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'Net Features

Discover recent digital developments and practical expert guidance in the Website Magazine Net Features weblog.


Putting Consumers at the Center of Brand Experience

Wed, 28 Sep 2016 04:31:00 GMT

Omnichannel commerce solution Kibo has acquired personalization platform Baynote.

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Baynote provides a data hub of sorts that leverages historical data and real-time behavior, which provides its user a broader (and arguably better) view of the consumer across all devices. The technology utilizes big data and predictive intelligence to create one-to-one consumer and buyer profiles that retailers can use to create individualized, relevant experiences. 

“Kibo’s mission is to make omnichannel retail accessible to all sellers regardless of size or technical depth,” says Kenneth Frank, CEO, Kibo.

“Personalizing experiences at every touchpoint is one of the top priorities for retailers to drive growth and loyalty. We found Baynote’s technology, backed by cutting edge data science, can move the needle for this industry. The Baynote platform is designed and architected to be self-service and easy to implement, enabling speed to market and value creation. Individualization has proven to uplift sales and we are excited to bring this to B2C and B2B retailers and brands of all shapes and sizes.”


Square Comes to Online Form Builder Jotform

Wed, 28 Sep 2016 02:44:00 GMT

Online form building software Jotform will now offer a Square integration as a way to collect payment. 

JotForm is the first online form builder to offer direct integration with Square. The online form builder from JotForm allows users to easily create donation forms, order forms and registration forms without programming skills. Adding Square to a form only requires a Square account and a few extra clicks. 

“We’re proud to be the first form builder to offer an integration with Square to our users,” said Aytekin Tank, JotForm CEO. “This is going to make it easier for many businesses, nonprofits, and schools to get the payments they need.” 

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The integration is ideal for businesses who already use Square to process payments in-person, and don’t want to change their payment processor for their online sales. It can also be used for collecting payments from event registration forms, membership dues, complex orders, and donations.

Many businesses prefer Square because of its simplified fee structure: all credit cards are processed at the same fee of 2.75 percent, including American Express. The company also offers renowned phone support, speedy bank deposit times, and revolutionary point-of-sale technology.

“Square is a terrific payment provider,” Tank said. “Both Square and JotForm help thousands of small businesses around the world, so it’s great to be able to bring this integration to them.”


Avalara Brings Tax Automation to Brazil

Wed, 28 Sep 2016 01:31:00 GMT

Cloud-based tax compliance automation solution Avalara announced it will be expanding its operations in Brazil.

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The expansion makes a great deal of sense for Avalara as Brazil leads the world in tax compliance complexity and governmental reporting requirements.

According to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, for example, the annual tax compliance burden for doing business in the largest South American country is approximately 2,600 hours -- more than eight times greater than for the United States or European Union.

"Avalara is delighted to grow our presence in Brazil, the largest economy in Latin America and the ninth largest in the world," said Scott McFarlane, Avalara co-founder and chief executive officer. "Today's news affirms our commitment to global expansion into one of the Top 10 economies in the world, and a market with enormous unmet need. We now have an excellent leadership team in place, and we look forward to serving the millions of companies doing business in Brazil by helping them automate the burden of transactional tax compliance."


From Batch & Blast to Individualized Emails

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 17:31:00 GMT

E-Commerce personalization solution Reflektion has launched a platform that will deliver individualized content in retailer email campaigns.

The solution essentially extends the merchandising experience offsite to the shopper's inbox by embedding individually relevant content to each email recipient. The company is reporting significant improvements in click-through and conversion rates, as well as revenue per email (RPE) increase of 12 to 18 percent.

In addition to complementing Reflektion's existing portfolio, which all leverage the historical preferences and current intent for individual shoppers the new Email solution works with all major Email Service Providers (ESPs) such as Oracle Responsys, Salesforce ExactTarget, Selligent's StrongView, and Vero, to add individualized content to email without requiring a separate integration. Reflektion has also partnered with Bronto (owned by NetSuite), the premier email marketing provider used by more than 1,400 brands worldwide.

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Reflektion's email content solution requires only 4-6 weeks for ESP integration and afterwards individualized campaigns can be launched in minutes. Marketers can immediately see the campaign results through an in-depth portal offering real-time insights into campaign performance, more granular merchandising controls, and other key data to improve future campaigns.

"While retailers' websites have become increasingly sophisticated, email -- the one marketing channel customers view regularly -- has remained in the old 'batch and blast' phase. We see a significant opportunity to reverse this trend by extending our Individualized eCommerce platform to shoppers' inboxes," said Sean Moran, CEO of Reflektion. "Merchandising the most individually relevant products through email increases conversion rates and accelerates reactivation -- critical objectives for retailers battling for market share."


Salesforce Reveals Commerce Cloud (Already)

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 16:11:00 GMT

Over the next decade, 86 percent of retailers plan to implement a unified commerce platform, and Salesforce, which picked up cloud commerce platform Demandware this past summer, wants to be a contender in those buying decisions - sooner, rather than later. In less than three months since Salesforce completed the acquisition of Demandware ($2.8 billion), it has announced the release of Commerce Cloud, which Elana Anderson, senior VP of worldwide marketing for Commerce Cloud at Demandware, told Website Magazine provides comprehensive digital commerce across Web, mobile, social and store.  Commerce Cloud speaks to today's interrupted shopping process, where the historical idea of conversion rate, according to Anderson, is no longer true since consumers are taking multiple steps and using multiple devices to complete a purchase. What's more, since much of the time people are spending online is within apps, retailers are forced to rethink how they interact with consumers while struggling with scattered data, duplicate customer profiles, and myriad integrations between systems that are brittle and breakable. Retailers, says Anderson, are looking for a different answer. Salesforce believes it has that answer in Commerce Cloud, a path that Demandware was already on but Anderson believes will be made stronger by the acquisition.  "Salesforce has owned the customer and the customer profile, but they didn’t own that shopping behavior or transactional data which they had to pull from somewhere else," said Anderson. Now with Commerce Cloud, Salesforce owns all of that data from the customer profile and demographic information to visitor behavior and even Internet of Things (IoT) insights (e.g., usage, churn rate, etc.).  With that data, Commerce Cloud, at its best, will be able to automate all aspects of the customer journey to improve conversion, omnichannel transactions and brand loyalty, from personalized on-site recommendations (using Einstein) and product sorting (based on predictive intelligence) to shared inventory across channels and highly customized emails. At its worst, well it's hard to tell, but Salesforce's speed to market was very fast and at a critical time of year. Most retailers (those already with Demandware), however, will benefit from these capabilities over time as there are no major changes to be made. The product will have some branding changes, but that's the "skin of the product." "The reality from a product perspective [is that] we are on a journey," said Anderson. "Some of the work we already done pre-dating because we partnered with Salesforce before the acquisition. Both have an open architecture strategy and retailers are already leverage the platform in an integrated way. So over time, we are in the process of strategizing what to do first, will start to tighten up that integration and build that platform into a singular platform." Given where we are in the timeline of the year, says Anderson, no retailers are going to launch new websites in October of course. Retailers, however, will likely see the pros and cons of their current platforms in a much clearer light when the peak season begins. So while replatforming isn't going to happen until the New Year, e-commerce vendors see a very active sales pipeline during the winter months, which explains the speed to market as does Salesforce's upcoming annual event, Dreamforce. Announcing Commerce Cloud so quickly will allow the company to show stakeholders a projected return on the multi-billion dollar acquisition it made, and motivate the customers coming from Demandware.   Request Website Magazine's Free Weekly Newsletters  [...]

Will You Join #FreeShippingDay?

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 15:49:00 GMT

Shipping costs and speed are typically a deciding factor in whether a shopper completes their online checkout - particularly during the holiday season when they are budgeting for both time and money.

There is, however, a "holiday" just for procrastinators  - Free Shipping day, a one-day online event featuring free shipping with no minimum order requirement and delivery by Christmas Eve.

This year the annual event will take place Friday, Dec. 16, and is expected to be bigger than ever (as is online spend on the whole). Retail companies of all sizes can participate. 


In its inaugural year (2008) Free Shipping Day had 250 retail participants. In 2011, Free Shipping Day surpassed $1 billion in online sales, cementing its place within the holiday shopping lexicon. This year, Free Shipping Day Founder Luke Knowles expect 2,000 or more stores to participate since it's a couple days earlier than last year."

"What sets Free Shipping Day apart from other shopping holidays is small business participation," said Knowles. "It feels good to place small businesses on the same level as big brands during this crucial sales time. As a small business owner, I know how challenging it is to compete when your marketing budget is limited."

To participate, merchants must offer free shipping with no minimum order requirement and guarantee delivery by Christmas Eve for orders placed on Dec. 16. This year's merchants will be added to in the coming weeks, though some stores request not to be featured until the day of. Offers will go live at 12:01 a.m. ET on Friday, Dec. 16.

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Today's Most Pressing Email Issues

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 15:45:00 GMT

SendGrid's 2016 Global Email Benchmark Report has ben released (its first such study) and includes some useful research that email senders can use to evaluate the effectiveness of their own email programs and establish goals. 

The report shows engagement numbers for the average percentage of male and female recipients, percentage of emails that are opened on mobile and non-mobile devices, open rate, click rate, click-to-open rate and monthly send rate corresponding to each industry. The report also combines engagement statistics across all senders, establishing the benchmarks for the average monthly send rate of 9.8 emails with a unique open rate of 14.2 percent, open rate of 27.3 percent, unique click rate of 1.9 percent, click rate of 2.8 percent and unique click / open rate of 13.6 percent.  

Additional highlights of the study include: 

  • E-commerce has the highest average monthly send rate of 18.3, as well as a low click rate of 4.3 percent. This could be attributed to over-sending and recipient email fatigue. 
  • Retail has the highest click-to-open rate. This may signal that recipients are interested in seeing more products, or they could be interested in new product releases and offers. 
  • Travel / Hospitality, Social Media / Networking, eCommerce, Dating Sites and Daily Deals / eCoupons have more than 50 percent of emails viewed on a mobile device, suggesting emails are using a responsive design and render correctly on the most common devices used.

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“According to the Direct Marketing Association, email remains one of the most cost effective ways for businesses to communicate with customers and prospects, with an estimated ROI of $38 for every $1 spent,  yet 20 percent of legitimate emails never reach the inbox,” said Scott Heimes, CMO of SendGrid. “The 2016 Global Email Benchmark Report provides organizations with an industry benchmark that highlight successes, trends and establishes the best practices to deliver successful email marketing campaigns.” 

Sendgrid made several reccommendations based on the research including encouraging senders to (1) remain focused on opens and click as they address unengaged recipients,  content disconnect and unresponsive emails, (2) personalize messages to target specfic audiences, define concrete goals, and monitor where users are collected and more.   


4 of the Best Comment Moderation Tools for Websites

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 15:10:00 GMT

Comments are, in the opinion of many, an integral part of the digital experience.

Any one that has had to manage those comment however, likely has a far different opinion. 

Most brands don't make the most of the opportunity surrounding sitewide commenting and that's simply unfortunate as the right tools can make a great deal of difference and turn boring old comment moderation into a powerful community building process that enterprises can actively engage in each and every day.

Let's take a look at the most popular comment moderation tools in use on the Web today.

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Disqus: Lots of great features and controls for moderation, support for Google AMP, works great on mobile and desktop and will even adapt to a blog's color scheme.

Facebook Comments: With more than a billion users, the FB comments system is a good choice as users don't nned to register to submit their comments. Moderators can organize comments by time posts or by posts with the most engagement tool and the design features are pretty strong.

IntenseDebate: Works on a large number of website platforms, commenters can reply to each other with nested replies, encouraging discussion. This (aided by email alerts of new comments) keeps users coming back to your page, increasing engagement and retention.

Livefyre: Offers several customizable settings that most of the moderation work automatically, giving moderators the option to moderate comments before they’re public, allow users to revise their comments, let guests comment, and display link-backs in the comments section. Livefyre lets you create ban lists that prevent specific users from commenting on your blog.

Do you use one of the comment moderation tools listed above or the comment features available at the core of your existing e-commerce of content management system? What's been your experience with comment moderation on your own digital property?



Using Transaction-Based Insights to Improve Ad Effectiveness

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 14:31:00 GMT

Visa and Oracle are teaming up for a new suite of products designed to help merchants understand if their advertising efforts are actually influencing consumer purchases online and in-stores.

Leveraging digital advertising and cross-device connection data from Oracle Data Cloud and aggregated purchase data from Visa Advertising Solutions, merchants will be able to measure consumer response to the advertising campaigns they run on mobile, display, video and social channels, and use the insights gained to ultimately optimize their efforts. Here is an example of how it might work: 

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Retailers who want to promote a seasonal sale can select a target audience based on demographic and past purchase behavior data (which is available in aggregate form). In this situation, if they choose millennial women as their target audience, a digital ad is delivered to this group using the Oracle ID graph across multiple channels and devices. Visa Advertising Solutions offers insight into whether or not a Visa credit card purchase was made online or in-store following the merchant's digital ad views.

“Successful marketing efforts depend on rich data to measure the results and effectiveness of each channel,” said Mike Lemberger, senior vice president, loyalty and data solutions, Visa Inc. “Combined, Visa and Oracle have unique and powerful assets to help merchants connect the dots between advertising spend and business results – the holy grail of any marketing program.”


The Changing Landscape of Affiliate Marketing - Prepare for 2017, Today

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 14:15:00 GMT

:: By Travis Bliffen, Stellar SEO :: Affiliate marketing isn’t what it used to be. This strategy has gone through significant changes over the past year, forcing online marketers and website owners to change the way they approach it. Google led the way, changing its webmaster guidelines for affiliate programs and clamping down on low quality content. Throw in an ever-evolving and growing competitive landscape, and affiliate marketing can be a tough beast to master. There are still ways to tame this potentially lucrative marketing strategy, despite such a hostile online environment. Affiliate marketing presents an interesting challenge for website owners in 2016 and beyond, and a refined approach can lead to big things. Let’s take a look at ways you can turn your affiliate marketing strategy into an effective income stream and a positive user experience. Know and Value Your Audience The purpose of affiliate programs is to service your readers with content and products that they’re interested in. Forcing products or content down the reader’s throat isn’t going to turn into a very good sale conversion rate. Knowing and understanding why the audience is on your website will go a long way to being able to create an effective affiliate marketing strategy. Ask the question: “What is the visitor’s problem, and am I providing a solution?” The key is ultimately to provide a solution for the reader: they visit your site for a reason, and they know what you and your content are about. There’s no excuse for running an affiliate program about sports gear when your website is about young adult fiction novels, even if that program pays well. If someone comes to your site to read up about the latest romance novel from their favorite author, chances are they don’t care about the latest Titleist, and probably aren’t going to buy it. The more relevant your affiliate content is with the interests of your audience, the more likely they are to engage with it. Establish Trust Regardless of how good your content is, if your reader doesn’t actually trust your brand and content, they’re far less likely to engage with your affiliate strategy. Consumer trust is incredibly important online, and webmasters are in a constant tug-of-war with the industry and readers in balancing out revenue goals with valuable and informative content. Establishing trust is easier said than done: it takes time to build a strong content strategy, one that attracts a valuable audience with a high purchase intent. Interestingly, only 0.6 percent of affiliate marketers have been engaged with the strategy since 2013, which suggests a high turnover rate and a distinctive lack of patience. You might see immediate success with your affiliate marketing strategy, but online user experience and reader trust is pivotal in formulating a successful advertising campaign: the most lucrative marketing strategies are those that demand a high level of audience trust. There’s no question about it: the longer it takes you to establish a trustworthy brand, the harder it will be for you to earn the user’s trust. How does that tie into your branding of the affiliate website? If a visitor doesn’t trust your website, why would they trust a product that you’re promoting? There are a few ways you could address this dilemma. For one, don’t simply create content for the sake of linking to your affiliate: create content that genuinely serves the needs of the visitor. You can broaden the approach a bit. For example, if your affiliate is an online casino, you could write a guide about how important it is to only visit regulated sites with safe deposit and withdrawal options. That solves an issue for the reader, and they’re more likely to engage[...]

On the Importance of Site Search

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 14:04:00 GMT

Just how important is site search to the omnichannel commerce experience? In a word, very.

Omnichannel personalization solution RichRelevance has released some rather interesting research which explores how U.S. consumers search for and, more importantly, find products online.

While site search is critically important to shoppers, the study suggests that many retailers have simply not evolved their site search capabilities to meet the demands of the omnichannel world. The result is that frustrated web and mobile shoppers are likely to go elsewhere when retailers don’t get it right.

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“This is an important wake-up call for the retail industry,” said Diane Kegley, CMO of RichRelevance. “Site search is tremendously important to shoppers, but under-delivers when it comes to all the channels where consumers shop today. The reality is that there haven’t been major advances in site search in a decade, and this is hurting retailers’ bottom lines.”

Highlights of the study include:

  • Search is Critical: 3 out of 4 shoppers (76%) always or often use the search box when shopping on a retailer’s site.
  • Role in Gift Giving: Half of all shoppers (48%) rank the ability to ‘easily search and find products’ as the single most important thing when shopping for gifts on a retailer’s site.
  • Room for Improvement: More than a third of U.S. shoppers (35%) are generally unsatisfied with the search results they receive on a mobile device.


More on RichRelevance from Website Magazine:

+ Get the Stats: Creepy vs Cool Personalization

+ Personalization Goes Offline for Retailers

+ Popular Personalization Platforms for Product Providers


Google's Promoted Pins In Focus

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 04:49:00 GMT

Despite the ease and value of shopping online, most sales still take place offline. In fact, some 90 percent of retail sales will happen in physical stores, and upward of half of smartphone users who search for something locally will end up visiting a retail location within 24 hours. 

That might change however with a recent Google Maps update. Google hopes that its new promoted pins offering will help bridge the gap between online traffic and in-store traffic, and give local businesses a better opportunity to generate sales in a very mobile world. 

Google already shows pins for some businesses and places of interest (landmarks) already, but promoted pins will be much different. The promoted pins will be in a purple color (and not the red for regular pins) and be accompanied by promotions and coupons that are tailored and personalized to a users search history. 

To get started with promoted pins, businesses need to be verified by Google, meet the advertiser eligibility requirements, and enable location extensions in AdWords (which involves linking a Google My Business Account to an AdWords account). 

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Businesses are charged per click in the program, and those clicks can come in a variety of forms, from click-to-call actions, get location clicks, for get direction interactions. 

Do Promoted Pins work to drive in-store visits? For one well known national brand it most certainly did according to Google. PetSmart learned how to tie together data from its search ads with data from Google’s Store Visits and found that between 10 and 18 percent of users who clicked on its ads ended up inside a PetSmart store within a month. PetSmart conceivably use this information to make more informed budgeting decisions for their online marketing strategies moving forward, and provide data driven proof of the value in search ads for their merchandising partners. 


Surprise! Digital Maturity Lacking in Many Organizations

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 20:00:00 GMT

From CRM to WCM and every acronym in between, companies are struggling to integrate the disparate systems they need to run their business and optimize the digital experience for end-users. 

A new global study, "Digital Marketing Maturity: The Results Are In," from Progress finds a total of 56 percent of organizations have "some or none" of their marketing systems integrated and sharing data. Similarly, 80 percent reported manual processes were needed for the systems to work properly.

With just 20 percent of organizations running with fully automated systems, Progress believes that by relying on manual processes, an organization's ability to react in real-time to changing events is impacted.


With tighter integration and a centralized view of data, however, systems can recognize an event and immediately recommend a course of action whether it's delivering a personalized experience or adapting to new enterprise demands.

“As technologies evolve and processes are digitized, the marketing and customer experience function is being transformed. Whether this transformation is effective depends a great deal on digital maturity,” said Svetozar Georgiev, Senior Vice President of Application Platforms, Progress. “Based on our findings, it’s clear that organizations need to optimize, integrate and automate systems, and they need a true analytics platform to take advantage of big data to drive conversions. Implementing these changes will also enable them to truly support digital business transformation initiatives.”

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Enterprise Communication is (Mostly) Terrible

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 18:54:00 GMT

Communication - whether it's downward, upward or lateral - is vital to an enterprise's success. How employees and employers exchange ideas and information plays a direct role in not only workplace morale but also the experience that a company offers to its end-users. Despite its critical role, however, communication is not a priority for many organizations. 

In fact, the recently released SAP Leaders 2020 Study found that 46 percent of managers do not have consistent contact with their employees on a regular basis. This ultimately results in mistrust in leadership from 50 percent or more of employees, who believe that leaders could improve their communication skills overall. Of course, workforces are becoming more distributed, but if enterprises can get teams communicating in one place, like a collaboration platform or chat solution, the odds of lessening this gap will likely improve. Other reasons for lack of communication include some fundamental issues within an enterprise like managers feeling vulnerable, intimidation reasons and lack of subject matter expertise

The SAP study also indicates that high-functioning organizations or "digital winners" give ample ongoing feedback to employees (88 percent) and have cultures that place a high value on employee satisfaction (82 percent) as well as advancement opportunities (81 percent). 


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Test Removing Generic, Role-Based Email Addresses

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 18:45:00 GMT

There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that the longer marketers keep inactive email addresses on their list, the more likely they are to potentially damage their sender reputation.

While most email service providers do an excellent job of helping marketers remove invalid addresses and some even go as far to provide solutions to help sender identify inactive subscribers, there is one group that often make up majority of recipient lists and they can be the root cause of deliverability problems - the generic, role-based email address.

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Consider your own "enterprise" for a moment - it's not uncommon for prospects to use generic email addresses such as support@, info@, webmaster@, etc., when subscribing to something (like a newsletter or when they want to download something). The problem is, these generic, role-based (intended for a specific person or group of people) are usually just going to one person and are used so personal email addresses aren't shared with brands/businesses. The problem is that the one person receiving that generic email address may never, ever even open the email being sent by the marketer.

The counter to this is that those with "real" address (containing names, either first or last or some combination) are typically actual people that subscribed and those who are interested in a particular offering.

Consider this basic optimization practice if your deliverability rates are lower that you'd like to see. Filter your list by those with "known" role-based email addresses (info, general, support, social, webmaster, sales, etc.) and compare the open and click-through rates on the past few email sends to determine if this segment of your list is causing poor performance. The answer will likely be a resounding "yes" for most enterprises.