It’s September: Are you ready for Black Friday? (Seriously)

Yes, it’s September. School is starting again and as everyone heads off the beach and back to normal everyday life, while brands are busy preparing for the holiday season.  It’s by far not an easy task, especially this year.

To understand this in context, it’s important to review some past years’ holiday season. It was (for many years) that brands would wait until Black Friday to promote their sales.  Then there would be a second offer for Cyber Monday 3 days later.  This was about 5 years ago.

Then retail started changing offering Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving and as time went on, before Thanksgiving.  Now, they basically start the Monday of Thanksgiving week.

E-tail now starts 2 weeks before Thanksgiving and many brands are scaling up the sale discounts as they get closer to Thanksgiving, so sales start a week and a half before Thanksgiving and then go non-stop from promotion A to B to C all through Christmas.  That’s just the brands.

Consumers are responding, somewhat. Data has suggested that consumers are more inclined to ‘wait for the deal’ and are not rushed to get their stuff before Christmas.  This makes expectations not to align with reality. 

So what should a brand do:

1.       Continue to promote through the same schedule though add additional ‘deal’ days in between to capture those people who are ‘waiting for the deal’.

2.       The message should be something like ‘Get it before they’re gone for good’, or some sort of ‘time is of the essence’ so they grab the deal today.

3.       Discount schedules can be tested to see if that you don’t have to give away everything to make a sale on December 20th. if the deal is the best it’s been and it’s not going to get better, you’ll capture that customer that wants it.

These are some of the few suggestions we would give though specifics ones for your business depends on your brand and how consumers engage with your brand.

What we also urge is that your approach can be modified to capture more consumers looking for your products. our research has shown many times over that brands try to squeeze as much as they can from their existing customers but do a very poor job of getting new customers to convert.

This is a ‘ticking time bomb’ for many brands and they know it. We came up with our e-book that let’s brands capture more of their product demand profitably. We hope you enjoy it.



Google + Walmart VS. Amazon - Who's Going to Win?

Walmart and Google signed a deal recently to partner up against Amazon (sort of).  Amazon is obviously the big elephant in the room when everyone is sitting in Walmart’s board meetings but this partnership with Google is one of the steps Google and Walmart are both trying to box Amazon out of the way.

Let’s start with the concept: 

Amazon bought Whole Foods in order to expand their grocery business in the US. Amazon already stocks over 450 million products on their digital shelf and they wanted to get into the sacred local grocery store business so they can service anyone anywhere.

One of the digital products that Amazon makes is their virtual assistant products with the goal of making it easy to order. The term is ‘Voice-enabled purchases’. 

For instance, my wife and I would be in bed at 11PM realizing that we ran out of milk and cereal for the kids for breakfast, and I’m not about to put my shoes on and go to a local store (in my pajamas) to buy them.  So now, we use Amazon Fresh and we have a delivery of milk and cereal on our front door by 8AM.  Pretty cool and very convenient.

If we were using the Amazon Echo, we would (theoretically) say “Please order milk and cheerios for delivery by tomorrow morning” and it would be done. This might be too close for comfort to let Amazon so much into my daily life.

Now, Google wants to capture every aspect of our life. They already capture 80%+ of search traffic, they track almost 90% of website usage on Google Analytics, and Android enabled phones track where we go, what we browse and how we interact with others digitally.  So Google wants to take our grocery list that’s on our phones and service us by having them delivered, instead of going to Amazon.  Not so far-fetched. 

Walmart NEEDS to figure out how to kick Amazon to the curb, so their partnership with Google has almost no downside.  Walmart isn’t interested (at least now) in being our virtual assistant but it is interested in keeping us engaged with them. 

So who’s going to win?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Time will tell but this ‘battle’ is exactly that, a battle and part of a bigger war in which Amazon is by far leading. 


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How Can You Succeed with a Digital Strategy Without an Unlimited Budget

So we always read about different companies and how they are succeeding with a digital strategy that captures 200 million people. Under Armour is doing exactly that by integrating a workout app and experience with their product. Then they track your fitness efforts via their app while wearing their clothes.

What Under Armour did is by far amazing and if it can be duplicated, all the power to you. Though most brands don’t have the budgets to execute on digital strategy such as this one. 

So what should you do:

Most brands that we speak with have a digital strategy that must return a positive ROI right after inception. Some have runways that allow us to collect data for 2-3 months but they are watching their dollars very closely. 

So it’s important that expectations are set right upfront.

1.     Always start with the low hanging fruit efforts that can generate quick and recurring revenue. This will likely take some pressure off the team once money comes in the door.

2.     For the profit that this effort generates, allocate it for testing and scaling.  Once you get to a healthy ROI then the budget becomes unlimited because every dollar spent generates a positive return.

3.     Tackle branding on the profit only. 

a.     With branding, you first want to get users to ‘like’ you.  Do not go in with a ‘sale’ message to users who never heard or seen your product.

b.     Start users with the brand journey and brand message.  Consumers feel attached to a message or what the brand stands for more than the products that the brand offers. 

c.      The brand message should be reflected in the product.  The marketing should always bring the user back to the brand message.

d.     To measure if you’re going on the right track, do geographic testing and execution and measure brand searches in the same geographic area. If you see a spike in impressions and search volume, you’re going on the right track.


Using the above ‘formula’ will get you to start building your brand online.  It won’t get you to where Under Armour is unless you’re able to spend the money that they did.


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How to Pick the Right Influencer(s):

Our world has changed drastically. Brands would spend hundreds of thousands, even millions to be ‘endorsed’ by celebrities.  After every news show, you can see that a specific brand is featured because the host was wearing that suit or dress.

Most people under 29 don’t pay for cable. In fact, many are watching TV on their laptop, or device and they do it on demand. Commercials are becoming less effective and BRANDS NEED TO ADJUST.

One buzz word we hear regularly is ‘influencer’ marketing. Brands want to associate with a bunch of influencers because consumers trust that influencer’s judgement.  Consumers are less aware of the financial benefits these influencers have when promoting a brand.

So how do you know which influencers are good or not?  Since there is no straight forward answer, the approach should be taken with caution. 

We interact with hundreds of influencers and for every 50 that approach us about a brand, only 1 would actually deliver on what they promise. Is it worth the effort?  The answer is yes, and here’s why.

For the 1 time that an influencer succeeds in the goals we set, they succeed way beyond our expectations. We walk into the relationship saying that if we come out even then it’s worth the effort to test them. Afterwards, we work with them on optimization techniques, adjusting our messaging to their audience and creating specific co-branded landing pages to improve the performance.

Though we have to be careful on the other 49 influencers that may mean well and have every intention of delivering on their end of the agreement but just can’t get the results we need.  being careful is giving product instead of cash, having a ‘loan’ agreement with them instead of giving them the product and making them pay a fee to loan and have it refunded when they return it, etc.  Doing such will require you to be very upfront with them about why you need to take the steps that you are taking.

This holiday season, many brands are going heavy on influencer marketing. Some will yield results but most will not. It’s important to understand that if this a direct marketing initiatives, you’re better of using those funds in other places.

Is Amazon Playing Fair? What Do You Think!

Amazon is by far one of the most powerful online retailers out there. If you walk the streets of NYC and see UPS or Fedex drivers delivering boxes, it’s very unusual NOT to see an Amazon branded box in the mix.

Retailers across the country have been struggling with ‘showrooming’ where consumers would walk into a Best Buy or some other big box retailer, whip out their phones and do a price comparison on Amazon for the same product.  This has definitely fueled Amazon’s growth.

So this is exactly where Amazon is protecting itself after Jeff Bezos accidentally bought Whole Foods using the Amazon Echo (joking).  Amazon already knows that in order to succeed at retail, they need to give customers peace of mind that their dollar is getting the most value. 

Though I wouldn’t call it fair though I also would believe that there are very creative developers out there who will figure out how to get around this patent since patents are processes and not result oriented.

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Affiliate Marketing - Is it Right For YOUR Business?

As I’ve been saying and leading for the past 10 years, affiliate marketing is a great complement to your digital marketing strategy.  If grown and managed properly, it can generate 20% of your overall revenue at a fraction of the costs of CPCs.

To build a program from scratch or to take an existing struggling program and turn it around are both challenging. The affiliate market has been synonymous with coupons and discounts which defines it, though they are only a part of the entire picture.

Yes, there are many coupon sites out there and yes, there is an argument about if you were going to make those sales anyway (and now you have to pay commission on that sale).  Though this is not the entire picture.

Our internal process measures new users coming from all publishers, coupon or not, and comparing that to the market average. One key metric we look at is new customers and if we drive a significant amount of new customers, then we’re doing our job as marketers.

There are also many other types of publishers which don’t get the glory but make up a significant part of the affiliate marketing industry. Loyalty sites, bloggers and content sites, search publisher and email marketing publishers. Each of these publisher segments have some ‘heavy hitters’ and it’s wise to partner with them to make your program a success.



Forget Gen Y, You Should be Targeting Gen Z. Find Out How and Why.

How to reach “millennials on steroids,” according to Business Insider – young adults born between 1996 and 2010 – is the conversation marketers around the world are having right now. Millennials, the eldest of which are now well into their thirties, are moving aside in the business world to make room for their younger counterparts.

Millennials grew up with the Internet, but for most, social media, text messaging, and always-on connectivity is a relatively new phenomenon. Gen Z’s members were steeped in these always-on technologies from an extremely early age. The youngest were born a full six years after Facebook’s initial launch. No Z-er was born before text messaging, and it’s conceivable that members of this cohort held an iPhone before they could read.

This ever-forward march of technological progress has created a community of hyper-connected individuals fluent in “meme culture,” armed with the knowledge and resources that the Internet brings to bear. While millennials still needed to sit down in libraries with a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica to complete reports in school, answers for Gen Z have always been available through Google.

This divergence in upbringing is apparent in the purchasing behavior of the Gen Z crowd. The average Gen Z multitasks across a minimum of five screens daily, from cell phones to smart televisions to computers. The connected world is not a tool that they’ve adopted, it is the world into which they were born. They spend, on average, 41% of their time outside of school on mobile devices or computers, compared to 22% of millennials at a similar age.

Gen Z members are less brand loyal, prefer startups and independents to Fortune 500 companies, and spend more money on food and drinks than any other generation in the past. 

Connecting with Gen Z

  1. Understand and embrace their diversity – uniqueness and being proud of their individuality is core to their beliefs.
  2. Talk in images – memes, symbols, emojis, pictures, and videos.
  3. Communicate with “snackable content” – short bursts of information, more frequently.
  4. Tell your brand’s story across multiple screens or live streams.
  5. Don’t talk down to them. The average Gen Z’er knows more about global politics than a baby boomer that lived through the Cold War. Despite older generations having seen more years, the younger generation sees life move faster and has far greater access to education.
  6. Assume they have opinions, and allow them a space to be vocal. Don’t censor.
  7. Tap into their entrepreneurial spirit – Gen Z is industrious and wants to make things.
  8. Be humble and real; focus on sustainability, direct-to-consumer engagement. Avoid stuffiness.
  9. Be something worth fighting for – have a social component to your project.
  10. Optimize your search results. They do their research


[Summary]: Will People-Based Marketing Take Over?

Online marketing is changing all the time. One of the biggest new developments of the last few years is the rise of people-based marketing (PBM). PBM is starting to replace older marketing technologies, such as third-party cookies, and many marketers think it’s the wave of the future. So what exactly is PBM?

In a nutshell, people-based marketing is marketing directed at individuals, not anonymous cookies or statistics. To do PBM, companies use a variety of techniques to build a profile for a single, real human. Then they use the information they’ve gathered to market directly to that person. The idea is similar to that of using buyer personas, but even more specific and targeted.

How do companies build these individual profiles? Three main “anchors” help them connect the dots. The first of these anchors is login and profile information. Major sites like Facebook and Amazon can learn a lot about their individual users simply by looking at their profile data, purchase history, and other readily available information. 

The second anchor is called a device graph. Companies keep track of which devices people use to log in to their site. For instance, the same person might log in to Facebook from a desktop computer and then from a smartphone. That provides Facebook with some potentially useful information about the person’s technology ownership and habits.

Companies can also build user device graphs with the help of cross-identification technology. This technology tracks visitors’ locations, IP addresses, and browsing habits to create individual profiles for users. Cross-device identification technology is highly accurate, even if a user doesn’t log into the same account from more than one device. 

The third anchor that companies use to gather information about someone is called a persistent ID. A persistent ID is some kind of identification that the person uses regularly, in multiple contexts. Addresses, phone numbers, and credit card numbers are all examples of a persistent ID that a person might use in many different places – for instance, while shopping online, making a purchase at a brick-and-mortar store, updating a social media profile, or signing up for an in-person event. 

In the future, probabilistic techniques may improve to the point where individual profiles aren’t necessary for marketing anymore. In other words, marketers might eventually be able to target users based on statistics, not individual behaviors. Right now, though, people-based marketing is based on just that – people. An accurate, comprehensive understanding of real-life individuals helps companies understand how to market more effectively to their user base. 

In conclusion, people-based marketing is experiencing a boom in popularity, and it’s still growing and evolving all the time. Today’s PBM may not be what PBM looks like in five years. One thing is certain, though: PBM is paving the way for marketing to become even more personalized and targeted in the future.