Digital Community

Community building can be of a benefit to both customers as well as organizations. Community can be based around either location or a particular interest. Communities are characterized by the similarities among its members, by the differences between its members and its surroundings, and by the boundaries, which separate the community from the rest of the population.

Three qualities of community are tolerance, reciprocity and trust. Social networks are great tools for creating online communities. The common features of online communities are a shared purpose or common interest; participants’ interaction; user-generated content; the existence of clear boundaries that define the purpose and practices of the community and a unique communal culture.

 

 

There are two types of communities that are being leveraged in business: internal and external. The internal ones consist of internal stakeholders, while the external ones are composed of the communities outside the company, located at the social networks etc. In attempt to build a community, we can leverage the AIDA marketing model. It describes the stages in launching a new phenomenon, be it a product, service or a community. It starts with creating an awareness, continues with igniting an interest, supporting a decision and it ends with incentivizing an action.

Another important factor to include is the usage life-cycle of a software. The stages are as follows: unaware, interested, first-time use, regular use and passionate use. A digital as well as any other community must be based on two- way communication and exchange. Share communities now more often substitute corporations in providing information and services.

The power of pull is a new concept presenting the idea that companies shouldn’t draw from the customers what they want, but instead they should facilitate a community and allow customers to share opinions there. Company can then easily contribute from that.

As in the traditional meaning of community, in the online community we distinguish two meanings of the word. Digital community can be perceived either as an online space, where people meet, share and interact, or as group that is bound by a common interest.

The barrier between the interest stage and the first-time user stage can be solved by a simple graphic, showing how easy it is to sign up.

Clean Currents is a company, which operates in the Mid-Atlantic region. Their predominant focus is on providing electricity yielded from the wind energy. To promote themselves, they leveraged social media and incented a growth of a digital community. Members of this community advocate for the firm and spread the Clean Currents’ message.

Sephora builds its digital community on Facebook by regular cool offers that launch every Friday. That brings its fans regularly to their profile, looking for the newest original discount etc.

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Web Analytics

The main issue concerning web analytics is that we get large quantities of data, but no insights (information – data with meaning attached to it). The raw data is referred to as clickstream data. This click-level data needs to be interpreted to really bring some value. Clickstream data tells us the ‘what’, but we need to get the insight – ‘why’. In order to get to the ‘why’, we have to work our way through several stages.

The first stage after gathering the clickstream data is a multiple outcomes analysis. That means we have to tie the web-site outcomes (increased revenue, reduced costs, improved CRM) to all the activities we do on our site so that these activities support our multiple outcomes. The next stage is experimenting and testing. That means we can use tools such as Google Website Optimizer or learn from our customers through feedback. Then we can adjust our site and see if the click-level data improves. This stage already partially tells us the ‘why’, because we leverage opinions of our visitors. The next stage fully utilizes the voice of customer. We get a clear picture of why we get the clickstream data. It is possible to implement another stage, which deals with competitive intelligence. Through certain web tools, we can compare our clickstream data to data of our competitors.

 

 

Web analytics are usually presented either in a form of metrics or as a KPI – key performance indicator. A metric is a quantitative measurement describing data and trends, whereas KPI is a report explaining how we are doing against our objectives. When someone comes to our site, we call him a visitor. If the same subject comes again and doesn’t block the first party cookies, we can identify him as a unique visitor. The whole time spend at all the pages of our site is then called a visit.

There are six foundation metrics – visits, bounce rate, page views, pages/visit, average time on site and % of new visits. The one that probably needs to be explained further is the bounce rate. It is the amount of visitors, who left the site instantly without any further clicking.

There are several visitor acquisition methods – direct traffic (visitor searches directly for your URL), search engine, other (banner ads…) and referring sites.

Hubbard One came up with a new web analytics tool, which is designed specifically for law firms. Apparently, law firms don’t have the skill and time to understand analytical data that isn’t tailored to their needs and so Hubbard One decided to fill this gap.

The privacy issue of web analytics is a very hot and discussed topic. A web analytics firm and its clients, including about.me and Spotify, were sued for crossing the legal line of gathering data about their browsing customers. They attached a new set of cookies to these customers’ browsers even though the customers didn’t want to be tracked, and therefore unattached the previous cookies.

E-mail Marketing

E-mail marketing is used to either initiate new relationships with customers (acquisition) or to maintain the already existing ones (opt-in). It can have various reasons behind it – to propel an exchange, to improve customers’ loyalty and brand awareness (through your own message or through messages of other people).

Some e-mail marketers tend to use too much of a ‘push’ strategy. Similarly to offline marketing, online push strategy means that you are getting bombarded by thousands of messages you don’t care to hear. In fact, it is more of a marketing mistake than a valid strategy. Some of the great marketing experts have discovered how Permission Marketing, as opposed to push marketing, works more effectively.

Source of this image

Permission Marketing is a term coined by Seth Goding, one of the great minds of the industry. He argues that we should first contact each potential customer just once. Unless the recipients give us the permission to market to them in a further way, we won’t waste our and their time. It is the subjects that somehow reply to us we should continue to market to. The permission isn’t anything formal. It can be a simple subscription. So, why should we take on this strategy? The people who give us the so-called permission give us their attention as well! That is what Seth considers essential. The attention is something that is difficult to gain against customers’ will. Messages, which are too generic, will become invisible to them. People have too much choice and too little time nowadays. Therefore, gaining their attention is a valuable asset.

Now let’s look at something more practical. E-mails get often overlooked or lost. How do we prevent that? Sending the same message may annoy the recipient. A good way to solve that is to design a series of mails that have the same purpose, but a different form. As far as the subject line, we should be careful. The statistics show that 69% of email recipients report email as Spam based solely on the subject line and 35% of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone.

An article at mashable.com explains how integrating social media in a form of sharing options in the e-mail campaigns can drive up the click through rate by some serious numbers. Putting three or more options to share the content of the e-mail on a social media site can increase the CTR by some 55%!

When it comes to the beginning of our normal day, do we first check our e-mail or Facebook? How does that matter anyway? Well, Mashable presents a statistic, which suggests that if person checks his/her e-mail first, then he/she is likely to be more task oriented and to only look for a brand online if he/she needs something, like a deal or a discount. Checking their Facebook first makes people more likely to be open to ‘extracurricular’ content from brands, such as interaction or entertainment that isn’t directly aimed to generate sales.

Search Engine Marketing

SEM is a branch of digital marketing, in which marketers attempt to bring the most promising prospects to the website and subsequently try to turn them into customers through the best possible online-user experience. SEM happens in two major ways and that is through paid campaigns (PPC – pay per click) or SEO – search engine optimization. It is basically about using the right keywords either in the paid search or in your site’s content, and about providing relevant results to those who get to your site.

 

 

How do we increase our findability so that our web appears in the organic search results on the first page in the search engine results? Let’s first look at some of the terms I just used. Findability is pretty obvious, it is the quality of being easy to find online. Organic search results are the results we don’t have to directly pay for. However, it is almost impossible to appear there without investing any money. The opposite of organic result is the sponsored result. That appears at that very top or beginning of search results as well as on the right side, if we talk about Google. Organic results are the ones in the middle, below the sponsored. And why first page of results? Well, think about it, how many times have you actually gone further than the first result page. Yes, not very often, and the same applies to most people.

So, how do we perform SEM? It is necessary to first undergo the PPC campaign. Many organizations think they can only implement the SEO, “which doesn’t cost anything”. Well, SEO does cost something, even though it isn’t a direct cost. It takes a lot of time, which could otherwise be spent by working. The truth is that you first have to know the best keywords that drag traffic to your site in order to start implementing SEO. That is achieved by PPC campaign. The most widely used tool to carry out paid search is the Google AdWords. There are other tools offered by Yahoo! and MSN. Each click, which leads to our site, is paid for. We can then look at the analytics tool and see, which key words or key phrases were the most successful ones. These can be then skillfully incorporated in site’s content.

Cornish Web Services is a company providing SEM services. They claim to have increased the web traffic by 40% in case of a client, who sells consumer electronics. For another web shop, they managed to increase the amount of sales by 32% in one month and the amount of filled contact forms by 180%.

The Venue Zone used services of Arrow Internet Marketing company and they were more than satisfied. They managed to get 20 sets of the best keyword phrases on page one at Google and some of them even within the top 5 results.

Interactive Order Processing

When providing our site with an order processing system, we have two basic ways to go. The option number one is to sign up for an IMA – internet merchant account and combine it with a PSP – payment service provider. Bank providing IMA will check the available funds, authorize transactions and exchange the funds between creditor bank and your account. With this option, you will have to meet strict legal criteria with your web’s security in order to comply with bank’s policies. The PSP will ensure a safe transfer of your customers’ credit card information. Payment service providers screen for frauds and they are often referred to as Payment Gateways.

 

 

The other option is that instead of IMA and PSP, you use services of PPC – payment-processing companies. They are easy to set up, but your customer will be sent to PPC’s website in order to make the payment. That means customer gets interrupted and might start having second thoughts on the purchase. Moreover, the payment settlement periods can be up to 60 days. However, PayPal and Google Checkout usually transfer the payment within days.

Now let’s lose a few words on how the transaction actually happens. Obviously, customer has to first submit the credit card info to the PPC. The PPC then transfers this information to a merchant bank (your bank). The merchant bank then passes the information to the credit card network (such as VISA). The CCN then submits the information to the creditor bank (customer’s bank). This issuing bank then approves or declines this command according to the creditor’s available funds and sends a message about whether the transaction took place or not. This message takes an inverse route and ends up being shown to the customer and you. Then the merchant executes the exchange and the issuing bank sends an appropriate amount of money to the CCN, which subsequently transfers it to your bank account.

I think using services of PPC over IMA/PSP is a way more convenient. It saves you quite a few hours you would have otherwise had to spend securing your web. That would also cost you unnecessary amounts of money. Since there is now competition among the CCN’s, we can expect their services only to improve.

There are more PPC than just PayPal and Google Checkout. One of the serious competitors to them is the MoneyBookers. According to shoutmeloud.com, Moneybookers has a great currency conversion rate.

Another example of a PayPal/Google Checkout competitor could be Serve. As described by wired.com, it is a new service offered by American Express. You link it to your bank account and then send and receive payments by using internet browser. The transaction supposedly happens instantly.

The Online Shopping Experience Vol.2

In this part of the online shopping experience tutorial, which is a sequel to ‘Enhancing the flow through the purchasing funnel’, I will focus more on the aspect of easing the decision-making for the consumer and leading the consumer through the check-out process. Out of the seven steps, which enhance conversions at your site, we are down to just four.

4. Enable customer decision making – To help customers decide, preferably in our favor, we should provide all the products with relevant and detailed descriptions, images or other multi-media. In addition to that, proper keywords should describe the products to bring higher traffic. Enabling consumers to share pages with products on social media sites can add to your success as well. Besides listing stock availability and similar descriptors, alternative products should be offered as well as independent ratings done by other customers.

5. Reduce shopping cart abandonment – The shopping cart should be always easily accessible from all coves of the site. Such measures should be implemented to ensure that the shopping cart stays updated even when customer leaves and comes back again. Unless the taxes are the same throughout the area where you offer to ship, the shopping cart billing info should differentiate the price and the tax for the area the shipment goes to. This will prevent ‘cart shock’ to some extent. Some other tips are to enable consumer to redeem coupons etc. Offering live help support will enhance your eCRM (customer relationship management).

 

 

6. Keep registration short and optional – This advice pretty much explains itself. Don’t force customers to go through long registration process if they don’t care for it. Provide help in case of forgotten passwords etc.

7. Streamline checkout – During the check-out process, a progress indicator should be shown to customer to give a sense of navigation. All the distractions should be limited. We should offer various types of payment as well as delivery methods. At the end of the checkout, a confirmation page should appear and confirmation e-mail should be sent.

An example of a good product description is given in an article at econsultancy.com. It presents a company called J. Peterman. They sell unique retro style, classy clothes. The description is exceptionally detailed and the overall design of the site is great.

Blog.crazyegg.com presents a great article, where five companies are rated on a quality of their checkout process. One of them is Nike. It is listed because, overall, its method of checkout is considered good. Then the author explains some pros and cons and even actions to take to do away with the cons. Apparently, the pros include photos of product displayed throughout the process, showing total order amount, security seals, nice/visible buttons and live/chat help. The disadvantage is, according to the author, that you have to go through some membership gaining process.

Enhancing the flow through the purchasing funnel

In order to transfer your prospects into customers, the unnecessary barriers have to be eliminated. That improves the online experience and most surely raises your conversion rate. However, one has to first understand properly the needs and goals of one’s web users. This can be achieved through usage of personas and other types of research. The seven main steps, which should be taken in order to enhance the conversion, are as follows.

1.Promote online presence – This can be done by a successful e-mail campaign, search engine optimization or utilizing social media. In addition to that, on can use services such as Google Places and try to be present where one’s customers spend time online.

2.Create customer confidence – There are various methods, which can be used to instill customers’ confidence. It is always good to highlight the security system, which is being used. Other third party certifications can only add to the overall sense of security at your site. The contact information as well as all the privacy/security policy information should be easily accessible. Last but not least, actually it should be one of the first things to consider, is the web design, which invokes the first impressions.

3.Enhance product findability – This requires that products are sorted in distinct categories. Wherever we happen to be at the website, we should be able to clearly identify our location, for instance, through breadcrumb navigation. Putting the search box in the same spot throughout the web gives an organized feeling. Searching tool should have a predictive type-ahead option and there should be other options to help refine the search.

These were the three initial steps, dealing mainly with the style of the platform. The other four steps deal with helping the customers decide and get through the check-out. They will be described in a following blog post.

Let’s now look at some examples of these three stages. When it comes to promoting the online presence, I chose a website called socialmediaexaminer.com. It is the world’s largest online social media magazine. It managed to gain popularity mainly through social media and the word of mouth!

 

An article on breadcrumb navigation presents some of the best examples of this method in practice. To mention a few successful implementers, I picked Apple, Guardian.co.uk or Wufoo.