Elements of E-Commerce | Customer Loyalty Programs

Welcome to Thanx Media’s “Elements of E-Commerce” blog series. Follow along as we wade through the nuts and bolts of e-commerce technologies that you need to know.

Today’s Element is customer loyalty programs; they help you keep customers using your products and services. Customer loyalty is important: existing customers spend about 67% more than new customers according to HubSpot. And shoppers increase their spending by 20% when they are close to getting a reward, according to a University of Chicago study. So it definitely makes sense to focus on keeping existing customers interested and happy. In this Part I of our Customer Loyalty Program discussion we’ll look at options for your company’s program.

What are Customer Loyalty Programs?

Points, rewards, discounts! Sign up today! All of those offers that reward you for shopping, those are a part of a customer loyalty program. So is the gist that you give your customer some cash to incentivize her to keep shopping? Yes and no. Giving customers cash can help bring them back for more, but the bigger goal of a customer loyalty program is to create a continued connection with your customer.

Loyalty programs give you more touchpoints to engage a customer. So use these opportunities to excite them as well as offering price-based promotion.

Types of Customer Loyalty Programs

1.  Points programs—This system relies on points accrued based on behavior, such as making a purchase or bonuses on anniversary dates. The points can be redeemed, including for cash, products or prizes.

⋅  A points system needs to be set up for long-term use and you need to think about how to end the program. If you start a points program, you need to have enough resources to let the program run in the long-term so that your customers can get their expected value from the points they accrue. And have a contingency plan: if the program ends up not working for you, make sure you know what you will give your customers in exchange for their existing points despite the program ending.

2.  Discount & cash-back programs—As a reward for making a purchase or completing a survey, you can give customers special discount codes to entice them to their next purchase. Or you can offer them rewards cash, redeemable towards their next purchase.

3.  Prize programs—Reward customers with valuable prizes when they reach certain benchmarks, including purchase amounts or a number of years as a customer.

4.  Tiered programs—Offer higher levels of rewards, whether it is more points or higher discounts, to customers as they hit higher spending levels.

⋅  Remember that customers might react negatively to being downgraded. Plan for easing customers into a lower tier when they stop meeting your program’s requirements for higher-level rewards to avoid losing them altogether.

5.  Fee-based programs—Charge customers a membership fee that offers them valuable perks. Customers who pay for a membership are likely to feel invested in using it. Think this sounds counter to the give-rewards goal? Amazon’s Prime Membership is a version of a fee-based program that works: Prime members spend more than double the amount spent by non-prime customers.

6.  Co-op programs—This system offers customers a cash dividend based on their purchases, for example a cash dividend in the amount of 5% of the customer’s yearly purchases. The idea here is to make the customer feel invested in the wellbeing of the company; the customer takes part in the health of the business and takes part in the profits.

7.  Coalition programs—These are multi-company benefits that are offered to the customer through a single sign-up. This way a customer can pool her rewards points from purchases at several vendors and use the points flexibly toward a reward at the vendor of her choice.

⋅  Added visibility done right. Partnering can be a clear way to boost your company and your loyalty program’s visibility. Before you enter into a partnership, make sure you’ve thought about the partner’s brand and how it aligns with your own. Also don’t forget to think about how the customer service will be managed; you don’t want a customer who is upset by another vendor to take it out on you.

8.  Rewards based on check-ins not sign-ups—You can also think about keeping track of customers who check-in at your business on Facebook or Foursquare, or who share your social media shout-outs consistently. These customers can be rewarded with discounts or offers to encourage them to keep up their social media sharing.

Next Steps

It’s also important to know how to run a program that actually does its job—keeping your customers happy. Customers are instead annoyed by a lot of loyalty programs: 90% of social media sentiment on loyalty programs (across industries) is negative, a study by Capgemini Consulting finds.

So focus on building a sustainable program that fits your customers; we’ll talk more about how to do that in Part II of our discussion, so be sure to come back. And don’t miss more planning musts in Part III. We’ll go over setting up your program to give you measurable data and how to keep track of the usefulness of your program.

Referral Marketing Part III: How Tech Helps with the When & Where

Thanks for coming back for Part III of our Referral Marketing talks. In Part I we looked at what referral marketing is and why it is important. In Part II we went through content and incentive ideas to get your customers talking. Now we’re going to look at how to run your program with technology that lets you give your customers referral options at all stages.

When and Where Do You Use Referral Marketing

There are so many possibilities for getting your first-time and repeat customers to tell their friends about how much they need and want your products. A quick tip for thinking about when to ask for referrals: think about when your customer is happy or excited about your brand and products.

Think about giving your customer a nudge at some of these points:

·  On a purchase confirmation page. Give your customer options to like and share the product that they obviously liked enough to buy.

·  When they get the product. Did the customer just get the product and is excited that it came in the mail? Making your product or packaging instantly shareable by being picture or video-worthy can capture that energy; include a postcard or thank-you note that reminds your customers to share.

·  After they’ve used the product. Try sending a follow-up email that offers a referral incentive after the customer has had time to test the product and feels more strongly about recommending it.

·  When it’s time to reorder the product or get a new version. Give the customer who has already purchased an added incentive to make their next purchase by offering a referral bonus in a follow-up email.

·  At loyalty anniversary dates. Show your long-term customers some appreciation and build on that goodwill by sending them special referral incentives along with other loyalty programs.

Tech that Makes the When and Where Doable

So you’ve created your plan—you know the style you want to use, your incentives, who you want to reach and when. Now you’ve got to find the right tech that lets you follow through. Where can software help and what do you need?

·  Widgets to make social media sharing easy. You need to make it easy for customers to push out your images and video, and maybe pre-populated taglines. So you need to attach one-click sharing options in a lot of places—images, offers, emails. When thinking about the widgets that are best for you, think about whether your needs are simple or if you want more customization options with more control over design and placement.

·  Automation and personalization controls. If you’re hoping to send targeted referral offers at different times for different customers, triggered by the customer’s actions, you can’t do this manually. You’ll need software that places the right offers with the right purchase confirmation screen or email. There are many options to automate your referral offers, so think about the size of your program and how easily you need to make changes when choosing.

·  Influencer marketing tools. If you are running referral programs along with your influencer marketing programs, make sure your referral tools work with your influencer marketing tools.

·  Analytics tools. Making the most of any marketing plan means looking at what works and reorganizing. With referral programs, you need to track where referrals are coming from—for example, are certain review sites linking to your products? Find a way to make a stronger connection there by creating a special referral program. Which customers are following through when sent a referral? Figure that out to help you decide whether your discount or video-sharing program is strongest.

The right referral marketing software will depend on the kind of program you want to run. Get in touch and we can help you find the right features for your plan.

Referral Marketing Part II: Choosing Your Incentives & Content

Getting the word out through referral marketing is a must, as we saw in Part I of our Referral Marketing discussion. But what is the best way to get customers talking? Choose two things wisely: 1) the incentives for referring a product and 2) the way you grab the attention of the person receiving a referral.

Choosing the Right Referral Marketing Incentive

First, let’s think about the options for asking someone to share products and offers:

⋅  Ask for a referral without any incentive. This is an option that can work at the right moment. Maybe your customers will want to share pictures of your beautiful product and all you have to do is provide a fun hashtag. Maybe on a purchase confirmation screen you can ask the customer to share product images with a quick click.

⋅  Offer the referring customer an incentive to send out referrals (1-sided incentives).

⋅  Discounts or immediate rewards. Think a “Get 10% off your next purchase”-with-five-referral-emails scheme. Offer rewards points in customer loyalty programs, or maybe send out free gifts.

⋅  Contests & Prizes. Instead of giving something that the sender will definitely get (e.g. a savings code), think about offering entry into a contest or sweepstakes for a bigger prize.

⋅  Offer the referring customer something and the receiving customer something (2-sided incentives).

⋅  Discounts or immediate rewards. Think a give-ten-get-ten arrangement; one customer sends out an offer for someone to save 10% and the sending customer gets to save 10% too.

⋅  Stackable rewards. You can offer a sender something for just sending out referrals, and then add an extra incentive if their friend actually buys the product. (This might be a 1-sided or a 2-sided stacked incentive.)

Thinking About the Content You Want to Share

The second piece to plan is what you will ask your customer to share in order to get a new customer’s attention. The key: be creative! Think about your audience and plan around their connection to your company—do you give them something they need or love, and why do they want it? For a ton of inspiration, check out this “Epic List of 74 Referral Programs.” Here are some ideas to get you started:

⋅  Discounts & Offers—This is the 2-sided incentive program idea. Are new customers likely to need a break on price to try your product? If price is important, make sure you are making it easier for new customers get that first taste.

⋅  Don’t forget to think about content within the discount or offer. Make sure that the link or email that you ask your customer to share will make someone want to look at it. That might mean including images or catchy headlines, but whatever you use make sure you’re getting your message across clearly.

⋅  Images or Videos—Is there a funny way to let people know about your brand? Or can you make an informational video that everyone will need to see? Make it, and make it easy to share; then see if people don’t just spread the word.

⋅  Easy to share? If you want people to share links, give them pre-populated taglines that make it easy for them to hit one button to Tweet or Pin.

⋅  Product Design—When you plan your packaging think about whether you can prepare it for easy sharing. Can you make the packaging Insta-worthy? Can you put it in a box that’s begging for an unboxing video?

⋅  Customer Reviews—Are there better ways that you can ask and remind customers to review your products? A review is another way to get that sense of personal recommendation, so don’t overlook this when planning your referral program.

A Few Reminders for Planning

⋅  A referral program shouldn’t be one thing. You should use a mix of these options to target different parts of a customer journey and for different target demographics.

⋅  Think about the likely return and find an incentive that is right for your program and budget. Make your program dynamic, so that different referrals are part of different marketing campaigns.

So how do you manage a referral marketing program, with its different offers, at different times, for different customers? Join us for Part III of our Referral Marketing discussion to dive into some of the technology and automation that help.

Elements of E-Commerce | Referral Marketing: Part 1

Welcome to Thanx Media’s “Elements of E-Commerce” blog series. Follow along as we wade through the nuts and bolts of e-commerce technologies that you need to know.

What is Referral Marketing?

Friends don’t let friends buy junk. Referral marketing looks to that trust—it asks your customers to spread the word about your company and products. Referrals put information and offers in front of new customers with an inherent personal recommendation.

A referral through a marketing program is an email or link sent by-a-friend-to-a-friend telling them to sign up for offers or buy products. The original customer might be given something in return for engaging other people. These incentive arrangements can also be part of influencer or affiliate marketing campaigns.

Word-of-Mouth and Recommendations are the Strongest Advertising

Does referring really work? There’s no question, it does.

An almost hard to believe example is Airbnb’s test referral program. The company offered existing customers cash to use toward future travel if they referred a friend. Almost every one of the referrals sent out actually led to a new Airbnb user! (2,161 existing Airbnb-ers referred 2,107 new users.)

You might question if that was a fluke, but there are so many reasons that referral marketing is one of the strongest ways to advertise:

1.  It’s the thing people trust the most:

⋅  83% of buyers say they trust recommendations by people they know. And 66% trust consumer and editorial opinions. (Nielson.)

⋅  84% of B2B buyers begin their decisionmaking with a referral. (LinkedIn.)

2.  Recommendations lead to high value customers:

⋅  The Harvard Business Review reports that in one case study, referrals led to new customers who were 18% more loyal and had 16% higher sales value.

3.  Referral marketing can have effects beyond the single referral:

⋅  Visibility. Even when referrals don’t lead to new buyers, the very fact of information sharing increases a company’s visibility. Asking a customer to send five referrals will promote your brand awareness, even if only one of those referrals leads to a sale.

⋅  Existing Customer Loyalty. Referral bonuses give your existing customers a reason to stay connected to your brand and products. You can add these incentives to other loyalty programs, doubling up on your customer care and giving you more chances to encourage your existing customers to make referrals.

4.  Most consumers are happy to make recommendations:

(But marketers need to make it happen!)

⋅  83% of satisfied customers are willing to refer a product or service but only 29% actually do. (Texas Tech.)

With all this evidence that it works, it only makes sense that we’re going to help you sort out how to run a strong program. Join us in Part II of our Referral Marketing discussion for ideas on incentives and referral media that will get attention, and Part III for a breakdown of resources and technology that will support a long-running program.

Affiliate Marketing Part II: The Right Publisher for Your Campaign

In Part I of our Affiliate Marketing discussion, we went over the basics—what affiliate marketing is and what affiliate publishers can do for advertisers. But there are so many options, and so now we need to take a look at what type of affiliate advertising will best meet your goals.

Finding the Right Forum

Affiliate marketing can be done in a ton of places—blogs, discussion forums, social media, TV or print media. To choose the right forum for your campaign, it’s important to think about the audience you want to reach and what type of information they are most responsive to. These are some of the online options that let you connect with buyers with different needs:

1.  Content-focused publishers. If you want to reach an audience based on an interest niche, blogs and content-focused websites can be a good source for reaching interested and dedicated readers.

2.  Review-based sites and comparison forums. If your product has a strong competitive advantage or you want to focus on differentiating the product, review sites will reach readers who want that type of research, possibly with the added push of a personal recommendation.

3.  Coupon sites. Want to reach people who are looking for a good deal? Get buyers excited to try your product by making special offers through coupon sites.

4.  Social media partners. Reach out to an audience by creating buzz with social media partners, who can generate likes, follows and even reviews.

5.  Loyalty programs. Partner with sites that offer cashback and other rewards to reach an audience by offering that added incentive to buy.

Thinking about Affiliate Publisher Pay

Part of finding the right partner is working with your budget. Publishers work on different pay agreements, so you’ll need to research which partner fits your budget as well as your audience.

1.  Pay per click (PPC) affiliate marketing. Each time a reader clicks on a link, the advertiser will pay for the click. Clicks don’t necessarily mean revenue, so make sure you have a plan to stay within budget when using PPC. For more tips on planning for PPC, check out Elements of E-Commerce: Paid Digital Marketing Using Pay Per Click.

2.  Cost per action or cost per lead (CPA/CPL). With CPA, payment is not made until some step beyond the reader clicking the link is completed—maybe the reader has to buy a product, or sign up for a newsletter. When the reader does that triggering action, the advertiser pays the publisher.

3.  Cost per impression (CPI). Here, the advertiser pays a publisher for a certain number of times that the publisher’s page is viewed. Again, this doesn’t tie payment to any earned revenue, but that may not matter if the goal of your campaign is increasing the visibility of your product.

Entering the Right Partnership

If the point of an affiliate marketing campaign is to a get an audience to think of you because of your alignment with your affiliate publisher, the best partner is one that feels like an extension of your company. Here are a few things to consider before you decide that you want any of these partners talking about you:

⋅  Will you be able to reach the broad or niche audience you need with this partner?

⋅  What is the affiliate publisher’s brand and is it one that resonates with your buyers?

⋅  Is the publisher following regulations and not using bots to drive traffic?

Wading through all of these options doesn’t have to be something you do on your own. Get in touch and let us help you find the right affiliates and shape a campaign that’s fitted to your goals.

Elements of E-Commerce | Affiliate Marketing Basics

Welcome to Thanx Media’s “Elements of E-Commerce” blog series. Follow along as we wade through the nuts and bolts of e-commerce technologies that you need to know.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing uses a third-party website (or other platform) to give buyers information about products and/or links to actually buy the product. Think a blog that talks about coffee and has links scattered throughout its posts to coffee-related products for sale. An advertiser pays the third-party when a reader connects to a product via the third-party website’s link.

Why do companies want to partner with affiliates? The goal here is to reach a demographic interested in the company’s product by way of connection with a source trusted by those consumers. We know that buyers are about 70% more likely to trust a recommendation or social media referral than traditional advertising. Affiliate marketing gets at least one step closer to that recommendation: a buyer can feel more personally aligned with a product that shows up on a website she knows and likes than she will with a generic search result ad. And some affiliate marketers will actually offer product recommendations.

Understanding How to Connect with Affiliate Sites and What They Will Do

Companies can start affiliate marketing campaigns in two main ways:

Advertiser-Publisher. Familiar with a cool website that’s a good fit for your brand? You can connect directly with blog authors, consumer review sites, or partners in other forums (known as the “publishers”) that are a good fit to promote your products and that you know offer affiliate advertising.

Advertiser-Network-Publisher. You can also use an affiliate network to identify the affiliates that fit best. These networks gather information about which websites and forums offer affiliate advertising and the types of audiences they reach.

Different publishers offer different forms of advertising:

1.  Unattached (or indirect) affiliate marketing is generally a link on the publisher’s website or social media feed to products and offers. Along the lines of banner ads, unattached affiliate marketing doesn’t relate directly to the publisher’s content. Some publishers will just sell you space for links and ads to show up alongside whatever else they are displaying. The publisher doesn’t offer any analysis or recommendation, but this arrangement does give your product visibility to a popular publisher’s dedicated audience.

2.  Related (sometimes called direct) affiliate marketing is a link to a product or offer that is related to the publisher’s audience or content. We can go back to the idea of the coffee blog here. The coffee blogger may be willing to sell space in-between paragraphs of her blog posts for links to products and offers that are coffee-related. In this form the publisher is not necessarily discussing the product, but the advertiser can reach a targeted demographic.

3.  Involved affiliate marketing is a recommendation and a link to products and offers. Some publishers will test your product and personally recommend the product to their followers, alongside a link to buy.

What are the forums that will work best for your affiliate marketing campaign and how do you plan your budget? Come back for Part II of our Affiliate Marketing discussion for more on planning your campaign.

Paid Digital Marketing Part II: Using Display Advertising

Welcome to Thanx Media’s “Elements of E-Commerce” blog series. Follow along as we wade through the nuts and bolts of e-commerce technologies that you need to know.

Banner ads, wallpaper ads (visuals that take over the whole webpage), pop-ups—you know, and maybe hate, all of these things. These are display advertisements and in this post we’ll get to know more about the loves and hates for display ads.

What is Display Advertising?

First, a little more definition. Display ads are usually visually based, centered on images and video. These ads are displayed in areas of a website reserved for advertising, such as the banner space along the top of a site or the box spaces along the sides. They generally run on a pay-per-click or similar pay model.

Native ads are display ads with a newer twist. Native ads fit in with a website’s content, such as sponsored posts that show up in the same stream as a website’s general blog posts.

Pros and Cons of Display Advertising

The thing is, people don’t really pay attention to banner ads and they hate pop-ups that take over their screens, right? Well, yes—for example, click-through rates on display ads are only about 0.06% according to HubSpot. So why would anyone pay for display ads? Here are a few reasons:

⋅  Increasing brand awareness. Display ads create visibility, whether anyone is actually clicking on an ad or not. If ads use strong, memorable visuals a company can get its name and brand into a lot of people’s heads with display ads.

⋅  Reach is not dependant on particular searches. Display ads show up whenever someone is browsing a website; they are not limited to someone specifically searching for your products and services. If ads are thoughtfully targeted to audiences in the right locations and with the right demographics, display ads can act like PSA’s, giving their audiences useful information about products they are likely to want.

⋅  Display ads can be much cheaper than search engine advertising. If your goal is to gain visibility, you may be able to run more ads for longer choosing display ads over search-related ads.

⋅  Native ads are pretty successful. In fact, they are viewed 53% more often than banner ads.

⋅  Remarketing works. Display ads that put your products in front of shoppers who have already visited your website are 70% more likely to lead to a sale than other display ads.

Is Display Advertising Right for You?

Each company needs to ask: is display advertising right for my business? Here are some questions to think about before getting into a display ad campaign:

⋅  Are your goals a good fit for display ads? I.e. are you looking for visibility or do you need the ads to lead to sales? If you are looking for sales, display ads may not be the best fit.

⋅  Do you have the design experience and budget to run a successful campaign? And does your message translate into a simple, attention-grabbing visual? Display ads need to have a clear, simple message, and use engaging and memorable visuals. Effectively increasing your visibility will only happen if people pay attention to and remember your ads.

Sorting through the best paid digital marketing strategy for your company means looking closely at your goals. Get in touch and let us help sort through the best options for your industry and business.

Elements of E-Commerce | Paid Digital Marketing: Using Pay Per Click

Welcome to Thanx Media’s “Elements of E-Commerce” blog series. Follow along as we wade through the nuts and bolts of e-commerce technologies that you need to know.

What is Pay Per Click Marketing?

It’s probably what you think it is: Pay Per Click (PPC) Marketing is advertising paid based on the number of times an ad is clicked. You see PPC ads every time you use a search engine like Google; they are the sponsored ads that show up above or next to non-paid, organic search results.

How do you set up PPC ads and how much do they cost? As an advertiser, you will actually bid the amount you want to pay per click. You choose search terms and phrases that you want to lead to your ad, and you bid higher to show up at the top of the search result list—sort of. A Quality Score, a measure of how relevant a website is to the search terms, also decides who will show up first. The better your Quality Score the lower your PPC bid may have to be to get top placement. Seems simple enough, right?

But paying for every semi-interested click can blow your budget pretty quickly. So is PPC actually useful? Only if you have a plan.

How to Plan a Pay Per Click Marketing Campaign

1.  Set your goals and your budget. Think about what you want to get out of your ad campaign: are you trying to reach a broad, general audience or do you want to be more visible to your key buyers? Link your PPC plan to a specific goal—maybe a holiday sale or highlighting a specific product. Think about the sales value of the bigger and smaller audiences when setting your budget. What is the likely profit from a sale in response to the particular ad? And remember that a bigger audience may mean more clicks, but not necessarily more sales.

2.  Research and pick your keywords wisely. Find terms that are the most relevant to your sales, look at the searches that lead to your competition, and think about how often keywords show up in searches. Think about using a “long-tail” strategy: bid on highly specific search terms that will capture a niche audience. More specific, less used terms may be good values!

⋅  Plan negative keywords too. Focus your campaign by making sure you don’t end up in searches that won’t work for you.

3.  Write good copy and test different options. Your ad needs to be relevant and specific to the search terms—the search terms should probably be part of your ad, but it also needs to catch attention. Don’t be too generic. Most search engines will let you run split tests so that you can try different options to help you form the best campaign.

⋅  Relevance goes beyond the ad—make sure your ad link is relevant too. When a searcher clicks on your ad make sure they aren’t just headed to your homepage. Take them somewhere relevant that will keep their search moving.

⋅  Don’t forget to optimize for mobile. This is important to your audience and your Quality Score.

4.  Run your campaign and keep track of conversions. Keep track of who is clicking, including from what device, using which terms, at what time, and in what location. Keep track of the value of these clicks, both in terms of immediate sales and long-term customer value.

5.  Reasses, Rebudget, and Remarket. Regularly revisiting which search terms offer the highest value for your goals is a must. Use your budget wisely and reallocate funds toward the terms that are most relevant—these may change over time. And use search engine tools that let you create lists of people who have already visited your site and similar audience lists.

It can seem like a lot, but having a strong plan is the key to your PPC campaign. If you need help sorting through what works best for your industry, team and budget get in touch and let us help.