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Nearly half of marketers are already using or testing machine learning

With more organisations showing greater understanding of how AI and machine learning can be utilised, adoption is rising.

In fact, according to Econsultancy’s newly published ‘Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Marketing’ report (produced in partnership with Tealium), 80% of organisations are either already using or are set to use artificial intelligence or machine learning in future (24% in practice today, 25% in testing, and 31% planning to use).

Furthermore, 71% of respondents using the technology said they have already had their expectations either “exceeded” or “met” by their organisation’s use of AI or ML.

Lack of resource or budget is the biggest barrier to adoption

This paints a promising picture, but of course there are still obstacles to overcome, particularly in terms of generating success or value from investment in the technologies.

The biggest obstacle according to survey respondents is a lack of resources or budget, with 39% citing this as a reason they have failed to adopt or generate value from artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Thirty one percent of respondents say that a lack of skills or knowledge in their teams is a significant barrier to the success of machine learning initiatives.

lack of budget
test

Interestingly, 23% of organisations cite lack of trust or confidence in AI/ML, which indicates that hype about the technology has not yet translated to conviction amongst all marketers.

The report suggests that some obstacles can cause a catch-22. One example of this might be a lack of confidence in AI and ML holding back initiatives from producing the results that would in turn instil confidence.

Attitudes indicate the need for greater understanding of data and analytics

Elsewhere in the survey, 62% of respondents anticipate that data, analytics, and related technologies would be either a top priority (17%) or a strong priority (45%) for their organisation in the year ahead. At the same time, however, 71% of respondents indicate that artificial intelligence or machine learning will be a top priority (26%) or a strong priority (51%) in the coming year.

data and analytics

The fact that both are pressing concerns is a positive, but a higher priority for broader AI/ML initiatives suggests that organisations could be under the (false) assumption that the two are independent of each other.

In reality, the ability to derive insights from data is the key to enabling success through artificial intelligence.

Positive impact on marketing will stem from personalisation

The report findings also indicate that customer perception and demand for AI-driven marketing could be a factor in more organisations adopting the technology in the near future. The survey found that 80% of respondents agreed that personalisation enabled by machine learning will be welcomed by customers, while 27% “strongly” agree.

This drive towards personalisation is likely to also be the reason why 83% of survey respondents agreed that data privacy compliance will become a competitive advantage, as consumers increasingly demand that their data be used in a transparent and valuable way.

data privacy compliance

Finally, the report highlights the divisive topic of AI and jobs. It found that 42% of survey respondents “somewhat” agree with the statement that “AI and ML will create more jobs in marketing, not less.” However, 32% of respondents also “somewhat” disagree. In future, it will be up to organisations to re-evaluate the kind of skills they are looking for, which, rather than be replaced by, will have the potential to be enriched by artificial intelligence.

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Marketers on the new normal: Chloe Pascal, Senior Marketing Manager at Nosto

At Econsultancy we’ve been talking to marketers and digital professionals about how they are adapting in the coronavirus crisis.

Today it’s the turn of Chloe Pascal, Senior Marketing Manager UK, Ireland & International at retail personalisation solution Nosto. She spoke to us about how her company is keeping morale up during the pandemic, the trends she’s witnessed from inside the ecommerce sector, and which brands have impressed her since the outbreak.

Please describe your job: What do you do?

I’m a senior marketing manager at Nosto, a personalisation solution for online retailers. My role is focused on the UK and APAC regions, where I run initiatives across various marketing channels aimed at driving qualified leads as well as supporting brand awareness.

How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?

The whole of the company adopted a work from home policy in all regions since early March so I’m working from my London flat. This has been a fairly easy transition since – like many tech companies – we have always had the flexibility to work remotely.

We have a shared team to-do list for the day which we post every morning in a shared slack channel. This helps to keep us accountable and motivated. I also have a daily 30-minute video catch-up with my team, in which we can all say ‘hi’ and go through anything we need help on. It also means we can make sure everyone is feeling good – looking after people’s mental health has been made a priority at Nosto especially as we have a young team with many people living alone.

Like most people who are working from home, the number of conference calls I have to sit in on every day has increased dramatically. Sometimes it’s hard to get actual work done with so many meetings – so I’m trying to create the right balance of meetings and space in the day to work.

It’s important to schedule a bit of fun into things right now. So, to keep everyone’s spirits up we arrange a virtual team quiz every Friday afternoon before signing off for the weekend.

Aside from work, I have put together a daily routine which includes meditation and journal writing before I log on in the morning which I never really had the chance to do before. I’m working out during my lunch break from my living room which was odd at first but is now essential to help me keep sane with all the madness and concerning headlines.

What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?

I use Asana as a project management tool, and I’m on Google Hangout and Slack for my calls and communications with colleagues – and the company’s tech partners who we have private channels with.

Which companies have impressed you since the outbreak?

One of the brands I’m impressed by is Gymshark which sells gym and workout clothing online. It just seems like they want to help and are not just trying to sell products. Their concern is making sure people are ok and have the support they need.

Their marketing emails have been really relevant. As well as focusing on ideas for workouts, they discuss issues such as mental health, recipes, and putting routines in place. The types of content that can really help people who are in lockdown.

They’re running a ‘Sweaty Selfie’ campaign in which the brand makes a donation to the NHS for every post-workout selfie that people post using the #NHSSweatySelfie hashtag. Which is a fun and relevant way to raise money.

They are also posting free workouts online and are asking people what types of workouts they want. All the workouts are led by personal trainers, which is obviously great exposure for PTs who are currently out of work.

What changes are you making to help your brand connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?

First, of course, we’re very aware that for many people this is a tough time both in their work and personal lives. So, we are cautious that while we want to carry on as normal, for some of our customers and partners this may not be a time when they want to engage with us. That’s fine. And we have even included a statement highlighting this in our email signatures.

Our focus is on supporting customers and partners and to help the ecommerce community get through this challenging time any small way we can. So, we’re gathering and sharing data from our platform about how ecommerce is performing. We’re also sharing best practice advice and ideas for ecommerce on our blog.

To lighten things up we have organised a virtual pub quiz series – hosted by Nosto or one of its partners – that tries to bring together employees from a variety of ecommerce sector companies every Thursday evening of the lockdown period. Participants include people that work for customers and a variety of other ecommerce tech companies. The idea is to socialise, connect with each other and have some downtime as a community.

What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?

Obviously, some sectors in ecommerce are thriving, while others are struggling. We’ve been tracking the fashion vertical globally and our data shows that the sector took a big hit with online sales revenue down by nearly a third in late March – a little after the pandemic hit.

But the data shows that performance has recovered in April with sales revenue bouncing back to levels higher than a year ago. It’s unclear how much of this is because retailers are heavily discounting their products in order to keep sales coming in so it’s an area we’ll keep tracking.

Discounts, marketplaces, advertising: how are fashion retailers reacting to coronavirus?

Aside from that, it’s interesting to see how the ecommerce community in general is pulling together during the crisis. For example, Slack has joined forces with Australian cosmetics brand Adore Beauty to facilitate an “ecommerce war room” where hundreds of ecommerce brands have come together to share insights and discuss challenges during the outbreak. And Shopware, a German ecommerce platform, has banded together with ecommerce companies to create a LinkedIn support group for sharing helpful information.

What advice would you give a marketer right now?

It’s a tough time, so respect people who may want a break from being emailed or sold to right now. Be empathetic and human. Offer support and help to your customers and prospects without expecting anything in return.

Don’t panic and try to do too much to overcompensate for lack of activity right now. For example, don’t run as many webinars as possible to fight back at the lack of events. Less is more – rather than quantity of activity, try to focus on quality. Doing things that are different and stand out and connect with where everyone is right now is going to be more effective.

What does long term planning and strategy look like now at your brand?

Over the long term there is going to be continuing demand for tools that monitor, improve and optimise the online experience, so longer-term strategy around our technology and how we market it remains fairly clear for us.

However, right now, the ecommerce sector, which is where we are focused, has obviously been disrupted – with some sectors busier than ever and others going through a rough time. At the moment, who knows how things will change and develop day by day? So currently, in many aspects of my own planning I won’t look further than three to six months ahead. Obviously, we need to remain flexible in order to jump on opportunities and react to challenges.

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How to Use Marketing Attribution Reports to See More Conversions

What’s the one perfect way to get customers to convert?

It’s through organic search! Or wait, maybe Facebook Ads? But what about the one true king, email?

All of the marketing channels work, but which one works the best?

It’s different for every business. A channel that makes lots of customers convert for one organization may not work very well for yours.

In lieu of tracking down every single customer you have and asking them how they came to their buying decision, you can just track them – and learn what led to their conversion from a marketing attribution report.

What is marketing attribution? This post will cover everything about it, including:

  • What is marketing attribution?
  • Why should you care about marketing attribution?
  • What do you learn from a marketing attribution report?

What is marketing attribution?

Marketing attribution is a reporting method to show which touchpoints during the customer journey have the most impact on the action you want people to take – like making a purchase, filling out a form, or completing another type of customer conversion.

Marketing attribution helps you assess the ROI of the marketing methods you use to connect with your customers.

The conversion process is almost never as linear as you want it to be. You can set up the perfect blend of emails, paid ads, organic content, and product pages — with the expectation customers will follow your flawless path right to conversion.

But the customer's mind doesn’t work like that.

It’s rare that a customer ever goes straight to a website and makes a purchase – even with a business they frequent. Many steps happen between the initial stage of awareness and the decision to buy – and most customers hop around steps, repeat steps, or skip some steps altogether.

A survey of 2,274 performance marketers in the UK and US by Tune and Acceleration Partners, showed that first- and last-click models were used by nearly seven in 10 respondents.

Attribution model preferences vary across businesses, but each has its pros. (Source:eMarketer)

The most common types of marketing attribution models are:

  • First-touch attribution: First-touch gives all of the credit for a conversion to your business’s first touchpoint with the customer. It doesn’t take any other touchpoints after the first into account.
  • Last non-direct click attribution: This is similar to last-touch attribution because credit still goes to the last touchpoint. But, with the last non-direct click, it eliminates any “direct” interactions that happen right before the conversion.
  • Linear attribution: A linear attribution model divides credit for a conversion equally between every touchpoint the customer has with your business on the way to a conversion.
  • Time decay attribution: Time decay attribution also distributes credit equally between all touchpoints. But this model also considers when the touchpoint occurred. The closer a touchpoint is to the moment of conversion, the more attribution value that touchpoint gets.
  • Position-based attribution: Also called the “U-shaped attribution model,” position-based attribution splits the credit for conversion between the first and last touchpoints a prospect interacts with.
  • Last-touch attribution: Last-touch attribution credits a customer conversion with the last interaction they had before converting. It doesn’t take any previous interactions into account.

These are all helpful ways to look at attribution, but a popular one is last-touch attribution. That’s where you can see the exact moment that the customer conversion clicks.

As you may have guessed from the name, this attribution model gives 100% of the credit to the last interaction a contact has with your business before they convert.

The last touchpoint a contact interacts with is attributed to the conversion. (Source: Curata)

A visitor finds your website through organic search. A week later they see a Facebook Ad for a webinar you plan to host and click the ad. When it’s webinar day, they attend.

The webinar attendance is then 100% attributed to that conversion. Last-touch attribution is the default attribution model in many platforms. This type of attribution model lets you see the most recent activity that led to a conversion.

Why is attribution important to your marketing strategy?

Attribution is data that puts you into the minds of your prospects and customers. It helps you make marketing decisions that align with your sales efforts and produce more conversions.

Data-driven decisions are a big part of what makes your marketing efforts effective — without it, you are left to guesswork. Some of the top objectives of data-driven marketing for marketers include attributing sales revenue to marketing.

33% of people say attributing sales revenue to marketing is a top objective. (Infographic Source: Invespcro)

How a conversion attribution report helps you elevate your marketing

A conversion attribution report shows you which touchpoints a customer experienced in their path to conversion. This can include marketing channels, sales channels, and specific touchpoints on your website.

As a marketer, you want to measure how effective your different touchpoints are. You need a comprehensive view of which touchpoints (by platform, source, or medium) lead to a customer’s conversion, to better identify which customer journey paths are the most successful.

An attribution report helps you:

  • Spend your marketing budget in the most responsible ways (to see positive marketing ROI)
  • Learn which channels are most effective for marketing to your target audience
  • Make data-driven decisions because you understand customer thinking right at the moment of conversion
  • Realize where the problems in your marketing are so that you can address them

A conversion attribution report can help you answer these specific questions:

  1. Which channels generate the most leads?
  2. Which campaigns have the greatest impact?
  3. What are the most common paths customers take to get to conversion?
  4. What is the average number of touchpoints a customer visits before conversion?
  5. What types of content generate the most conversions?

How to run a conversion attribution report in ActiveCampaign

The ActiveCampaign Conversion Attribution Report measures the effectiveness of all touchpoints that led up to a customer's conversion. This attribution report uses a last-touch attribution model. This means that we'll display the final touchpoint (platform, source, or medium) that convinced the customer to convert.

With this report, you will be able to:

  • Summarize conversion trends
  • See the value of a contact's activity over time
  • Identify which touchpoints your customers interacted with before converting
  • Make data-based decisions after learning which touchpoints were the
  • most effective in your strategy

Under the Reports tab in ActiveCampaign, here’s what the conversion attribution report looks like:

All your attribution data is in one convenient place so that you can make the best marketing decisions.

Here’s what you can see in the report:

  1. Conversion (Current Period): The number of conversions attributed to last-touch in the current attribution time period
  2. Conversion (Previous Period): The number of conversions attributed to last-touch from the precious attribution time period
  3. Percent change of conversion: The rate of increase or decrease in conversions between time periods
  4. Attribution Source Over Time: A chart to show the value of each touchpoint over time
  5. Top Conversions: A chart to show your most effective marketing channel based on conversions
  6. Source Medium Pairs: A table to show conversions from tracked UTM links
  7. Touchpoints Leading Up to a Conversion: A flow that shows the customer path through touchpoints to conversion
  8. Source Distribution: A pie chart to show the distribution of touchpoint attribution
  9. Conversion Attribution Details table: A table breaks down conversion data on a more granular level.

This “Touchpoints Leading Up to a Conversion” flowchart shows that one customer interacted with an email sent from an ActiveCampaign account, which prompted them to view a video on Instagram, then click a banner on Facebook — which led to conversion.

The conversion attribution report will automatically load metrics for all conversions that took place within the last 7 days, with a 7-day attribution window.

The filter bar at the top of the report lets you see data filtered by:

  • Conversion type
  • Measure
  • Currency
  • Conversion Date
  • Attribution Window

What do you need to set up touchpoints and run a conversion attribution report in ActiveCampaign?

First, you need Site Tracking.

Attribution relies on ActiveCampaign site tracking to work. ActiveCampaign Site Tracking tracks every visit your contacts have on your website, and associates it with a contact’s record. This lets you segment your contacts by if they do (or don’t) visit a web page – and triggers automations when a key web page is visited.

Then, you need UTM codes.

A UTM code is a way to track your campaigns. UTM codes are added to the end of regular URLs to tell Google Analytics (or other analytics tools) more information about each link – like what source a contact clicked from – and which marketing campaign it relates to.

A breakdown of what a UTM code looks like. (Source: MH Insider)

Attribution automatically parses the 5 common UTM parameters when a contact visits a site link that contains these parameters. These site visits are touchpoints.

The five UTM parameters you can use to organize attribution info are:

  • utm_medium (ex: “CPC” for cost per click)
  • utm_source (ex: facebook.com)
  • utm_campaign (ex: “US Newsfeed”)
  • utm_term (ex: “Buy more stuff”
  • utm_content (ex: “Red Banner”)

There are free UTM builders you can use, like:

The last piece of the attribution puzzle is conversions. Without a conversion, there is nothing to base the attribution info on.

Conversions can have a value attributed to them. So for example, if you know that 1 in 10 contacts that subscribe to your newsletter end up spending $200, then you might give a “Newsletter subscription” conversion a value of $20.

This conversion info tells you the value of your different marketing channels. Once you set up your chosen conversions, this report attributes last-touch value to the conversion and it’s reflected in the report.

Customer attribution shows you what works best—and makes it easier to find your top-performing marketing channels. Be smarter about your ad spend and make informed business decisions with the help of a conversion attribution report.

For more information about the conversion attribution report in ActiveCampaign, check out these guides from our Attribution Help Center!

The post How to Use Marketing Attribution Reports to See More Conversions appeared first on ActiveCampaign Email Marketing Blog.

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After Covid-19, consumers want enjoyable ecommerce experiences

It likely wasn’t much of a surprise that JC Penney filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy after the recent and sudden shift from physical to solely digital. It may have been a little more of a shock, however, that high profile brands like Neiman Marcus and J.Crew have also succumbed to the pandemic.

Too many stores, too little investment in the digital economy – and a final pandemic blow – will undoubtedly be stated by the pundits. And for those left standing, “reopening the economy” is unlikely to reverse the shift from digital back to physical. The die has been cast, and the pain retailers have been facing for the past several years will only intensify unless they use this time for an extreme digital makeover.

While Covid-19’s lockdown resulted in US clothing sales plunging 78.8% from March to April, consumers had been shifting from physical to digital for years – and Covid-19 just accelerated the exodus.

In two short months, department stores went from omnichannel to only digital. And consumers, who had placated themselves with poor online experiences in order to stick with favored brands with physical locations, suddenly threw allegiances out the window.

Loyaltly is vastly overstated

Turns out loyalty is vastly overstated. According to HBR, loyalty is as much about what is familiar as it is what is convenient. A dearth of choices from stockouts to limited physical outlets broke those steadfast habits. As shoppers turned to survival mode they embraced whatever they could find on digital outlets. And it’s unlikely they will ever return.

According to McKinsey, companies who were weak before Covid-19 will be looking at closure or consolidation. The consulting firm says it is likely that 80% of fashion retailers will be in distress after two months of social-distancing closures. And it’s not just fashion. Every industry has been hit, with the largest retail sector, motor vehicle and auto parts having been decimated.

This contraction doesn’t have to be a death knell. Although to survive this existential threat, ecommerce companies – be they B2C or B2B – need to forget the idea of digital to thinking experiential. The technology is there to help them save themselves, but not if they want to continue toeing into technology or thinking they can do it alone. Both of these habits have been the hallmark of many retailers.

But its long past the time of simply having goods listed online that sold to personas vs people. Ecommerce behemoths like Amazon, Netflix, Apple, and China’s JD.com are but a few who have ratcheted up the expectations of all buyers  – be they business or consumers. All of these giants analyze literally petabytes of data to allow predictive search, make recommendations, and hyper-personalize buyers’ journeys. JD.com has incorporated Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) technologies to better immerse shoppers in the experience.

Digital leaders run on data

According to JD.com’s website, it is generating 31 petabytes of data every day, to provide insight into Chinese consumer behavior.

Digital leaders run on data. They incorporate and analyze data that comes from POS, CRM, loyalty systems, ERP, supply chain, social media. The more data you have, the better they can connect with their customer and discern what they really want. The better they predict – the more likely customers will remain loyal.

But here’s the kicker. Digital leaders have been honing their art for almost 20 years now. And many have thousands of software engineers earning hundreds of thousands of dollars constantly tinkering and exploring.

If you want to catch up you need a technology partner who can offer a robust platform that lets you integrate all those data sources, index them so they are findable, and offer machine learning to dynamically recommend product, solutions, and content to customers.

Covid-19 unfortunately exposed all sorts of weaknesses of infrastructure out there – from public health, to grocery buying, to signup for unemployment. Customers are exhausted from battling systems that are non-intuitive, are not dependable, don’t know if merchandise is even available –or when it might ever be again.

They are ready to become loyal to those that invest in finally creating an enjoyable experience.

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Travel and hospitality brands are partnering with CPG giants to respond to Covid-19

With borders around the world shut and countless millions subject to some form of lockdown, the travel and hospitality industries have been among the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

By some estimates, airlines and hotels face hundreds of billions of dollars in losses due to the pandemic, a staggering amount that will likely reshape the industries for years to come.

The big question on industry executives’ minds: when borders reopen and freedom of movement is restored, just how long will it take for a meaningful recovery to begin?

The answer to that question will depend a lot on just how comfortable individuals feel boarding a plane or checking into a hotel. In an effort to convince consumers that doing so is safe, a growing number of travel and hospitality brands are partnering with household CPG names.

Last week, United Airlines announced a tie-up with Clorox dubbed ‘United CleanPlus’. As detailed in a press release, “Clorox is working closely with United to enhance the airline’s cleaning program, redefine disinfection procedures and equip customers with amenities at select locations that help support a healthier and safer environment throughout their travel journey.”

United CleanPlus will roll out first at select United hub locations, with expansion to other locations to follow.

The United partnership with Clorox comes on the heels of a similar partnership announced last month between Hilton and Clorox competitor Lysol, which is owned by CPG giant Reckitt Benckiser (RB). Under ‘Hilton CleanStay with Lysol protection’, the hotel giant will prominently use Lysol products in North America in an effort to reassure guests that their rooms are safe and clean.

According to the company, “RB will bring key talent and Lysol experts in hygiene and disinfection to the multi-year partnership, leveraging over 130 years of science-based research and thought leadership to support awareness, training and education, and product delivery and systems. RB and Hilton are also exploring opportunities to expand the program into a global partnership.”

Cleaning of Canopy Hilton Hotel, Friday, April 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. Photo by Will Newton, Hilton website

Is brand power a strong enough disinfectant?

Health experts say that coronavirus can be spread through contaminated surfaces, which has led to a huge boom in demand for makers of disinfectants and cleaning supplies. Clorox and Lysol are two of the biggest, and their brands are synonymous with the category.

That makes them ideal partners for travel and hospitality companies eager to show consumers that they’re taking customer health seriously. But is the brand power Clorox and Lysol bring to the table as strong as their disinfectants?

Notably, the partnerships announced by United and Hilton don’t just involve Clorox and Lysol and the use of their products. The companies have also engaged health experts to be a part of their new programs. In the case of United CleanPlus, the Cleveland Clinic is helping the airline rethink the traveler journey to improve safety. For instance, United will be reducing touchpoints and upping its use of contactless technologies, such as touchless kiosks. It is also modifying its boarding procedures.

Hilton is working with the Mayo Clinic to establish revised disinfection and cleanliness standards with Covid-19 in mind. According to the company, “With the aid of Mayo Clinic medical and technical experts, Hilton is rewriting its cleaning protocols to translate the best practices in hospital hygiene standards to hotel guest rooms.”

Broader initiatives like this make sense. While the use of the Clorox and Lysol brands is likely to highlight to customers that companies are trying to increase cleanliness, delivering on this promise reasonably requires changes that go beyond the increased use of disinfectants.

Up next: partnerships beyond travel and hospitality?

While travel and hospitality brands might be the most eager partnership-seekers, don’t be surprised if others take a page from their playbook. Some retailers, for instance, are likely to face similar consumer concerns about cleanliness as they reopen their physical stores. In fact, according to a Deloitte survey, just 40% of American consumers feel safe going to retail stores right now.

As such, it seems that retailers might also benefit from high-profile safety initiatives bolstered by partnerships with CPG brands known for their cleaning products.

More on travel & hospitality in Covid-19

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What you need to know about Google’s new page experience ranking signal

Google has announced a new signal dubbed Page Experience that it plans to incorporate into a ranking change sometime next year. Here’s what you need to know about it.

It aims to measure the overall quality of user experience

Page experience, as the name suggests, is intended to quantify how a page performs experientially, or as Google puts it, “to provide a holistic picture of the quality of a user’s experience on a web page.”

It combines existing signals with Core Web Vitals metrics

Google already has a number of signals related to user experience. It has metrics for mobile friendliness, safe-browsing, the use of HTTPS security. It also checks whether certain guidelines, such as those around intrusive interstitials, are being followed.

The new page experience signal takes these existing signals and combines them with Core Web Vitals, “a set of real-world, user-centered metrics that quantify key aspects of the user experience.” Specifically, Core Web Vitals measures page load time, interactivity and visual stability.

Page experience won’t launch before 2021

Due in part to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Google says that the page experience signal won’t go live before the end of the year and that it will give six months’ notice before it is launched.

Google offers tools for Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals was launched earlier this month, and has already been incorporated into Lighthouse, an open-source tool for running technical website audits, as well as Google PageSpeed Insights. Google is also surfacing Core Web Vitals improvement opportunities in its Search Console.

Page experience is being applied to Search as well as mobile Top Stories

Naturally, the page experience signal will be applied to Google Search but the company is also planning to apply it to its mobile Top Stories feature.

Notably, Google is removing the requirement that stories be published using AMP for Top Stories eligibility. Instead, a page that ostensibly rates highly enough in terms of page experience can also be featured.

Where an AMP page is available, Google will continue to use it for Top Stories, so this change might give publishers a reason to rethink their AMP strategies.

Content is still king, but page experience is a tie-breaker

While it’s clear that the importance of performance is increasing in Google’s eyes, the search giant is also making it clear that content is still king. In announcing page experience, Sowmya Subramanian, Google’s Director of Engineering for Search Ecosystem, stated:

While all of the components of page experience are important, we will prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar. A good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content. However, in cases where there are multiple pages that have similar content, page experience becomes much more important for visibility in Search.

The last sentence is important and suggests that publishers are increasingly taking a risk if they assume that good content will ensure good rankings. Indeed, data does show that faster websites rank better and as Google gets better at quantifying the more qualitative aspects of experience, expect to see this trend continue.

There are more experience-related metrics on the way

Google says it continues to identify ways to measure page experience and plans to incorporate new signals “on a yearly basis”. This makes it clear that technical SEO is not only here to stay but could cement its position as the dominant form of SEO in the near future.

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The Top 5 Essentials of a Stellar Inbound Marketing Strategy

Are you tired of unreliable sales techniques? Is your marketing falling down around you? Why not try inbound marketing. Find out how to increase your sales and your reach with one effective strategy.

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Make Bank in 2020: Best Affiliates That Pay the Highest

Are you upset over Amazon's recent rate cut? Want to make bank on affiliate marketing? Here are the highest paying affiliate marketing programs on the block.

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Small businesses could go big with Facebook Shops

The launch of Facebook Shops has far reaching implications. It could ultimately change the way small businesses operate, possibly forever. The idea that the local mom-and-pop shop can now have access to a global audience and even operate without a storefront brings with it excitement and inevitably, lots of questions.

Shops’ launch is timely and desperately needed, as a fifth of small businesses in the UK are ‘at risk of collapse within a month’, according to a recent article in The Guardian. Facebook Shops will also help accelerate digital adoption for small businesses which is crucial given in the UK alone, 25 million people prefer to shop through their mobile phone. However, only 18% of SMEs have optimised their services for mobile use, according to Lloyds Banking Group.

And with the majority of the UK still stuck at home, there’s a desire to feel connected and part of anything beyond our immediate four walls.

A frictionless customer experience

With Facebook Shops, customers can click on an ad, try on products using AI technology and move to purchase, all without leaving Facebook platforms. Payment information can be saved and applied automatically, making it easy to pay, with higher conversion rates and fewer abandoned purchases. There’s an opportunity to engage with customers through the journey to support the transaction process and provide customer service through WhatsApp.

Anything that removes a step or two from the buying process is likely to boost sales. The benefit here is really a reduction in friction. And if customers already have a relationship with a small business, Shops acts as a facilitator, giving them another way to buy from a brand they trust.

Facebook Shops has the potential to change the nature of small business in a number of other ways:

Building on the community spirit forged during the coronavirus crisis

The global pandemic has resulted in a sharp rise in collectivism, with people pulling together in the interest of their communities. Recent ONS data reveals that around 57% said they would be supported by other local community members if they needed help during the pandemic.’. Facebook Shops has placed itself at the centre of this goodwill and will be a part of the recovery plan for local communities.

Local provider to global trader

The local corner shop now has the potential to reach a global network, overnight. Access to new customers, cultures and collaborators will impact the way in which stores stock and sell product.

Easy to discover shops

Luck and proximity will no longer be key factors when it comes to finding retailers. Small businesses can build their profile and attract new audiences without worrying much about their stores’ location.

The end of perusing

The customers that never enter a store will never have a chance to peruse, wandering down the aisles, looking for gift inspiration, or something fun they can indulge in. If they haven’t seen a product on a profile, they won’t go out of their way to dig.

Conversely, inspiration leads to in-the-moment purchases

It’s crucially important to offer customers access to what they want, in the moment they want it. Eight one percent of smartphone purchases are spontaneous, according to Klarna, and a study from Slickdeals reveals that we spend $5,400 on average a year on impulse buys. The food pictures, the new outfit post, the perfect ceramic bowl – we’re all inundated with newsfeed images daily and inspired in-the-moment to buy what we see.

Now it’s possible to move straight from the picture to purchase, with the ability for anyone to tag products in posts. People will be inspired by influencers, friends and the shop itself to buy instantly. And super fans who help generate income could be rewarded in return.

What’s in it for Facebook?

Facebook is helping local businesses but is also helping itself by aggregating more data across the marketing funnel to sell to advertisers and businesses. It has created an easy-to-use, free platform with a captive, segmented audience to sell to in a time of crisis.

Whatever the motivations. Facebook Shops is the shot in the arm that small businesses need in these challenging times, but there’s no doubt that it will change our relationship with local shops going forward.

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