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By Stephen Da Cambra on December 8, 2014 12:41 pm

2014’s holiday sales season is in full swing and so far the reviews are mixed.

According to the National Retail Federation, overall retail sales, including online and in-store, were down 11% from 2013, to $50.9 billion, for the kickoff Black Friday weekend.

And there were more slumping sales figures (vs. 2013) in the NRF’s research:

  • Overall, about 134 million people shopped over the 4-day weekend, down 5.2%
  • Average sale per online customer is down 10.2% to $159.55
  • Average total spend per shopper over the weekend: $380.95, down 6.4%

Despite the disappointing early data, the NRF sticks by its optimistic prediction for a healthy 4.1% increase in sales for the entire season.

holiday shopping cart

Many analysts blame online sales (a moot point considering overall sales are down) and Ferguson-related boycotts for at least part of the slow results, but the NRF has a different take.

“We are excited to be witnessing an evolutionary change in holiday shopping by both consumers and retailers, and expect this trend to continue in the years ahead.” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay in a press release on the organization’s website. Shay goes on to cite a stronger economy, which reduces the dependence on deep Black Friday discounts, 24/7 online shopping and early promotions as indicators of that ‘evolutionary change’.

Regardless of the reasons for the poor sales performance out of the gate, retailers are now in the heat of the holiday sales race as it runs to the next benchmark, Super Saturday. After that, you have precious few days to make up sales shortages before Christmas.

As Matthew Shay puts it, “It’s going to be a dogfight for the entire season every day, every minute,” he said. “Holiday sales are now a marathon, not a sprint.”

The Holiday Sales Landing Page Ambush

To gauge how merchants are doing mid-race in the 2014 holiday sales marathon, we took a look at the homepages (above the fold) of five leading retailers’ ecommerce sites.

We found a surprisingly wide variety of tactics, some creativity and, in more than one case, a dearth of basic conversion optimization.

Walmart 2014 holiday sales homepage

1. Walmart

Similar to their week long Black Friday event, Walmart turned Cyber Monday into ‘Cyber Week’.

The Good: Shipping costs are the leading reason for shopping cart abandonment and Walmart punches up their Free Shipping policy. The “Shop Now’ button is worded as a command and is prominent on the page, both of which should encourage clicks.

The Bad: Sliders are so 2010. Walmart’s is so fast that you don’t have time to read the panel. Curiously, the web designers chose to repeat items, listed on their permanent left-side drop-down menu, again on the right side of the page. It seems like a waste of valuable real estate.

The Ugly: Talk about wasting real estate. What’s going on about half way down the page? Imagine the holiday shopper, in the heat of battle, facing a call-to-action for snacks. And the subsequent landing page is a confusing mutation of Walmart & Frito Lay branding. Must be a sweet co-op advertising deal.

Nordstrom 2014 holiday sales homepage

2. Nordstrom

Upscale isn’t the word. They don’t even mention the word ‘holiday’ – or any others related to the season. Trés chic.

The Good: We all need gift ideas and most of us have a budget, so the broad range of choices and clear price points are appreciated.

The Bad: It’s like the designers mashed up a Nordstrom site with that of a discount retailer. The calls-to-action are whispered. Perhaps most surprisingly, Nordstrom’s very effective “Free Shipping. Free Returns. All the Time.’ tag line – again, a very effective cure for cart abandonment – is missing during the most important sales season of the year. (It’s below the fold.)

The Ugly: Did Nordstrom fire their product stylist before photographing the sweater in the top left?

Sears 2014 holiday sales homepage

3. Sears

A web design that stays as true to the retailer’s brand as any other. Land here and you feel like you’re in a Sears: clothes, appliances and Craftsman.

The Good: Yeah, yeah … ‘free shipping’; calls-to-action, whitespace, nice signature shot … yeah, yeah. But what’s this? ‘In-Vehicle Pick-Up’? Sweet.

The Bad: The ‘In-Vehicle Pick-Up’ is a unique value proposition, at least among the sites reviewed here, and Sears understates it. Click on the link and you land on a YouTube video that has less than 10,000 views (at the time of writing). If you have such a clear UVP, you should work it better than Sears does.

The Ugly: Does Sears really need to sell space on their homepage to Chevy during the most crucial sales period of the year?

American Eagle 2014 holiday sales homepage

4. American Eagle

Ah, to be young and hip again (or at least once in my case).

The Good: Lots of good conversion-oriented stuff here. Crisp, seasonal images. A 20% Off online offer. Multiple CTAs. And the reassurance that your purchase will arrive on time for Christmas.

The Bad: Visitors should get a prize for finding their ‘Free shipping All Season Long!’ offer (why not add it to the ‘On Time’ CTA?). And bonus points for finding ‘USE CODE: GOBBLEUP’.

The Ugly: Nothing really. There’s nothing on this page that makes you scratch your head and wonder ‘what were they thinking?’

In fact, AE highlights something that’s lacking across all ecommerce retailers. The gift guide. And not just a list of ‘Gifts for Him Under $100’, but a full-fledged gift idea engine, like the one at

Ecommerce sites seem to assume we know what we are looking for.

Witness: a search for ‘headphones’ returns results dominated by major retailers from Amazon to Walmart. Only and break the retailers’ stranglehold on page 1.

But search ‘gift ideas’ and the share of page one results held by the majors drops from 80% to 40%.

Crate & Barrel 2014 holiday sales homepage

5. Crate & Barrel

One of the leading ecommerce sites offers a few tips to the wannabes.

The Good: it’s the only site in our group that’s unafraid to use the words ‘Christmas’ and ‘Hanukkah’. We all know the importance of personalization, especially online, yet we shy away from doing so in even the simplest way during a most important religious time from many customers.

The Bad: Crate & Barrel chooses the height of the season to promote what are traditionally post-holiday sale items. Interesting tactic. But the page makes me feel like Christmas is over.

The Ugly: What do you think? What’s missing or what would you improve about the Crate & Barrel homepage?

Did you know that the U.S. social media advertising revenue is estimated to increase by more than 194%, to reach $15 billion in 2018? This increase is from $5.1 billion last year, which translates to a 24.0% annual growth rate. This means that U.S. social mobile Ad revenues are estimated to grow from $1.5 billion in 2013 to $7.6 billion in 2018, a marked 38.3% growth rate. Check out our infographic on “Social Network Ad Spending – Statistics and Trends” for information on the global Ad spend per region on social networks and many more interesting statistics.

Social Media Ad Spending  Statistics and Trends


Infographic by- Invesp conversion optimization

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Social Network Ad Spending Share By Region

Region 2013 2014 2015 2016
North America 43.2% 42.3% 41.0% 40.2%
Asia Pacific 28.6% 29.2% 30.4% 31.0%
Western Europe 21.6% 22.4% 22.9% 23.3%
Latin America 3.2% 3.1% 2.9% 2.7%
Central or Eastern Europe 2.8% 2.4% 2.1% 1.9%
Middle East & Africa 0.6% 0.6% 0.7% 0.8%


Social Network Ad Spending Viewed As Percentage Of Digital Ad Spending

Year Percentage Of Digital Ad Spending
2013 9.4%
2014 12.2%
2015 14.3%
2016 16.1%


Social Ad Spending Per Social Network User By Region

Region 2013 2014 2015
North America $26.05 $32.82 $39.89
Asia Pacific $12.04 $13.71 $16.17
Western Europe $3.36 $3.60 $4.12
Latin America $1.87 $2.21 $2.54
Central or Eastern Europe $1.78 $2.17 $2.39
Middle East & Africa $0.37 $0.50 $0.66
Worldwide $5.14 $6.97 $7.98


The rate for social Ads on Facebook has risen by 54% over the last year, while the rate for cost-Per Click search Ads rose by 8% during the same period.

The Most Preferred Social Media Platforms By Advertisers

Social Media Platform Percentage
Facebook 92%
YouTube 35%
Twitter 23%


Estimated Social Ad Budget For Fortune 500 Companies

Social Ad Budget Percentage
None 14%
$1-1,000 10%
$1,000 – $5,000 19%
$5,000 – $10,000 19%
$10,000 – $50,000 24%
$50,000+ 14%


The average worldwide Cost-Per-Click rate for Facebook Ads increased by 24% in 2013

The average worldwide Cost-Per-Thousand rate per impression for Facebook Ads increased by 140% in 2013

56% of Facebook users say they have clicked on an advertisement.

Over 500,000 Facebook pages are paying to promote posts.

59% of Facebook and 81% of Twitter advertising revenue comes from mobile devices.

By Stephen Da Cambra on November 17, 2014 5:10 pm

The character of Don Draper, the dapper protagonist of the multi-Emmy Award winning program Mad Men, is a composite drawn in part from a number of real-life advertising people.

Draper’s professional accomplishments are said to be based on those of Rosser Reeves. Among other notable contributions to the profession, Reeves helped develop the idea that advertising must highlight a product’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP – sometimes referred to as unique value proposition or UVP).

Reeves’ more famous applications of the USP principle include “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands” for M&Ms candy, and “Better Living Through Chemistry” for Dupont Corporation.

unique selling proposition graphics

Draper demonstrates his ability to distill and highlight a product’s USP in the very first episode of Mad Men, entitled “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”.

It’s the early 1960s, a time when cigarette smoking was at its zenith, but also a time when consumers became more aware of its health risks.

In one scene, executives of the Lucky Strike cigarette company are about to leave, unimpressed that Draper and his colleagues were unable to get around the health question. But a passing remark tweaks Draper’s imagination and he calls them back.

“This is the greatest advertising opportunity since the invention of cereal”, says Draper. “We have six identical companies making six identical products.”

“We can say anything we want.”

Draper asks the execs about the cigarette-making process, and toasting the tobacco is one of the steps they mention.

“There you go,” says Draper. And he writes ‘It’s Toasted’ on a chalkboard.

“But everyone else’s tobacco is toasted”, replies an exec.

“No”, replies Draper.

“Everyone else’s tobacco is poisonous. Lucky Strike’s is ‘Toasted’.”

Lucky Strikes "It's Toasted" unique selling proposition

USPs and Online Conversion Optimization

Fast forward five decades from Mad Men times and USPs are more in demand now than ever. With mere seconds to capture a visitor’s attention on websites and landing pages, digital marketers rack their brains to come up with clear USPs to quickly set their products apart and drive conversions.

But it seems that the passage of time has also blurred the vision of a USP. Today, to develop a USP, companies are advised to find the one thing they do that‘s not done by any of their competition. Or at least that’s how most digital marketers interpret the idea of a unique selling proposition.

From using the personality of an owner or employee, to developing unique packaging or processes, like Man Crates, businesses are frantic to find something that is absolutely different about their offer. They struggle to define their USP.

Make no mistake, if there is something that is absolutely unique about your company or product, then you have an excellent USP. But “if” is the biggest word in that sentence.

It’s a Unique Selling Proposition

As well as it works, it’s a simplification of the process to make your USP dependant on a unique characteristic. It’s an over-emphasis on ‘unique’. And it’s an easy solution; find something unique about your product and, poof, you have your USP.

But what happens when everyone is “dedicated to customer service”, “exceeds expectations” and “saves you money”? Developing a unique “selling proposition” takes a little more work.

A USP should propose something that will help you convert and sell. Something that customers will uniquely associate with your company. And that something does not need to be unique to your company. How so? Think about the “It’s Toasted” story.

You need to look only as far as some famous advertising slogans for examples of USPs that don’t represent anything different about a company, but that suggests something to customers that they uniquely associate with the company or brand.

  • “Just Do It”
    It’s one of the greatest advertising slogans of all time. And one of the greatest USPs. Yet it does not highlight anything that Nike shoes have that others don’t.
  • “It keeps on going and going and going”
    Isn’t that odd? Energizer doesn’t come out and say that their batteries are the longest lasting. They know that would be a fool’s game. But by suggesting that their batteries “keep on going”, longevity is forever associated with their brand.
  • “Finger Lickin’ Good”
    We lick our fingers after eating chocolate, apples and the chicken we cook at home. Yet KFC built a fast food empire on making this common action uniquely associated with their product.

SEO Shifts Focus Away from USPs

There’s more about the use of USPs in digital marketing that’s different from how they were used in Rosser’s day. And search engine optimization is at least partly to blame.

If you look at Lucky Strike’s actual “It’s Toasted” campaigns, you’ll see the USP everywhere. It’s printed on the package, it’s on promotional products and across all their media. The first time and every time you see the Lucky Strike brand, you know “It’s Toasted”.

But that doesn’t happen on digital. Indeed, we struggle to express USPs in the very first impression many customers have of our offer: search engine results.

Online, search results have themselves become the USP. If you’ve managed a first-page ranking, that’s what you have that your competition doesn’t. And considering the payoff, it’s a highly profitable USP.

However, is the fact that the first position in Google results gets 1300% more clicks than the 10th position purely a symptom of ranking. Or is it because we sacrifice USPs in favor of keywords in title tags?

Google search results page
Except for price, there is no attempt to express a USP in the titles of the search results listed above. With nothing else on which to base their decision, searchers will naturally start clicking from the top.

What if just one of those title tags offered a “Beautiful Butt Machine” or “Cellulite Killer” in addition to the key phrase?

“You must make the product interesting, not just make the ad different.”
Rosser Reeves

“Advertising is based on one thing. Happiness. Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams with reassurance that, whatever you’re doing, it’s okay. You are okay.”
Don Draper


Posted in (Infographics)

The 2014 holiday season will have only 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas, just one more than last year and five fewer than 2012. Still the US retail commerce is expected to grow 16.6% this holiday season up from the 15.3% growth of last year. Looks like it doesn’t matter anymore just how many days there are in the holiday season anymore. Retail commerce is growing by leaps and bounds each season. This year we estimate that holiday season sales will account for 23.7% of total retail E-commerce sales in the US.

If you’re just as curious as we are, do check out our infographic, “Holiday Shopping Statistics And Trends”, for an in-depth look-see into the holiday ecommerce stats in the US.

Holiday Shopping Statistics and Trends


Infographic by- Invesp Landing page optimization

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Estimated US Retail E-Commerce Holiday Sales Statistics

Year Retail E-Commerce Sale ( In Billions)
2012 $53.89
2013 $62.11
2014 $72.41

Almost 92 percent of holiday shoppers plan to go online to research gifts and/or make purchases this holiday season.

Mobile commerce will account for 33% of US online holiday sales

94%of polled consumers said that discounts will be important to their purchase decisions.

91% of shoppers say a low price is an important factor in the decision to buy

Around 70% of US ecommerce shipments during the 2014 Christmas shopping period include free shipping. This stands at a 3% increase over 2013, when about two-thirds of all U.S. holiday ecommerce shipments were sent at the merchant’s expense.

83% of online shoppers are willing to wait additional days for delivery if they can get free shipping.

80% of consumers will use more than one device at once while shopping for the holidays, while 84%will begin shopping on device and finish on another.

Since 2012, the time spent researching popular holiday shopping categories such as toys and home appliances has increased from 9.9 to 12 hours and 13 to 15.8 hours, respectively.

Before making a purchase in 2013, shoppers referenced 12 sources of information—up from just five in 2010

74% of shoppers said a simple, streamlined shopping cart that makes checkout fast and easy was very or extremely important.

48% of shoppers were always or frequently influenced by online ratings and reviews.

73% of on online shoppers consider free shipping as the #1 criterion for making a purchase. Another study shows that 49% have at some time abandoned their shopping cart due to shipping costs.

In the simplest terms, your customers choose to buy from you because of what makes you and/or your products different.

If they find no difference between you and your competition, they have no mechanism with which to make a purchase decision.

They have no trigger to buy.

Understanding that simple fact can bring time-saving focus to your AB testing program.

If you follow conventional testing wisdom, you will maintain an ongoing program of testing every element of your landing pages, email messages, product pages, etc., to find what improves conversion rates and what doesn’t.

CRO Testing

But the consequence of the ‘test everything’ approach is that, in doing so, you can spend a virtually endless amount of time testing virtually endless numbers of elements. Just think about some of the testing staples, like headlines, call-to-action buttons and trust elements. You could write and rewrite headlines all day, every day. The size, shape, color, copy and position of your CTA buttons each have near infinite options and combinations. And what affects trust? Again, there are near infinite possibilities, from the look and feel of your page to the number of reviews you have, and their wording.

There’s nothing wrong with ongoing testing. In fact, it’s recommended – at least until you reach 100% conversion rates, (if you do, please call us, we’d like to chat). But with a little more focus your testing will get better results than simply trying something new.

How Triggers Focus Your Testing

The headlines, CTA buttons and trust elements should all be triggers. They and the other elements of your page can trigger an action by giving the customer a ‘reason’ to do so; a reason that is usually connected to a basic need.

Here’s the shocker for your current testing program – and where you begin to get more focus. If you do not have a trigger, you will not convert anyone.

If your headlines, buttons, trust icons, free whitepapers, testimonials, etc., are not perceived (even unconsciously) by your customers as fulfilling a need, then those elements won’t help your conversion rates.

To help clarify how that works, here are a few basic triggers, or reasons, that will get your customers to convert:

- Health - Brand identification
- Safety - Fun or convenience
- Education/Learning - Faster/easier process
- Make or save money - Reduce fear
- Improve appearance - Prove they are right
- Lose weight - Belonging/acceptance
- Get status - Missing an opportunity
- Save time

Triggers are More Than Simple Benefits

Yes, benefits are most often good triggers. But triggers go beyond just outlining a straight-line benefit. Triggers can reinforce something the customer already believes. A trigger can simply be a color, a sound or a check mark. You can put triggers in your content to evoke positive feelings, like claiming that your service is ‘better than chocolate’.

As a simple example of using triggers to add focus to your testing, let’s look at the wording on a CTA button. We all know that the old “Submit” button generally doesn’t work nearly as well as one with benefit-driven copy, like “Get Your Free Whitepaper”.

But the reason that “Submit” doesn’t work is because it does not appeal to a strong customer need. Yes, they have a need to submit the information, but that’s not very powerful because they are usually hesitant to give away personal information. If someone clicks on a ‘Submit’ button, they are doing so because they found a strong trigger elsewhere on the page or in the buying process.

Conversely, “Get Your Free Whitepaper” works because it hits a number of powerful triggers, including saving money, learning and potentially one based on the content of the paper, like weight loss.

So instead of almost blindly trying different versions of elements, start thinking in terms of testing different triggers in each element.

Examples of Triggers

The best way to look at how focusing on triggers can help give your testing more direction is to look at real examples.


If you ever stopped using your Facebook account, you may have received an email from them encouraging you to sign in. As pointed out on, that message is full of triggers.

Triggers on Facebook

First, Facebook doesn’t just ask you to sign in, they give you a number of reasons, including that you have messages and friend requests waiting. Also, immediately above the ‘Sign In’ button, which is the main call-to-action and conversion goal of the message, Facebook asks you to sign in “and start connecting”. If you use social media, you probably have a need to connect.

Klout offers a way to measure your influence on social media. All of that influence is based on having something to say. Say nothing and you will have no influence. A constant supply of quality content is an excellent way to always have something to say. Klout knows that content and social media marketers are desperate for content that helps them say something worthwhile and thereby improve their social media influence.

When you visit, a place where you might expect to see lots of statistics, charts and graphs, (like at Klout’s competitor, Instead, you find a site bent on helping you find and share content.

Triggers on Klout

Here are a few of the triggers Klout uses, none of them directly related to reflecting or improving your influence.

  • Search Window – Instead of labelling their search window “Search”, they pose the question “What do you want to share today?”
  • Create’ Button – On the left-hand navbar. They use the word ‘Create’ for one of the options (and even have a pen on paper icon to go with it). When you click on ‘Create’, you are not lead to a place where you can create anything. Instead, it links to the page shown above, from which you can find and share other people’s content. Why use a ‘Create’ button that links to a page that’s really for sharing. Every content social media marketer wants to feel they are ‘creating’ content. And Klout has already pulled the ‘share’ trigger in the search field.
  • ‘Schedule’ Button – Again, with a single word, Klout touches on an important trigger for their customers. If you have content scheduled to be published, your content marketing and social media is in better shape than if you have nothing scheduled. But clicking on ‘Schedule’ doesn’t schedule anything. It merely shows the Klout-suggested content that you chose to share when you used the ‘Create’ button. Klout gets a little tricky here: ‘Create’, ‘Schedule’ and ‘Measure’ are listed together. But they use “Create’ and ‘Measure’ as verbs, and ‘Schedule’ as a noun.

Email Inbox

If you use email marketing you are aware of the importance of your subject lines and hopefully you test them. And you’ll know the effectiveness of benefit-driven headline. But, as mentioned, benefits are usually triggers. But not always. Take a look below at the subject lines from an inbox.

Triggers in email inbox

Here’s a list of subject line trigger passes and fails from the inbox above. And the reasons why:

  • PASS: IRNewsLink Daily – “Get Ready for 3.4 million new web shoppers”. Invesp helps optimize internet retail sites. This appeals to my need to learn more about what I write.
  • FAIL: Listly – “Spooky”. I’m all for cryptic clues, but not when trying to filter a crammed inbox.
  • PASS: Jess at Contently – “3 Awesome SEO Tricks for Content Marketers” – Everyone likes to learn about a ‘trick’ that presumably leads to better results; and these tricks are ‘awesome’.
  • FAIL: Wayfair – “Rug designs that stand the test of time”. Again, this might be a bit of a trigger, but not nearly enough to get me to open it. If I’m part of Wayfair’s target market, shoppers, I probably want things go out of style so I can do more shopping. And check the snippet from the email that follows the subject line – they missed a great opportunity to tell me about a real trigger: saving money.
  • PASS: Social Media Today – “How Do Your Customers Feel About Your Brand” – If you click on this one, you will learn more about your level of acceptance.
  • FAIL: – ‘’. Don’t waste people’s time.

At first, it may not be easy to turn your thinking toward using triggers in your testing criteria. Take it one step at a time. Look for the obvious. And, most of all, keep testing.

By Stephen Da Cambra on October 20, 2014 4:48 pm

How can your conversion optimization be in a rut? You have an ongoing AB testing program, you stay on top of your analytics’ conversion goals, bounce rates, traffic sources, etc., and you know which are your best performing digital marketing channels.

You’re set.

And there’s the rut.

You’re never set.

woman stuck in a rut of conversion rates

Everyone knows how fickle customers can be and how constantly digital marketing evolves. Yet we continue to pour more resources into finding set-play solutions to most of our digital marketing hurdles. While we are convinced of the efficacy of being constantly aware and reactive to many digital benchmarks, those to which we pay attention are overwhelmingly numbers-based.

Think about it, you probably know the number of visitors you get; you likely have a good idea of bounce rates and you certainly stay on top of how many conversions you get.

But did you know that over 20% of your keyword research is obsolete from the moment it’s completed?

How big of a rut are you in? Despite years of research, testing and analysis, average online conversion rates continue to languish in the low single digits for ecommerce and lead generation. Bricks and mortar retail conversion rates are 700% higher. While it’s not really fair to compare online and offline commerce, it gives you an idea of the depth of the rut.

And what do we do about it? We keep tracking and reacting to the numbers and we tend to ignore many many of the ‘softer’ digital marketing tactics to which we cannot easily apply a numeric value.

  • Persona Creation – If you don’t use personas, you may think they’re a waste of time; after all, who doesn’t know their target customers? If you use personas, you probably wonder how anyone can market or optimize conversions without them.Personas are fictional amalgams of your customers’ personalities, lifestyle and buying habits. Their purpose is to give you a clear idea to whom you speak when you create your marketing messages.You should use a number of different personas to represent different personality types. Many automated online marketing and sales packages include handy modules to create many personas and assign them to new contacts.

    personas graphic

    Whether you do it by hand or use a package, the problem is that personas, like your customers, are not static. And the longer they remain so, the further away they will get from being a true reflection of your current markets.

    World events, competing messages, the weather; anything that might affect walk-in customers’ buying habits, should be reflected in your online personas. And as all of those factors change almost daily, your personas should change almost as often

    Of course it’s impossible to adjust your personas so frequently, but the mere fact that you should underlines the folly of doing the opposite: never changing them. Start thinking about dynamic personas.

  • Email Database Optimization – ‘Whoa’, you say. Yes, you get the idea that optimizing your online marketing can’t be based on static data and numbers, but you have an active and aggressive program to make sure your email marketing database constantly grows. In other words, if there is anything that’s dynamic about your digital marketing, it’s your email list.But the rut is to think that dynamism is a one way street of list graphic

    ‘20% of the pea pods contain 80% of the peas’ – There’s perhaps no better example in digital marketing of the Pareto Principle than your email database. Statistics show that email open rates are 400% higher and click rates are 500% higher for initial emails versus subsequent messages.

    But, when it comes to email benchmarks, we are stuck in the numbers game of list size and we are afraid to reduce it. But if you want to instantly increase your open rates and click-through rates, start weeding out the 80% of addressees who rarely react to your messages.

    Start focusing your efforts on your new leads and customers. They are, overwhelmingly, the ones who listen and take action.

  • Keyword Research – Long ago, or at least in pre-google times, marketers used things like focus groups and consumer surveys to discover the thought processes their customers went through during the buying cycle. Those were the best tools available, but they are at once brilliant and flawed. Brilliant in that they put the focus on the customer and not the product. Flawed because of the intermediation of time between the completion of the research and the delivery of the messages it fostered.For the first time, keyword research gave us insights into the very moment that consumers seek out the information they need to make a purchase.That little gem of a trait quickly made keyword research a basic tactic in even the simplest of marketing programs.

    keyword research graphic

    If the overriding point of this post is that it’s a mistake to set and forget any part of your digital marketing, keyword research is the most salient example. From the very moment you finish your research, its effectiveness starts to deteriorate significantly.

    16% to 20% of the keywords your customers use in searches have never been used before. So even the most effective research today will uncover only 80% of the terms your potential customers will use tomorrow. And, presumably, those new terms will replace many of those that show well in your research resulting in a significant number of under-performing keywords almost from the time you spot them.

    And that process will further ravage your research as time goes on. Yet we continue to spend gobs of cash on one-time keyword searches.

The temptation to set-and-forget these digital marketing tactics is difficult to deny. Who can afford to develop dynamic personas, to keep email lists fresh and to weed-out under-performing keywords in favor of timely terms?

But can you afford not to do so?

Critical reviews of at least some of the promotional messages in your email inbox is like doing your conversion optimization homework. It exercises the lessons you learn from testing and experience. Someone could talk to you all day long about the benefits of matching subject lines to headlines, but until you experience a spectacular failure, or feel a bond to a well-matched message, you really don’t make an emotional connection with the lesson – and you don’t learn it as well.

email conversion tactics

Landing Pages & Email Messages: They are two separate channels with significant differences, from purpose to personalization. But what seems to be missing from the thinking of many email designers is that there are significant similarities too. In many cases, the only difference between the two is that emails are pushed and landing pages pull.

Even on a completely personalized cart abandonment re-targeting email, many of the best practices of conversion optimization for landing pages apply. From the aforementioned subject line/email headline match (ad copy headline/page headline match in landing pages), to having clear calls-to-action, a lot of what you know about landing page optimization doesn’t need to be reinvented for email optimization.

But you wouldn’t know it by looking in your Inbox. Here we go:

Social Media Today
I feel so bad. I really like SMT; I read lots of their content and have attended more than a few of their webinars andall have been good. That’s why the email message below is so surprising. It would be difficult to design and write a less inspiring email.

  • No Headline – OK, considering this email is written as a message more than in a landing page style, the fact that the first sentence reinforces the headline is good enough.
  • No Image – If the email asks the reader to ‘imagine…’; then imagine what an image would do for the look, feel and delivery of the message – and the email’s conversion rate.
  • No Link on the Logo – At first I thought it was me. Maybe the universally accepted best practice of making your logo clickable doesn’t translate to emails. Wrong. A flight through at least 10 other emails found that all have links on the logo. The best of them have links to a landing page that matches the email message.
  • Copy – Benefit-driven copy may not be ideal in every situation. But toss the customer a tidbit at least. Except for the word ‘free’ in the headline, the first sign of a benefit is in the last line of the first paragraph. Maybe. Other than that it’s all “Imagine…’ this and ‘Do you want to learn…” ….  zzzzzz.

Email message - Social Media Today

The Drake Hotel – Toronto
Spoiler Alert: If you don’t want to see where this critique is headed before we get there, don’t read the following statistic, as reported by

  • Percent of emails opened on mobile devices: 66

Background: Unlike it’s larger, more famous namesake in Chicago, Toronto’s Drake is a small, trendy boutique hotel located in the ‘coolest’ English-speaking neighborhood in the world, (according to Vogue anyway). Nuit Blanche is trendy, night-time arts festival held annually in a number of cities around the world, including Dallas, Minneapolis and San Antonio in the U.S..

With that prelude, you could imagine how it tickled my suburban heart to get an email from The Drake inviting me to their Nuit Blanche BBQ. Visions of chatting wittily about the latest Michael Gondry video, while sporting my pastel-colored jeans, danced in my head.

And you could imagine the equal and opposite confused disappointment when met with the following after opening the message on my phone.

Email message Drake Hotel

  • Headline Mismatch – The email subject line gives The Drake three chances to confirm at least one of its promises in the email headline. They miss them all. Indeed, the email’s headline ‘County Update’ is not only miles away from anything in the subject line, but also from anything I associate with the hyper-urban Drake. (It refers to the recent opening of their country counterpart).
  • Image Mismatch – Like the headline, that’s not The Drake I know.

Not only does The Drake completely miss the opportunity to confirm that I’m in the right place by reinforcing the subject line in the headline, but it’s like they go out of their way to make me wonder if I’m even in the right email. An email that promises to be about three urban events should not kick-off with a promotion for a new country inn.

Mirvish Productions
First, you’re not having calendar confusion. ‘Thanksgiving’ in the email below refers to the Canadian version, which is on October 13th this year.

Email message from Mirvish

Is this a near-perfect email message? It’s not the prettiest, but here’s evidence to support a ‘yes’ vote:

  • Headline – While the headline, ‘Flash Sale!’, does not match the subject line, ‘$1 Tickets for 24 Hours Only’, the sub-headline does and, considering the headline is displayed in a masthead format, it adds prominence to the sub-head.
  • Urgency – Being a holiday-based promotion, clearly you better order sooner than later.
  • User Experience – It is here that this email becomes exceptional. Having established that urgency is in order, the email gives you exactly what you want, “How to Order”. The perfection of the tactic lies in the fact that the sender wants precisely the same thing. And then the copy eliminates any uncertainty or concern with clear instructions for both online and offline ordering. Brilliant.
  • CTA Buttons – So how is it that an email that does so much so well has “Buy Tickets’ CTA buttons that are grey on grey? Hopefully the answer is that the designers tested and found this to be the best color combination. But, judging from the vast majority of test results on button color, that’s unlikely.

Bonus Points – The mobile version of the message manages to accomplish all the good stuff too. Yes, the ‘How to Order’ info isn’t visible, but the heading just above the fold tells the reader that it’s there.

mobile email message - mirvish

Want to learn more about how to get higher conversions from your email messages and/or landing pages? Ambush your inbox. It’s like homework, but a lot more fun.

The current stats indicate that 3 out of 4 consumers now notice retargeted Ads. Needless to say, businesses are quickly revising their opinion of Ad retargeting, with one in five marketers now having a dedicated budget for retargeting. In the following infographic, “Ad Retargeting in Numbers – Statistics and Trends”, we will be illustrating how Ad retargeting is affecting brand retention and purchase decisions.

Ad Retargeting in Numbers  - Statistics and Trends


Infographic by- Invesp

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How Retargeted Ads Affect Purchase Decisions

Affect %age
User reminded to revisit retailer’s website 8.65%
User responded to special offer in the Ads 7.37%
User ignored the Ad 46.15%
User put off by the Ads 37.82%


Stats On Consumer Concern After Seeing Retargeted Ads

Some consumers show concern when Ads follow them after they visit the websites of certain retailers, while others don’t bother much.

Concern level %age
Very concerned 18.87%
Somewhat concerned 34.80%
Neither concerned, nor unconcerned 29.41%
Somewhat unconcerned 6.86%
Very unconcerned 10.05%


46% of search engine marketing professionals believe retargeting is the most underused online marketing technology.

The average click-through rate for display Ads is 0.07 percent, while the average click-through for retargeted Ads is about 0.7 percent.

Website visitors who are retargeted with display Ads are 70% more likely to convert on retailer’s website.

Main Objectives Of Retargeting

Objective %age
To acquire customers 56%
Build brand awareness 42%
To acquire competitor’s customers 11%


Retargeted customers are three times more likely to click on your Ad than people who haven’t interacted with your business before.

26% of customers will return to a site through retargeting.

56% of respondents to a survey listed FBX as one of the types of retargeting tactics that they use – up from 41% in the previous survey.

50% of marketers said their retargeting budget will increase in the next 6 months.

Main Types Of Retargeting

Retargeting type Total Agency Brand
Site 87.9% 87.4% 89.0%
Search 64.9% 68.8% 54.9%
Email 26.1% 22.5% 35.2%
Creative 29.8% 32.9% 22%
Other 3.1% 3.0% 3.3%
By Stephen Da Cambra on September 24, 2014 2:14 pm

Does anyone fully appreciate the critical importance of every element of their landing page strategy and design towards the overall success of their entire digital marketing campaign(s)?

It doesn’t seem so, judging by the majority of landing pages we come across.

Whether you’re trying to generate leads or make a sale, your landing page is the most crucial element of your entire digital campaign. It is the ultimate tipping point in a series of tipping points. It is where your visitor either becomes a lead or customer – or scampers away unconverted.

And that’s why landing pages are so important. If there is an issue with any one part of your landing page, it has the potential to negate your entire campaign: including PPC & SEO budgets, your content marketing, social media, web design, and so on.Landing Page Makeover Guide 01

The Landing Page Makeover Guide

Like any makeover, optimizing your landing page is not a one-time proposition. Makeovers don’t last and you must constantly review , measure, analyze and adjust each of the following areas, and others, to keep your landing pages, and digital marketing, in peak condition.

  1. Prepare for AB Testing: Want to make sure your landing page is perpetually optimized? Before you do anything, start planning your AB test program. If there is anything that we underestimate about landing pages, it is that they can always be improved; always ‘made over’. While you may not be able to layout the specifics of your testing program until the elements of the landing page are in place, developing a mindset of ongoing testing from the start will improve the chance that it becomes a fixture of your program, which is as it should be.
  2. Design for Personas: You need to know to whom you speak before you can convert anyone. Personas, or composite profiles of your typical target customers, are essential to determine the elements you need on your landing page, the content and configuration of each element and the overall design of your page.At a minimum, you should have at least one persona for each of the four main human personality temperaments: logical, caring, impulsive and aggressive. Even if your offer is aimed mainly at one personality type, each type is not absolute, and within each one are different aspects of the others.
    Landing Page Makeover Guide 02
    Not only should your persona profiles be as complete as possible, they should also constantly change and evolve, just like your customers do. Each personality type you target might react differently depending on variables like economic climate, the sales season, or their age.
  3. Have Multiple Pages: There are hundreds of millions of potential customers surfing the web right now. It is a grave mistake to think that one single landing page will appeal to them all. It’s a mistake not only because you risk missing a huge swathes of your market, but also because of how relatively easy it is to create multiple versions of each landing page.
  4. Create Context - If you change your landing pages as the seasons change, or by geographical region, or time of day, or according to any other pertinent variable, you can improve conversion rates by making them more relative to those variables than a static page.
  5. Measure Your Marketing - Similar to call-tracking with different telephone numbers, if you have different landing pages for different sources of traffic: for example one for PPC ads, one for organic results, one for each social media channel; you can make each one more pertinent to the source and measure the performance of each source.
  6. Reassure Your Customers: Regardless of which page your customers land on, it must quickly reassure them that they are in the right place. Make sure your headlines and/or visual cues match or reinforce the content of the social post or ad copy from whence the customer came.
    Landing Page Makeover Guide 04Landing Page Makeover Guide 06

    Benefit Driven Copy - Like form follows function, features follow benefits. Instead of writing: ‘our new red buttons make our landing page easier to use’, which puts the feature before the benefit, write something like ‘Easy to use landing page has all the answers you need.’
    Landing Page Makeover Guide 03
    Benefits give customers confidence that they have found something that solves their need/want.

  7. Be Graphic: The debate over the effectiveness of long copy versus short copy on landing pages will probably never end. But regardless of which one you choose, the graphics or images on your page are at least as important as the copy. But only if you make every one count:• Answer potential questions by showing benefits/features of your product or by demonstrating how it works
    • Show social proof with user generated images
    • Prove value with a chart
    Landing Page Makeover Guide 05

    High Quality - Regardless of how you choose to use visuals on your landing pages, make them of the highest quality possible. There’s no excuse for fuzzy images or poor video production.

  8. Cure the FUDs: Fears, uncertainties and doubts that is. No matter how savvy, every visitor has questions, needs guidance and/or requires assurances that yours is their best option.• Use credibility symbols, including industry associations, security precautions and/or awards to reinforce the integrity of your company and soundness of your offer
    • Keep data collection forms to minimum to reduce anxiety over information disclosure.
    • Clearly indicate ‘next steps’ to guide the visitor towards conversion
    • Highlight customer testimonials so visitors know they are not alone in accepting your offer.

    Ultimate cure for the FUDs: Landing page personalization.

  9. Go Beyond the Conversion – While this is not an element of an individual landing page, it helps to reinforce the decision the customer made to convert if you follow it up with a confirmation, thank you or additional offer.

We called this a Landing Page Makeover “Guide” for a reason. The points outlined are guidelines to makeover your page for higher conversion rates. It’s not a rule book. There are no rule books for conversion optimization. If rule books existed, all landing pages would be fully optimized.

Clearly they are not. And until you get 100% conversion rates, you can always improve your page.

It starts before they arrive and doesn’t end when they leave.

You may never know where the journey of discovery, engagement and conversion begins for your customer in relationship to your business and/or its products. It may start in a conversation overheard in an elevator, or with the glimpse of a package, or in some other unknowable way.

And while the starting point may be difficult to pinpoint, you should do everything you can to make sure the end point never arrives. It’s less expensive to re-engage repeat customers and they generate five times more revenue per visit than first timers.

Customer Journey Maps

Regardless of when it starts and finishes, the more of that journey you predict, measure and analyze, the more you will be able to improve your customer experience.

Customer journey maps focus on one or any combination of the overall journey, the path through your website, the process the customer follows on a landing page or any other single or series of interactions you have with your customers; online or off.

The milestones on the map are the touchpoints of customer interaction. A good journey map will include the following sorts of information at each point

  • The Stage of the Buying Cycle – Is the customer just becoming aware of your offer or is she about to buy?
  • The Activity at the Point of Interaction – Is she on an online forum or in the store?
  • Triggers & Drivers – Depending on the stage she is at, what are her motivations for being there? What needs or wants must she to fulfill at that particular point of the journey?
  • FUDs – Each touch point is like a crossroad. When the customer reaches it, she faces fears, uncertainties, doubts and questions about what is the next step and whether or not she should take it.

Below is a good example of a customer journey map, in this case for a home theater, from the Harvard Business Review.

Notice that it maps the journey past the point of purchase to include the ‘out-of-box-experience’ (OOBE), which increasingly gains acceptance as an important part of the overall customer experience.

Customer Journey Map 01

Some of the factors that go into your journey map making, like the customer’s activity at the point of interaction, are relatively easy to track. Perhaps they clicked on a PPC ad or responded to a Facebook promotion.

But it’s not nearly as easy to determine some of the other factors, especially the FUDs.

Unfortunately, those difficult to determine factors are at least as important to converting and keeping an online lead or customer, if not more so. The nature of the web, both in the virtually infinite options it offers to divert your customers’ attention and in the element of uncertainty that surrounds the exchange of information and the successful completion of a purchase, makes your web customers notoriously skittish. And it’s very difficult for you to know exactly what causes the skittishness at each point on your map.

One way to do so is with AB testing, which helps you find the option customers prefer. While AB tests are necessary for improving conversion rates, in terms of a journey map, you would need a fairly extensive testing program to cover all the points along the way. And, while that program might show you what works better to keep the customer on the path to conversion, it doesn’t tell you exactly why it works, or what FUD you solved.

Listening to Your Customers

The best way to know what issues and questions your customers face is to go straight to the source – the customers themselves. But, the traditional means of getting customer feedback, like questionnaires, don’t get their input at the moment that the issues arise, which means that input is tempered.

Fortunately or not, customers are online right now talking about their experiences with purchases and businesses. And many of them are doing so as they go through the same touch points you need to track on your journey map.

  1. Customer Reviews – Not only does the customer journey continue past the purchase, they also continue past the OOBE. Check out the review below from The customer actually likes the product, but gives it only three stars ‘because Amazon has a habit of dropping the price on things after you buy them’. Hey, Amazon, can you think of something to improve this customers experience?CJ02
  2. Unboxing Videos – Chronicling the aforementioned OOBE has fostered the popular Youtube meme of ‘unboxing’. How popular is it? Just enter ‘unboxing’ into your YouTube search window to find out. One recent video on the unboxing of an Apple iPhone 6 clone got almost 6 million views in a month.As ‘unboxing’ videographers try to outdo each other for more viewership, the usefulness of some videos is questionable. But once you learn to avoid the view-bait, the remaining videos offer some real nuggets of customer feedback, delivered unfiltered at the moment that issues arise.Check out this video from the popular eleventhgorgeous YouTube channel. There’s tons of the obvious feedback you’d expect in a comparison of packages from cosmetic subscription services Birchbox and Ipsy. But it’s the feedback you get from unexpected places that can be most valuable. At 1:36 of the video, one of the on-camera personalities talks about a shopper reward points system and, almost under her breath, mentions that she always forgets to use her points. A reminder to take advantage rewards points would probably improve that person’s customer experience.

  3. Social Media – Customer experience is affected by every element of your site and your customers perception of it. Check out this tweet about an image the customer saw on an Amazon product page. Can’t say I blame him.Customer Journey Map 03
    Customer Journey Map 04

Like every other aspect of your digital marketing, from persona development to conversion optimization, the more effort you put into your journey maps, the better they will be at guiding you to offering a better customer experience.

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