Covering the basics and exploring new ground in digital marketing

There’s not much point spending time, money and effort on expensive furnishings if the house foundation isn’t built to last.

In the same way, focusing on the aesthetics of digital marketing without understanding how things really work and function for users can be nothing more than foolishness.

Eight by Eight CEO Amy Africa 

Eight by Eight CEO Amy Africa 

“Performance and simple usability mistakes often get ignored,” says Eight by Eight CEO Amy Africa. “Examples being: not telling the user whether or not the item is in stock and available to ship, poor search experiences with too many finds that are not prioritized and forced registration checkouts. … I get that we don’t want to talk about the boring things like, ‘How long does it take my site to load?’ or ‘Is there enough thumb space on my handheld?’ any longer. But these items are also still critical, nonetheless.”

Africa — a recognized industry authority on topics from site optimization, traffic building and analytics to mobile and email marketing — is one of the experts who will share insights at the upcoming Digital Marketing Workshop at Retail’s Digital Summit. The event will include strategy and tactics for all experience levels, but will move beyond the “foundation” to explore up-and-coming accoutrements as well.

More from Africa, whose fresh and authentic take on marketing trends never disappoints:

What technologies in the digital marketing space are you keeping your eye on, and why?

Artificial intelligence. I’m really into it. It’s scary as hell and I am head-over-heels in love with it. Other things I’m investing time and money in: text messaging services (specifically triggered SMS), voice search, merchandising software and manipulative content.   

3 tips for digital marketing optimization

Mike Lackman, CEO at PetFlow and another speaker at the Digital Marketing Workshop, sees digital marketing as “fairer and flatter” than in the past. Every year, he notes, the tools become less expensive and more accessible. The time is right for marketers to “increasingly dedicate their energy to retention … and exclusive product offerings rather than relying principally on acquisition mechanics.” His suggestions for making it work:

Upper funnel attribution: What is the relative difference in value of the email leads you are acquiring, and how well do you understand your return on marketing spending in terms of cost per lead (rather than cost per acquired customer)?

On-site personalization: Conversion is increasingly driven by relevance, and tailoring the user experience to browsing history can improve revenue per customer over time.

Marginality: Spend at least as much energy understanding the incremental returns on each additional dollar in spending as you do looking at averages by channel. The losses that drain efficiency are the ones that chew away at performance from the bottom of the stack.

Who is doing digital marketing right?

I like pieces and parts of a lot of different companies. (For the record, I don’t think there’s anyone who is doing it all right, or even 90 percent right these days.)

With that said, the drugstores and pharmacies impress me the most. They are doing a bang-up job of integrating their online and offline marketing efforts. Many of them are also doing fantastic push messages, text messages and email reminders, in-store couponing, recommended items for future purchase, and so on.

The companies that are enabling voice-activated ordering (like Domino’s Pizza) are impressive. I know the numbers aren’t always what people want them to be, but it shows innovation and forward-thinking. Plus, it’s still really early to gauge success on some of these things.

European apparel retailers are working really hard on building enticing places for folks to go. They’re building magazines, games and all sorts of other compelling information. 

I’m not a coffee drinker but I still find the Starbucks app to be one of the most impressive. It’s small but useful — they’ve done a great job with gamification, introducing new products to try, their rewards program and so on.

Sur La Table’s new online cooking classes — even though there are just a few right now — show good movement of figuring out what people loved in stores and making more of it online.

Neiman Marcus is working hard with their picture finder. It’s not Zappos-level yet but they’re trying.

Saks Fifth Avenue is doing a great job at collecting SMS numbers and email addresses. They are uber-aggressive about it, which is very impressive. Nordstrom is also working hard on email and mobile number capture in-store.

Williams-Sonoma is doing interesting things with very simple personalization and recommendations.

I love what Sephora does with all their helpful finders and tools online and in their stores.  They’re definitely one to watch. 

Target gets an A for effort with their Cartwheel app — and especially their coupons. I wouldn’t give it an A yet, but they keep eliminating their failures and building on their successes. It’s cool to watch.

What do you hope attendees take away from your session?

I hope that they take away the reminder that things are evolving very, very, very quickly and if they want to remain competitive, they are going to need to try lots of new things. Out of 10 of those new things, four will completely bomb, four will be OK and one or two will be so stellar you won’t worry about anything else — but you simply must try new things!

I also want attendees to take away that search — and, more specifically, the art of finding things — has dramatically changed in the past few years and it’s going to get even crazier (in a good way). Things like voice search, image search, contextual search, semantic search and so on all have tremendous play in our new future.

Last — and best — of all is that there is so much more bang for them to get out of their existing marketing buck by expanding their most successful programs.  

Get more bang out of your marketing buck: Register for the Digital Marketing Workshop at Retail’s Digital Summit.