Monday, October 20, 2014

British consumers spend more online

According to respondents to The 2014 Parcel Deliveries Usage and Attitude Survey carried out by consumer delivery specialist Hermes, British consumers are now spending substantially more online than those in France and Germany.

Apparently twice as many Brits (27%) have shopped online in the last three months compared to the French (14%) and the Germans (10%).

This confidence in online retailing is also refelected in a greater proportion of each nation planning to use eCommerce channels next year than they did this year. With 42% of British consumers now planning to shop online over the next 10 months compared to 30% of French and 28% of Germans consumers.

One of the more facinating insights in the report is that us British customers are using mobile devices far more to buy items online... 23% compared to 9% and 11% for French and Germans respectively.

However, the most interesting fact from an International eCommerce perspective (something that I've been increasingly focusing on for my own consulting clients) is that home-grown sites are doing a Stirling (pun intended) job of attracting foreign custom, with over a third of German and French shoppers stating they have now bought from a UK online retailer... even beating American and Chinese sites to claim the top spot.

More information is available here:

Thursday, October 2, 2014

5 questions to ask your new SEO agency

So let's imagine you've recently hired a new search engine optimisation agency to improve your organic position in the popular search engines.

Before you actually engage with them, here are a few important questions you should ask:

1. Does the SEO agency understand my business?
Or again more specifically, do the people actually working on my account understand what my organisation does, its products or services and what it's unique proposition or selling point is?
There will almost certainly be some initial familiarisation with your offering or processes, but first check that this agency gets what you do and has a firm understanding of who your competitors are.
Note: The counter to this issue however is when you hire an SEO agency that knows your industry very well and already has a number of your competitors as clients in this market sector... are they really able to provide you with a unique and perhaps innovative approach to on-page and off-site optimisation?

2. How much of my monthly retainer is for actual work?
Or more specifically, how much of what you pay for is agency 'padding' in the form of 'Project Management', 'Account Management' or even worse... 'Administration & Reporting'?
(Note, most SEO tools these days have quite decent automated reporting functions. So sending out a regular report is just a case of configuring the reporting service once).
In one situation I saw last year, where my agency won the SEO business, The outgoing agency managed to fill over 60% of its monthly SEO retainer with non-specialist staff. Nice work if you can get it....

3. Who is actually doing the work?
It's a pretty good bet that you had a smart(ish) new business person put together the proposal that you accepted. Or if the agency is a smaller one, then it may well be the owner or other senior person that wrote the document that won them the work. But will this person be the one actually working on your account day-to-day or will it be a junior person they may not even have mentioned in their credentials? My guess is that in most SEO agencies it will be the latter that does the hard graft most of the time (not the 'Head of Search' or 'Head of SEM Services' you were promised)
Note: If it is someone you never get to speak to, then reconsider hiring them. And if it's 'someone in their [not this country] office' then get concerned quickly, really quick....

4. What tools & techniques do you use?
Some SEO agencies like to keep the tools and techniques they use a secret to their clients. I guess they feel it adds an air of mystery to the complex art of search engine optimisation. As far as tools go, there are a few good ones out there that the majority of agencies use for most of their clients. Also make sure that you are not being charged extra for these tools, the costs for them should be included in your retainer.
Note: Some of these tools use propriety indexing technology to work, whereas others need to link to your own site's Webmaster Tools accounts. Neither is wrong, but be prepared to grant them access in the same sort of ways you've granted them access to your website analytics package.
As for the techniques used... you should have full transparency about what they are doing and the rationale for doing it. However, if they mention the act of buying links... run a mile!

5. What do you want me to do next?
Getting started with a new agency is usually a process of learning, testing, evaluating and refining. Expect the agency to ask to speak with other stakeholders or 3rd parties in your business (e.g. PR company, website development agency and product / catalogue managers if you have an eCommerce site). Having an SEO firm that is not just technically competent, but has decent organisational skills can be a rare find. Also make sure that you have regular review sessions booked in the diaries. Even if these are done over the phone / Skype or webex... your business, the competition and most definitely the search engines change all the time.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Customer Data Is Essential To A Digital Strategy

The cornerstone of any Digital Transformation Programme, to move an organisation to a place of improved digital maturity, is customer data

The collecting, storing, processing, analysing and presenting of data collected about your users needs to be a fundamental requirement. From data comes an understanding of who your customers are and what they are doing.

Who they are:
(Typically obtained from account / registration database)
Age, sex & other demographics
Communication preferences

What they do:
(Typically obtained from your online analytics package)
Device(s) used
Time of day they visit
Browsing behaviour (e.g. pages visited)
Marketing campaigns they have interacted with
Goals completed

Or put a different way... structuring your digital transformation efforts around your customer is more important than you possibly realise.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The 7 Deadly Sins of Social Media Marketing

From the pen of Marketing cartoonist comes another witty illustration, this time on the 7 Deadly Sins of Social Media Marketing:

Which do you practice?
(I bet you do at least one, if not more)

The full selection of cartoons can be found here:

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Happy 16th Birthday Google

Can the search giant really only be 16 years of age today?

Has Google really only hit it's mid-teens already?

Yes, the site that made search simple and pioneered & perfected the pay-per-click advertising model was only founded in 1998 by two Stanford doctoral students called Sergey Brin and Larry Page who developed a bunch of algorithms that turned the search marketing upside down.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The 4 C’s of a Digital Platform

I've previously posted about the need for organisations to move away from just a website to a Digital Platform, so I won’t go into detail about ‘why’ you need one. However, from feedback I've had about this topic, I think I need to go into more detail about WHAT specifically one actually is.

To therefore keep things as simple as possible, I think the scope of a Digital Platform can be summed up in 4 terms beginning with the letter C:

Keeping any online property up-to-date requires a decent system for managing content. With free and easy to use CMS (Content Management System) tools available, the days of static sites are (or should be) long gone.
Note: although I know of at least 2 large eCommerce retailers who claim to manage their site content via their merchandising system, which only updates product and category information but still needs a fleet of developers to make HTML-based changes to their homepage, landing pages and anything else you would generally classify under the term content.

Having transactional functionality in your online platform is becoming more and more of a fundamental requirement for an increasing number of sites as they look to acquire and retain direct online customers rather than use a complex and commercially draining network of stores, partners, resellers or agents.
If you want proof of this, just look at the recent demise of the mobile retailer Phones4u in the UK. As the mobile phone operators have gotten more grown-up with their online selling and customer management propositions, then their need for an intermediate who takes commission and attempts to own the customer becomes less and less. In short, by having a mature online commerce and account management service, companies can now seriously consider or reconsider dis-intermediation in fast moving markets.
A digital platform should therefore have a host of features (shopping carts, integration to payment services, discounts & offers functionality and ‘my account’ database functionality, etc.) to enable your business to quickly allow your customers to self-serve.

Forget that desktop-only site you've been holding onto for the last few years. The use of mobile devices to browse and buy are increasingly overtaking PC and laptop usage in all sorts of markets. Your customer is now almost as likely to be using their smartphone or tablet (in an array of sizes) to inform themselves. However, just because your mobile visitors have increased, it doesn't mean that your conversions have… as on average (in my experience anyhow) conversion rates on desktop sites accessed from mobile devices sharply decrease in correlation to the size of the screen used.
Or in other words… make sure your digital platform can deliver your content and commerce capability to all users regardless of their channel of choice.

If you capture and manage customer data, then use it to communicate. To really leverage the user data contained in you Digital Platform it also needs to include (or fully integrate with) a range of digital marketing tools to get your message out and to build a relationship with your target audience. Can your platform:
  • Deliver segmented marketing emails to a set of subscribed users?
  • Send alerts to customers that they have left something in their shopping basket (and that they should jolly well come back to the site and buy it before someone else does or it is no longer available)?
  • Send out SMS messages to those who want or need it (think how useful those text messages about that flight you booked for next week are and how they don’t need you to have a modern 4G data connection to look them up).
  • Work out which of your customers are Tweeting and confirm what product they actually bought online from you?

Hopefully your answer to all of the above is “Yes”.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Flybe location picker touches down too far

I'm an admirer of the online usability shown on's website (OK, they do have a few slightly sneaky techniques for increasing average order revenues - but you still have to take appreciate the way they do it).

So it came as a little surprise to see the site's location selection 'mega menu' partially disappear beneath the bottom of the page of my browser. This means that around half of the destinations the discount airline fly from (including Glasgow, my own local airport) aren't shown at full screen.

I know that Flybe do fly to and from a large number of destinations around Europe, but surely there must be a more economical way of showing as many locations on the screen at once.