Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Affiliate Marketing: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Affiliate marketing was once based heavily upon instinct and intuition for ad placement and payout attribution.

Today, affiliate marketing is much more complex and relies on detailed tracking and analytics, bringing science to the art of marketing. Many affiliate marketers have come to rely on powerful technology solutions to help guide them on their journey to affiliate marketing success.

Always on, completely automated and only paying for pre-defined results, today’s affiliate marketing program is a key element of enterprise digital marketing strategy and is helping to drive innovations in performance-based marketing.

In fact, Forrester Research predicts U.S. affiliate marketing spending will increase by a compound annual growth rate of nearly 17 percent between 2011 and 2016, growing to $4.5 billion as marketers invest in the technology that drives advancements in tracking, attribution and optimization.

To stay competitive, advertisers and affiliates alike must evolve right along side technology and continually adapt their performance-based marketing strategy to fit the behaviors of customers and the marketplace.

In my guide, Affiliate Marketing: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, I take you on a brief journey through affiliate marketing's history, its current state and its future.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Did You Learn More From School Or Your First Job?

I'm celebrating a very important personal anniversary. Twenty-five years ago today, after spending the morning and early afternoon as a sophomore student at Westminster High School in Westminster, California, probably ditching at least one class, coming back late from an off-campus lunch, and more likely than not, spending most of my time writing poetry or a short story instead of paying attention in class, I donned my black Reebok sneakers, black socks, black dress pants, white button-down long sleeve shirt, burgundy and dark blue thick polyester tie (which I still have hanging in my closet as a souvenir) with a thick dark blue apron, and thanks to a car ride furnished by my mom, started the very first shift of my very first job.

Still six months shy of reaching my sixteenth year on this earth, I would spend what at the time seemed like a very long tenure of six months bagging groceries, mopping and sweeping floors, re-stocking go-backs and secretly assisting the cooler stock crew (don’t tell the union) for what started out as a mere 12 hours a week that quickly turned into a full-time 40 hours.

While at the time the day-to-day tasks that even included shoveling broken glass out of the recycling machines into transport bins and hand-trucking pallets of product out into the parking lot and then back into the store on the Fourth of July for the big parking lot sale seemed unbearable at times, there is no single period of time in my early years that had more of an impact on my work ethic, career and life thus far.

By the time I would leave college some four years later to take my first actual full-time office job with actual benefits like health insurance and a retirement plan, I had sold baby clothes and furniture, made and sold cookies and sandwiches at a bakery, sold books and helped manage a bookstore, and amassed an entire portfolio of part-time and full-time-by-hours-but-not-by-benefits jobs that even included three simultaneous 20 hour per week jobs while attending community college full-time for a few months during what I did not realize would be the last semester I attended school.

But when I look back on the 25 years that encompass both being an employee and a small business owner, working 12 hours a week and working 100 hours a week, working for minimum wage and not-so-minimum wage, working out in the sun with a shovel and working inside a posh, high-rise corporate office with the latest and greatest in computer technology while wearing a suit, I credit that very first job with teaching me more than any school ever did.

I look back at a good, solid 25 years of never having used any of that damned algebra that gave me so much trouble. Sure, I might use a little of the geometry from time to time when I’m hanging a framed picture on a wall, but that’s just the basic third-grade stuff, not any of the geometry with little “x’s” and “y’s” that I labored year after year during my teens trying to understand. I look back at a good, solid 25 years of never having used any of that damned base-six crap, or any of the stuff I learned in all of those College Prep Honors Science classes that I barely passed.

What I have used year in and year out are the interview skills I started perfecting the day my mom drove me to all the Lucky grocery stores in town so that I could ask for job applications. What I have used year in and year out is the skill set of knowing how to work with both fantastic and horrible bosses like good ‘ol Bill, my manager at the grocery store, who managed somehow to be both all at once. What I have used year in and year out is the work ethic that I first forged by completing a bunch of mindless, labor-intensive, repetitive tasks, all the while, steeling myself in the fact that no matter what happened in life, I was going to move upward and onward and never stop building a better life for me and those around me. What I have used year in and year out is the understanding that my work is my own, my work ethic is my own, and above all, my lot in life and the success or failure of everything about it is all up to me and no one else.

Unfortunately, these are all things that I did not learn while attending school for fifteen years. I really wish that in those very, very, very long fifteen years instead of being taught what I needed to know in order to do well on standardized tests, I had been allowed to pursue my own education path, much as I did as soon as I got home from school, and much as I have done each and every day since I walked out of a state-subsidized, taxpayer-funded classroom for the last time.

I cannot imagine how my world might be even better today were I allowed to reach an agreement with schooling to concentrate on the skills I knew I would need as early on as I knew that I was going need them instead of having to still learn skills that would later prove to be as useless as I always knew they were going to be. Schooling should have let me concentrate on the skills that I knew I would be using to make a living one day instead of the skills that simply allowed me to pass a test well enough for the school to get funded for another year.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

7 Keys To Social Media Success

Deluxe Corp. recently conducted a survey that found only 21% of small business owners think social media is an important customer engagement tool. But, according to a CNET survey, 72% of U.S. adults use social media, and according to a Static Brain survey, social media usage skyrockets to 98% among 18- to 24-year-olds.

These survey results make it very clear that with each passing day, social media is playing a larger part in the lives of U.S. consumers.

While many small business leaders are reluctant to start the social media journey, countering that 73% of their business comes from word-of-mouth, these entrepreneurs are failing to realize an increasing number of consumers are using social media to facilitate their word-of-mouth recommendations.

In addition, many consumers who hear about a business via word-of-mouth often turn to the social media platforms they use most to learn more about the business. Without an active social media presence, these businesses are missing out on great opportunities to connect with potential customers.

So, how do businesses get started with social media? The very first step should be to create a comprehensive social media strategy. While this may sound like a daunting task, by breaking the work up into smaller, clearly defined tasks, creating a social media strategy can be painless.

In my guide, 7 Keys to Social Media Success, I outline how small businesses can get started with their own social media strategy today.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Millions Up For Grabs: How Online Retailers Can Use Technology

With over $1.2 million in global eCommerce sales occurring every 30 seconds, online retailers need technology solutions that can help them grab the biggest piece of the $1.5 trillion annual online shopping and eCommerce pie.

Faced with a continually changing landscape, online retailers must stay at the forefront of technology trends in order to not get left behind. Every online retailer should be learning more about these three areas of innovation currently being driven by technology:

Voucher Codes

Over four million visitors go to VoucherCodes.com per month looking for money-saving offer codes. These special codes that lead to big savings for online customers can make the difference between winning and losing when it comes to acquiring new customers. The right technology solution can give online retailers the ability to leverage voucher codes and track their results.

Automated Product Feeds

There are over 25 million online retailers in the world today and one of the biggest time consumers for them is updating product feeds. For online deal sites, this process can take up a majority of their IT resources. Keeping products featured on websites fresh and in sync with actual inventories can make or break an online retailer. A comprehensive, intuitive, digital campaign management system can automate product feeds for them.

Tagging

Online marketing campaigns create vast amounts of data. One of the simplest ways for online retailers to manage this data, as well as optimize it, is through tagging. Much how keywords make blogs searchable, tagging can be used to sort through vast amounts of campaign, offer and affiliate data. With the right technology platform, online retailers can use tagging to localize offers, incentivize affiliates, reward top performers and react quickly to shifting trends.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Journalists Finding A New Home

I remember us worrying…worrying that all of those poor journalists would be out of work once those environmentally-unfriendly newspapers started boarding up their windows and chaining their doors like something out of an old black and white movie about The Great Depression (or a Michael Moore movie).

But it turns out, the ones who have not already found a second life writing for websites on the print-newspaper-killing internet, actually have a pretty good chance of being hired by large enterprises to serve as storytellers in their very own corporate newsrooms.

That may sound odd and leave you wondering why in the world America’s enterprises would need their very own journalists, but, as consumers are evolving, so must the marketing department and the ad agency. Consumers fast forward through ads on TV, change the radio station as soon as a commercial comes on, ignore a-hell-of-a-lot-a online display ads, and things are only going to get worse for marketers and advertisers.

While this all seems scary for companies that rely on advertising to help generate revenue, many are finding a silver lining, a light at the end of the tunnel. While consumers simply don’t care to be bothered with advertising anymore, apparently, they are still interested in a good story, even if it is published by the very same companies whose advertisements they are ignoring throughout the day. In fact, not only did marketing web magazine CMS Wire call 2014 the year of storytelling, but based on what they’re seeing so far, 2015 might turn out to be…you guessed it…the year of storytelling.

And who better to research, develop, and tell the stories these consumers want than the folks that were classically trained in gathering and disseminating stories in a way that makes people want to listen…journalists.

Needless to say, the journalist at a dying newspaper or the barely-hanging-on-by-the-skin-of-their-teeth news site is going to jump at the chance to translate their skills into some real big, evil corporation money.

So, gone may be the days when our top journalists are working for newspapers, online rags, magazines, and the evening TV news. We just might be witnessing the dawn of the age of advertising and storytelling where our top journalists are reporting on the historic ties between Coca-Cola and Santa Claus, reporting on the philanthropic efforts of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet for either Microsoft, Berkshire or the Gates Foundation, or maybe even compiling a seven-part series on the history of Mercedes-Benz Racing for mbusa.com. It’s a brave new world out there, people…

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

In-house vs. Outsourcing Affiliate Platforms

This article was co-authored with Jeff Deisner.

The hotly contested question of whether advertisers should use an in-house affiliate platform or outsourced affiliate service provider is gathering plenty of momentum.

While the use of in-house affiliate platforms is becoming more widespread, many marketers are choosing to remain with their third-party providers or to work with a combination of both models.

But, when it comes to the ever-developing affiliate marketing channel, there is no single solution for all brands. Finding the right fit and balance based on individual needs can be a challenge.

In-house Migration: Simply Part of the Enterprise Cycle

There is a huge paradigm shift in affiliate marketing going on right now, similar to what was happening with “search” 10 years ago. At that time, brands typically outsourced search as it was a new, must-have capability. They didn’t understand it well, and so the best thing to do was to hire an agency to manage the program.

Jump forward 10 years to today, and almost every major brand has brought search in-house because there are more people with expertise and the skillset to manage, understand and successfully implement a program. There are also intuitive products, such as tools offered by Marin and Kenshoo, which allow brands to manage all search activity in-house.

Similar to search in its early days, many digital marketers originally found early affiliate marketing too complex to manage, so outsourcing affiliate activity was a natural move.

Today, however, advances in technology and an increase in the number of skilled marketers makes it possible to bring affiliate activity in-house.

The industry has seen both Apple and Groupon create in-house affiliate platforms. It has also seen the emergence of companies like CAKE, HasOffers for Tunes, Impact Radius and PHG that provide intuitive, ready-to-use platforms that enable advertisers to manage affiliate programs in-house.

In-house vs. Outsourcing

Is it better to bring affiliate marketing in-house or outsource it to an affiliate service provider? Both have many benefits.

Benefits of In-house

• Cost Savings – Marketers save a lot of money by no longer having to pay commissions to an affiliate network.

• Direct Relationships – Marketers have the opportunity to develop one-on-one relationships with publishers, thus allowing the creation of custom campaigns and custom payouts. By cutting out the middleman, marketers also get direct feedback from publishers and develop an understanding of what’s working and what’s not.

• Real-time Accessibility to Data – Having real-time data is important, but marketers can miss out if they need to wait on third-party providers to share that data, especially if the network is guarding certain publisher information. There is also the element of control – having access to all the data to analyze and build intelligence specific to a business.

Benefits of Outsourcing

• Minimal Effort – Advertisers don’t have to use their own resources – they simply pay a fee every month and the network does all the work.

• Connections – Advertisers can leverage the connections and relationships networks already have with publishers.

• Insights – Networks have expertise in verticals, businesses and industries and can share that expertise to help advertisers build creative assets and campaigns.

Best of Both Worlds

While the shift to in-house affiliate platforms is becoming more prevalent, it’s not to say that people are altogether abandoning their relationships with outsourced affiliate services.

In fact, if marketers take a close look at where their traffic comes from, many will see the combined use of an in-house platform and an outsourced affiliate provider is their best option. On average, 90 percent of a brand’s traffic comes from 10 percent of its publishers. That 10 percent is who the brand should work with directly through an in-house platform to cultivate key one-to-one relationships. The third-party provider can manage the remaining 90 percent of traffic.

With the right solution, all data still goes through a single analytics platform, so it’s simple to view how both in-house and outsourced affiliates are performing at an aggregate level.

Advertisers should realize that with the right combination of an in-house platform and an outsourced affiliate program, they can have the best of both worlds.

Monday, January 5, 2015

3 Tips: Building An Affiliate Program

Many direct marketers enlist affiliate partners to promote offers and drive traffic on their behalf, but a common mistake made with affiliate programs is to just “set it and forget it.” The technology available to manage and track performance marketing campaigns makes it easier than ever to keep tabs on affiliate relationships and measure results. It is important to keep in mind that insights should lead to action, however. When marketers learn something significant but fail to refine their programs as a result, analytic investments will fall short in delivering optimal ROI. There are three key areas where having accurate, real-time performance data can have a big impact on a performance program’s success:

Set the right price and be consistent. Commissions are what incentivize affiliates to market on another businesses’ behalf, which means they play an important role in the success or failure of a performance campaign. If commissions are too low, it might be tough for a marketer to attract top performing affiliates with access to valuable audiences. But setting payouts too high can lead to a situation where the affiliate program’s costs outweigh the benefits, especially if big commissions entice less-than-reputable players to send irrelevant traffic or even run scams like cookie stuffing. Arriving at the magic number that rewards quality without overpaying for traffic of limited value takes some trial and error. Performance data must also be continuously monitored so that pricing can be adjusted according to what the data shows.

A good rule of thumb is to only pay for what works, which is why the most popular commission model is a flat rate per action. If a prospective customer fills out a form, downloads an app, purchases a product or registers for a service, the affiliate who referred that customer gets paid a fee. And when setting prices, it pays to do homework on industry standards. What do competitors and in similar verticals pay their partners for conversions? Marketers can also look at how successful programs in other industries compensate their affiliates. Some retailers, for example, prefer to do a revenue share with affiliates, based on a percentage of the total amount of a customer’s purchase. This helps ensure that affiliates are compensated on a scale that correlates with the actual dollar value they are delivering. Commissions based on cost per 1,000 impressions or cost per click are also prevalent, but if affiliates aren’t providing high-quality traffic, the marketer will be left paying for clicks or ad views that never convert. Careful tracking of campaign performance over time can help affiliate program managers determine the best approach. By routinely testing and measuring different pay structures, direct marketers will be able to analyze which types of campaigns are yielding good results and which are underperforming, then adjust their payouts accordingly.

In addition to setting the right price, marketers need to be sure that they are paying affiliates consistently and on time. Affiliates reward the marketers that prioritize payments with loyalty and consistent traffic.

Look beyond the “last click.” All too often, affiliate performance tracking ends with the conversion. But not all conversions are equal — some may simply be one-time sales, while others may mark the beginning of a long and beautiful customer relationship. Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) — a prediction of the net profit associated with the entire future relationship with a customer — is an important metric to consider. By tracking events like log-ins, app usage and additional purchases beyond the final conversion, marketers can get a deeper picture of the total lifetime value of the customers that are being funneled to them by their affiliates. Armed with more insight into CLV, direct marketers can then identify and reward the partners who bring the most profitable traffic to the business over the long term. Affiliates who continually return repeat customers or big purchasers are the keepers.

Identify top-performing affiliates. More often than not, a customer’s path to purchase includes numerous “touchpoints” between first click and final sale. The best affiliates may be the ones who first launch the prospect on their journey, or an important “middle influencer,” but measuring just conversions will keep these gems from getting the recognition they deserve. More sophisticated tracking that incorporates attribution modeling can show the marketing impact of multiple touchpoints, and this ultimately will help affiliate program managers better understand the value of each and every contributor. On the flip side, good tracking can also be employed to root out poor quality affiliates. When each step along the customer journey is captured and analyzed, it is easier to identify potential red flags. Accurate and timely information about affiliate performance empowers marketers to take action, whether that means blocking a bad player, incentivizing a good one with bonuses or higher payouts, or simply adjusting campaign strategies to take better advantage of each partner’s strengths.

Like any marketing initiative, affiliate programs take a little care and feeding to realize maximum success. Being armed with real-time insight and performing ongoing analysis on what’s working and what’s not, direct marketers can make better decisions about how to set commissions, support top-performing affiliates and most effectively allocate their digital spend.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Pick Your Moments, Take Stock, Then Take Action

That was an amazing year! There really is no other way to put it. I don’t mean to talk about the hot butter on my breakfast toast by any means, but I am truly hoping that each of you had the same fantastic 2014 that I did and are also looking at an even better 2015.

I know that each of us take moments in time to take stock – for some it is a day like December 31st or January 1st, for some it is a birthday, or an anniversary of some sort. While each new day can always bring new possibilities, we all know that these moments in time – these milestones – somehow make it easier or more poignant to reflect, take stock, and hopefully, prepare an action plan.

I, for one, am very thankful for this particular part of our human nature, though I will be the first to admit that there have been times when at these moments of taking stock I have not been better off, or necessarily happier, or maybe even better off financially than I was at the previous moment of taking stock. But, I will say this – I have definitely not let too many of these moments of taking stock pass me by without at least trying to make some type of change. I encourage each of you to do the same. By regularly reflecting and taking action, you will find that over time, you’re going to be happier and better off in so many ways.

While you can read the titles on my LinkedIn profile and clearly see that I don’t consider myself a life coach or a Tony Robbins of any sort, I do know that some of my greatest successes in life have come from simply observing and learning the course of action that others in a similar situation have taken, or not taken. For that reason alone, coupled with the fact that I know a large number of you are using today and tomorrow to take stock, I thought I’d share my method of reflection with you. There is nothing groundbreaking, nothing that you don’t already know yourself, but sometimes seeing it writing can really help you get started. And, if I can humbly be a part of any positive change in anyone’s life by simply sharing my experiences, then I feel I am using my talents for good.

So, to break it down, there are only three steps: Choose your moments of reflection, take stock, then do something about it.

You can choose moments that occur annually on the calendar, such as your birthday, your wedding anniversary, etc., but I recommend that you conduct this reflection more often than just once a year. Maybe choose the first of every month, or the first Monday of every month, or find some reoccurring event in your life that can act as a great point in time for you to reflect.

Every six weeks, I get my haircut - like clockwork, every six weeks. My appointments are scheduled three deep and no matter what happens in the world and in my life, I know that if I’m still able to get out of bed in the morning and I’m still conscious, I am going to need a haircut. This makes it very easy for me to take a quick moment while I’m driving to my haircut, while I’m sitting in the chair, or at any time that day, really, to take a look at where I am and determine if I am better off that day than I was during my previous haircut. Find your haircut – find your regular rhythm with some regular event in your life and at every interval, you have a perfect opportunity to remember to reflect, take stock and then, take action.

Once you’ve chosen your moment, then every time it rolls around, you can take stock of the relationships in your personal life, the relationships in your professional life (including your job or your business), the relationship you have with your finances, or any other relationship in your life that needs attention. If you’re on the right track, this might not take long. It could be just a few moments of reflection to know that you’re in a better job than you were last year, or that there is more money in the bank this year than last year, or that there is less debt weighing you down than last year, or that you are closer and not more distant from the loved ones in your life. Granted, you may find yourself in a spot where some of these reflections are not going to be just a quick moment, but might take some actual in-depth thought and analysis. Either way, make sure that you take the time that you need to sort through what needs to be sorted out.

Lastly, once you’ve reflected, it is time for you to actually do something about it. Hopefully, you will find yourself in a spot where all you need to do is keep doing what you’re doing. Hopefully, you can just stay the course because everything is going great and you find yourself better off than you were at the previous moment of reflection, and hopefully, a number of consecutive previous reflection moments as well. But, if you don’t find yourself better off in any way, it is the perfect time for you to do something about it. It is as simple as creating a plan and then following through with it.

While it may take you a little while to get in the groove of conducting these regular reflections on your relationships, your career and your finances, I can only suggest that you give it a try and see how it works out for you because those haircut moments have worked wonders for me.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

CAKE 2014 In Review: Movin' On Up

Sharing the year end recap for CAKE I helped put together:

2014 has been a very exciting time at CAKE. We have grown by leaps and bounds in all facets of business, from customers, employees, partners and offices, to customer satisfaction, product offerings and revenue.

As we look forward to continued success in 2015, all of us at CAKE want to pause for a moment to thank you, our customers and partners, for making this success possible and share some highlights from the past twelve months.

Products: Driving Innovations

2014 was a landmark year for product innovations at CAKE. Our development teams were hard at work, creating a new product, CAKE for Advertisers, specifically built for tracking and optimizing advertisers’ multi-channel marketing efforts. Additionally, we spent a great deal of time working to enhance CAKE for Networks with new functionality and a more intuitive, refined user interface.

People: Expanding “The Dream Team”

Our customers often tell us the people who make up CAKE are the principal reason for their continued business. This year, the CAKE team grew 72% across our offices in Newport Beach and London, as well as our new office in New York City, opened to support our U.S. East Coast customers. With more dedicated and highly motivated business and technology experts, our company has become stronger, more agile and better equipped to respond to customer and market needs. Our support and client success teams are able to field more requests and offer worldwide support that exceeds customer expectations better than ever before.

Also this year, in response to the increasing demand for CAKE expertise, we expanded our client success team so we can offer professional and managed services. Our data, operation and integration services are designed to save our customers time and effort by analyzing data, managing workflows and integrating existing infrastructure. For more information about these services, reach out to your dedicated account manager.

Places: Going Global

This year, we expanded our European presence with our U.K. office, which saw a 200% year-over-year growth in operations and 100% increase in annual revenue. We also added customers in new geographies such as India, Brazil and Germany.

With our global expansion, CAKE tops off 2014 with more than 500 customers that collectively process over 5 billion consumer actions per month, resulting in a 71% increase in third quarter revenues year-over-year to reach a new company record.

Partners: Keeping In Good Company

Another principal reason for our growth was due to the support of our 60+ outstanding partners. This year, we established some very noteworthy technology partnerships, including Marketo, Google Adwords, Bing Ads and DoubleClick for Advertisers.

We deepened our existing partnerships with Tipalti for payment processing, Tealium for tag management, Invoca for call tracking and Forensiq for fraud protection. We also strengthened our relationships with service implementation partners such as Acceleration Partners, Juhll Online Marketing, Schaaff-PartnerCentric and Affiliate Traction.

Furthermore, CAKE launched a preferred partner program through which we have partnered with some of the top publishers in the performance marketing ecosystem. This partnership program has already begun to provide immense value to CAKE customers and is sure to expand both in size and scope in 2015.

Press: Sharing Our Passion

CAKE was in the news quite a bit this year. Close to home, the company was featured in the Orange County Business Journal list as the 4th fastest-growing publicly-traded company based out of Orange County, Calif. In addition, members of our executive team had a number of articles appear in publications like Website Magazine, Multi-channel Merchant, Target Marketing and Internet Retailer.

While each of these articles can help customers learn about the latest performance marketing trends, we also created a wide array of tools to help our customers leverage the CAKE platform and learn more about industry topics, such as attribution and the customer journey.

As we head into the next year, all of us at CAKE want to thank you for your business and support. Cheers to the milestones we accomplished together in 2014 and to the next frontier we will conquer in 2015!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Data Visualization: See Data Clearer and Faster

In just about every facet of business today, we are faced with large amounts of data. Visualization of that data can increase our ability to process information exponentially. In fact, according to research conducted by 3M, we process visual data 60,000 times faster than text.

Data visualization is especially important for digital marketers. Think about the vast volume of information that a single digital marketing campaign can yield; thousands of data points covering everything from where customers are located to which devices they are on and the channel they are using when they convert. Digital marketers are faced with the challenge of analyzing this data to optimize their campaign spending. Fortunately, there is advanced marketing campaign tracking software that can help with this task.

When deciding on the right tracking software, marketers need to keep in mind that a solid solution should provide data visualizations that are based on real-time data, display the most important KPIs in a single location, and organize and display data any way they’d like, even on mobile devices.

Real-time Data: Marketers need to conduct data analysis quickly to react to real-time market conditions. Reacting too slowly can cost sales and reduce revenue. Rather than looking at raw data sets, marketers can react more quickly when that data is presented to them as real-time data visualizations.

Important KPIs: Marketers should also have the ability to view all of the key performance indicators - traffic sources, return on investment, cost per lead, etc. - that are important to their business in a single location. This will give them a solid understanding of the performance of their marketing campaigns and allow them to redirect their marketing spend to the channels that are performing best. Marketers can unfortunately miss out on opportunities if they are spending too much time compiling data from different sources.

Data Flexibility: A good marketing campaign tracking solution should also provide the flexibility to organize and view data in the manner that best fits the marketer’s needs. This flexibility should also translate to the solution’s data visualizations. With the proper software solution, marketers can save countless hours previously spent analyzing data and put that time towards growing their business. Additionally, a comprehensive solution should free marketers from their desktops or laptops by being available 24/7 on mobile devices.

For any business, certain key pieces of data will consistently be the most important to success. By analyzing this data in a comprehensible manner through the use of visualizations, the true meaning of the data can be recognized in a matter of seconds. The most important thing to remember when finding a solution is that its data visualizations should eliminate information overload, leaving marketers with the insight to make intelligent business decisions.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Split Testing Your Way to Conversions

Split Testing is a random experiment designed to test which of two or more marketing creatives is more effective in driving traffic and conversions. The effectiveness of nearly identical versions of the same item with just a slight variant is compared to see which is more successful in accomplishing a desired outcome.

For example, when UK career site WikiJob tested two different landing pages for their numerical and verbal assessment test preparation service, split testing revealed that having customer testimonials on the landing page increased sales by 34%.

Marketing creative that can be split tested, include:
  • A square blue button vs. a round red button
  • A call to action that reads “Ask for a quote” vs. “Request a demo”
  • A square ad vs. a rectangular ad
  • A link to another web page vs. a link to a PDF
It’s understandable that the potential complexity of implementing split testing can seem overwhelming. There are technical challenges to overcome in both producing and randomly testing two different versions of calls to action, emails, landing pages, website graphics etc. that may cause consumers to act towards a desired outcome. Additionally, analyzing the data created with split testing can be a daunting task. The range of what can be split tested can be overwhelming in itself and narrowing down what to split test to begin with is a very complex business decision. Hence, many marketers don’t follow through with the process.

The trick to getting started with split testing, however, is to take it one step at a time. Choose just a few key items to split test – items that will provide actual insight into better ways to convert customers. One of the most critical items advertisers and networks can test when refining the creatives that drive conversions is the landing page a customer is sent to during the conversion process. A landing page is a great starting point when implementing split testing.

Another tip for getting started is to use software technology to manage your efforts. If digital marketers take the time to create multiple versions of creatives, they can use technology to reduce the burdensome tasks of delivering different versions of landing pages to consumers, and tracking and analyzing the results. This makes it easier to use split testing to gain a much clearer picture of customer behavior.

With just a little effort and the right technology, digital marketers can use the split testing method to optimize landing pages, which ultimately leads to increases in email clicks, page views and conversions.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Transforming Big Data Into Smart Advertising Insights

Do you know where to invest your digital advertising resources to achieve the most impact? If you have trouble coming up with an answer, you are not alone.

As the growth of internet usage, web-connected mobile devices and digital marketing channels have exploded, so too has the volume and complexity of information. In fact, data production will be 44 times greater in 2020 than it was in 2009.

Fortunately, there is sophisticated tracking technology to keep up with the amount and speed of available data to make intelligent decisions. The performance marketing industry has pioneered many innovative solutions and best practices in this area. These lessons learned can be applied across the broader digital advertising landscape to accurately track performance, and ultimately, maximize the impact of marketing spend.

Learn more from CAKE in our new white paper, Transforming Big Data Into Smart Advertising Insight.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Tagging Your Way To Digital Marketing Holiday Bliss

This article was co-authored with Jeff Deisner.

The next couple of months present big opportunities for digital marketers as holiday shopping gets underway. This year poses even greater opportunities as Shop.org predicts an 8 to 11 percent increase in November and December e-commerce sales over last year.

Making the most of the holiday shopping window requires an ability to measure and refine seasonal offers, design creatives and implement overall campaign strategy in real-time. The good news is that marketers have access to huge amounts of data they may use to understand what’s working and what’s not. The bad news is that it can be a daunting task to keep up with the volume of data, especially during the busy holiday season. 

All of those campaigns create a lot of data. Think about the vast volume of information that a single holiday digital marketing campaign can yield; thousands of data points covering everything from where customers are located to which devices they’re on and what channel(s) drove the most conversions or sales.  

One of the simplest of ways for digital marketers to manage this holiday data, as well as optimize it throughout the season, is through tagging. Much how keywords make blogs searchable, performance marketers can use this powerful tool to help them sort through vast amounts of campaign, offer and affiliate data. All they need is a platform that provides tagging. 

Below are tips on how tagging can make it easier to organize, search and analyze the vast amounts of data generated during the critical holiday shopping season.
• Localize – Affiliates can be tagged by location, from hemisphere down to individual streets, so offers can be localized. Local holiday themes can be used to better endear the campaign to consumers.
• Incentivize – Bonus offers and higher introductory commissions can be offered to new affiliates recruited at a specific event or through an alternative marketing method. Affiliates are looking to take advantage of the holiday season, so marketers can incentivize them with holiday shopping season offers.
• Reward top performers – Top-performing affiliates can be separated from the pack and rewarded with better incentives. Marketers can target these top performers with increased incentives during November and December.
• React to shifting trends – Commission rates can be changed for a large number of affiliates all at once, quickly and easily – so that marketers can react to real-time market conditions. Each year, what becomes popular during the holiday season can emerge very quickly and may even change throughout the entire season. Tagging can help marketers react dynamically to these consumer whims.

That’s not all! Marketers can use tagging to greatly reduce the time it takes to manage data and digital marketing campaigns by applying updates to any affiliate data en mass, and activating and deactivating a large number of affiliates or offers all at once. With tagging, marketers can also stay in contact with key affiliates and partners through bulk emails and better analyze campaign data by filtering reports.

Most importantly, once offers and entities have been tagged, they can be filtered and analyzed with ease and speed. Tagging is useful for grouping and separating affiliates from network partners or tagging offers by type such as pay-per-click, display, profit share, revenue percentages, etc.

Through tagging, marketers can separate and analyze data in a manner that best fits their holiday campaigns, reducing the effort, time and cost of managing their digital marketing campaigns. With nearly one-third of all sales occurring during the holiday shopping season, retailers need to recognize just how important their digital marketing campaigns can be to their bottom line during that time.

Friday, December 19, 2014

How Online Retailers Can Shine This Holiday Season

This article was co-authored with Jeff Deisner.

It’s no secret that the holiday season is the busiest and most profitable time of year for the retail industry. As the holidays approach, the press is awash in stories about the strategies retailers are practicing to drive traffic into their brick-and-mortar stores. But what does the season hold for online retailers?

Online holiday sales have steadily increased in recent years and are expected to continue to do so. In fact, the National Retail Federation’s digital division, Shop.org,has predicted an 8 to 11 percent increase in e-commerce sales this November and December over last year. Just as brick-and-mortar retailers are preparing for the holidays with door-buster promotions and hiring temps to cover extra floor shifts, online retailers can also shine this holiday season by following a three-step strategy for providing offers that are sure to resonate with consumers.

1. Determine the data points to track - The best way for online retailers to put a holiday data tracking strategy into effect is to start with determining what information to track. While this may vary slightly for each retailer, most will want to track where customers are located, what they are searching for, which devices they are using and what sites and channels are driving conversions. These key datapoints will give retailers valuable customer information that can be used to refine holiday offers.

By knowing where consumers are located, retailers can localize their offers. For example, you don’t want to offer discounts on heavy down jackets to customers in Southern California beach towns or offer board shorts to customers in the grip of a snowy New York winter. Understanding what customers are searching for helps to identify the category of items to present to the user for future shopping. Knowing which devices consumers use will also help online retailers ensure their creatives are viewable. Not having a landing page load properly on a mobile device can really hurt sales on key shopping days. Most importantly, by tracking which sites and channels are driving conversions, retailers can adjust their digital spend accordingly.

2. Organize and analyze through tagging - Once they have determined what to track, retailers will need to find a way to organize all of their campaign data. One of the simplest ways to accomplish this is through tagging. Much how keywords make blogs searchable, retailers can use this powerful tool to help them sort through vast amounts of campaign and offer data.

Through tagging, retailers can separate and analyze data in a manner that best fits their holiday campaigns. Additionally, they can also use tagging to greatly reduce the time it takes to manage data and campaigns by applying updates to any campaign data en mass, and activating and deactivating a large number of offers all at once. Tagging is useful for grouping and separating offers and payouts by type such as pay-per-click, display, profit share, revenue percentages, etc. Tagging can also be used to group some of the aforementioned datapoints to more effectively align offers with customer data.

3. Identify what’s working…or not - While tagging will help retailers organize their data, offers and creatives, split testing will help them determine what is resonating with customers. Split testing is a random experiment designed to test which of two or more marketing creatives is more effective in driving traffic and conversions. The effectiveness of nearly identical versions of the same item with just a slight variant is compared to see which is more successful in accomplishing a desired outcome.

For example, retailers can split test:

  • A square blue button vs. a round red button
  • A call to action that reads “Ask for a quote” vs. “Request a demo”
  • A square ad vs. a rectangular ad
  • A link to another web page vs. a link to a PDF


Just about any marketing creative can be split tested. Retailers can get started by choosing just a few key items that will provide actual insight into better ways to convert customers. By taking the time to create and split test multiple versions of creatives, retailers can get a much clearer picture of customer behavior throughout the holiday season.

Once retailers have determined what data to track, how to organize their data and how they will use multiple creatives to split test, they’ll be armed with the tools to optimize campaigns in real-time. And with 23.8 percent of all annual retail sales being made in just the month of December, retailers cannot miss out on a single sales opportunity. By following these simple and effective steps, it’s not too late for retailers to shine this holiday season.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Save Time This Holiday Season By Automating Your Product Feeds

This article was co-authored with John Vatz.

It’s never too late in the season for retailers to create efficiency and reduce operating costs by automating holiday digital marketing campaigns. With just thirty-one short days in December to make 23.8% of their annual sales, retailers must take advantage of every moment they can.

One of the Grinch-like thieves of time for retailers during the busy holiday shopping season is the continuous updating of product feeds that disperse products to price comparison websites, paid search affiliates, affiliate networks, online marketplaces, etc. As items go on sale, and hopefully, sell out completely, retailers must ensure they are providing a continual stream of products through their product feed. For deal-of-the-day sites like Offers.com, GroupOn or Gilt that can change out inventory multiple times per day, this can be especially difficult as they tend to have very little advanced notice as to what items will be featured in the near future.

The time constraints for retailers make it seemingly impossible to not just provide a product feed, but also to track the results of every conversion on each product sold through every website, display ad and seasonal offer email. However, automating product feed updates and ecommerce tracking can save retailers a ton of time, especially during the busy holiday season.

A comprehensive, intuitive, digital campaign management system that automates digital campaign tracking and helps retailers automate product feed updates can be the difference between success and failure. By simply making their XML product feed public on a server, retailers can have their digital tracking solution automatically deliver their product feed to their online partners and sites, helping them keep up with needed changes and still keep tracking conversions, all in real-time.

By not automating these processes, retailers will have to devote their most limited holiday resource, time, to actively managing their product feed and tracking results. This is not something retailers should need to stress over during their most opportune time of year. Instead, they should leave product feed updates and tracking to their digital campaign management solution.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Using Voucher Codes to Drive Holiday Sales

For nearly every retailer, the holiday shopping season is the most wonderful and profitable time of year. If your product or service can be given as a gift, now is the time to take advantage of the huge increase in online traffic as consumers search for the best holiday deals. Whether you have a brick-and-mortar business, an ecommerce-only enterprise, or a combination of both, a well-planned holiday voucher code (i.e., coupon) strategy can help you make the most of the season.

Here are a few tips to help get you started:

• Set Your Price for Maximum Conversion – Retailers should start their holiday voucher code campaign by determining the level of discount or other incentive to offer. The offer needs to be shallow enough to leave the retailer with a profit, but deep enough to gain interest and ultimately, a conversion. More seasoned retailers can take a short cut by looking to the results of previous offers that have worked in the past. After launching the offer, retailers can ensure success by tracking results and optimizing their offer until they find what works best.

• Make the Most of Cross-selling and Up-selling - There are a number of lucrative cross-selling and up-selling opportunities for retailers using voucher codes. One of the most successful is on the shopping cart checkout page or campaign landing page. Retailers should highlight a voucher code that can be used to save on the consumer’s next purchase or, based on what the consumer has previously purchased, a voucher code that can be used to save on a particular item of interest. Amazon has had great success with recommending other items that might interest their customers. Most retailers could benefit from sharing similar offers, especially during the holidays.

• Find a Balance - While it is important to cross-sell and up-sell with voucher codes, it is equally important to not overdo it. Rather than throwing a variety of random offers at the consumer, take the time to research specific offers geared towards particular customers and the items similar consumers commonly purchase. Tracking results will help retailers refine cross-selling and up-selling offers.

Refining offers by analyzing results is critical to the success of holiday voucher code campaigns. Each year what is popular during the holiday season changes and has the potential to further change repeatedly throughout the season. No matter how experienced they may be at anticipating trends, retailers need to track results to see what offers and ad creatives are working so campaign ad placement and messaging can be optimized accordingly.

Retailers know that the holidays are the most important time of the year for their business, but many may not realize just how great a role voucher codes can play in driving sales during the holidays. Now is the perfect time to launch an effective holiday voucher code campaign. Here are quite a few sure-fire ways for retailers to grab consumer attention with holiday voucher code ads.

• Timing is Key - One of the most successful ways is to drive urgency by restricting the offer to a set time frame. This time frame can vary based on each retailer’s products and audience. As with all campaigns, monitoring results is the best way to refine the length of timed offers.

• Keep it Short and Simple - Another way to help ensure a quick click is to use a voucher code that is short and easy to remember. Site visitors are more apt to click on ads with short codes that they can remember at check out. Additionally, easy to remember voucher codes are easy to share. There are a number of popular voucher code sites where codes can be posted, helping drive sales through word-of-mouth and the large number of consumers that search online for voucher codes before making purchases.

• Designing an Effective Ad - How a voucher code ad is structured is also important in getting consumers to click quickly. Ads should have a prominent company logo to build credibility, a value position clearly stating the offer and a strong call to action. Retailers should create a simple design with text that is instantly readable and a defined outer frame. A clean, simple ad that is easy to understand will yield the best results.

The National Retail Institute reports that 33% of retail sales occur during the months of November and December. Not only does this mean that retailers have just two short months to make nearly a third of their sales, it also means that a third of the chance to create brand awareness and build customer loyalty occurs during that time. Many consumers that find great holiday shopping deals with retailers return to those retailers throughout the rest of the year. A carefully planned and executed holiday voucher code strategy can help win life-long customers.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tracking Events Along The Customer Journey

One of the first things we learn in Marketing 101 is many-a-customer-journey is littered with events. Like breadcrumbs left behind by people lost in the woods, events are the only way for advertisers and marketers alike to attribute a desired outcome back to its source.

So, what are events?  Events are actions that a customer takes along the conversion process.  Events are unique to each advertiser depending on what is important to them.  Events can be things like a customer clicking on a display ad, partially filling out a lead, using a voucher code at checkout, watching a video, or even clicking “Like” on an advertiser’s page. It is through tracking events like these that marketers learn which sources of customer engagement are profitable and which are just not worth their time.

And how are events tracked?  While there are a number of event-tracking tools out there, you’re best served by a comprehensive platform that has a unique and flexible method of tracking any pre-determined action along the customer journey.  A good event-tracking platform should track payable events such as an app purchase and non-payable events like a profile completion or newsletter sign up.

A versatile event-tracking platform should be equipped to handle the following with regards to partner attribution:

  • Allow only one per user, or multiple
  • Ability to pay per event or not pay at all
  • Pay on a revenue percentage or flat rate
  • Specify payouts at the affiliate and campaign level


Which events should be tracked? Once you have a solid platform, you need to decide what to track.  Each enterprise is going to have events unique to their channels, customers, advertisers and affiliates that will provide a good picture of the effectiveness of their marketing spend.  Come up with an initial list of important events and then modify that list over time as tracking data is analyzed.

As an example, take a look at what some of the marketers in these industries track:

Forex and Binary Options Brokers
-       New trader signups
-       Trader deposits
-       Trader withdrawls
-       Volume of trader transactions

Dating Sites
-       New member signups
-       Profile completions (add a photo, send an email)
-       Member interactions
-       Paid member subscriptions

Gaming Sites
-       Downloads
-       Installs
-       Upgrades
-       In-game buys
-       Level achievements
-       Shares with fellow gamers

Retail Sites
-       Lifetime customer sales (recurring sales)
-       All subsequent sales by period of time
-       Sales provided by a particular affiliate
-       Sales obtained though a particular channel
-       Facebook Likes
-       Tweets
-       Instagram Shares


While these are just some examples, you can easily see how to track virtually any digital event along the customer journey.  No matter what industry, with the right tracking platform, marketers can use event tracking to take control of their campaigns.