Daniel Townsend

Webinar: eCommerce Strategy 2015 Tune-Up

It’s officially a new year and Plum Tree has partnered with Jirafe to help you start your year off right. We’re offering a free commerce strategy tune up session to help you make the most of 2015.

Want to be a part of this free opportunity? To sign up, fill out our assessment survey here. We will then contact you if you’re selected. All participants must agree to take part in a live webinar to review the results of their strategy session.

What You Will Get:

    • Free 3 Month Trial of Jirafe
    • Turn-Key Implementation Support (up to 5 hours)
    • Advisory Session with Plum Tree based on current business and insights from Jirafe
    • Free Follow-Up Session with both Plum Tree and Jirafe

Participants will be selected by January 31st. Sign up Today!


More about Jirafe:

Jirafe helps brands unlock the hidden revenue in their data, and sell more products their customers love! Jirafe helps merchants keep up with changing customer demands, and ensure loyalty, by giving retailers a combination of analytics-based reporting and business intelligence that can integrate online and POS data as well as cross-channel marketing data.




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Five Things Missing From Your 2015 Marketing Strategy

It may be the end of 2014 – but the work for 2015 has been long underway. After weeks of brainstorming, meetings with your leadership, and the curation of ideas and advice, you’re sure to be burnt out.

Before you nail the plan to walk, we recommend you take a fresh look at what could be missing.

  1. A Focus on Mobile

I know, I know – you’re tired of hearing about how important mobile is to consumers. You get it! Yet, mobile consistently remains absent from most yearly strategies. Most businesses see mobile as a channel or medium that’s a standard function instead of a human-centric user experience. Year after year, as number of people who own and use mobile devices continues to increase, it is vital that business reevaluate their mobile efforts.

Your business’ mobile experience doesn’t live in a silo. Thus, it is important to think about mobile as it relates to your customer’s journey. Is mobile simply the first touch-point on a more complex customer journey? Will a mobile friendly site be enough? Or does your business and customer require a more robust app?

  1. User Generated Content

User generated content (UGC) already takes a special role in your business whether you know it or not. In 2015, it’s time to focus on curating and encouraging it. Whether the focus is reviews, communal blog posts, engagement via social media, or igniting a Reddit community, now is the time to pay attention. Consumers consider UGC 20% more influential and 35% more memorable than branded messages. They also are 50% more likely to find UGC trustworthy as opposed to branded advertising.

  1. Storytelling

They say content is king, but content without a compelling story isn’t going to breakthrough to consumers. Take a look at your content strategy and identify how you’re telling your company’s story. Industry leaders say that content marketing is becoming overhyped – but we believe that’s because it’s rare to find an organization that does it well.

Find what’s interesting about your organization and start there. Build an entire campaign around an interesting idea, theme, or concept and you’ll have a compelling story that consumers relate to in no time.

  1. New Pricing Strategy

Most eCommerce businesses never run a test on their pricing. While it’s a safe assumption that most customers always choose the lowest price, it’s simply an assumption. Studies have shown in certain merchandising situations consumers are more likely to choose a higher priced item.

Throughout 2015 run a few pricing tests: remove the dollar sign, feature products that end with 9, create decoy bundles, and place price anchors on landing pages.


  1. Holiday Planning

The 2014 holiday season isn’t over yet, but it’s never too early to put some attention on next year. This year Black Friday / Cyber Monday mobile sales were up 28% this year. Not only does this make a bigger case for #1 of this list, but it also further shows consumers have even more options. Outline your holiday strategy now and tailor it throughout the year so your store has the infrastructure to stand out.

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Social Media Trends Set To Dominate 2015

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2014 Holiday Shopping Trends Suggest Mobile Focus

Every year there’s a flurry of post-mortem analyses on the shopping that occurred on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc. For example, did you know that in 2014, only 55% of ‘holiday shoppers’ visited retail stores, compared to 58% in 2013? And that the average shopper in 2014 spent $380 over the holiday weekend, compared to $407 in 2013? At the same time, the total online eCommerce revenue over the holiday weekend was higher in 2014 than in 2013, though many shoppers are choosing to shop on Thanksgiving day rather than Black Friday or even Cyber Monday.
It’s difficult to make any sense out of stuff like this. The average eCommerce merchant might look at data like this and conclude to start next year’s sale earlier than Black Friday, since more users are shopping earlier than that, but that could hardly be called an insight or a significant change.
Through all of the noise, we did see one stat that seemed to jump out: “Black Friday mobile sales accounted for 27.9 percent of total online sales, up 28.2 percent over 2013.”
That’s a monstrous jump (two more years at the same rate would mean that mobile sales would have doubled), particularly for a platform that often goes neglected. Most eCommerce retailers provide a mobile experience that closely mirrors their desktop website – and that’s a critical mistake. With that in mind, let’s go through a quick exercise that will improve your site’s mobile experience:
Consider Mobile Use Cases: Have you ever tried to navigate a desktop site on your mobile device? Trying to drill down through a desktop category structure to find a product is a nightmare on a phone – so why is it that when most merchants make a mobile version of their site, they preserve their category structure and slap a “mobile-friendly” design on top of it?
Instead, consider what a user might actually want to see when they navigate to your site on a mobile device: Super sale items, new product lines, gift ideas, holiday specials – present alternative methods of navigating your product catalog that show appealing product fast. If a user is logged into your site from an account they’ve created in the past, you could also show them products and categories they’ve looked at on the desktop site. 
Additionally, there are a ton of use cases that are far more pertinent on mobile than desktop: Do you have a retail store? A wedding or gift registry? A strong promotion you’re advertising outside of the website? These are all user needs that are more likely to be important on mobile than desktop, so make sure your architecture and design are set up to accommodate mobile users. Don’t let your mobile site be a weak redesign of your desktop site.
Optimize for Mobile Checkout: Have you ever tried to enter your credit card on your mobile device? Most mobile sites turn a relatively simple transaction into a nightmare of small boxes, bad mobile keyboard design, and multiple pages and checkboxes. Make sure your mobile checkout:
  • Offers users quick alternative checkout options that they may already be logged into (e.g. Venmo, Paypal)
  • Uses as few pages as possible
  • Collects the bare minimum level of information needed to complete the transaction
  • Moves users through large forms and icons in an intuitive way (try to check out from your own site and see how it goes)
  • Allows users to check out quickly (require only CVV entry, for example) if they already have an account in your store
We find that most eCommerce merchants don’t pay enough attention to the usability of their mobile site. With mobile sitting at some 28% of total online sales, and growing at a rate of 28%, eCommerce merchants can no longer afford to ignore their mobile experience. 


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A Guide to Developing a Testing Strategy (Part 1)

Web testing is a difficult topic to discuss primarily because very few people know what it is or what it should accomplish. For our purposes, let’s define it as an agnostic approach to implementing changes. Put another way, testing is a method of generating and validating ideas.
This is nothing new to the world of science and engineering. In fact, testing comprises the entire practice of these disciplines. So, to avoid defining a wheel (a sort of circular, smooth object supported on the inside? carries weight somehow; balances . . . let’s save this for a part 2), let’s look at the steps of the “scientific method” – the same one we all learned about in 4th grade:
  • Ask a Question
  • Do Background Research
  • Construct a Hypothesis
  • Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
  • Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
  • Communicate Your Results
This is a bone-crushingly simple and effective testing strategy that will work for any site. Let’s work through this as a short exercise, say, for example with a landing page that isn’t converting.
Our testing subject: A landing page that isn’t converting.
Ask a question: 
Why isn’t the landing page converting?
Do background research: 
A simple Google search here will bring us to thousands of people yapping about improving conversion rates on landing pages. Here’s where we need to be careful – this is an idea-gathering phase. Try not to be overly focused while doing this – the ideas might be too big or too small. I found some general themes about non-converting landing pages:
The landing page is too busy, i.e. too many links or too much content
The landing page doesn’t focus on its conversion
Your lead capture form is too intense
Your headlines/value propositions/imagery/etc. are bad
Construct a hypothesis: 
Now you would look at your very own stinker of a landing page and generate some ideas about why it might not be working. Depending on your research, you might decide on a complete redesign, or you may try to change only a few aspects, e.g. re-doing the lead capture form or updating the headlines.
Your hypothesis will determine the scope of your test. A complete redesign may require design assets, wireframes, imagery, etc., while changing some elements on the page could be accomplished with a tool like Unbounce.
If you decide that your landing page needs a redesign, your ‘hypothesis’ would read something like this: Our landing page isn’t converting because the design is clunky, outdated, and difficult to scan. Our users probably can’t even tell what the page is about.
Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment:
This stage of the testing process is where you can get funky – if you’re scrapping your entire landing page, now’s the time to try some radical design variations you may have had in mind. Feel free to ruthlessly copy other landing pages that look good; figure out what everybody else is doing and think about what you like and don’t like. Try some things that might seem silly or too far – it’s just a test.
Even if you’re doing a complete redesign, you’ll need to use an a/b or multivariate site testing tool. Optimizely, Unbounce, Google Analytics, etc. The particular testing tool will be different depending on what you’re testing – most tools are replaceable by others.
Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion:
This is pretty straightforward – which test variations got the best results? eCommerce and lead gen web properties typically only have one or two goals, so there isn’t much in the way interpretation that you might be doing.
Communicate your results:
If that’s what you really want to do . . .
With all of that said,
Testing works as well for solving basic landing page issues as it does for addressing usability issues, information architecture concerns, and validating high level marketing strategies. These are the same steps and concepts that we use to find out whether Coke would dissolve a tooth if left overnight and other essential medical truths. Testing is a process that we use to answer important questions and hopefully find effective strategies. And when you’re through with all of that, you might even have something they call knowledge.

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Contextual Technologies: Introduction to NFC

While not necessarily new, NFC has become one of the hottest technologies in the digital space and one of our favorites here at the Plum Tree Group. Its simplicity and functionality allows our clients to seamlessly connect their traditional and digital marketing in a meaningful–and trackable!–way.

Without further ado, here is a quick breakdown of what NFC is, why it has suddenly become so relevant, and what it all means for you.

What It Is

NFC, standing for Near Field Communication, is a form of passive technology that connects the real word with the digital world. It requires two things to work: a chip, which can be easily embedded within many forms of traditional marketing (like in-store and out of home signage, mailers, t-shirts, etc.), and a reader (for many this can mean an NFC enabled phone).

The technology works such that when the reader is brought within range, usually within an inch, to the NFC chip, the chip communicates with the reader. Once the two are close enough, the chip can send information, direct the reader to a specific site, or ask it to perform a specific command.

Why It Matters Now

While the technology has been around for some time, it has only recently begun to become popular. This is for a few reasons.

  1. The colossal failure of QR Codes.

Thought to be the future, QR Codes, for a multitude of reasons, never actualized its potential. NFC’s ability to deliver the desired results, without the added steps and required application, ultimately allowed the technology to gather momentum.

  1. Who’s going to carry a reader with them?

This problem was effectively solved for the moment Android began to include NFC technology within each of their phones. Android currently holds a massive share of the smartphone market, 78% as of 2013, which means that an NFC reader was now in the hands of the majority of the smartphone using public.

Apple, one of the last holdouts, also began including NFC technology in the iPhone 6. Which means that nearly all new smartphones on the market include this technology.

NFC1What It Means (& How Can I Use It?)

All of this is to say, it has never been easier to bridge the gap between your in-store or out of home experience and the digital space.

Bridging that gap is as easy creating the traditional media, with the NFC chip embedded, and figuring out what exactly you want the chip to do when it interacts with an NFC reader.

Are you launching a new product and want to send the user to a special microsite to learn more?

Do you have a how-to video that they’d find interesting?

Would you like to send them to the app store to check out your brand new app?

In addition to connecting your digital and traditional assets, NFC also allows you to track the value of your traditional marketing in real time. With this information, it becomes even easier to optimize your future campaigns, so that your users are provided with the content they find most engaging.

Another use of NFC, one you’ve probably already seen in your day-to-day lives, allows users to use the technology (with their card or phone) to pay for their purchase. Many credit cards now include NFC chips that let you tap your card against a reader to pay. This secure payment method continues to simplify the point of sale and expedite the entire process. It is for this reason that the city of Chicago transitioned their entire transit system to NFC, where riders can use both plastic and throwaway cards to pay for their rides.

Next Steps

Interested in exploring NFC and how it can help your traditional and digital marketing efforts? Let’s sit down and talk about this more.

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