Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What eCommerce Sites Can Learn From Social Media

What do the top apps on this infographic have in common? Simplicity. Focused. Intuitive. Social media is here to stay, but not all platforms are. As social platforms grow so does the number of issues they need to solve to keep their users coming back daily. Social platforms that fall out of touch cough*Myspace*cough or don't gain traction are either too convoluted or don't understand their user base. This last point is critical to success and is exactly why Vine, Flickr and +Instagram are growing so rapidly. So how can eCommerce sites (or websites in general) learn from social platforms?

Understand YOUR users' objectives. Don't confuse your objectives with user objectives. If you ignore the user you'll never reach your end goal. Facebook and YouTube were initially ad free services, which now generate revenues in the billions. They have reached these numbers by initially focusing on what their users wanted, building their community and the conversions came quickly followed.

Don't try to be everything to everyone. Being a jack of all trades and master of none doesn't work well in this space. Especially for blossoming brands it is important stay on point, and do it really well. When you have too big a breadth of topics or products, users become confused as to what your site is offering. Once you have established your niche you can start to branch out slowly to increase your piece of the pie.

Keep it simple. The masses flock to what is simple and intuitive. You can have the best product out there but if it takes too many clicks, or too much time searching users will leave your site.  Three out of four shopping carts are abandoned in the retail eCommerce space, usually due to poor site design.

Keep it relevant. New social media platforms indicate the new trends. The fastest growing platforms are rich media specific. If your site/product allows try to format your content in a manner that appeals to these new trends. The trick is not to change too frequently, or drastically that it throws your following off.

Be Mobile. 86% of smartphone users use their phones in store. 55% of users search on their smartphone everyday. 89% of users search for local information, 88% have taken action on this. If you don't have a mobile, or reactionary site you are missing out a huge numbers of potential customers.

When in doubt always go back to your target consumer. If you can cater to their objectives, they will take care of yours.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

This post will be long because I didn't have time to make it short.

There is an old adage "take what is being said, not how it is said". When you are reading an email, tone and context are void so you can only take what is being said. However we generally impose our own tone on the email that reflect our perceptions of the sender. Therefore the onus is on the sender to ensure their writing style is neutral, or positioned to properly relay the information.

If you think your writing style is excellent you may want to take time for self assessment so you don't fall victim to the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Often enough we are introduced to new contacts via email. Just as in person, you can only make one first impression. Here are some tips for better writing practices to help improve your personal brand.

One of the best pieces of advice I have come across is write as if your reader dislikes you. At the very least this will ensure that your tone is neutral.

Madman. Architect. Carpenter. Judge.  Write down all of your ideas. Outline and categorize your ideas. Write out and connect all of your ideas. Edit your work.

Choose your words accordingly. Certain words can have negative connotations depending on the context. Describing some ones work as 'basic' can be taken as remedial, where as using 'outline' would suggest you've laid out a solid foundation for the project.

Take your audience into account. Depending on your relationship you will write differently. Don't be too formal with your friends; similarly don't be caught being too casual with your superiors or clients.

Use your time wisely. Don't spend time looking up bigger words to sound more knowledgeable. Instead demonstrate your knowledge by getting your point across in a concise, coherent manner. You will sounds more authentic and save your reader time as well.

Practice. Initially it will take more time to craft better emails, in the long run you'll save yourself time by being more direct and concise.

Proof your work. Every so often we are part of those ridiculous email chains, question after question, where the sender and reader end up getting frustrated with each other. Take the extra 2 minutes to read it over a couple of times to make sure your points are clear. Remember you're the expert, not everyone has your degree of knowledge on this particular subject.

Lastly, one of my biggest pet peeves, don't forward a chain of 10 emails and write "see below".  Your reader's time is just as valuable as yours. Take a minute to highlight what they are supposed to be "seeing", even better copy the relevant snippets and keep the chain attached in case further details are required.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The de-evolution of the Skimmer

As I look over my +feedly feed I notice a lot of things, but there seems to be a reoccurring theme among the myriad of different sites that I follow; lists. Top 5 this, 16 signs you're addicted to, 14 dogs dressed as...

In an age where 140 character wild fires spread in hours, 40 million pictures are Instagramed daily, GIFs and memes reign on tumblr and commercials are being crammed into 6 seconds, its no wonder our attention spans are fading. These platforms are developed for the masses which, unfortunately, are largely comprised of by these people.  Communication has become clutter and the reader has realized it; give way to the skim reader. 

Brands have caught on that if they want to get the full message across they need to cut it down. Lists are effective for a number of reasons: bold headlines attract attention and are quick to read, pictures/GIFs often accompany these headlines, bullet points appear shorter than full paragraphs and readers know when the article will end. 

I however believe that the attention span is making a comeback, ironically, being lead in part by the co-founders of twitter (who recently acquired Vine). Medium is a better place to read and write. It is a central hub for writers and readers to publish and enjoy meaningful, creative, passionate short stories and blog posts. Medium is brilliant because it is essentially a universally owned blog space where you always where listeners are always present to provide insight and notes. 

Another driver for creative long form content is a site that has exploded over the past year. Wattpad hosts over 10 million users who have uploaded more than 16 million books. In this free P2P sharing platform writers are able share their work, build a fan base, and receive instant feedback on their stories. With over 2 billion minutes spent on Wattpad each month it is evident there is demand for quality long form content and people are searching it out. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Internet Killed the Cable Star

After crushing 3 episodes of Hemlock Grove on Netflix last night, I realized that unless I am watching sports, I rarely watch live TV anymore.  Whether it's a show I have PVR'd, Netflix or other online content, I want to watch video when I want to watch it. I can't help but relate and agree with Kevin Spacey's Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival.  I may be in the minority but I believe linear TV as we know it is on its way out. With innovation in technology, cord cutting and original streaming series leading the coup. With TV being a $350 billion a year marketing industry marketers are going to have to find creative and non-invasive ways to penetrate the on-demand markets.

Omni-device consumption
Whether its scripted or unscripted television users are increasingly using their devices to look up info, interact, and talk about the show they are watching while they are watching it. With subscription based on-demand services, users are able to pause, look up or interact how they want without missing a piece of the action.

With technology already allowing us to get deals and other information from brands on our second screen via smart tone technology, there are unlimited possibilities on the horizon for the viewer. Networks will be able to automatically engage your mobile device with supplementary content further adding value to your viewing experience. Using the new tech the second screen may become the most inviting method for advertising and promotion. More consumers are purchasing over mobile so why not give immediate access to their favourite TV character's consumer goods?

Cord cutting is on the rise
Younger demographics are quicker to adopt technology, this is likely causing them to become the largest group of cord cutters. The biggest group of only TV watching users is the 45+ segment. As that demographic diminishes the streaming segment will only increase. Couple this with the emerging market of Smart TV apps, consumers will be ingesting video content at their leisure and not at the mercy of the cable schedule.

Pilot seasons hamper quality
When you have the ability to produce an entire season at once you can develop a deeper character and storyline by developing them over time. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and the like are signing on for full seasons of shows, which is leading to quality content. House of Cards received 9 Emmy nominations and picked up 3 wins along the way this year. Orange is the New Black was well received among the critics. This summer Amazon's instant video service 'Prime' picked up 5 original series that will air in early 2014.

Having worked with video producers and creative for the past month, they want the flexibility to flesh out projects. By allowing them to develop a story over the full project you will likely get a deeper, more complex quality product.

With the current and inevitable decline of cable subscriptions and the traditional commercial, brands are going to have to come up with ways to keep the consumer engaged with their products and services and the second screen might be the best way to do it.