9 Expert Tips For Achieving Maximum Success With Your Digital Agency

Forbes Agency Council

Author: Forbes Agency Council

Original Publication: Forbes

Date Published: March 2, 2018

Forbes Agency Council

Attaining success with your business is the goal of every digital agency owner. You strive to do better than the year before and work harder than ever to accomplish your goals for every quarter. As much as you try, you may face obstacles that are preventing you from reaching your revenue goals, especially when you are a new agency owner.

Staying a step ahead of the game and anticipating the next trend in digital can give your agency the leg up it needs to move to the next level and reach those higher-tier milestones.

Below, nine members of Forbes Agency Council share the one tip they can offer a newbie agency owner that can help take their business over the $1 million revenue mark. Here is what they recommend:

Experts share a few ways you can help your agency succeed.

1. Value Your Time

Have the courage to pitch big clients outside your comfort zone and price your hourly rate at a competitive level. You don’t want to be the high bid in an RFP, but you also don’t want to be the “cheap” agency option either. Value your time and the client will also. Then differentiate yourself through your pitch, your ideas and your work ethic. Clients will respect that more than a low or high bid. – Dan Kahn, Kahn Media Inc.

2. Remember It Takes Time To Generate Revenue

Don’t worry if you’re not making any revenue from the start — it takes time to build a business. Make sure you have six to 12 months of savings or cash reserves to support you and the business during this time. Always focus on operations and bottom line profitability, which will allow you, in turn, to be able to think creatively and service your clients well. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne

3. Don’t Give Up

Work hard at your craft and always be courteous to your stakeholders: employees, clients, shareholders, competitors. Always look to gain market intelligence and expand your business and your services. The first three years will be the toughest, but stick with it. – Daniel Lazarz, Life of Dad Agency

4. Ditch Spec Creative

Never do creative on specs. It is tempting to think that if someone sees your work, they will be impressed and hire you for a paying job. In my 35 years in the field, it never helped. – Nikolai Mentchoukov, LIQWID(R)

5. Focus On What You’re Good At

You cannot be everything to everyone. Determine what services you are an expert at and refine your skills, services and capabilities around those deliverables. – Amanda Stein, EXPAND

6. Create Processes For Everything You Do

It’s imperative that you create processes for everything you do that other people can follow and then you can trust them to follow. You can’t scale your agency if you’re still doing everyone’s job — you have to focus on growth and let your staff shine. If you don’t create defined processes, then they won’t be able to do them without you. – David Ward, Meticulosity

7. Be Patient And Work Hard

Be patient and willing to put in the work to reach your goals. Starting an agency is an exciting endeavor, but requires a high level of focus, determination and skill. Curating and hiring a team of leaders in the industry will help develop winning strategies for your clients, resulting in long-term relationships. – Lauren Shirreffs, 2Social

8. Focus On Profit Margins

Focus on profit margins over revenue. You can start an agency with little to no money, but the importance of knowing your financial model and how you will make money, and then pay yourself, is key to success. Be sure to put anywhere between 10-20% of your net profits aside in case you come across any slow sales time periods. Doing so will help you stress less, too. – Suttida Yang, Fastmarkit

9. Establish Your Culture Early On

When launching your agency, it’s critical to establish your culture and core values early on. Doing so will help to ensure that you attract and hire the right type of people. In a services company, you and your team are the “product,” and how you deliver your services will become a big part of your brand identity. – David Lewis, DemandGen International, Inc.

2018: The Year Ahead and Beyond

Jessica Hawthorne-Castro

Author: Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO

Original Publication: LinkedIn

Date Published: February 8, 2018

Jessica Hawthorne-Castro

We have firmly been in Connected Age and we are catapulting into the Data Age. The Consumer Electronics Show is always a good way to kick off the New Year displaying the latest in AI, autonomous vehicles, 5G, smart cities, IoT, robotics, digital health, AR, VR, and more. Walking through some of the 2.75 million net square feet of the 3,900 exhibitors, below are some of the key trends that stuck out to me surrounding today’s breakthrough innovations that will help shape the future of our planet.

 Autonomous Vehicles

Today, innovators are thinking beyond the development of autonomous vehicles and expanding to think about “Transportation-as-a-Service.” Down the road, autonomous vehicles won’t just deliver people to their destinations, but will also deliver all goods and services, whether it’s an Amazon package or a pizza. Automakers are already exploring how they can fit into this new future. For example, Toyota announced at CES its vision to transform from a car company into a mobility company, while Ford’s opening keynote focused on creating a reliable future of transportation through a systems-based approach for smart cities. Local logistics as opposed to long distance will be key.

However, autonomous vehicles won’t be ready to ship to the public this year. Even with friendly city regulators, the real-world hurdles still take time to navigate. CES clearly showed that pilot programs for autonomous vehicles will become increasingly ambitious in 2018, reflecting a broader vision of what this technology will be able to do. And get ready for flying taxis, which could travel up to 150 mph and be ready for trials in 2020—just two years away. In addition, there were exhibitors showcasing skyscraper/building-hopping helicopters, which could enable an “Uber of helicopters.” One company that is currently testing this technology is Textron’s Bell Helicopters, expected to be in-market by 2025.

Drones

A memorable moment at CES for all was watching 250 drones “perform” an amazing synchronized demo over the Bellagio waters. In addition, Intel’s preshow keynoteshowcased advances in drone technology with creative artistry that rivaled top Las Vegas shows. During the extravaganza, Intel celebrated innovation by setting a Guinness World Record with its Shooting Star Mini Drone show – the most advanced software fleet of 100 drones controlled without GPS by one pilot.

Entertainment aside, these feats of drone technology emphasized the major practical impact drones will have on a variety of industries, such as agriculture, logistics, and mapping.

Connected Home/Smart Cities

Smart Cities spotlighted many of these innovative technologies, including 5G, Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things. How AI will affect humanity is a topic of the utmost importance right now and there were several hundred industry innovators, policymakers, city officials and several hundred government leaders discussing how these technologies can transform municipal life. Meanwhile, tech giants like IBM and Intel showcased quantum computing technologies that can make smart cities a reality.

Inside the home will also be transformed. CES featured many connected homewares, such as voice-activated systems, smart speakers, and digital assistants, which made their way into everything from cars to appliances. Even the things we wear will become equipped with smart features. For example, clothing with sensors that measure heart rates and blood sugar, or glasses that help wearers focus on meditation.

Artificial Intelligence

After years of prototypes, AI-enabled software now dominates a corporation’s investing heavily moving forward. AI and automation are already having a big impact on the economy and employment. Moving forward, the discussion of how AI will impact employment will shift from focusing solely on the elimination of jobs to how to best help workers accommodate the inevitable change.

This year, in addition to business-focused AI technologies, CES also displayed the potential benefits AI has for individuals—we’ll increasingly witness the power of the AI-augmented human. Major breakthroughs and intersections in the field of Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) are anticipated in the next 10 to 15 years. Nanotechnology and Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) are also on the horizon over the next decade, as these technologies mature.

 Health / BioHacking / Longevity

The interest in using AI to enhance humans is related to other trends around health, biohacking, and longevity. Walking around the exhibition hall at CES, I noticed a few innovators promoting innovations around “exo-bionics.” This concept is still on the fringes, but will be huge in the future for boosting human strength and sport, with companies like Furrion and Ekso Bionics paving the way.

Other companies are more focused on extending the healthy human lifespan. Human Longevity Inc. (HLI), for example, aims to make “100 the new 60.” I also saw innovations in the field of stem cell treatments and non-invasive temperature fertility monitors, which are are 99% accurate. Technology is providing greater insight and control into our bodies than ever before.

Sustainability

Climate change is [almost] universally agreed to be one of the greatest threats facing our planet, and the humans who live on it. CES showcased an exciting array of clean energy technologies and initiatives that aim to mitigate the damage. Progress is being made. Consider a couple of statistics: Solar energy is now responsible for one in every 50 new jobs created in the United States, and the clean energy sector is growing at 12 times the rate of the rest of the economy. General Motors believes “the future is all-electric,” while Volkswagen announced it’s investing 70 billion euros and “putting its full force behind a shift into electric cars.” Volvo said that, starting in 2019, it will only make fully electric or hybrid cars “the end of the combustion engine-powered car.

These types of changes are happening across the world. China installed 54GW of solar by the end of 2017, more than any country has ever previously deployed in a single year, and doubled its 2020 goal to 213 GW. Following in China’s footsteps, India more than doubledits solar installations in 2017, accounting for more than 40% of new capacity— the largest addition to the grid of any energy source. Environmental progress also translates into an improved standard of living. In 1991, more than 40% of Bangladesh lived in extreme poverty. The World Bank said this year that the number has now dropped to 14% (equating to 50 million fewer people).

Singularity & Abundance

Seeing all the incredible innovations, makes it seem like the world is speeding up. And in fact, it is—we are moving towards Singularity. Singularity is the theory that the invention of artificial superintelligence will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization. By 2029, computers will have human-level intelligence. 2045 is the year estimated for Singularity, when we will multiply our effective intelligence a billion fold by merging with the intelligence we have created.

Singularity will translate into Abundance as leaders like Peter Diamandis have defined it. As things speed up, they will get better. Just look at history for proof. Poverty has declined more in the past 50 years than the previous 500. During the last 50 years, while the population on Earth has doubled, the average per capita income around the world (adjusted for inflation) has tripled. During the last century, maternal mortality has decreased by 90 percent while the length of the average human lifespan has more than doubled. Violence has also been in constant decline. And if your measure of prosperity is tilted towards the availability of goods and services, consider that even the poorest Americans today have access to phones, toilets, running water, air conditioning and even cars.

During the last two decades, we have witnessed a technological acceleration and exponential progress in artificial intelligence, infinite computing, nano-materials, synthetic biology, to name a few—many which were on display at CES. These advancements put us on track to make greater gains in the next two decades than we have had in the previous 200 years. We will soon have the ability to meet and exceed the basic needs of every man, woman, and child on the planet. Abundance for all is within our grasp, and that’s what I move into 2018 feeling the most excited about.

Automating the Mixed-Media Model

Author: Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO

Original Publication: Martech Advisor

Date Published: January 26, 2018

Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO, Hawthorne, gives us insights about why marketing automation plays a crucial role when it comes to marketing

Accountability used to be a term that was primarily associated with elected officials or corporate executives. Over the past few years, it has infiltrated and conquered the advertising realm, becoming

one of the most pressing issues facing marketers today. Every organization wants to know that they are getting a return on their investment and that their marketing dollars are having an impact. Marketers that don’t prioritize accountability now seem old-school and outdated .

For the typical direct-response marketer, this trend comes as no surprise. Direct response (DR) has always centered around accountability and measurement. It’s one of the most actionable advertising mechanisms that organizations can use to engage customers. Digital marketers may have made accountability cool, but DR pioneered the concept when most brands were still pouring their dollars into image-based advertising.

50% of companies are currently using a marketing automation solution and this number has soared since 2011. Successful, best-in-class companies are more likely to use marketing automation and say they use these tools extensively.

Marketing automation isn’t just about marketing across multiple online channels and automating repetitive tasks—it also provides organizations with measurement and tracking tools that drive accountability.

Brands today can’t just market on one channel. Between traditional media, like linear TV, and newer formats, like social media and mobile apps, organizations are embracing mixed media campaigns to stay top-of-mind with and relevant with consumers. However, this can also complicate measurement. Tracking the success of campaigns across multiple channels is more complex than tracking the success of just one, but it’s necessary for any organization prioritizing accountability.

At Hawthorne, we’ve seen a surge in the number of technology firms attempting to measure mixed-media modeling, which involves analyzing sales data to determine the effectiveness of the marketing mix. Using the technology tools at their disposal, marketers try to figure out how much “weight” to put on which advertising channels, which platforms are performing the best and worst, and how to effectively allocate budgets among those various options. There are a lot of moving parts, to say the least.

By performing this exercise, companies hope to determine the proper media mix. This is a monumental task in today’s highly-fragmented digital media world. Add cross-device behaviors—the fact that most consumers view advertising content on a variety of devices—into the equation, and the challenge becomes even greater. Fortunately, there are solutions. Companies are using pixel technology to figure out and track consumer engagement levels.

For example, we recently met with a large e-commerce company that wanted to deliver creative only to its largely rural demographic, without wasting money on larger markets. Knowing that Keeping Up with the Kardashians airs nationwide and that urban areas favor cable, the retailer opted to run its content on Dish Network’s airings of the show, which are seen mostly in rural areas. This is just one example of how media is becoming more addressable and helping drive online initiatives—even those that focus on super-specific, targeted audience segments.

With marketing automation, direct response allows advertisers to take accountability to the next level . Brands and marketers can deliver pitches directly to clients at the top of the sales funnel and, using a broad spectrum of online and offline media choices, capture engagement quickly because they know that the targeted demographic is on the radar screen.

What does this look like in action? A few weeks ago, Hawthorne created a campaign that targeted 18- to 25-year-old consumers, who comprise just above 10 percent of persons in U.S. TV households. Using a customized marketing plan that incorporated programmatic and addressable TV, we targeted that small demographic in the same way online media targets certain niches. From there, we used mixed-media modeling to show the campaign’s impact across multiple platforms and to maximize the advertiser’s message across channels. The campaign was highly targeted and highly accountable.

Automating and fine-tuning a campaign is no easy task, as anyone in the space can attest. There’s a lot of technology to learn and upfront research to be conducted, particularly in terms of identifying and leveraging cross-device segmentation. Marketers have to identify the paths that specific demographics are going to take and understand how quickly they will move through the sales funnel and make a purchase or sign up for a service. And they have to understand which advertising mechanisms function most effectively in each case. In short, they have to understand how the consumer responds from one end of the sales funnel to the other while also identifying engagement across devices.

Ultimately, it’s about understanding the lifetime value of every consumer and tying that information back into advertising, station selection, creative, and other key elements that drive the sales. That’s a tall order.

As more consumers using multiple devices to consume content, more marketers will begin to leverage mixed-media modeling and related tools to automate various aspects of the advertising process and achieve their goals. And as consumers find more ways to connect with their favorite brands, agencies and marketers will have to step up to the plate and continue to evolve along with them.

Consumer Privacy in the Digital Era: Three Trends to Watch

Author: Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO

Original Publication: TechZone360

Date Published: January 18, 2018

Digital advertising has exploded in recent years, with the latest eMarketer data forecasting $83 billion in revenue this year and continued growth on the horizon. According to the eMarketer report, digital comprised more than 36 percent total media ad spend in 2016. The forecast predicts digital will account for half of ad spend by 2021, with mobile driving the majority of growth. Amidst all that growth is a burning issue: consumer privacy.

The opportunities delivered by digital are immense. As advertisers, we can deliver the specific information consumers are searching for while promoting our clients and their products. Between mobile applications, the growth of IoT solutions like Smart Home devices and digital assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, and the rise of virtual reality shopping, digital advertising opportunities seem limitless.

But who owns the data? Where does it reside? And who’s responsible for protecting it? From personal information, to browsing history and app usage, to offline information like addresses and phone numbers, the wealth of consumer data in our digital era has immense value, and companies are competing to own it. Facebook, Google and Verizon all boosted their consumer data tracking efforts in 2016, and I expect that focus to continue even as the market wrestles with ownership of consumer data.

As more advertisers capture consumer data and use advanced digital technologies to deliver personalized campaigns, consumer privacy has become an important part of the conversation. Consumers want privacy. They want to trust that their personal data will be protected, and determining who is responsible for managing and protecting that privacy is still up in the air. There continues to be questions about the role of regulators; the feasibility of self-monitoring; the protections consumers should have vs. what information is acceptable for businesses to track; and the appropriate guardrails for data collection and monitoring.

To help advertisers navigate this changing landscape of consumer privacy, I’ve identified three trends to watch:

Establishing privacy best practices for digital campaigns

With geo-location tracking and the rise of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, consumer privacy is an important consideration. So, although government initiatives aimed at protecting privacy are moving ahead, maintaining consumer trust should be central to any advertising campaign. That’s just good business.

At its core, advertising is a way to connect consumers with the products that would interest them, and today’s analytics give us a lot of insight to make that connection precise and impactful. But to maintain trust, companies that engage in digital advertising need to establish privacy guidelines, stay informed about privacy regulations, put a privacy statement in place, use tools like AdChoices, protect consumer data, and be truthful with consumers.

Improved internet content monitoring

Google, Facebook and Twitter have been under fire in recent months for amplifying propaganda, or “fake news,” on their sites. New details recently emerged around Russia’s use of their platforms to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election, fueling the scrutiny. Google and Facebook promoted hoaxes and inaccurate stories from fringe, alt-right sites following the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas earlier this month, only adding fuel to the fire.

The tech companies repeatedly blame their algorithm for the issues and pledge to make improvements; change has been sluggish. And considering that two-thirds of Americans report getting at least some of their news on social media, according to the Pew Research Center, it’s not surprising the scrutiny continues to grow.

We need accountability and accuracy from marketers, ad agencies, the media, and other entities, and social and search companies must responsibly manage the distribution of that content, as well. Expect this debate to heat up in the coming months, but even as potential change is on the horizon for social and search, advertisers that stay focused on accurate, truthful information and keep consumers in top-of-mind, will continue to amplify their success.

Focus on government privacy initiatives and regulations

While industry self-monitoring is at the core of upholding consumer privacy, sometimes self-monitoring fails. That’s where the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) steps in to enforce federal consumer privacy laws. The FTC may pursue legal action against organizations for violating consumer privacy rights or for failing to securely maintain sensitive consumer information. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also enacted privacy rules for internet service providers (ISPs) in late 2016. However, these requirements have since been nullified by the current administration.

There are still a lot of questions around who’s responsible for managing consumer privacy. As digital ad revenues continue their growth path, you can expect more changes from industry and government, as well as more expectations from consumers.

23 Daily Habits Which Separate High Achievers From Everyone Else

Want to make more money, achieve great things, do good in the world and be happy? Start by adopting these easy routines.

Author: Christina DesMarais

Original Publication: Inc.com

Date Published:  January 4, 2018

If getting ahead can seem like a struggle, know this: To be highly successful, you need to be highly disciplined. I’ve asked hundreds of executives and entrepreneurs about the things they do every day which help them succeed, and inevitably they credit simple routines which have been proven over time to give them an edge. Check out these quotes from 23 high-achieving individuals who share the habits which help them get ahead in business and life.

1. Start your day with intermittent fasting.

“It’s a method that splits your day into eight-hour ‘eating periods’ and 16-hour ‘fasting periods.’ Although lots of people talk about the need for a hearty breakfast, new research indicates that intermittent fasting is a great way to lose or maintain weight, as well as heighten concentration. I also start my mornings by hitting the gym with my trainer, drinking large amounts of water, and then having my first meal of the day at noon. This routine has increased my energy and helps keep me motivated throughout the week, so I can tackle whatever comes my way.”

–George Arison, founder and CEO of Shift, a peer-to-peer car marketplace

2. Welcome criticism.

“Creating an environment where it’s a positive thing to provide criticism, and continually asking for feedback is key to long term success. It’s great to hear positive feedback but customers, colleagues and friends who truly care will tell you what you’re missing, or what you can improve. Sometimes the simplest frustrations for a customer can impede sales and fixing those might be just a simple as the frustration itself.”

–Liz Kakar, head of operations at Pink Elephant Organics, a girl’s clothing line

3. Talk it out.

“You will have lots of stupid ideas and not know it. Bouncing ideas off a trusted colleague or friend each day will help you refine your ideas before you waste too much time going down the wrong path.”

–Ben Parr, cofounder and CMO of Octane AI and author of Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention

4. Be what you do best.

“Authenticity is powerful. I made the mistake of trying to be the leader that I thought people expected me to be. Over time, I got more comfortable with responsibility and became less afraid to be myself and to create my own personal brand of leadership. This brand is unique, not replicable, and has appreciated in value over time. It belongs to me. All young leaders should gravitate to their strengths and build their brand around qualities that they are proudest of.”

–Chris Soukup, CEO of Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD)

5. Find a morning routine that works for you.

“I think the key to success is how you start your day. Every morning, I wake up and focus on a routine of prayer, coffee and exercise. I never set an alarm. I’m up with the sunrise and cherish my moments of quiet gratitude, prayer and meditation before the work day begins. Coffee is a must! A good cup of caffeine can help me multitask with calls, the treadmill and watching CNN.”

–Micki Purcell, founder and president of Walking With Anthony, an organization with the mission to change the recovery outcome of spinal cord injury

6. Don’t wait until it’s perfect to get started.

“Just get started and make improvements along the way and continue to evolve. Every great product wasn’t perfect when they first launched. Just go for it and be glad you did.”

–Gina Hoensheid, CEO of Seat Sitters which provides reusable seat covers for use on airplane and theater seats

7. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes.

“I constantly critique my own shopping and buying experiences with other stores, brands and companies. I assess the good and the bad and I’ve realized the Golden Rule is extremely relevant in entrepreneurship and business. I turn it around and think ‘what am I looking for in a company, how would I want to be treated, and what would make me return to a brand?’  That translates over to our customer service every day.”

–Jenny Ross, founder of Grateful Bags, a patented handbag line with the ability to customize a wide range of styles with interchangeable monograms in a variety of fonts and patterns

8. Feed your why.

“Meaning, why do we do what we do as entrepreneurs? Each day I continue to identify, feed and cultivate my purpose. I do this by driving through neighborhoods I desire to live in, test drive cars I will have in my garage, listening to and watching leaders I desire to have a relationship with such as Mark Cuban and Barack Obama. I do this exercise even more intensely when I am under the most pressure in business and my personal life.”

–Cedric Cobb, president and CEO of Best Wardrobe Solutions, a men’s fashion technology company that provides a family of fashion accessories, wardrobe resources and a free mobile app

9. Know your strengths and weaknesses.

“By knowing your strengths, you will be able to focus on those areas and then team up with the right partners and companies that can help you with your weaker areas.  I think this enables you to have the right infrastructure in place for the most success.”

–Ashley Whitman, founder of Romp & Roost, a divided playpen which provides a safe place for children to rest and play

10. Laugh a little.

“Laughing and having a good sense of humor keeps us going strong. When something doesn’t go our way we find the humor in it.  It keeps us optimistic and plowing forward. If someone makes a fumble we don’t beat them up, we laugh. Nothing can be that bad. It helps to keep spirits high.”

–Alita Haytayan, cofounder of Gadgit Girlz, LLC., a household hacks brand

11. Find three things to be grateful for.

“Big or small it doesn’t matter. It’s the act of lifting out of the daily grind and celebrating the wins as defined by you. You are acknowledging that amidst a day that always feels packed with challenges and too little time to address them, there are also victories.”

–Rana Lustyan, founder of Edoughble, an edible cookie dough company

12. Take it one step at a time.

“Set a lofty goal, but remember to take a step at a time. No matter how many floors there are, we can only take one step at a time. Similarly in business, aim for the sky, but remember it’s the addition of all the little steps, and the little decisions, that make or break you.”

–Ashoo Jain (AJ) Founder of ONGO Energy, a multi-use compact oral spray that delivers a more natural, sustainable energy boost as compared to traditional energy drinks

13. Get out of your comfort zone.

“As a new entrepreneur it is easy to fall into what is comfortable and feels safe. Being able to push yourself into areas that you feel less secure in ensures that you really explore the full potential of where your business can take you. The mindset of stepping beyond your own limitations opens the door for your business to flourish beyond even what you initially envisioned.”

–Jamie Lawrence, founder of apparel brand Evicii Athletica

14. Sleep on it.

“Your first reaction when receiving an email filled with not-so-good news might be to reply immediately. Instead, write your reply immediately (venting without holding back is a form of therapy, after all), then save it to your drafts. The following day, re-read your reply, and edit it, before hitting send. You’ll be surprised and thankful how different your response is from one day to the next. Your message will be clear and concise without all the emotional drama.”

–Wendy Colson, CEO and founder of Boobie Bar, an herbal lactation bar formulated to support a healthy breast-milk supply

15. Organize your minutes.

“Spend some time each morning going through your to-do list and allow a certain amount of hours per task.  Set your timer and when it goes off, set that task aside and work on the next item.  The organization actually helps you mentally feel as though you were able to get something done.”

–Michelle Wolett, founder of Once Upon A Book Club, a subscription based book club

16. Align yourself with a strong mentor.

“Push yourself out of your comfort zone and seek out a mentor who is an executive or department head. Networking with your bosses isn’t always easy, but finding the right person to champion you and guide you in your career is the key to advancement.”

–Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO of Hawthorne, a company which combines brand messaging with proprietary analytic systems to create and deliver integrated advertising campaigns

17. Treat employees the way you want your customers to be treated.

“An engaged workforce that cares about the business, product, and service will impact the overall consumer experience.”

–Ian Small, general manager of Audiobooks.com

18. Automate everything possible.

“Use self-service automation platforms to reduce the time you spend with routine tasks like copying information between systems. This is critical if you’re a solopreneur running your own business, and even more important when you have dozens or hundreds of employees. Automation helps you save time for yourself and others and lets you focus on high-value, innovative thought and problem solving, not routine administrative work.”

–Andrew Filev, founder and CEO of the work management system Wrike

19. Use your product.

“It doesn’t matter what you build, what you sell or how good you are. Be a perfectionist, never stop collecting feedback and always use your product. It will allow you to think like your customers do and see their perspective. Persuading friends to try it and getting real, candid feedback from them is just as useful.”

–Serban Enache, founder and CEO of stock photo community Dreamstime

20. Allow for free time.

“I always try to keep 20 percent of my time open to serendipitous experiences. It also helps to have entire days where you literally have nothing to do. You want to have mind space to properly reflect.”

–Brian Wong, cofounder and CEO of Kiip, a moments-based mobile ad and data platform

21. Make a sawdust list.

“One of my mentors taught me to make what he calls a ‘sawdust list’. I write down my task at hand at the top of a page and on the right I keep my sawdust list. This is where I write everything non-essential to my task that pops into my head. This can be anything from ‘order more Post-it notes’ to ‘add fix bug ticket to Trello’. This keeps me focused on my work by clearing my mind of all the random distractions of the day. Once I’ve accomplished my task, I go through the sawdust and see what still needs to be done.”

–Alex Salvator, cofounder and CTO of beam, a social impact app which turns everyday retail experiences into opportunities for social good

22. Get up early.

“With such a hectic work schedule, it is important that I base my daily habits on simplicity. I get up early and meditate, and then I focus with a single mind to complete specific daily goals. I am unwavering once I make a decision, I stick to it and that’s what keeps me driving forward.”

–David Laris, EVP of Cachet Hospitality Group and president of Culinary Development at EDEN Local, a seasonal farm-to-table dining destination

23. Sweat.

“Even when you’re working 12-hour days, find time to sweat. I do my best creative thinking while running.”

–Chris Molnar, founder of Goodlife Clothing

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.
PUBLISHED ON: DEC 27, 2017

SEO is Not Enough in the Age of Voice

Author: John Francis

Title of piece: SEO is Not Enough in the Age of Voice

Original Link: Venture Beat

Date Published: December 10, 2017

With technology transforming virtually every aspect of our lives, it should be noted that many of the innovations we’re now seeing have existed for decades in science fiction novels and television. The capacity to talk to a computer (and have it talk

back) was a staple of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, where the Starfleet computer was voiced by Roddenberry’s wife, Majel. The 1970 movie Colossus: The Forbin Project featured a supercomputer that was intended to prevent war and proclaimed itself “the voice of World Control.” And before Google’s self-driving cars, the 1980s brought us KITT, an advanced artificially intelligent, self-aware, and nearly indestructible car from the TV show, Knight Rider.

Today’s voice applications may not have quite this level of panache and power, but there is no doubt they are infiltrating our daily lives and making their way toward mainstream adoption. According to Location World, 40 percent of adults now use voice search once per day, and 60 percent of these people started using voice search in the last year. Comscore predicts that 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. And a survey from Stone Temple Consulting found that over 60 percent of people use voice search at home and 58 percent use voice search to look something up on their smartphone.

A major driver of this growth is the fact that Google Home, Alexa, Siri, and Cortana have demonstrated around 92 percent accuracy in understanding the human voice. Voice search has become a convenient, user-friendly experience, and consumers are embracing it. In 2016, Amazon’s Echo became the company’s most popular product during the holidays. Voice search is one of the most important technology/computing trends of this year and next.

And we are finally getting into semantic search capabilities. This will have profound implications for brands, who need to adapt beyond SEO to participate in (and reap the benefits of) this emerging voice-powered landscape.

Seamless, fast, and convenient

The rules around SEO were built on a user typing a query into a browser-based search engine. Voice search is a different animal.

Let’s say someone’s been locked out of their apartment and uses voice search to find a locksmith. If the voice query is, “I need a locksmith to get into my house,” a brand like HomeAdvisor could present two highly rated locksmiths within two miles of their house. The most helpful response is one that knows the location of the request, recommends a service provider rated highly by a neighbor, then goes even further by automatically offering to call the business and even setting up an appointment.

The Stone Temple survey found that the top three rationales behind voice query usage were “It’s fast,” “The answer is read out loud back to me,” and “I don’t have to type.” Furthermore, 60 percent of voice search users want more answers and fewer search result options. When typing something into Google, it may not be a problem if dozens of options show up in the results. However, with voice search, people don’t want multiple results — they want one or two quick answers. Understanding these use cases and behavior preferences is key to succeeding at voice search optimization.

Conversational long tail keywords

Another factor brands need to consider is the nature of the search queries themselves. Voice search usually involves long tail search terms of five words or more, instead of one, two, or three typed words. Voice search users conduct semantic searches in full sentences, which makes it possible to create more specialized content. Marketers need to consider that apps, landing pages, and strategic content should be more conversational and should anticipate what type of sentences people may ask within the context of a topic. It’s important to understand the natural, colloquial language people use around a keyword or search term and optimize for those words.

For example, someone may say, “I want to order kung pao chicken delivery.” There is a full story in that request, including where the person is located, the specific menu item, the ratings of nearby restaurants, whether the user has ordered from a specific restaurant before, and whether the restaurant in question offers delivery. As another example, if someone says: “Tell me how much a Tesla S costs,” the search response is simply a price. But if the user’s next question is, “What colors are available?” or “Where can I buy one near me?” the voice search browser should understand that the subject is still a Tesla.

Adapting beyond SEO means accounting for this back-and-forth question and answer process. Marketers need to understand the entire conversation around a keyword or search term so they can determine the best search results messaging. Brands can get a sense for conversational long tail keywords through focus groups in which they ask participants how they would inquire about their brand or product. The more contextual information gained from these focus groups, the better the brand can optimize the search results.

Personalized messaging

Because voice search provides so much rich context, brands have the opportunity to create various tailored advertising tactics. One method is to create specific landing pages for a search result, which is much easier to do today through platforms like JSON, which also allow for data-driven personalization of the landing page. Another tactic, requiring the brand to have a voice query customer’s IP address, is to use past purchasing or browsing history to create personalized search result messaging.

Accuracy is important. AI can seem like a sentient being, and it can be unsettling if it doesn’t come back with the right response. But voice search is no longer just a far-off concept dreamt up by science fiction writers. In today’s highly competitive market, brands need to set themselves up for success by understanding changing consumer behaviors around search and the unique aspects of voice-enabled technology. SEO alone is not enough.

Good marketers understand the climate, environmental analysis, demographics, and primary, secondary, and tertiary targets and evolve their advertising methods to make maximum impact with their campaigns.

John Francis is the director of digital strategy of Hawthorne, an award-winning, technology-based advertising agency specializing in analytics and accountable brand campaigns for over 30-years.

Customization Is King in a Selfie-Obsessed World

Author: Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO

Title of piece: Customization is King in a Selfie-Obsessed World

Original Link: ER Magazine

For decades, marketers have been segmenting their advertising strategies and messages to appeal to specific customer groups. By dividing their customer bases geographically, demographically, and behaviorally, marketers have been able to ensure the highest possible lead conversion and get the most from their ad spend.

Today, the same marketers are taking segmentation up a few notches in an effort to appeal to a mobile-powered, selfie-oriented world, where customers look to their smartphones and social media for instant gratification. Led by companies such as Pandora, Amazon, and Netflix, today’s one-to-one marketing goes beyond anything we’ve seen before thanks to the copious customer data available for use in executing more strategic targeting.

Narrowing the Market

In a world where people are obsessed with snapping selfies and sharing them with their peers (and strangers) via social media, marketing to the individual consumer makes perfect sense.

“Almost everyone segments to some extent—targeting different customers with different marketing—but typically those segments are big, macro-level segments,” writes Brian Halligan, HubSpot’s co-founder and CEO, in Segments of One: Smarter Targeting for Your Customers. “But Pandora, Netflix, and Amazon take it to another level by creating ‘segments of one’: micro-segments that target each customer uniquely, allowing the companies to convert visitors into long-term, high-value customers at very high rates.”

Following in these companies’ footsteps, direct response marketers are combining contextual data (customer information, purchase history, etc.), analytics (for forecasting future behaviors), and omnichannel marketing tactics (linking disparate sales channels into a single, seamless buying experience) to enable a one-to-one experience.

“Today’s customers create bucketloads of data—more than ever before,” says Experian’s Nicholas Moore, head of marketing, in the company’s marketing and consumer insights blog. “Every time an individual interacts with your brand is an opportunity to collect and record data that will help your communications resonate with them more in the future.

“Likewise, you need to ensure that your pictures of customers are accurate and robust enough by validating [that] the data you have is accurate, and consider enriching [it] with trusted third-party data,” Moore adds, noting that marketing to a segment of one requires personalization that has to happen in real time and must center on accurate segmentation, customer insight, and a dynamic, cross-channel approach.

Accurate segmentation involves layering first-party responsive data over second- and third-party data that includes demographic information (who’s buying?), purchasing habits (what did they buy, and when did they buy it?), and consumer attitudes toward the brand (lifestyle, alignment with personal culture, etc.). When combined, these factors can help marketers effectively harness customer insights and create individualized, personalized targeting strategies. Neglect any of these components, and a one-to-one marketing approach will fall short.

Segmenting the Self

The need for a one-to-one marketing approach can be traced back to the advent of social media. Before that, segmentation was largely based on demographics, with marketers targeting broad groups such as women ages 30 to 40 or consumers in large metropolitan areas. That changed in the late 1990s, when a site called SixDegrees.com emerged as the first recognizable social media site, enabling users to upload profiles and befriend other users. Friendster, MySpace, and LinkedIn followed in the early 2000s, with Photobucket and Flickr becoming the first platforms to facilitate online photo-sharing.

Fast-forward to 2017, and we’re all working in an environment where customization is king. Thanks to the increasing importance of “self”—a movement that may not exactly be positive for our world as a whole, but that’s fodder for another article—the individualized market approach has become a front-and-center mandate for marketers in the B2C and B2B segments.

“Go to Amazon.com right now and note what they are merchandising to you,” Halligan writes. “When I go to Amazon, they are selling me stuff about the Boston Red Sox, the Grateful Dead, and all things marketing. But each person gets a unique set of merchandise: If you just went to Amazon’s home page and they are merchandising that same stuff to you, send me a screenshot, and I’ll invite you to join me at a Sox game—in my second-row seats. (After all, Amazon’s segmenting is so good that it can probably predict who I’d like to go to a game with.)”

Marketers are taking segmentation up a few notches in an effort to appeal to a mobile-powered, selfie-oriented world.

This is just one example of how deep companies can go with one-to-one marketing, and how they’re successfully creating segments of one that target individual customers. In return, these companies are converting visitors into long-term, high-value customers at very high rates. Compare this to the bricks-and-mortar retail sector, where J.C. Penney, Macy’s, Sears, Sports Authority, and Payless are struggling to keep stores open.

The retailers that emerge from this period of uncertainty will be those that adopt their own style of customer personalization. Retailers H&M and Zara, for example, continue to do well because they’ve taken “fast” fashion to new levels by turning over trendy inventory quickly and creating an engaging customer experience. Another good example is TJX Companies, Inc. (Marshalls, T.J. Maxx, and HomeGoods), which continues to attract consumers who want low prices and a “destination” shopping experience.

So, how can marketers emulate these online and offline mavens of personalized, one-to-one marketing? Start by marketing across all channels in a media-agnostic fashion, making sure you have a presence on all channels. Factor all of your available data sources (i.e., purchasing habits, demographics, etc.) into the equation. Make sure the data is recent and updated regularly, since consumer habits and preferences change quickly. Finally, analyze that data and use it to make informed decisions surrounding personalization. Map out the purchase possibilities, look at where and how customers are buying, and embrace the one-to-one approach—because it is not going to go away.

Hawthorne Sweeps Up 30 Creative Awards In Second Half Of 2017

The prizes include the w3 Awards, Davey Awards, Aurora Awards, dotCOMM Awards, and Galaxy Awards.

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 30, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Hawthorne, a creative, analytics and technology-driven advertising agency, today announced it has won 30 creative awards in the second half of 2017, bringing its total to 59 so far this year, including 27 digital content awards. The awards, granted by five different organizations, recognized 13 campaigns across multiple categories and clients, highlighting the consistent high-quality and breadth of Hawthorne’s work.

Grounded in attribution and return-on-investment metrics, Hawthorne is a full-service, technology-based advertising agency that uses powerful visual and verbal storytelling to drive consumer response across all screens. Its legacy of The Art of Brand, The Science of Response ©, combines persuasive brand messaging with proprietary analytic systems to create and deliver highly accountable and hugely successful integrated advertising campaigns. The agency applies an analytic video-centric marketing approach and data-driven technology to help brands grow through acquisition, retention and brand awareness.

With every campaign, Hawthorne strives to create emotional attachments between brands, consumers, and products. Receiving 30 creative awards in the past six months alone reflects Hawthorne’s innovative vision, as well as the agency’s commitment to its clients.

“Winning close to 60 awards so far this year is an incredible honor,” said CEO and owner Jessica Hawthorne-Castro. “It further affirms that our approach at Hawthorne is resonating, not only with clients and their audiences, but with industry leaders as well.”

W3 Awards
Hawthorne received 2 W3 Awards, which honor websites, online advertising & marketing, mobile sites/apps, video, and social.

  • Silver: General Marketing Categories-Website/Microsite for Marketing
    • “Points of Light” Microsite for Gemmy
  • Silver: General Website Categories-Self Promotion for Websites
    • Company website—Hawthorne

Davey Awards
The Davey Awards honor the best in Web, Design, Video, Advertising, Mobile & Social from small agencies worldwide. This year, Hawthorne racked up 9 Davey Awards.

  • Gold: Commercial – Consumer Products/ Services for Commercials
    • “PULSE” TV Commercial for Sengled
    • “Points of Light” TV Commercial for Gemmy
  • Gold: Campaign Categories – Commercial Campaign for Commercials
    • “Standing Ovation” TV Campaign for VARIDESK
  • Gold: Integrated Campaign – Business to Consumer for Integrated Campaign
    • “PULSE” Integrated TV+Digital Campaign
  • Silver: Commercial – Consumer Products/ Services for Commercials
    • “Portable + Affordable” TV Commercial for BLACK+DECKER
  • Silver: Campaign Categories – Commercial Campaign for Commercials
    • “Chorus Line,” “Earnest,” “Busy Mom,” TV Campaign for HomeAdvisor
  • Silver: Integrated Campaign – Business to Consumer for Integrated Campaign
    • “Standing Ovation” Integrated TV+Digital Campaign for VARIDESK
  • Silver: Campaign Categories – Online Video Series – Other for Online Film/Video
    • “2IN1” Online Video Campaign for BLACK+DECKER
    • “Standing Ovation” Online Video Campaign for VARIDESK

Aurora Awards
The Aurora Awards recognize excellence in film and video. In 2017, Hawthorne received 6 Aurora Awards.

  • Platinum Best of Show: Commercial: Household Products
    • “Chorus Line” TV Ad for HomeAdvisor
  • Platinum Best of Show: Commercial: Health Care Products
    • “Always Know” Digital Ad for Dexcom
  • Platinum Best of Show: Commercial: Corporate Promotion/Image
    • “Portable + Affordable” TV Ad for BLACK+DECKER
  • Platinum Best of Show: Commercial: Financial
    • “Everywhere You Can’t Be” Digital Ad for Equifax
  • Platinum Best of Show: Commercials: Ad Campaign
    • “Standing Ovation” TV Ad campaign for VARIDESK
  • Gold: Commercial: Furniture/Home Decor
    • “Points of Light” TV ad for Gemmy

dotCOMM Awards
This year, Hawthorne won 10 dotCOMM awards, which honor excellence in web creativity and digital communication.

  • Platinum: Video Ad Campaign for the Web
    • “Standing Ovation” Campaign for VARIDESK
  • Platinum: Display Advertising B-to-C
    • “2IN1” Banner Ad for BLACK+DECKER
  • Platinum: Short Form Video for the Web
    • “Everywhere You Can’t Be” for Equifax
  • Platinum: Microsites
    • “QuicKit” for Broan-NuTone
  • Gold: Short Form Video for the Web
    • “Obsessed” for thredUP
    • “Always Know” for Dexcom
  • Gold: Microsites
    • “Points of Light” for Gemmy
  • Honorable Mention: Microsites
    • PULSE for Sengled
    • Dyson Ball” for Dyson
  • Honorable Mention: Short Form Video for the Web
    • “Grown Ups” for Equifax

Galaxy Award
Hawthorne received 3 Galaxy Awards, which serve as an international competition for product and service marketing. They are presented by MerComm, the world’s only independent awards organization dedicated to defining standards of excellence in the communications fields.

  • Silver: Advertising: TV Ad—Single
    • “Portable + Affordable” TV Ad
  • Bronze: Advertising: Multi-Media Campaign
    • “Always Know” Integrated Campaign for Dexcom
  • Honors: Advertising: Multi-Media Campaign
    • “Standing Ovation” Integrated Campaign for VARIDESK

This long roster of awards reflects Hawthorne’s continued creativity, innovation and commitment to delivering the best possible work to its clients. In addition to awards honoring the agency’s creativity, Hawthorne was also named a Great Place to Work® in 2017 and Hawthorne-Castro has won numerous awards including “Woman of Influence” by Biz Women; “40 Under 40” by DMN; and “Female CEO of the Year in Advertising & Marketing” by CEO World Awards.

About Hawthorne:
Hawthorne, a creative, analytics and technology-driven advertising agency, specializes in strategic planning, creative development, production, media planning, buying and analytics, and campaign management for integrated marketing campaigns. With nearly 30 years of proven excellence, the agency combines persuasive brand messaging with best-in-class analytic systems to create accountable, high performance advertising campaigns. Hawthorne helps brands efficiently target their consumers, improve cost per acquisition, optimize the lifetime value of a brand’s customers and even drive consumer response to key retail outlets or corporate locations.

As a leading analytic and data driven, accountable brand advertising agency, Hawthorne specializes in integrated campaign solutions. The company offers a full suite of integrated solutions with creative, media, digital and mobile services. Hawthorne maintains brand integrity and metrics to efficiently and effectively optimize the results of its clients’ integrated media budgets via leading edge and proven data analytics. Hawthorne has developed successful award-winning campaigns for countless Fortune 500 brands. Please visit www.hawthornedirect.com and http://www.linkedin.com/company/hawthorne-direct for more information.

For more information, please contact Nikki Arnonenarnone@sspr.com.

Debate Continues Over Differences Between Men, Women CEOs

Jessica Hawthorne-Castro

Author: Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO

Original Publication: FierceCEO

Date Published:  November 20, 2017

With more women taking the reins as CEOs, the debate is once again heating up as to whether they deliver different management styles than male CEOs.

For decades, some have argued that women can be too soft, while men, with their take-charge ways, fit the bill to become hard-driving executives.

But from a personality standpoint, men and women CEOs are equally capable of scoring high in areas like emotional stability, drive and vision, said Michael Sanger of Hogan Assessments, a personality assessment and leadership development firm.

The uncertainty lies in how these traits will be perceived by subordinates, Sanger said. In other words, it can become a case of perception being reality.

Take the case of Michelle and Tobias Glienke, co-CEOs of Munk Pack, a natural foods brand. The husband and wife duo say that, at least in their case, they have different leadership styles. But some of that is intentional, to play off one another’s strengths.

Michelle leads by example, while Tobias delegates. Michelle describes herself as “very approachable,” while Tobias takes “more of a high-level view.” Michelle has “a tendency to want to do things myself.” Tobias will “sometimes hand off the responsibilities of a project to someone else.”

Michelle handles the operations side, and Tobias oversees sales and marketing. But the couple work on new product development together.

So, while there are differences, it’s hard to say what’s on purpose and what is subconscious.

Some say quality is just quality. “Great leadership is great leadership regardless of the gender,” said Leela Srinivasan, chief marketing officer at Lever, a recruiting software company. “The characteristics of an extraordinary leader hold true whether it is a man or a woman.”

“I don’t necessarily see differences when it comes to gender,” said Phil Rowley, executive director of Berkeley Research Group. “It’s more a personality issue.

Someone who is “empathetic and a good listener can make a good CEO,” Rowley said. “Someone who is autocratic and didactic doesn’t.”

But once in the corner office, CEOs have different ways of operating, some say.

Susan Kuczmarski, head of business consulting firm Kuczmarski Innovation, says men and women have very different traits as leaders.

Men operate more with a “control and compete mindset,” while women “create success by reshaping the workplace into dynamic and inclusive cultures that serve others,” Kuczmarski said.

Female CEOs tend to perform higher when it comes to emotional intelligence, which makes for great leadership, said Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO of advertising agency Hawthorne.

But women do have more roadblocks to becoming CEO, she said. “We have to work more and harder than everyone else. I never worried about being female and honestly, none of the female CEOs I know ever realized how unique we were until we got there. We were just working hard up the ladder and never looked back.”

A study by Korn Ferry found:

  • Women CEOs are slightly older than their male counterparts, in part because it takes them, on average, 30% longer than men to reach the corner office.
  • More than two-thirds of women said they were motivated by a sense of purpose.
  • Women CEOs are more likely to leverage others to achieve desired results.
  • Two-thirds of the women said they never realized they could become CEO until a boss or mentor encouraged them.

Priming the Omnichannel for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Author: Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO

Original Publication: MarTech

Date Published:  November 7, 2017

There’s no question about it, retail is undergoing a dynamic transformation. The constant flux among all the channels is forcing retailers to sharpen their sales and marketing strategies, especially as they approach Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Digital sales, which includes online and mobile, are clearly the bright spots in retail. Cyber Monday 2016 claimed the title for the largest online sales day in U.S. history, with $3.39 billion in online sales. Black Friday came in a very close second with $3.34 billion in online sales, driving a record $1.2 billion in mobile revenue. All signs point to even better digital sales during this year’s holiday season.

While retail sales overall are rising, the message is somewhat mixed for brick-and-mortar retail. According to retail think tank Fung Global Retail and Technology, more than 5,700 store closures have been announced by September 1, 2017. That’s a 181% increase over 2016. Yet IHL’s research reportestimates that retailers will open 4,080 more stores in 2017 than they are closing and plan to open over 5,500 more in 2018.

So, what do retailers need to do as they head into this year’s holiday season? How should they fine-tune sales and marketing to ensure they hit all the right notes? Start by tracking and analyzing customer data and then adjust accordingly, with special attention to an omnichannel strategy that doesn’t sacrifice any individual channel or any individual customer. And speaking of the individual customer, invest some time and effort in personalization as you fine-tune your sales marketing strategies.

All About the Omnichannel

To navigate these shifts and contradictions, retailers are leveraging new services, technologies and targeted marketing efforts to power the omnichannel, a multi-channel approach that blurs the lines between in-store, online, mobile and even catalogs into an integrated and cohesive experience. That’s because omnichannel retail is where the money is. According to a report from eMarketer, 59% of retailers said omnichannel customers were more profitable in 2016 than single-channel customers, vs. 48% in 2015.

Amazon recently expanded its omnichannel footprint by launching its own clothing line, complete with Prime Wardrobe which lets users try before they buy. It also acquired Whole Foods and opened a handful of Amazon retail bookstores. In addition, the company is scooping up warehouse space in urban areas around the country so it can offer same-day delivery to customers who purchase via online and mobile channels.

The retailer’s Amazon Prime Day sales event has been wildly successful. This year, Amazon Prime Day   was touted as the company’s biggest sales day ever, growing 60% from 2016 and surpassing Amazon’s 2016 Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. And Amazon is doing a great job targeting their branded items, considering most of items sold on Prime Day were Amazon’s branded products. Need more evidence? According to research from Slice Intelligence, 43% of all online retail sales in the United States went through Amazon in 2016. With these new product expansions Amazon is looking to secure an even larger piece of the retail pie, possibly up to 50% market share by 2021, according to Wall Street firm Needham.

Meanwhile Walmart, with more than 5,000 stores, has been building out its online presence. While it may be a bit behind Amazon in omnichannel expansion, the retailer’s recent purchase of Jet.com, along with its acquisition of smaller online retailers ModCloth, Bonobos and Moosejaw, has led to major online sales growth. To further compete with Amazon’s foray into the grocery space, Walmart now offers online grocery ordering and pick up, and just announced a partnership with Google in early September to further encroach on Amazon’s market share. In May, Walmart announced a 63% growth in quarterly e-commerce sales.

Personalize It

A key trend in retail right now – and one that already delivers real results – is personalization. Plenty of retailers are already using personalization, and some have for several years. Research indicates personalization has strong impact. In fact, a recent study from Infosys found that 86% of consumers said personalization has at least some impact on the purchasing decision  Tweet This!, and that nearly one-third of consumers wanted more personalization in their shopping experiences.

New services and apps are infusing innovative personalized shopping and buying experiences, as well. There’s Nordstrom’s Trunk Club, one of the many new services that rely on subscription models and use stylists to pick out clothes based on a customer’s preferences, then mail a selection of curated outfits directly to the client. Others include StitchFix, MM.LaFleur and Fabletics. There are also apps like The Hunt. By posting a photo of an item that you are looking for, along with specific requirements such as budget and size, the Hunt community networks to suggest products. Keep, another app, provides a web-wide shopping cart called the Keep One Cart so shoppers can buy any product from any store, anywhere, in one seamless checkout experience. All of these services and apps speak to consumers’ desire for more personalized shopping experiences, and retailers need to ensure they’re delivering to meet that desire.

Measure for Measure

In order to compete in today’s shifting retail landscape, companies must not only know and understand their customers but also meticulously measure all channels of their sales and marketing campaigns to improve target marketing, distribution and ultimately revenue.

Of course, most consumers fight advertising. They look for ways to avoid it and tune it out, so marketers must adapt and be creative to give consumers the personalized information they’re looking for. Today’s best media engagements track all of the touch points and interactions with consumers in order to facilitate a personalized interaction between the brand and the customer.

Not only do customers want personalized customer experiences, they also want a consistent retail experience across digital and brick and mortar. And with a consistent experience, for example, retailers are better prepared for showrooming and webrooming.

To deliver personalized and consistent experiences in the omnichannel, you need to understand your target customers. The best way to do that is to analyze customer data. Of course, for many retailers, sifting through the hordes of data collected via point-of-sale systems and online channels can be overwhelming. Even more challenging is integrating customer data across the different channels for a more holistic picture, especially since many organizations still operate their channels in silos.

One way to overcome these challenges is to work with a partner that has expertise rooted in data and analytics and who is equipped to discern critical information and better understand the story that the data is telling. A few words of advice when picking a partner to work with: look for firms that invest in and use robust analytics, and that track data from a number of sources in order to make clear connections to a campaign’s ROI.

With data-driven marketing and a more complete picture of your target customer, you’ll be able to ensure each touchpoint is part of a cohesive andcustomized omnichannel shopping experience come Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It won’t matter if the customer is shopping for that perfect holiday gift at a store in the local mall, leafing through the catalog that just arrived in the mail, or scrolling through products on a mobile phone. What matters is the buy.

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