger Picture
Banana Republic exceeding my expectations like they did builds credibility and confidence in their company and service. When even the slightest doubt in a consumer’s mind will push them to exit the checkout process, experiences like this will help build confidence, which in turn, will help convert more customers. In addition, during the hiccup I mentioned in my first post, I was able to reach a customer service representative quickly and have my question resolved. I wasn’t thrilled with the answer, but she was polite and pointed me in the right direction fast. This also helps build confidence.

The Bottom Line for Online Retailers
If you target holiday shoppers (and I mean truly target holiday shoppers…) and want to follow an online retailer that’s doing a great job, check out Banana Republic. I will tell you that they have piqued my curiosity… I’m eager to test out Banana Republic during the Christmas shopping season. If they come through as well as they did here, I might just have to write another post! ;-)

GG

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Valentine’s Day Online Shopping, Will Retailers Live Up To Shipping Promises


Valentine's Day Online Shopping and ShippingLet me start by saying that I already purchased gifts for my wife, children, and mother. ;-) But as I viewed various emails coming in yesterday from online retailers, I was shocked to find that only a few were still targeting Valentine’s Day shoppers. Yes, I know that they would only be targeting “last minute shoppers”, but they are still customers, right? And, last minute shoppers will always be there…it’s their M.O. So, I started wondering…which online retailers are targeting Valentine’s Day shoppers heavily? How visible are the promotions, what kind of shipping options are available, and how were they communicating to last minute shoppers? I decided to take a little trip around the web to see what I could find. I visited several of the websites that my wife buys from, and who knows, maybe I’ll be so confident that a gift will get here on time that I’ll make a purchase today! Cue cliffhanger music. ;-)

Sephora.com
My wife loves the website and their retail stores. At first glance, there is not a single mention of Valentine’s Day. Really?? I was shocked to see this…given that they are one of the most popular beauty retailers (with both a strong offline and online presence). I saw a promotion for free shipping over $75 so I clicked through. Nothing about Valentine’s Day. Let me add something to my cart and see if they mention Valentine’s Day shipping…Nope. Wow, so you’re telling me that the hottest beauty retailer is not paying attention to Valentine’s Day?? I think they need to rethink this approach…

Banana Republic
OK, so I’m not out of my mind to think this is a relatively important day to target…Banana Republic has a nice area of real estate on the homepage targeting Valentine’s Day shoppers. Thank you Banana Republic! “Ensure Valentine’s Day Delivery by WED, February 13th” (see visual below). Excellent. Big, red, and clear as day. So I click through the advertisement and I’m taken to a section dedicated to Valentine’s Day. They have a left side navigation breaking down their Valentine’s Day gifts by gender, product category, gift cards, etc. They also provide links to their shipping policy, returns policy, gift packaging, and other helpful tools. Banana Republic gets it...and I’m confident they are reaping the benefits of being so thorough. I just might be back to make a purchase before I end my journey across the web…read on.

Click the image below to see the full size graphic:
Banana Republic Homepage Ad for Next Day Shipping

JCrew
Danger…the homepage had no mention of Valentine’s Day. I clicked through to a few product categories, but still no mention. I went to search the site for any mention of Valentine’s Day and to my complete disbelief, there wasn't an on-site search box on the page...a link to the search box was buried at the bottom of the page. It produced 0 results when I entered Valentine's Day. Then I used a site command in Google, which also showed 0 results. Wow, I guess JCrew believes that their shoppers don’t want to give JCrew products as Valentine’s Day gifts. ;-) Needless to say, I think JCrew can improve their Valentine's Day promotion...

Apple Store
Although not completely apparent on the homepage (it was hidden in the middle of the screen below the hero image), the apple store does provide a Valentine’s Day section. They actually have a gift guide, broken down by product category. They also have a left-side section in the navigation for shipping information (along with a link to their shipping calendar.) It only took me a minute or two to find possible gift ideas and to see if it would arrive on or before the 14th. In addition, the shipping calendar was broken down by product. Very nice. As usual, I like what Apple did here… I might be back before my journey is through.

Amazon.com
Upon hitting the homepage of Amazon.com, I clearly found links and promotional advertisements to their Valentine’s Day “gift central” section of the website. In this section, they break down possible gift ideas by several major categories, including color (yes, red, pink, white, etc.), flowers, chocolate, jewelry, fragrances, then by price, relationship, personality, etc. Within the website template, Amazon also provides a text link in the top right corner about 2 day shipping for Valentine’s Day, but I’m not sure that’s enough. It links to their Amazon Prime service, which is a premium service that enables you to earn fast shipping. But what if I just wanted to view the last day that I can place an order so I can have the products delivered by the 14th? I think Amazon did a great job with their gift guide, including getting you to the gift guide, breaking down the guide by category, etc., but as you approach the big day, you really want to know if your order will get to you on time. I know that it’s tough for Amazon to do this, since you might be purchasing from other vendors and shipping can be dictated by those vendors. That said, when you approach a holiday (which is obviously time-sensitive), you really want to know the final day that you can place an order to have gifts delivered on time. So, if it was a week out, I would say that Amazon did a great job…but being only 2 days out, I would be nervous ordering…

The Journey Ends…
That was my little trip around the web to see which websites were readily handling last minute Valentines’ Day orders and providing clear shipping schedules. Nobody wants to be disappointed on the 14th, so it was interesting to see the differences between online retailers. Based on my journey, the winner is Banana Republic. I think they earned it…they did a fantastic job of providing clear information about shipping for Valentine’s Day, they created a dedicated section for Valentine’s Day gifts, and simply made it easy to find the right gift… So although I’ve already purchased some gifts, I added one more this morning from Banana Republic. They are guaranteeing next day delivery, which means I should receive my order on the 13th.

Now, let’s see if they live up to their promise of Next Business Day Shipping. I’ll write a follow up post to let you know how it goes. :)

{UPDATE}: And just when I spoke so highly of Banana Republic, a problem pops up!… I added some items to my cart and didn’t see any option for next day delivery…it was only showing Standard Delivery of 4-7 days. That’s after they guarantee next day delivery for Valentine’s Day! So I called the 800 number and spoke with a very nice customer service representative. She explained that 2 categories of products in their gift guide cannot be shipped next day… But they are in your gift guide right next to your advertisement about next day delivery? "I know…she says…I’m sorry." Ugh. So I’m going back on the website to see if I can find something else that fits (no pun intended). OK, so I found another gift that I think my wife will like. I just placed the order using Next Business Day Delivery. Yes, this was a little hiccup in the process, but we’re back on track. I’ll let you know how this ends up!}

GG

Read Part 2 of this post, which contains the results of my Valentine's Day challenge to Banana Republic!

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Continuing Evolution of Online Shopping : My Virtual Model and Beyond


Lands End Virtual Dressing RoomThis is Part II of my series about e-commerce imaging functionality at LandsEnd.com. In my first post, I explained how the pan, zoom, and view funtionality is some of the best I have seen on the web. This post is about something much more important, at least in the long-term. When you browse LandsEnd.com and view a product detail page, you will find a link labeled “Try it on”. After clicking that link, you will be taken to a virtual dressing room where you can utilize an application called Dressing Room by My Virtual Model. My Virtual Model is a virtual identity company located in Quebec, Canada. Lands' End has actually been using this functionality for a while, but I wanted to explain more about it since I believe it gives us a glimpse into the future.

So what does this application actually do? In a nutshell, Lands’ End is enabling you (via a third party application) to create your own virtual self, customize your virtual model to match your dimensions, customize the look of your model, and then try on clothes as if you were in the store (without the stress of thousands of holiday shoppers around you!) ;-)

The Future of Online Shopping:
Ever since I developed Heighten (in 2003), I’ve been explaining what the future of online shopping could look like. Heighten is the video-based internet marketing platform I developed (in case you were wondering…) Also, when I refer to the “future”, I’m not talking about the year 2500, I mean in the "not so distant" future… I would explain something like this to prospective clients:

"You’ll be watching your favorite show (probably not on a major network, but on your favorite online channel), and you’ll notice that one of the actors is wearing a shirt that you like. You’ll click that shirt, the show will pause, and options for learning more about that shirt will pop up. You’ll be able to drill into that item to see a hologram of the shirt so you can truly get a better look at the product (right in front of you and in 3 dimensions). You’ll choose your size, color, etc. and click buy. The show will resume, and your shirt will be delivered the next day (and not in 5-10 days!)” Am I crazy to think that? No, that’s where we are heading. Sounds very Minority Report, doesn’t it?

Back to My Virtual Model:
I’ve played around with this functionality extensively over the past week and have provided a breakdown below. It was definitely helpful and very cool, so let’s take a closer look….

Personalize Your Virtual Model:
Clicking “Try This On” while you are on a product detail page brings up a new window with your virtual dressing room. I set up an account so I could customize my model and have Lands' End save my settings. You can see a screenshot of the interface below. Now let’s set up our virtual Glenn…. OK, that definitely sounds weird. ;-)

Dressing Room Interface from My Virtual ModelThe Interface for My Virtual Model's Dressing Room Application

My Model and My Fit:
Clicking the “Personalize” tab brings you to a screen where you can customize your model and your specific fit. Let’s start with your model. Here, you can give your model a name, a body shape, a build, height, weight, face, eyes, nose, lips, hair style, hair color, and facial hair. Wow, pretty cool, right? Or scary, I can’t tell yet...

Clicking the “My Fit” button enables you to customize your height, waistband, inseam, chest size, neck size, sleeve length, seat, thigh, and age. Click “Save” and your settings will be retained by My Virtual Model. Side Note: For those of you looking to lose weight, this could be an eye-opening experience… Be prepared to see a virtual you, down to the poundage!

Getting a Good Look at the Clothes That Your Virtual You is Wearing…Or You are Wearing…Oh Heck, You Know What I'm Talking About!
Now that your model is set up, click the “My Virtual Model” tab. Now you can start trying on clothes. There are dropdowns for category, subcategory, and then products within that subcategory. For example, I selected Jeans and then clicked the first pair of jeans that showed up. The virtual model is now wearing the jeans I selected. Then I could select the color of the jeans, which showed up in real-time (real-time processing is an option in your account). Then I selected Dress Shirts and clicked the Hyde Park button down.

Getting a Closer Look : Changing Views:
So far, so good. But what if you want to get a better look at the outfit? No problem, just click the “turn” arrow buttons at the bottom of the screen. You can turn your model either clockwise or counterclockwise to view the outfit at different angles. Very cool. Want a closer look? Click the "Zoom" button on the bottom toolbar and you’ll see a much larger model in a new window. You can turn your model here, as well.

Getting a Better View of Your Model
Turning Your Model to Get a Better View of a Product on LandsEnd.com

Saving Your Selections:
You can click “add to favorites” to save the product you are looking at on the virtual model, or you can click “save outfit” to save the entire outfit in your favorites. In addition, you can click “Buy this Item” to return to LandsEnd.com to select your size, color, and number of items. And, you can click "Buy this Outfit" on the bottom toolbar to buy the entire outfit you selected. More on this later... When you click "Buy this Item", it would be great if it would reflect the color you were looking at in your virtual dressing room, but it doesn’t. Also, it should default to your size, based on what you entered while setting up your virtual model. I’m assuming they will build this in down the line… For me, saving specific items in my favorites worked well, but saving outfits didn’t… Whenever I tried to view my saved outfits, the application would send me to a screen to register (which I had done already). Again, I’m assuming Lands' End knows about this and will rectify the issue. Other than that, it worked pretty well. :)

Excellent Opportunity for Cross Selling (and they take advantage of it…)
There are times where you need some help figuring out what matches the selections you’ve made. My Virtual Model enables retailers to provide this functionality in what they call “Great Go Togethers”. If you choose a category and then click “Great Go Togethers” on the right side of the screen, you will find product listings and then other items that match. So, if you don’t have much time and want recommendations for an entire outfit, this is the place for you. For example, I chose a dress shirt, selected the pants, and shoes that LandsEnd.com recommended and I had an outfit built in 10 seconds.

Yes, There Are Some Issues…
1. The clothes look better in photographs and in real life!
When you look at an outfit on your virtual model, the clothes don’t look so hot. I know this is a virtual dressing room, but my fear as a marketer is that the application could backfire for retailers. For example, maybe the shirt looks better on me than it does on Virtual Glenn and maybe I decide not to buy it… That’s just my opinion, though...

2. Saving outfits to your favorites or buying entire outfits didn’t work for me:
Clicking “Buy this Outfit” while in my virtual dressing room took me to a screen where you can select your options for each product in the outfit, but the “add to shopping bag” button wouldn’t work. I tried this a dozen times on multiple systems and it simply wouldn’t work for me. The “Buy this Item” button worked, but if you want to buy the entire outfit, it wouldn’t work…This could be a serious “conversion killer” so if I was in marketing at Lands' End, I would take a serious look at this.

3. That's Me?
Hey, that really doesn’t really look like me… Thank you Captain Obvious. ;-) I know it can't look just like me, but I'll bet this can be a hangup for some people. I guess the easy way to alleviate the issue is to simply provide more options for customizing your virutal you.

Retailers, Keep Driving Forward…
In closing, I applaud Lands’ End for using My Virtual Model and its Dressing Room application. It’s not easy to utilize innovative functionality on a large site with that much traffic and exposure. After playing with the functionality extensively, I think they are off to a great start, but obviously not there yet. As a marketer, I can deal with some of the growing pains associated with innovation, but one thing I cannot deal with (or won’t deal with) is inhibiting customers from buying. That simply cannot happen...

If you are interested learning more about how this works, then you should try it out on LandsEnd.com. The functionality is definitely a step in the right direction for online shopping, but it needs to work perfectly for it to become mainstream. I know the industry will get there…but it’s just going to take some time.

GG

Related Posts:
E-commerce Imaging Functionality with Lands End - Getting a Killer Look at Products While Shopping Online
e-Commerce Shipping - Online Customers Demand a New Standard

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

E-Commerce Imaging Functionality with Lands End - Getting a Killer Look at Products While Shopping Online


Lands End eCommerce Imaging FunctionalityWe’ve all been there. You’re shopping online and find something you're 95% sure that you want, but you need to get a better look at the product before you click “add to cart”. So you select “Click here for larger photo” but sometimes that yields inadequate images that don’t really build more confidence. Over the past few years, e-commerce imaging technology has greatly advanced (especially on larger retail websites). During my latest Gobble Thursday holiday shopping session, I visited Lands End and checked out some clothes for the upcoming winter season. Let me tell you, their product imaging functionality is some of the best I have seen on the web. Actually, it’s good enough that I decided to write a blog post about it today! Now, what makes it so good? Let’s jump right in:

Browse-By Listings (Category Listings and Image Functionality):
I started my visit to Lands End by clicking Men, Shirts & Sweaters and then Sweaters to get to the browse by listings you see below.

Lands End Category Listings

As I was looking at the listing of sweaters, I rolled over one I liked and the product view changed on rollover to a model wearing the sweater. I found this to be a great way to give potential buyers a second view of the product right from the sweater listings (and not necessarily on the product detail page). The view showed the sweater on a model so you can see it in context (and not just on a white background). Reference photos below. Then, right below the product image, I noticed several swatches. Clicking a swatch changed the product image dynamically, without post-back. Post-back is developer-speak for when your browser completely refreshes the webpage, which takes unnecessary time. I really like this functionality in the browse by listings…it was intuitive, provided value, and enabled me to see a wide array of sweaters in different colors and on a person. I love it. :) OK, let’s click through to the product detail page to get a closer look.

Screenshot of category listing with rollover functionality and swatches:
Lands End Category Listing Change View and Color


Product Detail Page: Pan, Zoom, and View:
Once on the product detail page, Lands End gives you several options for getting up close and personal with the product you are viewing. First, you have a nice product image (full view). Let’s get a closer look.

The Zoom:
Below the image, Lands End provides their pan and zoom functionality, which is one of the best I have seen on the web. You can either click the image to zoom in or click the “zoom in” button below the image. Either one lets you zoom into the product to view more detail. I was able to zoom in at a granular level (actually further in than I really needed to, but some people would want to see the fabric as closely as possible). It was easy to use and the response time was excellent.

Zooming in to get a closer look:
Lands End Zoom Functionality on the Product Detail Page


Now The Pan:
Then, if you click and drag the image once you zoom in, you can scroll around to view a closeup of the product. The image blurs as you drag the product, but refocuses once you choose the desired section of the product. You should try it out to get a good feel for how this works, because it’s some of the best pan and zoom functionality on the web (seriously.) There is a thumbnail in the bottom right corner which shows you a red bounding box that represents which part of the product you are viewing. But Lands End didn’t stop there…you can even drag the red bounding box around, which moves the product image. Great functionality…

Change Your Product View:
Below the pan and zoom controls, there are a few additional thumbnails. For my example, you can see the full sweater, the sweater on a model, and then a fabric swatch. When you click each image, the larger product image above changes to what you selected. Then you can use the pan and zoom functionality on the new image. Outstanding! If you choose the swatch thumbnail, then you can take a closer look at the fabric, which I can guarantee decreases product returns… More on this later.

Switching images to get a different view:
Lands End Category Listings


Colors and Fabrics:
On the right side of the page, you’ll find a list of swatches so you can easily change the color of the product you are looking at. Again, this is completed without post-back, which is fast and seamless. In addition, the thumbnails below the pan and zoom functionality also reflect the change in color (the full product view, the product on a model and the fabric swatch). Nice touch.

Selecting different colors dynamically changes the images:
Lands End Change Color and Fabric With Swatch Selections


What's The Effect on Your Buying Experience?
Providing e-commerce imaging functionality like this truly enhances the user experience on LandsEnd.com. Lands End exceeds customer expectations with the investment they made in their imaging functionality. As a marketer, when you start to analyze bounce rate, exit rate, and abandonment rates, you start to appreciate functionality like this. When it comes down to it, if you leave doubt in a customer’s mind, you might leave revenue on the table. But it’s much worse than that… The customer you just lost will go somewhere else to buy, may never come back to your website, and then will generate incremental revenue for your competitor. Great, right? Lands End is obviously dedicated to giving visitors every possible option while viewing their products so they can make an informed decision. By the way, they provide some additional functionality that I haven’t listed here…and I plan to review that soon. Consider that a blog teaser! :)

Decrease Product Returns:
In addition, Lands End is making its web operation more profitable by providing functionality like this. I bet their product returns from web purchases are lower than other retailers. How could it not be?? You are getting an incredible view of a product you are interested in…it’s almost like you are in a store for crying out loud! OK, maybe not that good yet…yet.

Lower Your Cart Abandonment Rate and Checkout Abandonment Rate:
I’ll also bet that their cart and checkout abandonment rates are lower than other retailers. Abandonment can happen due to several reasons, one of which is a lack of confidence in the product you just added to your cart. You know, questions like “will it really look like that?”, “what does the fabric actually look like?”, “what does it look like on?”, so on and so forth. Lands End minimizes these doubts, which probably lowers their abandonment rates. As a web analytics nut, I’d love to see their stats! {wait…taking one more Analyticza} ;-)

Ease of Use = Happy Customers:
This one is simple…Lands End makes it so easy and effortless to browse and buy that customers truly enjoy shopping on the website. I can tell you, that’s the way I feel. Being a web marketing consultant, I almost wanted to stay on the website to keep playing around with their imaging functionality… That’s if I didn’t have a gift list to knock out! ;-) Again, I’ll be writing a second review soon…

In Closing...
Well, I think you can tell how much I like the imaging functionality on LandsEnd.com! It was easy to use, robust, and more importantly, it builds customer confidence. I have a new tagline for Lands End:

"No Doubt and Lots of Confidence...Shop LandsEnd.com"

I have a feeling I'll be back to LandsEnd.com this holiday season....and I'm confident I won't be the only one! :-)

GG

Related Posts:
The Continuing Evolution of Online Shopping : My Virtual Model and Beyond
Effective Email Marketing With BuyCostumes.com
e-Commerce Shipping - Online Customers Demand a New Standard
2006 Holiday Season Online Shopping Review

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Now Gobble Thursday - More Holiday Tips for Web Marketers


Online Marketing Tips for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Gobble ThursdayEveryone knows of Black Friday, the Friday after Thanksgiving, which is the busiest retail shopping day of the year. This is the day that retailers provide incredible sales and deals for customers willing to wake up early and hit the shopping trail! Then there’s Cyber Monday, which arrived after online shopping took hold. It’s the Monday following Thanksgiving, and the day that many consumers purchase online at work (and try and hide it from their bosses). :-) But there’s another important day for online retailers (at least for me). I like to call it Gobble Thursday, or Thanksgiving Day. For a number of years, I’ve been cranking out over 80% of my holiday shopping in the wee hours of Thanksgiving Day. It’s a tradition for me now. So as web marketers, you want to take advantage of online holiday shoppers like me during Thanksgiving week (and for the Monday after). So, I’ve collected some last minute tips to make sure you convert as many of those holiday shoppers. Go ahead, gobble up these tips! ;-)

1. Free Shipping and Other Shipping Discounts
If you don’t provide some type of shipping offer, you'll lose out! People expect free shipping in one form or another during the holidays. So, even if you’re a small company, you better figure something out or you will lose customers to competitors that do. It doesn’t have to be free shipping on everything. You can provide free shipping on orders over a certain amount (like $25 or $50). The specific amount is based on your business, so you can figure that out with your CFO. :-) Also, make sure you communicate the offer in all of your campaigns (email, paid search, shopping engines, etc.) More on this later. Personally, I absolutely lean towards buying from online retailers that provide free shipping for the holidays.

2. Have Your Holiday Email Schedule Mapped Out
Email marketing to your internal list is still the most effective way to get in touch with your current customers (which is why I rank it as the most powerful online marketing channel at your disposal). It’s a powerful driver of sales, especially if you carefully map out your holiday schedule. For example, determine the special offers you will run during the holidays, when those offers take hold, determine your creative for each blast, and start scheduling the blasts. Also, I would plan on sending follow up emails. I can’t tell you how many times a reminder has pushed me to place an order. Let’s face it, people are ridiculously busy during the holidays so sending a reminder is a good idea.

3. Provide Outstanding On-Site Search Functionality and Provide a Holiday Guide
When I crank through my holiday shopping, I love using on-site search (as do many other people). I want the results to be clean, return relevant results, and provide a good amount of information about the product. I really only want to go to product detail pages of items that I want to buy… In addition, providing some type of holiday guide helps customers find great gift ideas fast. For example, show visitors what’s featured for the holidays, provide great gift ideas, break them down by category, etc. If you are short on resources and time, then create a few new pages on your site and organize your products based on how your customers search for items. This can be by style, age, price, size, etc.

4. The Mighty Gift Card
Know matter how you cut it, people love gift cards. In my opinion, I believe there’s only 1 out of 10 people that know how to buy gifts. I mean really good gifts that are well thought out. Most of us have been on the receiving end of some doozies, right?? Anyway, provide gift cards on your site for people who want to buy something quickly or for those that don’t know exactly what to buy. The dollar increments should match your products. So, if you sell $10 items, then have the gift cards in $5 increments up to $50. If you sell $50 items, then have a $10, $25, $50 and $100 gift cards. You get the picture…

5. Coordinate Your Online Marketing Campaigns
Make sure all of your marketing efforts are coordinated. For me, I’d rather not see one offer in email, another in paid search, and yet another when I hit a landing page. For example, if you are running free shipping for the holidays, then make sure you communicate this offer via email, paid search, shopping engine listings, banner ads, etc. And, make sure your campaign landing pages match the advertisements people are clicking through. Imagine someone clicking through a free shipping ad and then hitting a landing page with no mention of the offer (or worse, a different offer altogether!) If you have a blog, make sure you communicate your latest promotions in your blog posts, and again, have those offers match up with the pages you are sending visitors to. It doesn’t take much to throw off potential customers, which means fewer conversions, and less revenue.

In closing, there are many things you can do to enhance your holiday marketing efforts and I’ve provided a few ideas above. Think about it…if you map out your top 10 ideas and then run with your top 5, you’re giving yourself a better opportunity to have a successful holiday season. Just be prepared to adapt as the weeks go by, based on the data you are collecting (hello web analytics).

I can hear those shoppers gobbling up your products already. I can’t wait for Thanksgiving morning. :-)

GG

Related Posts:
Analyzing Your Holiday Email Marketing Campaigns using Google Analytics

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Analyzing Your Holiday Email Marketing Campaigns Using Google Analytics


Analyzing Holiday Email Campaigns with Google AnalyticsAs the holidays approach, chances are you will be launching several email marketing campaigns. Busy holiday marketing schedules heavily rely on email to connect with customers, promote holiday sales and offers, and to drive revenue. With the flurry of emails you’ll be sending out, analyzing your campaigns is critical to improving their effectiveness. Utilizing a robust web analytics package is a great way to scientifically determine what works best for your specific customer segments, and maybe more importantly, what doesn’t work. So, I decided to write a post that covers analyzing your email marketing campaigns by properly tagging your email links (for analysis in Google Analytics). Then you can break down and analyze your email creative at a granular level in your analytics reporting.

First let's define "tagging your online ads":
Tagging is the process of adding querystring variables to links in your online ads so your analytics package can detect and then associate each link with a campaign. Then you can access reporting based on visitor activity. For example, tagging a banner so you your analytics package knows which website the banner was placed on and which version of the banner led to a click through. The reporting will also provide important metrics for your campaigns such as site activity, sales, conversions, bounce rate, etc. Tagging is critical to understanding how your marketing campaigns are performing.

Breaking Down Your Email Marketing Creative
Let’s start with a wireframe for our sample email marketing creative. As you can see below, we have the following areas that we want to track:

1. header with branding
2. product image
3. headline next to product image with product info
4. special offer
5. footer with company links

Breaking down your email creative and tagging links.

Tag, You’re It! Tagging Your Email Creative:
In Google Analytics, you need to tag your campaigns so you can properly analyze each campaign in your reporting. You achieve this by tagging each link that you want to track. The four variables that you will utilize in Google Analytics for this example are:

1. utm_source
2. utm_campaign
3. utm_medium
4. utm_content

utm_source
This is the source of your marketing campaign, so for our purposes "InternalEmailList" will work just fine. Just remember to keep this consistent for future campaigns to your internal email list so you can easily segment and aggregate your reporting data in Google Analytics. Other examples of Campaign Source are websites you are advertising with, shopping engines, a search engine like Google or Yahoo, PRWeb, etc. It’s basically the source of your campaign traffic.

utm_campaign
This is simply the name of your campaign. Note, you should use a descriptive name here, since it will show up in Google Analytics under the Traffic Sources tab in Campaigns.

utm_medium
Medium identifies the marketing channel you are utilizing for your campaign, such as email, banners, search, pr, etc. Obviously for our example, we’ll use email.

utm_content
I saved this for last, since it’s what we'll be focusing on for tracking your email marketing creative. You should use a different value for utm_content for each section or specific link in your creative. This enables you to view reporting based on the content breakdown in your email creative (which will help you determine the value of each element in your email). More on this later.

So, for our example, the utm_content values would look like this:

Header: utm_content=HeaderBranding
Product Photo: utm_content=ProductPhoto
Headline: utm_content=Headline
Offer: utm_content=Offer
Footer Links: utm_content= FooterLinks

Note, this is a simplified example, and you may choose to get more granular in your own email creative. For example, you may choose to tag each specific link in the footer versus tagging all of the links in your footer as "FooterLinks".

The Full Picture (or should I say "The Full URL")
I just explained how to set the utm_content variable in your link, but I also mentioned 3 other variables that you should set. Here is what your link would look like for the header element in your email creative using all 4 variables:

http://www.hmtweb.com/blog/?utm_source=InternalEmailList&utm_medium=Email
&utm_content=HeaderBranding&utm_campaign=PreThanksGiving

Each of the links in your email should contain this querystring using all 4 of the Google Analytics tracking variables I listed above. You can also utilize Google's URL Builder to help build your links.

Blast Away!
At this point, you should fully test your creative to ensure everything looks the way it should across email clients, ensure all of the links work properly, ensure you tagged each link correctly, etc. Then blast away and wait for data to come in (and revenue!)

Tracking Your Email Campaign in Google Analytics
OK, so you blasted out your email campaign yesterday and you are eager to see how it’s performing. Log into Google Analytics and click the Traffic Sources tab. Then click Campaigns. You should see all of your campaigns listed here for the time period you selected. For our example, you would see a listing for PreThanksGiving, since this is the name we gave our campaign earlier. Simply click this listing to view reporting specific to this campaign.

At this point you can see the summary for your email campaign. You can see the number of visitors, avg time on site, bounce rate, etc. You can click the Goal Conversion tab to view the number of conversions from your campaign, and you can also click the E-Commerce tab to view revenue, number of transactions, etc. But you shouldn’t stop there… You can drill in further to view which elements are performing well in your email creative.

Click the image to view a larger version:

Viewing email campaign data in Google Analytics

View the Breakdown:
Click the Site Usage tab again in your report. Now, click the Segment dropdown and select Ad Content. You will now see each of the links you tagged in your email creative. Cool, right? Now you can view detailed reporting based on each element in your email. Why is this important? You may find interesting customer behavior that will enable you to drive better performance in future blasts. You might see that 75% of visitors clicked the product photo versus the offer. Based on that piece of data, maybe you expand your imaging in the email to include other views of the product to see if it increases your click through rate and sales. Or, you might find that a headline next to the photo draws more visitors than a headline above the photo. So on and so forth... You get the picture! When you break it down, your customers are unique and you might find that certain elements perform extremely well and others fall flat.

Click the image to view a larger version:

Analyzing email content using Google Analytics.


Back to your reporting… A sample analysis:
Now click the E-Commerce tab and view sales data for each element. You might find the product photo generated 70% of the revenue from the campaign. You might also see 10% of the revenue coming from the footer links. Why? Maybe customers aren’t sure who you are! Most people receive dozens of emails per day from companies they have purchased from. If you are a smaller company that is still building your brand, it might take customers a second or two to remember who you are… If you see trending that shows people clicking through your About Us link, you might want to promote your company and/or brand more in the email creative. i.e. Provide an About Us paragraph in the right sidebar of the email. This is obviously just an example, but you might find some important data from reviewing reporting like this... Back to our analysis, if you click the Goal Conversion tab, you can view conversions from each element in your email. Now you can track sales, newsletter signups, RSS subscriptions, etc. for each element in your creative. You might find certain email campaigns generate a lot of newsletter signups but only a few sales. You would obviously want to dig deeper and find out why that is...but you wouldn't know unless you track it!

In closing…
Using this technique, you can break down your creative and tag each link so you can view detailed reporting for your email campaigns. During and after each campaign, you should check your reporting for trends in customer behavior. Then test out new ideas and drive elements that perform well. Over time, you can refine your campaigns to maximize your email marketing efforts.

So, if I’ve done my job well, your next move is to run down the hall and grab your email marketing coordinator screaming, “Hold That Blast!” so you can tag all of your links! ;-) Then you can enter meetings armed with data versus opinion!

GG

Related Posts:
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Now Gobble Thursday - More Holiday Tips for Web Marketers

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