Insights

  • Re-examining Our Image of the Black Friday Shopper

    by Renee Cohen | Dec 02, 2011

    Several years ago, we defined the prototypical shopper as a woman with a family, two and a half children and a dog, living in suburban house with a minivan. On Black Friday, we pictured the holiday shopper lugging bags from eleven stores, smiling while she struggled to carry all her purchases. This year, we saw her as an aggressive and brutal beast, trampling other Wal-Mart shoppers and fighting for $2 waffle makers. While we might find amusement – and sometimes horror – at the exaggerated images shown on the nightly news, we know better. Let’s really examine today’s Black Friday Shopper.

    She, (because 62% of purchase decisions are made by a woman - NPD), started holiday shopping on Black Friday (52% of Americans did, according to ComScore). She did not complete her shopping on Friday and used work time on Monday to shop online (28% percent did, up 33% from last year according to NPD).

    She is within reach of her mobile device 75% of the time, often taking it to bed and the bathroom. According to IBM, her favorite mobile device is the iPad, and she’s more than twice as likely to use a mobile device to research retailers this year (10.8% vs 3.8% last year). At the same time, she is three times more likely to actually complete a purchase through her mobile device this year (6.6% vs 2.3%). Her favorite activity on her mobile device is to research gifts and prices while still in the store.

    While online, she watches mobile videos on Google (according to IBM’s Coremetics data). She most likely viewed advertising videos on Hulu, and has opted in to receiving retailer-based emails weekly. She is connected to brands on Facebook (80% are), and she has more friends her age than younger or older than she is. Although, according to IBM, less than 1% of purchases were directly inspired by a referral from social media (0.56% of sales on Black Friday), 86% of all social media referrals came from Facebook.

    We think today’s Black Friday Shopper is very different from what we saw on ABC and NBC News. She is a smart, mobile-savvy, well-researched consumer who seeks value based on real information and the opinions of the people and brands that she trusts.

    Just a thought – Happy Holidays!

  • Gamification & The Brussels Sprouts Dynamic

    by Chris Wallace | Nov 22, 2011

    Did you hate brussels sprouts as a kid? I sure did. How did my parent’s get me to eat them? That’s right, we played Here Comes the Airplane.

    It’s a time tested solution to an age old problem: Make it fun and people are more likely to participate.

    Now, let’s fast forward to the age of social media and pervasive mobile connectivity. If you haven’t already, you’ll soon hear digital marketing enthusiasts using the term Gamification to describe this phenomena.

    Gamification (a term borrowed from behavioral economics) is the practice of utilizing gameplay mechanics in non-game scenarios to change behaviors or incentivize users perform otherwise mundane tasks.

    While there is some merit to the adage that “there is nothing new under the sun”, social and mobile technologies have certainly given this concept fresh legs and new possibilities for engaging customers to participate with your brand. Whether your goal is to get customers to use their loyalty cards more often, to visit your bricks and mortar locations, or simply to participate in your survey, applying the principles of gamification to your marketing programs may be a great way to generate lift.

    So what are some simple ways to make a marketing program more game-like?

    Let’s look at that program to incentivize loyalty card usage:

    • Make the incentives simple and attainable: Use your loyalty card 4 times this month and get 20% off your next order
    • Let participants track their progress and encourage them to keep playing: Mobile App with a progress bar with SMS reminders
    • Give it legs via social media: Let users share their progress to social media friends and followers, make it easy for those friends to get involved as well.
    • Make rewards easy to redeem: Send your 20% Discount coupon via SMS to their mobile device

    While this is a simplified scenario, there are endless gamification techniques that could be applicable to this case including:

    • Location based check-ins: Check in (via foursquare or other location based service) at any of our bricks and mortar location and receive points, badges, discounts or other benefit.
    • Badges for achievement: Rewarding brand interaction with small tokens of appreciation is a strong motivator considering the game-like engagement channel. i.e. Reward users for using the loyalty card 4x, 8x, 12x in a month.
    • Virtual currency: Points programs that can be “spent” as rewards. This could be on real world or virtual merchandise depending on your brand and your goals. Providing clear point totals and easy redemption of those points is key. Farmville dollars is a great example.
    • Head-to-head challenges: Allow users to engage their friends by issuing challenges or other competitions, i.e. Who can check into the most locations in a month?
    • Leaderboards: Who has the most points? Where do I rank? People play games to win, capitalize on this.

    Employing some of these concepts may just help you bring that plane in for a landing.
    Interested in chatting about how social media, mobile, or gamification might help you reach your business and marketing goals?

    Feel free to drop us a line.

  • Merchant Funded Rewards Programs Still Require Direct Response Fundamentals

    by Josh Kelso | Nov 15, 2011

    The purpose of a loyalty program is to…well, build customer loyalty. In today’s financial services marketplace, however, traditional bank-funded loyalty programs are rapidly losing their perceived benefit among participants.  As the value assigned to the points decreases, participants are looking elsewhere for better deals.  This defeats the purpose of the program.  As a result, more and more Financial Institutions (FIs) are moving away from self (bank) funded loyalty programs and toward merchant funded loyalty programs to offer more to participants. But the initial success of these programs will be difficult to repeat unless marketing managers return to the fundamentals of direct response marketing.

    Merchant funded loyalty programs are a growing loyalty strategy, enabling FIs to share the financial burden of loyalty program costs with merchants.  In essence, the merchant agrees to fund the points, cash back or discounts in exchange for marketing exposure to the loyalty program’s participants.  As a result, the FI is able to provide a highly attractive loyalty-building program, offering greater value to participants, while the merchant gains valuable marketing opportunities.

    These new programs are being adopted rapidly throughout the financial industry, and soon the impact of greater rewards will be lost as consumers are overwhelmed with competing offers from multiple vendors leveraging this new tactic. Merchant funded loyalty programs help cultivate mutually beneficial relationships between FIs and merchants.  However, to preserve their value with consumers, the programs need to be executed with emphasis on the fundamentals.

    Merchant funded rewards programs must be implemented with strong messaging tied to the brands and the consumer’s interests. Precise targeting and relentless A/B testing will ensure that the right message reaches the right audience at the right time. This creates the greatest value for FIs and merchants – as well as consumers who appreciate and are most likely to respond to offers with maximum relevance and personalization.

    Before consumer fatigue sets in, this powerful marketing tactic needs strong execution to see immediate results. At Trellist Marketing and Technology, we have been working with merchant funded rewards programs for years. Our experience has shown that the application of direct response fundamentals, strong creative execution, and relentless testing still have the greatest impact on program success.

  • CMOs are Taking a Page from CTO and CIO Playbook

    by Todd Metzger | Nov 08, 2011

    With the latest economic news, CTOs and CIOs are once again seeking opportunities for short term cost savings. Outsourcing critical services to specialized vendors has been a favorite strategy of the CIO under pressure to reduce costs and improve service. Now CMOs are looking to steal a page from their business team rivals. Progressive CMOs are reexamining the productivity of dedicated marketing teams for SEO, content development, social media, web support, eMarketing and eCommerce, and are reducing costs by outsourcing these specialized business functions.
    CIOs turned to outsourcing in early 1990, and again in 2001 and 2008, seeking an alternative to providing business services in-house, particularly when those services are not considered to be within the core competency of their business. IT executives have allowed third parties to work closely within the business units to provide expertise, meeting a clearly defined service level. As a result, the IT department could reduce fixed headcount while preserving the option to add staff externally as business changed. This flexibility allowed for greater efficiency. And in most cases, the specialized management of the process provided improved service.

    This time, CMOs are seeking the same opportunity for a wide variety of functions now caught in the soft area between the IT function and the marketing organization. These functions require technical skills, proven processes and dedicated teams. Outsourcing combines the advantages of the work being done by an agency with specialized skills and the close working relationship and knowledge retention achieved with in-house teams. CMOs gain an advantage by outsourcing these specialized business functions to a new type of professional services firm.

    Recently, CIO Magazine advised CIOs to avoid fast-tracking sourcing negotiations and invest savings to improve operations while shedding old processes that don’t help the brand. At Trellist, we think this is sound advice for the CMO, as well. An analysis of marketing operations will allow the CMO to determine which functions will achieve the greatest gains through outsourcing.
    CMOs now get it, and they are looking very closely at this new approach to productivity and flexibility. To support this demand, Trellist Resource Management Division provides Outsourcing for more than 30 different professional service functions within the Trellist core competencies. This segment is the fastest growing area inside the Resource Management Division. Now both CIOs and CMOs have access to specialized outsourcing teams to leverage creative cost reduction within their business units.

  • Building Brands through the Social gGraph

    by Edgar Uy | Oct 28, 2011

    The adage that a company does not define their brand but customers do is still an immutable truth. Brands can try to dictate what they stand for, but ultimately they are judged by the sum total of the customer experience. Brands that engage in a dialogue by listening, learning and participating are more likely to create a positive impact. Therefore, it is important that brands actively participate in dialogs throughout their social graph, leveraging the strength in their core message, feedback mechanisms, curating and distributing content, and visual expression as it applies across channels.

    A social media strategy cannot exist without a content strategy. Brands must develop content that reflect the brand promise and give people a reason to stay engaged. Make it easy for your brand advocates to share your content through their social graph. Content shared through word-of-mouth is far more powerful at driving brand preferences and intent than paid advertising alone.

    So how do you develop a content strategy? Here are a few important elements to consider:

    • Know what your audience wants to talk about, be sure the topic is relevant, and understand how it fits into their daily lives. Be willing to engage in those conversations by using your own brand voice, in a personable language that your audience is using and characteristic of how your brand expresses itself.
    • Know your audience and where they want to have these conversations. People follow you because they like you, and because your brand offers them something—so be sure to deliver. Remember that influential users (loosely defined as users whose actions result in additional site visitors) may generate up to 40% of total site traffic, even though they typically account for less than 5% of total site users. It’s important that marketers identify, recognize and reward those that are influential in converting others.
    • Knowing where your audience hangs out is equally important. This can depend on their age and gender, as well as your offerings. There are plenty of statistics that break down social media sites by demographics, such as the Nielsen Social Media Report: Q3 2011.
    • Measure the results and impact of your conversations. This can be tracking how many comments and likes received on Facebook, volume of Twitter followers, number of retweets and mentions along with social media referral traffic to your website.

    Have the patience to build your community and engender trust, and the flexibility to evolve content over time. If you’re fun, honest and relevant, they will share with their friends and others, which is what social media is all about.

    Lastly, managing Social Media is more art than science; however, creating a structured framework aligned with data driven principles will help brands improve effectiveness and investment return over time.

  • Information Overload? Who Wants Pie?

    by Holly Lee | Jul 08, 2011

    They say that we only use about 10% of our brain. That’s just a myth, but regardless of the percentage, mine is at capacity today. It feels like that pink pie chart on your hard drive that shows “space available”—I can’t fit anymore in. And it’s not just me. People are on information overload, social media overload, technology overload…everything overload. The impact this has on your marketing is significant, and requires you to change tactics before your messages become irrelevant noise that have no impact. The point I want to make here while eating up a little of your slice of brain pie, is that this isn’t the time for your business to be using a shotgun marketing approach, or publishing so much content that people aren’t getting to the information they need quickly.  The need for targeted, relevant information has never been greater. Take the time to understand what your customers actually care about when making their buying decision, rather than what you think they should care about. Refresh your knowledge of what’s important to them today. Listen to what they’re saying. This is critical for producing content that is relevant and it will persuade them to respond.

    Successful businesses are renewing their focus on delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time. Trellist is helping businesses achieve this, enabling them to earn an important role in their customer’s buying decision. So, if you want your company’s message to cut through 4 and 20 twitterbirds, it needs to be more targeted and engaging than ever before.

  • Customer Experience: The Other Side of Loyalty—Part 2

    by Edgar Uy | Jul 01, 2011

    Continuing from my last post on what true loyalty means, I would like to touch upon the topic of customer experience (CX) as a foundation for truly serving the customer.

    Based on recent research findings, great customer experiences comprise three dimensions — functional, accessible and emotional — which as a whole create a lucid experience that positively impacts how customers view companies and the likelihood that they will purchase from them.

     

    Nothing will frustrate customers more than a company’s inability to serve their basic needs in a way that is easily accessible and convenient, thereby making that emotional connection.  The result of serving these needs creates a lasting impression that positively reinforces the essence of the brand, and increases brand equity.

     

    Although there is no silver bullet for CX success, there are clear steps that successful companies take to create a lasting impact.

    1.     Leadership:  These organizations consistently operate from a clear set of principles and values, following examples set by their executive team. 

    2.     Values: While a company can communicate what they stand for through marketing or advertising, it is customers who define their brand. Successful companies know that it’s not enough to just communicate what they stand for, but that it’s equally, if not more, important to behave in a way that consistently delivers the brand promise at every touch point.

    3.     Engagement: Employees are living examples of a company’s mission and its core values. Successful businesses make sure that every associate understands and is aligned with the goals of the company in order to deliver the intended experience customers seek, expect, and demand.

    4.     Connection: Every customer interaction and feedback affords every company an opportunity to learn more about how they can improve their product or service. Successful businesses have a systematic approach for collecting and responding to customer feedback and recognize that it is invaluable to generating the loyalty they desire.

     

    Establishing an ideal customer experience requires an ongoing commitment and a clarion call for companies who desire the benefits of long-term customer loyalty. Trellist is enabling businesses to create these experiences, to foster and expand relationships with their customers by helping to build brands based on solid principles that act as launching pads for loyalty and longevity.  In an age where social media is empowering consumers like never before and where word of mouth is more influential than paid advertising, commitment to delivering the total CX presents a big opportunity to gain and maintain a competitive advantage.

  • The Importance of the Kingmaker

    by Tom Falgiano | Jun 22, 2011

    My father was one of the best story tellers I ever knew, legendary in some circles. When I was a child, he asked me, “Who has the most important job in the castle?” I answered, “the king.” “No,” he said. “The king dies and his son becomes king. The most important job is the kingmaker. It’s their job to select and train the best person to run the kingdom.” It was one of those ah-ha moments, when I realized that having the job of putting the right person in the right position is key to the success of any kingdom.

    The days of powerful kings are long gone, but the principles of the kingmaker still apply to today’s business world. Getting talented people in the right positions and retaining them for the long haul is critical for success, and one of the biggest investments a company makes. It is a process that requires successful human capital management as well as effective selection and retention strategies.

    The cost of losing an experienced, seasoned employee can be substantial. It’s a generally accepted figure in the HR industry that the cost to replace an exempt employee equals 150% of their annual salary. An average replacement cost for an employee earning $50,000 per year would be $75,000. With the national employee turnover rate at 14.4% annually, a company with 100 employees with average salaries of $50,000 would spend more than $1million on turnover costs, a substantial and often unnoticed hit on profitability from employee attrition.

    Finding the right candidate for a position is a complex assignment. Not only does the candidate need the necessary skills, they need the proper disposition and expectations that will enable them to become part of the organization. Only then can they be expected to remain with the firm for the long-term. Identifying these traits is the key to successful hiring. Trellist Resource Management has helped many enterprises find the right candidates for some of their most difficult to fill marketing, design, and technology resource needs. By applying 15 years of industry experience, a rigorous screening process including industrial psychological testing (as appropriate), and a thorough understanding of our clients, Trellist will continue to recruit and retain the right people; one of whom may someday become their “king”.

  • Web 3.0: A Step Forward for Online Learning?

    by Maria Gunther | Jun 14, 2011

    One of the main obstacles we encounter when beginning a new eLearning project at leading organizations is outdated infrastructure and equipment.  We find ourselves (out of necessity) developing alternative approaches to what should be an intriguing, dynamic learning experience. This is not new in the world of eLearning, especially as we move forward into Web 3.0.  As many organizations struggle with implementing Web 2.0 technologies, will they ever be prepared to leverage Web 3.0 technologies for more effective eLearning? While a specific definition of Web 3.0 is hard to find, most agree that it will be a progression to an “Intelligent” form of web that will include technologies such as natural language search, machine learning, software agents that make specific recommendations to users and the connection of context to content. Machines will be smarter, able to understand more data, and in turn, provide much more meaningful results to people. Web 3.0, commonly referred to as the “Semantic Web” can be roughly divided into three areas: the Semantic Web, the Mobile Web and the Immersive Internet. All of these have an integrated component of personalization that makes Web 3.0 very “me-centric.” All three can be leveraged to create more customized experiences for eLearning. If we are able to harness the power of Web 3.0, we can take eLearning to a higher level of effectiveness and ROI.

    Currently, the biggest obstacles to integration are budget constraints and lack of buy-in from leadership, yet developers who possess the IT skills, along with skills in Instructional Design to create these new experiences, are in high demand. One of Trellist’s strengths is our ability to create teams of professionals that represent all areas of IT and eLearning in order to develop cutting-edge solutions. And every day we’re coming closer to using Web 3.0 for more successful eLearning programs.

  • 5 User Experience Myths

    by Kris Kuss | Jun 14, 2011

    Recently we submitted a webpage mockup to a client who responded, “will all my content fit above the fold?”  No, we said, and that’s okay.  Here’s why it’s okay to flout that rule, and 4 other user experience mis-guidelines.  

     

    1.  Everything has to be above the fold, because users don’t scroll

    While users will look first at the top of the page for whatever they seek, they will scroll further down the page IF what they’re seeing looks promising and IF the page doesn’t appear to end before the fold (which itself is difficult to pin down given the variety of devices, screen sizes and resolutions in use now).  So when designing a page we use bordered content panels and sections that run past 700px on the page so that it doesn’t look like it ends there. 

     

    2.  Desktop and mobile are two different sites

    Desktop and mobile are two different experiences, but they needn’t necessarily be two different sites.  Certainly trying to display the full-screen desktop site on a mobile device is a less-than-ideal experience, but fluid grids, scalable images, and CSS3 media queries allow browsers to format pages on the fly and offer a layout optimized for the device displaying them.  Go to Hicksdesign and play with the size of your browser window to  see an example of this in action.

     

    3.  Your homepage is the user’s starting point

    We used to have to accommodate all user groups and pathing off the homepage, treating subpages as mere delivery vehicles once the user made a choice on the homepage. Then Google arrived on the scene.  Now, users are much more likely to arrive at a subpage of your site via a search results page, and view your homepage as a gussied up About Us.  So your subpages should support user pathing and orientation just as much as your homepage, if not more. 

     

    4. Typefaces should be Arial or Verdana

    Are Arial and Verdana the most readable fonts on the web?  Yes.  Does that mean they’re the best for the user?  Maybe not, if you’re trying to teach them something.  Studies (recent whitepaper here, in pdf format)  have found users presented with material in a “friendly” font retain less than users reading material in Monotype Corsiva and Comic Sans Italicized.  These findings corroborate other research suggesting that when learning material is challenging, ultimately people understand it more thoroughly.

    5.  Choices should be limited to 7 items, plus or minus 2

    George Miller’s theory that short-term memory is limited to 5-9 items, while sound in some cases, doesn’t apply to user experience on the web.  By their nature, webpages offer persistently available navigation, meaning that users don’t have to memorize choices and can therefore handle a larger number of them.  In fact, a broad and shallow site organization requires less short term memory than a narrow and deep drilldown.  See any Craig’s List and McMaster-Carr for examples of effective pages that blow the 7+/-2 rule off the charts.  Some friendly advice though:  if you’re taking the McMaster route it’s probably best to stick to Arial and Verdana.    

     

    So when clients ask us whether rule X, Y or Z applies, we explain “it depends.”  It depends on the unique confluence between business requirements and user requirements, which is why Trellist amasses a thorough understanding of our clients’ challenges before beginning to construct solutions. 

  • Making Online Advertising More Relevant to Customers

    by Joe Kearns | May 19, 2011
    Web advertising has been evolving ever since companies started trying to generate sales online.  As web users gain experience and their surfing habits evolve, advertisers must also change their habits to get attention and clicks with their ads.   Mass messaging, where a single message is expected to attract everyone, is a frequently used yet ineffective approach.   To succeed, advertisers must focus their attention on effectively communicating with the user rather than pushing non-targeted and often irrelevant messages to the masses. 

    In years past, when someone was surfing the web they were barraged with popups and flashing banners that had no relevance to their interests. These intrusive ads would have little or no response and no impact on sales.
    Recently, more sophisticated methods have been introduced for serving ads to users based on their behavior and interests.  Surfing behavior is constantly tracked, and sites can now serve banner ads based on this information.  This is a significant step forward in making web advertising more relevant and more profitable.  Sites serving these banners are due to receive more ad revenue while advertisers will receive more qualified clicks. 

    The problem is that marketers continue to use mass messaging strategies which have very low response rates, and these rates are rapidly declining.  Many marketers do not understand or acknowledge the ever changing landscape of the web.  Why is this?

    Many marketers remain under the impression that they can generate results without investing the time and effort to create more targeted strategies and campaigns based on customer interests.   This approach does not work because of changing user habits and expectations, and the evolving digital landscape. 

    Customers have changed their habits to become more conscientious of their clicks.  Users now respond to messages that speak to them, are relevant to their interests and needs, and feel natural.  These types of messages have a greater response as they are important to the customer’s decision making. 

    The digital landscape is changing and will always be an evolving entity.  Right now, Social Media is serving as the platform in which users spend most of their time online.  Everything about Social Media is personalized for the user, based on information the user shared freely when creating their profile, so why shouldn’t the ads?  The information is available now to create meaningful and engaging campaigns for users, and is waiting to be leveraged to connect you with your target.

    Trellist is serving as the bridge to change a mass market approach into a personalized strategy to find the target demographic, present a compelling message and add value to the user’s online experience. 
  • Brevity Remains Best

    by Gavin Garrison | May 12, 2011
    If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter blog post. That’s my twist on a famous quote credited to everyone from Mark Twain to Voltaire (replace “blog post” with “letter” for the original version). Regardless of who actually said it, the idea is sublimely important. It does require more effort to write fewer words. Although this may be counter-intuitive to most,  it’s well understood by wordsmiths. Word economy takes skill and extra effort for the writer, but equates to less work for the audience. A succinct message tends to be more effective – especially if the selected words still make the point. This has been our observation after years of creating and analyzing multi-channel direct response campaigns. Distilling your message to the essence and avoiding redundancy works best. Moreover, the results from our campaigns continually prove it. So take the extra time to optimize your message. It’s worth it. Make sure every word has meaning and value. This is critical if you’re targeting the highly-coveted mass affluent market as we do for financial clients. Skip the filler unless it’s key to tone. In doing so, your audience is more likely to consider your point. Plus, you might even persuade your target to take action!
  • An Agile Approach to ERP Migration

    by Paul Immediato | May 09, 2011
    While there are many different approaches to managing application development projects…Agile development is an approach that emphasizes teamwork, collaboration and adaptability.  This method can be a good choice for projects where flexibility and time-to-market are the primary considerations.

    Traditional approaches to application development are based on a thorough gathering and documentation of requirements, followed by functional specifications and design based on the approved requirements. Actual development doesn’t begin until after these phases are completed and approved.  Changes that are made after these approvals, which can improve functionality or meet changing business needs, can be very costly to make and can slow down the development cycle.

    An agile development process is more iterative.  Rather than focusing on gathering and documenting thorough requirements, this approach allows for changes to requirements based on the collaborative discovery of needs. The benefits here are that the development team can adjust direction based on the changing needs of the stakeholders, and the deployed application could have greater value and higher usage.    Another benefit is the ability to develop a more useful application in a shorter period of time.

    Recently, we were challenged with developing a complex ERP solution to replace multiple disparate applications.  Employing an agile approach and foregoing a lengthy requirements gathering phase, we are developing a better solution that addresses the users’ needs, and that gets the client up and running on the new platform in shorter amount of time. Trellist is constantly reviewing newly developed areas of the application with our client to ensure that the functionality meets their requirements and providing them the opportunity to make changes that will improve the overall value to all stakeholders.

    The agile approach to development has enabled this client to upgrade his back-end systems in less time, and at a lower cost, than if a more traditional method of development had been used. 

    An agile approach emphasizes collaboration among the stakeholders and the development team, which can result in a better product.  However, even though there are many flavors of the agile methodology, it is not the right fit for every project.  Agile is just one of the possible approaches that Trellist uses to help our clients meet their business objectives.
  • How Google Instant Preview Will Change Paid Search

    by Jim Auer | May 04, 2011

    The latest in Google’s ongoing series of innovations was announced last week with the launch of Google Ad Instant Preview.  This extension of their innovation strategy enables searchers to preview the destination landing page to see if it has the information they’re looking for, and to do this before clicking on the ad.  While this new feature can benefit searchers if they notice it, advertisers need to carefully review their landing pages to ensure they are effective in this new format.

    Briefly, Google’s Instant Preview function enables searchers to roll over a paid search ad to view the landing page in a small window, enabling them to decide whether or not to click on the ad.  A magnifying glass icon appears in each ad that displays the landing page when rolled over:

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    One of Google’s primary objectives is to create a better experience for its users by streamlining the ‘search to find’ effort.  By enabling searchers to view the landing page before they click, Google is helping them decide if they should click on the ad…or not.  This very fast decision time has the potential to reduce click-through rates if landing pages are not optimized for this feature.  Now in addition to being effective when displayed full-size, the landing page must be effective in this smaller rendition to persuade the searcher to click on the ad.  If the page doesn’t work in this format, the ads may generate fewer clicks and, as a result, fewer conversions. 

    Here are some issues to consider when reviewing your landing pages for display in the Instant Preview pane:

    • Is relevance among the keyword, ad text and landing page immediately evident to the search?  Does the landing page align with the topic of the keyword?  Does it align with the message in the text ad? 
    •  Does the page render properly in the Instant Preview pane?  The pane is approximately ¼ sizes, and the page layout and graphics need to hold up when displayed at this smaller size. 
    •  Is the page optimized for browsers without Flash?  While Ad Instant Preview supports Flash, it may retrieve images in Flash on demand and in these cases will not display the images in order to minimize latency.  It’s critical that Flash pages have a version for non-Flash users that can be used in the preview pane.
    • Is page text structured to provide a descriptive overview in the first sentence? This is where Google retrieves the text snippet used in the preview.  Does that first sentence give the searcher a reason to click on the ad and view the page?

    While Ad Instant Preview is still new, it has the potential to force paid search advertisers to change their strategies significantly to remain competitive.  Trellist will monitor the impact this new tool has on paid search effectiveness, and will apply the knowledge gained to help our clients increase the performance and ROI of their campaigns.

  • Customer Experience: The Other Side of Loyalty

    by Edgar Uy | Apr 18, 2011
     

    In a 2010 study, Jupiter Research cited that 75 percent of American consumers belong to at least one loyalty program. These programs can promote brand consideration since consumers are always looking for ways to be rewarded for loyalty. Whether it’s through immediate savings, cash back or rewards incentive for future purchases, companies realize the benefit of incentivizing their customer base. However, there is an additional approach to consider that creates an added sense of loyalty in customers augmenting existing programs.

    Businesses today, specifically those that rely on a strong brand appeal, are encountering a new breed of customers who are savvy, engaged, and, most importantly, connected. Social Networks have transformed the way these customers shop and communicate, and provide a platform to easily share their opinions with family, friends, colleagues and others. Today’s consumers are even more demanding, and much more critical of brands with grand promises that fail to deliver.  As a result, they are empowered to be selective given that they have the power to choose easily and rely on a tribe of likeminded consumers to make their purchase decisions.

    Beyond using the two basic types of loyalty programs, such as the rewards-based approach and/or promoting specialized offers to a select group, focus on forging a stronger connection with your customers at every touch-point thereby turning them into evangelists and advocates for your brand. Reward their loyalty with better customer experiences, whether it’s through product or service inquiry, purchase ease, recommendations, timely promotions or convenience.  

    Listening to your customers and identifying needs that are not being met, or obstacles in their experiences that have a negative impact to your brand and reputation, provides the opportunity to act on them. Just be sure to address the underlying problem through a self-nurturing feedback loop. The insight you gain may lead to fundamental changes in your value proposition, enhanced product/service opportunities or even your entire business model.

    Just remember that loyalty is a by-product of the customer experience and not a result of specific programs. Trellist follows this guiding principle when developing loyalty strategies for our clients. 

  • QR Codes: The Missing Link

    by Chris Wallace | Apr 15, 2011

    You’ve probably seen a QR Code before but never took notice of those innocuous square barcodes that appear on everything from product packaging to movie cutouts.  While QR Codes are close cousins to traditional barcodes, they are far more versatile to marketers.  While you may already know what QR codes are, you may not have realized some of the fascinating ways they can be used. 

     A QR (Quick Response) Code is a square, matrix barcode that can be read by QR Reader applications on any smartphone.  These barcodes can be used to store data and access features on your mobile device such as a Web Browser, Phone, GPS, even individual apps.  insert

    How can a QR code be used as a tactic within a successful campaign? While the answer is always, “That depends on your business and marketing goals”, let’s explore some concepts and ideas that could be applied to many types of campaigns.

    As always in digital media, the critical side of the equation is the delivery.  Applications or pages that users link to must provide some unique value or service.  Even more critical, the app or page should be relevant to the user’s needs at the time and place where they scan your QR code.  And, in all cases, pages must be optimized for mobile viewing.  Nothing is more frustrating than going through the effort to scan a QR code to find a page that doesn’t work on your phone.   

    Keeping those guidelines in mind, here are your ways you can apply QR codes for your business:

    When a QR Code lives on:

    You could offer:

     

    Print Advertising

    Mobile couponing for bricks and mortar, sign up for SMS messaging, special offers, links to mobile commerce, scan to call.

    Retail Receipts, Branded Materials

    Mobile customer feedback forms, mobile coupons, promo codes for next visit, scan to call, scan for a survey

     

    Email

    Ability to move from the desktop to the mobile environment, i.e.  link users phones directly to the app store to download your new iPhone  app.

     

    Outdoor and Transit Advertising

     

    GPS directions to nearest location, geolocated couponing, even scavenger hunts (scan all the codes and get clues where to find the next one).

     

     

    Point of Purchase Displays      Product information, nutritional information, check-in and share via social media, link to product information and promotional videos.

    Tradeshow Booths                   Links to Whitepapers, Vcards for contact info, RSVP for events/breakout sessions, coupons for free drinks at sponsored Happy Hours!

    Retail/Garment Tags                 Product information or specs, product videos, etc.

    The possible combinations of QR code location and associated applications are limitless, and we’d like to hear your ideas as well.  QR Codes are another great example of the intersection of Marketing and Technology.  Trellist has the creative ideas, marketing savvy and technical horsepower to help you deliver on concepts like these.

  • Is the End of Breakage Near?

    by Josh Kelso | Mar 30, 2011

    Let’s face it – we’re all participating in some sort of loyalty program in our daily lives.  Some of us use our grocery store club card to get discounts or our Starbucks card, or our credit card for points for cash or free airline tickets.  Either way, loyalty programs like these compete for our attention and more importantly our behavior.

    The average US consumer is a member of eleven (11) loyalty programs and is active in about six (6).  With all these loyalty programs competing for our attention, program “hoops” members must jump through like “breakage” become increasing important with behavior decisions.  The following will deconstruct breakage and shed light on some loyalty programs that are siding with consumers and their choices.

    Breakage is the classic crutch of loyalty marketing financial models.  Attitudes towards breakage are shifting, both from perspective of the loyalty supplier community and consumers.

    Some might argue that breakage models are critical to managing the profitability of a loyalty program however breakage models only serve to create a vicious circle of ever decreasing value for both the consumer and business because consumers will not change their behavior if the value of the reward is being undermined.

    The most successful loyalty programs influence customer profitability by flexing the rate at which different consumers earn currency for different activities.  Rather than creating breakage models, enlightened loyalty program operators use knowledge about their customer’s behavior, their products and their margins in order to develop segment strategies that encourage consumers to behave more profitably using points as the incentive.  They know that if the value of their points are in anyway devalued they are unlikely to get the positive changes in consumer behavior they desire.  Successful loyalty program administrators create predictive customer financial models to decide which Customers, for what activities, how much and when points should be awarded.  

    Some brands are shifting their thoughts about breakage.  In fact, recent moves by large airline companies  and Points.com signal additional recognition that the accrued value in loyalty programs is not a ’shiny object” to tease consumers with, rather it is truly an alternate currency that people expect to have liquidity and be able to convert for value almost immediately – hence, almost no breakage.

    Points.com recently announced that it is teaming up with PayPal to allow its Aeroplan® miles, American Airlines AAdvantage Miles® and US Airways® Dividend Miles® to convert into cash in member’s PayPal account.

    Cash is still king and loyalty programs that make cash more accessible and immediate will effectively influence consumer behavior and drive more brand and product loyalty.

    The concept of leveraging PayPal’s technology and customer base to facilitate the fulfillment of a Cash redemption has promise and intrigue.  Another critical driver of success for this partnership will be the exchange rate set between the two currencies and the overall consumer perceived value.  This partnership has the potential to provide additional security and accelerate the overall process, both of which add value to the consumer and almost eliminate breakage.

    Trellist helps clients engage their customers in loyalty programs, to increase the value of these relationships.  We believe it’s good for the industry and for the consumer when brands encourage engagement rather than hoping for breakage.

  • Project Managers Combine New Planning Methodology and Project Based Staffing

    by Tom Falgiano | Jan 28, 2011

    General George S. Patton once stated, “A reasonable plan executed quickly is better than a perfect plan hatched in a prison camp.”  In a dynamic businesses environment, a new type of planning methodology is being deployed, and is being branded “Emergent Planning.” The Emergent Planning approach challenges Project Managers (PMs) to consider the major phases, milestones, and deliverables at the outset of a project, and how they can evolve over the course of the project.

    The most common occurrence in a project lifecycle is that unforeseen events occur that require adjustments to the strategies.  The Emergent Strategy model enables the PM to adapt to these changes, and follows the evolution from the initial, intended strategy to the actual, realized strategy. Emergent Planning is a fundamental approach for managing in dynamic environments. These changes, however, have implications for budgeting, resource planning, and strategy.  While the overall plan is in place, the individual stages can often be revised to ensure the best possible outcome. Although planning normally attempts to remove risk, in a dynamic environment, the greatest risk may be losing your window of opportunity.  Emergent planning can help mitigate this risk.

    Emergent Planning is gaining favor with professional PMs in many industries.  In a recent article in the Project Management Journal, a survey of 31 PMs found that this approach was strongly supported, and attracted the greatest consensus among the study’s participants.

    An important characteristic of this approach is that the PMs have less time to implement the plan for the next phase.  The PM needs quick and reliable access to skilled resources.  The emergent planning process dictates that the right resources are available to the project team in a shorter timeframe.  As a result, the PM has less time to adjust and schedule work.  Emergent Planning requires a flexible and rapidly deployable partnership approach to resource management in order to properly realize the efficiencies of the core methodology.

    Trellist’s unique Project Based Staffing approach allows human capital management to be rapidly activated, deployed, and integrated into a client project within specific phases.   Whether from the existing professional services matrix, or our integrated client-side resource offerings, Trellist’s structured yet flexible Resource Management Division responds quickly to Emergent Planning’s agile behaviors to support the resource needs of a Client PM.   For more information on the finer points of this approach, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

  • Mobile App or Mobile Site?

    by Edgar Uy | Dec 03, 2010

    As businesses clamor to establish their brand presence in the increasingly popular mobile channel, the foremost question that must be answered is whether to build a mobile app or a mobile site. Hopefully the following information will provide some initial guidance and initiate further discourse on which path allows eCommerce companies the greatest benefit to connect with the largest amount of consumers while extracting the maximum value of their investment.

    Each platform has distinct advantages but the decision may rest on content type. Increasing sophistication of mobile browsers and the increasing support for HTML 5, will allow easier creation of robust user experience on mobile sites without having to develop platform-specific apps. Some forms of content, such as games and entertainment will naturally gravitate toward mobile apps where a rich user experience is necessary.

    According to recent reports, 19% of the mobile sites measured were Shopping and Services sites; compared to 3.6% in the same category for mobile apps. Mobile Commerce (mCommerce) services are more likely to take advantage of browser-based mobile sites than gaming and entertainment providers where content is better delivered as an app. Understandably, mCommerce currently dominates on mobile sites considering its reach as opposed to developing OS-specific applications that may not be useable by a vast slice of prospective customers.

    Industry analysts expect the browser-based mobile site market to grow much faster than the app market, although both continue to see substantial growth as adoption and demand continue to rise annually. This is partially due to the increased presence of better mobile devices; it is estimated that Apple will sell 36 million iPhones worldwide in 2010 with Droid ostensibly outpacing that on a monthly basis.

    Some research has shown that the future of the mobile channel is likely to be dominated by cross-platform browser-based mobile sites—rather than mobile apps built specifically for iPhone, Android, or any other platform. Consider that rolling out mCommerce services across multiple mobile OS-specific applications is not easily achieved due to a host of technical and perhaps financial barriers, whereas mobile sites provides an easier migration of existing desktop ecommerce infrastructure.

    Whichever path companies decide to pursue, device sites or apps have to be complimentary to other channels. Trellist is helping our eCommerce clients create complimentary mobile versions of their online stores to generate revenue in this important channel. We’re also developing strategies for mobile applications that will increase brand loyalty and revenues.

    How are you addressing the question of mobile site or mobile app? We’d like to know.

  • Monitoring the Effectiveness of Your Applications

    by Mark Stitz | Nov 22, 2010

    Applications and websites are often developed around the needs and beliefs of internal company employees. These ‘business requirements’ are based on internal employees’ belief of what their customers want to see and do - however the customers might have different needs and wants the internal employees recognize. The challenge is to fully understand the real end user and what they would like.

    There are many tools to help understand the target customer better. One of the best tools that we utilize is to literally go and ask the customers through a series of interviews and surveys specially designed to capture important information that might have been missed by the internal business units. Key customers from different demographics are selected and interviewed while a larger section of the customer based is surveyed. The surveys typically include findings from the interview process as a means to validate important new findings.

    Another tool that we utilize is web / application analytics tools such as the free Google Analytics. These tools automatically collect a lot of information that even the customer might not be aware of such as screen resolution, time spent on the site or even on individual pages, conversion rates on things like email campaigns, onsite behavior from paid search referrals and much more. You can even establish a funnel process (like a checkout process of required steps) that you would like the customers to flow through and see how well people made it through the process and which pages they exited the process.

    Analytics packages such as Google Analytics even support overlays which allow you to see your site through the eyes of the analytics package. The overlay will add key metrics overtop of the hyperlinks of the site so you can see the number of clicks and the percentage of clicks on certain links which lets you see how popular different content is.

    There are even now analytics packages that allow you to see analytics of installed applications such as a new offering from PreEmptive Solutions that hooks into the new Windows Phone 7 installed applications. These types of analytics packages let you see how your installed application is being used, which has really never been an option in the past. You can see how often certain features are used and graph out the usage over time. If you are developing a mobile application that is sold globally the analytics package even shows you demographic-based usage information where in the past it was a launch and forget situation.

    There are many more tools that we utilize in trying to fully understand the customer needs and how effective the current offerings are for them and what could be improved. It is important to fully understand the customer and how your offerings meet those needs. With all of these data rich tools it’s not difficult to understand your effectiveness and improve on it.