IRCE Workshop: Two Approaches to Responsive Web Design: Pure and Hybrid

This is IRCE workshop Two Approaches to Responsive Web Design: Pure and Hybrid, presented by Brendan Falkowski, Founder - Gravity Department. You can find Brendan on Twitter as @Falkowski.

There's a lot of ways to talk about responsive design, but from a frontend aspect, responsive web design is:

  1. Fluid grid
  2. Flexible content
  3. Media queries

You deliver the same HTML to every device, and the CSS customizes the view.

There is some waste with responsive design - it serves desktop-specific bloat to all devices, slowing mobile browsing.

Mobile first is a reaction to this design, but designing for the weakest devices first.

Responsive can be slow - but blame the implementation, not the technique.

Most current responsive sites are rushed, and are underperforming - not due to responsive design, due to implementation.

Adaptive design is any variation in response to the environment - for instance, providing enhancements to store locator by adding a 'find by GPS' button.

Most companies choosing adaptive layout aren't ready to modify their desktop site and are using it as a shortcut vs mobile-first responsive design.

A user's context and goals shouldn't be inferred by their device's characteristics.

M-dot + t-dot sites means you have three codebases - expensive and annoying, discrepancies create a bad user experience. Broad changes incur massive technical debt.

Build a mobile site that's fully responsive, mobile-first, and use it to eventually replace your desktop site.

Dynamic serving inspects the user's device, and returns a different site depending on what platform they're on - serve different CSS, basically.

Responsive Design with Server-Side Components - RESS - blends fundamentals of responsive with some dynamic serving. One RWD site with different component variations being served.

No platforms support component-driven variations today.

RESS is the only bridge between responsive design and delivery optimization.

RESS is good for SEO because Google now executes CSS and JS when crawling sites.

Resizing your browser usually won't trigger RESS variations, so it's hard to tell if someone's using RESS.

RESS survey - 326 people using RWD, only 17 using RESS.

RESS can break caching or CDN technology - so technology hasn’t caught up with RESS yet.

RWD !== Proxy (m-dot) sites !== Dynamic Serving !== RESS. Can't compare apples to apples.

Each RWD strategy has trade-offs.

Google supports 3 approaches for mobile design today: 1) RWD 2) Dynamic Serving 3) Proxy sites (separate URLs for mobile and desktop)

Google's suggestions hit at pitfalls in each approach. Proxy sites force you to compete against yourself. Splits your page-rank.

Incorrect/incomplete proxy/m-dot sites penalize your SEO rank. Only 4.5% of IR 500 gets this right, and it hurts their SEO

Apple’s new hand-off technology to move from phone to tablet to desktop is going to make mobile-specific sites look very bad.

SEO industry wants “desktop SEO” and “mobile SEO” to sell 2X as much work, but search engines don’t like this. Google mobile search prefers responsive design.

People make websites slow, not responsive design. Almost all sites are slow today (RWD or not), and they don’t have to be slow.

You need a frontend gatekeeper to keep your site fast - no matter if it’s responsive design or not.

Brendan showed how fast different sites are, and disproved the 'Magento is slow' and 'Responsive is slow' arguments by showing how 3 of his best-practice-following, fully-responsive Magento-based sites are faster than 99% of the sites on the Internet. The quality of your implementation drives your performance.

IRCE Workshop: Smarter Bidding Boosts an E-Retailer's Returns from a New Google Ad Format

This is IRCE workshop Smarter Bidding Boosts an E-Retailer's Returns from a New Google Ad Format, presented by Tom Novellino, CEO - Metaverse Corp. and Dave Schwartz, General Manager, Product Ads - DataPop This session is about Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs), which are being converted from PLAs to "Google Shopping Campaigns" by August.

PLA's have grown to > 25% of Metaverse's PPC revenue.

Feed quality and the data in your feed to Google really matters for product listing ads.

Make sure you understand what services your paid search agency provides for PLAs - uploading feeds? Bid management? Feed management? Reporting? They should be doing all of those things for you.

PLA Growth opportunities:

  • Optimize your feeds
  • Tie content in feeds to search terms
  • Use your paid search results as your guide
  • Segment your products to manage bids for better ROI
  • Considering segmenting by margin or price
  • Must switch to Google Shopping Campaigns by August, which allow for more granular feeds for bid management
  • Conversion optimization - review bounce rates on traffic vs paid campaigns

Active PLA Management

The feed is your ad experience - so make sure your feeds provide a great experience. For instance, keep your product titles in the feed to less than 25 characters, with product names targeted at search keywords.

Changing your product titles so they fit the format generalized color + brand + category see massive improvements - 239% revenue lift, ROAS increased 107%, CTR increase 16%, clicks increased 81

Most of your competitors are getting Google PLAs/Shopping campaigns wrong, so there’s a lot of opportunity for smart retailers.

New Google Shopping campaigns let you see all of your feed fields in AdWords and it introduces custom labels. You can annotate your feed with 5 additional labels about your product, such as:

  1. Price Range - 0-50, 50-100, 100+
  2. Margin levels - <25%, 25-50%, >50%
  3. Sale product - Yes, No
  4. % Discount - 0%, 10%, 20%, 30%+
  5. Inventory levels - In, Out, Low, Distressed

Some retailers are even pulling social data - items that are being pinned a lot, liked a lot, shared a lot on social platforms - into their custom labels.

What should I do next?

  1. Look at your feed
  2. Find your top sellers
  3. Test some copy variations
  4. Control your account structure

Analyze PLA and SEM data to identify gaps - target high performing SEM queries in PLAs, and identify keyword expansion opportunities.



IRCE Workshop: Rounding up the Whole Story: Google's Search Tweaks

This IRCE workshop is Rounding up the Whole Story: Google's Search Tweaks presented by Jeff MacGurn, Senior Vice President, Earned Media Services - Covario and Seth Dotterer, Vice President, Marketing & Product - Conductor Inc. If you're out of the search marketing world for a year, you're horribly behind - Google made significant high-level changes in 2013.

Panda is a learning algorithm, like no other. It updates on a monthly basis and can affect a page or spread to an entire site.

Google has said that "low quality content on part of a site can impact a site's ranking as a whole".


  • Avoid creating duplicate content page-level and site-wide.
  • Provide high-quality, original content that uses natural language to speak the language of the consumer
  • Monitor high bounce rates and low visit times to eliminate or revise non-essential content or pages
  • Promote high click through rates from Google results by amplifying relevancy - page titles, page snippets, etc.
  • Monitor inbound link quality to critical landing pages and encourage social sharing
  • Build regular visits to Google Webmaster Tools into your SEO Maintenance schedule on a weekly basis - respond quickly to any email notifications from Google
  • Understand that Penguin targets unnatural links - new content and social activity won't trigger a recovery, but it will help to build a completely natural backlink profile.
  • Leverage structured markup to ensure branded resources are optimized for carousels, images, knowledge graph, author or publisher tags
  • Seek out new opportunities to promote ask and answer content in other social venues; Quora and Walfram Alpha
  • Certify YouTube channels are optimized for the brand
  • Implement authorship markup
  • Implement headline, alternativeHeadline, image, description, datePublished and articleBody in your Article markup
  • Create device agnostic content that speaks the language of consumers

A common thread throughout many sessions has been that social sharing and social signals have replaced generic back links as the most important ranking factors.

Don't use your own internal language when defining your SEO strategy and target keywords - speak the language of your customers. i.e., don't target "youth apparel", target "boys clothes" and "girls clothes".

The way retailers organize their marketing team is broken - don't break things out as search marketing team, social marketing team, content marketing team. It's all interrelated and should be one team working towards one goal and one set of metrics.

Brands try to buy their way to online customers, but only 6% of  traffic comes is paid. 65% comes from organic+referral+social. Optimize your organic, referral and social traffic.

Your content has dual identities - great content optimizes for your site and for web discovery.

Many shoppers go to Pinterest and start shopping there first, and then use social signals to determine which of a few products to buy.

Don't look at just SEO, social, content management as separate teams and concepts - bring it all together as web presence management.

Web presence management:

  • Audience - everyone currently targets people at the register; very qualified and likely to purchase. Problem is, everyone's chasing these users.
  • Buyer's journey -  there's much less competition early on. Catch buyers when they're developing interest and information gathering.
  • Market to personas - talk to your potential customers about things they might be interested in. Separate out your potential buyers into separate personas - what audience are they? For instance - foodies, dads who grill, engaged couples, summer homeowners. Worksheet to build your personas:
  • Create a web presence management team, and technical, content, leadership and product stakeholders interact with that team.
  • Engage - don't just put the content on your website; get engaged socially. Be active about going out and pulling visitors into your site.

Next steps: change your organization to break down these silos; change your title - take SEO out of your title.




IRCE Workshop: Growing a Paid Search Program Year after Year

This IRCE workshop is Growing a Paid Search Program Year after Year, presented by Jim O'Brien, Chief Marketing Officer, ThinkGeek and George Michie, Co-Founder & Chief Marketing Scientist - RKG. A personal aside - I'm a huge Thinkgeek fan, and even have a sticker of their mascot, Timmy the monkey, on my laptop, so I'm excited for this session.

Thinkgeek wants to capture demand from everyone who's searching for a geek interest - search is about connecting to people who are already searching for topics related to their products.

Thinkgeek search objectives:

  • Capture demand for anyone searching to related items - they may not even know about Thinkgeek or be looking for a product yet
  • Manage product feed and related campaigns effectively
  • Drive new customer growth via non-brand
  • Bid to set efficiency target and minimize budget caps
  • Continually optimize search tactics in changing landscape

Growing paid search is all about the fundamentals:

  • Optimize ad creatives for CTR and conversion rate
  • Use seller ratings - make sure your Google seller ratings appear on your Google ads
  • Ad text: feature promo, first line punctuation, unique selling proposition. First line punctuation allows them to move part of your first line into the headline when there's room.
  • Grow Google+ Followers and make sure it appears on your Google ads, as it adds legitimacy.

Paid search campaigns should be developing new keywords all the time.

Use your internal product data, such as internal categorization, to set your bids and manage your AdWords campaigns.

Plan your holiday or other peak season pay per click advertising strategy well in advance. Budget by day for peak times.

Plan your holiday/peak season PPC budget and strategy out on a per-day level in advance, then review daily during the season.

Thinkgeek takes an Agile-like approach to PPC during peak times, including daily standups and frequent adjustments.

Don't look at just calendar dates when planning holiday season PPC campaigns - base it on when Black Friday and Cyber Monday falls.

Google Product Listing Ads make up 50%+ of non-brand budget for pay-per-click.

Submit high quality product feeds , including the most relevant attributes such as size, material, intended age range, special features and other specifications. Include details about the item's most visual attributes such as shape, color, etc.

Set rules that tag products with dynamic Adwords labels, and then use labels such as price range, if it's on sale or not, if it has free shipping or not, in your bid strategies.

Use RLSA's to customize your search ads via retargeting.

Geotarget your bids to specific regions - for example, segment on rural vs urban, high income areas, etc.



IRCE Workshop: Boost Conversion without a Social Cast of Thousands

This is the IRCE workshop Boost Conversion without a Social Cast of Thousands, presented by Michael Lee, Senior Vice President, General Manager - Epsilon, Susan Kim, Chief Executive Officer, Plum District and Jai Rawat, Chief Executive Officer, Founder - ShopSocially. Leveraging social media can be challenging, and measuring ROI can be difficult.

The big 4 social channels are Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram. Each are used differently:

  • Facebook - nonpaid (engagement) and paid (acquisition)
  • Twitter - customer conversation (engagement) & reach
  • Pinterest - brand engagement (outside of the transaction)
  • Instagram - brand engagement (outside of the transaction) & acquisition.

Facebook tactical execution

  • Active page management through non paid posts and content
  • Paid advertising against lookalike audiences, with full-tracking implemented
  • Quarterly sweepstakes that requires a like to drive engagement

One retailer's Facebook results:

  • Grew new acquisition 30% year over year
  • Decreased churn to 1%
  • Increased revenue per subscribed 2x
  • 150,000+ Facebook fan acquisition

Encourage users to submit their own images to build your social presence.

Your social strategy should be 2-pronged: 1) acquire new customers via social 2) transform existing marketing in other channels (SEO, PPC, etc) with social media.

Connect with the right fans on social - not just freebie-seekers, but intense fans in the center of your target market. Free ticket give-aways may generate a lot of likes, but they don't stay engaged with your brand.

Use social profile data to better target and personalize your offers to each specific user, which can improve your ROI in all of your other marketing channels.

Social login increases user engagement.  51% of consumers use social login. 84% of social login users will share a positive comment about your brand. eCommerce sites absolutely need social login.

In 2013, Google changed their official SEO blog to replace the word “back links” with “sharing” as the key SEO ranking driver.

Realtime social buzz legitimizes your products.

Move beyond customer reviews to photo testimonials shared with a specific hashtag.

Include a flyer with a hashtag in all of your product shipments and encourage users to post photos of them with the product.

True social engagement via social buzz on product pages gave one retailers a 15% increase in conversion rate.

Add realtime social buzz on your site to help improve engagement, conversion rate and SEO rank.

Social media marketers for eCommerce shouldn’t think as B2C, but instead C2C - encourage customers to share their experience.

Marketing via paid social media marketing is expensive - it requires more money and more resources (as it's high maintenance and requires dedicated resources). Bringing social into eCommerce is less expensive, has a proven ROI and customers do the marketing work for you.

IRCE Workshop: 10 Most Important Components your Social Presence Needs

This IRCE workshop is 10 Most Important Components your Social Presence Needs, presented by Sarah Evans, Owner - Sevans Strategy. Great content makes people want to share, care or swear.

What does great content look like? Your readers will tell you. 80% of people will read your headlines, but only 20% of those people will read the rest of your content.

Great content is trustworthy, credible, interactive, actionable, emotional, unique or relevant.

Great content is portable, personal and participatory.

Good social content needs a:

  • Editor
  • Creative Director
  • Copy Editor
  • Photographer and Videographer
  • Senior Writers
  • Monitoring and analytics

Oftentimes all these roles are performed by 1 person, but you should have someone, anyone, look at your content before you post it.

Treat great content with the reverence it deserves - create a list of all the tactics you apply to your greatest content, such as encouraging people to share with reddit, link your post to an answer in Quora, Yahoo Q&A, build it into slides and post it to Slideshare.

Define your style. Your content should stick to a well-identified, well-developed brand image. Define how your headlines appear, what your teaser/subhead looks like, what your front page photo looks like, what photos you add, etc.

At a conference, host a giveaway + Twitter chat on Twitter using a brand-specific hashtag. Provide a pre-recorded daily recap, on-scene announcement videos, live blogging, Tweeting and Facebook to build your social presence.

Commit to 5 to 10 posts per day (total across all social channels) + email + social shares to build your social brand.

Most content creators have to throw away up to 1/3 of the content they generate each day. Create like mad - generate lots of content.

Quotes, questions & quips are the #1 content method that spreads fastest via social media. Convert these quotes to images that are easy to share.

Check Reddit for emerging news and trends - Reddit often has news 24-72 hours before the mainstream media.

"If you like it then you should have put a filter on it" - the instagramization of content.

7 apps for creating great visuals from your phone:

  • Phonto
  • Over
  • News Booth
  • Whims
  • Phoster
  • VSCOcam
  • Screenshot

You should be posting more photos - be careful with photos on Twitter, because they interrupt the feed/text, but use Instagram, Facebook photos and occasional photos on Twitter.

Great written content gives people more without making them ask. Recommend other content you've created, links to import site tags within the article, etc.


IRCE Workshop: A Year Later: The Impact of Enhanced Campaigns

This is the IRCE workshop A Year Later: The Impact of Enhanced Campaigns, presented by Adam Garcia, Director, E-Commerce Marketing - The Walgreen Co. and Aaron Goldman, Chief Marketing Officer - Kenshoo. This session is basically about the change Google made last year that no longer allows you to exclude mobile and tablet from your ads - you have to submit bid adjustments instead. Before this change, Walgreens has targeted ads and bids down to the specific level of, for instance, AT&T iPhone users.

Walgreens findings from the changes to Enhanced Campaigns:

  • Lost control over device & OS targeting
  • Single URL - all platforms get the same URL, so your landing pages have to be responsive
  • CVR dropped
  • CPC remained flat

You should check your data to look at what devices and screen sizes your PPC traffic are using.

Key takeaways from the experience Walgreens has had:

  1. Non-desktop devices are the primary players
  2. Prioritize adaptive/responsive design - move it up in your roadmap
  3. Test, test and retest - if you haven't tested adjusting your mobile bid adjustments, do so!

Consumers use smartphones and tablets to research and validate purchases. When consumers use their mobile phone in a store generally are checking price data.

42% of brands say they are very behind consumer trends with multi-device shopping. Only 5% say they are ahead of the trends.

If you've maxed our and optimized your Google AdWords campaign, add Facebook ads - your direct ROI on Facebook may not be great, but many major brands have seen an increased ROI on AdWords once they added Facebook ads.

Optimize your post-click experience - make sure you have an adaptive, responsive site.



IRCE Session: Neuromarketing: Where Science Meets the Visuals of Web Design

This IRCE session is Neuromarketing: Where Science Meets the Visuals of Web Design, presented by Kurtis Morrison, Vice President, Client Services - EyeQuant and Jered Goodyear, Manager, E-Commerce & Digital Marketing - Epson. You have more that one brain - sort of. Many things become effortless and automatic - system 1 processing or 'the fast brain'. Thoughts at the conscious level, system 2 processing, require effort and involve logic and reason. Most of the time we're using both systems, and both are involved in decision making. System 1 is faster, so by it's nature, when we communicate as marketers, we're speaking to the system 1 brain first.

Your system 2 brain can override your system 1 brain, however it's rare - generally your system 1 brain makes a decision and your system 2 brain rationalizing what your system 1 has already done.

The language of the fast brain - very self-centered; very visual. The fast brain is a black and white thinker - it uses contrast to make decisions. The fast brain is very emotional and likes very simple things. The fast brain wants clear, concrete, tangible things.

Applying this to web design:

  • Capture attention early
  • Validate the user is where they should be
  • Create clear, compelling and appropriate value propositions
  • Use appropriate imagery
  • Stimulate emotion
  • Ensure attention is in the right place

One common lesson - make sure your site-wide promo banners don't drag attention away from your product benefits and call to action - this happens more often that you realize.




IRCE Session: Conversion Drivers: Go Beyond the Like to Make Social Work for Retail

This is IRCE session Conversion Drivers: Go Beyond the Like to Make Social Work for Retail, presented by Nicolas Franchet, Head of Retail, E-Commerce, Global Vertical Marketing - Facebook and David Atchinson, Senior Vice President, Marketing - Zulily. Facebook is building systems to help brands drive discovery, personalization and ROI on social.

Facebook is launching multi-product ads - Facebook ads featuring 3 products in one ad unit.

Measuring cross-device ROI is challenging. 67% of users start shopping on one device and continue on another.

The future of shopping is personalized discovery across devices.



IRCE Session: Beat the Competition by Personalizing Content and Communication

This IRCE session is Beat the Competition by Personalizing Content and Communication, presented by Amy Larson, Vice President, Digital - The Children's Place and Rama Ramakrishnan, Founder & CEO - CQuotient. Children's Place goal is to provide a great product at a great value with great service.

Depth can beat breadth - Amazon is the 'everything' store. Other eCommerce retailers win by knowing their core customer + product category better.

If someone opened an email last week, should I send them a direct mail piece tomorrow? Use this data!

Lots of people know email open rates - you should know what % of their email list opened at least 1 email in the last week or last month?

Collect data - but more importantly, use that data.

Personalization should cover everything - the entire customer experience:

  • Product recommendation & merchandising
  • Offers, coupons, deals
  • Creative - ads and banners displayed to the user
  • Location & timing of marketing messages

Don't personalize for just some customers - every customer. For most customers, we have a very weak signal of what they want, because the average customer shops with each brand just a few times a year, and the majority haven't visited your site recently. So, gather as much data as you can - start with your web logs and traffic data - look at what they search for, look for what categories they focus on, do they dwell on specific price ranges. Then look at your email data - what subject lines do they open on the most, do they click through mainly deals? What device do they first open an email on?

Look at the product data of the products the user views and purchases - look at the title and descriptions that resonate well with each visitor.

Mine product review data - look at the reviews the user has left, and also the review data for the products they've purchased.

Group data between customers - link customers with similar tastes.

Putting product personalization data to work - first, emails. The best items chosen for each individual based on your data should be promoted in each email. Your creative in each email should be personalized as well.

Dynamically insert content into the email based on historical personalization data + the time and date the email is first opened, the device it's first opened on, etc.

Realtime personalization at the time the email is opened.

Personalize product assortments based on this data.

You can put personalization data to work in direct mail as well. Determine who you should send direct mail to and when. Help you reduce the amount of direct mail you need to send.

Depth can win over breadth - but you have to use your advantage.

Data is foundational, but only if you something with it.


IRCE Session: Make the Most of Your Traffic: Maximizing Conversion

This is the IRCE session Make the Most of Your Traffic: Maximizing Conversion, presented by Karen Van Ert, Director, E-Business Consulting - Zeon Solutions and Lauren Wright, Marketing and Merchandising Manager - Cooper Safety Supply. Research your current data - Google Analytics, etc., then develop some ideas of what you might want to change. Before moving into split or multivariate testing, perform user testing. This will help you see why consumers are doing what they're doing now. Also check with your customer service team and see what people are asking.

One conversion rate test led to a revenue increase by 220%.

Some tests have even helped increase organic search ranking.

There are multiple ways to look at improvements. Don't look at just conversion rates while optimizing - if your conversion rate increases 50% but it's because you drop your prices and your average order value plummets, that's not a success.

Test around video and all image displays, test on-site search optimization (zero results pages, low converting terms, etc), test the number of products displayed on each page.

Test regularly - seasonal changes impact conversion rates.

Know your goal and monitor ad spend, traffic, conversion rate and AOV together.

Always consider consumer intent.



IRCE Session: How the Video Experience is Transforming the Way People Shop

This is the IRCE Featured Address, How the Video Experience is Transforming the Way People Shop, presented by Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, Chairman & Founder - Joyus. Joyus made their default experience shop by video instead of shop by product.

78% of consumers watch at least one online video per a week.

Video accounts for 50% of mobile traffic.

Content and commerce convergence is here - provide excellent video content.

Shopping at Joyus is video-focused. Video player is the product page, with a carousel on the side that allows you to add the product currently discussed in the video can be purchased.

Use product videos to give how-to content, show different looks, etc. Don't use it just to show different views of the product.

Video commerce is about the art of Selling Special. Video is a way to focus the customer's attention. It works best for a curated selection, not an overly wide selection.

Video-first commerce requires great merchandising, finding hero products, trusted expertise, product-led selling.

Find hero products. Make sure it's a solution to a real problem your customers face. Provide a way for customers to discover new brands and products. Make sure these products are unique.

Establish credibility, trust & affinity with the right expert in your product videos - again and again. Use the same expert in your videos - it establishes a connection between the customer and the expert in the video. They'll come back and buy more because they establish trust for that person.

It’s better to bring your best product experts in to your product video project and then train them on the on-camera skills. Authenticity is important.

Videos should feature 1-4 products max, showing the best product first, with 3 unique selling points. Single product videos outperform. Keep them to 30 seconds to 3 minutes.

Measure video ROI through revenue per video. Some of the best videos take 1-2 years to mature.

Effective videos have 0.5% - 5% video view conversion rate, $0.50 - $2.00 revenue per view.

30-60% completion rate on video - once a user commits to watching a video, they tend to finish it.

55% of users will watch the video no matter what product or host - they find the video entertaining.

Capture maximum video ROI via aggressive distribution - distribute your video to as many places as you can.

Editorial partnerships drive reach for your videos.

Distributed & real-time shippable video player is critical to success - this way when video is embedded on other sites, users can buy directly from the video.



IRCE Keynote: Connecting with Consumers by Giving Them What They Want

This is the IRCE keynote, Connecting with Consumers by Giving Them What They Want, presented by Niraj Shah, Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder - Wayfair is #45 in the Internet Retailer Top 500.  Listen to shoppers to decide what to do next.

Be customer-service focused. Enable customers to choose how to interact and find your products.

Many customers don't know what they are looking for until they see it, so you need to marry inspiration with selection.

Visual navigation matters.

Customers love deals and savings - especially daily sales that offer more value in a curated format at a rapid pace.

Everyone shops differently - don't look at customers as just one group. Segment your customers. Some shoppers are shopping for a specific need. Some shoppers are looking to discover something new and unexpected. Practical purchases vs individualization vs inspired impulse shopping.

Meet customers where they are - customers are incredibly busy and have more demands on their attention, so get them started engaging with your brand on their smartphone.

Get personal - produce individualized shopping experiences - quicker access to items that customer will like.

Get engaged in social media on Pinterest and Instagram.

Use the Top Pins API on Pinterest to offer another way to explore your product assortment.

Social & community engagement comes out of true interest, and truly interested users become repeat customers.

Instagram is Wayfair's fastest growing social channel. Connect with customers in real time with compelling images from events, blogger conferences, trade shows, etc.

Listen and take action - make real changes to the business based on customer feedback.

One of your eCommerce metrics should be customer enjoyment of their experience with your brand. 

Change things continually to keep improving the customer experience.

Customers are asking for more personalization and a better mobile experience.

IRCE Session: Building on Strengths: Why Data Should Change Your Marketing Plan Every Quarter

This IRCE session is Building on Strengths: Why Data Should Change Your Marketing Plan Every Quarter, presented by Ryan Bonifacino, Vice President, Digital Strategy - Alex and Ani.  Foundation for success - centralize digital under one department. eCommerce + Analytics tie into digital marketing and social media, and all three should be generating usable analytics and data, sharing that data and making decisions based on that data.

Get your relationships working in a healthy way - you don't want CMO and CIO fighting each other for budget. They should be working together.

Research heavily and define rules and roles - CIO, CTO and CMO should all work together.

Build a knowledge base of potential partners and vendors.

Brands should bring in the best agencies that can provide expertise in each specific niche/need of digital.

Each digital team member at Alex & Ani tracks one other eCommerce retailer and tracks what technologies they use, what they're doing.

Bring in really smart, innovative people to your company to speak with your team to keep them informed on what's going on.


IRCE Session Recruiting Bloggers as Affiliates: Why—and How

This is IRCE session Recruiting Bloggers as Affiliates: Why—and How, presented by Carolyn Kmet, Chief Marketing Officer - All Inclusive Marketing and Carrie Rocha, Blogger -  Bloggers have an established, third-party credibility with loyal, engaged audiences with creative positioning extending brand reach.

Keep in mind FTC rules that bloggers must disclose if you've paid them or provided them with a giveaway, etc. Make sure you realize you will lose some brand control.

Bloggers need to have a personal connection with your brand. Bloggers are seen as a subject matter expert, so they don't want to do anything to risk that, so they focus on their mission first, money second. 

Find bloggers by searching on your target keywords, and then look at their level of engagement with their audience. 

Bloggers are looking for reliable brands to work for - quality products, accurate information, high-quality customer service.

Every blogger has a unique audience - don't send an email blast to all potential bloggers, connect with them with an email/offer tailored to them and their audience.

Bloggers share contact, connections and experiences with each other.  If you provide a great experience, the bloggers will talk and other bloggers will want to work with your brand. 

Measuring blogger ROI: traffic, gross revenue, new/existing customer ratio and long-term-customer-value. Also look at brand engagement - tweets/RTs, comments, shares, etc. Share metrics with your blogger affiliates.

Bloggers measure success by looking at what their readers say - readers response and engagement via comments, shares and sales. Opened communication channel with brand for future projects.

As a personal aside - retailers, please remember that bloggers are a business - don't expect them to work for free, and treat them professionally.


IRCE Session: Lessons from the Internet Retailer Second 500

This IRCE session is Lessons from the Internet Retailer Second 500, presented by Stefany Zaroban, Associate Director, Research - Internet Retailer.  There's lots of lessons we can learn from the Internet Retailer Second 500 - the 500-1000 largest eCommerce sites.

The Internet Retailer Second 500 includes retailers from under $1 million up to around $23 million.

#1 lesson from the 2nd 500: it's getting tougher to compete, but there's still plenty of room for a good idea.

The biggest retailers are gaining market share - 2013 eCommerce sales was 16.9%; top 500 was 17.1%; second 500 was 14.1%

Growth is slowing among small retailers - was 17.7% in 2011, down to 14.1% in 2013.

This is largely due to Google - harder to get noticed; PLA's now cost money; gmail challenges - and Amazon - growing market share and raising customer expectations.

50% of emails are now opened on a mobile device - optimize your emails for mobile!

94% of the Internet Retailer second 500 posted an increase in sales in 2013.

Only 10% of the Second 500 have mobile apps - they're all moving to responsive design.

In the apparel & accessories industry, the second 500 retailers are growing faster than the top 500 retailers.

Second 500 merchants are investing their time and money in social media - primarily in YouTube and Facebook, but Twitter and Google+ have shown largest year over year growth.

These merchants are also investing in paid search. The median paid search spend for retailers making <$1mil - $20mil/year is $13,000 per month.

Secrets of success of fast-growing smaller eCommerce retailers:

  1. Be different
  2. Be an expert in your niche and with your target customer
  3. Be cool

Interesting/cool examples:

  1. - establish a niche in a category ripe for growth; build social media into your business model
  2. - innovative business model, fresh thinking, advanced B2B functionality
  3. - manufacturer direct to consumer, fresh site design, product-focused. Very image-focused; few words, convey benefits via images not just words.

Make sure your customer experience with your brand is better than any other brand in your market.

How to Compete as a Niche in Today's Mass Market

This is IRCE session How to Compete as a Niche in Today's Mass Market, presented by Shelley Nandkeoylar, Chief Executive Officer, President, Founder - The Ivory Company. Niche brands should view their role as curators - you won't be the cheapest, you won't have the largest assortment. Have a limited point of view, but become the expert on that point of view.

Omnichannel means one view, one experience, one brand among all channels and experiences, no matter how many channels you have.

Serve your customer - relentless focus on your customer; understand that customers value distinctiveness. Look to create magic.

Niche brands should have distinctive merchandise to compete effectively.

Exclusive merchandise brings margin. Margin gives you the ability to invest in customer acquisition and experience.

Niche brands must focus on executional excellence. Every order is another opportunity. Focus on doing fewer things well. Cannot be everything to everyone. 100% metric and KPI centric. Steer away from 'shiny ball syndrome'. Constant small improvements.



IRCE Session: Five Hot New Technology Developments

This is the IRCE Session: Five Hot New Technology Developments from the technology workshop. Presented by Aaron Mandelbaum, Howard Blumenthal, Marta Dalton, Ross Higgins and Ryan West. Please forgive any typos - my Macbook battery is drained and my external battery pack for it apparently has failed, so I'm doing my best to keep you updated from my iPad.

SEO & Social

Manual penalties are now being applied to guest posts - SEO now depends on solid content and inbound marketing.

Responsive design is now a must - adaptive design is the next thing etailers need.


Personalization takes a village - need buy-in and integration across all departments and tools - CMS, POS, CRM, marketing automation all have to work together to make personalization work well.

Flavors of personalization:

Email SEM Products Mobile Content


Anonymous visitor Known customer/lead eCommerce Sales Lead

Personalization Journey:

Awareness -> Interest -> Consideration -> Intent -> Evaluation -> Purchase.

Don't isolate customers from information and products that might be interesting to them through personalization - don't over-personalize.

Don't overpersonalize in the awareness, interest, consideration or intent portions of the journey, or it can seem creepy and scare off customers.

Personalization has driven average order value up 30%, conversion rates up 15% and 150% increase in line items per order.

Have initial segments & targets - don't try to target too many segments in your first personalization attempt.


Macro to Micro - macrolocation is provided by geoip, converting their IP address to their general location. For instance, for store-pickup-only items, use geoip to target customers local to your stores with those.

iBeacons and similar technology are powering microlocation - targeting offers and providing payment services for customers based on their exact location in a store.

Advanced Analytics

Tag management - leveraging all of the different data to create and analyze segments on the fly.

Use tag management to feed what server a user is on to your customer satisfaction survey, so you can identify server-specific issues.

New tag management technologies give you new ways to better leverage your existing tools and provide new views of data.

Usability & Design

NewEgg adds hundreds of new features every year. NewEgg used QR codes for MSRP/MAP policies so that users can get prices without providing personal information or starting checkout.

Your site should be easy to use, meet customer needs and never give customers a reason to leave. Remember if customers can't find a product, they can't buy it.

For UX - look for the voice of the customer and the behavior of the customer. Use social media, feedback surveys and comments on the web to see what customers are saying, then use website analytics, split and multivariate testing and user testing to measure the behavior of the customer.

Do usability testing - even if you do it at a Starbucks or in your conference room, just do it. Start with 1-5 participants.

Test early & often, test the old design and test your competition.

IRCE Session: Harnessing Video to Boost SEO

This IRCE session is from the Video workshops, and is entitled Harnessing Video to Boost SEO, presented by Stephan Spencer, Co-Author - The Art of SEO and Jamie Salvatori, Owner - Vat19. SEO requires good content. Your videos need to be good, first and foremost. Make them interesting and engaging and keep people coming back. SEO doesn't fix bad content. Make a video worth SEO efforts. It's difficult, it's an art form, not a process, and there's no formula.

Top 100 subscribed YouTube channels (excluding pop artists) average 2,900 videos per channel. Top 100 channels by views (excluding pop artists) average 9,200 videos per channel - you have to produce a lot of videos, regularly.

Tips to creating good video:

  • Filmmaking is a profession
  • Quality never goes out of style
  • It's not about equipment
  • It's not about technique
  • Treat your art as an ad and you will create an ad
  • Hire professionals
  • Sell benefits, not features
  • Show - don't tell. Don't making it a moving picture version of Powerpoint.
  • Match your video to the tone of what you're selling
  • Embrace your limitations
  • Show the product early - don't hide it
  • Don't open video with your logo or jingle - end videos with that
  • Obsesses over audio - music is a faster emotional connection than video
  • Keep it short
  • Concept and content matters more than technical specifications and equipment
  • Never give up

Anyone can figure out SEO and SEO really does work - the presenter's daughter, who started at 14, made as much as $1000/month from Google AdSense via SEO.

YouTube is the #2 search engine by query volume. Google searches and YouTube searches are different, so research YouTube keywords. Do your keyword research - target the right keywords, and keywords you can rank on.

Use to search on all the major search engines - pulls realtime suggestions from each major search engine on one page.

There's a YouTube keyword tool you should be using for your product and brand videos.

Be remarkable - public unique video-based content:

  • Podcasts - i.e., Rooster Teeth
  • Screencasts - use Camtasia or Screenflow
  • Microsites - i.e.,
  • Explainer videos - Crazy Egg Explainer Video
  • Whiteboard drawings - i.e., RSA Animate
  • Animation  - Quantitative Easing Explained - using xtranormal

Seed linkworthy videos from power user accounts - people who have a large fan base or a lot of subscribers who will produce and post content for you.

Your target keyword should appear in your video title, with your brand at the end. Your keyword should also appear in the video description, and there should be a link to your site. Use tags - don't use thruway words like "and" & "to". Use adjectives as well as category descriptors. Tag list is capped at 120 characters. Make full use of this. Tags can be found either in the source code, or using a Chrome extension.

Custom video thumbnails appear in both YouTube and Google search results and can drive a higher click-thru rate than your title.

Keep your videos short - 5 minutes or less.

Are you at IRCE this year? If so, make sure to join the official, attendees-only IRCE LinkedIn Group.

IRCE Session: Video Without Breaking the Bank: Creating Professional Videos on an Amateur's Budget

This session is from IRCE's Video workshops. It's entitled Video Without Breaking the Bank: Creating Professional Videos on an Amateur's Budget. Presented by Angie Seaman, E-Commerce Manager - Marbles: The Brain Store.  Marbles has a lot of products that are unique but hard to demonstrate via a website, so product videos have to really make it clear how a product works - for example, the Catchoo product video.

Marbles uses videos for different purposes - showing how to use a product, customer service and to give details from the inventors of different toys as to how and why they invited it.

Introduce products with video, but also introduce your staff as product authorities via video.

Marbles started with little technical knowledge about video, and learned by doing.

Video on a budget requires patience & resourcefulness:

  • Make the most of what you already have
  • Learn online for free (or low cost)
  • Be willing to experiment and learn from it

Video also requires time & space:

  • Budget a lot of time to experiment and edit
  • You don't need a dedicated space but it helps
  • Pick a quiet time and a room with good acoustics

Video equipment - can get started for less than $1,000:

  • DSLR camera that shoots HD video - $650
  • Lights - under $200 - Marbles ran PVC piping around the room and connected CFL lights to the piping
  • Sound - about $150 - need a decent external microphone
  • Editing software - $99+

Talent - look at your existing team and have them try roles they're interested in:

  • Videographer
  • Editor
  • Writer
  • Actor


Are you at IRCE this year? If so, make sure to join the official, attendees-only IRCE LinkedIn Group.