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Monday, December 3, 2012

Speak to the ‘Ultimate Benefits’

‘Ultimate Benefits’ - things we all really want out of life. 
Addressing these benefits will help you to sell better. Look around you and you will notice firms talking about benefits that their products and services offer. However, they may fail to emphasize the right benefits by emphasizing intermediate benefits instead of ultimate benefits.

Think about it this way: When they talk about their product features or the variety of design options, do they really say why the client should care? To reach out to your consumer, you have to stop thinking as the firm, start thinking as the consumer. Don’t advertise your great pricing, instead talk about what the consumer can do with the money saved

To make things concrete, let’s take the example of a garage. If a garage is able to repair a car faster than its competitors, then the intermediate benefits to the consumer are time saved and reduced anxiety. The ultimate benefit is more time to enjoy life, more time to go on long drives. In the same vein, I believe that Mayo clinic’s website is a very good example. Rather than making a descriptive statement on their website, they offer “Answers” so that there’s no confusion as to what the center could offer the patient or friend of a patient. This is a place where you’ll find answers.

mayo clinic answers

Once you are able to identify the ultimate benefit you offer, you can design your marketing campaigns around them. These benefits can change with time. However, every firms needs to have an ultimate benefit penned down. I have jotted down some of the ultimate benefits (real and fictitious) to give you a start. 
  1. Insurance company – Peace of mind. 
  2. Gym/Aerobics center of equipment manufactures – Health, Longevity of life. 
  3. Bank – Financial Independence. 
  4. Builder/Developer – Place to be the real you. 
  5. Telecom service provider – Be near your dear ones. 
  6. Doctor – Life. 
  7. Training institutes – Knowledge, Prestige. 
  8. Travel companies – Leisure. 
  9. Dietician – Personality, Confidence. 
  10. Book seller – Intellectual satisfaction.
  11. Online retailer – Leisure shopping, Time saved to enjoy relations. 
  12. Computer Manufacturer – Smart. 
  13. Microwave oven manufacturers – Good and Healthy food. 
  14. Beauty product manufacturers – Attractive to opposite sex. 
Now, that you know what does 'Ultimate Benefits' mean, I would suggest you to start working on identifying your firm's ultimate benefit/s.
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Friday, November 30, 2012

5 Steps for a successful Social Media Strategy

A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim – that’s how Oxford Dictionary defines Strategy. Simple and bang on! Every marketing media and media vehicle that brand chooses has to fit in its overall strategy seamlessly. TV, print, Radio, Internet portals, Mobile did that and now it’s time Social Media follows suit.

social media worldWe have reached a point in time where the question has moved from ‘Why Social Media’ to ‘How Social Media’. Social Media is everywhere. It is hailed as the biggest revolution in recent times. To put it in perspective, if we assume Facebook to be a country, it would be the third largest populous one after China and India. If Youtube was a TV channel in India, it would have been the 11th biggest. Twitter is the second largest search engine closely followed by Youtube. While you were reading the above stats, more than 100+ hours of video has been uploaded on Youtube. Aston Kutcher and Britney Spears have more twitter followers than the entire population of Sweden, Israel, Switzerland, Ireland, Norway and Panama. More than 25% percent of search result for any brand would link you to user-generated content on social media. All these things work in favour of social media in spite of Facebook and Youtube being banned in China (stats courtesy – Socialnomics). The return on investment (ROI) in the case of social media is tremendous considering you’re still in business after 5 years! There is no escaping this media.

One should not enter social media without a proper strategy in place. Any mistake done on this media is amplified to a great extent. In this article, I will explain the way to build a successful social media strategy from group up. Follow the below 5 steps and you will have a successful social media strategy.

Step 1: Listen
Before deciding to enter the social media hemisphere, listen online. Listen online to what people are saying about your brand, about your company, about your products, about your services, about competitor brands, what the wants are and what are opinions of people who could be your prospective customers, listen to the influencers.

Through effective online listening, you can create an all-encompassing picture of your web presence, brand favourability and online reputation. By listening to online conversation, you can identify areas of opportunity and begin to develop a strategy. Listening will tell you which platforms you should be more active on. Listening will give you the starting direction to your strategy. PepsiCo shifted its focus to football from cricket in India by listening to its prospective customers views/opinions on social media. Listening is the first step for your strategy and the most important step.

The other steps will and can follow only on successful implementation of this step. To help you there are lots of tools in market like Technorati, Google Alerts, Twendz, Google Blog Search, Twitter search, Google analytics. Another important thing to identify is the people driving communications in regard to your company and industry. They are known as ‘Influencers’. They can make or break your reputation online. A good tool to identify and listen to influencers is WeFollow.

Step 2: Goals and Objective
Now that you have ’listened’ to your audience, you should be in a better position to establish your goals. The goals can be creating a platform on social media for customer interaction, reputation management, new customer acquisition, feedback mechanism, driving web traffic, increasing sales, etc. Remember, social media is more about your audience than you and therefore consider not only your goals, but also theirs. You must understand, ‘What are their needs? What are they interested in? What are they talking about?’ Design your goals in such a manner that it addresses 80% to your audience’s demands and 20% to your senior management’s demands. Promote less and address more. You will find you can build more influence and trust with the value you provide your followers.

Step 3: Develop your plan and content
Your goals will guide you in deciding the content you need to create. Will you reach out and leverage Influencers? Will you provide free material or samples? How will it be delivered? You may have products that are environmentally friendly. Will you moderate and lead a conversation about environmental issues? There are many creative ways to approach your audience. Be innovative. Every company worth its salt has a marketing calendar in place. If you don’t, do it now. Include social media in that calendar. Plan ahead regarding which festivals or occasions you need to address on social media. Develop your content in such a way that it addresses your goals. It’s a good practice to schedule the whole week’s content. Your followers should know at what time you will be addressing them so be consistent. Content can be tips, promotional offers, white papers, opinion polls, case studies, news, photos, opinions, statistics, etc but should be in line with your goals. Next, decide which social media sites you need to be present in. Ensure you start with one or two sites at a time and develop them so they are solid before moving on to another social media site. Please note: It’s very easy to be creative and drift away on social media. To avoid this, always refer to your goals which you decided on in step 2 after listening in step 1.

Step 4: Engage
Armed with smart objectives, a solid timeline, great content, and the right social media sites you are now ready to post your content. Engage in the conversation and express your point of view. Remember to keep to your schedule and be consistent. Have the resources on hand to respond to comments and feedback so you can keep the conversation going. This is not an "if you build it they will come" type of scenario. You have to keep at it.

Step 5: Measure and Optimize
Measuring and Optimizing are the most crucial elements of any strategy and should never be ignored. Clearer goals will lead to accurate measurements. Facebook has its own inbuilt measurement system known as ‘Insights’. Use it extensively. For other sites there are ample of tools available in the market both paid and free. My advice is to try out tweet deck, Google analytics, Klout, Facebook insights and Youtube insights before you graduate to paid tools. Some of the parameters you should measure in addition to achievement of your defined goals are share of voice, awareness, engagement, influence and popularity of your properties on social media. Work on the insights gained to optimize your content and plan. Remember, one should always learn and grow as the nature of social media is never static.

Follow these five steps diligently and you will have a successful social media strategy in place. A good social media presence will help you in executing successful campaigns. You can get in touch with me any time through my social media handles mentioned on this site. And yes, don’t be present on any media just because your peer/competitor is.

why do you have a Facebook page
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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

About Blog

Hey, nice to meet you. Thanks for being here and wanting to know a little more about me, I think that’s very cool.
Let me first tell you a bit about me and this blog. I will use this vehicle to demystify the magical world of marketing for you. You will find interesting marketing related insights in this blog which you can apply to increase your brand/personal awareness, drive traffic to your website and generate revenue from your marketing initiatives. This blog is written with an intention to provide insights, resources and commentary on a range of marketing and public relations topics including:
  • Advertising (Offline and Online)
  • Search engine marketing and optimization
  • Social media marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Business blogging and marketing
  • Public Relations
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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Demystifying the mysteries of Shopping Cart Abandonment – Part 3/3

This post is global in nature and the insights are true for all countries. This is the third part of a three-part series covering the following:

  1. Reasons for shopping cart abandonment.

  2. Ways to reduce shopping cart abandonment rate.

  3. Ways to bring back the customers to complete their purchase after they have abandoned the shopping cart.

In the first part we analyzed why a shopper abandons the shopping cart before making a purchase. In the second part we discussed various ways to stop a visitor from abandoning the shopping cart. In this part, I will discuss ways to bring back potential customers to complete their purchase after they have abandoned the shopping cart.

online shopping cart

Ways to bring back the customers to complete their purchase after they have abandoned the shopping cart

When a potential buyer visits E-Commerce websites, the websites convert the buyer into an actual buyer at anywhere between 1-2%. If you are converting at 1.5% for example and you can reduce your cart abandonment rate by 25% (from 50% to 37.5%), your conversion rate increases from 1.5% to nearly 1.9% - a nice improvement. Taking it one step further, if your average sale is $100, for instance, and you are spending 10% of revenue on paid search marketing to drive website traffic, you have improved gross margins by 40% - this is meaningful. You have spent your resources to get visitors to your shopping cart and you have spent further resources to keep them from abandoning the shopping cart. However, even after all your attempts, a few visitors are abandoning the cart. How do you get them back to your site and complete that purchase?
You’ll never completely solve the cart abandonment challenge, but there are two great ways to get that customer back, even after they leave your site. They are as follows:

Email Marketing:
If the visitor has provided you their personal information and email address, send them a mail. The mail should cover the following aspects:

  1. Contact details for help.

  2. Discount offer (if possible).

  3. Benefits of shopping through you.

Let me give you an example. Robert had visited shopping cart section and had abandoned it before making the purchase. Have a look at the below example of a mail sent to Robert:

Hi Robert,
It seems like you tried ordering goods from bestshop, but didn't complete your order. We would love you to come back and complete your order. To get you started, we're offering you a free $10 coupon.
Apply the coupon code: XE37-X0X5-7J15-F9XX while making payment. The expiration date of this coupon is 11/05/2013.
Shop at for:

  • A one-stop shop solution thanks to our wide range of brands.

  • Return policy: Goods once sold CAN be returned back.

  • Quick delivery.

  • Free shipping.

  • Various payment options including cash on delivery.

Such email encourages the visitor to come back to your site and complete the purchase. However, the email should be sent within one day of abandonment and not after. Don’t wait too long as you may miss the window, and don’t be too shy about it.

Use a platform like Google Adwords for this kind of search engine marketing activity. When a visitor gets to your shopping cart place a ‘cookie’ on their computer so that if he/she doesn’t complete the purchase then you can do some online display advertising targeted specifically at that customer.
For instance – a customer shops your site, places a product in your shopping cart but abandons the site without completing the purchase and then goes elsewhere on the internet and visits a site that has display advertising (banner and other advertising). Your display ad shows up to reinforce your brand and encourage the customer to come back and complete the sale.

Remember: Shopping cart abandonment is huge problem for e-commerce site. However, don’t lose hope. Follow the strategies mention in my post and I guarantee you that you will soon see the sales figure going up. Do keep me updated on the strategies you adopted and how are they delivering.

In my next post, I will explain how to build a successful Social Media strategy for your company. This post will be applicable to all industries.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Demystifying the mysteries of Shopping Cart Abandonment – Part 2/3

This post is global in nature and the insights are true for all countries. This is the second part of a three-part series covering the following:

  1. Reasons for shopping cart abandonment,

  2. Ways to reduce shopping cart abandonment rate

  3. Ways to bring back the customers to complete their purchase after they have abandoned the shopping cart.

In the first part we analyzed why a shopper abandons the shopping cart before making a purchase. In this part I will discuss the ways to reduce this abandonment rate.
online shopping cart

Ways to reduce shopping cart abandonment rate.

In the first part we saw the top reasons for a visitor to abandon the shopping cart. Let’s revisit them again.

In the first part we saw the top reasons for a visitor to abandon the shopping cart. Let’s revisit them again.
reasons for abandonment of shopping cart

Now since we know the ‘why,’ we can go ahead and answer the next question ‘how’. How do we reduce the shopping cart abandonment rate? Through my experience over the years in this industry, I have found that, there are in fact ways to reduce this abandonment rate.
I will take you through each of the above reason and also tell you ways to eliminate the reason from your visitor’s dictionary.

Reason 1: I was comparison shopping.
The best way to eliminate this reason is to identify the purchase cycle stage of the person who has landed on your page. This is easy to implement if you are using SEM to redirect traffic. All you need to do is identify their search queries. (In Part 1 of this series, I have detailed how to identify visitors through their search queries.) However, I assume you will not be running a campaign every time. Then how do you eliminate this reason.
So here goes. Make the purchase a very simple and fast process. Imagine that you want to buy a brown leather shoe. You are currently doing comparison shopping by visiting various shoe stores. You are still to make that final purchase. A key point to remember here is that even during the comparison shopping stage the visitor is sure that he wants to buy the product. The shift from comparison shopping stage to actual purchase is always swift and direct. Back to our example now. You are visiting various shops and comparing several brown leather shoes on display. You visit shops that display various shoes, with lots of designs. However, some of these stores require you to wait for an attendant to let you know about the size, warranty details, price etc of the shoes. You may also visit a store where the moment you enter, the attendant guides you directly to the brown leather show section. He tells you the warranty terms, brand name and final price of the shoe upfront. He makes shopping a seamless experience. Assuming you buy the brown leather shoe. No prizes for guessing from which store you bought the shoe. Definitely from the one that makes your shopping easy and transparent.
Same goes for your online shopping page. Provide a quick shipping calculator so that consumers can quickly view the full price of their order. Add third party verification seals such as an SSL certificate, a Hacker Safe seal and/or a custom message to the view cart page to help you quickly convert the comparison shopper to a buyer.

Reason 2: The shipping cost was too high
Do people want to pay for shipping? Of course not. According to a Forrester study, 44% of online customers abandon their shopping carts because of high shipping costs. In the same vein, 22% abandon the carts because the seller did not mention shipping costs at all. A similar study from E-tailing Group also revealed that unconditional free shipping is the most important factor that leads customers to complete a purchase. In fact, 73% of respondents listed unconditional free shipping as “critical.” Apart from completing their initial purchase, customers are likely to buy more products because of free shipping. A study conducted by Compete stated that 93% of online buyers are encouraged to buy more products if free shipping is included. Customers who received free shipping also ended up being more satisfied than those who had to pay additional fees.
So, the logic is to provide free or at least fixed shipping cost. However, if you cannot, then make it easier to spot your shipping costs. Quick shipping calculator mentioned above on the view cart page can help consumers view the full price of their order with shopping. Additionally, many merchants insert a message into the view cart page just below the quick shipping calculator that says something along the lines of "Order $50 or more and get free shipping". A promotional message such as this can not only help you capture more sales, it can also help you increase the size of each sale.

Reason 3: I didn't have time to complete transaction at the time
Do your visitors have to fill out many pages of information in order to place an order, this can result in frustration and many abandoned orders. Do you know why Amazon offers one-click purchases? Because everyone hates checking out. The faster you get customers though the checkout, the more money you’re going to make. So make it REALLY easy. If a one-click solution is not possible for your product type then:-

  1. Limit the form fields; ask only the details that are absolutely necessary for the purchase. Right now you don’t need to know their wedding anniversary date or their dog’s name.

  2. If the customer has shopped with you before, then they should not have to type their billing and shipping information. Your form should auto-load it.

  3. Don’t force registration. Have a guest checkout option.

  4. Don’t erase form entries – nothing is more annoying than filling out a form, clicking “submit,” and having to type everything again. If your customer forgets to fill a required field, then don’t make them type everything out again.

  5. Offer help. Make sure to have a customer service phone number clearly displayed, and even a chat tool if possible.

Reason 4: The product was out of stock
How would you feel if you spent your time comparing, selecting and finalizing on the product to buy and the shop keeper tells you “Sorry Sir, but that product is out of stock. Can we show you something else”? That is exactly how your visitor will feel once he has spent time on your site to purchase a product and was later informed that the product is out of stock. You will not only lose the sale but you will always lose the visitor. He won’t be coming back to you for sure.
Hence, it makes sense to invest in technology to avoid such a scenario. There are lots of competitive solutions out there in the market that automatically hide a product when the stock runs out. To enhance the visitor experience you could also display the current quantity of items in stock on the product page. Thus reducing any surprises for the consumer when they reach the view cart page.

Reason 5: I was uncomfortable with the buying process
Remember that the visitors landing on you shopping cart section have varied degrees of education, internet experience, computer experience, intelligence and e-commerce experience. So keep your buying process as simple as possible. Remember that people have been shopping for ages. Everyone irrespective of his background knows how to buy from a shop.
Try to replicate the same process online. Reduce the number of steps to bare minimum and keep them logical. Let the visitors be aware what he needs to do to complete the purchase even before he has started the purchase process. Use graphic to say that all you need to do to purchase is select the product, fill details, pay. Offer help at every stage.

Reason 6: Shopping cart technical problems
Before you go live with your shopping cart, test it properly for any bugs or issues. Replicate all the possible and rare scenarios that you think may occur by visitor’s’ actions. Study how your shopping cart is reacting. One of the major mistakes I see site owners commit is that they ask the same guys who have coded their shopping cart to check for errors. This will never work.
The coders have been thinking in a straight jacketed way while coding and they won’t be able to think of extreme situations that may make the cart unstable. Also, how honest will the creator be in finding flaws in his own creation? Remember to test your pages for stability on all available browsers. If you do not have experienced coders to code your shopping cart, I would recommend you to try out turn-key packages available in the market that offers you complete tested shopping cart solutions

Reason 7: The price was too high
If you can reduce your price, that’s the first thing you should do. Here, let me assume that reduction in price is not an option. Let us once again look at the scenario of you buying brown leather shoes. The shop owner cannot reduce the price any further.
However, here is what he does. He offers you a cool glass of lemonade, assures you that the goods he is selling are genuine leather, 30 days replacement guarantee and also gives you his contact number to call in case you have any feedback. Make the visitor comfortable, offer him intangible benefits and a place to come back with feedback, he won’t mind paying that extra something.
In case you are priced higher than the industry, there has to be a reason for it like guaranteed product quality, customer service, certifications etc. Highlight them from the customer’s point of view. Today, there are lots of coupon sites that offer benefits of discounts to the customers. They are known as affiliate marketers. Explore the possibility of tying up with them for bulk sales.

Reason 8: Product wasn't what I wanted
At all costs, restrain from mis-selling. This happens more often in financial products. How many times have you seen a financial company selling home loans to senior citizens? Stay away from such practices. Always remember that if you create a positive shopping environment, then the sales go up in the long term due to repeat purchases and referrals.
There is also a possibility of miscommunication. To avoid such scenarios always use extensive product descriptions and images to help better present the product to the consumer. When a visitor sees a different product in the shopping cart than what he imagines, he is obviously disappointed he abandons the shopping cart.

Reason 9: Payment issues or the site did not take my credit card type
This may look trivial but there are many occasions when the customer is at the final stage and your page refuses to accept the bank details/card that he has. Now, that’s a done deal gone bad. To save the visitors time and your bandwidth it’s a good practice to display all the payment instruments you accept upfront. However, in today’s scenario it’s more advisable to accept all major credit cards, online checks and have integrations with secondary payment providers such as Paypal, CyberSource and 2Checkout, etc.

Above all remember: You’re a consumer too. Write down everything you’ve ever loathed about shopping cart and you will have the answers as to what needs to be done to reduce the shopping cart abandonment rates on your site. Share with me what worked with you and what did not.

However, even after you have implemented the above ways there may still be some abandonment rates due to various reasons. What about them? How do you get them to come back and complete that purchase? We will answer all these queries in my third and final series of this post – Ways to bring back the customers to complete their purchase after they have abandoned the shopping cart.

Sneak-peak into ‘Ways to bring back the customers to complete their purchase after they have abandoned the shopping cart: Part 3’

You have spent your resources to get visitors to your shopping cart and you have spent further resources to keep them from abandoning the shopping cart. However, even after all your attempts, a few visitors are abandoning the cart. How do you get them back to your site and complete that purchase?
You’ll never completely solve the cart abandonment challenge, but there are two great ways to get that customer back, even after they leave your site. Come back for more insights on that.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Demystifying the mysteries of Shopping Cart Abandonment - Part 1/3

This post is global in nature and the insights are true for all countries. The post will be a three-part series covering the following:

  1. Reasons for shopping cart abandonment

  2. Ways to reduce shopping cart abandonment rate

  3. Ways to bring back the customers to complete their purchase after they have abandoned the shopping cart.

I have broken up the post in three parts on purpose because I want the reader to, understand, analyze and debate my viewpoint. By the end of the third series, I’m hopeful that you will be able to understand scientifically and reduce the shopping cart abandonment numbers on your site in order to close sales and increase online revenue and justify your online presence.
online shopping cart

Let’s start with the first part of the series - Reasons for shopping cart abandonment.

So, you have done your homework, worked it out with your agency and created the website for your company. You have even optimized the website for google, yahoo, bing etc. Your website also has social elements that make it optimized for social media. It gets lots of unique visitors from first month and they do visit your shopping cart section. Kudos. It’s a job well done. Now you can rest a bit. But wait, what’s happening here. Why are these visitors suddenly abandoning my cart without completing the purchase? Something’s wrong…
But what? …After all you followed the rules to building a website to the T. So what happened?

If you are in this situation, then you are not alone. Every year lots of webmasters worldwide realize that even after designing their website by following all the rules in the manual for website designing, lots of shoppers abandon the shopping cart without making a purchase. Take a look at the stats below.

shopping cart abandonment rate statistics

But why do shoppers abandon the cart… They did actually start the process of shopping, didn’t they?. Then, why did they leave?
Surveys conducted to understand this behavior asked the visitor abandoning the shopping cart to complete the sentence:
‘I am not able to complete this purchase because _______________.’ The answers received were very insightful. The below graph lists down the answers with percentages:

reasons for abandonment of shopping cart

It highlighted that comparison shopping, shipping costs, unavailability of time, no stock and uncomfortable buying processes were the top five reasons why a shopping cart was abandoned. Internet with its advantages of lesser inventory costs, huge knowledge pool and easier access has led to a scenario of Research Online and Purchase Offline (ROPO). As a result, you will observe lots of people on internet doing comparison shopping.

One of the best ways to identify such people is through their search queries. Consider a person who wants to purchase Reebok ZigZag shoes. During comparison shopping stage his query to a search engine would be ‘good jogging shoes’. Note that here he is not using any brand name or product identity. As he progresses through the purchase funnel – Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action (AIDA) – his search query changes. When he is ready to make the purchase, he is in the Action stage. He now knows exactly what he needs to buy. His research and journey through the funnel has helped him to identify the exact brand (Reebok) and he knows the exact product identity (ZigZag). Now if he decides to make the purchase online, he will be in your shopping cart section. We will cover how to target such people in my second series of this post (Ways to reduce shopping cart abandonment rate Part-II). We will discuss of the various ways that can be implemented to tackle each of the reasons identified above due to which the visitor has abandoned your shopping cart.

Sneak-peak into ‘Ways to reduce shopping cart abandonment rate:
Part 2’

So, the good news is that now since we know the ‘why’ we can answer the next question ‘how’ How do we reduce the shopping cart abandonment rate? Through my experience over the years in this industry, I have found that, there are ways to reduce this abandonment rate. In fact, these ways are very simple to implement. Logical too. After all marketing is but simple logic......

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