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PPC: A glossary of terms

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The Anatomy of a Text Ad

Google and Microsoft advertisers have had to rethink quality copy with the format of expanded text ads and responsive search ads. But the principles of the copy are the same for all pay-per-click ads: include the searcher's query, the product's value propositions, and a clear call-to-action.

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June 2020 Top 10: Our Most Popular Posts

We publish roughly 45 articles each month, hopefully helping ecommerce merchants improve their businesses. What follows are the 10 most popular articles that we published in June 2020. Articles from early in the month are more likely to make the list than later ones.

The post June 2020 Top 10: Our Most Popular Posts appeared first on Practical Ecommerce.

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20 Top Private Label Brands from Amazon

Here is a list of top private label brands from Amazon. The brands are sorted by the total number of customer reviews, as on average 3 to 5 percent of units sold generate reviews for these brands. I also used the Jungle Scout Chrome extension for additional research.

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A day in the life of… Teresa Barreira, CMO at Publicis Sapient

Publicis Sapient has 53 offices and more than 20,000 employees. We caught up with CMO Teresa Barreira to find out how the business has adapted recently.

Please describe your job: What do you do?

Over the last two years as CMO at Publicis Sapient, I’ve focused on building a purpose-driven brand and a data-driven and agile marketing organization to drive growth. We make an impact through our clients and we achieve our brand purpose of helping people thrive in the brave pursuit of next. It’s not always direct, but it is very distinctive. It’s about helping established companies and brands that we love today, and have cherished over the years, become relevant in the digital age, enabling them to continue adding value for their consumers. That impact improves experiences and ultimately, people’s lives.

More than ever brands need to earn the right to come into people’s lives not only sell stuff. Today most brands are competing for share of life not share of voice. Great brands have become integrated into our lives not just our purchases.

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

The rapid change around us forced us to respond and act fast. And we have. We rallied around a common collective purpose and adjusted to be even more agile. The crisis not only forced speed but caused a burst in creativity and innovation. We looked for scrappier and more innovative ways to engage with our clients and build deeper connections. It forced us to reinvent our client engagement and outreach. One example is how we have adopted a video-first approach and created a new platform and channel to visualize and humanize our content.

We recently launched an on-demand streaming channel and crowdsourced ideas for the channel from the entire company. It’s allowed us to ideate, test and learn in so many ways and uncover some of the raw talent within our own organization. Giving the team the chance to be curious and think creatively is a big part of my job. This experiment is now being rolled-out and implemented as our new approach to creating content and engaging our clients.

On a personal note, I’ve been more connected with the team than I was before. I’ve taken the time to be there, to listen, to answer questions. It’s made me a more present and authentic leader and it’s something I’m grateful for.

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

Wellbeing is really important to me. I have encouraged my team to prioritize wellbeing despite our full schedules, and I am striving to do the same. At the height of the pandemic we made a point to prioritize our physical health together by doing Pilates as a team via Zoom. We’ve tried out different things. Most importantly, I continue to remind everyone to practice what works for them as individuals. I know this enables everyone to bring their best self to work.

We also need to carve out time for ideation. This week we launched Thinking Thursday, an initiative allowing us to dedicate time each week to focus specifically on thinking and identifying new ideas to bring to market. Our team will spend Thursday mornings using our creative muscle and refrain from scheduled meetings. We’ll manage these ideas as a portfolio and if given the green light, the creators will secure funding to take the concept forward for execution.

When I’m able, I find it helpful to take walking meetings to get some exercise and energy and it’s also when I bring some of my best innovative thinking to the conversation.

Which companies have impressed you since the outbreak?

I’ve been impressed with companies that are taking action and acting with extreme transparency. Whether the need to have difficult conversations around business decisions or to talk openly about diversity, there are a lot of companies that have been incredibly authentic and put their people first. I’ve found that admirable. The collective call to action and response has shown a lot of humanity and integrity. I believe companies today need to move from less “saying” to more “doing.” This means focusing less on storytelling and more on taking action and bringing those actions into the storytelling.

What changes are you making to help your brand/brand’s clients connect with how people are experiencing the pandemic?

As a company we have always been focused on helping large established companies like McDonald’s or Walmart maximize their digital business to drive growth. This has never been more relevant than today.

We’re partnering with our clients in industries that have been particularly impacted to help enable and accelerate growth for them. We are also helping clients unlock value with our digital tools. Throughout the pandemic we’ve been working with state and local governments to alleviate pressures they’ve faced, enabling them to swiftly provide resources to those most significantly impacted. In recent months our clients in the public sector have handled larger volumes of communications and rapidly deployed and distributed resources to those affected, leveraging our technology and innovative approach to crisis management.

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

We’ve seen companies at different stages in their digital transformation journey get a wakeup call throughout this crisis. Most companies understand the critical imperative of reimagining their business to be digital. For retailers it’s about integrating the physical with the digital, driving efficiency while enhancing the customer experience at the same time, and maintaining human connection while pairing science with humanity.

Brands are also realizing the importance of diversity, in leadership and at all levels. I’m glad to see this. Having a diverse organization is common sense. Diversity of thought, background, race, gender – all these things make a company and its offering more valuable. Creating that space for multiple voices and integrating perspectives is something we all need to do.

The recent events around the world and particularly in the US remind us of the challenges in our own communities and we’ve witnessed a lot of compassion and empathy. I’ve seen brands act with urgency in more ways than ever before.

What advice would you give a marketer right now?

Being at the forefront of change requires challenging yourself and having a willingness to continuously learn. To succeed in marketing right now you need to be a continuous learner, with the ability to question everything once believed to be true. As we adapt, it’s important for us to continue to think about what’s next, about building something better in the future, rather than going back to normal. Marketers need to be great “cyclists” – always moving, constantly evolving, and never stop pedalling or lifting their foot off the gear. Speed is what gives momentum and creates balance and stability, allowing innovation. The moment you stop innovating someone else can enter and find a solution.

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

We need to continue to accelerate, working smarter (not just harder), and rethink our approach when and where we need to. We cannot plan on an annual or even quarterly basis right now; we are experiencing such extraordinary change in the market and in our businesses. So, we have to act with urgency and try new approaches, get comfortable with the uncomfortable and keep adjusting to make the most impact.

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Are QR Codes an Option for Contactless Payments?

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, many physical-store merchants considered contactless payments to be a fad. My previous article addressed near field communication, the technology that powers most contactless payment methods in North America. In this post, I will examine an NFC alternative: QR codes.

The post Are QR Codes an Option for Contactless Payments? appeared first on Practical Ecommerce.

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Facebook ad boycott: cancel culture is not corporate social responsibility

Some observers are expressing skepticism about brands’ motives for boycotting Facebook advertising.

Image: PixieMe / Shutterstock.com

Widespread disappointment and even outrage at Facebook over its policies relating to hate speech has resulted in major advertisers joining a boycott of advertising on the social network.

Unilever, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, The Hershey Company, BMW, HP and PayPal are among the brands that have heeded a call to #StopHate4Profit and announce that they will halt advertising on Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram in an effort to force the social network to reign in hate on its platform. Some companies have also vowed to cut their social media ad spend more broadly.

While Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, have issued statements condemning content that many find not just objectionable but despicable, the company has largely refused to take the kind of aggressive action some have called for.

Skeptics weigh in on the boycotts

In recent years, brands have found themselves the victims of so-called “cancel culture” in which consumers call for boycotts of people and companies that don’t behave the way they want them to. The Facebook ad boycott demonstrates that brands are no longer just subject to cancel culture but are now also participants in it.

On one hand, this seems like an entirely appropriate response given the concerns raised about Facebook’s policies. Consumers are more interested than ever in patronizing businesses that align to their values and this has provided brands with the okay to “do the right thing”. To the extent that they believe their ad dollars are being sent to companies engaged in practices that are not aligned to their values, brands should take action.

On the other hand, some observers are expressing skepticism about brands’ motives. The presence of objectionable content on Facebook and other popular social media platforms has been known and discussed for years. Yet brands, with few exceptions, have paid little more than lip service to the issue, as well as other important issues, such as Facebook’s privacy practices.

What’s more, no brands have actually closed their Facebook accounts, and most if not all have indicated or suggested that they will resume advertising at some point in the future.

Some question whether brands are willing to boycott Facebook now because the Covid-19 pandemic has made it easier to do so. With the global economy under pressure and future uncertain, companies are necessarily adopting more financially conservative stances and that entails reducing ad spend. In a few cases, brands hardest hit by the pandemic have even stopped advertising altogether.

With this in mind, some skeptics suggest that brands are merely attributing their decisions to cut back on Facebook advertising to a social responsibility rationale when in reality they’re doing it because the economy was forcing them to cut back anyway. In other words, they’re trying to save money and make themselves look principled while doing it.

When efforts to look socially responsible backfire

Whether this suggestion is accurate or not, in cutting off Facebook ad spend and tying it to #StopHate4Profit, some brands are finding that their own practices and products have come under even more scrutiny.

For instance, when Unilever announced its Facebook boycott, some pointed out that the company has a skin whitening product line, Fair & Lovely, that generates over $500m annually in India alone. When Unilever posted “We have a responsibility for racial justice” on Instagram on June 3, a top response read, “All this while you make millions from whitening cream? Double standards to say the least #boycottunilever.”

Unilever has since said that it will change the name and ad strategy for Fair & Lovely, but the fact that it intends to continue selling skin whitening products in the first place will no doubt guarantee that it is subject to criticism in the future.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi have also issued strong statements calling for racial justice, but for years these beverage giants have been criticized for how they market their products to minority communities.

A study conducted by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut found that beverage companies specifically target African-American youth with ads for sugary drinks that the American Academy of Pediatrics says “contribute to life-shortening chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, and obesity”.

“Sugary drinks are some of the most frequently advertised products on Black targeted television,” study author Jennifer Harris pointed out. “Black kids are seeing more than twice as many ads than White kids see.”

Confectionery giant The Hershey Company says that “We Stand in Solidarity with the Black Community”, but reports indicate that despite the fact the company pledged two decades ago to eliminate child slave labor from its supply chain, it still can’t guarantee that the cocoa used in its products doesn’t come from West Africa cocoa farms using such labor — a fact that some are pointing out on Twitter in response to the news that the company will halt Facebook advertising.

Unilever, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and The Hershey Company are hardly alone. Numerous companies that have voiced support for racial justice and an end to hate in recent weeks have found themselves being called out for hypocrisy. While some charges of hypocrisy are stronger than others, the point remains: consumers are looking at whether the words coming from brands are consistent with their business practices.

When consumers don’t believe they are, brands’ attempts to present themselves as socially responsible can backfire.

With this in mind, brands should recognize that embracing their own form of cancel culture often won’t go far enough to constitute the kind of corporate social responsibility consumers expect today. In the eyes of consumers – especially young consumers – cutting ad spend on platforms that don’t do enough to curb hate speech is unlikely to absolve brands of the need to make sure that their own businesses aren’t exploiting, marginalizing, discriminating or perpetuating injustice.

The inconvenient truth for many brands is that the only way they will fully convince consumers they’re doing the right thing and acting socially responsible is by taking truly bold action, even when it can negatively impact their bottom lines.

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Will Nike’s pandemic digital gains pay off?

Nike’s experience demonstrates just how challenging the current environment is for even the strongest of brands and offers a sobering reminder of how even top retail digital performers are still often highly dependent on physical retail.

Nike store, Manhattan. Image: pio3 / Shutterstock.com

Nike’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has garnered widespread praise and the footwear and apparel powerhouse has been held up as one of the brands getting it right in these challenging times.

Its Play for the World and You Can’t Stop Us campaigns have resonated with consumers, generating billions of impressions. But Nike hasn’t just delivered positive marketing messages as consumers around the world have struggled to adapt to lockdowns and social distancing rules. It has also tried to make itself useful to consumers, offering a variety of high-value content, including free access to its normally paid Nike Training Club app, which delivers streaming workouts, training programs and expert tips.

But despite its performance on the marketing and consumer engagement fronts, Nike surprised the market by reporting a larger-than-expected $790m loss for the quarter ending May 31. The company’s sales for the quarter were $6.3bn, down from $10.1bn in the same quarter last year.

The cause of the loss and sales decline: store closures. For two months, 90% of Nike-owned stores in much of the world were shuttered and many of the brick-and-mortar retailers Nike also sells through were also closed for business, halting sales through the channels through which the company generates the bulk of its revenue.

Not surprisingly, Nike saw gains online, where sales surged 75%. Notably, the company hit the $1bn mark for annual digital revenue in both greater China and EMEA regions for the first time ever.

According to Nike CFO, Matt Friend, “A more digitally connected Nike is a more valuable Nike.” Nike CEO John Donahoe also talked up the iconic brand’s digital business. “We are uniquely positioned to grow and now is the time to build on Nike’s strengths and distinct capabilities. We are continuing to invest in our biggest opportunities, including a more connected digital marketplace, to extend our leadership and fuel long-term growth.”

But the challenges Nike faces are stark. Despite its well-received marketing campaigns, and external exposure from the hit Netflix documentary The Last Dance, the company’s marketing expenses dropped by nearly a fifth, a reflection of the difficulty of putting money to work with sports leagues idle and sporting events around the world canceled. These leagues and events have been a critical part of Nike’s marketing and activation strategies for decades.

What’s next?

Nike’s experience demonstrates just how challenging the current environment is for even the strongest of brands and offers a sobering reminder of how even top retail digital performers are still often highly dependent on physical retail. Nike is also an example of how many companies are exposed to tail risks that could significantly disrupt their marketing and engagement strategies, making it more difficult if not impossible for them to stay connected to consumers through the channels they’ve spent years building.

The reality is that the future is still uncertain for major brands. While lockdowns are easing and stores are reopening in many parts of the world, a second pandemic wave looms large, the economic effects of the pandemic on many consumers are still growing, and it’s very difficult for brands to predict if and how consumer behavior will change post-pandemic.

Nike, thanks to its strong balance sheet, is wise to try to make lemonade out of lemons and invest strategically for the long term. But all brands should be prepared for more bumpy roads ahead.

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Advanced Strategies for Selling on Instagram

Last month I addressed content ideas to maximize an Instagram feed to attract followers. In this post, I'll discuss strategies to optimize Instagram posts to retain and engage an audience of potential buyers.

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