Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Monday, February 25, 2013

Providing Unforgettable Web Experiences: 4 Tips

The Challenge: Brands are struggling to stay relevant online. Per a study by Forrester, only 3% of websites earn a passing score in terms of user experience.
Trust building with customers.Consumers cited 3 reasons why websites are generally failing to live up to customer expectations:
1. Content and website functionality aren’t based on deep customer research.
2. Menu names are vague and typically do not provide visitors with a clear next action.
3. Text is illegible and privacy statements are not clear enough.
Poor website usability is not the only shortcoming. Per findings from Marketing Sherpa: among 1,100 online retailers evaluated, the study found a near 60% average shopping cart abandonment rate.
Per findings from our recent Voice of Customer research, consumers felt strongly about these 4 requirements for valuable web experiences.
4 Key Takeaways for Marketers:
1. Provide easy access to content in just a few clicks.
Customers shouldn’t have to search for the content on your website. For a best-in-class example, check out 2012 Webby Award Winner, Kahn Academy. The online educator structures its homepage around three basic elements: a navigation bar, a search bar, and three call to action graphics targeted to unique visitor segments. The website is a premiere example of what’s possible when ‘simplicity’ and ‘customer experience’ are the key guiding principles for design.
2. Make it easy to share content via social media.
It’s absolutely essential that websites provide social sharing options for published content, including blog RSS syndication.
There are a variety of social sharing tools available to brands, but if you’re starting out, consider adding Digg Digg or Share this -- a Forbes’ 2012 America’s Most Promising Company -- to your site.
3. Make it easy to engage via mobile.
Customers must be able to engage effortlessly when visiting your website via mobile device. Look to beauty supplies retailer, Sephora, for a best-in-class example of a consumer brand mobile site. The website features a clear, thumb-friendly navigational structure and beautifully-modern aesthetic design.
4. Feature Blogs and communities.
In addition to SEO and thought leadership benefits, website blogs function as the homebase for a brand’s community engagement.
Per our own Voice of Customer research on behalf of NBC and Microsoft, we’ve found that consumers demand “connection” to peers, relevant experts, and the companies themselves.
Customers come to your website for more than just ‘transactional’ experiences; provide a community, and they’ll be back when it’s time to purchase.

Monday, February 18, 2013

4 Tips for Earning Consumer Preference Data

The Challenge: Marketers everywhere are fighting an uphill battle: trying to deliver more personalized communications but lacking the accurate data to do so. Without that information marketers are still stuck sending ‘Spray and Pray’ blasts of email.
Trust building with customers.According to Toronto-based anti-spam filtering and web security services provider, Perimetic, “roughly 130 billion spam emails are sent, worldwide, per day, accounting for roughly 70% of global emailing activity.”
The goal of consumer-provided preference data is to deliver personally relevant offers, communications, and experiences. However instead of making consumers comfortable with sharing personal information, the ‘Spray and Pray’ practices of marketers have caused consumers not to trust them. This certainly applies to providing them with personal information.
Based on Voice of Customer research conducted by our firm, we have learned that there are 4 ways that brands can earn consumer preference data. These findings were consistent across B2B and B2C research.
4 Key Takeaways for Marketers:
1. Demonstrate to Consumers That You’ll Safeguard Their Information and Use it in a Responsible Way.
Successfully doing so requires that you follow two important steps:
•  One, promise consumers that you’ll safeguard their personal preferences by assuring them at each stage of the sign-up process and in all subsequent messages.
•  Two, follow through on that promise.
Violating these steps can do serious harm to brands. Conversely, demonstrating that you’re trustworthy will only help to strengthen the consumer-brand relationship.
2. Assure Consumers That “Responsible” Means That You’ll Never Rent or Sell Their Information to Third Parties.
This assurance cannot be subtle: it must be undeniable.
Email Marketing Services Provider, MailChimp, offers a great example of this. The message on their website support page is plain and unmistakable: “MailChimp does not provide, sell, share, or rent lists. Ever.”
It’s that kind of conciseness that puts consumers’ minds at ease. Do it.
3. Honor Consumer Expectations That Preference Data Will Be Used to Drive Increasingly Targeted Offers.
Aligning your brand with this expectation requires that you demonstrate your commitment to honor expectations from the outset of a relationship.
Boston Store’s Fashion and Sales News email sign-up form requests customers to provide the store with 10 essential preference criteria, thereby assuring customers that they’ll only receive relevant offers.
We applaud Boston Store for using detailed preference criteria to deliver a more personal experience.
4. Clearly Demonstrate to the Consumer That You’re Working to Provide an Improved Experience With Their Preference Information.
If value is not obvious, consumers will assume that you’ve betrayed their trust.
This expectation of relevance applies to both online and offline experiences and communications. Be sure that you’re demonstrating the value to the consumer consistently and over time. There’s a lot of bad history you need to overcome.
We urge you to test these 4 Tips. Per the experience of our clients, your customers will reward you with increased loyalty and sales.

Monday, February 11, 2013

5 Social Media Service Tips

The Challenge: In the past, brands addressed customer service issues by way of a primary channel -- the ‘call center.’ Social Media ServiceBut now, companies must also monitor, respond, and engage in a variety of social channels.
If a brand is unskilled in social media customer engagement, adapting customer service programs to new channels can be challenging: brands might default to reactivity -- essentially, playing ‘defense’ -- when faced with disgruntled customers online.
However, making reactivity the foundation of your social customer service strategy causes brands to view customer relationships as things to ‘manage,’ rather than opportunities to proactively add value to the customer experience.
According to the 2012 American Express® Global Customer Service Barometer, consumers spend 21% more with companies who deliver great service -- compared to 13% on average.” Therefore, to achieve high impact in our social media world, brands must now view ‘customer service’ as an integral part of their overall marketing strategy that can have dramatic impact on the bottom line.
Key Takeaways for Marketers:
1. Make Passion for Service a Corporate Value
Customer Service is marketing. Customer Service representatives should view themselves as the ‘front line’ of a company’s marketing and branding efforts. Treat every service engagement as an opportunity to increase engagement and drive brand advocacy.
2. Surprise and Delight With Authentic Engagement
Recently named the #1 Best Small Company to Work for in the U.S. by FORTUNE Magazine in 2012, Oregon-based virtual receptionist services provider, Ruby Receptionists, lists the drive to “WOW” customers among their core company values:
“We’re about finding that special something that will knock your socks off, and giving it to you before you even know about it...Simply doing a good job isn’t enough for us.”
The company frequently engages with customers via Twitter and Facebook and regularly sends customers handwritten ‘thank you’ notes, demonstrating a truly ‘hybrid’ form of customer service.
3. Treat Every Service Interaction as a Marketing Event
Every service opportunity affects your brand’s reputation; thus, representatives must be trained to treat interactions as opportunities to communicate relevant and personalized messaging.
Based on learnings from Voice of Customer Research, leading provider of community-based preventative health services, Life Line Screening, discovered that customers wanted service interactions to demonstrate true engagement. As part of their commitment to transforming the customer experience, the Life Line Screening customer service center now reports to Marketing to ensure that the service experience is about engagement, not transactions. The result: 85% increase in returning customers and 40% increase in revenue per customer.
4. Prioritize Immediacy
Social Media happens in real-time.
Track brand mentions, concerns, and questions 24/7, and respond immediately. People will show their appreciation by retweeting your responses, broadcasting your good deeds to hundreds of others.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Social Media Crises: 3 Tips for Calming the Storm

The Challenge: No company is immune to the possibility of damaging comments, posts and tweets. So how do businesses prepare for unwanted attention on far-reaching social channels? Here, Social Media Crisis Plan we look at a few companies that have weathered the storm and provided some valuable lessons.
Step 1: Create a social media crisis plan before a crisis erupts. That way, you can address damaging comments and reactions swiftly and professionally. By having a plan in place, you hit the ground running -- a critical step when a social media firestorm ignites. In April 2010, BP had no plan when it found itself in the midst of a crisis when oil spilled into to the Gulf of Mexico. Sadly, the company made several missteps. It failed to own up to what happened, it made statements that didn't align with the truth, and it lacked follow-through with solutions.
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Step 2: It is a given that customers will share service snafus and other experiences online, so it's imperative that companies monitor what is being said. KFC learned this the hard way when a disgruntled customer posted unsightly pictures of an unusual-looking substance in his chicken. The fast food chain did little to address the questionable photograph. Instead, it continued to post its regular stream of marketing messages, making it appear as if the company was trying to ignore the situation at hand. Monitor messages, evaluate and adjust your plan as needed.
KitchenAid faced a similar crisis when an employee accidentally sent an insensitive tweet during a presidential debate using the company's twitter handle. KitchenAid responded quickly and with sincerity, effectively lessening backlash. Specifically, the company acknowledged the mistake, took responsibility for what happened and apologized to President Barack Obama and other Twitter followers.
Key Takeaways for Marketers:
1. Monitor your presence online. Follow online conversations so you know when potentially damaging situations are developing/have occurred. Gatorade uses a sophisticated social media command center to keep tabs on social media activity. Other companies choose to designate a point person to monitor online conversations and do periodic searches relevant to the company's brand.
2. Act quickly. When it comes to social media, you don't have days or weeks to come up with a plan. An offensive tweet can go viral in the span of a few hours. Don't sit on your response. Instead, address situations as quickly as you can -- preferably within 24 hours.
3. Remember that transparency is vital. In most cases, you don't want to delete damaging posts and pictures. Instead, you want to respond quickly and with tact. Apologize, and focus on solutions. If emotionally-charged discussions get out of hand, direct the conversation offline. For example; “We'd be happy to discuss this with you to find the best solution. What number can we reach you?”.