23 03, 2020

Don’t Panic. Leverage Digital Marketing During the Coronavirus Outbreak.

By | 2020-03-23T08:27:03+00:00 March 23rd, 2020|Categories: Beacon News, Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, PPC|Tags: , , |

Travel bans are in place. Restaurants are closed for dine-in service. Social distancing is the current collective mantra. As the world hermits itself, many brands are assessing what this means for their marketing budgets. With consumer spending pulling back and collective attention turned towards the continual flow of COVID-19 news updates, it may seem logical to spend less on marketing. But, for many companies, this may not be the best approach.

Not Spending is Not a Strategy

Marketing strategy is always about delivering the right message, at the right time, with the right medium, and to the right audience. This truth is consistent and enduring. Put into action, this also means that strategy must pivot anytime there’s a disruption – and the Coronavirus is certainly that disruption.

The knee-jerk reaction is to cut ad spend – and, if you are considering this, take a step back and breathe for a moment. Pulling back on ad spend isn’t a marketing strategy. Less marketing equals less sales and less visibility, which is the exact opposite of your goal and what you ultimately need for your business. And, considering no one knows how long this pandemic will last, ignoring the present climate will certainly make the road to recovery brutally long. After all, you can’t not market forever, can you? What’s your plan?

Our goal as marketers is to break through the noise and reach the customer. Just because this becomes more difficult, or “feels” fruitless, does not mean marketing is turned off. With recent reports stating that web usage is up 20-50%, it’s more important than ever to have a presence online and pivot your marketing plans. Rather than deciding how much to pull back, the focus should be on what medium to invest in and what message to deliver.  Seize the opportunity… wisely.

Even The Coronavirus Can Present Marketing Opportunities

Whether you’re 100% e-commerce, brick and mortar, or a little bit of both, you can still be successful with your digital spend. The key is to find the right mix and define a strategy rather than “click,” turning it off. Consider moving dollars from a direct response (lower funnel approach) to building brand awareness (top of funnel). This is true for the Ford Motor Company, who shelved ads for their new product launches and instead, redirected focus on new spots touting “Built to Lend a Hand” and “Built for Right Now.” The point here is to stay connected with your current audience and create new connections by showcasing your brand to the larger audience that is online because they are at home. Opportunity!

And yes, you may not be Ford, but you have options. Other brands are introducing new, timely calls-to-action. Dunkin Donuts is giving extra points to those in the DD Perks programs for on-the-go ordering. Sling TV is providing free access to news and entertainment. And, One Medical has offered 24/7 virtual care to its members. These are all great examples of marketable offers that pivot digital strategy to respond to today’s climate.  These ads shine to the online audience because they are different, they feel personalized and, consequently, keep conversions and awareness high.  Opportunity!

Pull Back on Ad Spend Only If You Must

Marketing strategies will vary during this period depending on the type of business. Some will choose to stay the course. Some will pull back partially, and yes, some may pull back completely. Before jumping to the latter, consider moving ad spend around to save where you can – but avoid completely disappearing.

Focus on your top awareness drivers. Invest in building your brand and conversions that are relationship builders. Spend where there’s still ROI, even if the benefit to your business takes a little longer. But, you really shouldn’t go dark. 87% of consumers who interact with a brand daily feel more loyal to them – and this number falls drastically as the length of time since last interaction increases.

Remember: out of sight, out of mind. Maintain your connection to some degree, particularly as your competitors dial back and cost goes down. This helps to bridge the gap and helps you get back to full speed when the time comes. Opportunity!

Also keep in mind that the World Advertising Research Center (WARC) projects a 7.1% increase in global media spend based on the expectation that marketers will simply withhold spend until later in the year. The surge in demand later in the year will drive up competition and prices, making acquiring (and reacquiring) customers potentially more expensive than ever before. Staying connected, even somewhat, will reduce the ramp up and deliver a lower blended ROI when compared to a stop-and-go approach.

In Summary: Adjust to the Coronavirus, Not Away From It.

Again, take a very deep breath. Let it out. And, maybe consider taking another one.

Now do what you always do.

Yes, disruption abounds. Resist the urge to throw in the towel. Adjust your strategy to keep your brand alive, visible and relevant to your audience with special messaging and/or new offers. Take advantage of the situation as your competitors panic and ad costs are driven down. Speak to your audience differently, showing that you are still here… and care… and ready when the pandemic clouds dissipate.

We know it’s difficult. Beacon recommends that you calmly assess your particular business’s situation and plan accordingly. Don’t go ALL-IN and don’t FOLD. Stay in the game. Now is the time to collaborate and brainstorm.  Assess the data, as customer visits are probably different. Pay attention to items being put in shopping carts without checking out, more browsing of your products (pageviews), an increase in virtual tours and other low-risk, stay-at-home activities. Opportunity!

And when the world returns to normalcy, and it will, you will be ready. As always, the Beacon Team is here and available if you need guidance.

22 01, 2020

Top 20 Digital Marketing Trends for 2020 (Part I)

By | 2020-01-23T08:43:21+00:00 January 22nd, 2020|Categories: Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, PPC, SEO|Tags: , , , |

horoscope wheelEverybody likes predictions. What’s not to like? It can be very helpful to have someone tell you what to expect or look forward to as you face your day, week, month or year.

That’s why the horoscope is still, to this day, one of the most popular columns in any newspaper. It’s all right there, in a nice little concise statement with just enough ambiguity to be applicable to 1/12 of the world’s population.

Snark aside, some predictions are more worthwhile and telling than others. That’s especially true if they are made at a perceived beginning.

And, seeing as we find ourselves at the start of a new year, AND a brand new decade, we thought this is a pretty good time to lay out some bold statements. So, without further ado, here are 20 things you can expect to happen in the world of digital marketing in the coming months of 2020 (broken down by various industry specialties).

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Trends

Trend #1: Zero-click searches are risingSEO

Organic search isn’t what it used to be. According to SEO evangelist Rand Fishkin, everyone’s favorite search engine – Google – is no longer a search engine but a “walled-garden.” Huh?

What Rand is saying is that Google has optimized the methods by which it keeps users in its suite of products, as opposed to passing on the traffic to the links it judges as the best results.

Increasingly, users are getting the information they want from Google-curated products: Knowledge graphs, Local Packs, featured snippets, and the like. Rand crunched the numbers, and as of July 2019, a majority of searches on Google have resulted in a zero-click session.

The takeaway: High placement in SERPs (search engine results pages) is no longer enough.

Trend #2: Optimizing for rich/featured snippets 

In addition to the placement of your page in search results, you’ll have to pay attention to additional parts of the SERP: the featured snippet (chosen by Google as the best answer to a user question), the rich snippet (structured data to help search engines understand the information being presented) and local listings (such as, Google My Business).

“By optimizing for all of these features in parallel with traditional SEO, you increase the probability of getting more clicks and create a higher chance of showing up in more places,” says Jonathan Wilkinson, Beacon’s structured data expert.

The takeaway: Optimizing for rich and featured snippets is more important than ever, as more than 50% of all Google searches now end without a click.

Trend #3: Voice search is taking off

Not only are users implementing an after-search click less, they may not be clicking at all. That’s because more and more searches are initiated by voice.

“The good news here is that by focusing on featured snippet optimizations, you’re also optimizing for voice search,” says Logan Ray, Beacon’s Chief Strategist – Digital Optimization. “If you have Google Assistant, ask a ‘how-to’ question and then search that exact phrase in your browser. You’ll notice the read-out from Google voice search is identical to the featured snippet.”

Voice searches tend to be more long-tailed and local. For ecommerce, that means that voice searches represent users closer to a buying decision.

The takeaway: Optimize your website content to provide answers to relevant voice queries.

Trend #4: Linkless mentions

Since the beginning of the internet, links have been viewed as content recommendations. If someone links to your site, they’re saying: “This is good stuff. Go here for more information you’ll like.”

And ever since, people have been trying to game the system by garnering as many backlinks as they could get. Going forward, however, this strategy will yield less and less results.

Why?

Because Google and other search engines have evolved to the point that unlinked mentions hold as much, or more, sway in their algorithms as links.

The takeaway: Good, old-fashioned brand mentions are new again – no link required. Growing and tracking your organic brand mentions will be key to your SEO strategy in 2020 and beyond.

Paid Search Trends 

Trend #5: Rising CPC (cost-per-click) 

Nobody likes to pay more. But, if you’re in Paid Search advertising, you’ll need to get used to explaining to your clients or bosses (same thing) why they should expect to spend more in 2020 for the same results.

“With the SERP now being set and static with paid text ads, shopping carousels, and organic listings, as well as saturation in paid display networks, the demand of advertisers is outpacing the supply of online real estate,” says Jordan Burleson, Beacon’s Chief Strategist – Digital Advertising. “Increasing CPC is unavoidable in 2020.”

The takeaway: Skilled paid search marketers will need to amend strategy in order to increase results from fewer budgeted clicks.

Trend #6: AI/Machine Learning bidding strategies will propagate

All signs point to automation in 2020, as search engines and online advertising platforms are steaming ahead with AI- and machine-learning-enabled bidding strategies.

“Keywords aren’t going anywhere anytime soon – the robots still need us to speak to the other humans properly; however, whatever can be made into a math problem is now the domain of the machines,” says Jeff Furguson, CEO of Fang Marketing, in Search Engine Journal.

Efficiency is the clear upside. The drawback with automation is losing the ability to tweak bids for keywords by hand.

The takeaway: Knowledge of a client’s/business’ audience, goals and KPIs (key performance indicators) will be more important than ever to get the most out of your Paid Search budget.

Trend #7: Audience-based marketing 

Whether you’re human or machine, there is no substitute for knowing the audience.

Once more from Beacon’s own Jordan Burleson:

“The ability to tap into demographic targeting, interests, previous search and browsing behavior, and predictors from the spoken word, are all hugely important to continued success from paid search in 2020.”

The takeaway: Detailed knowledge of your audience behavioral trends can help you leverage customized messaging and calls-to-actions in order to shorten the buying timeline and optimize your budget.

Trend #8: Going beyond Google and Facebook 

Yes, Google and Facebook are still the 800-lb gorillas in the online advertising jungle. But, you can’t ignore the baby gorillas who are maturing in their own right.

Quora, Reddit, Pinterest, and especially Amazon all have engaged and growing communities of users. And that’s just a few of the popular established digital platforms. Every year brings more.

“This does not mean you need to be on every ad platform above. It does mean you need to have a better understanding of where your customers spend their time online,” says Duane Brown, Founder at Take Some Risk. “If your audience is on one of the ad platforms above then you should at least test it out and see if you can make it work for your business.”

The takeaway: Don’t overlook the smaller ad platforms. Your audience surely won’t. Today’s consumers are likely to play in several different sandboxes.

Data Analysis TrendData

Trend #9: User restrictions on personal data

In 2018, legislators passed the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the largest state in the union. The law, which went into effect on January 1, 2020, now provides internet users the right to opt out of being tracked online. This is likely to result in less user data available for analysis.

“For marketers, this legislation drives the need to infer what users are doing on their websites,” says Luke Pajer, Beacon’s in-house Data Analytics Specialist. “Inferential statistics is how agencies will overcome gaps in user data.”

The takeaway: Data analysts will rely on smaller population samples to track broader user trends. The skills and experience of your analytics team will become more critical.

*** We’ve reached the end of our blog post, and astute readers may have noticed that we’ve only covered 9 of the promised Top 20 Website Trends for 2020. Don’t despair. Stay tuned next week for the second installment in our series.

Beacon Knows (the Future of) Digital Marketing

Is your digital marketing program ready for a banner 2020? Not sure? With Beacon lighting the way, your path to success can only get brighter. Get in touch with our team to discuss solutions to your digital marketing needs.

7 11, 2019

Be Thankful for Your Paid Search Team

By | 2019-11-07T15:19:28+00:00 November 7th, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, PPC|Tags: , , |

red and silver ornaments on christmas treeWelcome to the holiday season, everyone.

Wait, what? It’s barely past October. We’re still working through our Halloween candy stash, you might be thinking. It’s still pushing 70 degrees on the East Coast on many days.

This may all be true. Yet, that hasn’t stopped brick-and-mortar retailers from already decking out their stores with Christmas trees and stocking their shelves with red and green holiday paraphernalia.

Uh huh. That’s right. The holiday season is upon us. And there’s nowhere to hide.

The average consumer might be getting that descended upon feeling right about now. That’s because for us marketers, these are the most important weeks in the calendar. And, it’s not our fault…

Collectively, American consumers spend an unholy sum of money this time of year on gifts for loved ones and “I deserve this” presents for themselves. Vacations and cool travel experiences, expensive dinners out with the family, new cars, new big screen TVs… heck, throw in that super modern, mostly automated, you barely have to carry the load of laundry downstairs washer/dryer combo.

As a country, the US spends trillions of dollars every year between the start of November and December 31. That’s trillions, with a “t.” It’s big business, with a capital “B.”

man holding a credit card and typing on laptopA good portion of those funds get spent online. During the 2018 holiday season, for example, Americans were estimated to have spent nearly $120 billion (it’s with a “b” this time) on the web.

A solid online advertising plan is a must if you hope to tap into all of that consumer holiday spending. If you’re a small or moderate-size retail business, however, you might feel a little intimidated or even drowned out by all the noise that traditionally comes from the heavy hitters – your Amazons, Walmarts, Best Buys, Macy’s’ and the like.

But there’s no need to get discouraged. With the internet being the great equalizer, the right paid search strategy can yield huge returns and pay off big.

“What might that right strategy be?”, you might ask. To find out, we sat down with our Digital Advertising Team. The following insights from Beacon’s paid search experts are some of the most essential parts of a winning holiday season advertising strategy.

Insight 1: Be prepared to spend more when the holiday season rolls around 

dollar bills

Like that old adage goes: “You have to spend money to make money.” That couldn’t be more true when the trees start shedding their leaf coats and the shopping season approaches.

In the paid search world, this is the time of year when ad spends get an extra boost. There are two related reasons for this.

One, it’s the start of a feeding frenzy, and everyone is getting in on the action. That increase in competition means that you’ve got to allocate more funds just to attain the same results from earlier in the year. And, if you hope to beat out your top competitors, you’ll probably need to beat their spend budget. Everybody is spending more, and you’ve got to keep up.

Secondly, that increase in competition also drives up the cost of the keywords you’re bidding on. Depending on how many competitors are bidding on it, a term that cost you $1 yesterday can quickly double, or even triple, tomorrow.

“For many advertisers, holiday sales and Q4 earnings make up a significant amount of their annual revenue,” says Jordan Burleson, Chief Strategist for Digital Marketing at Beacon. “Online search traffic will spike in the months of November and December. And therefore, your average cost-per-click will increase 20% to 50%, resulting in less traffic for the same cost.”

Don’t be shocked or upset when this happens. In fact, building this expected increase into your allocated advertising budget in advance can help you stay both sane and competitive.

Speaking of planning…

Insight 2: Have your advertising plan ready well before Black Friday rolls around

woman holding up shopping bagsA lot of transactions happen on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But, there’s a healthy number of people who prefer to get their shopping done early. In fact, as many as 39% of all holiday purchases take place before the Thanksgiving holiday. That means, you’ve got to be ready to roll with your paid ads… like, now.

On the other hand, you also don’t want to blow through your budget too early and miss a rush on your products or services later in the season. Are there mid-December sales that you’re planning to run? After Christmas promotions? New Year’s specials?

You may want to reserve some of your budget to target potential customers for those sales events. To maximize these opportunities, it’s also important to be intimately familiar with your business and industry seasonal cycle.

Having a good plan based on known customer trends is key to holiday season success.

Insight 3: Make use of negative terms 

Ok, so far, we have “spend more money” and “make a plan.” Good advice, but not the type to satisfy the cost-conscious crowd, right?

Well, don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about you. After all, successful businesses know how to spend wisely.

One way to optimize your ad dollars is by ensuring that they’re not spent on bad or non-strategic keywords. Savvy PPC marketers create a black list of negative keywords which prevents automated platforms from displaying your ads for searches that include those terms.

“Negative keywords are essential for any good PPC campaign,” says Olivia Earley, one of Beacon’s Paid Search Specialists. “Acting as a barrier for unwanted search terms, negative keywords protect your account from unwanted key phrases, saving you money while increasing conversions and click-through rates.”

Insight 4: Use all available space on the playing field

An online ad is pretty simple, right? It appears at the top of a search engine results page (SERP) and displays a short description of a product, event, sale or promotion.

Well, as with everything related to the digital world, paid ads have continually evolved to deliver more nuanced, targeted and specific information. On top of the space for the typical advertising copy, online ads now feature ad extensions. Extensions are extra opportunities to deliver specific types of content.

“Paid ads have expanded to feature a lot more useful information for potential customers,” reports Beacon paid search analyst Zach Wellman. “Ad extensions allow you to deliver actionable content that empowers consumers to more easily reach the content they intend to find.”

Extensions can be links to specific pages on your website (sitelinks), a phone number that can be automatically dialed from your mobile device, your average product/seller rating, the physical address of your store, even pictures of your products.

In fact, image-based product listing ads (or, shopping ads) are the newest paid search fad. In a product listing ad, the main feature of the ad are photos of your products rather than marketing copy.

Extensions and product listing ads also have the advantage of occupying more space in SERPs than the typical online ad. And, the more space you take up, the less you leave for your competitors.

Which brings us to our last point…

100 m race trackInsight 5: It’s all about the competition

If you hope to beat your digital competitors, there are two things you absolutely have to do: 1) know how they’re selling, and 2) sell where they’re selling.

That means that you should keep an eye on the ads that your top competitors run. Tracking your competitors’ ads gives you a good idea of what keywords they’re targeting. It also allows you to match or improve upon the offers your potential customers see and increases your odds of earning their clicks.

Another thing you should do is bid on your competitors’ branded keywords (their names).

“Bidding on competitors is essential to making sure you are staying relevant to your potential leads,” says PPC specialist Sammy Kleege. “Not only do they get a comparison in products, you get to stay on top of what your competitors are doing that you may not be.”

Advertising in your competitor’s wheelhouse may seem like an aggressive tactic. And, in some ways it is. But, it’s also how savvy marketers get a leg up. Besides, if your competitors are worthy opponents, they’re probably doing the same to you.

Beacon Knows PPC

Want a more sophisticated approach to your paid search efforts? Beacon is here to help. Give us a call, we’re eager to talk to you about your business.

22 10, 2019

Trick or Treat: A Spooktacular Guide to Good Content

By | 2019-10-24T09:27:30+00:00 October 22nd, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, SEO|Tags: , , |

There is so much marketing information out there these days. Blogs, websites, articles, white papers, podcasts, videos… many of them developed and deployed to convince you to part with your hard-earned money on just the right products.

Indeed, content marketing is all the rage. But not all content is created equal. In fact, there is a lot of bad content out there. So, what makes for great content?

There’s no single, easy answer. And the replies you’ll receive are likely to differ, sometimes wildly, depending on whom you may ask. But, the question becomes less abstract and more actionable when we narrow down the scope of the query: how do you go about creating great content for the web?

At the core, all great web content accomplishes one thing – informs, or educates, the reader via relevant, useful and organized information. For us marketers, however, content also has to drive action – be it a sign-up for a newsletter, a download of a white paper or (most preferred) a purchase of a product or service.

So, let’s discuss how best to create content with good-to-great potential for conversion. With candy on our minds and Halloween just around the corner, we’ll use the holiday as a surprisingly good metaphorical vehicle to parse the subject.

Shop for the Right Candy

Starting on a new piece of content can seem daunting at first. Trust us, no one enjoys a blank screen staring them in the face. It can be as scary as a haunted house.

What’s even scarier is wasting time writing content that no one will bother to read. So, before you start putting words on a page, you should know a bit about who you are writing for and why.

Know Your Audience(s)

Question: when your trick-or-treat guests ring your doorbell, do you think they’d be satisfied if you offered them an apple?

Unlikely, at best, right? The kids put effort into their costumes, they’re out there hustling from house to house… They’re definitely not doing it for fruit. They want the CANDY!

Same with your primary audience. They’ve come online with a purpose. Typed a query into a search engine for a reason. Clicked on your link with expectation. If you serve them an apple, it’s a safe bet that that’s the last you’ll see of them.

Ok, let’s take it one step further. Kids don’t go to strangers’ homes by themselves. They’re usually accompanied by their parents. And parents have a whole different set of needs.

If you’re a nice, thoughtful host, you’ll consider the needs of your secondary audience. Maybe a warm beverage or a non-candy snack will help them endure the chilly, late-October evening.

People recognize when you go the extra mile, or do something special. And that helps to establish trust, a necessary starting point for any budding relationship.

Be Prepared to Answer Their Most Pertinent Questions

The obvious question your Halloween guests have is, of course: “trick or treat?”. Translated into vernacular it means: “do you have candy for me?”. (For the spoiled audiences, it might be “do you have good candy for me?”.)

It’s not hard to anticipate this question on October 31. But, not all circumstances and audience are that easy.

When producing high quality content, it’s necessary to put yourself into the shoes of your audience and ask yourself what is it that they are looking to find out. The more you’re able to visualize yourself as part of the audience, the better you’ll be able to anticipate their needs.

Do Your Research

Just because you know the questions, doesn’t mean you know the answers.

Before you start writing, be sure you have the right information to present to your audience. This may involve online research, consulting with a co-worker who possesses specialized knowledge in the right subject area or even an interview with a subject matter expert outside of your organization.

You definitely don’t want to take your eye off the ball here… again, keep the fruit out of the candy bowl.

Dress Up

So, you know there are going to be kids out in the neighborhood, hungry for candy. And you know they’ll be accompanied by supervising adults. But, can you be sure that they’re not just going to stroll right past your house? 

If there are no lights on and it doesn’t look like anyone’s home, your doorbell may never get rung. And if your house looks too creepy (in a non-Halloween way), the parents may actively want to skip it. You’ve got to do something to entice the trick-or-treaters to make it down your long driveway and to your door.

That means, you’ve got to make your home appear welcoming by putting up some house decorations – the more extravagant, the better. Preferably, something that points the way to the candy bowl by your door. And, if you want to make the experience even more memorable for your guests, you should wear a creative costume that leaves an impression.

How can you dress up your content to be presented at it’s most appealing?

Keeping your paragraphs short for easy readability is a good start. Adding captivating images or videos can also help your readers engage with your page. Providing internal links and easy to see call-to-action buttons are great ways to point your audience to additional relevant content and highlight the final action they’ll need to take.

Give Out the Good Candy So They Come Back Next Year

Ok, you’ve got them at your door and perusing your candy offering. This is the moment of truth. You want the kids to take the candy, the adults to appreciate the warm beverage, and both groups to have a fun experience that stands out to them.

You’re serving candy and not fruit, your house is lit up and decked out with witches on brooms, you’re wearing your finest Halloween attire… you’re sure to get record visitors, right?

Not so fast. You can do everything right up to this point and still not meet your goals if your offering is not up to the standards or expectations of your guests.

Just because it’s candy, doesn’t mean it’s the right candy, or good candy. If the candy looks old, or has a torn wrapper, you might just lose your credibility on the spot – despite all the hard work you’ve put in.

Same with content. The presentation has to be as good as everything else.

That means writing a great headline, structuring your content clearly with proper usage of headings (H2s, H3s, H4s, etc), keeping an active voice and maintaining a reasonable word count. More importantly, your content has to stay on topic, do a great job educating on the most pertinent subjects and fulfill your users’ intent.

Your readers should reach the end of the page with a clear idea of what they’ve just read and an understanding of what they should do next. If you can do all that, you might just gain the trust of your readers and improve your chances of creating a repeat customer.

Beacon Knows Great Content

Is your site content in the best shape it could be? Not sure? One way to find out is with a complimentary content audit. Request one today from Beacon’s content strategy experts.

19 07, 2018

GDPR: What Is It? Does It Apply To Me? And So What?

By | 2019-05-06T11:06:03+00:00 July 19th, 2018|Categories: Beacon News, Ecommerce, Google Analytics|Tags: , , , |

If you work in digital marketing, you probably couldn’t help but notice the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) mania sweeping the internet earlier this year. Indeed, before the new regulations became enforceable in May 2018, there was breathless anticipation and countless “What You Need To Know” blog posts promising the low-down on all the important compliance implications.

Any new regulation is bound to create a few headaches as affected parties figure out the new landscape and work out the kinks. But, a law as sweeping as GDPR promised to be — impacting the very foundation of how e-commerce works — has the potential to thoroughly disrupt the status quo, and everyone’s comfort level along with it.

So, has our digital existence been turned upside down since May? Are we really living in a whole new internet reality?

Here, at Beacon, we were very much interested in the potential of GDPR to impact our ability to collect and analyze consumer data via Google Analytics (our preferred data aggregation platform). So, after a couple of months under the new regulations, as the dust has begun to settle, we decided to take a look around at the brave, new, GDPR-compliant world and see what’s what.

What Is GDPR?

Let’s start by defining what GDPR does. According to the European Commission website, the body that created the legislation, GDPR governs:

“the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data.”

In simple terms, the new rules aim to protect the personal data of all European Union citizens by explicitly granting them greater control over how their personal digital data is used and stored by others. GDPR applies to any company, person or entity that has the potential to gain access to personal data of EU citizens for non-personal use.

Yeah, But Does GDPR Apply to My Organization?

Because there are no national borders on the internet, EU residents (and everyone else) can easily access websites hosted in other countries. As such, the practical implication of GDPR is that it applies globally, no matter where your company or organization is legally headquartered.

If your website can be accessed by someone in the European Union — and if it’s up and running, it absolutely can be — then you should be paying attention. So, if you haven’t already, make sure your organization undertakes a review of how your site’s visitor data is collected, compiled and stored in Google Analytics (or, whichever platform you use).

What Does GDPR Impact?

There are three major areas of emphasis with GDPR: data collection management, data protection and visibility, and restrictions on data use.

The new regulations affecting data collection management require companies to get consent from consumers before collecting and storing their personal data. This means that when you visit your favorite online store, the retailer will have to ask you for explicit permission to track your shopping session and see what jeans you’re interested in buying. More than that, consumers have the choice to opt out or limit how their online behavior is tracked.

If you grant permission to track your shopping experience, or choose to share any other personal information — like your address and contact information when you sign up for a store rewards program, for example — the retailer has the responsibility of protecting that collected information from falling into the wrong hands. Not only that, because EU consumers have the right to request that their data be deleted, businesses have to know exactly where they store your personally identifiable consumer data in order to comply with any consumer requests.

In addition to requests to delete their data, under GDPR, consumers are enabled to exercise more granular control over what data is collected and how it is used. Consumers are empowered to rescind their data collection permission at any time they want. They can also request that your company turn over their data to a third-party or another retailer.

All of this means that, going forward, companies doing business online should have a sophisticated, flexible and responsive system of collecting and managing consumers’ personal data.

What Should I Be Doing?

To understand exactly what your company should be doing to accommodate these new consumer-centered protections, speak with your legal team. Your attorneys should be able to provide guidance tailored to your industry and circumstances.

If that entails a re-imagining of your data collection and management processes on your website, or through Google Analytics, give Beacon a call. We’ll be glad to walk you through the platform and recommend a course of action. Give our experts a shout at 866.964.5590.

12 08, 2016

eCommerce Analysis: Using Google Analytics to Identify Your Whales and Minnows

By | 2016-11-22T17:47:23+00:00 August 12th, 2016|Categories: Ecommerce, Google Analytics|Tags: , , |

If you manage an eCommerce site, you probably spend a lot of time in Google Analytics. There’s a ton of great metrics and reports to check out, like mutli-channel attribution, average order values by channel, eComm conversion rates, and so on. You’ve probably even segmented data by demographic, device type, or geography. All of this is great, high-five yourself if you’re doing these things because you’re probably a few steps ahead of your competition. But have you ever segmented by transaction dollar amount? I’m about to enlighten you on a couple advanced segments to help you identify your whales (biggest customers), your minnows (smallest customers), and how to get more whales and less minnows.

OK, got your coffee? Let’s go!

First thing we’re going to do is figure out your top 10% and bottom 10% transaction thresholds.

Go to Conversions > Ecommerce > Sales Performance. Expand your list to show all available transactions, then export to XLSX.

transaction report

The next step is to identify the thresholds for your top 10% of transactions. Open up the XLSX file, put filters in your headings, and remove the last row of data where your totals show (keeping it in skews your sorting).

Sort the revenue column from largest to smallest, then apply some conditional formatting, as seen in the screenshot below. Repeat this step with the bottom 10%.

*Side note: If you’re not familiar with this feature in Excel, I highly recommend becoming a conditional-formatting-ninja, it will shave tons of time off of your analysis.

top 10

Once you’ve got both conditional formats applied, simply look at the lowest dollar amount in your upper 10% grouping, and the highest dollar amount in your lower 10% grouping. These are your thresholds. In my case, using the Google Merch Store test account, I’ve identified $259.50 as the upper threshold, and $13.59 as the lower threshold.

Now the good stuff begins.

Head back into your Google Analytics account and create a new advanced segment. We’re looking for users who have a per-user revenue of $259.50 or greater, so we create the segment as shown below:

advanced segment

Now that you’ve got a segment created, apply it, and you’re free to check out other reports to analyze where these users come from, how the interact with the site, and figure out what you can do to acquire more people that would fall into this segment.

A few good starting points for conducting this analysis are:

  • The Source/Medium report in Acquisition – Perfect for learning how your whales found you
  • The Mobile Overview report in Audience – This is great for device type analysis. i.e. are your whales coming through mobile or desktop? Assumptions can be dangerous, so it’s always a good idea to investigate
  • The Landing Page report in Behavior – Surely, you’ve got some pages on your site that are more likely to drive purchase, but which ones are the best?

Of course there are plenty of other reports you can gain insights from, this list is only intended to kick start your analysis engine.

Once you’ve conducted your whales analysis, circle back and repeat the process for minnows. The idea is the same, but this time around you’re trying to identify ways to attract fewer minnows. So check out the same reports in Google Analytics and identify channels that drive small transactions, landing pages the don’t perform as well, et al.

If you do this on a regular basis and make adjustments to your marketing efforts accordingly, you’ll start to see your thresholds shifting upwards, as well as increases in your average order value.

17 04, 2013

Display different product prices in AspDotNetStorefront

By | 2016-11-23T10:31:15+00:00 April 17th, 2013|Categories: Ecommerce|Tags: , , , , |

Recently one of our AspDotNetStorefront clients asked me to come up with a way to modify the display of his products that vary by price.  One of the things I really like about AspDotNetStorefront is that there are often “hidden gems” or functionality that you might not use one day, but come up with a way to incorporate it later.  For this client, I recommended that he investigate either the product attribute features of a simple product or set up the products with separate variants.

Attribute Option

This is the easiest product setup and, in general, requires the least XML package modification/development, but may not be the ideal user experience, depending upon the type of product being sold.

  1. Log into ASPDNSF Admin and search for the product to modify
  2. Click on the product and then on the Main tab
    • Change “Color Option Prompt” to the appropriate label to indicate why this product has multiple prices (for example “Product Options”).
    • Change the XML package to product.simpleproduct.xml.config
    • Hit the “Update” button.
  3. Go to the Product Variant link, click on the default product variant displayed and then click on the Attributes tab
  4. Enter text like this in “Colors” field– “Product Option 1[-100.00],Product Option 2[-50.00],Product Option 3”.  In this example, product option 1 will be $100 cheaper and Product Option 2 will be $50 cheaper than product option 3.  Add as many product types and prices as needed; separate all product options by commas.
  5. Hit “Update”  and then view the product on the live site.  Selecting “Product Option 1” from the drop down should  discount the item by $100 when added to the cart
  6. See http://manual.aspdotnetstorefront.com/p-967-varying-price-by-sizecolor.aspx for more info on this setup

Variant Option

Depending on the type of product, I think this is the best looking option for the customer, but sometimes requires modification of the XML package by a developer to display correctly.

  1. Log into ASPDNSF Admin and search for the product to modify
  2. On the Main tab
    • Change the XML package to product.variantsindropdown.xml.config
    • Save the product with the “Update” button
  3. Go to the Product Variant link and clone the default/existing variant using the “Clone” link.  Create as many clones as there will be product options for this product.
  4. Click on the first variant in the list.
  5. Change the variant name to “Product Option 1” (or other applicable label) and change the price field to the correct price for this product option and then save the variant.
  6. Click on each subsequent variant in the list and change the variant product name and price for that product option.
  7. Save the product and then view the product on the live site.  Each product variant will appear as a separate choice in the drop down box along with the applicable price for that product variant.

I hope that you find this information helpful!

13 02, 2012

Super quick Aspdotnetstorefront site setup

By | 2016-11-22T10:56:27+00:00 February 13th, 2012|Categories: Ecommerce|Tags: , |

There are literally thousands of settings that you can configure for a new AspDotNetStorefront site, but here is a set of instructions that we use to quickly set up a very basic non-eCommerce (catalog only) site in Version 8 of AspDotNetStorefront:

  1. Follow manual instructions to do a base install: Installation Guide
  2. Skin/Template set-up
    • Review the available default skins or purchase a skin template
    • Navigate to the docs/skins folder of your new AspDotNetStorefront site and rename the  Skin_1 folder to Skin_old
    • Copy the new skin to docs/skins and rename “Skin_1”
    • Resize the company logo to the height of the logo.jpg file included in the skins/skin_1/images/ and save as logo.jpg in this folder (if not a jpg file, see #3 below)
  3. Template.ascx Set-up– Open /docs/skins/skin_1/template.ascx in an HTML editor and make the following updates to the HTML code.
    • If the company logo is not a jpg file (png, for example), change logo.jpg in template file to correct logo name
    • Remove shopping cart and wishlist links from utility nav in template.ascx
    • Remove all links and content from top and bottom nav that do not apply
    • Update copyright line/year in footer
    • Remove departments/sections from left nav (if not in use on site)
  4. Style.css Set-up— Update colors and styles in docs/skins/Skin_1/styles.css as needed to match corporate colors
  5. Admin Set-up
    • Log into Admin with default id/password and create super users under Customers/Add New Customer and then Customers/View-Edit Customers/Super User button.  Notify new admins of id/password/Admin URL.  Log in with one of the new super-user accounts and delete default admin user. 
    • Update store details under Configuration/Site Configuration Wizard including Store Name, Store email address, etc.
    • Go to Configuration/Email and set email server information
    • Appconfig updates– Make the following updates in Configuration/Advanced/Appconfig Parameters
      • Search for “meta” in the Appconfigs section and complete all relevant fields with search engine data/keywords
      • Remove buy and wish list buttons by setting ShowBuyButtons and ShowWishButtons to “false”
      • Remove items from site map that should not be displayed by searching appconfigs for “sitemap.” and setting areas that should not be in site map to “false”
    • Hit reset cache to force updates to appear on public site
  6. Topics— Update the following under Content, Manage Topics in the Admin area
    1. Add content to all topic pages that are relevant to this company (about, service, security, hometopintro, etc.)
    2. Hyperlink any new topic pages to Help & Info box so they show in the left navigation
    3. Review each existing topic page and do the following:
      • Remove topics that will definitely not be used using “Delete Topic” button
      • Set topics that should not show in sitemap to “no” with “Publish in Site Map” field
      • Update text on all topics that start with “Empty” and “Productnotfound” topic
      • Update hometopintro with homepage content
      • Update pagenotfound text
  7. Products/Categories– Add Categories and Products using either a product import (our preference) or manually in Admin
  8. Complete “Go Live” checklist
  9. Carefully review and test the site, make revisions as needed
  10. LAUNCH THE SITE!
7 02, 2011

Notes from the field.

By | 2020-01-29T15:04:13+00:00 February 7th, 2011|Categories: Ecommerce|Tags: , , , , |

I attended a Webinar hosted by Vortx recently and had a chance to learn a few things that can affect conversions of shoppers.

1. 75% of shoppers use the search box to find products. They pointed out that the top 10 e-tailers all have the same style search box: a long narrow search box prominently displayed in the header.

2. You have 7 seconds to impact a shopper with the product detail, after that they will typically go to another product.

3. There are 3 main pieces of information shopper want to see quickly:

  • Product Image
  • Product Description
  • Pricing/ Add to Cart

These items need to be clearly defined and prominent. Add to Cart button should be above the fold and use a color scheme to draw the eye to it.

4. The use of tabs is fading, major e-tailers are no longer using them to convey information.