Sponsored Content: CallTrackingMetrics – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Mon, 03 Dec 2018 21:19:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.6.2 The growing force of women in tech /the-growing-force-of-women-in-tech-308976 Wed, 05 Dec 2018 12:30:55 +0000 /?p=308976 While they comprise half of the U.S. workforce, women still hold less than 20 percent of all tech jobs. By comparison, women will represent 23 percent of the incoming 116th Congress. Let’s let that sink in for a moment. Congress, by the numbers, is now more progressive and less of a “boys’ club” than the […]

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While they comprise half of the U.S. workforce, women still hold less than 20 percent of all tech jobs. By comparison, women will represent 23 percent of the incoming 116th Congress.

Let’s let that sink in for a moment.

Congress, by the numbers, is now more progressive and less of a “boys’ club” than the technology sector. But while those numbers may feel surprising, diving into the background of women and tech — exploring the early female tech pioneers and what the future holds for women in the industry — actually paints a picture that’s far less bleak. Stay with us; it’s worth a deep-dive.

The myth of the male tech genius

Take a look at the recent and current legends on the tech playing field and you won’t find much gender diversity: Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg, Page, Brin. And when you start to read about venture capital funding mechanisms and startup incubators, it becomes clear that the industry has a history of mythologizing — even fetishizing — unreasonable men of “genius” while shutting out other genders and skillsets. Unfortunately, the resulting lack of female role models is not only bad for the recruitment of women into the industry, but it also perpetuates the untrue stereotype that women can’t cut it as tech leaders.

There’s even a subset of men in the industry who would have us believe that there is something inherent, even biological, keeping women from entering and achieving within the sector. This sexist attitude is not only bad science, it’s also costing companies dollars. In fact, there is evidence that tech companies with women in leadership positions are measurably more successful than those that aren’t. A recent survey of over 20,000 firms across 91 countries found that businesses with women in their C-suite tended to increase their net profit margins. As for startups, Forbes has reported that women-built businesses bring in some 20 percent more revenue for half the money invested; they have over a third higher ROI when venture backed; and they generate 12 percent more revenue, overall, than male-run startups.

The numbers don’t lie: women are good for business. And if the mythological male tech genius isn’t lucrative for companies, maybe it’s time for something else. Thankfully, there have been women quietly paving the way in tech, all along. Let’s take a look.

A gender equity model

While the current tech environment is far from ideal when it comes to gender parity, the road traveled by early female tech pioneers was inarguably even bumpier. The fact that many women, despite often overwhelming social obstacles, left indelible marks in their emerging fields is both a cause for hope and a model for a new type of tech industry still emerging.

Mathematician Grace Hopper, an early pioneer in coding, may have been known as the Queen of Computer Code, but she never rose to Jobs-level fame. Beyond her achievements in coding, she also worked her way up the ranks of the U.S. Navy to become a Rear Admiral, becoming so indispensable that she was recalled from retirement multiple times, with Congress eventually granting her permission to work beyond the normal mandatory retirement age. “Amazing Grace” Hopper contributed to the development of UNIVAC, helped develop the COBOL and FORTRAN programming languages, and made enormous contributions to developing standards and improving computing throughout military and civilian practice.

Later in the twentieth century, American programmer and engineer Radia Perlman created the spanning-tree protocol (STP), a fundamental piece of network bridges and a foundational part of what would become the internet as we know it. The MIT-educated Ph.D. and author continues to work in the computer science field, refining and innovating on her earlier developments. She’s downplayed her contributions, saying, “In engineering, the point is to get the job done, and people are happy to help. You should be generous with credit, and you should be happy to help others” — an attitude some tech leaders could learn a thing or two from.

Supporting potential and diversity

Fortunately for all of us, people — both male and female — are waking up to the gender-equity tech problem. There are now organizations across the U.S. and the world actively supporting and educating women in the STEM field. A few notables include:

  • Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN), whose goal is to transform the culture in engineering education, making the atmosphere and culture of engineering more amenable to women. They support a network of students at over 150 campuses across the U.S. and reach well over half of the female engineering student population of the country.
  • National Girls Collaborative Projects (NCGP) works to increase resources available to girls that will boost education and career interest in STEM fields. Since 2002, they’ve engaged 31 collaborative networks to make more and better STEM learning resources available in 39 states.
  • Girls Who Code, founded by Reshma Saujani, an American lawyer and politician, has reached over 90,000 girls across all 50 states. According to Saujani, the organization has reached a tipping point in its mission to build girls’ capabilities, careers, and communities in computer engineering—and is on track to achieve gender parity in computer science by 2027.

Charitable efforts alone won’t solve the gender gap; luckily, they won’t have to. In an effort to address the problem, build stronger organizations, and make more money, some tech companies are starting to work on the problem as well, making conscious investments in diversity and working to advance women into leadership roles.

Cloud-based CRM giant Salesforce, for example, embraces diversity as a core company value and has a Chief Equality Officer who oversees nonprofit partnerships that support diversity, audits of pay gaps, and other initiatives to ensure diversity and equality. And other power players in the tech field, like Dell, IBM and Intuit have scored high in elevating gender equality and diversity throughout their culture and policies as well.

The future looks (more) female

Institutions and businesses don’t make change in a vacuum, and the fact remains that individual women within the industry have been pushing hard for reforms since its inception. At the age of 26, for example, programmer Samantha John founded Hopscotch to teach children to program games and animations of their own. British tech entrepreneur Kathryn Parsons co-founded and serves as co-CEO of Decoded, a London-based startup with a mission to teach novices to code in a day and increase digital literacy, including otherwise underserved populations. At the same time that these startups are helping build access to tech know-how, high-profile players like YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg offer powerful examples for women in tech leadership.

Here at CallTrackingMetrics, we believe gender equity is a competitive advantage, and we’re proud that more than half of our employees are female. Having a strong female team helps us attract talented women who may not feel at home at other technology companies. It also gives us an advantage in relating to our customer base, particularly in the advertising industry, where 85% of consumer campaigns aim to reach women.

It remains to be seen whether the current efforts and attention will be enough, in the long run, to counterbalance the undercurrent that lingers in the industry. But this year’s changes to Congress serve as a likely indicator of things to come across all fields and industries, where women are working to shake things up. And, we’re confident that smart and savvy businesses will follow suit.

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From funnel to flywheel /from-funnel-to-flywheel-306632 Tue, 16 Oct 2018 11:30:36 +0000 /?p=306632 If you’re like most marketers, you could name the basic parts of the sales funnel in your sleep: Awareness, Interest, Evaluation, Decision, and Purchase. Of course, businesses have tweaked the model over the years, adding extra steps and so forth, but the basic premise has remained the same. But there is one problem with the […]

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If you’re like most marketers, you could name the basic parts of the sales funnel in your sleep: Awareness, Interest, Evaluation, Decision, and Purchase.

Of course, businesses have tweaked the model over the years, adding extra steps and so forth, but the basic premise has remained the same. But there is one problem with the model: it’s the opposite of customer-centric. In fact, in the traditional sales funnel, leads are treated a bit like uniform widgets moving along a conveyor belt, with various things happening to them along the way.

The problem is that if you’re not centered on the customer, your marketing efforts might be going to waste. If we had a nickel for every brilliant content strategy that seemed to explode with engagement while yielding little (if any) measurable return on investment, we’d have more than a piggy-bank full of change.

Centering the customer in your sales model changes that, though, because the customer now drives all content and all marketing efforts, instead of the other way around. In this piece, we’ll explain a new sales model. Maybe by the end you’ll be like us: falling ever-so-slightly out of love with the funnel — and in love with the flywheel.

A what wheel?

Like its predecessor the funnel, a flywheel is not just a metaphor, but also a real-life tool that powers multiple, modern-day inventions. Invented by James Watt of lightbulb fame, the flywheel is a disc or wheel around an axis. It has assorted industrial applications and can be found in car engines, ships, and a lot of other places where energy needs to be generated, amplified, stored, and stabilized.

The flywheel effect, described by Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great, describes a massive, 5,000-pound metal disc mounted horizontally on an axle. He asks the reader to imagine pushing it, so that it turns around that axle. At first, getting it to move at all is extremely difficult. But with each push, it gets fractionally easier and the flywheel begins to pick up speed. Collins writes:

Then, at some point—breakthrough! The momentum of the thing kicks in in your favor, hurling the flywheel forward, turn after turn … whoosh! … its own heavy weight working for you. You’re pushing no harder than during the first rotation, but the flywheel goes faster and faster. Each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort. A thousand times faster, then ten thousand, then a hundred thousand. The huge heavy disk flies forward, with almost unstoppable momentum. 

It’s a great metaphor for marketing. Because that momentum isn’t the product of any single push. Instead, the energy is cumulative, generated by a lot of little pushes, with the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Ideally, marketing and sales should work the same way. The energy, leads, and revenue created by marketing efforts is not due to any single channel, piece of content, or campaign; it’s a cumulative effect. And once it really gets going, a good marketing campaign keeps spinning. It generates energy.

Putting the customer at the center

Instead of a funnel into which prospective customers are unceremoniously dumped, the flywheel puts the customer at the center of the wheel: the axle.

Hubspot CEO Brian Halligan, for example, sees the customer as the lynchpin, with the flywheel itself divided into three equal segments, each representing stages along the customer journey: attract, engage, and delight. Each area creates energy and passes it along to the next, with the delight phase feeding back into attract.

Other flywheel devotees divide the disc into Marketing, Sales, and Service — again putting the customer in the center position. Each effort feeds into the next, cycling around and around, but always circling the customer.

This may be the most important aspect of the flywheel model — that it centers the customer. The funnel, on the other hand, doesn’t consider how those customers can feed back into the funnel (or the flywheel) to help create additional growth and engagement.

The funnel can’t conceive of customers buying from you more than once, so the momentum you build acquiring customers via the funnel just falls away. Following every quarter, every customer, every conversion — you’re starting all over again.

Learning to fly

The momentum of a flywheel is determined by three primary pieces:

  1. The weight of the wheel

With a physical flywheel, the greater the mass of the flywheel, the greater its momentum and the harder it is to stop. In the customer-focused model, the “weight” looks like an exceptional customer service experience that builds your reputation and brand in ways that create retention, build ambassadors, and deliver value into your marketing and sales segments. The way that you deliver that customer experience will be unique to your business model.

  1. How fast you spin it

The speed in the flywheel model is really about the number of “pushes” you give the wheel. How much content is your marketing team delivering? Which channels are you using to reach prospects? How many leads are coming from the content?

  1. The friction

Reducing flywheel friction is about ensuring customers remain satisfied and keeping your efforts aligned. If poor sales performance is slowing the momentum from marketing — or if poor service is hurting retention of hard-won sales — your flywheel will slow down, and your business will suffer. On the other hand, when everything is aligned, your efforts will feed into each other and keep your flywheel humming along.

Finding alignment and purpose

It’s one thing to draw up a model and another to align cross-organizational efforts in real life. Part of finding alignment is cultural, getting leadership to buy in and coordinating communication among departments. But a huge part of the lift has to be operational — and will be dependent on having technology that enables marketing, sales, and service to coordinate.

At CallTrackingMetrics (CTM), we’ve been thinking this way for some time now — though we only recently discovered the flywheel model. Our call intelligence and management platform brings together all the three segments of the flywheel: marketing, sales, and service.

It tracks call sources, lets agents tag and score calls, helps businesses respond immediately to inquiries, and provides a data-rich environment that can inform stakeholders across organizations about marketing, sales, and service performance. It also helps create reporting to determine returns on investment for content and campaigns, customer feedback, and more. In short, it makes it easier to understand and engage with customers in a meaningful, helpful way.

That engagement matters. A lot. Because, at the end of the day, marketing and sales are all about creating better experiences along your customers’ journeys. And the funnel model has never recognized the important part customer service teams play in generating customer retention, brand building, and developing stronger relationships and alignment between your business and your customers — as well as within the disparate teams in your organization.

In the end, the flywheel ensures that everyone in your business shares the same purpose: keeping the flywheel spinning, in order to create better relationships with and experiences for your customers. However hard it might seem to get it spinning at first, once the flywheel gains momentum and sales start churning, it’s well worth the effort.

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Is your marketing platform really intelligent? /is-your-marketing-platform-really-intelligent-299471 Tue, 05 Jun 2018 11:30:10 +0000 /?p=299471 Let’s face it, the future isn’t turning out to be what we were promised in decades past. No flying cars, and the closest thing to robot butlers are Siri and Alexa. Don’t get me wrong, they’re handy in their ways: suggesting nearby Thai food or tending to virtual shopping carts as we yell our grocery […]

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Let’s face it, the future isn’t turning out to be what we were promised in decades past. No flying cars, and the closest thing to robot butlers are Siri and Alexa. Don’t get me wrong, they’re handy in their ways: suggesting nearby Thai food or tending to virtual shopping carts as we yell our grocery lists across the room. But they’re not really artificial intelligence (AI). In fact, nothing that’s commercially available really is — at least not yet.

In marketing, for example, all kinds of martech come with an AI label. But much of what marketers are touting when they describe their machine-learning, data-driven, lead-boosting, conversion-creating tools is only AI by the narrowest of definitions. That is, these technologies are more accurately described as IA, or intelligent automation.

What’s the difference between AI and IA, and why does it matter?

General vs. narrow intelligence

In order to understand why most martech is not AI, it’s helpful to look at the two categories of intelligence: general AI and narrow AI.

General AI

The artificial intelligence that we know from science fiction is called general AI. It’s a flexible, always-learning intelligence, comparable to our own human intelligence. In fact, the only significant difference between AI and human intelligence is that AI is human-built. It can set its own parameters, much as humans can define how and what we’ll learn — and what we’ll then do with that learning.

General AI will likely become a reality someday, but there’s no consensus about how soon this breakthrough will occur, or what its full implications will be. In the meantime, while we’re waiting for HAL from “2001” to emerge, we have narrow AI.

Narrow AI

Narrow AI is what we’re usually talking about in martech, and is not the AI of sci fi movies and robot butlers. Alexa and Siri are the obvious faces — or voices, rather — of narrow AI, but this kind of intelligence is working in the background around us all the time. Narrow AI can respond to simple queries from customers, organize calendars, detect potential fraud and alert you to inappropriate content. It’s great at interpreting information based on set parameters. It’s smart in a multiple-choice kind of way, but its scope of tasks is more narrow in scope.

This Narrow AI is really just automation taken to a new level. And automation is not new. It’s been around for a long time — arguably since Greek engineer Ctesibus created a feedback control mechanism to keep his water clock running in the 2nd century B.C.E. Everything from auto-assembly lines to elevators and phone switchboards uses automation — all based on parameters set by operators or engineers. But even very complex automation isn’t “intelligent” in an AI context.

An elevator, for example, will respond differently if you push the “door open” button while in motion than if the elevator has reached a floor. There’s no thought process going on, and we wouldn’t call an elevator intelligent. But we give our email marketing platforms the grandiose title of “artificial intelligence” when they’re doing essentially the same thing as an elevator — just acting within parameters as instructed.

That’s why we prefer the term “intelligent automation.” The automation is smart — in a way. After all, it’s been designed to interpret certain information and react accordingly. But it’s not really artificial intelligence. There’s a world of difference between elevators — or marketing software — and Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

How automation is revolutionizing marketing

While it’s not the stuff of science fiction, we shouldn’t downplay automation. In fact, it has already revolutionized the field of marketing.

Marketing automation already allows for:

  • Increased revenue. Almost 80 percent of CMOs name revenue growth as their primary reason to employ automation. Automating upsell and cross-sell emails can increase the lifetime value of customers; add customer follow-ups and lead prioritization to the automation mix and you’ll likely see an even bigger revenue boost.
  • Greater productivity. Being able to automate repetitive tasks buys your marketing team time to develop strategies, create content and build campaigns without being forced to organize and execute routine workflows — like sending emails or updating social media — manually.
  • Reduced time to conversion. Automation increases efficiency, serving content and communications to more leads faster than humanly possible — unless you have a very large team. By some measures, automation can reduce conversion time by 70 percent or more.
  • Other benefits. Automation also allows for brand and scheduling consistency, leaner marketing teams and the ability to create reporting to track ROI and other measures.

But these benefits are just the tip of the iceberg. With the right kind of intelligent parameters applied, automation can have a huge impact on how you get things done — as well as how fast and how well you get them done.

Maximizing automation: A real-world example

As we see it, there are two ways to maximize automation. The first is to make it as comprehensive as possible, with different systems, functions and needs integrating with each other. The second is to set the right parameters for your industry, customers, staff and business needs. At CallTrackingMetrics (CTM), we’re leveraging both: using intelligent automation to bring together different channels and systems, while also setting controls and parameters that boost productivity and efficiency.

The result? Increased revenue and reduced conversion time.

Getting comprehensive: IA has allowed us to integrate the CTM platform with numerous other systems, including analytics platforms and customer relationship management tools. This means that you can leverage call scores, keywords, customer information and other data to fine-tune and personalize marketing efforts, drive conversions, increase efficiency and more.

Setting parameters: Comprehensive data is only meaningful if you can also sift it for value. That’s where controls and alerts come in. At CTM, for example, we added Speech Analytics to our call recording and transcription features. This allows for the automatic redaction of information when sensitive data, like personal medical data or payment information, is revealed. This technology can also trigger communications or events based on these keywords, such as notifying a supervisor when negative keywords appear or making sales teams aware of product mentions.

At the same time, our Conversation Analytics functionality automatically tags and scores calls based on keywords and the CTM platform’s Smart Routing can direct calls to the appropriate agent or department based on criteria like caller location, marketing channel, or even the demographic data of the caller. This can help marketing and sales teams respond more effectively to customer queries.

The present and future of AI & marketing

As martech providers continue to refine our automation abilities, marketers can look forward to smarter tools and strategies for creating engagement, some of which are already beginning to push the boundary between narrow and general artificial intelligence.

Consider that today some automated platforms are doing more than locating content in databases — they’re actually creating content. The Associated Press has already used AI to author articles, and the Washington Post uses a robot called Heliograf to create hyper-local reporting for high school sports, as well as content about politics and the 2018 Olympics. It works best for very straightforward, informational articles, and the wording sounds a little less-than-human in places, with occasional imprecise word choices reminiscent of Google Translate. While it’s not time to fire your writers just yet, tools like Heliograf will likely only get better over time.

There are plenty of other examples of intelligent, automated martech under development. Some exist to mediate conversations with audiences, others to help personalize customer journeys in more comprehensive and efficient ways.

We’ve come a long way from ancient Greek water clocks, but exactly when these developing technologies will pass the threshold to become something less like chatbots and more like Optimus Prime is anybody’s guess. In the meantime, perhaps we can all make the best possible use of our current tools by asking Siri to tell a joke.

“The past, present, and future walk into a bar.”

“It was tense.”

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All About the GDPR /all-about-the-gdpr-294664 Mon, 26 Mar 2018 11:30:57 +0000 /?p=294664 While deregulation has been a stateside trend over the past decade, the 28 members of the European Union are gearing up for a massive increase in regulations around data privacy in the form of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — and this regulation will make a splash across the pond as well. Briefly, virtually […]

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While deregulation has been a stateside trend over the past decade, the 28 members of the European Union are gearing up for a massive increase in regulations around data privacy in the form of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — and this regulation will make a splash across the pond as well.

Briefly, virtually all personal information will be considered private and protected under these new rules, serving up a much more comprehensive approach than the US’s piecemeal protections of medical and financial data.

But what do these new rules mean — if anything — for US businesses?

The short answer: Plenty. Maybe. It depends.

The long answer requires some context and is worth taking the time to understand. And most providers are already making big strides to be ready for launch in May.

Internet privacy: The early years

The GDPR, set to go into effect on May 25, 2018, is the product of four years of debate and preparation — but its roots trace back more than two decades to the infancy of the internet, when the EU first began protecting data. The GDPR will replace a 1995 regulation that was put into place when Netscape ruled the web, well before data giants like Google and Amazon began to flex their marketing muscles. Since then, the digital landscape has changed — and so has the way businesses utilize data. The EU is hoping to keep up with those data giants and those changes, ensuring its citizens can be confident in their privacy and security.

Like its predecessor, the GDPR is built on the premise that private information actually is, or should be, private and that individuals have rights surrounding this data. In fact, among the first words of the regulation are “data protection as a fundamental right.” As to what comprises personal data, the GDPR is very specific:

“‘personal data’ means any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (‘data subject’); an identifiable natural person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person…”

How is the GDPR different from before?

As for the big differences between previous EU privacy standards and the GDPR, there are three primary areas of expansion:

  • Territorial scope. This is arguably the biggest upgrade in the GDPR, giving it jurisdiction over all companies processing the personal data of individuals in the EU, whether the company is based in an EU nation or not. It covers all activities relating to the offering of goods and services to EU citizens and the monitoring of behavior that takes place in the EU. Pre-GDPR, territorial issues were fairly ambiguous, resulting in numerous complex legal cases.
  • Businesses wanting to use EU citizens’ data need to obtain consent in a clear and accessible way. Requesting consent via convoluted legalese or extremely fine print is not acceptable. Equally important, the entity seeking to use the data must make it as easy to withdraw consent as it is to grant it.
  • There are various degrees of penalties, some of which are significant. For serious infringements, including failure to acquire consent, organizations in violation of the GDPR can be fined up to 4 percent of their annual global turnover or €20 million, whichever is greater. Lesser violations, such as insufficient record keeping can face a lesser, but still hefty, fine of 2 percent.

How does the GDPR differ from US privacy regulations?

The GDPR stands apart from the American approach to information privacy in its comprehensive nature. Its policies are sweeping, whereas the US has taken an ad hoc or sectoral approach. The US is given to the fairly sporadic adoption of industry-specific and (sometimes weirdly) niche regulations. For example, the Video Privacy Protection Act specifically forbade the release of lists of customers’ video rentals from Blockbuster and so forth. Sounds outdated, but the VPPA has actually evolved to impact the way Netflix and Facebook handle information around video content. But even though it’s come a long way from its analog origins, one can argue that it is hardly a comprehensive way to manage data privacy.

We also have the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Payment Card Information Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), and countless other piecemeal bits of privacy. It’s complicated. The EU’s new standard, however, isn’t complicated, at least not within the EU. It doesn’t matter if the data is regarding your healthcare, your credit card, your video rentals, your DNA, your dating profile or anything else. If it’s your personal data, it’s protected under the new regulation. And the businesses that require personal data to do business with you must take the proper steps to acquire it, store it, process it and secure it. End of story.

How will this affect my US business?

Marketing in the digital age is all about data, so yes, the GDPR will complicate the job of marketers and can potentially jeopardize your business if you’re not careful. For example, if your social marketing channel happens to drift overseas and get “liked” by a Slovenian user, you won’t have to cough up €20 million. But if you create a website ending in .si to actively engage with that Slovenian market—or .uk or .es or any other EU nation suffix — or if you start accepting euros or pounds sterling or Danish Krones, the GDPR will likely apply to the data involved in those sites and transactions.

Companies that handle massive amounts of data, like Facebook, Netflix and Amazon, will have an obvious heavy lift to ensure they’re taking proper measures with individuals in the EU. But for everyone else, adopting the GDPR as best practices is a smart way to stay protected at home or abroad.

The good news is that many data-focused platforms are already providing compliance-focused features, many of which will overlap with the GDPR’s requirements. Marketing, email and data-tracking providers like Google, HubSpot and CallTrackingMetrics, for example, already have built-in functionality that allows users to maintain compliance with regulations like HIPAA and PCI. These tools, along with countless others, will also provide the coverage you need to meet GDPR compliance, as long as you are also fulfilling your commitments to the overall philosophy of the regulation through initiatives like DPAs and policy revisions.

Serving up trust and customer experience

In most cases, the tools already exist or will exist to keep you compliant, but it’s up to you to follow best practices. Marketers need to be aware that the data they collect must have been acquired with consent, and it must be relevant to a specific purpose. If you’re holding a sweepstakes, for instance, the data you collect must be used for that purpose and that purpose alone. To maintain GDPR compliance, marketing databases will need constant scrubbing and/or additional consent — a wakeup call for marketers who have been building large, all-encompassing lists based on any and all contact data.

Regardless of a little extra work, the raison d’être of the GDPR remains solid: A thriving economy in this new digital, data-driven world requires participants who are confident of their privacy — who feel their personal data belongs to them and trust the businesses they interact with. While this might feel like a major undertaking for individual US marketers, it’s positive news for the industry as a whole. The GDPR is pushing us away from list-buying and other spammy practices and toward a better customer experience — which should be the ultimate goal of every marketer.

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Shopify meets call tracking /shopify-meets-call-tracking-287365 Wed, 29 Nov 2017 12:30:42 +0000 /?p=287365 As we enter the 2020s, e-commerce is set to generate more than $480 billion in the US and nearly $2 trillion globally. And while Amazon takes a lot of credit for online everything, they’re hardly the only game in town. A significant chunk of online retail is generated by smaller players, thanks in part to […]

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As we enter the 2020s, e-commerce is set to generate more than $480 billion in the US and nearly $2 trillion globally. And while Amazon takes a lot of credit for online everything, they’re hardly the only game in town. A significant chunk of online retail is generated by smaller players, thanks in part to platforms like Shopify that make it easy to sell in the digital space, as well as in person — and that have the potential to merge the online and offline experience into an omnichannel version of commerce. Let’s take a look at how we got here, and how e-commerce platforms and retailers should be operating in this new, seamless marketplace.

Shifting to Shopify

In 2004, Tobias Lütke, a purveyor of fine snowboards, wanted to sell his wares online. Today, that would be simple; in the pre-Shopify world, e-commerce platforms were clunky and difficult to integrate with other services and platforms. Rather than continue to frustrate himself and limit his business, Lütke put in some long days of coding to create software that would better suit his needs.

Long story short, Lütke and his partners shifted their entrepreneurial efforts from their snowboard origins to the software solution he’d designed and refined. It turned out to be a good decision—a few years later, investors jumped in to help them scale their solution. Now, Shopify powers more than half a million businesses across 175 countries and pulls in yearly revenues over $150 million.

The birth of mobile and social commerce

Shopify ushered in the e-commerce age, and now e-commerce has yielded a pair of important offspring:

  • m-commerce — The mobile version of e-commerce has been expanding quickly, thanks to increasing screen sizes, responsive design and the continued proliferation of mobile devices. M-commerce is projected to hit $335 billion by 2020, up from around $80 billion in 2015, and Business Insider predicts that m-commerce will make up nearly half of all e-commerce by 2020.
  • s-commerce — Social commerce is a growing arm of online sales, with three-fourths of consumers using social networks to inform their purchases. S-commerce includes direct, peer-to-peer channels like eBay or Etsy, ads and referrals through social channels like Facebook and Twitter and targeted bulk promotions like those offered by LivingSocial and Groupon. Statista reports that worldwide s-commerce revenue is $20 billion, but beyond the hard, fast numbers, social plays a critical role in expanding customer engagement, building brand equity and increasing traffic to retailers’ sites.

Shopify’s success is due in large part to the fact that it embraces this wide variety of channels. In addition to an e-commerce platform, Shopify’s platform has integrated channels for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Amazon and a number of other social/retail platforms, as well as a software development kit to help additional third parties develop their own integrations. To date, Facebook is dominating their s-commerce sales, accounting for two-thirds of Shopify’s m-commerce and 85 percent of all m-commerce.

Merging with the physical marketplace

Shopify’s success — as well as the achievements of other e-commerce providers like BigCommerce and Magento — points to an obvious demand for online sales solutions. But it’s important to remember that e-, m- and s-commerce aren’t the only sources of sales in the digital age, nor even the biggest. Brick-and-mortar businesses still account for an overwhelming majority of retail sales, with more than a million businesses racking up nearly $4 trillion per year in the US alone, according to Retail Touchpoints. Shopify knows it’s dangerous to ignore the physical storefront behemoth. For this reason, they continue to support offline transactions, offering brick-and-mortar POS solutions and card readers for businesses of all sizes.

Retailers should take a cue from Shopify and stop perceiving online and offline selling as a competition between marketplaces. Instead, they should recognize that digital and physical storefronts can, and should, complement each other in important ways. For instance, Retail Touchpoints reports that half of the customers who browse brick-and-mortar shops later buy online, and even more browse web retailers and then buy offline. More than a third of every dollar spent offline has been influenced by digital interactions — adding up to over $1 trillion in purchases annually. Increasingly, it’s beneficial for retailers to stop thinking of physical, digital, social and mobile as separate marketplaces but instead to look at all channels together, through a single lens.

Data integration drives the multichannel shopping experience

Being able to fully merge the online and offline shopping experiences requires data integration — and data can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing because of the analytic goldmine that can help retailers understand and reach consumers; a curse, because data is rarely complete — and an incomplete picture of consumer behavior can lead to poor decision-making around inventory, product design, service offers and, of course, marketing.

This is why Shopify and other multichannel players are aggressively seeking diverse integrations. The more channels they can track, the more potential access their retail customers have for data — and that helps them understand their customers. The result: Consumers get more relevant offers, retailers get better conversion rates and Shopify gets happy customers. It’s a win-win-win deal.

Call intelligence: The missing piece

Shopify’s multichannel commerce platform is arguably the most comprehensive offering in the market today. Even so, they have been missing a critical piece that prevents them from providing a complete data picture to their customers. And this missing piece is called intelligence.

Tech-blinded naysayers might suggest that calls are dead — that online channels have killed the phone as surely as they’ve killed the phone book. But data suggests otherwise. Consider that:

  • some sales and marketing organizations track inbound calls as 10x more likely to convert than other channels.
  • the proliferation of mobile devices has doubled inbound calls in the last three years to well over 60 billion calls per year and is projected to hit nearly 200 billion in the next three years.
  • online ad providers like Google have found that up to 62 percent of customers prefer click-to-call options over ad clicks.

And, keep in mind that some of the numbers around calls are likely underrepresented due to the fact that calls are less likely to be accurately tracked that more-often-integrated methods like click-throughs and forms submitted.

Lacking a true omnichannel experience

For several years, Shopify and other multichannel retailers have been talking about an “omnichannel experience” — an experience that provides a seamless buyer’s journey for consumers, merging offline and online shopping in a holistic way. And in a lot of ways, they’ve come close. But until calls are integrated accurately and consistently, customer journeys will remain incomplete, and conversions improperly attributed.

Consider the customers who seem to drop off the data radar after numerous online engagements. Have they failed to convert? Or have they purchased the product you targeted them with — or another product — via phone? Failure to capture this data can lead to less relevant offers in the future and overall lower conversion rates.

Omnichannel requires call intelligence

E-commerce is great at gathering online data, and platforms like Shopify with POS (point-of-sale) capability — as well as Google Analytics and assorted social integrations — bring together a big picture. Just not a complete one. Until now. As stewards of a true omnichannel approach, CallTrackingMetrics has recently released the first Shopify integration that not only tracks but also responds to inbound customer calls.

With an omnichannel-focused call intelligence platform, retailers now have access to complete order history and other crucial caller data instantly, and they can integrate that caller data into the rest of their marketing picture to fully understand their customers’ journey, online and off. Call intelligence platforms can also trigger automatic responses to customer inquiries by calling, emailing or texting the customer — or a stakeholder within the retail business — informing them of order status and other relevant info. This keeps the buying process moving, improves consumer experience and helps drive future conversions. Most importantly, it takes advantage of — and integrates — all possible retail channels: the true omnichannel experience has finally arrived.

Staying competitive

As e-commerce continues to absorb a larger and larger share of retail (and it is projected to do so steadily), it will become increasingly important for retailers and the platforms they use to adopt tools that deliver true omnichannel capabilities, including phone calls. To please customers and create conversions and loyalty, anything less than seamless just won’t cut it in the years to come.

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The evolution of phone marketing /evolution-phone-marketing-285928 Fri, 03 Nov 2017 19:30:17 +0000 /?p=285928 In the beginning, there was the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X. And it was not good. By 2017 standards, it was barely a phone. Virtually zero coverage, a price tag that translates to almost $10,000 of today’s dollars, and completely devoid of apps. It also had a 10-hour charge time that only translated into about a half-hour […]

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In the beginning, there was the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X. And it was not good. By 2017 standards, it was barely a phone. Virtually zero coverage, a price tag that translates to almost $10,000 of today’s dollars, and completely devoid of apps. It also had a 10-hour charge time that only translated into about a half-hour of use. Truly a pinnacle of technology.

From town criers to SMS

While 1983’s big breakthrough was a far cry from the iPhone X, it was a harbinger of things to come — a personal telecommunications device that could be carried outside the hardwired home. It took another 10 years to make cellphones that you could comfortably — well, somewhat comfortably — carry in your hand. And it would take a few more years still before the advent of the flip phone. Ultimately, it was almost 25 years after Motorola’s original mobile phone before smartphones appeared and mobile marketing as we now know it began in earnest.

Admittedly, forms of “mobile” marketing existed before the iPhone went on sale in 2007. Centuries ago, young boys called town criers — the millennials of the Middle Ages — called out news as they scurried the streets of Europe. In the 1800s, door-to-door peddlers were a mobile sales force to be reckoned with. But, of course, these weren’t phones. And it wasn’t until the early 2000s that SMS (short message service, aka text messaging) — as well as web access via mobile browsers — took off. With these factors now in play, connecting with consumers via handheld devices began to really take hold as a viable mass marketing tool.

Bracing for inbound

But we’re not just talking phone tech today, or mobility, for that matter. The idea of using phones — smart or otherwise — as a way to reach out to prospects and customers has been around since the early 1900s. It took until the 1970s before call centers and what was quickly dubbed “telemarketing” emerged. The industry exploded as technology made it cheaper to set up outbound call centers; by 2000, the 10 biggest telemarketing agencies were making a million or more calls per hour. It was also by the turn of the millennium that essentially all businesses had now equipped themselves with toll-free numbers and braced for the rise of inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing, in simplest terms, is waiting for consumers to call — or text, or visit, or click through to — your business. But waiting doesn’t do it justice — inbound isn’t passive. It’s active waiting; or, more correctly, encouraging consumers to contact you. And it’s important to note that inbound isn’t a battle for prospects’ attention. It’s not a hard or aggressive sale as much as it is a strategy for presenting your business. Through social media, blogs, search engines and so on, you encourage the consumers who find your offering relevant to their needs to reach out to you.

Inbound is often broken out into a customer journey — from being total strangers to having an awareness of your business, then moving through stages of familiarity with you to consideration of your products or services, and finally the decision, or conversion, that converts them into customers. A good inbound marketer will present content in the appropriate channels to suit the interests of prospects throughout this journey, with each piece intended to propel the buyer toward conversion.

The trick is knowing if and how the content and the channels are actually moving the customer along in his or her journey. That’s done with data.

Instant everything

But, before we get too deep into the discussion of data, keep this in mind: Just two decades ago, you’d be reading this in print. You’d either have to have a subscription to the publication it was printed in, or you’d have to be somewhere — a library, school, office or waiting room — that kept a collection of magazines and other periodicals. To make a purchase, you’d most likely go to a retail store after looking up the address in the phone book and somehow getting there without GPS. Some transactions were handled over the phone, some by snail mail. Now, you can simply ask Alexa — at the same time she’s shuffling through your favorite playlist — to order virtually anything Amazon carries (which is virtually anything). Our culture has adapted to this new normal quickly, and it’s good for marketers.

Why is it good? Because, getting us back to data, this anything-anywhere-anytime digital landscape creates immense amounts of data. What the town criers, door-to-door salesmen and switchboard operators never knew was what the customer did before or after their call, cry or knock. The beauty of the evolved mobile phone, and the internet it connects to, is how it collects, manages and contributes to — specifically, consumer data. And data tells marketers what channels and what content is working.

Channel attribution

Having the data is one thing, but doing anything useful with it is quite another. And it depends on what your interpretation of the data is. A single click can be meaningless without context — without scoring it and extrapolating what it means about that specific customer’s journey. One way to make sense of your data is with channel attribution, based on customer touches or clicks. Essentially, you assign credit for conversions based on the touch’s position in a customer’s journey.

There are a number of models for doing this. Here are a few of the most common:

  • First click gives credit to the first click in your customer’s journey to conversion. This model assumes that the first piece of content the customer saw was so compelling or so well placed that it sealed the deal.
  • Last click assigns credit to the final touch before conversion. This assumes that your final ad placement or piece of content was super compelling, a sort of finishing move. Though, in reality, it may simply have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.
  • Position-based doesn’t assume that a single piece of content made the sale, but instead assigns credit across multiple positions. Typically, the first and last touches get 30 or 40 percent of the credit, while the remaining credit is doled out equally across all other touches.
  • Linear plays no favorites, spreading credit evenly across all clicks. In this model, comparing the overlapping characteristics of numerous linear journeys can offer a fairly solid picture of what content and channels are working best.
  • Time decay gives additional credit to touches closer to conversion. This tends to drive marketers to focus more on the consideration stage, rather than the awareness stage of their buyers’ journeys.

Each of these models has pros and cons, but none is fully effective with incomplete data. Problem is, most marketers’ data is incomplete. The reason? Even though we’ve moved into instant, digital everything, some very significant parts of a buyer’s journeys still happen offline, and offline actions rarely get credit in any attribution model.

Tracking multiple channels

Offline data deficiency gaps can widen due to  the very tangible differences between various marketing channels; some channels are simply more widely used by specific demographics during specific legs of their journeys. Facebook, for example, is a great place to build awareness and create a community, but it’s not typically where consumers go to make purchases or to gain deep knowledge of your products or services. At the other end of the journey, calls are rarely first touches. A customer who phones your business may want information that they couldn’t find on your website — and there’s a good chance the customer is ready, or is almost ready, to buy.

If you’re not measuring phone calls, you’re likely missing a big chunk of your data. This is especially true if you’re using a last click model that would be giving calls a huge share of credit, if only you were tracking them. The technology to integrate call data with other marketing, advertising and sales platforms does exist, though. CallTrackingMetrics’ call intelligence platform turns PCs, tablets and smartphones into tools for taking inbound and making outbound calls, all the while collecting data, recording, transcribing and more. And our application integrates call data with Salesforce, Google AdWords and other marketing platforms, giving marketers a complete picture of all their marketing data.

Why is call tracking important?

It’s a digital world, but calls are far from dead. Even though the integration of the web and smartphones into everyday life has done away with phones that flip, remain tethered to walls and/or weigh more than coffee mug, phone calls are still alive and well in the marketing process. In fact, the evolution of phone technology has created a mobile-first world, where mobile searches result in immediate calls and conversions — from the same device. Measuring which search queries, ads and content make those calls happen, therefore, is key to building and refining a winning overall strategy.

Predicting which new technology or device might emerge as the next big marketing tool is a tough endeavor. But there’s no need to get out the dusty crystal ball. By keeping a keen eye on all marketing data at all parts of the customer journey, you’ll be prepared to quickly take advantage of that next hot tool, no matter what form it ultimately takes.

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A bigger Bing for your buck /bigger-bing-buck-284945 Tue, 24 Oct 2017 13:00:49 +0000 /?p=284945 Bing Ads doesn’t get the credit it deserves. While it’s true that Bing was slower to the paid ad game than Google and Yahoo, Bing Ads — formerly known as Microsoft’s MSN adCenter — has now been around for more than  a decade and boasts some pretty impressive stats in its own right. Consider that […]

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Bing Ads doesn’t get the credit it deserves. While it’s true that Bing was slower to the paid ad game than Google and Yahoo, Bing Ads — formerly known as Microsoft’s MSN adCenter — has now been around for more than  a decade and boasts some pretty impressive stats in its own right. Consider that Bing and its search partner network, which now includes Yahoo, totals more than 6 billion searches each month. This number equates to roughly 30 percent of total search engine share. And a single Bing Ad buy can reach more than 160 million unique searchers across the Bing network.

If you haven’t given Bing serious consideration in your marketing strategy, you could be missing out. Here’s why.

The case for Bing search

Bing has a history of poaching searches from Google, starting with grabbing a serious 5 percent of the giant’s share back in 2012. Search share fluctuates — a lot — but the most recent numbers show Bing again stealing more of the share. The reasons for this are unclear, but the uptick could be related to the proliferation of Windows 10, throughout which Bing is deeply integrated. And while Google — and its integration with Siri’s voice search — might seem unbeatable, there are a number of areas where Bing consistently outperforms Google:

  • Social media integration. Bing benefits from parent company Microsoft’s deals with both Facebook and Twitter. Google lagged for a time, relying solely on Google+ for search results integration. While Google developed an API to display tweets in search results, Bing’s greater access to social data allows it to feature more trending news from social media in its results.
  • Image and video search. While Google’s ownership of YouTube should give it a clear win in the video category, Bing’s grid layout of video thumbnails presents more videos without scrolling, offers previews when hovering over videos and lets users watch without leaving the results page. Meanwhile, Bing’s image search results feature higher-quality images and let users filter results according to tall, wide or square layout.
  • Look and feel. While design is always debatable, some feel that Bing’s results pages just look better — cleaner and less cluttered, with social media news feeds presented in easy-to-navigate grids (which further adds to the social media integration mentioned above).
  • Rewards and freebies. With Bing’s Microsoft Rewards program, users can receive points for every search — points that can be redeemed at Amazon, Starbucks and other popular purveyors of goods. The points-per-search ratio is not high, but they can add up with enough volume.
  • Bing Ads. Bing’s paid ad system is gaining ground on Google for a lot of reasons — not the least of which is their new Offline Conversion Importing feature. We’ll explore this further next.

Bing ads deliver quality where it counts

Reebok. Pepsi. Many companies built strong businesses looking up from the second-place position, and Bing is no different. Bing has positioned itself well to keep competing and possibly even close the gap on Google in the years ahead. But it’s in the realm of paid advertising where Bing’s potential really makes itself clear.

Bing Ads generally experience better ad positions than their Google counterparts due to less competition. And while Google blocks queries containing negative keywords, even if they also contain keywords, Bing allows keywords to supersede negatives, so that an ad will still show.

Cost is another differentiator. By some estimates, the cost per click on Bing is a third lower than on Google. And this isn’t necessarily a case of “you get what you pay for,” either, as a  sample of advertisers from WordStream also report higher click-through rates with Bing Ads. With ads that are less expensive and potentially deliver higher click-through rates, Bing may offer  a way for marketers to do more with less budget.

Beyond ROI, Bing also offers intuitive, granular controls for managing ads at the group and campaign level, arguably surpassing Google in a number of areas. Bing, for example, allows you to assign different time zones in campaigns. This might seem like a minor difference, but when running campaigns nationally or internationally, it can make a big difference in getting ads seen at the proper peak times.

When it comes to campaigns, Bing allows deeper dives to make changes at group levels of campaigns for preferences like scheduling, language, location and so on. Google, on the other hand, restricts the setting of these parameters at the campaign level. Bing also allows marketers  to view and control the demographics in searches — a feature that Google has yet to adopt. This can translate into ads targeted by gender and/or age. These functionalities make Bing less clunky and easier to work with, saving both time and frustration.

The addition of Offline Conversion Import

This is a potential game-changer. Despite Bing’s additional features and flexibility listed above, Google had a head start in the search and paid search game, as well as some functionality that Bing and other search engines had not yet adopted. AdWords Conversion Import is a good example of this. The Conversion Import feature in AdWords allows users to input conversions made outside of AdWords into the paid system, so that all conversions — offline and online — are tracked. This feature can bring about a more complete understanding of the performance of overall marketing efforts. This is a big benefit for AdWords users.

Now it’s a big benefit for Bing advertisers as well, as Bing has developed its own Offline Conversion Import feature. This ultimately connects offline sales from online leads back to the original search ads the customer viewed or clicked prior to conversion. The result is a more complete understanding of the customer’s journey — especially which ad or ads he/she responded to. In turn, this helps the advertiser see which ads, keywords and other elements end up leading to the most conversions.

Completing the journey

For years, we’ve been urging marketers to marry offline and online advertising metrics, as those only following the buyer journey after a customer goes online are getting a very incomplete picture. How did a customer originally appear? Which ad channels are most effective? And what about phone calls, a primary way that many buyers make contact? Call tracking helps answer all of these questions by filling in the conversion gaps and providing both offline and online attribution.

At CallTrackingMetrics, we know that Bing is a powerful marketing weapon, and their launch of Offline Conversion Import makes their product even more potent. Now, as the first call-tracking platform to support Bing Ads’ new Offline Conversion feature, we have the ability to  send session and conversion data directly into Bing. We’ve also developed an integration with Bing’s Call Extensions, making attribution at the Ad Group level available. These integrations make the user experience easy, while allowing for a highly detailed picture of customer behaviors, both online and offline.

More Bing for your buck

What does the future hold for Bing? An expanding piece of the search-share pie? Nosedives and rebounds? We don’t have a crystal ball, of course. A great deal depends on the relationships and integrations developed by the competing providers — like that between Microsoft and Facebook, or Google and Apple. What remains clear to us, though, is that Bing is a competitor that marketers overlook at their own peril. Marketers that continue to dump their entire paid spend into Google stand to lose a lot in potential benefits, customers and journeys — not to mention dollars.

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Tracking the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project /tracking-accelerated-mobile-pages-amp-project-283464 Tue, 03 Oct 2017 11:30:57 +0000 http:/?p=283464 AMP isn’t quite a household acronym yet, but it has big implications for virtually everyone with web access. The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project, the brainchild of Google announced just two years ago, is already impacting millions of users’ experience. And it’s growing fast. The downside — arguably a temporary one — is that not […]

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AMP isn’t quite a household acronym yet, but it has big implications for virtually everyone with web access. The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project, the brainchild of Google announced just two years ago, is already impacting millions of users’ experience. And it’s growing fast. The downside — arguably a temporary one — is that not all technology is completely up to speed with this new initiative.

The need for AMP

The Google-led AMP Project is a response to the rise of of the mobile web, along with the proliferation of clunky advertising and poorly optimized website design. Its goal is to bring faster — even instant — rendering to web content, especially via mobile devices. If you’re wondering whether this optimization is really needed, the answer is largely yes, particularly for bigger websites.

Some news sites and content aggregators are known to eat up a ton of bandwidth and chase audiences away with slow load times. For example, one news site tested by Google consumed more than 100mb of bandwidth while making more than 6,500 requests to over 130 different domains. And that was just to display its home page. Poorly constructed web pages can result in slow load times, which can drive up abandon rates, lower audience experience, and, ultimately, put a serious ding in the site’s reputation. Nobody’s brand needs that.

AMP works to fix these issues by employing a number of best practices and restrictions that are all focused on site speed. At its core, AMP consists of three layers:

  1. AMP HTML — a stripped-down version of HTML that adds restrictions that help ensure reliable and faster performance. While most tags in an AMP HTML page are standard HTML tags, some have been replaced with AMP-specific tags built for site speed optimization.
  2. AMP JavaScript library — a library for managing resource loading that offers access to the custom AMP HTML tags and works within AMP’s prescribed best-performance practices to help optimize and accelerate page rendering.
  3. AMP Cache — a proxy-based network for delivering AMP documents that fetches AMP HTML pages, and then caches them to improve page performance. It also features a built-in validation system that confirms that the AMP page will work properly without needing external resources.

If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty of all-things AMP, visit the AMP Project page for full details, and attend the upcoming MarketingLand webinar about the evolution of AMP this month.

Major brands adopt AMP

With the help of 8,700 developers, the open-source initiative already powered close to 1 million domains and over 2 billion mobile pages as of May 2017. A lot of big players have already implemented and/or contributed to AMP, including WordPress, Reddit, ebay, Pinterest, Twitter, Bing and more. Web pages utilizing AMP are loading an average of four times faster and are using up to 10 times less bandwidth. Practically speaking, this means businesses can enjoy significant savings in bandwidth expenses — as well as the potential for increased traffic.

AMP’s quadrupled load speed translates into a better user experience, attracting more users to stay on a site and engage with its content. And this isn’t theoretical. Some early AMP adopters have already reported measurable results.

AMP posts powerful results

Here are a few examples of improved site performance, post-AMP:

  • Wired saw an overall 25 percent increase in click-through rates, as well as over 60 percent more click-throughs on ads in AMP-powered stories/pages.
  • Slate enjoyed an almost 50 percent spike in unique visitors per month and an almost 75 percent increase in visits per unique visitors per month.
  • Gizmodo experienced a 50 percent increase in impressions. Also, 80 percent of their traffic from AMP pages is new traffic.
  • The Washington Post saw a 23 percent rise in mobile search users returning to their site within seven days.

AMP can also improve search rankings and ad viewability. A 2016 DoubleClick study showed that 80 percent of 150 publishers realized improved viewability rates with AMP pages versus non-AMP pages. In the same study, more than 90 percent of the publishers also achieved greater engagement and higher click-through rates.

Some companies also experienced an increase in revenue in correlation with AMP’s improved speed and experience. The increased click-throughs and lower abandonment rates seem to be having a real impact on revenue. Sites converted by the news publisher Relay Media, for example, reported that mobile users who begin their customer journey with an AMP-powered page spend an average of 10 percent more money than users starting from a traditional, non-AMP mobile page.

As an added benefit, Google is also using AMP to tackle clunky banner ads. Using AMP HTML, the AMP Ads Initiative is working to correct the issue of ads that are slow, unpredictable and disruptive to audience experience. Not only are AMP-based ads faster and lighter than traditional web ads, but they’re delivered only after being validated free of malware. And the best part — AMP Ads aren’t limited to AMP pages but can be delivered anywhere on the web.

The downside of AMP

By its nature, AMP is restrictive. Imposing strict limits is how AMP ultimately increases speed and reduces bandwidth. If you’re thinking that restricting the HTML might restrict some functionality, you’re right. There’s a fair share of third-party software that isn’t yet integrated with AMP, which can limit certain functionalities like data tracking. And, even though AMP does support Google Analytics, AMP requires a different analytics tag than what is used in standard HTML — and it needs to be implemented on all AMP pages. For larger sites, this can be no small lift. In fact, AMP’s limits can make the implementation effort fairly heavy across the board.

Rounding out the cons, some advertisers might shy away from sites or pages that don’t support hard-to-miss but experience-damaging features like pop-up ads, making it harder for sites to secure advertisers. The case for a better audience experience doesn’t win the day with every potential advertiser.

Keep in mind that Google AMP is only two years out of the gate and continues to make progress against most of its cons. Project developers have already addressed several issues not mentioned above, including the fact that AMP links and canonical site links used to differ, making it difficult to share content. Additional updates have also been made to address functionality issues with more than 100 forward-thinking third-party analytics, ad tech, and CMS providers. Bottom line? Further AMP development work is needed to address limitations, but updates have been taking place fairly quickly to this point.

Bringing  journeys and experiences together

If the pace of AMP adoption continues as expected, significant improvements in user experience can be expected across the entire web in the near future. This means faster load times and a better-looking web to boot.

The issue of limited functionality with AMP pages still poses some inconvenience in a number of verticals. At CallTrackingMetrics (CTM), we recognized such an issue in our own industry. While marketers could still track a wealth of data through AMP pages, there was no way for marketers and organizations to dynamically populate AMP pages with tracking numbers.

At CTM, we worked closely with AMP’s team to develop a custom call-tracking script, creating the power to swap out trackable phone numbers on any AMP page. While others may follow suit in time, CTM is currently the only call-tracking provider to provide this functionality. We believe that AMP is helping to create a better mobile web and didn’t want to see AMP’s improved customer experience rendered moot to marketers by limitations to its trackability. After all, if a customer journey happens in the forest — even a really amazing forest — and no data is collected, does it matter?

Maybe.

Faster web page load times and cleaner ad experiences matter to marketers for all the reasons we’ve already touched on: better engagement, more visitors, increased revenue and so on. But without the ability to fully track the user journey through AMP pages, it’s hard to know exactly how effective your advertising is, AMPed or otherwise. When it comes to AMP pages, marketers who do not have access to CTM’s functionality may not have a full view of their customers’ journeys.

The jury is still out regarding the ultimate fate of AMP. Google, after all, has let a handful of initiatives slide before. And it’s difficult to know exactly where adoption might plateau. AMP, however, is a project with a clear goal that many can relate to and stand behind: create a better mobile web experience. And with the endorsement of many large brands leading the way, combined with powerful results in traffic and engagement, we think this might be a trend that’s here to stay.

In the meantime, developers and marketers have nothing to lose by embracing the AMP initiative and testing its performance. The potential benefits of a better, cleaner experience can’t be underestimated (consider Facebook vs. MySpace); and AMP presents a sea of opportunities for publishers, software providers, advertisers and marketers — not to mention their customers and audiences.

AMP might not be a sure thing yet — but it’s loading fast and looking good.

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