Category Archives: E-Commerce Times

E-Commerce Times

Winning Tactics for Marketing in the Micro-Moment

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e-commerce-online-marketing

Google believes that all the important consumer buying decisions happen in a brief flash of time. Understanding and responding to customer needs in those all-important, tiny moments is key to successful marketing, the company says. Specifically, they are the exact moments when people turn to a device because they want one or more of four things: to know, do, go or buy.

Google has built a new marketing model around "micro-moments." Many other companies are following suit and watching the
Think With Google newsletter and website very closely.

"You have to make that conversion happen right on the spot once customers have looked at your website or mobile app," said Bret Bonnet, president of
Quality Logo Products.

If you guessed that real-time data and analytics play a big role in finding and identifying these moments, you are right.

"If you're looking to attract customer attention during micro-moments, the most important thing is that you make your information easy to access and digest," said Harrison Doan, director of analytics at
Saatva Mattress.

"These quick check-ups can easily make or break a sale, so it's imperative that you optimize your site's speed," he told the E-Commerce Times. "If a micro-moment passes before a customer can even load up the information they need, you could lose the sale entirely."

Companies must have a smart strategy to satiate all of these moments of need to win the cash prize in increased sales.

"The biggest question for us in terms of these instances, Quality Logo's Bonnet told the E-Commerce Times, is this: How do we harness those micro-moments to help our business?"

That is the question everyone is asking. In an effort to help you find the right answers for your company, here are tips from the experts on each of the four micro-moments defined by Google.

1. I Want to Know

This is the micro-moment when someone wants to learn something. They have a question and they're turning to a device to find the answer. The outcome to this activity is more complex for the etailer or retailer than one might expect.

"With the ability to research products online, customers often know more than the sales associate about the product they are interested in. This is why the 'store associate of the future' is needed," said Vicki Cantrell, retail transformation officer at
Aptos.

"These are associates who are equipped with tools that can connect the shopper to the full catalog of products throughout the retail enterprise, even if that product is not available in-store at that time," she told the E-Commerce Times.

"By opening up an 'endless aisle' to the customer, brands can ensure that every opportunity for every sale is converted, and that the customer leaves the store satisfied," Cantrell said.

As to satisfying the potential customer's desire to know, you need a strategy for that as well, so that nothing falls short, confuses, or aggravates the customer in that all important moment.

"We assign 'how-to,' 'what,' 'why,' etc., general questions to the research 'want-to-know' phase, and address them with long-form educational content, video and visuals, and promote them on social media and share with online communities," said Natasha Kvitka, Digital marketing strategist at
Gift Baskets Overseas.

"On this stage, the client is not ready to buy yet, but exposing useful content from a brand starts to create a prospect's affiliation toward it," she told the E-Commerce Times.

2. I Want to Do

This is the micro-moment when a person decides to do something immediately or in the future. The "what" can be anything, such as go to a restaurant, take a vacation, use a product, or something else entirely.

"In the 'want-to-do' phase, users seek more technical information about products, services, and solutions. Keywords will include 'reviews,' 'best,' 'worst,' 'in location,' etc.," Kvitka said.

"For this phase, we can provide the details they seek with content like white papers, along with reviews and testimonials from existing clients, to prove a brand's credibility and expertise, and also target such keywords with paid search pay-per-click campaigns," she added.

Content may be king, but it has to be useful content.

"We write a ton of how-to content, from how to size your ring to which direction to shave your face!" said Jonathan Poston e-commerce marketing lead for
Wedding Bands For Both and 99 Cent Razor.

3. I Want to Go

This is the micro-moment when a consumer wants to explore events and places while traveling, or near a soon-to-be-reached destination, or simply look for something different to do on home turf. The consumer may know a general category, such as museums or shopping, or possibly be looking for ideas based solely on what is close.

"The want-to-go micro-moments reflect people's intentions to find a local business where they can do an activity, contract a service, or buy a product. If your business has a local presence, then mobile local ads, Google Business and Yelp listings are the most effective approach," advised Jimmy Rodriguez, chief operating officer at
3Dcart.

"If your business is strictly e-commerce, there is still a good opportunity by identifying the most popular destinations related to your industry and targeting these as keywords to promote products that consumers would usually need at those places," he told the E-Commerce Times.

4. I Want to Buy

This is the most coveted micro-moment, the very second the consumer makes the decision to buy something.

"The customer could be at a retail store and decide to read reviews about the product or compare the price against online stores," said Rodriguez.

"Assuming your store has a great value proposition, the goal is to present it to the buyer. To achieve this, run shopping ads, campaigns like Google Shopping or Bing Shopping campaigns, list your products on eBay, Amazon, Walmart and other marketplaces," he suggested.

"And most important, make sure your website is optimized for mobile, offering a fast-loading site or
AMP product pages and digital wallets for quick checkout," Rodriguez advised. "This can help you win the sale even against local retailers."

In other words, discoverability is a strategic priority for the 'I Want to Buy' micro-moment.

"When consumers are in this mindset, they might have the strongest purchase intent, but that intent doesn't necessarily mean they know exactly what they want, or have a specific product in mind," said Amir Shub, general manager, Americas at
Smartly.io.

"Discoverability, and treating digital ads as an opportunity for consumers to browse and discover multiple products, much like they do in brick-and-mortar stores, is a huge opportunity for brands," he told the E-Commerce Times.

The most successful companies have a strategy for each micro-moment, but they also look at the moments together as steps in a process.

"My favorite strategy to catch potential customers in a middle of different micro-moments," offered Gift Baskets' Kvitka, "is tying SEO, content, social media and paid search/social efforts to the natural behavior flow of a user from research (want-to-know) through decision (want-to-buy)."


Pam Baker has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2007. Her main areas of focus are technology, business and finance. She has written hundreds of articles for leading publications including InformationWeek, Institutional Investor magazine, CIO.com and TechTarget. She has authored several analytical studies on technology, as well as eight books, the latest of which is Data Divination: Big Data Strategies. She also wrote and produced an award-winning documentary on paper-making. She is a member of the National Press Club, Society of Professional Journalists and the Internet Press Guild. Email Pam.

Original Article

E-Commerce Times

Self-Service AI Aims to Grease the Wheels for B2B Sales Teams

Published by:

artificial-intelligence-sales

SalesDirector.ai this week released a self-service version of its artificial intelligence sales execution and sales forecasting platform for B2B sales teams.

The system provides enterprise-grade AI to sales teams in less than five minutes, according to the company. Like the regular SalesDirector.ai platform, the self-service version is offered as a service.

"There's no need to configure, program or set up how you sell, and train the AI — no need for admins to connect to systems," said SalesDirector.ai CEO Babar Batla.

"Our prior product required a few weeks' work to configure the AI system to understand [clients'] sales methodology, process and playbook," he told CRM Buyer. "Our new offering doesn't need that — customers can start on their own. Same value, but a revolutionary onboarding and setup."

Sales executives "are overwhelmed by data and solutions to help them sort through what are the important signals that impact deal closure and improve seller performance," noted Cindy Zhou, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

"AI solutions have the ability to answer these questions," she told CRM Buyer.

The product targets businesses with 50 to 1,000 employees.

"These companies have all the same problems as big companies, but don't have the know-how, resources, budget, or the patience to put an AI system for sales in place," Batla pointed out. "So we take care of it."

Potential customers can access the platform through the "Try Now" button on SalesDirector.ai's website and begin using AI and machine learning in their sales process without needing to implement the software and related services.

Annual contracts for the platform cost upwards of US$1,000 per user.

Productivity Features

The SalesDirector.ai platform connects with Microsoft and Google email and calendar applications on the server side, "so there's nothing to install on the Outlook or Google Mail client," Batla said.

It also connects with the Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics and NetSuite CRM platforms.

"We get data from CRM, but most of the interesting data is sitting in the sales reps' mailboxes and calendars," Batla remarked.

Both versions of the platform correlate all the interactions with buyers that are journaled in email, calendar and call logs, and provide various capabilities without the need for any data entry.

Among the tools for sales leaders:

  • Forecasts based on observed activities and relationship milestones;
  • The ability to manage the pipeline by exception to quickly identify corrective action and improve win rates; and
  • Training mechanisms, along with the ability to hold sellers accountable to the company's sales best practices.

The platform helps sales reps do the following:

  • Stay organized around all their deals, keeping things from falling through the cracks;
  • Come better prepared for deal reviews; and
  • Focus on value-added discussions with managers and overlay teams, again without needing data entry.

The initial run to correlate data takes two to three hours, Batla said. After that, incremental correlations, which execute "much more quickly," are done multiple times daily.

"The key component is using machine learning to analyze the data from a multitude of sources to surface insights for forecast accuracy," Constellation's Zhou pointed out. "The problem is, most companies have data quality issues that impact the effectiveness of the algorithms."

Coaching Features

The SalesDirector.ai platform leverages data to provide real-time coaching in sales execution.

"We can do basic things like setting up the next meeting, engaging with more than one person on a deal, and making sure a particular contact isn't ignored on a deal," Batla said.

The platform also offers advanced coaching. Based on the sales opportunity, it can advise sales people when it's appropriate to take the following actions:

  • Engage with the buyer who makes the purchase decision;
  • Send the discovery call follow-up; and
  • Send the contract.


Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

Original Article

E-Commerce Times

Cloud Training to Boost Competitive Advantage Strategies

Published by:

cloud-enterprise-software-training

One of the biggest challenges facing organizations of all sizes trying to move to the cloud is finding and retaining the skilled workers necessary to implement today's rapidly expanding assortment of on-demand services.

This skills gap cost companies more than $250 million in lost business opportunities in just one year, according to a recent survey conducted by the London School of Economics and sponsored by
Rackspace. The 2017 study polled 1,900 IT professionals and executives in the U.S., UK, Europe, Mexico, Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong.

Cloud Computing Skills Gap

More than 70 percent of respondents said they had lost immediate revenue opportunities because of a lack of necessary cloud skills. The skills gap prevented 42 percent of respondents' enterprises from adding cloud platforms that would have enabled them to pursue new business opportunities.

As a result, 70 percent of the survey respondents acknowledged that their companies needed to do more to invest in their people to improve their cloud skills.

High expectations that the cloud would make it easier to obtain computing power and software functionality to keep pace with escalating market demands have not become a reality for many organizations. Instead, the cloud has added another layer of complexity to many already complicated IT and enterprise application environments.

The rapid pace of innovation in the cloud industry has made it even harder for many organizations to keep up with the latest cloud alternatives and requirements.

Because most cloud companies operate in very competitive market segments, they have been forced to compete on price to win new customers, and to keep their operating expenses low to achieve profitability.

Customer training and support are the operating expenses that most often have been shortchanged so they could invest as much money as possible in the product development, sales and marketing functions that drive cloud vendor revenue growth.

Technology Adoption Curve

Customer training and support traditionally have been viewed as people-intensive cost-centers — and a necessary evil in doing business. Many cloud vendors have attempted to circumvent this burden by relying on a variety of new technologies to reduce the cost of customer training and support, ranging from bots to self-service wikis fueled by powerful new artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities.

Although these new tools can expedite some aspects of meeting escalating customer training and support needs, they still fall short in keeping pace with the expanding array of real-world challenges facing many organizations in an increasingly diverse cloud marketplace. Even the smartest support system can't satisfy the iterative needs of many cloud customers, as one question, issue or concern leads to another.

While most of us don't like to rely on traditional tech support mechanisms to solve our problems or satisfy our needs, it is almost always gratifying to have a good support experience that makes you feel better about your vendor choices. A quick answer served up by a bot can keep us moving forward, but the added insight of a knowledgeable support person can bring even greater value. It also can create a tighter bond to the service provider.

Since the inception of the cloud "as a service" business model, vendors have been obsessed with their customer acquisition costs and churn rates. Spending too much to acquire customers that ultimately abandon a cloud service is the best way to fail at this business.

As it turns out, many cloud companies have discovered that getting new customers up and running quickly is equally important. Shortening adoption time enables cloud vendors to recognize revenue quicker in today's pay-as-you-go subscription services economy.

Short adoption cycles are a key determinant of a customer's willingness to make add-on purchases. This willingness is essential to enabling the cloud vendor to achieve long-term profitability via the classic land-and-expand strategy.

Quick adoption cycles also play an important role in the customer's willingness to recommend a cloud service to others — another route to reducing the cost of new customer acquisition and accelerating the profitability process.

Salesforce Trailhead

Reducing adoption cycle time has become an increasingly important issue for Salesforce over the past few years, as its cloud offerings have expanded via acquisition and organic growth. The company has faced escalating pressure to help its customers adopt its broadening array of cloud-based applications and take full advantage of their functional capabilities.

In response, Salesforce has hired many more support people and enlisted more service partners to address customers' growing adoption challenges.

Still, as the company plotted its course to
double its revenue from US$10 billion to $20 billion in 2022, it recognized that it could not continue to bring on more people and partners at the same pace to sustain its growth.

So, Salesforce decided to rethink its training program and radically change how it delivered customer support. The company's relatively new Trailhead program relies on peer-to-peer, end-user training techniques fortified by gamification tactics that recognize and reward Salesforce customers who help others.

Trailhead capitalizes on the willingness of Salesforce software admins to share their knowledge and experience with their peers in the same way software developers have shared their innovations with others via the open source movement.

In the two years since the Trailhead program's launch, it not only has helped Salesforce satisfy its customers' escalating training needs and accelerate their adoption cycles, but also has created a larger and more vibrant end-user community. Many have become zealous advocates for the value of Salesforce's solutions.

Salesforce executives believe the continuous feedback cycle created by the Trailhead program community has changed dramatically how Salesforce prioritizes its product development efforts and launches new products. It has reduced the guesswork and increased the success rate of new products and features.

In a market in which competing on the strength of specific product features is a treacherous tactic, given the steady stream of new innovations being created in the cloud, vendors must find new methods to achieve a competitive advantage. Access to training tools and a community forum to achieve business success can give customers the sense of empowerment and respect that fosters a new form of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The Salesforce Trailhead program has redefined how a company can gain competitive advantage, by showcasing the power of its customer community via a new form of training and support.


Jeff Kaplan has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2009. His focus is on cloud computing, SaaS, IT management, managed services and the Internet of Things. He is managing director of
THINKstrategies.
Email Jeff.

Original Article

E-Commerce Times

Google’s Ad Mute Option Could Be a Valuable Messaging Tool

Published by:

online-advertising

Google on Thursday announced a new feature that will let users mute so-called
"reminder ads" in third-party apps and websites that are powered by
its ad engine. It plans to expand this feature to its own services, including Gmail, YouTube and Google Search, in the coming months.

The new tool is the latest addition to Google's dashboard for ad controls, first launched as Ads Preferences Manager back in 2009. The addition of Ad Settings and Mute This Ad will allow users
essentially to block certain ads on Google, on websites and in apps.

This new capability is meant to address a common experience after users have viewed products on some e-commerce sites. Even after having purchased a similar or even identical product on another site, users often receive reminder ads based on their past browsing activity.

Now users will be able to mute those ads across devices, so that
blocking an ad on a smartphone, for example, will result in blocking it on all other devices tied to their
accounts.

Google Ads Settings smartphone display

How to Mute

To mute an ad, users need only pull up the Ads Settings dashboard
on Google and scroll down to Your Reminder Ads. From there,
a simple click is all it takes to stop an ad from appearing.
Muted ads will not appear again for at least 90 days. However,
this feature currently works only on non-Google websites — and
if a site is serving ads that aren't controlled by Google,
using the mute option will have no effect.

"Google is taking brave steps into the politics of advertising these
days," said Josh Crandall, principal analyst at Netpop Research.

"They are releasing their Chrome based Adblock Plus and now have
announced ad controls," he told the E-Commerce Times.

"On the surface these moves might be seen as contradictory with
their business model, but Google is slowly changing the rules to
protect the long-term strength of online advertising," added Crandall.

The ad mute function is just a tweak to Google's longstanding policy, suggested Paul
Teich, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

"Google had already let consumers block specific ads," he explained.

"The new features give consumers more control over what types of ads
they see, let consumers block specific advertisers, and implement
these features across devices and platforms," Teich told the
E-Commerce Times.

"So, consumer ad preferences will follow them from PC to smartphone to
smart speakers, smart TVs, etc.," he added. "The cross-platform bit is
key, because consumer preferences are now stored in Google's cloud."

Win-Win Proposition

It would seem that users will benefit from this change, but Google
wouldn't be making it if it were not beneficial to its ad
business.

Users may be able to mute reminder ads, but that won't make advertising go away.

"Any time users can signal their interests in what they want to see,
and what they don't, it is beneficial to the ad industry," noted Netpop's Crandall.
"It means Google will find it easier to track individual preferences
and correlate preferences across vast numbers of consumers."

This will give Google better insights into their ad
customers' company and product brand perception, as well as advertising
strategy effectiveness Tirias' Teich observed.

"All of this will help advertisers and publishers increase ad
effectiveness, while Google's advertising supply chain will get better
at reaching individual consumers with ads for brands and products they
are more likely to relate to and click-through," he said.

For Google, more relevant and
contextual advertising ultimately could result in a higher yield.

"Users who take control of what makes it to their screens are more
likely to be interested in the messages that are presented to them,"
said Crandall. "The relationship between user and advertiser will
evolve over time from one that sees advertising as a necessary evil to
another way of perceiving advertising messages as a valuable component
of the online experience."

Peter Suciu has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2012. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile phones, displays, streaming media, pay TV and autonomous vehicles. He has written and edited for numerous publications and websites, including Newsweek, Wired and FoxNews.com.
Email Peter.

Original Article

E-Commerce Times

Namogoo CEO Chemi Katz: Malware Can Ruin the Customer Journey

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customer-journey-hijacking

Chemi Katz is CEO of
Namogoo.

In this exclusive interview, Katz discusses the threat of online customer journey hijacking and offers advice on how to combat it.

Namogoo CEO Chemi Katz
Namogoo CEO Chemi Katz

CRM Buyer: What is online journey hijacking, and why is it important to prevent it?

Chemi Katz: The customer journey is the journey that e-commerce customers go on when they come to a site, and hopefully it ends with buying a product. Hijacking interferes with the customer's journey. It can be a pop-up that the company didn't put there, or something that will lead a customer out of the website. It's any interference that doesn't come from the e-commerce business itself, but from a third party that does it for malicious reasons and to make money.

It's important to prevent it because it causes e-commerce businesses to lose money. Every e-commerce company brings a customer in to enjoy the experience and eventually buy a product. Journey hijacking leads customers to a different product, so eventually the e-commerce company loses money. When you click a product, eventually you go to a different website. It all comes down to money, and having a good experience and journey on an e-commerce website.

CRM Buyer: What are the best ways to prevent online journey hijacking?

Katz: Our installation involves adding one line of code into every page that you want to protect, and all of our clients put it on 100 percent of their pages.

Basically, the code is a living code on the client's page and mobile device. Because of the nature of dynamic pages and the dynamic content of e-commerce, there isn't any one truth for every page. We use machine learning and algorithms to understand what the page is on the fly.

For every client, we have some kind of model for how we think the pages should look. This code is updated many times a day, because e-commerce businesses change the content all the time, and we need to change this all the time.

CRM Buyer: Why is machine learning an important part of preventing online journey hijacking? What makes for an effective machine-learning system?

Katz: Machine learning is 70 percent of the system, and I'll explain why. We need to be very efficient about what we do. We don't want to add anything to the page that hinders performance, and we want to remove anything that does that.

There's a lot of malware hijacking going on, and one of the most important things is knowing how to learn about new attacks all the time. When it sees suspicious evidence in the page or inside the code, it sends it back to our machine-learning servers, and they digest the data. They decide if it's legit or not.

Also, if we find a malware element on one e-commerce site, we send it to others, because it's an ongoing attack. The whole system is refreshed all the time, learning all the time, and referring from client to client and between different verticals.

CRM Buyer: How do you see client-side digital malware evolving? What's in the future? What new threats will it pose?

Katz: In the last six months, we've seen a lot of this kind of malware coming from public WiFi networks at places like coffee shops and airports, and we see a lot of it even on clean devices, just from browsing.

It infects the devices through the WiFi. When I'm in Starbucks and connected into the Starbucks WiFi, I can basically by mistake or unknowingly download some kind of malware, and then I get it. We see a lot of surveys that pop up from a website, but they actually didn't come from that website itself.

Another thing we're witnessing is when you're missing a plug-in, and then when you install it you get nasty malware. It's shifting all the time, and it's changing all the time. We need to remember that they have one goal in mind: to make money.

CRM Buyer: Does ad-blocker software protect consumers from this kind of malware and journey hijacking?

Katz: Most of the people that have ad blocking will still see banner ads, because they are competing with ad blockers. They know how to bypass them. They know how to bypass most of the ad-blocking software.

CRM Buyer: In addition to affecting the bottom line, does online journey hijacking affect other parts of the e-commerce experience, like the experience and understanding of a brand?

Katz: Yes, it affects all kinds of things: how the website looks, the color, the pictures. Malware can change anything. We see malware that puts ads when there was nothing. They create white space. For example, they can push the homepage down, and have advertising on the top.

Eventually, what the e-commerce business wanted on top of the fold can go to below the fold. All kinds of things that the e-commerce sites are working on to make the journey perfect can be ruined by this kind of hijacking.


Vivian Wagner has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. Her main areas of focus are technology, business, CRM, e-commerce, privacy, security, arts, culture and diversity. She has extensive experience reporting on business and technology for a variety
of outlets, including The Atlantic, The Establishment and O, The Oprah Magazine. She holds a PhD in English with a specialty in modern American literature and culture. She received a first-place feature reporting award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists.
Email Vivian.

Original Article