Thursday, November 17, 2016

Book Review: The Xiaomi Way: Customer engagement strategies that built one of the largest smartphone companies in the world

What motivates me in work are a lot of things, but currently especially the following aspects are very motivating for me:

  • Using user feedback into digital media (websites/devices), to really get this interaction with users. To find out what is working but also what to improve, and to understand why users do not buy! (and to change that of course).
  • Optimizing the user experience (user engagement, touchpoints, data collection)
  • Constantly innovating to improve the user experience
  • Crossborder e-commerce
  • Startup mentality, doing things together in a great team with the same focus.

I really think that ecommerce (and marketing) has evolved from a functional model (direct selling) to a brand model and is now moving to an experience model. Things might overlap a little bit between these models, but this is the greater picture. 
It is not only me who thinks so of course, more and more is written about this subject recently and it fits perfectly in line with another book I have read.

I bought the book “The Xiaomi Way – Customer engagement strategies that built one of the largest smartphone companies in the world”. So I could learn more about their techniques in terms of user experience and how to deal with user feedback, and of course to learn more from the Chinese (ecommerce) market, which also interests me a lot. 

I will highlight a few things from this book, a book that really made me enthusiastic again, just same so, when I read this book. So many possibilities still, if you just think from the customer's perspective and if you aim for the long term, instead of the short term! 
Besides that it is always nice if you read about people and companies that have the same vision as I have.
Most of the bullets below, can also be used in a situation where you do not develop products yourself, but  also if you just sell products you can use these idea’s and best practices to offer your customers a better experience. Use this bulletlist to think creatively in how to connect with your customers and how to provide them a better experience.

A few highlights from the book: The Xiaomi Way

(click the "continue reading button)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

An international videomarketing strategy: tips, tricks, takeaways

Ah holiday again, finally time again for reading a lot about ecommerce, digital experience marketing and videomarketing!
This time a blog post from Bangkok Don Muang airport where I am awaiting my for my AirAsia flight to Kunming, China.

Waiting for my flight
Yes, video's! I already liked making video's when I was age 6 or something, I can even remember making and editing video's with our Sony Handicam Video, one of the first videocamera's made for home usage.

Nowadays video is very important in your (content) marketing strategy.
Video is growing rapidly and there are many reasons why videos can be useful for your brand.

A few reasons why video is so important:
  • Video can boost your conversion and sales, directly but also indirectly.
  • Video builds trust, and trust is only getting more important. Advertising alone will not give you the succes you need. In fact advertising is changing rapidly to less and higher quality.
  • Video will help you rank better in SEO.
  • With the rise of smart tv's with online video channels easily accesible video's will only increase more in popularity!
  • Video and mobile usage go hand in hand. Mobile usage is still growing rapidly so take advantage of this.

So what type of video's are there?

I usually make a difference between these type of video's:

  • Branding video's 
  • Promotional video's 
  • Product demo video's
  • Viral videos
  • User generated video's
  • Interactive video's
  • Expert interview video's
  • Live video's
  • Review / Unbox video's

Every videotype has it's own triggers and it's own goals (KPI's) and prefered channels.
I do not go into depth in this now, but I think differentation between video types can be a way to setup your video marketing strategy.

Videomarketing: important takeaways and tips to use in an international videmarketing strategy:

Below a summary of what I think are important takeaways and tips to use in your videomarketing strategy. As there are so many video types and especially videoplatforms, I wrote down some general tips of which some are useful for an international videostrategy.
  • Youtube = Google, and think of Youtube in a SEO way. If you have very low performing video's in your youtube channel, try deleting those, it can improve your overall rating of your videochannel, make sure you fill as many meta data as possible after you uploaded the video and make sure people don't stop watching your video after 10%. Take this into account when writing the script, keep your viewers attention!
  • If you are operating internationally think about youtube recently added translation tool that will boost international video marketing, so use it! Now it is even possible to localise the (important) title of your video.
  • Youtube allows you, to have your "community", to make closed captions for you! Some kind of crowdsource subtitles! Read more here!
  • Use the close caption function within youtube to provide your content in different languages.
  • Often ignored, but very important. Every channel needs it's own content, youtube, snapchat, facebook etc. They require their own video. There are many differences between these platforms and when creating a video you should take this into account. Often only small adjustments are necessary. Take for example facebook, video's are played without sound at first, the user has actively to switch on sound. This means your video should have subtitles, or at least a very attractive start! And youtube video viewers generally accept longer video's than at Facebook. 
  • If you are a marketer, you know that retargeting exists. This is also possible in videomarketing, everybody who watched (a part) of your video, who commented or liked, can be retargeted with ads or other video's. 
  • Depending at what you sell, and depending at your customer group, you can seek cooperation with those active youtubers, who often have millions of fans and views.
  • If you write your script and you are not sure what variant works best, don't be scared to test this. Upload your video for example to youtube, switch it to non listed and set some paid advertisement to target those video's.
  • For SEO purposes, it is important to first upload the video to your own site, or your owned media, only after that, upload it to youtube. So you can benefit from two worlds.
  • When creating a (landing) page at your website, which includes the video, either if it is embedded or if you host it yourself, don't just embed the video there with some short lines, but really take effort to make an attractive page. It has all to do with providing your visitors a perfect user experience and a low bounce rate at this page. Lower bouncerates, are positive for your SEO ranking and increases your video ranking as well. When creating this page you can think about for example to add those easy to use share buttons, to make the page fully responsive, maybe add a transcript of the video, make it possible to download the video etc. Write content around the video about the video, this help search engines and visitors a like!
  • Before you create a video, think who you are creating it for. A promotional video has different KPI's then a branding video for example! Set specific KPI's beforehand including those specific video KPI's. 

  • Especially if you use youtube, use this engagement in and around your video. I have this screenshot below from a book from Joris Merks called "Online Brand Identity", a must read for everybody busy with online branding. It tells about the important of engagement with youtube marketing. Hardwell really engages with his audience and makes his subscribers feel the channel is really specially made for them!
  • Don't forget that altough youtube is very popular, it is not the most popular site in every country. China for example blocks youtube!
  • Youtube cards, make it possible to link to your own website from within the video. This means you can sent people directly to a page at your own website. Read more information here. Use this feature in your video's.
  • Just be very, very creative, create two teams who brainstorm about a script for a video with the same subject for example. When writing a script, think about connecting to an existing internet subculture. Write your script with the online user in mind and you will be allright! 
  • Don't forget to generate videositemaps for your website!
A topic about video marketing can't just end without a few good video's. So let's get started with a few great videomarketing examples.

I think this one is really good as a promotional video. It is maybe a little bit too long, but the idea and call to action are really good.

And then there is the dollar shave club of course, a brand entirely build online...you keep on watching untill the video is finished, it is fun to watch!

This one is also a great "keep on watching and buy"video! Just try it, I am sure you will also watch it to the end, just like I did. It includes (very strong) social reputation as a call to action.

Just because it is fun, a video from myself (Dutch only) where I was interviewed when I was still a small Alex :)

That's it for today!


Alex -videoman- Baar :)

Friday, September 16, 2016

About the future of ecommerce, contentmarketing strategy and personalisation by force

It is september, and I do not know why, but in september there is alway's lot's of interesting ecommerce news. I do like to share a few interesting articles with you today.
Take for example Ryanair. Ryanair is going to introduce "personalisation by force". You do not have a choice but to get personalised offers and information, Read more about it here and here.  I think a really good move. Make loyalty easy. It always annoys me if I fly with an airline and I can only benefit from their loyalty programme if I sign up. Why not just match my email adress, and see my booking history. For example I flew many times with Cathay Pacific, but I never took the effort to sign up for their loyalty programme, same goes for KLM. But they do have my fly history and flight pattern, so they can personalise offers! However they do not do so  leaving me chosing often other airlines. Curious how this works out countries where privacy is an important issue in online marketing, countries like Germany for example.

Then there is the growing importance of call centres in e-commerce and marketing. Every call is becoming a data collector! Interesting. By using data acquired by call centre agents, the website experience, or more broad the digital touchpoints experience can be improved. This aspect of ecommerce is often forgotten, but call centres already were of great importance for ecommerce but their importance is only growing!

Econsultancy, from the UK released a nice infographic about contentmarketing. Often companies think that contentmarketing is just writing an article or publishing a generic video. But that is not the case. Contentmarketing requires a true strategy. This infographic (on click for large) describes various types of contentmarketing.

As you see there is a lot to take into consideration and now imagine these content types in an international environment.
Meanwhile others (and I think there is truth in it) say that generic content is no longer king. But write content (and give tooling), so others can write content for you and about you. Of course it depends in which industry you are at, but when thinking out of the box , there are always some idea's to think try.

Another interesting opinion about the future of ecommerce, I found at this website. This guy, Brent Bellm, signalises a trend: Seemless buying, buying via social platforms, or any platform where there is interaction between friends or consumers. 
The trend he sees is that we move away from ecommerce platforms (bring the store to me), and even that we might move away from marketplaces as Amazon. 
Interesting, as how will digital branding look like, when there are far less ecommerce websites? Customer Experience will be even more important as it is far easier for consumers to share idea's or products (maybe even for a commission), at the same time digital experiences related to the products you sell, or digital problem solving tools, will help in creating your brand.
At this moment, by the way, marketplaces are still growing strong. 92% of users use online marketplaces in a lot of parts of the world.
However we also know from China, that seemless buying in chat applications like wechat is very popular and easy to do. It is also very easy for companies to integrate their shops and services in wechat.
A very interesting trend to follow closely the next few months.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Entanglement Marketing

Today, August 20th,  I am in Zermatt, Switzerland. Hoping to do some summerskiing. It is summer in the village, but winter is still present up in the mountains here, 3883 meters high there is lot's of snow. However today is cloudy and windy and lifts are closed. So I grabbed a book and started reading about “Entangled Marketing” and watching the people go by in their electric mini cars, with the Matterhorn at the background. Tomorrow I will go to enjoy summerskiing, tomorrow the weather will be great! This post is a combination of items from the book, some personal opinions and some examples I found at the web. Enjoy reading!

I gave the book a view at the Matterhorn,
during my stay here..(but the Matterhorn is
sometimes "entangled" with clouds as today :).
I bought this book since I believe, that the way of marketing brands or building brands, is changing rapidly. It’s no more just some display advertisements or an always on PPC strategy, there are many other possibilities. In fact more sustainable possibilities as well.
I never could find a word for it, but now I have read this book, I know what it is called: “Entangled Marketing”, moving beyond engagement. Engagement is no longer enough. As a brand you have to go beyond engagement. And that you do with "Entangled Marketing"!.

The authors describe the word entanglement as "the quintessential quantum effect". In the sub atomic world, a pair of entangled particles never let go of one another.
It’s a perfect metaphor for what business management would like to see happen in our digital environment. What if the brand entity and the customer entity could be entangled in an enduring, supportive relationship? One to one is yesterday’s news, it is time to take the “to” out of one to one. 

The book describes a few examples, for example about John Hancock insurances, who entangles the insured person by giving the customer a fitbit and rewarding him for his healthy lifestyle, or the company“Chick-fil-A” who organises special entanglement for the animal toy’s children often take with them to a restaurant. They even let those toys of the children sleep over in the restaurant and share all kind of pictures of the adventures the child’s animal toy had during its sleepover! Great for the kids, and thus great for parents, who keep on returning to the restaurant. I found a video about this sleepover and experience:

Back in the old days, in the analog era, the direct marketing business model, selling directly to the consumer or a business consumer, represented about 10% of the economy. The vast majority of the companies did not know much about the behaviour of people buying their product or getting their service.
Now in the online era, marketers have so much data, they know what the customer wants before the customer knows he or she needs it.
Think about Spotify, Netflix or Dollar shave club and all those subscription services from nowadays. This is the way forward. The still rapidly growing world of connecting services and products (IoT), will only speed things up. It makes sure you can entangle consumers with your brand.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Cross bordere ecommerce: centralise or localise digital marketing activities

In cross border e-commerce, often the question is asked: "what can I centralise and what can I decentralise if I do cross border ecommerce"?

Cross border ecommerce wisdom

The question really depends at your strategy, your products or services, the size and structure of your company, your financial capabilities and of course the countries where you are active, or want to expand to.

There are nowadays companies who can fully fulfil every aspect of your cross border e-commerce activities,

Having said that, I have described per e-commerce channel, my view at localisation versus /decentralisation and how I think it is most effective.
To make it easy I introduce here the Alex -localisation-centralisation -*- meter!

Stars and Alex a good combination

SEA (search engine advertising)
Search engine advertising, can be centralised, there are nowadays some really good global search engine agency's who really can help you with your international sea strategy and execution. Since a large part of SEA (like advertising description, product insertion, stock information) can be automated if you have a good product feed and ICT landscape it is easy to optimise via a central agency. 

In terms of localisation/centralisation, I give this activity * localisation star and ***** centralisation stars.

SEO (search engine optimization)
There are two important aspects in SEO, technical SEO and content SEO.
Technical SEO is best to centralise. The reason is, that almost all search engines in the world, more or less require the same technical adjustments and often companies have one generic website system.

In terms of localisation/centralisation, I give this activity * localisation star and ***** centralisation stars.

Content SEO is a different story. Of course there are also agency's who say that they can deliver content SEO per country, but sometimes they just translate texts that in other countries might have important keywords, but in the country aimed at, might not so important. Besides that content SEO is also often, to be ahead of trends, to produce content that will be important in a few months time. Often this knowledge is only known by real local people, not by just translating.
Then there is of course the -not completely undisputed- linkbuilding activity where people pay others to get a link.
I personally am not so much in favour of this activity, I see more value in creating real valuable interactive content, that will be highly shared and linked to.
But if you do this paid linkbuilding activity, it is best done by locals.

In terms of localisation/centralisation, I give this activity *** localisation stars and **centralisation stars.

Social Media Advertising
Social Media Advertising, is just like SEA pretty  easy to centralise, however the trend is more and more to adjust your advertisement to organic social behaviour or into geotargeting at for example local events. This makes social media advertising in my opinion still centralisable, but just a little bit less then SEA. Localisation/Centralisation **/***

In terms of localisation/centralisation, I give this activity ** localisation stars and *** centralisation stars.

Social Media Content production
The organic social media results, so the general posts we make, can in my opinion best be done as a hub and spoke model. Centralised but with local flavours. Social media needs to be authentic and there are many local interests that differ per country or even per region. It is advisable to centralise the social media tooling (including social media reporting tools), but to keep local access for local posts and local influencers.
Many cases are known where international companies use local influencers in their local social media strategy.

In terms of localisation/centralisation, I give this activity **** localisations star and *** centralisation stars.

Website Optimization
If one of your company's main activities is selling via your website, it is best to centralise all technical issues but when acquiring these tools or building these technical adjustments, keep in mind what local offices or agency's can do at your website.
Think about for example:

  • Local access for A/B testing purposes, locals know much better how their customer group or target group is behaving and what their interests are.
  • Local CMS access for writing content, in order to have more valuable content, faster. 
  • Local access for SEO purposes (adjusting product titles/meta description)
  • Local access but with guidelines for image uploading
  • Local payment methods
  • Local checkout flows 
  • Etc.

Optimising a website for the highest conversion and traffic possible, always involves local knowledge.

Also take in mind, that your template must be flexible. Many global company's have different templates for the different regions they service.
This is of course related to culture and user behaviour. You can still be one brand, even if you have different layouts in different country's or regions. Read more about that here.
I will write more about website localisation in a future post, someday :)

In terms of localisation/centralisation, I give this activity **** localisation stars and ** centralisation stars.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Wouldn't it be nice...

Wouldn't it be nice if:
  • Booking.com used the data of my hotel reviews, informing hotel owners of future bookings I make, with things I find important? If they know from previous reviews, I find WiFi very important, give me a room next to a router. If a person don't like children that makes noise, give him a room far from family rooms (or the other way around). 
  • I received local commercials in my own language, at spotify? I was walking in a town, abroad, while listening to my spotify playlist. But I kept on receiving Portugese commercials. It would be so much more effective, if I could receive local commercials in my own (or in the English) language. "take part in this boat excursion, say the promotion code "spotify" in our shop, here in Albufeira and receive 10% off"
  • I could just shake my phone (or press a button), and receive discount coupons of retailers near me. It is already possible in China (alipay), I have not yet seen it in Europe.
  • If I receive from NS (Dutch Railways) advice or discounts for routes I regularly take? I use this OV chipcart, but I never have any advantage of it in a personal way.
  • If my local garden supplier, used the IoT to prevent problems from occuring? If my IoT device signals bad weather, or signals that my plants need furtulizer, tell me! Prevent problems from occuring and the customer experience will be so much more positive.
  • If , like yesterday, I arrived at a totally deserted "bus station" in a city I do not know, that Google will auto suggest, to get me an Uber to get to my hotel destination? That I only have to press "yes"
  • If cities, see the commercial benefits of offering wifi throughout the city, it will help retailers, and improve visitors experience.
  • If I do not have to signup for loyalty programs with airlines, but that they just recognize me because I always book a plane ticket with the same email adress. Give me an account and auto loyalty me and surprise me. 
  • My Samsonite suitcase, has a small (very light) motor, and some chip that follows my cell phone. In that case, I do no longer have to carry or pull my suitcase while traveling, it just follows me. Much easier.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Responsive organisation and Digital Transformation

I have a few days off, so time to catch up again, lot's of reading to do.

In two weeks time, I am invited for the mediapost email insider summit in Portugal! Seems like a great event and I will for sure post some interesting insights at this blog during this event. I hope to learn more about customer centricity and CRM there!

But today something about organisations and especially the future of them. Take a look at this article
The Future of Organisations is Responsive

I think so true, the new branding is not anymore about a nice video, and some ATL branding campaigns and a nice logo. It is about being relevant, about reconnecting with your customer, being able to adapt quickly, solving problems for customers with the help of digital tooling. To be able to do so, as an organisation it is essential to optimise for uncertainty instead of certainty.

Many traditional organisations keep on thinking from a traditional point of view. They do not dare to think out of the box, they keep on falling back in their traditional way of thinking.
For every campaign, promotion or system change they mostly start thinking from their original values.
They stay too close to their -in many cases- successful businessmodel that worked for decades. But the times have changed.

A few weeks ago, I was attending a conference organised by shopping tomorrow. It was a very interesting and well organised event. One of the speakers, talked about OAD, a former Dutch traditional travel agency. One of those old school travel agency's, that organised (bus) trips across Europe,
OAD was known by everybody and you could book their tours through travel agency's. Travel agency's? Yes, those shops, with many holiday pictures of happy families at a beach that smiled towards you from the shopping window.

If you entered such a shop, you were always given a printed catalogue, with pictures of beaches you never saw when you were actually in this resort. If a new catalogue came out, the winter or autumn catalogue for example, you had to be quick to get the best offers.

Oad did not make it into the digital age.

The speaker at the shopping tomorrow conference, worked at OAD for a long time and gave us the following learnings:

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