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April 2021 Top 10: Our Most Popular Posts

Our mission since 2005 is to publish independent content to help ecommerce merchants. What follows are the 10 most popular articles that we published in April 2021. Articles from early in the month are more likely to make the list than later ones.

5 Content Marketing Ideas for May 2021

Need content marketing topics for May 2021? How about photography, comic books, the Clubhouse app, springtime, or the very products your business sells? Read more…

Using Wikipedia for Content Marketing, SEO

Wikipedia can be helpful for content marketing, link building, and entity research, helping marketers reach an audience of potential customers. To be clear, since at least 2007, all external links from Wikipedia include the nofollow attribute, directing search engines not to count the links in page-ranking algorithms. Read more…

8 Reasons to Avoid Cryptocurrencies for Ecommerce

Cryptocurrencies are hot news. Merchants may be wondering if cryptocurrencies are ready for mainstream ecommerce. The answer is no. Here’s why. Read more…

12 Tools for YouTube Search Optimization

YouTube is the second most visited website, after Google. Success on YouTube requires compelling videos, but it’s equally important to optimize them. Fortunately, there are tools to help. Here is a list of tools to optimize your video content on YouTube. Read more…

Product Page Headlines Drive Conversions

Every product has a name. It could be short and simple or long and tedious. It can be definitive, witty, or subtle. And unless it’s your company’s product, you have no control over it. But there’s an alternative way to grab shoppers’ attention: headlines. Read more…

What if 80,000 Brick-and-mortar Stores Closed?

A financial services firm has predicted that 80,000 or more physical store locations in the United States are likely to close in the next five years, reducing the total number of American retail outlets by approximately 10 percent. But what does that mean? Read more…

The SEO Benefits of Web Scraping

In “SEO for Google Shopping,” I addressed the need to optimize product feeds. I stated that including keyword product descriptions and titles in the feeds was scalable with “scraping.” But I didn’t describe it further. In this post, I’ll explain scraping. Read more…

Ecommerce Product Releases: April 1, 2021

Here is a list of product releases and updates for late March from companies that offer services to online merchants. There are updates on cryptocurrency payments, contextual bidding, carbon-neutral shipping, live-stream commerce, headless commerce, and more. Read more…

Online Onion Seller Rises from Domain Auction

Most entrepreneurs start with a business idea and then secure the domain name. Peter Askew does the opposite. He purchases domain names and then builds the business. Take VidaliaOnions.com, for example. Read more…

Ecommerce Product Releases: April 15, 2021

Here is a list of product releases and updates for mid-April from companies that offer services to online merchants. There are updates on live-stream shopping, eBay ad campaigns, customer experience platforms, loyalty programs, and more. Read more…

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Do you build 1 email sequence promoting a single product promotion in each email, or do you promote a different product (of the same niche) in each of the email?

I'm thinking pick a niche, give away a free ebook and collect email, then in each email link to a different product of this niche.

But is this a good strategy? How many products/email would you send? (Like 5-10?)

If you're doing let's say health and wellness, what kinda product examples (and how many) would you be promoting?

Or should you focus all your emails on the same product, showing different benefits in each email?

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Quality and Craft Drive Chisos Boots Founder

The idea for Chisos boots started with back pain. Will Roman, the founder, owner, and lifetime cowboy-boot buyer, injured his back in a motorcycle accident. Wearing boots became painful.

“I started cutting open boots to see how they were made,” he told me. “I found that those supposedly handmade boots were using plastics. I wanted a comfortable, handmade, high-end cowboy boot that you could work in, beat the heck out of, and then brush it off and go to dinner with the lady.”

The result is Chisos.com, a custom, handcrafted bootmaker that Roman launched in 2019. Quality and craft drive Roman and his outlook on life. He and I recently discussed the company, bootmaking, and more.

Our entire audio conversation is embedded below. The transcript that follows is edited for length and clarity.

Bandholz: Where did the name Chisos come from?

Will Roman: From the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park in West Texas, eight hours from Austin, maybe four and a half hours south of El Paso. I have been going out to the Chisos Mountains for over a decade. It’s where I recharge.

Bandholz: Why boots?

Roman: I’ve worn boots my whole life. I’m a Texan. In my 20s, I had a couple of motorcycle accidents. One messed up my back. Wearing boots became painful.

I was out in West Texas one day, looking down at my feet. It was a long day. My back was killing me. I didn’t plan on starting a business. But I really wanted a comfortable pair of boots. I used to put Walmart inserts in boots, buy boots too big, goofy things.

I started cutting open boots to see how they were made. I studied all the bootmakers in Texas. Then I went to Mexico for several months, learning the process of making boots.  Most “handmade cowboy boots” in America come from four factories in Leon, Mexico. They’ve got 350 people on the floor at one time. You can go down there and see a dozen different brands all coming off the same assembly line. They’re all basically made the same.

When I started cutting open these other boots, I found that those supposedly handmade boots were using plastics.

I wanted a comfortable, handmade, high-end cowboy boot that you could work in, beat the heck out of, and then brush it off and go to dinner with the lady.

Bandholz: What do we have here? Listeners cannot see this, but you are holding a boot. I’m looking at it.

Roman: This is the “Chisos No. 2,” one of our men’s boot styles.

Bandholz: I love the smell of leather. Again, listeners cannot see, but my nose is deep into the hole of your boot.

Roman: We do some interesting things with this boot — all based on the Big Bend region. We embroidery into the boot images of native rock carvings. It takes about four weeks to make one pair. We don’t use calfskin.

Everything on our boot is unique, from the toe shape to the arch support. I had to think about how I would wear it and how to make it last forever.

If you look inside the boot, down at the bottom, the thick leather insole is hammered in. It’s three times as thick as our competitors’ models. It’s essential for leather taking the form of your foot. It’s leather, leather, leather, all the way on the bottom. Our boots get more comfortable over time.

Bandholz: Let’s talk about the business. You’re a small company, a bootstrapped bootmaker.

Roman: Absolutely. We manufacture all of our boots — many sizes and versions. We don’t use plastics, canvas, or glue. We don’t outsource. We make something to use for the next decade or two. It’s a terrible business model.

Bandholz: I’m looking at the box for your Chisos No. 2. It’s giant. It must cost a pretty penny to ship.

Roman: It does, yes. We offer free shipping for Texans, whether or not they actually live in Texas. Free shipping within the state. If you’re an ex-Texan, reach out. We will still honor it.

Bandholz: This boot costs $495. An equivalent one from a competitor must cost $1,000.

Roman: Yes. We have many converts who were paying $900, $1,000 for their cowboy boots. We also have converts who were buying cheaper boots and then realized their mistake.

Bandholz: Let’s talk about the future. You’ve got Chisos.com. Will it become a lifestyle brand?

Roman: Yes. It started with boots. Having a better product is table stakes.

I make what I want. I’m a customer. I want things a certain way, and the boots reflect that. I wanted a certain type of wallet. I couldn’t find it on the market, so I made one. Those are coming out. Same with other items.

Chisos represents a certain approach to life. We’re hugely Texas-centric. We give a portion of every sale to Texas land conservation. We want wild places such as the Chisos Mountains to keep existing.

Folks that come to Chisos.com care about craft and character.

Bandholz: You’re the 100 percent owner?

Roman: 100 percent.

Bandholz: Talk about your challenges. How do you bounce ideas off of people or lift yourself when you’re in the dumps?

Roman: You can run on adrenaline for a long time, but eventually it catches up to you. I’m figuring out that support system now, especially with this past year of being more isolated.

It’s a struggle. I have a note on the side of my desk. I read it on difficult days. It says, “Have you slept eight hours for the past week? Have you eaten? Have you exercised? Have you seen somebody you love?”

Bandholz: That is incredible advice.

Roman: Very often, the answer to those questions is no. When feeling like dirt, I’m like, “Well, I haven’t done any of the things that are required to feel good.”

When I was younger, I could throw my body into a brick wall, bounce off of it, and I was fine. I could do that day in and day out. I didn’t have to pay my body any attention whatsoever. I do now.

Bandholz: Where can our listeners learn more about you and your company?

Roman: I’m on Twitter and LinkedIn. Our company website is Chisos.com. We have a lot of videos on our YouTube channel. We made an epic video where we chop open our boots and a couple of our competitors’. We’re also on Instagram and Twitter.

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The best social stories and campaigns from April 2021

Spring has arrived, and as lockdown begins to lift, we’ve got another roundup of the best social media stories and campaigns from April 2021.

There’s a wide variety of different campaigns to cover this month, ranging from Cadbury’s virtual Easter egg hunt to Dove weighing in on the topic of self-esteem. We’ve also thrown in a couple of caterpillar cakes for good measure.

For a deeper dive into social media platform innovation, head over to The Social Quarterly Report.

Let’s get started.

Dove – #NoDigitalDistortion

Perhaps the most powerful campaign this month is Dove’s viral social content focused on widespread use of digital distortion in online images. The brand, which has a lengthy history of promoting diversity and authenticity in beauty, and combatting harmful modern beauty standards, is now centring its content on the next generation – the first to have grown up surrounded by social media from a very young age.

On 20th April, Dove posted a short video on its Instagram feed depicting the rewound process of a teenage girl taking and uploading a selfie for social media, which included a substantial amount of in-app photo editing. The film, titled ‘Reverse Selfie’, promptly went viral, thanks in part to several high-profile influencers and celebrities sharing it to their own feeds and Stories. At the time of writing, the video has more than 765k views.

Dove calls the new campaign #NoDigitalDistortion and it forms part of its ongoing Self-Esteem Project, which has been in place since 2004. It comes as a US study reveals 80% of girls have distorted the way they look online by the time they reach 13 years-old.

Alongside its compelling visual content, Dove is encouraging social media users to take the #NoDigitalDistortion Pledge, which asks adults to talk openly to young people about the dangers of retouching apps, as well as advocate for a more inclusive definition of beauty on online platforms. Once signed, social users can use a dedicated lens created by the brand to increase awareness of the pledge and the wider campaign.

Parents and teachers can also download special activity packs to help with these discussions.

Operation Black Vote #AllForNothing

Another poignant campaign this April came from Operation Black Vote, an organisation that aims to tackle the Black democratic deficit in the UK.

Ahead of the postponed local and London mayoral elections this May, Operation Black Vote, alongside agency Saatchi & Saatchi, produced an influential film about the importance of Black citizens registering to vote. It reflects on the historic events of the last year, including the murder of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, complete with striking monotonal imagery and a moving narrative.

The film ends with the message that the progress made via petitions, conversation and protest will be #AllForNothing if Black voters don’t turn up to the ballot box next month.

The campaign gained the support of BT Sport, sharing the film on its own platforms to help raise awareness further before the registration deadline on 19th April.

Lego – Rebuild the World

Lego has partnered with We Are Social this month to produce a series of films, published on YouTube, which explore how Lego play can unleash creativity in young people and inspire their future journey.

The three ‘episodes’ feature a prominent figure in the art, film and architecture industries – Alexa Meade, Billy Porter and Sir David Adjaye, and each focuses on a specific theme or topic, from inspiration to unique creative perspectives.

In episode two, for example, actor Billy Porter meets two kids, Josey and Clint, at the United Palace Theatre in New York. Over a pile of Lego, together they discuss how creativity and a positive mindset can allow you to express your true self to the world. The final product, an intricate Lego crown (reminiscent of Porter’s own red-carpet creations) is unveiled, featuring the kids’ favourite things, including flowers and rainbow colours.

These films are equal parts heart-warming and thought-provoking, while connecting the Lego brand to the wider, more abstract concepts of creativity, perseverance and expression.

Cadbury’s Worldwide Hide

Cadbury teamed up with VCCP to put a twist on the traditional Easter Egg hunt this Easter, promoting its virtual ‘Worldwide Hide’ campaign whilst the UK was still under full lockdown restrictions.

Through its social content and TV ads, Cadbury encouraged its followers to hide a virtual Easter egg at any location in the world via Google Maps Street View and then share a personalised clue with the recipient as to where it might be hidden. The person opting to hide an egg was also given the option to purchase and send an Easter egg through the Cadbury website as a physical token of the hunt and holiday.

Some of the dedicated social content Cadbury produced included short looping GIFs, engaging Instagram Stories, partnerships with influencers and UGC of customers’ most cherished hiding spots.

The campaign was incredibly successful by the time it ended, seeing more than 700,000 people hide a virtual egg for a loved one.

Tesco – Pop to your local

When outdoor hospitality reopened once again on April 12th, Tesco posted something rather unexpected on its Twitter feed.

Across an image of a perfectly chilled pint read the caption, “As good as our deals are this week, we’d rather you support your local pub… Because right now, every little helps.”

Supermarkets have no doubt benefitted over the past year, with revenue skyrocketing and sales of alcohol for lockdown drinking reaching new highs. The thoughtful sentiment of the ad seemed to hit a note with users on the platform, gaining the brand a largely positive response, with 33.3k likes and over 5k retweets to boot. One user thanked the brand and suggested other supermarkets should follow Tesco’s lead:

While the campaign hasn’t been exclusive to social media – it has also been run as a print ad – it certainly seems to have made an impression on the people of Twitter.

The Body Shop – #SelfLoveUprising

Bath and beauty brand The Body Shop has been exploring how its customer base can actively promote self-love.

Content for the campaign, titled #SelfLoveUprising, includes a series of short clips featuring a diverse group of activists explaining what self-love means to them and how the concept has helped them grow as individuals. The brand has also been engaging with UGC by sharing the ways in which its followers have been brushing up on their own acts of self-love.

Perhaps the most standout part of the campaign is The Body Shop’s recent Brand Takeover ads on TikTok, the most popular of which has gained a whopping 18.5 million views to date. Some of the platform’s best loved creators were recruited for the ads, which encourage TikTok users to take up the #BeRightBack challenge by showing the community how they practice self-love (and tagging the hashtag).

@thebodyshopuk

Tell the world you’ll be right back and do something for you. #BeRightBackWorld

♬ #BeRightBackWorld – The Body Shop

Swiping through to the brand’s website from social, there is plenty of advice readily available to help its followers and customers to start their self-love journey, and tips for improving it if they’ve already started. Visitors can even upload their own photo and story to add to a gallery alongside other advocates.

TikTok highlights Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the US, and as such, TikTok partnered with experts at RAINN to provide TikTokers with advice, guidance and other resources on coping with and spreading awareness of the impact of sexual violence.

This involved creating a dedicated information centre on the app, which was promoted via hero banners on its popular Discover Page. Displayed in the information centre are a select number of TikToks highlighting key discussion points, educational copy and access to the US National Sexual Assault Hotline. The platform also introduced a number of permanent public service announcements attached to hashtags, for example #consentmatters, to direct users to help and resources associated with these important topics.

In a blog post for the platform, Ebony Tucker, Product Policy Manager explained: “It’s a time to recognize the important conversations happening on our platform about sexual violence, recovery, and advocacy. We’ve been working with experts to improve our understanding of sexual assault and trauma and how to foster a safe and supportive space for survivors.”

SAAM hub TikTok

Image via TikTok

Cuthbert vs Colin

And finally, we all know Twitter would be nothing without the occasional public banter between brands.

After M&S accused discount supermarket Aldi of infringing its Colin the Caterpillar trademark, their social media managers seemed to take the issue into their own hands, in a series of backhanded Tweets which ranged from witty to outright bizarre.

That’s all for now. For more social media updates, head to The Social Quarterly Report.

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A day in the life of… Bhavesh Unadkat, Head of Digital Marketing at Capgemini Invent

In today’s ‘Day in the Life’, we speak to Bhavesh Unadkat, who is Head of Digital Marketing at Capgemini Invent.

We chat with Bhavesh about his ten years at Capgemini, what keeps him motivated in his role, and the brands that he thinks set the bar for data strategy.

bhavesh unadkat

Please describe your job: What do you do?

I am the Head of Digital Marketing for Capgemini Invent. My team and I work with our clients’ marketing teams to ensure they have the right strategy, capabilities and structure in place to thrive in the marketing world.

We support in 4 key areas:

  1. Setting and shaping their marketing strategy to ensure it is fit for purpose and being executed effectively. We ensure they are aligned to one direction and set of outcomes.
  2. Ensuring the marketing function is data driven in order to track and measure marketing activity and performance across channels, markets, brands, and customer groups.
  3. Managing the content explosion – ensuring they win with content by being able to manage, distribute and create standout content given the challenge of content overload and the reducing attention span of customers.
  4. Effective marketing organisation – ensuring that they have the right structure, skills, partnerships and ways of working to effectively execute their marketing strategy and deliver on their KPIs.

What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?

What a question! If I were to sum it up into three key points, it would be the following:

Dealing with ambiguity. It’s often clear our client is facing a challenge, but the root of the problem or underlying issues may not be so obvious. Therefore, being able to employ problem solving methodologies and uncover the root causes is key to providing the resolution.

Being a team player. The power of Capgemini comes from the power of our global experts and teams.  To deliver best-in-class results for our clients, we must call upon our experts and work together with our clients to find the best solution to their challenge. Capgemini is a people-first organisation, one of the main reasons for my extensive tenure to date.

Being versatile. Our briefs, clients and their challenges come in many different shapes and sizes; the ability to adapt and shape the right approach, solution and roadmap for our clients is critical.

Tell us about a typical working day…

No day is the same! This is exciting and daunting at the same time.  I work on a global client account which means we have teams in all time zones. I have to adapt my day for an early start or late finish (never both on the same day luckily).  I usually wake up at 6:30am and will go for a walk first to help focus my mind for the day ahead and get some steps in.  I’m online from around 8am and the day will be a mixture of the following activities which bring lots of variety, challenge and excitement:

1. Project calls – These will include reviewing work, planning work, working on proposals, commercials or resource requests. Some of these are internal and some are with the client.

2. Digital marketing development – This usually includes offer development, sales activity, team development or marketing activity.

3. Future brand and structure planning – We are about to announce some exciting news surrounding our new team branding which we are planning and transitioning towards.

What do you love about your job? What sucks?

I love working in a team; the energy people bring and the ideas that are bounced enable fast problem solving. I am fortunate that the Digital Marketing team is made up of great individuals that bring so much varied value. When you combine all of these things, that’s when the magic happens!

What I don’t like about my role is that it can be fairly admin heavy. For example: booking meetings, booking timesheets, travel and submitting expenses.  At times it can also feel like we can have too many meetings.  I have started the year really reflecting on the duration, frequency and necessity of all my meetings and have adjusted my schedule accordingly. We have a companywide initiative to schedule no meetings before 8am or after 6pm which helps to discipline the working hours. Added to this we have reduced 30-minute meetings to 25 mins and 60 to 50 minutes which means I have couple of hours of time a week extra to focus on other things.

What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?

In consulting we look at a number of different metrics; key ones are customer satisfaction (how customers rate our work, outcomes and value delivered), and employee satisfaction (how satisfied our teams feel about their environment, work, reward and content).

Then there is new logos (the number of new logos we work with in a given period), and also, team growth (the number of people we add to the team). We were lucky enough to double the size of the UK team in 2020 from 12 to 24 and hope to double again in 2021.

What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?

I am not one for too many tools. Miro has been amazing for virtual workshopping.  Microsoft Teams is what we use for video conferencing and is also great for storing and sharing files. We also have several internal tools and templates that we use for proposals, tracking commercials and for time tracking which are useful.

How did you end up at Capgemini, and where might you go from here?

I spent 10 years in industry working across ecommerce and marketing roles for retailers and start-ups. I had always wanted to work in consulting and but never thought it would be for more than two years because I would miss industry too much. I was also sceptical about going into consulting because I felt that the people may be a little robotic and the environment severely competitive in nature.

However, here I am 10 years after joining and still loving it! I truly feel it is where I belong; the variety of work – working with many clients and with many different internal teams – coupled with our growth and evolution. On top of this, Capgemini is a people-first business; I have stayed as long as I have thanks to the great people and wonderful working environment.

Which brands/experiences have impressed with their use of data?

I may be biased here but one of my clients, Unilever, is phenomenal when it comes to a number of things they do across data and insights. For one, their People Data Centre is an award winning and industry leading insights ecosystem. They have also made considerable progress in their ambition to build meaningful relationships with 1bn global consumers.  In collaboration with retailers and data partners, they are using this data to drive engagement, value and exceptional experiences for the consumer through connecting the consumer journey.

Another company that has impressed me by moving from personalised to more precision based personalisation is Spotify. They have evolved their product to include features such has ‘daily drive’: almost like my own personalised radio station of news, songs and podcasts. The best thing is that I am in control so can pause, re-listen or fast forward.  I also really like their annual personalised stories (Spotify Wrapped) – instead of an intrusion of data it seems to me a sharing of my story which I appreciate. Spotify are one cool company; their recent announcement that all employees (even post Covid) can work from anywhere makes them even cooler!

Do you have any advice for anybody who wants to work in your field?

If you like variety, dealing with ambiguity, problem solving and working in a team project environment consulting is for you.  The boundary between industry, consultancy and agency is blurring and my advice would be to work across all 3 if you can.  If you have a desire to work internationally, this can also be achieved through the various global projects we offer.  Go on give it a go!

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How to Create Multiple Streams of Income from Home

There are so many ways to make extra cash, from affiliate marketing to renting out your parking space.

Free Book Preview Six-Figure Freelancer

This book will equip you with effective strategies and tools to help you reach your full potential as a freelancer and achieve financial prosperity.

4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There are lots of ways to make extra money from home. Most require a computer and access, and every now and then, you'll have to find some extra space in your house to set up shop, so to speak. With people forced to stay home, making extra money while hunkered down has become a hot topic among YouTubers and , but is it really that easy to generate that extra income? You’ll be surprised at the simplicity of these ideas.

Let’s start with a simple concept — selling the stuff you no longer want.

Sort of like a yard sale

Internet auction giant is just one of many online auction sites providing a facility for people and businesses to sell whatever they want. There are some restrictions on what can be sold but they are unlikely to get in your way if you are selling items you don’t need or use.

For example, that coat you bought and have only worn once; somebody out there will love it and buy it from you. You might have old toys lying around that the kids no longer play with, or even valuable items that sit in a drawer and you don’t think about.

The process is simple. Sign up for an account and start selling. Take a picture, pick the category, describe your item, set a price. That's it. It’s there for millions of potential buyers to see. The fees are a small percentage, and you could even start a selling certain types of items.

Related: Work From Home: 15 Options to Earn Extra Money

Take part in surveys

One method of making extra cash is to sign up for online survey sites. You will be asked to take part in surveys by brands who are researching their market. You'll be paid a small fee — usually, it’s about $1 but sometimes more. The surveys typically only take a few minutes to complete.

It may not sound like a great money-making idea and it is not going to make you rich, but it is a good way of making a few extra dollars in your spare time. Some sites send you an item to test and review — and you keep the item rather than being paid.

Rent out your parking space

Do you live close to a town or city where commuters travel? Or perhaps near a railway station or airport? These are places where parking a car can be expensive, even for a day. If you do live in such a location and have off-street parking you don’t use, why not offer it for rent?

This is a perfectly legal and potentially lucrative way of using your driveway or parking space to make money. People will pay a sensible daily rate for a guaranteed space close to a city or town center. If taking a flight, they will pay good money to have their car somewhere safe and close to the airport. Same with rail travelers. Check out this idea as it could become a source of decent regular income.

Become a freelancer

Businesses outsource work more than ever before. Freelancers can be writers, designers, computer programmers, app developers and social media managers, among others. What skills do you have that may appeal to a business?

There is a demand for bookkeepers and virtual assistants. Some businesses even outsource their customer care, engaging freelancers to answer emails and perhaps telephone inquiries.

This is a fast-growing area of commerce and tons of websites advertise freelance jobs. It’s worth having a look if you have skills that may appeal to businesses. It could even become your full-time job with all the perks of working from home.

Related: What I've Learned After Paying More Than $1 Million to Freelancers

Become an affiliate

Do you have a blog or a website with a decent following? Do you have a popular Instagram account? If so, why not look at affiliating with brands that are relevant to your subject? It’s a simple concept. You use your blog and social media accounts to promote a brand, and whenever any of your readers click through via the link you post on your accounts, you get a commission payment.

Affiliate marketing is fast becoming the way forward for many in commerce and industry, so get in now if you already have a popular online medium, or start one to build and become an affiliate.

These are just a few of the ways you can start making money from home. Dig in and see how you can boost your income.

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Moonpig on innovating during a pandemic, internal empathy and nailing the basics of UX

Camila Diaz is Head of Product Design and Research at online greetings cards and gift company Moonpig. At Moonpig, Product Design is a discipline that comprises a range of UX-related functions, including user research, user experience design, information architecture, visual design interaction, and service design thinking.

As such, Diaz played a pivotal role in the company’s innovation when demand soared during the initial stages of the pandemic as brick and mortar shops were closing their doors, and families who were unable to see their loved ones in person looked to Moonpig for ways to send greetings. At Econsultancy Live 2021: What’s Next for CX, Diaz spoke to Econsultancy Editor Ben Davis about how Moonpig dealt with the demand and brought its e-card products to market in the space of just one week.

She also spoke about how Moonpig tackles the challenge of understanding the customer who never shops for themselves, and why designers need to become better acquainted with the business side of their organisations.

Innovating through the chaos of early lockdown

“Last year, when the UK was going into lockdown in March, we were just about to enter the Mother’s Day peak,” said Diaz. “We have four main trading peaks that happen over the year – Valentine’s, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Christmas – and Mother’s Day is by far our biggest one.” The combination of an already busy period with an impending lockdown in which people would not be able to see their loved ones lead to an explosion in demand the likes of which Moonpig had never experienced.

“All of a sudden, we started seeing three times the amount of visitors, and our products were just flying off the shelves. But no business is prepared to make changes to a physical part of a pipeline that fast,” Diaz explained. Moonpig found itself unable to produce products quickly enough to meet demand, and on top of this, there was the looming threat of possibly needing to reduce the number of staff in its factories for safety reasons – which would have further impacted production capacity.

Moonpig’s leadership found itself making extremely rapid decisions about what to prioritise. “Our overall goal was to service customers – we wanted to make sure that our customers could send their best wishes to their loved ones,” said Diaz. “Based on that one specific goal, we made a few different decisions.”

As a first step, Moonpig adapted its product offering, favouring products that could be produced quickly and that needed less storage. It also moved up the timeline on a project that had been under discussion at the company for some time: e-cards. “We basically formed a spontaneous team – I was a designer in the team, and our Head of Product was the PM (project manager) – and we pulled engineers from across the whole company. We were able to release a product end-to-end within one week.”

The product wasn’t without its bugs upon release, admitted Diaz; but “by the second day, it was already delivering value to our customers.” Diaz herself carried out user research and condensed a sprint into the span of one day, meaning that by the next day, the engineers could use the research to start building flows.

Reflecting on how Moonpig adapted internally during Covid-19 to make itself more agile and responsive to change, Diaz said, “Probably the main thing that needed to change over the past year was that we needed to get a lot better at prioritising. You’re in a situation where you have demand that grew up overnight; also, over the last year, Moonpig became a public company – so, you have a couple of circumstances that meant change for everybody in the company.

“There are lots of ambitious goals – we all get very excited about goals, and we want to do everything, but the reality is resources are time and finite, so you need to get better at choosing what you’re going to work on, and what is not going to get done.”

Understanding the customer who is not buying for themselves

Moonpig is faced with a unique conundrum when it comes to understanding the customer and recommending products to them, because shoppers who buy from Moonpig are always buying with others in mind – meaning that their own tastes and preferences have little bearing on the purchase they are making, and they rarely shop for the same person twice in a row.

“Whereas other ecommerce sites like Asos or Amazon can use lots of things they know about you to surface products to you the next time you visit, for us it’s a little bit more difficult to do that, and that’s why I think Moonpig is such an interesting problem space,” said Diaz.

“There are some things [we can use to make predictions]; there might be some topics you stay away from – maybe you don’t like rude cards, so we will try not to show you rude cards – or maybe your last five cards were rude, so we will surface something similar; but there isn’t a lot of that information that we can use. We have to think about other ways of surfacing content that is relevant to you.”

To address this problem, Moonpig uses machine learning and some other, similar smart recommendation methods; but Diaz also said that she “believes strongly in getting the basics right” to help users find the best product for them.

“When you have a range of 25,000 and growing – and we aim to have a range that is incredibly diverse, so that anyone who comes to our site can find something for even the most niche of occasions – we need to go back to the basics of making sure our filters our right; our navigation is right; the content we are surfacing is relevant to you. Just being able to signpost your journey throughout our experience, making sure that your browsing experience is not overly complicated – getting those UX basics right.”

Davis asked whether obtaining zero-party data, such as by proactively asking customers about their needs and preferences, plays a role in helping to overcome the challenge of not knowing exactly who the customer might be shopping for next. However, while Diaz’s team does frequently work with data – and Diaz says that “some of the best work I’ve done as a designer has been in collaboration with data” – she again stressed the importance of nailing the basics.

“We definitely believe in having ways that customers can give input, and let us know what they would prefer; there’s a few features in the roadmap that are gearing towards that, but right now, the real focus of my team, at least, is to make sure the basics are covered. That our products are properly tagged, so when you input a search term, what you’re looking for is what is surfaced, and nothing that is irrelevant; the other thing is that we design for diversity and inclusion, so we have multiple spellings for something, and synonyms and other related words.

“There are lots of very smart things you can do in terms of personalisation by using data science, but those should be built on a foundation of really solid information architecture,” she concluded.

Why designers need to be business-savvy

Designers tend to be the champions of empathy within a business, an important quality which often involves advocating for the user and making sure that they are placed at the centre of decision-making as often as possible. However, Diaz pointed out that designers don’t always extend that same empathy towards their colleagues when they make a request that may seem unreasonable or unwarranted.

“Not very often do you find designers stopping to think, ‘Why am I getting this request? What’s behind it? What is the kind of pressure that the person on the other end of this request is experiencing?’” Diaz said. “‘What are their goals, and how can I best help to support those goals, so that we can pull in the same direction?’

“When I speak about empathising internally, that is what I mean – taking a little bit of time to understand what the goals are, the needs, the problems; what are the things that these other teams lose sleep over? So that we can better understand the why of a request – and possibly offer a better alternative.”

Beyond making it easier to collaborate between teams, Diaz made the point that this empathy can help to ensure that designers’ needs are, in turn, prioritised.

“I truly think that designers need to work on building their business acumen. Designers – and I count myself in this group – are not very business-minded; we for the most part don’t have a good understanding of how the business makes money.

“If you really want the business to care for design, you have to start caring about the business first: understanding trading cycles, supply chains, relationships with external suppliers. Having a good internal understanding of how things work will help in gaining that internal empathy and make the impact of what you’re producing so much more valuable to the business and the users.”

Moonpig’s Camila Diaz spoke at Econsultancy Live 2021 ‘What’s next for CX?’ Ticket holders can watch all sessions on demand until the end of May 2021.

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Product Updates: New Releases Across the Platform in Q1

ActiveCampaign is celebrating your vision by bringing you your top customer requests, new CXA innovations, and improvements of your most-loved tools. We’re highlighting these releases so you can continue to scale with a platform that’s scaling with you.

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Building a Digital Culture Webinar

May 26th 2021 | 2pm BST | 9am EST

This webinar draws on the findings of Econsultancy’s brand new Building a Digital Culture Best Practice Guide, focusing on practical ways that marketers and leaders can amplify and support the behaviours and approaches that can ensure their team culture is fit for purpose for a fast-moving, digital-empowered world. It will bring to life the key building blocks of digital organisational culture along with pragmatic advice and inspiring case studies. Key topics covered include:

  • How teams and organisations can empower the attributes that enable teams to move fast and deliver exceptional value to customers and to the business in rapidly changing and highly unpredictable environments
  • How to understand your own team and business culture, and the levers that can be used to enable change
  • How culture can be a catalyst to becoming a truly customer-centric organisation, and support transformation and innovation
  • How essential qualities and approaches and including curiosity, collaboration, experimentation, transparency and autonomy can be empowered in your team.

Register 

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The Increasing Complexity of Product Returns

The pandemic sparked an increase in ecommerce sales, but it also generated a massive hike in product returns. According to U.S. Department of Commerce estimates, total ecommerce sales for 2020 were $788 billion, an increase of 32.4 percent from 2019.

The number of ecommerce packages that were returned in the U.S. in 2020 jumped 70 percent from 2019, according to Narvar, a logistics platform provider for retailers, representing approximately $102 billion worth of merchandise.

The operational and financial problems this caused for web-only and omnichannel merchants motivated many to implement a returnless refund policy for certain items, allowing consumers to keep the item if the cost of a return was too high. While retailers promoted the policy heavily in January 2021 — when holiday returns are highest — returnless refunds remain in place for many larger sellers, including Amazon, Walmart, and Target.

Amazon and Walmart both use artificial intelligence to decide whether it makes economic sense to accept a return. These merchants can absorb the cost. But for smaller merchants, returnless refunds are a recipe for financial disaster.

Returnless Returns

For inexpensive items or bulky ones, it is often cheaper to refund the purchase price and let customers keep the products. However, this causes fraudulent returns to balloon. Dishonest consumers could determine what products they are allowed to keep, pretend that they wish to return those items, and get a refund.

Fraudulent U.S. returns in 2020 were approximately 7.5 percent ($7.7 billion ) from online purchases and 6 percent ($25.3 billion) from all purchases, online and in-store.

Most merchants consider returns a cost of doing business. But the cost is increasing given the rise of free shipping for returns and the labor of restocking.

Incisiv, a consulting firm, surveyed roughly 100 retailers and 2,500 U.S. consumers. The ensuing report, “2021 State of the Industry Report: Retail Returns,” published in conjunction with Newmine, a returns management firm, described the results. Fewer than half of the surveyed retailers track the financial impact of returns. Consultants and environmentalists are encouraging retailers to take a more assertive role because most returns are preventable. For instance, wrong sizing and colors along with generally poor quality are the main reasons for apparel returns.

Environmental Impact

Americans return about 3.5 billion products annually, and 5 billion pounds of returned goods find their way to U.S. landfills according to Optoro, which helps retailers process returns. This produces about 15 million metric tons of CO2, not including the air pollution from the trucks that pick up returns and deliver them to the retailer.

Thus a benefit of returnless refunds is that the process generates no CO2. But there are other ways of mitigating the impact. Omnichannel retailers can encourage consumers to buy online and return in-store. Other merchants could work with partners who offer return drop-offs at convenient locations, reducing cost and carbon emissions.

For example, Happy Returns, a returns-management provider, announced last October an agreement with FedEx to offer Happy Returns’ service in more than 2,000 FedEx stores, quadrupling the number of Happy Returns’ locations. Online shoppers from Happy Returns’ retail partners can return products in person, without a box or label, for an immediate refund or exchange, at most FedEx locations.

Screenshot of HappyReturns.com showing a FedEx employee

Happy Returns’ service is now available in more than 2,000 FedEx stores.

This process is this. Shoppers initiate returns on the retailers’ or Happy Returns’ website, generating a QR code. Shoppers then bring the items plus the QR code to a FedEx office to complete the return. Using Happy Returns’ technology, FedEx aggregates items from multiple merchants into a single shipment, reducing the cost of the process for participating retailers and limiting the environmental impact.

FedEx will send the aggregated shipments to one of Happy Returns’ two regional processing hubs, which accept, sort, and process co-mingled returns.