Tracking Web Users: Confusing Consumers For Profit?

Cartoon Man With Magnifying Glass Viewing Man Viewing ComputerThere’s a lot we take for granted in our web browsing. There’s all that tracking of where we go and what we do – even if we do nothing. And don’t get me started on privacy policies, terms and conditions and all the other ridiculously long scrolling admonitions we often agree to with a knee-jerk response to end the tedium and get on with what we came for.

Nate Cordozo has an excellent story about this on Electronic Frontier Foundation‘s site. If a business model wouldn’t work if users had to opt in, it deserves to fail. Maybe if we flipped the funnel so to speak, we’d get a far better web user experience. If every site had a default “NO Tracking” setting, we’d start to reassert some autonomy of our virtual lives.

Then again, maybe that’s the point. The more we get used to ‘sharing’ everything in our virtual world, and I use that term loosely, then we’ll be used to submitting to all sorts of other practices, policies and laws designed to constrain what we as free humans can do .

When do you think the last time that “This call is being recorded for training and customer service” actually resulted in either? Why should we think web tracking will be any different?

‘Choice’ In The Subject Line Boosts Engagement

Man Overwhelmed by beverage choices @lauriesullivan, at Media Post shared some interesting data regarding engagement results from email and text message campaigns. Engagement where the recipient has a ‘choice’ in the matter, i.e., click to request a coupon versus just sending the coupon, had a significant impact on open rates and conversions.

Experian Marketing Services released its quarterly email benchmark report Q2 2015 focusing on engagement rates and duel subscriber rates, those who subscribe to email and some sort of alternative communication, like mobile text of push messages on their device.

“Customers who texted to get a coupon were more willing to complete a purchase than those receiving a push campaign, but both message types were successful in generating revenue.”

Analysts also looked at consumers who subscribe to both email, whether opened on a smartphone or desktop, and some other form of communication such as mobile text or push messages on their device.

In the analyses of SMS and MMS messaging programs from two brands it turns out dual subscribers were 3.9 times more likely to complete transactions than email-only customers. Transaction rates for mobile campaigns were 10-times higher than those for email campaigns

More than half of all email opens and 38% of clicks occur on mobile devices, but sometimes it takes two channels to make a campaign work. So, to better understand the value of mobile subscribers, Experian Marketing Services analyzed case studies from two brands with on-going SMS and MMS messaging programs. In both cases, analysts could attribute transactions to mobile campaign data by subscriber.

Consider this: signing up to receive emails, subscribers can open those emails on desktop, tablet, e-reader or mobile device. Mobile SMS and MMS require a separate opt-in. In the first analysis, “Brand A,” which sends emails and SMS messages announcing seasonal products, wanted to see if email subscribers who also provide their mobile phone numbers transact more in any one channel, compared with email-only subscribers.

Comparing both, Experian found significant increases in the percentage of mobile and email subscribers who had completed transactions. Dual subscribers (22.5%) were 3.9-times more likely to make a transaction, compared with email only subscribers (5.7%).

The second study with another brand analyzed SMS and MMS campaigns during eight months from another brand. It compared two types of mobile campaigns for Brand B, broadcast campaigns, in which the brand pushed SMS to the subscriber, such as a sale starts tomorrow, and pull campaigns, in which customers texted to get an offer such as “Save 25% off with in-store coupon- code XXX123.”

SMS push or broadcast campaigns made-up more than 95% of the volume, but pull messages added to stronger transaction results. It also compared transaction rates with Experian email benchmarks finding that mobile transaction rates were more than 10-times higher than the all industry average email transaction rate at 0.64% for all mobile campaigns compared to 0.06% for all industry email.

Customers who texted to get a coupon were more willing to complete a purchase than those receiving a push campaign, but both message types were successful in generating revenue. The overall revenue per message was $0.32, which is more than 3-times higher than the all industry revenue per email for this period at $0.09.

Building A Single Currency For Marketing Measurement

Metrics That Matter

Finally marketers are starting to drill down to the basic metrics for measuring effectiveness.

Anto Chittilappilly shares some useful ways of thinking about how to organize your business or marketing to deliver the results you’re after. Read the full article at Media Post.

This is what it looks like when mindset, media and message converge. It’s about time.

The Best (and Worst) Words to Use in an Email Subject Line

Can you guess which words can make or break an email campaign? A new study reveals the answers.

This was originally posted on Direct Marketing News.

Marketers need to be black and white about the value of an email message. And there’s no better place to do that than in the subject line. In fact, a new study from email marketing agency Alchemy Worx reveals which words are more likely to prompt an open—and which ones simply turn readers off.

The study shows that “a single word can make a dramatic difference,” said Dela Quist, founder and CEO of Alchemy Worx, in a written release. But Quist and his team insist that even prolific testing methods, like A/B testing, aren’t enough to determine which words work the best and which fall flat. They point out that these popular methods, including A/B and multivariate testing, allow marketers to experiment with only a few subject lines at a time.

In this study, however, strategists at Alchemy Worx used their tool, Touchstone, to search a database of more than 21 billion emails to compare and cull the best and worst performing words in the subject line. The agency looked at the top and bottom words overall, and then sorted for varying industries. They determined exactly how much better, or worse, these words performed compared to average email open rates. The study even examined the best- and worst-performing symbols in the email subject line.

The findings are interesting.

The top five words that brands can use to prompt more opens are: “upgrade” (65% higher open rate), “just” (64%), “content” (59%), “go” (55%), and “wonderful” (55%). Those are the top five words overall.

Best Performing Words


Word Open Rate (vs Average) Rank
Upgrade 65.68% 1
Just 64.76% 2
Content 59.05% 3
Go 55.84% 4
Wonderful 55.10% 5


Things shift dramatically, however, when you zero in on separate industries. The top word for the entertainment industry, for example, is “content”—perhaps not a surprise. Readers expect a plethora of content from publishers and media companies.

For retailers, however, the top words are “painting” (18%), “ships” (13%), “please” (7%), “notice” (6%), and “recipe” (5%). The top word in the travel industry is “about” (26%), consumer services is “wonderful” (55%), and for the technology industry, “upgrade” (66%).

Equally as interesting are the overall worst-performing words: “miss” (-4.6%), “deals!” (-4.38%), “groovy” (-4.26%), “conditions” (-4.04%), and “Friday!” (-4%). “Monday,” ironically, is the worst performing word for the media industry; “groovy” (-4.3%) is the worst for retailers.

Worst Performing Words

Word Open Rate (vs Average)
Miss -4.60%
Deals! -4.38%
Groovy -4.26%
Conditions -4.04%
Friday! -4.00%


Symbols and emojis are becoming more common in email subject lines. The best-performing symbol is a snowman (65%), followed by an emoji of the sun (21%), and a star (11%). The worst symbol is a human figure pointing to the right (-9.52%).

Obviously, each business has to determine what’s best for itself and its customers. But whether email marketers follow these findings or not, they need to “look at the finer details,” said Alchemy Worx’s Quist in the release. He suggests that as marketers craft their email campaigns  they remember this: “The subject line is the most important part of an email…By looking at the finer details, such as the best and worst words to use within the subject lines, [we] can manage campaigns to ensure they achieve the best click-through rates and conversions.”

Why Brainstorming Works Better Online

There’s some truth to having a remote brainstorming session. I’ve been having a weekly conference call with a brilliant colleague where we brainstorm on each others projects and progress. It has been indispensable to my business development.

By Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

Crumpled Yellow Paper Light BulbIn the late 80’s, Peter Drucker predictedthat in the near future technology would play a central role in increasing the effectiveness of teams. Although he was right, teams have yet to experience the full benefits of technology. Yes, there is a great deal of talk about virtual teams and collaborative tools, but our ability to leverage technology in a way that consistently and systematically boosts team performance is based mostly on intuition rather than science.

One exception is group brainstorming, a technique that is still widely used in organizations despite the lack of evidence that it works and compelling evidence that it actually leads to a productivity loss. The good news is that technology can make brainstorming more effective, by replacing physical and oral sessions with virtual and written ones – a technique also known as brainwriting or electronic brainstorming.

Indeed, studies comparing the performance of matched groups on physical and virtual sessions indicate that the latter generate more high quality ideas and have a higher average of creative ideas per person, as well as resulting in higher levels of satisfaction with the ideas. As shown in meta-analyses, virtual brainstorming enhances creative performance – versus in-person brainstorming sessions – by almost 50% of a standard deviation. This means that almost 70% of participants can be expected to perform worse in traditional than virtual brainstorming sessions.

The advantages of virtual brainstorming have been attributed to three main reasons.

First, the fact that virtual brainstorming eliminates production blocking, the process where dominant participants talk too much, taking over the session and eclipsing their colleagues. This leads to cognitive overload and hinders creative idea generation in more introverted participants. In virtual brainstorming there is a clear positive relationship between group size and performance, whereas in traditional, in-person brainstorming sessions, things tend to get messy with more than six participants. Online, there are no real limits to group size: the cost of having 5 or 50 participants is nearly the same, and you actually save costs by allowing to people to work remotely and in dispersed locations. Thus virtual brainstorming is much more scalable, and each person you add has the potential to contributing a new idea to the mix.

Second, virtual brainstorming enables feelings of anonymity, since ideas cannot be attributed to a specific person. This reduces evaluation apprehension, particularly in less confident individuals who would underperform in traditional brainstorming sessions. Anonymity also means that ideas are judged more objectively. In traditional sessions, the process is as biased and political as in any other physical group interaction – the powerful people take over, and though democratic in theory, in fact decisions are driven by one or two powerful individuals. Conversely, when team members rate ideas anonymously and without knowledge of the author, politics are out of the way. An example of this is textsfromlastnight, a site that allows users to anonymously submit quirky text messages, which are then rated – good or bad – by other anonymous users. Organizations would do well to copy this process: have a live, real-time, virtual depository of ideas for new products, services, or processes, which can then be rated or evaluated by other employees, and perhaps even clients.

Third, if designed intelligently, virtual sessions can increase the diversity of ideas. In traditional brainstorming, being exposed to others’ ideas causes uniformity and regression to the mean: the most creative people will descend to the level of the group average. But by preventing participants from being exposed to each other’s ideas during the idea-generation phase, virtual brainstorming encourages participants to offer a wider variety of ideas. In line with this, studies have shown that individual brainstorming, where people write down a number of ideas on a piece of paper, often produces more and better ideas than group brainstorming. Virtual brainstorming preserves this mechanism while providing a searchable archive of ideas for the team to weigh in on later.

Thus virtual brainstorming retains the original postulate of traditional brainstorming – that teams can crowdsource creativity by curating the ideas they collectively produce in an informal, free-flowing, stream-of-consciousness, session – but overcoming the main, originally unforeseen, barriers.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is an international authority on personality profiling, talent management, and people analytics. He is the CEO of Hogan Assessment Systems and a Professor of Business Psychology at University College London (UCL) and Columbia University.


7 Mistakes to Avoid on Your Ecommerce Site

Some worthwhile points to consider if you have an e commerce website. The number one lesson of all is to make sure the user has a rewarding experience. That means one that makes them want to come back . . .. again and again.

By Todd Wasserman

Shopping Cart Order FrustrationWe’ve all been there. You’re all set to buy something, credit card in hand, but for one reason or another you never close the deal.

Maybe the third time you were asked to enter your credit card number you gave in. Perhaps it was the exorbitant shipping costs. Maybe the site crashed.

The truth is, there are at least seven things that send potential customers fleeing in horror from your website, some of which were chronicled in this perceptive comic from The Oatmeal. If you actually want people to stick around and buy stuff from your site, you may want to take note of and avoid these common pitfalls.

1. Your Site is Too Slow

Every 2 seconds of load time on your site equals an 8% abandonment rate, according to Gomez, the application monitor from Compuware. If you drop your load time from 8 seconds to 2 seconds, your conversion rate actually jumps up 74%.

It’s easy to see why: Do you want to waste your time waiting for a site to load?

Unfortunately, there are a lot of reasons why your site is loading so slowly. Steve Tack, Chief Technical Officer for Compuware, says many ecommerce sites are overloaded with third-party plug-ins for Facebook, Twitter and ad networks — all of which can slow a site down. Another cause is cloud issues: If you’re using a content-delivery network (CDN), your site can slow to a crawl if your service provider is having issues.

2. Your Site is Too Complicated

If you’re asking consumers to take more than five steps to buy something off your site, then you’re asking too much. Compuware recommends the following:

  • Welcome/cart contents page
  • Bill-to section
  • Ship-to section
  • Payment module
  • Confirmation/thank you page

3. Your Credit Card Entry System is Punishing

Here you may also want to take The Oatmeal’s advice about credit card entry fields. Is there anything more frustrating than entering your name, address, 16-digit credit card number and three-digit security code, and then restarting from scratch because you forgot your ZIP code? And yes, if most of your business is in the U.S., why not put the country first on the scroll instead of way down at the end, as it would appear alphabetically?

Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst with Forrester Research, says that there’s a standard sequence of information for credit card information. If you mess with that order (by putting the credit card number before the name and address, for instance), then users are apt to enter the wrong info because they’ve been trained to log such data in a certain sequence. Says Mulpuru: “Follow the industry standard.”

4. You’re Charging Too Much for Shipping

Mulpuru says that if you’re charging more than 10% of the total cost of the item for shipping, then you’re charging too much. “You’re probably depressing your sales significantly,” she says. “People are more likely to abandon your cart.”

5. You’re Overselling Your Tablet App

If a potential customer visits your website on her iPad, that doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s keen on downloading your iPad app. “Don’t over-invest in customizing your mobile apps,” says Mulpuru. “Unless there’s a clear value, most people figure, ‘Why bother?'”

An alternative is to optimize your site for the tablet experience, something that few are doing right now, Tack says.

6. Your Site Performs Horribly on Certain Browsers

You may be a Google Chrome fan, but there’s a world full of people who are using old versions ofInternet Explorer. Have you tested your site on those other browsers? “Many sites don’t perform well across various browsers,” says Mulpuru, “so people abandon them.”

7. You’re Hitting Your Customers With Irrelevant Offers

OK, you’ve completed the sale. This person has indicated that they’re interested in what you’re selling, so it’s natural to conclude that they might want to buy something from you in the future. So why not hit them with offers for things that they’re actually likely to buy?

Mulpuru recalls, for instance, that after she bought a bed from Costco, the retailer besieged her with offers for … more beds. While deals on pillows or sheets might have made sense, a bed is something you generally purchase every five or 10 years. Says Mulpuru: “At this point, I’m not in the market for more beds.”

What peeves you about ecommerce sites? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Clicknique

4 Types Of Instagram Hashtags And How To Make Them Work For Your Brand

 at Media Post offers some simple best practices for optimizing media value. Instagram hashtags are especially useful for visual branding, marking a milestone, announcing an event or celebrating a breakthrough.

Follow these tips and your Instagram hashtags will work even harder for you.

10 Reasons Why You Should Use Hashtags and Where