Thursday, 24 July 2008

Who are the real thieves?

It was announced last week that further steps are being taken in order to curb the volume of illegal file sharing online. Whilst I do not in any way condone file sharing, I do believe that the entertainment industry is getting a certain degree of payback for years of mistreating it's customers.

Here are three reasons why:

As I have discussed in previous posts, I am an early adopter. I invest in the latest technology as soon as it comes out. I upgraded all my cassettes to CD, my VHS tapes to DVD, my CD's to minidisc, purchased a Sony Atrac player, an iPod etc.

Every time a new format arrives, the previous format becomes second-best. For example, I own a number of classic movies on DVD. Now that Blu-Ray is on the scene, am I expected to purchase them again in the newer format?

Surely, a discount should be awarded to customers that own an existing format and are looking to upgrade. This strategy could be employed in order to grow the Blu-Ray market that currently represents only 2% of video-disc sales in the UK.

2. The price of a CD in a high street retailer has remained consistent over the past decade. Despite increasing royalties to artists and ever increasing overheads, production costs have lowered. The price of a recordable CD can be used as a guide for this, you can now buy 100 for as little as £10.00

In order to compete with digital markets and the illegal download community, the price of CDS & DVDs should be reduced. Perhaps if the latest music CD was priced at £4.99 in the shops, then the retailers would not suffer as much.

3. I hate purchasing a CD to find that it is only 45 minutes long, or there are a number of tracks that are clearly album fillers. I am sure a number of people have purchased an album based on the strength of one good track. Is this fair on the consumer?

Downloading digital files has somewhat resolved this problem. It is frightening simple to purchase music on iTunes. You can purchase individual tracks and preview tracks before you buy.

Some artists are embracing digital. Radiohead launched their album, In Rainbows, online before releasing it on the high street. They also allowed customers to suggest how much they believed the album to be worth. If this was the case for all artists, the good ones would still be profitable. Radiohead made over $2M in revenue from the release of their album, even though 62% of customers paid nothing. The volume of free illegal downloading was of course far less.

Other artists are less welcoming of digital markets, although they don't mind charging over £100 for a concert ticket!

Music and film industries needs to start looking at digital as an opportunity rather than a threat. There are plenty of new revenue opportunities available via digital channels. Here's a few for starters:

1. Charging for online showings of concerts or backstage,
2. Paid memberships for access to exclusive online content,
3. Offering priority downloads of trailers, interviews or outtakes,

The entertainment industry must face up to the fact that in the
future the majority of revenue will not come from traditional sources. The cash cow that was traditional CD & DVD sales is rapidly deteriorating.

They can be criticised for becoming too complacent with the revenue attained from their captive market. They have failed to innovate and are only now that their market share is dwindling, starting to embrace new opportunities.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Death Star Canteen

I have never really been a great fan of Eddie Izzard but I was recently pointed in the direction of some of the excerpts on YouTube and found them absolutely hilarious.

Clips from cult movies, TV shows and comedic performances are incredibly popular on YouTube. They allow the viewer to enjoy or relive their favourite moments without the need to search for them within the full length broadcast. The related videos section enables YouTube to become almost a highlights reel of the best moments.

The clip below has been viewed over 4 million times on YouTube. This presents an amazing and relatively untapped opportunity to advertisers. There is a large audience available but no advertising. Why is there no promotion of the latest Eddie Izzard DVD? Why has the company or individual that invested the time and money creating the animation not added their contact details? Would they be open to advertisers contacting them about sponsorship opportunities? For the right brand and product, it could be quite a lucrative arrangement for all parties.

The interaction users have with this media is also very different. In contrast to many online advertising mediums, users can lean back rather than lean forward to engage in the media.

The psyche of the viewer is also different to other forms of advertising. The viewer is likely to have an emotional connection to the subject matter and as a consequence could be more open to promotional suggestions. No-one likes to be pushed upon when they are in a bad mood.

Of course, advertising in this space must be done tactfully. Anything that interrupts or interferes with the users enjoyment is likely to fail. I have previously written about the how expensive it is to advertise directly with YouTube but I am quite sure these currently untapped opportunities could be cheaper and more fruitful.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Don't Click, Won't Click

User experience is a discipline that has come to the forefront of online in recent years. One popular online focused magazine has even adopted the mantra "User Experience is King" for the year.

When people think of usability, they often refer to how a website works, the information architecture, the design and navigation elements and its accessibility.

Usability is very much at the heart of an e-commerce website, it's main intention being to maximise conversion via continual optimisation based on meaningful testing and analysis.

The main principles of best practice usability are still restricted by the manner in which we use our computers; the limitations of a mouse and keyboard that are used to navigate through the world wide web.

This is all about to change...

Don't Click It is an experiment that challenges the traditional point and click method of web navigation by demonstrating a browsing experience without the requirement to click the mouse or keypad. So without the requirement to click, what use are of mouse buttons?
In reality the mouse itself has limited life remaining.

Microsoft Surface was one of the first developments into touch screen technology, offering a coffee table interface where multiple users could drag and drop files accordingly. As with many other Microsoft innovations, the product lost it's way and could be accused of being launched without a market in mind.

There have been other attempts but it is the success of the iPhone and iPod touch that has really pioneered the way for the touch revolution. A number of mobile producers are already following Apple down this route, quickly releasing products with similar touch screen technology.

HP have been the first to introduce this technology to the home computer with the HP TouchSmart PC, that recently launched in America. Other manufacturers are developing similar products making it realistic to expect touch technology to become an option for those looking to purchase a PC within the next two years.

So what's next?

For the film Minority Report,
Steven Spielberg took advice from some of the worlds most renowned futurologists about how technology will evolve in the next fifty years. Some of these predictions are already starting to become a reality.
The scene in which Tom Cruise navigates through various files using electronic gloves demonstrates functionality that is not too dissimilar a Wii remote. The movement is detected and translated into an on screen action.

The impact on traditional web usability will be huge. Touching and pointing your way through a website promises to be a much simpler and more fulfilling experience than point and click navigation. There will be significant opportunities to engage visitors and encourage further interaction with websites and brands.

These rapid improvements to technology will not come without obstacles, the most significant being accessibility. This should regarded as part of the greatest challenge, to create an improved web experience for everyone.

I expect touch and movement detection technology to be a form a major part of the future of web browsing, fundamentally changing the principles of usability as we know them. I wonder what Jacob thinks.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Online Marketign Manager: The Power of Misspellingss

When starting any Adwords campaign it is important to have a good idea of the keywords that you want your adverts to appear for. This process usually starts with a brainstorm of the subject matter followed by further research using online tools.

One key area that is often overlooked by agencies and advertisers alike, is misspellings. Due to the lack of competition, a misspelled variation of a generic keyphrase on exact match may well be cheaper than the original
correctly spelt keyphrase. Adwords advises that these terms should be picked up by broad match but this method, in my opinion, is not cost effective.

A large majority of misspellings come from typo's. These can include duplicate
characters (EG. Compputers), missing characters (EG. Comuters), swapped characters (EG. Comupters) or character proximity errors (EG. Compyters).

Including these variations within search campaigns, leads to greater opportunities for advertisers. As an example, when a user searches on the keyword "Loans" on Google the following results are shown:

This seems fairly logical. There are a number of advertisers bidding on the term that is regarded as one of the most desired terms in paid search. Yet, performing a search on the keyword "laons" brings very results.

In this search, a different set of advertisers feature on the page. The bigger players with significant search marketing effort are clearly targeting the misspelled keyword, yet some of the smaller organisations who were bidding on "loans" do not feature on "laons". Similarly, there could be canny advertisers that cannot afford to bid on "loans" and so target misspellings instead.

So why do a lot of advertisers not deem it necessary to bid on misspellings?
One option could be that most search engines provide "Did you mean?" functionality using a database of previous queries and search activity to make suggestions on the users original search. Many consider that users would simply click on this link first, when this is not necessarily the case.

The screenshot above shows how the main paid search adverts appear above the Did you mean? option. We already know that the user may have a certain degree of lethargy as their original search was not correctly spelt. In this scenario, the majority of users click on the paid search adverts over the Did you mean? option. I can tell this by looking at the click-through-rate (CTR) of misspellings in our campaigns.

It is also worth noting that misspellings also can be used in natural search as well, although this has not proven to be as effective. The first natural result on the search "loans" must have significant resource into attaining this position at considerable cost. I would anticipate that the first organic result on the keyword "laons" has invested less in attaining this position.

The reason this is less effective, is due to the fact that the organic terms feature below the Did you mean? option in the SERP's. It must also be considered that in order to achieve first position, this advertiser has had to include the mispelled term on the page. it is not necessarily desireable from a brand perspective to have a page talking about "laons".

Users want to get from their query to the most relevant result as soon as possible. This is why search engines still advertise the time it took to complete a search.

Therefore, as an advertiser, it is fundamental to have all your bases covered; to consider that users are becoming increasingly demanding on their search experience and not necessarily willing to invest more time in detailing their query. They want the search engine to predict the results they require and as advertisers, we must respond accordingly.

This post, written in order to demonstrate the power of adding misspellings to a search campaign, already features on the first page of Google for it's targeted and deliberately mispelled keyphrase "Online Marketign Manager".

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Dance Energy

The lack of efficiency inherent in marketing frustrates me on a daily basis. Why do I receive free papers that I never read, let alone look at the adverts? Why do publishers send me copies of irrelevant free magazines that I merely recycle? Why do I have to see TV adverts for things I am never going to buy? This is inefficient and a waste of money for the advertiser.

I am always very pleased to see examples of efficiency
best practice whether they be in a marketing context or not. Therefore, when I read about eco-disco Surya this weekend I was understandably impressed.

Surya is the brainchild of self-proclaimed Dr. Earth, Andrew Charalambou. The nightclub features wind turbines, minimal water usage and recycling stations at various points. The most impressive thing however, is that the whole thing is powered by the kinetic energy created by clubbers bopping away on the dance floor. It's all down to piezoelectricity, which is basically the creation of an electric charge from
quartz crystals rubbing together.

It's a unique and brilliant concept. The dancers generate the power required to play the the music they are dancing to. There is no wastage. It's super efficient.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Inspiration Anyone?

Microsoft have never been shy about expressing their intentions to acquire a greater share of digital advertising revenue. Considering their dominance of the market for operating systems digital revenue seems to be such natural fit

In order to unify previously disparate digital advertising functions, Microsoft created Digital Advertising Solutions (MDSA) was created in 2006. It's aim was to consolidate advertising via MSN, the Xbox, Windows Live and future Windows Mobile and IPTV. It was MDAS that recommended Microsoft strike a deal with social media giant Facebook and purchased in game advertising specialist Massive.

One of their earliest advertising campaigns, entitled "The Break Up" was designed with the intention to challenge advertisers to analyse their existing relationship with customers and how digital marketing could be used to transform and modernise this relationship.

The follow up video, "Inspiration Anyone?" takes the concept a bit further and examines how the opposition to adopting modern marketing is often embedded within the upper echelons of some organisations. Even within organisations with a high level of e-commerce adoption, digital marketers can still find it difficult to change the opinions of more traditional marketers and their classical methods.

A lack of in depth understanding is the key reason behind a reluctance to adopt modern marketing practices with words such as "integrated", "viral" and "Web 2.0" often banded around meaninglessly. It is the responsibility of digtial marketing managers to educate and prove the benefits of digital marketing in order to gain the required backing and budget to deliver business gain.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Oh No O2

Previously, I have given great praise to the marketing initiatives of UK communications provider O2, particularly with reference to their approach to existing customers.

In a previous post, I wrote about how pleased I was that O2 were going to provide free upgrades to existing iPhone customers when the new iPhone 3G launches on 11 July and gleefully registered my interest on the O2 Website.

From here, I'm afraid everything went disastrously wrong. There have been a catalogue of fundamental errors made for any organisation seeking to offer an integrated marketing strategy.

I shall detail them all here:

Mistake No.1.

As I had heard nothing from O2 since I registered my interest, I nervously gave them a call last week, a week before launch, to check that my details were registered correctly and that I would be contacted about the impending launch.

As friendly as the sales rep was, she was unable to confirm or deny that I had managed to register my details effectively or that I would be contacted about an upgrade. Surely, as I entered my details online, they must be stored in a database? But the sales staff, working in upgrade support, were not aware of such a database.

It is basic marketing principle to keep sales staff informed of any offer that may be happening, even if it is purely online. To have the dedicated iPhone upgrade sales team without the means to find out if customers are registered for an upgrade is farcical.

Mistake No.2.

So Monday was D-day. I received a text message from O2 at 1020 in the morning stating:

"iPhone 3G is here. The phone you've been waiting to upgrade to order from 8am today. As an iPhone customer we are offering you a special early upgrade to iPhone 3G. This order is only available online. Demand is expected to be very high so to be fair to all customers, orders will be processed on a first come first served basis."

So to pick out the two key points here: The upgrade is available from 8am today. To be fair to all customers, orders will be processed on a first come first served basis. If I receive a text from O2 telling me this at 1020, when the phone has been on sale since 0800, how is this fair?

If O2, decided to stagger the delivery text messages based on customer ID then why not change the content of the text message appropriately. A targeted approach would send me a text message and give me access to the website via a dedicated code only available for me. An entrance to the website would be reserved again, exclusively for me. That would make me feel incredibly valuable as a customer.

With any marketing activity, the timing of execution is crucial. High Street retailers would not invite customers to a sale starting at 0900 with adverts in the Evening Standard on the same day.

Mistake No.3.

As any webmaster knows, being able to anticipate visitor figures is vital to ensure the correct deployment of technology and resource. I forecast visitors figures for 12 months in advance in order to ensure that the we have an adequate number of servers in place to cope with potential capacity and the call centre is adequately staffed. It is far from an exact science but scenario planning for best, worst and expected cases helps.

In this instance O2 had all the forecasting done for them. Two hundred thousand people registered online for the iPhone. Therefore, they must have sent 200,000 text messages.

Technology must be synchronised with marketing activity. Otherwise any marketing activity could result in consumers having a worse opinion of your brand.

Mistake No.4.

As a result of the launch marketing activity, the options on the automated phone system for the dedicated iPhone support were altered. They were divided into Pay Monthly and the new Pay as You Go service. However, as I was scrambling around with the website, I had cause to make phone calls to see if I could verify that my payment had gone through and if not, to complete my payment over the phone.

After being directed through the automated options (2 for pay monthly, 1 for purchases) the phone line went dead. I tried several times and the same thing occurred. Was this deliberate from O2? As a result of the demand were they dumping calls in an effort to buy some time?

This is a classic example of a marketing campaign that did not have enough involvement from suitable stakeholders throughout the business. If you send 200K text messages asking people to view a particular site then your website needs to be able to handle 200K people - all at the same time.

With any product launch, businesses must involve everyone that could be impacted, this includes IT to ensure that websites can manage the volume, retail and telesales staff to ensure that they can validate the offer and pick-up any additional questions and PR to manage any noise that comes as a result of the activity. This is all part of an integrated approach.

If you're struggling with any of this O2, I'd happily come and work in online marketing for you.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Effective Relationship Building

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending the NMA Effectiveness awards as a guest of web analytics company Nedstat. The event was held at the Grosvenor House Hotel off Park Lane and was a strictly black tie affair hosted by David Mitchell of Peep Show fame.

It was the first awards dinner I have attended but hopefully it won't be the last. Don't get me wrong, it's nothing to do with the awards. Nedstat, myself nor any company I work for were even nominated for an award (this year). In fact the only award that could possibly have gone the way of my organisation went to Chiltern Railways, a site that I shall review from a marketing perspective, at a later stage. This night was all about relationship building.

From a B2C perspective, millions of pounds are invested into CRM and brand building in order to encourage existing customers to engage with brands and maintain their loyalty. However, in the B2B world things are very different. For a start, there are less customers to speak to, so a more personalised approach to relationship building is possible.

It's difficult to transform this to a B2C scenario, especially from an organisational perspective. The only way this can truly work is if the brand values flow seamlessly from every customer touch point. For example, in my early years as a Holiday Rep, it was always the customers that I had a drink and a laugh with around the bar that gave the best feedback at the end of the week. The fact that these opportunities do not exist in every organisation is one of the greatest challenges facing CRM.

Without doubt, my opinion of the my hosts is certainly heightened as a result of the evening. Despite little shop talk,
their brand was well represented by the their employees. Therefore, from their perspective the night was successful as a relationship marketing mechanism. If I ever move into B2B, it is certainly something I would look to use.

But if none of this is important and you just like the odd glass of free champagne, good food and a great night out, then I would recommend attending every event possible.

The photo below was taken towards the latter stages of the evening!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Web Wins

With prospects of a gloomy economic future gathering momentum and the credit crunch a buzz topic in today's society, it is interesting to contrast the potential repercussions on the high street compared with those of pure online businesses.

On Monday online fashion retailer announced that sales had increased by 80% for the year (to April 08). The organisation have cited various on site improvements for the jump in financial performance but remain cagey about their ability to sustain this level throughout the year.

On Wednesday however, major high street retailer Marks & Spencer announced that sales had dropped by 5.3% in the past three months causing a 20% drop in share price. Chairman Sir Stuart Rose said "consumer confidence levels have deteriorated markedly and market conditions have become more challenging"

These performance figures are clearly polarised. It is interesting to note that in a retail market that is facing a dim 12 months, online performance is above expectations.

I predict that if the economic downturn is as bad as financial pundits are predicting, pure online businesses will be impacted to a lesser extent than more traditional multichannel retailers.

Due to the amount of credit available in the past few years, consumers have become accustomed to purchasing with fewer restrictions. This consumer mentality will remain, even as purse strings begin to tighten. People like to buy stuff.

Therefore, it is natural to assume that consumers will become more active online as they try to seek out the best possible prices for the same products. This will create a small surge in online activity.

It should be acknowledged that there are two separate demographics at play here. ASOS appeals to a younger market that are less affected by the reducing house prices and rising interest rates. I don't know enough about fashion to be able to comment on the size of the overlap between their respective customer bases.