Monthly Archives: August 2014

20Aug

David Bell and CMOs on retail and e-tail marketing

The interaction was on the latest trends in retail and e-tail marketing. Prof Bell discussed some interesting case studies and findings from his research

David Bell and CMOs on retail and e-tail marketing

SocioSquare (part of AKG Technologies), a Mumbai-based Social Media marketing company organised an interactive session for CMOs with Prof David Bell, Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania) in Mumbai recently. Prof Bell is also an angel investor in SocioSquare and previous angel investments included Diapers.com, which was acquired by Amazon. The interaction was on the latest trends in retail and e-tail marketing. Prof Bell discussed some interesting case studies and findings from his research.

Senior Industry Professionals present for the sessions were Vivek Biyani and Sandip Tarkas (Future Group), Nishant Nayak (eGitanjali), Ashish Mehra (Mahindra Holidays), Sheetal Choksi (TRRAIN – Trust for Retailers and Retail Associates of India), Mukesh Jagwani (TOPPS), Damodar Mall (Reliance Retail), Deepak Jayaram (Group M) and Ms Nearose Suares (Vodafone).

The excited Gaurav Mendiratta, Founder & CEO, SocioSquare said, “The conclave was a great opportunity not only to learn from Prof. Bell’s research but also a great platform for attendees to ask questions based on their experiences in India. I believe the questions which came up were all real problems retailers face here and Prof. Bell did a stupendous job addressing each one of them.”

This post had first appeared on Samachar and has been re-published here.

20Aug

Online Retailers Should Aggregate Customers Rather Than Splitting Them: David R Bell

Online retailers should think of clever ways to aggregate customers and deliveries rather than splitting them, David R Bell tells Masoom Gupte

David R Bell
David R Bell

In your article ‘What matters most in online retail’, you have said, “For internet retailers, the best market opportunities are with customers in locations where offline retail shopping is limited and costs (including sales tax) are high.” But isn’t there an immediate concern about distribution costs as the reach goes deeper in the country. How can online retailers deal with this dichotomy?

This audience (where offline is not as well developed) is the most receptive to e-commerce considering our need for e-commerce is lesser in Mumbai where you can go down to the Phoenix Mills mall, right? Even in other countries like China, this observation holds true that growth and demand for online retail comes from Tier-II and Tier-III cities. What needs to be figured out on the supply side is how you can deliver profitably into these cities, whether it is by charging for shipment or having different price points or simply choosing wisely what services can be given away free.

Consumers like to touch and feel the products they are buying. In one of your papers you’ve called this an ‘experience attribute’ and that uncertainty about it decreases the frequency of purchase or dollars spent. How can online retailers change this consumer mindset?

When Jeff Bezos started Amazon, the number one category that was selling in catalogues in 1994 was apparel. Instead he went to the 25th popular category in catalogues – books. He realised that books are the easiest to sell online as there are no surprises there.

There are three things that e-commerce players can do to address this experience attribute concern. One, they can remove this uncertainty by providing free two-way shipping. So if you want to buy a pair of shoes and want to know which size fits, let the consumer order three pairs and return the ones that don’t fit.

Two, use technological solutions. For instance, a consumer could upload a simile of her body and the clothes can be tried on this model. There should be some feedback on that basis as well to make the purchase choice easier. Three, have some offline footprint. Many US companies like Warby Parker and Bonobos that started as pure play online companies have partnered with retailers or got a section in a store focusing on their products.

You spoke of brands that started off as pure online players but who went offline, even if in a limited way. The corollary to that is offline players increasingly making an online play. Is it then less about an online-plus-offline presence, and more about offering an omni-channel retail experience?

Absolutely. In a few years time, people will see shopping as one seamless experience. There will not be this distinction between online and offline. While offline gives a sense of legitimacy to the business, online gives much broader access to customers. Both mediums have their strengths and weaknesses. Pure online players are going to realise that some offline presence is critical for their growth and offline guys will realise that there is a lot of untapped opportunity available online.

In the current retail environment though, offline trade is worried about showrooming (where consumers check products in stores but buy online for cheaper prices) as a growing trend. How real is the problem?

Showrooming is proving to be a tremendous problem in certain categories like consumer electronics. People go to shops that are known for their expertise, spend about half an hour getting a lowdown on which stereo to buy and then probably log on to cheapstereos.com and make the purchase. This is a nightmare for offline trade which provides a service in the market that someone just free rides and takes away. That’s why we’ve probably seen Circuit City go bankrupt, Best Buy is under tremendous pressure. I don’t think the problem has been figured out completely yet. But, people are thinking about using the store’s real estate creatively. There has been one move in the US. It’s called BOPS: Buy online, pick up in store. It is a little way in which retailers are fighting back. Such innovations are being experimented with.

When you look at online retail in developed markets and observe the space in the Indian market, are there innovations in terms of service or business model that stands out?

Provide insurance for the transaction and clean up the payment process. Next, minimise the two-way distribution, particularly in crowded cities. One of the innovations which we are seeing in the US is pertaining to the last mile distribution. Therefore, you see that all the deliveries in a particular area are sent to the local CVS Pharmacy (the largest pharmacy chain in the US) outlet that is open 24 hours, instead of individual deliveries being made. Think of clever ways to aggregate customers and deliveries rather than splitting them.

Is online retail unsuitable for products with higher price points?

I saw a presentation in February 2012 by the CEO of modaoperandi.com. She said that when the internet first started people thought it was about three things: standardisation, speed and low price. But, she said, it is exactly the opposite: really slow, really expensive and everything I sell is really exclusive. So she was selling $60,000 handbags, $10,000 dresses and taking four months to deliver them.

She recognised that even the fashion market at that very high end is broken. For example, when a fashion designer showcases his work, out of the 10 dresses displayed, the top two sell but the other eight don’t. But there may customers in another country who would probably have bought one of those eight dresses. Modaoperandi.com wanted to fix this ecosystem.

She said the internet is ultimately about access or experience, and not about standardisation, speed and prices.

The e-marketeer

* David Bell teaches marketing management in the Wharton MBA and MBA for Executives Programmes and empirical modelling in the PhD programme. He also teaches an elective course in digital marketing and e-commerce on both the Wharton, Philadelphia and Wharton, San Francisco campuses

* He specialises in the study of consumer shopping behaviour and his interest areas in research cover digital marketing, e-commerce and retail. Bell’s research has been published in several academic marketing journals. Till date he has published over 37 papers, such as What Matters Most in Internet Retailing (MIT Sloan Management Review), From Point-of-Purchase to Path-to-Purchase: How PreShopping Factors Drive Unplanned Buying, (Journal of Marketing) etc.

* Outside his academic career, Bell has advised and invested in e-commerce start-ups such as Bonobos.com, Diapers.com (which later got acquired by Amazon) and WarbyParker.com. He has even invested in an Indian social media marketing agency called, SocioSquare.

This post had first appeared on Business Standard and has been re-published here.

20Aug

I Saw An Opportunity In Social Media Marketing: Gaurav Mendiratta, Founder, SocioSquare

“I saw opportunity in social media marketing rather than in creating content people are still not ready to pay for.” – Gaurav Mendiratta, Founder, SocioSquare

SocioSquare is a social media marketing firm founded two years ago by Gaurav Mendiratta, the entrepreneur famous for his earlier creation NyooTV, a social Bollywood entertainment portal which offered paid content in 2009. Mendiratta started NyooTV in Philadelphia, US, while working with American entertainment firm Comcast.

While NyooTV was still in the beta stage, Mendiratta felt the need to capitalise on his social marketing skills and shifted focus to SocioSquare in 2011. The company focuses on social media marketing products and services about 20 clients, including the Zee Group, the Times Group and The Mobile Store. SocioSquare host of services include social media optimisation, search engine optimisation, Twitter advertising, Web site development, customised social media tool creation, Web and social app development, digital media planning and buying, and email marketing. It has developed two products that solve common problems for brand marketers in the realm of social advertising and social content creation.

“I saw opportunity in social media marketing rather than just creating content for which people were still not ready to pay for,” says Mendiratta, who started SocioSquare in India. In the last two years the company has raised two rounds of angel funding and is present in Mumbai, where it is headquartered, San Francisco and Delhi. The plan is to enter more cities in the US and the Asia-Pacific in six months. Menditratta joined Comcast after a Masters in Telecom and Computer Networks from the University of Pennsylvania.

MOONLIGHTING

“I loved my job but always wanted to do something of my own. Ever since graduating, I kept meeting my thesis advisor and mentor Kartik Hosanagar every three to six months to brainstorm new ideas with him. Kartik is an advisor, investor and a director with the company,” Mendiratta said.

On his entrepreneurial journey, Mendiratta said that the initial days were full of struggle. He had started NyooTV in Philadelphia and recruited two developers in his home town Bhopal.

“I rented a 300-sq-ft room. During the day, I used to work with Comcast and at night I worked with my developers in India. It was a painful eight months till I raised the first angel round of $250,000 in September 2009. I quit my full-time job and moved to India in March 2010. When we pivoted to SocioSquare in 2011, we were a team of 10 people, which has now grown to 35,” he said.

Gaurav Mendiratta, Founder, SocioSquare 

NEXT STAGE

However, switching from NyooTV.com to SocioSquare was a difficult and painful task as Mendiratta had to let go of several team members, who had been there from the beginning, as the company was unable to pay their salaries. But the switch was required for the company’s sustenance as NyooTV was not generating revenues. The Indian market had not evolved to the extent then where people would pay for content.

SocioSquare, which is a profitable company now, now wants to transform into a SaaS (software as a service) company and develop product that will help clients do real-time online advertising bidding. It is launching two products in the next three months, in Asia Pacific and the US. The company is targeting revenue of $5 million by December 2014.

Mendiratta feels that the Indian start-up ecosystem has come a long way since he first started. India is a very different market than the US. In the US, you can still raise angel funding on a great idea or a demo product, you can raise venture capital funding if you show a great product and early customers, but in India a solid revenue stream is a must or at least a few paying customers are required to a raise even angel money, he says.

Advising young start-ups, he said that they should invest in good talent no matter what cost that comes at. Besides, a revenue stream which can get going within the first six months of launch is critical as it will help pay 70 per cent of the total cost.

This post had first appeared on The Hindu Business Line and has been re-published here.

 

20Aug

Sparkling relationships

I often find myself ‘ERR’ in my relationships, where ERR stands for Enduring, Repairing or Resigning. I created this acronym to decide the ideal path I should take. I am sure knowingly or unknowingly we all have used one or a couple of these strategies in our relationships, and I am pretty sure that resigning from a relationship is the least chosen. But is it often the best solution?

Gaurav Mendiratta Founder & CEO, SocioSquare

I wonder if the other principles of life apply to relationships as well — theories that claim that success comes to only those who work hard and are patient. I fail to find an example of a relationship where we put in hard work and it blossoms. Be it a relationship between co-workers, couples or friends, do you believe hard work or patience or intelligent work can make it a sparkling one?

With couples, men often create situations, where their partners end up resigning or giving up, but here I found myself in a situation where I resigned from a six-year-long relationship. It wasn’t like I had not endured or tried to repair the relationship and I am sure my partner tried the same innumerable times, but the real question is when do you call it quits or resign. While I still fail is to answer a simple question, did I endure for a bit too long or did I resign early?

Even if we look at work relationships or people in our team(s), I am sure we can’t like everyone and it becomes really tricky when we are not on great terms with a senior colleague. Not everyone can be as smart as Dr Gregory House from the popular TV series, that he/she can make his boss miserable and can still survive every work-day. The question again arises: how long do you endure or try to repair, and when you call it quits?

When I’m stuck in such dilemmas, I often admire the West. Yes, they have a high divorce rate and they may seem self-centered, but they don’t see everything as right or wrong. It’s all about perspective for them, which is what I love!

Coming back to our question — should you endure till both parties become miserable and one party gives up? This would make sense if it was a competition, but it hardly ever is. It could be the case with a couple or colleagues at work or between the boss and employee, but unless you are competing for something why endure? Why try to repair? Why not resign and quit early, and cause less pain to everyone?

As Gandhiji once said, the only devils in the world are those running around in our hearts. It is much easier and pain-free to control our own devils, be the bigger person and build sparkling relationships or get out of them in good time.

This article had first appeared on Impactonnet and has been reproduced here.

20Aug

DECODING FACEBOOK ADVERTISING FOR BRAND MANAGERS

Facebook revolutionized the social marketing space with the ‘Like’ button back in 2011. Till date over a million advertisers all over the world have run campaigns to get more ‘Likes’ on their posts or pages. In India itself, there are over 200 brand pages with a million likes each and over 500 pages with over 100,000 likes each.

Most brands, if not all, have run Facebook advertising campaigns to reach these fans. Going beyond the Likes, thousands of marketers across the world run ad campaigns on Facebook targeting people by their interests, demography and psychographics to bring them to their websites and applications.

The ‘Push’ & ‘Pull’ of Online Advertising

In some ways, online advertising gives us a unique opportunity to try both the ‘Push’ & ‘Pull’ approach in advertising, Search advertising gives a cool way to reach consumers who are looking for things you sell, which can fall under the ‘Pull’ approach. While display advertising, i.e. the banner ads we see fall under the ‘Push’ Approach.

Even though Facebook or social advertising is display advertising, it does a brilliant job simulating the ‘Pull’ Approach or comes close to it. Some marketers even believe that interest based targeting is arguably equal if not better than re-marketing or contextual targeting.

Facebook’s Self-Serve and Premium Ad Inventory

As most Brand managers know, Facebook offers both self-serve and premium advertising inventory. The Premium inventory is accessible through a few partners or directly through Facebook ad sales team and is mostly CPM driven. On the other hand, self-serve inventory allows anyone to create an ad on Facebook and pay by your credit card.

In October 2013, Facebook revamped their self-serve advertising and they now offer 8 different types of advertising. It all starts with a simple question… What is your advertising Objective?

The objective could be simply getting more likes or getting clicks to your website. They could be more complex like getting conversions or getting App installs, in these cases Facebook requires you to have the tracking pixel installed on your site or have the app made on Facebook. All details on the different ad types can be found in this article.

Types of Facebook Self-Serve Ads

The most popular and effective type of Facebook ads is the sponsored story. They either show up on the right side of your feed with just a friend’s name and brand DP or they show up in your news feed with a friend suggesting it to you.

The second most seen type of Facebook ads is what I like to call “FB Stamp Ads”. These ads have a small thumbnail along with limited text and they show up in the right hand side of your feed.

Mobile App install ads and Link Post ads are also supported in different sizes. Recently, a new feature called ‘Boost Posts’ was introduced which allows users to promote the posts directly from the page and this type of ad is now the most commonly used ad type on Facebook.

Few months back, Facebook started retargeting through FBX, I will discuss this in a separate article.

Talking about business models for self serve ads, Facebook like most other publishers supports CPC & CPM models. They also support CPA models for Mobile App installs (referred to as Cost per install) or Cost per like bidding for fan pages through Power Editor or API Partners. Facebook has introduced a new business model called OCPM i.e. Optimized CPM, where your ad is shown to people who are more likely to like your page/download your app.

To sum it all up, Facebook advertising can be very effective or not so much, depending on the type of your business/product, but regardless of what business you are in or the product you are selling, Facebook does allow you to reach your audience through its various advertising options.

This article had first appeared on Social Samosa and has been reproduced here.

20Aug

FACEBOOK’S NEW AD STRUCTURE DECODED

Facebook has released a major change in its Advertising Campaign structure that apparently will ease the job of advertisers and help them to organize their ads better. This update will also impact tools like adSpringr that help in optimization of Facebook advertising.

Let us discuss what this update is and how it will impact the advertisers:

Structural update
Earlier, Facebook advertising had a two level structure. This has been changed to a three level structure now.

Old Facebook Ad Structure

Campaign

• contained one or more ads.

• You could control the budget and schedule for each campaign.

• You could activate or pause a campaign and it would be applicable to all ads under it.

Ads

• You could define creative, audience and bidding for each ad.

• You could create multiple ads so Facebook could optimize the creative.

• You could activate or pause an ad.

New Facebook Ad Structure

A new level called ‘Ad Set’ has been added between Campaign and Ads. Let us try to understand the new levels.

Campaign

According to the new structure, the campaign level has been made more powerful.

• You can setup a campaign according to your marketing objective (clicks to website, page likes etc.)

• You can get reporting on aggregate stats for multiple ad sets and ads.

• You can turn on or off campaigns and it will apply to all ad sets and ads.

Ad Sets

Ad Sets will have same functionality that Campaign had earlier.

• An Ad Set can contain one or more ads.

• You can control the budget and schedule for each Ad Set.

• You can turn on or off the ad sets and it will apply to all ads under the ad set.

Ads

Ads will function the same way they did earlier

How Does the New Structure Benefit You?

According to Facebook, the new structure has 3 main benefits for advertisers

1.Organize your campaigns into objectives

You will now be able to set an objective (eg. Clicks to website, page likes, app installs etc.) for a campaign. you will also be able to group the ads that target the same audience into ad sets. The ad sets will be used to schedule budgets for each or the audience segments.

2.Optimize audiences

It will become easy for you to compare the performance of audiences in the same campaign. Additionally, you will be able to compare the performance of multiple ads. You will be able to schedule and set the budget at the Ad Set level. You will also be able to control ON/OFF controls at any of the three levels to control delivery.

3.Measure performance with aggregate stats

Now, you can get reports of how your ad has performed including total reach, for all the three levels. You will also be able to use the ads reporting tool to breakdown ad performance according to different parameters like demographics, geography and placement. This will further help you to optimize audiences.

How Will this Change Affect Your Existing Ads?

This change will not affect the delivery, spend or performance of the ads in your current campaigns. The only change that will be seen would be that a default ad set would be created within your old campaigns and it would contain all the ads under that campaign.

How do you think Facebook’s new Ad structure will affect you? Do you think it is going to be having a great impact on your advertising? Or do you think it is merely a cosmetic change? Tell us in comments below.

This post had first appeared on Adspringr and has been re-published here.

13Aug

How To Generate 44X Higher CTR and 5X Conversions from Facebook Ads Without FBX

Facebook Advertising has evolved a lot in the last 2 years and today interest based targeting is just one of the many features it offers. Facebook Exchange (FBX) which is the cookie based remarketing platform of Facebook, was touted to deliver 44x higher CTR & 5x conversion rate in a few reports last year.

This was compared to Facebook’s interest based targeting, but FBX is only available through third party partners and mostly works on CPM based pricing only.

Earlier this year Facebook rolled out Website Custom audiences, which essentially means that you can now target any visitors or customers coming to your website through Facebook ads tool or any Facebook ads api tools like AdSpringr.

It does not matter if the visitor logs in or not, or what page they visit, once you integrate Facebook’s pixel (i.e. a piece of code similar to Google analytics code, available through Facebook Ad’s tool) Facebook starts tracking who is visiting your website and starts creating a custom audience list for you which can be selected to target in your ads.

This feature, in addition to Custom audiences, where you can upload your lists of subscriber phone numbers or email addresses (specifically people who read your emails), along with an effective mix of targeting fans can deliver the same ROI as FBX.

One might ask, doesn’t this compete with FBX? In some ways it does, but the way Facebook explains it is that both services are complementary – “For advertisers who have a large number of products and advertise to multiple audiences, FBX is the better solution.

For businesses that don’t typically work with third parties, website and mobile app Custom Audiences will allow them to show ads to people who have been to their site or mobile app and still utilize Facebook’s targeting abilities.” More information can be found here.

Website Custom Audiences offer lot of flexibility in terms of targeting people who visited specific pages, when they visited the site (1-180 days) etc. You can make the audience targeting as complicated as you want by using and/or statements or keep it simple like we do by two different things:

• General Audience who visited any page on your website.
• Audience that visited a specific “thank you” page.

I believe today Facebook offers the most powerful targeting available today. With Website custom audiences you can drive more traffic, get more relevant fans and above all increase your sales.

This post had earlier appeared on Social Samosa and has been re-published here.

12Aug

Understanding the Real Value of ‘Quality’ Facebook Likes

Facebook Page Likes has been questioned not just in legitimacy but in value as well. Although Facebook Fans/Likes have been popular for almost 3 years now, but not everyone understands how they can attract Likes which provide ‘Real’ value. Recently a Youtube video claiming that most of the Facebook Likes are Fraud became viral.

I will not attempt to counter this video, as many experts have already done that and one such great response can be found here. The point here is to understand how to attract ‘Quality Likes’. Almost every digital marketer today understands ‘Real’ Facebook Likes are gained by running Facebook ads. Some also understand that the cost per click and hence the cost per like can vary hugely depending on interest/demographic targeting (between 1 Rs/Like to 50 Rs/Like or more).

However, Facebook advertising has evolved way beyond interest based targeting, making it easier for brand marketers to acquire ‘Quality Likes’. An important question here is that what is the difference between ‘Quality Likes’ and ‘Real Likes’ and for that it is important to understand why people Like a Brand on Facebook. Below is my version of characterization:

1) The Loyalists:
These are the rarest of all. Unless you are Apple or a brand who people love or an ‘A’ Grade Actor, it is hard to get loyalists. You don’t need to find them on Facebook, they will find YOU. These fans are the ones who will fight for your brand and promote your brand from their rooftops! Typically this audience would be in a single digit percentage or less, in your Facebook fan base.

2) The Enthusiasts:
This category is biggest of all. These are people who get excited by a cool post or when they see a friend liking/commenting on a nice brand page/post. They might be interested in offers or just information coming from your brand. They typically like a lot of pages, but way less than my third category i.e. The contest geeks!

3) The Contest geeks:
These are scouters of Social networks and they only scout for FREE stuff or contests, sometimes just for the fun of it. This audience is following your brand and 100′s of other brands only to participate in contests and win! They don’t expect to win a car or a gold watch, but get pleased by vouchers of popular e-commerce portals or movie tickets or an occasional contest to win a tablet! This audience is also in single digit percentages but they are active and more visible than 1 & 2, hence might feel like a much higher percentage of your Likes.

4) The Customers:
These are the people who have actually bought a product from you or experienced your service. These are the ones who have “Liked” your page because they really liked your product/brand/service. These are the ones who will recommend your products/services to their friends when they get an opportunity. They might also want to win an occasional voucher or get a special discount… remember everyone likes a special treatment! Depending on how you have build your fan base on Facebook, this audience can be 0 to 90% + of your fan base.

With this characterization and my experience, Quality Likes are a mix of audience 1, 4 and ‘Look Alike’ of this audience. The next big question arises is that how can you find audiences 1, 4 and their lookalikes on Facebook? You can easily find your customers on Facebook through custom audiences and website custom audiences.

Once you have this audience following you on Facebook, then there is a very high probability that you will see HUGE ROI from your Facebook page and more! Don’t forget to share your feedback on Facebook Likes and if you find value in it.

This post had first appeared on Social Samosa and has been re-published here.

© Copyright 2014, All Rights Reserved