by Allen Weiner | May 19, 2013 | 2 Comments
In what has been a relatively slow year for big acquisitions in the tech world, Yahoo’s board has approved a billion-dollar-plus layout to buy Tumblr, a blogging platform that has over 100 million blogs as of mid-May 2013. For Yahoo, the Tumblr purchase represents its first big move under Marissa Mayer’s regime and an attempt to move its brand back into the consumer-tech conversation.
Why Tumblr and why now are sensible questions and lack clear answers save for the common meme that Yahoo is trying to “buy hipsters.” While that may be fun fodder for the Twitter cybergabfest, Mayer and Yahoo no doubt have some concrete plans beyond PR value and such pat answers as “because they were available” and “we bought Tumblr before one of our competitors did.” After going through a checklist of Yahoo needs and Tumblr strengths, here is one realistic path—content platforms.
The content platform play: Previous Yahoo execs have always talked about Yahoo’s “content buckets”—original, licensed and user generated (i.e. Yahoo Contributor Network) as one of its key strengths, and as a leading vertical content portal for such areas as sports, finance and gossip/celeb news, Tumblr makes sense as a content management-meets-curation platform. Such a move would allow consumers, brands and marketers (i.e. content marketing) to curate Yahoo’s syndicated content (original and licensed) and use those pictures, videos and stories to create personal and professional Tumblr pages. Coke and Campbell’s are just two of countless brands that have created Tumblr sites to showcase their wares and tell their stories to consumers. The content platform plan allows Yahoo a few revenue paths including a freemium service option and a venue for targeted advertising. It also allows Yahoo to get even more mileage out of one of its key “cool” brands—Flickr (another e-less product).
One has to applaud Marrisa Mayer’s “go big or go home” move and the notion that Yahoo’s board is standing behind this purchase will (reportedly) full support. A successful integration of Tumblr into Yahoo’s forward-looking strategy could end a losing streak of purchases and fizzled launches which includes Maven Networks and Geocities as well as Livestand and Yahoo 360. Mayer’s biggest challenge—something Yahoo has not shown to be a strength—is to integrate Tumblr into Yahoo’s product set and get the cash register ringing again.
Certainly one cannot overlook the power of Yahoo attempting to make itself cool and relevant again, but this must be more than a very expensive PR move. The Tumblr purchase has to be followed up with other moves to bolster its mobile and social strategies. The yodel may be on its way back—time will tell.
Category: Uncategorized Tags: digital marketing, Tumblr, Yahoo
by Allen Weiner | May 9, 2013 | Comments Off
Facebook’s recent earnings call was noteworthy to those who follow the social network’s commerce path in that its “Gifts” program was not mentioned in a review of its various revenue-generating efforts. In the weeks leading up to the call, Facebook CFO David Ebersman said that gifts’ contribution to revenue had been “very small” for 2012 and would likely remain so in 2013.
The voice of Facebook’s partners provides some insight into the anemic start to Gifts, which launched in various stages through the latter part of 2012. One of the launch partners, 1-800-FLOWERS, a “digital commerce” veteran with more than 20 years of market experience, said Facebook’s Gifts has not lived up to its expectations. Facebook is responding by sending out more frequent reminders to its members even when those pokes seem awkwardly presented (i.e. when watching a video or engaging in a real-time chat).
Aside from issues with its presentation to its members, Gifts is a non-starter to many merchants because Facebook will not share order capture details (name, address, email) with the merchant or buyers’ credit card information. Such a policy gives Facebook the appearance of being totally self serving in its Gifts program wanting only to amass buyer behavior information and credit card numbers to add to its growing pile of big data. Facebook is laboring under the false impression that it is able to impose limitations on what information it shares with its merchant partners because Apple and Amazon have succeeded in that practice.
Some pundits believe Facebook’s expansion of its mobile efforts will provide a shot in the arm for this social commerce experiment. The truth is, until Zuck and company realize the company’s value is more as a conduit for commerce than as a destination Facebook will limp along in its efforts to build a viable commerce revenue stream. While they’re at it, if they want to improve their standing with brands and marketers, a glance in the mirror by Facebook’s leadership, with the realization they have neither sold millions upon millions of mobile devices nor books should result in a re-calibration of their commerce vision.
Category: Uncategorized Tags: digital marketing
by Allen Weiner | April 1, 2013 | 1 Comment
To be certain it was not an April Fool’s prank, I had to check the dateline of the story that revealed the idea Walmart was considering a plan in which it would offer same-day-delivery with a twist—customers would become delivery men (and women). Couple this with Google’s entry into the home delivery business and we officially have the makings of one of those tributary commerce businesses trends that are best left on the whiteboard.
In the matter of one generation, we have gone from waiting for the mailman (as the late George Carlin joked “I’m sending away…”) to “it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” to instant downloads. The new battleground, with Amazon, eBay, Google and leading big box retailers playing the one-up manship game, is same-day delivery with a small up charge. The question is, is fast-twitch delivery for the ADD set something digital marketers should embrace or avoid?
The notion of prime delivery services takes me to a recommendation my colleague Laura McLellan and I have in our recent report, “Digital Marketers Escalate Investments to Support Commerce Experiences” (subscription may be required) which states: “Select external providers that have extended ecosystems in which components of the commerce experience easily fit together.” Since delivery is the last quarter mile between a merchant and a customer in any commerce experience, I take our advice to mean, leave logistics to the experts. This is not to say companies such as Amazon or Google should consider contracting with logistical/delivery experts such as DHL, FedEx, UPS or even the beleaguered USPS, but customer service issues alone should stop those contemplating the DIY approach dead in their tracks.
Who can forget the ending of “Cast Away”–when FedEx super-employee Chuck Noland (played by Tom Hanks) delivers the package to rural Texas that he had in his custody for his years deserted on an island in the Pacific? To repeat: Delivery is best left to the experts.
Category: Uncategorized Tags: digital marketing, Google
by Allen Weiner | February 28, 2013 | Comments Off
I am filled with excitement over what awaits at SXSWEdu next week, here in Austin.
A cursory glance reveals some interesting sessions on a variety of ed-tech topics that align to my research, but the networking opportunities to meet innovators in the e-textbook and ed-tech space appears overwhelming.
Hope to meet lots of interesting, forward-thinking folks in the e-textbook and related space. Feel free to ping me on Twitter in advance @allenweiner
Category: Uncategorized Tags: e-textbooks, ed-tech, edtech, etextbooks, SXSW, SXSWedu
by Allen Weiner | February 25, 2013 | Comments Off
I was inspired by a great piece in AdAge that took brands to task for forcing themselves into Twitter conversations. It’s the annoying party guest who interrupts your conversation about college football to talk about his recent trip to Yellowstone. All that’s missing is the home movies. Or, as the AdAge article aptly states: “Is it just me, or does it seem like every commercial ends with some half-assed attempt to drive social media traffic?”
Based on some recent conversations, a lot of video demos and some good old fashioned reporting, I fear the art of made-for-social media content is just getting warmed up. Under the guise of emulating traditional newsroom behavior, digital marketers are being told to plan their content strategy as if they were preparing the “bulldog” edition of the daily paper and then, essentially, force content to fit as opposed to looking at the fit before planning. As a journalist with more than 15 years of newspaper experience, I assure you 1) that doesn’t work and 2) audiences are smart enough to know the difference between the genuine and the artificial. Here’s a motto, content marketers need to tattoo across their foreheads: content happens. The best strategy is to read and react.
While my colleague Jake Sorofman and I will be going into greater detail in our upcoming research about the best strategy and deployment process for content marketing (also featured in our recently published “Digital Marketers: Are You Ready to Think Like a Publisher?”) here are a few thoughts:
- Hire the right people: There are lots of out-of-work journalists who would be great hires for your content marketing group. You cannot teach the editorial judgment and skills that working on deadline provides.
- Listen carefully: Beyond complex sentiment analysis, follow the streams and Tweets created by your target market. Do not try and copy their tone or voice but do speak in a language that makes sense to them.
- Be skilled annotators: Commenting on a Tweet adding your two cents to a story in the form of annotation can be as powerful a way to express your point of view as creating your own original words of pictures.
- Have a point of view: Being wishy washy does nothing to your brand other than make your sound…well..wishy washy. Be bold but be smart about being bold. Pick your spots and be prepared to engage in subsequent conversations.
That should get you thinking…stay tuned as there’s more to come.
Category: Uncategorized Tags: content marketing, digital marketing
by Allen Weiner | February 19, 2013 | Comments Off
The recent hack on Twitter which put 250,000 user accounts at risk couldn’t have come at a worse time, preceding one of the social network’s major co-marketing efforts. Twitter’s security people say it was “the work of professionals” which is not comforting to those who contemplated, post cyberattack, to link their Twitter accounts to their Amex cards as part of a new joint campaign to afford Twitter users special deals and discounts from Amex merchants. Professional cyberthieves have a focused intent when hacking—steal information that has value. Amateur hackers, on the other hand, often do it for sport or to garner some perverted merit badge that has value within rather strange circles.
Even with a nice buzz about the Twitter-Amex campaign, there was a chill in the air as Twitter users though twice about linking such secure information as credit card numbers with social media accounts. It will be important for digital marketers to stay on top of both sides of this event: consumer sentiment as well as measures taken by social media sites and their partners to prevent fraud. The major takeaway—perhaps one that should be part of a marketer’s bible (although, in some cases, it probably is) is that you are judged by the company you keep. In this case, Twitter’s part in this co-marketing deal may be saved by the digital security efforts made by Amex over the past few years.
As one financial analyst points out,” American Express has invested millions in its online processing capabilities and security over the last few years, and will be prepared for the challenges–security or otherwise–presented by the increased online transactions.” The same would likely be true for most high-profile banks and credit card firms. This is not to say that social media networks should count on their financial partners to rescue them every time a cyberthief attacks, but finding the right partner when it comes to working with any sort of sensitive data will lead to consumer trust which will be one ingredient toward successful digital commerce campaigns.
Category: Uncategorized Tags: American Express, Amex, digital marketing, Twitter
by Allen Weiner | February 7, 2013 | Comments Off
Nietzsche must have been hungry when he said “out of chaos, comes order.” Or perhaps he was waiting in line at his favorite food truck, flicking away on his cellphone to see the specials of the day. He would have been one of many who were happily engaged, via digital marketing, to his or her favorite meals on wheels vendor.
The food scene has been a leading incubator for innovative uses of digital marketing techniques, most notably the use of social media as a lead generator and location-aware information. Out of a sluggish economy, would-be restaurateurs dreaming of opening a three-star Michelin joint, instead went the entry-level route by converting trucks, vans and carts to mobile food wagons. Given these movable feasts are…well.. on the move, these chefs on the go began to tweet their locations and daily specials to their fans. Some mobile foodies began to send coupons to their followers and others took advantage of the power of Foursquare’s location-based check-ins to hand out special deals. In keeping with starting up a business on the cheap, the digital marketing expense for these efforts was minimal at most. The key takeaways here is perhaps the number one lesson for marketers—know your audience. And that audience profiles as young, on a budget and attached to their mobile devices.
The story gets more interesting when we learn on one Austin-based BBQ place that started out as a small food truck underneath the freeway. By developing, through social media, a fairly over-the-top buzz and following, this truck evolved into a good-sized restaurant that launched with a socially driven large (and growing) customer base.
There are many other examples of how the food universe is using digital marketing to sell. Whole Foods, for example, uses Pinterest to promote recipes, in particular for the Engine 2 Diet (carefully listing ingredients and where to find them in store). And as we get ready for the start of another baseball season, we point to Bypass Lane, a mobile app that allows you to order garlic fries and footlongs from your seat. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Category: Uncategorized Tags: digital marketing
by Allen Weiner | January 25, 2013 | 2 Comments
As a former retailer, my heart goes out to those suffering from the rampant practice of showrooming. The phrase “the customer is always right” (coined by Marshall Field) used to give me a major case of agida. My favorite “customer is often wrong” or a pain in the buns example is the shopper who would spend an hour walking through the aisles of our bookstore and invariably ask for something he knew was not in the store. “Can you order it?” was the next question. And every retailer who knows the principles of “cost of goods” can tell you the margin on a single item rarely covers the cost of its shipping.
Although it’s been 24 years since we closed our last store, my blood pressure rises at the thought of a customer using a mobile device to compare the price of an in-stock book on how to play the guitar against the price of the same product on the virtual shelves of Amazon. Short of blocking Wi-Fi and cell service in your store for confiscating smartphones and tablets at the door, retailers will need to contend with this trend of look here, buy there. For those businesses with adequate capital budgets, solutions such as Nearbuy Systems allow you to turn your Wi-Fi network into a proprietary content delivery mechanism which offers customers a personalized in-store shopping experience (like Barnes and Noble offers for customers who bring their Nooks to the store) via their mobile devices. Even better is the ability to track a customer’s in-store behavior such as how long he spent in a particular aisle.
But what about for those retailers less IT-savvied or those who want to extend their brand in a more up-close and personal way? For those folks, I suggest content marketing in its most basic form–the human as information source form. Also, I suggest you try two inexpensive content marketing tactics which are easy to deploy and relatively inexpensive. The most basic one is people—hire people who are passionate about your product. As I roam the aisles of Central Market in Texas, I am likely to bump into an employee whose name badge includes the word “Foodie.” Where’s the arugula hiding? The Foodie knows. What are the best tasting apples? The Foodie knows and pulls out a pocket knife to cut a sample. If that specialty apple is 20 cents a pound more than the local Safeway, am I likely to leave and buy it elsewhere? Doubtful. Am I likely to open Foursquare and comment about the personal service from the supermarket Foodie?- Very likely.
And then there’s Powell’s Books in Portland. Aside from being nirvana for book lovers, as you wander its overstuffed shelves, you will find three-by-five cards with staff picks along with a two sentence synopsis as well as “if you like John Grisham, you will like…” I guess you could call that human collaborative filtering. Am I likely to take out my device and order that personally recommended book? Maybe, but if the recommendation is compelling enough, I want to pluck that book off the self and read it right away. Instant gratification is showrooming’s biggest enemy. Last time I was in Powell’s, I recall going slightly overboard with my social praise.
Content marketing scales in a big way, and our research will go into detail on this hot trend for digital marketers. But anything that scales to infinite enormity has its roots in simple tactics. There are plenty of content marketing tactics that connect brands with consumers by offering insight and information. Perhaps it’s time to unlock your imagination.
Category: Uncategorized Tags: digital marketing
by Allen Weiner | December 13, 2012 | 1 Comment
New data released by IBM shows that mobile traffic to e-commerce sites now represents an average of 26.5% of all site traffic (up from 15.8% in 2011) and (Great article on mobile devices within e-commerce http://t.co/nTsnaper…
See on connect.icrossing.co.uk
Category: Uncategorized Tags: digital marketing
by Allen Weiner | December 10, 2012 | 2 Comments
Lists. I love lists. I sit all weekend and watch the MLB Network’s “Prine 9,” a show which compiles oddball lists such as the nine greatest left-handed right-fielders. As an homage to such efforts and to get in line with all your look-back, look-forward end of year lists, here’s my list of four major digital commerce trends to watch in 2013. In no order:
Content marketing: Certainly a term that means different things to different folks in the marketing world, but as we see the technology, discipline and principles of publishing make their way into the world of digital marketing, the use of content (and I mean all forms) to tell stories to engage and (especially) sell products will make a leap forward in the coming year. The prime driver is the evolution of new platforms that offer the merger of content management and curation, going one step beyond such social providers as Pinterest and Storify. Publish This and Flockler are just two innovators in the next-gen of content marketing.
The return of retail: Let me be clear, we’re not talking about 50,000 square foot big box stores, we are referring to the trend that lives somewhere between food trucks and pop-up stores. This year, The Gap, Microsoft and others opened pop-up stores which are temporary storefronts that offer seasonal, event-based or even trial shopping experiences. Perhaps a page from food trucks which allow chefs and restaurateurs to ply their trade with less overhead…perhaps not. What’s this have to do with digital commerce? First is the use of such mobile payment technologies as Square (the gizmo that plugs into a merchant’s mobile device and allows him or her to accept credit cards). Second is the use of social media (especially Twitter) to cut loose the clarion call to inform the socially inclined about the newest location of a pop-up store or even what’s on the menu of your favorite BBQ joint on wheels.
Second screen TV: Those in the video world (tech side, that is) have whispered in my ear that 2013 will be the year that second screen/social TV makes the leap from boosting ratings and offering engagement to selling stuff. Not only is content recognition technology getting better and folks such as Apple and Microsoft are building tighter integration between mobile device and TV, commerce platform providers are working closely with online video publishing platform, providers (OVPPPs such as Brightcove, Ooyala) to provide an experience that syncs TV offers with product databases. Think QVC on the iPad and you get the picture.
Consumer review phobia: Recent court cases where vendors and physicians have sued consumers for malicious comments on review sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List may create a chilling effect on how honest reviewers are when encountering a bad experience. We will discuss this in more detail in some upcoming research.
How does this list compare to yours? Let us know.
Category: Uncategorized Tags: digital marketing