Forrester Wave Cross-Channel Attribution Providers 2014

On Friday, Forrester released their most recent Wave Report on cross-channel attribution technology providers. The companies evaluated fell into 4 buckets: Leaders, Strong Performers, Contenders, and Risky Bets. The companies assessed were bucketed as follows:

Leaders: Visual IQ, AOL Convertro, and Google Adometry

Strong Performers: EBay Enterprises (Clear Saleing), MarketShare, Marketing Evolution

Contenders: Rakuten DC Storm, Abakus

Risky Bets: None*

*While no companies fell in the Risky Bets category, there were some that were knocked out of the running beforehand including C3 Metrics, Encore Media Metrics, and Ignition One/Knotice. Forrester acknowledges that each is a “digital-savvy attribution vendor” but didn’t meet Forrester’s criteria for the report. As someone who once contemplated having the company I worked for participate in a Forrester Wave, I personally believe it is preferable to be knocked out early on rather than risk being classified as a “Risky Bet.” Getting into the Wave is expensive and time consuming, and it sometimes appears that newcomers have to pay their dues which means potentially accepting a lower classification before working their way up in the next report. Since most of Forrester’s Wave reports come out every two years, companies who decide to make a go of it are in it for the long run. The payoff to the Leaders is huge. I have had friends at companies in the Leader position tell me that they basically become order takers once the Wave comes out. And I have also been in the unfortunate position of losing a marquee client because the company I worked for was not represented in the Wave at all.

In terms of the Attribution Wave, I have spent a good deal of time in the past year evaluating most of the providers in the study. Continue reading

Beacons: Strong Offers will Drive Adoption

There is much talk about beacons this holiday as another big department store, Lord & Taylor, officially announced that beacons will be rolled out in their retail locations in time for Holiday. These are clearly early days for beacons, and it remains to be seen how effective they will be at driving sales in the fourth quarter.  The beacons enable offers to be pushed to shoppers while in the store. Continue reading

Mischief Night: A Look at Online Retail Hijinks

Does anyone remember URL targeting, in which through a “normal” media buy, an advertiser was able to hijack a person trying to go to one site and navigate them to another?   This was legal, as was Gator  — another popular ad-supported media machine that eventually went away for similar, deceptive reasons.

There is some tremendously illegal and egregious internet activity in 2014 that deserves the attention of the serious security people trying to catch it and shut it down.  Not nearly as serious but annoying nonetheless is the legal, albeit black hat activity, that happens occasionally with online retail.

On the eve of “Holiday” (Christmas, not Halloween), let’s consider for a moment how the gloves come off by many affiliates and retailers on the biggest online shopping day of the year — Cyber Monday. Continue reading

The State of Social Media Marketing in 2014

I have read a couple of blog posts the past week alluding to a “social media bubble.” For the past couple of years, social media was the focus of pretty much every conference I attended.  The conversation mostly centered around the value of social media in terms of its ability to drive ROI.  The most memorable comment I can recall was at an eTail West session in which the speaker said “how do you measure the ROI of a bathroom in a store?”  It never really got much clearer than that over the years in terms of how social media could be cleanly linked to an acceptable ROI result.  There was much work done on trying to place a dollar value on a Facebook fan which no best practices ever resulted from that I am aware.  From that, social media became about driving awareness or improving SEO results.  Some brands and retailers determined that fan quality was preferred over quantity but again, not much transpired in the way of tying the actions of the most engaged fans back to actual ROI.  Real strides were made by some marketers in the way of assuring authenticity on their pages, which was a great byproduct of the debate for some brands but not all.  Unfortunately, now there are black hat tactics in the way of bots mimicking human actions on fan pages to simulate engagement, so not all is authentic out there in the social mediasphere.

So in hearing about this social media bubble, I can see why it could be, but it is doubtful anyone really believes social media is going away any time soon. Continue reading

Digital Strategies to Drive Retail Traffic

Most retailers rely on media to support store openings and store events as well as for lifting sales of struggling retail locations. Drive-to-retail marketing plans have typically consisted of radio, print and TV in order to build awareness, but more recently, digital has become an increasingly important component of the media mix.  What makes digital unique relative to traditional forms of media is the level of targeting and sophistication that the others can’t provide.  Continue reading

What is a Paid Search Restructure, Anyway?

Many paid search advertisers turn over the keys of their campaign to an agency to manage it and don’t typically get under the hood too often to see how the campaign is structured. There is a lot of minutia in the search tools, and if someone is not a regular, taking a look now and again exposes a world that is potentially too complex from which to draw any meaningful, actionable conclusions. However, there is much industry buzz right now around the campaign restructure and the belief that it could be the magic bullet that improves paid search performance. For people who don’t know whether or how to get on board with this, how true is it really in terms of a restructure being a strategic imperative? Continue reading

Troubleshooting Paid Search Performance

When sales from paid search suddenly spike in the wrong direction, it can be a nightmare figuring out how and why. It shouldn’t have to be, though. There is always a reason, and it can be found. If conversions from paid search suddenly fall off, here are some ways to troubleshoot.

Contribution: If the paid search channel typically makes up a steady percentage of total online sales, check web analytics to see if the percentage is the same or has fallen.  If the percentage is even with past performance, this indicates a site-wide issue. If the other online channels are showing sales percentages that are in line with historical performance but paid search has fallen, then the problem likely lies with paid search.

Tracking: Check to see if tracking fell off. Continue reading