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The 17 Best Marketing Automation Tools Available to You

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The 17 Best Marketing Automation Tools Available to You

A majority of businesses use marketing automation tools nowadays — in fact, studies cite around 56% of businesses currently use the technology, and that number continues to grow.

Learn More About HubSpot's Enterprise Marketing SoftwareWhile marketing automation software can help companies increase efficiency by streamlining their workflows, there are so many options to choose from, full of different solutions with various features and use cases.

In this article, we’ll cover:

What are marketing automation tools?

Marketing automation tools use software to automate repetitive marketing tasks. Some platforms only offer email actions, drip sequences, and CRM updates. Others may help with lead scoring, sales lead rotation, SMS, and more.

Automating your marketing tasks can benefit your business by increasing overall efficiency and allowing you more time to work on high-level projects. For example, you can use marketing automation tools to collect valuable data that can be used to create more personalized marketing campaigns and increase conversion rates.

How to Choose the Best Marketing Automation Software

A more niche marketing automation product may be better for SMB and B2C environments, but B2B and enterprise companies may need a platform with wider capability. Here are some key areas to consider as you evaluate marketing automation software products to choose the one that’s right for you:

1. Determine Your Budget and Business Needs

If automation’s benefit can be summed up with one statement, it’s this: It will make you more efficient so you can focus on the tasks you enjoy and that have the highest return. With that in mind, you’ll want to evaluate price as you consider capability.

For SMBs and B2C organizations focusing primarily on email, a scaled-down system might be sufficient. However, with more advanced needs, enterprise (and thus higher ticket) software is more cost-efficient in the long run.

Be sure to choose a provider that’s reasonably priced but can also grow with you as your needs change. After all, reducing bloated operations is critical to scaling effectively.

2. Evaluate the Software’s Ease of Use

Automation isn’t a simple thing to implement, so make sure the interface of the software will work with you, not against you. See if you can find screenshots of the UX so you can determine if it looks simple and easy to navigate.

Automation can be technical, so look for providers that have robust knowledge bases, tutorials, and other customer support options.

3. Explore Analytics and Reporting Options

You’ll want to be able to measure the success of any drip campaigns you have running, so make sure your automation software will keep track of the metrics that matter most to you.

In B2B and enterprise environments with many stakeholders, you may also need advanced reporting abilities such as personalized dashboards or automatic reporting via email.

4. Research Integrations

How well does the marketing automation software play with your existing stack? Integrations allow you to manage data and get more from your tools.

Pro-tip: You can find our essential apps for marketers in HubSpot’s App Marketplace.

5. Consider Potential Limitations

Some automation software platforms may limit the number of actions in a month or the database size you’re allowed.

Going into any evaluation, know how many contacts you have, how many emails you send on average, and what you want the software to accomplish. This will prevent you from underestimating the cost of your automation software.

6. Request a Demo

Before making a final decision, consider reaching out to each provider’s sales team to request a demo or sign up for free trial offers. Trying out a marketing automation tool before you buy it can help you determine which features best serve your needs.

Here, we’ve cultivated a list of marketing automation tools examples to help you sort through your options and feel confident choosing the best solution for you and your team.

1. HubSpot Marketing Automation

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HubSpot’s marketing automation functionality is one of the most powerful tools on this list in terms of features. It’s also one of the most popular in terms of customer sentiment, according to the G2 Grid for Marketing Automation.

Of course, HubSpot has a full growth suite that includes sales software, marketing software, and support software, which all integrate automatically with HubSpot’s CRM.

The combined effect of having all of your data and growth activity in one place can unleash tons of creative automation possibilities that would be difficult or impossible if you use separate tools.

As a standalone, HubSpot’s marketing automation functionality includes an easy-to-use visual board where you can craft simple or highly sophisticated conditional workflows.

It can take time to master the tool (you’ll scale up more quickly with the help of HubSpot Academy), but once you get a grasp on it, the creative possibilities are endless.

You can set up simple email list autoresponders, or build a smart and complex network of rules designed to target specific users with the exact right email, live chat, website experience, and more.

Basically, HubSpot’s automation tools go far beyond email, so you can scale your growth and spend less time on repetitive tasks.

Price: HubSpot’s email and form marketing automation tools are free. Increased access and features are available in paid versions of Marketing Hub, which start at $45 per month.

2. ManyChat

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Marketing automation isn’t just about email. Imagine automating some of the most repetitive conversations you have with customers on other platforms. ManyChat functions as a chatbot that can do just that on Facebook Messenger, Instagram Direct Messages, WhatsApp, and SMS.

A bot can be built in minutes with ManyChat’s templates and easy-to-use interface. In addition, the information you learn about your users can be synced to your CRM and other tools.

Price: ManyChat offers a free monthly plan that allows engagement with up to 1,000 contacts via Instagram Direct Messages, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp. Additional access and features are available through ManyChat’s paid plans, which start at $15 per month.

3. SendPulse

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Having started out as an email marketing service, SendPulse gradually evolved into a full-scale marketing automation platform with a variety of channels to reach existing and potential customers. 

Established brands and small businesses alike can build highly personalized message flows that combine emails, chatbots, and SMS notifications. The visual chatbot builder itself is very versatile as it allows users to create chatbots for Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Telegram, and Viber. It also supports ChatGPT integration, which will make the chatbot even more human-like.

Price: SendPulse provides a monthly free plan. Paid plans start at around $10 per month.

4. Moosend

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Moosend is an email marketing automation platform that caters to various industries, including ecommerce and SaaS.

The automation feature uses advanced website tracking and triggers that allow you to send the right email campaign to those in your contacts who are interested in a specific product or service. For example, you can set up a cart abandonment series to target potential customers who left their shopping carts without making a purchase.

Collecting and managing customer data can also come in handy as you can use them to craft product recommendation campaigns based on product views. This data also allows you to create detailed reports of the campaign’s progress and the users’ activity so you can optimize the effectiveness of your promotional messages

Price: Moosend offers a 30-day free trial so you can try before you buy. After that, Pro plans start at $9 per month.

5. Snov.io

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Snov.io is a must-have for businesses and sales teams looking to streamline their lead generation and cold outreach efforts. It’s an all-in-one toolset designed for small businesses and solopreneurs to find, verify, and reach out to leads, with a range of features, including Email Finder, Email Verifier, Email Warm-Up, free CRM, and more.

One of the standout features of Snov.io is its email automation tool, Email Drip Campaigns. You can create highly personalized email campaigns to engage your audience. It also comes with a robust reporting and analytics suite, enabling you to track the performance of your campaigns and optimize your outreach efforts for maximum impact.

Price: Snov.io offers both forever-free and premium plans. The premium plans start at $39 per month.

6. Omnisend

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Omnisend is an omnichannel marketing automation platform built for ecommerce. Offering powerful automation workflows, you can get started quickly with pre-built templates that keep online merchants in mind.

With Omnisend, you can add several channels within the same automation workflow: email, SMS, Facebook Messenger, push notifications, and more. Omnisend also uses a user-friendly visual builder and templates which make creating workflows, forms, landing pages, pop ups, and emails quick and easy.

Price: Omnisend offers a free plan with basic email marketing automation that is best suited for small businesses just starting out. Medium to larger-sized businesses will most likely benefit from Omnisend’s paid plans, which start at $16 per month.

7. EngageBay

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EngageBay is another marketing automation platform designed specifically for small to medium-sized businesses.

This software comes with a wide range of features including email marketing, social media management, and website chat.

Other commendable features include drag-and-drop builders for landing pages and emails, A/B testing, SMS marketing, push notifications, abandoned cart retrieval and reminders, autoresponders, canned responses, and more.

Price: EngageBay offers a free plan for small businesses, as well as three advanced paid plans that scale with your business needs, starting at $10.39 per user per month.

8. Ontraport

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Unlike other marketing automation tools, Ontraport is a business automation software specifically designed for entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and small businesses.

While it has a CRM and marketing automation functionality, it also has several other features to run and grow a small business, including but not limited to email marketing, landing pages, reporting, and ecommerce.

One of the most valuable things Ontraport offers is its focus on reporting and insights. While some tools can be a bit of a black box, Ontraport gives you a clear look at the performance of your campaigns.

Price: Though Ontraport does not have a free plan, it does offer a free 14-day trial with each of its four paid plans. Pricing for Ontraport’s basic plan starts at $29 per month, which includes unlimited email sending and drag-and-drop marketing automation.

9. SendinBlue

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SendinBlue is a digital marketing platform that features well-liked automation software suited for both beginner and advanced marketers.

With SendinBlue, you can design mobile-friendly email campaigns either from scratch or through customizable templates. You can also run SMS campaigns from SendInBlue. Advanced features include reporting and lead scoring.

Price: SendinBlue offers a pretty impressive free plan, which includes basic marketing automation functionality, unlimited contacts, and up to 300 emails per day. Paid plans start at $25 per month.

10. ActiveCampaign

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ActiveCampaign is an integrated email marketing, marketing automation, and small business CRM.

The strongest point of ActiveCampaign is its powerful and flexible marketing automation functionality. It’s one of the most comprehensive solutions on the market. Its deliverability is rated as one of the best in the market, as well.

This probably isn’t a good tool for beginners or those with low technical capabilities. It takes a bit more time and effort to learn — but when you do learn the platform, it’s pretty powerful.

Price: Though ActiveCampaign does not have a free plan or trial, it does offer a variety of paid plans that can be suited for B2B, B2C, or ecommerce businesses starting at $29 per month.

11. Salesforce Marketing Cloud Account Engagement

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Formerly known as Pardot, Salesforce Marketing Cloud Account Engagement is a cloud automation solution that mostly serves enterprise clients that have the technical resources and time to learn the platform.

It has a ton of features that automate communication to existing contacts, from CRM integration to email marketing, lead nurturing, and an ROI reporting functionality to make sure your campaigns are working.

You can track all interactions on your website and build predictive lead scoring based on the parameters you set. All of this helps improve marketing efficiency and remove wasted time and effort from your sales team.

It’s important to note that while it is incredibly powerful, this software may not be as accessible or affordable for smaller businesses or entrepreneurs as there is not a free plan or trial.

Price: Plans for Marketing Cloud Account Engagement start at $1,250 per month.

12. Keap

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Keap (formerly known as Infusionsoft) has been around since 2001 and has helped thousands of marketers deliver on leads, revenue, and customer acquisition targets.

Keap really flourishes in the small business and solopreneur crowd, and in my experience, I’ve noticed it has a pretty sophisticated user base.

You can set up relatively complex decision trees depending on which lead magnet someone signs up for, how many (and which) emails they open and click, or other contact property data.

As Keap’s features continue to evolve, long-time customers may prefer Keap’s Max Classic plan since it is most similar to Infusionsoft’s original platform.

Price: Keap offers a free 14-day trial and three different paid plans based on customer needs, starting as low as $129 per month.

13. Ortto

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Originally known as Autopilot, Ortto is one of the most visually appealing marketing automation solutions on the market.

Ortto’s automation software allows you to create emails with its easy-to-use, visual campaign builder. Other features include audience segmentation, comprehensive data analytics, and activity tracking.

Of course, this platform is typically used for more sophisticated messaging and targeting, but you can also create a simple autoresponder based on a time sequence.

Price: Ortto offers a free plan for those who are new to marketing automation. It also offers free 14-day trials for all of its paid plans, which start at $29 per month.

14. Marketo

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Marketo was founded in 2006 as a marketing automation software company. It was later acquired by Adobe and incorporated into its enterprise marketing cloud.

The Adobe integration means that, if you use Adobe Analytics for data measurement and Adobe Target for experimentation and personalization, you’ll have a powerful enterprise marketing automation and optimization suite.

The tool is typically geared toward enterprise customers — it’s a bit out of range for most small business owners.

Price: Adobe does not offer a free trial or plan for Marketo. Since Marketo’s plan prices are determined by your database size, you will need to reach out to the sales department for a quote.

15. GetResponse

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GetResponse is a marketing automation software that has many different layers and features. Its affordable Email Marketing plan includes basic autoresponders, templates, and a list size of 1,000 contacts.

GetReponse’s more premium plans include powerful features like drip campaigns, contact scoring, event-based automation, ecommerce tracking, and more.

In general, this software is easy-to-use. You’ll typically find good results from the tool, although it works best with the simpler features, like email newsletters. It can become trickier to work with the platform if you plan on implementing complicated conditional logic and marketing automation.

Price: GetResponse offers a free plan that’s great for sending out newsletters. However, GetResponse’s marketing automation features are only included in its paid plans, which start at $13.30 per month.

16. Drip

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Drip is one of the few marketing automation tools in this list that is primarily focused on ecommerce marketing automation. It provides one of the more “open” platforms, claiming that it plays well with “pretty much any marketing strategy you want to put in motion.”

Additionally, email is one of its strengths. Some email marketing and automation features include unlimited email sends, pre-built workflows, and multi-channel marketing.

It also excels in personalization and analytics. Overall, Drip is a powerful tool for ecommerce marketing automation.

Price: Though Drip does not have a free plan, it does offer a free 14-day trial. Paid plans are based on your number of email contacts and start at $39 per month.

17. Mautic

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Mautic is the only open-source marketing automation platform on this list. It’s also a relatively new player, only founded in 2014. Mautic has grown quickly, though, and is seemingly picking up steam with high-tech companies.

Currently, over 200,000 organizations use Mautic and it is available in over 35 languages.

Price: Free.

Getting Started with Marketing Automation

There are tons of options for marketing automation software. It’s all about choosing the right one for your business purposes, budget, and technical expertise.

Want something incredibly powerful and limitless? It may end up costing more and taking time and effort to learn. The cheaper options, by comparison, might have too limited a scale. Ultimately, it’s a trade-off.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Xngage and HawkSearch join forces with a powerful connector

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Xngage and HawkSearch join forces with a powerful connector

The bar has been set by the industry leaders in UX and Merchandising, and our customers have stated their claim clearly – “to grow our market share, we must have an enterprise search experience that drives conversions.

Optimizely offers baseline search experiences within our commerce platform, which are designed to help companies get started with organizing and delivering SKUs to customers. These experiences utilize out-of-the-box algorithms and methods for sorting, categorizing, and customizing.

While Optimizely provides a foundation for search experiences, we knew there were users ready to take their search capabilities to the next level. This is where the Xngage and HawkSearch partnership promises to redefine how you approach search-driven experiences within Optimizely Configured Commerce. Our highly experienced partner Xngage has developed a seamless integration connector, a best-in-class accelerator for harnessing the power of HawkSearch.

The powerful partner in search

HawkSearch is known for its expertise in search-driven engagement, AI-powered product discovery, and no-code customizations. With a strong history of serving B2B customers with enterprise-level search solutions, it was a perfect choice to make HawkSearch directly available within Optimizely’s platform.

The expertise of Xngage made this connector a reality enabling Optimizely’s Configured Commerce customers to:

  • Easily plug directly into the HawkSearch service to share your products and their relevant data.
  • Utilize powerful unit of measure conversions, ensuring your customers can find exactly what they’re looking for.
  • Customize sorting and facets to deliver highly relevant results to customers.
  • Craft a personalized user experience with features like auto-complete and the new ‘instant engage’.

Customers can further explore HawkSearch’s capabilities in this on demand webinar and recap, which highlights the benefits and use cases of the Xngage connector for HawkSearch.

A powerful partner in digital growth

Xngage complements Optimizely perfectly, as they deliver robust solutions in the realm of digital content and commerce experiences. The development of the Xngage connector to HawkSearch is a part of their broader mission to empower manufacturers and distributors to serve their customers digitally. This alignment seamlessly fits with Optimizely, making our partnership with Xngage an ideal choice. 

Furthering their goal of digital growth, Xngage offers a range of holistic and complementary professional services, including:

  • User research & user experience design (UX)
  • Enterprise architecture & ERP integration
  • Product information management (PIM)
  • Ecommerce Implementations, and digital growth services.

To learn more about this highly experienced digital commerce partner visit Xngage.com.

The future of the partnership

This partnership is just the beginning. Xngage and HawkSearch are committed to working hand in hand to empower you with the tools and insights you need to elevate your ecommerce site. Stay tuned for future blogs, webinars, and resources that will help you make the most of this transformative alliance.

The future of ecommerce search has never looked more promising, and we’re excited to have you on this journey with us.

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Top 3 Strategies for Success

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Top 3 Strategies for Success

With the advent of e-commerce, manufacturers have unprecedented opportunities to expand their reach, streamline their operations, and enhance profitability. Amidst this digital revolution, adopting Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) is pivotal in optimizing production processes, quality control, and resource management.

As the lines between traditional brick-and-mortar sales and online commerce continue to blur, manufacturers increasingly realize the need to adapt and thrive in this new digital landscape. This article explores the top 3 strategies manufacturers can employ to succeed in e-commerce.

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES)

MES (Manufacturing Execution System) is specialized application software designed to solve the tasks of synchronization, coordination, analysis, and optimization of production output within any production. MES systems belong to the class of shop floor-level management systems but can also be used for integrated production management at the enterprise as a whole.

MES collects and analyzes production processes, product demand, and inventory data. This allows manufacturers to adapt more quickly to changes in the market, reconfigure production to meet current requirements, and closely monitor trends. As a result, manufacturers can more easily predict and meet customer needs, which helps increase online sales.

MES helps in maintaining accurate inventory records and managing inventory turnover. This avoids overstock or shortages, which can affect a company’s ability to meet online demand and maintain customer service levels.

Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) enhance transparency and automate operations, reducing human errors and operational costs. Integrating Manufacturing CRM streamlines customer data, allowing manufacturers to tailor products, respond to market changes, and offer competitive prices in online stores. The synergy between MES and CRM creates an agile manufacturing environment, optimizing efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Content Marketing

Kapost’s research shows that companies in the B2B segment that blog get 67% more leads on average than companies that don’t. However, it’s worth remembering that content marketing requires a lot of resources to prepare and regularity in publishing it. This content can be, for example, brand identity and E-commerce logo, articles and videos, webinars, research, and interviews.

The content should help solve a specific problem to create the image of an expert and thus influence the decisions of potential customers. The topics discussed should not be chosen randomly. A little research in Google Trends will help select the main topic, discussion areas in the video, phrases, and words that should be included in the article. Publishing content based on such a prepared analysis allows you to achieve high positions in search engines. It provides a good user experience for customers looking for answers to product/service questions, comprehensively covering the subject matter.

The benefits of this e-commerce strategy are free traffic, increased user confidence, and the creation of an expert image.

Content marketing is a form of promotion that requires patience and time. Its effects will also depend on the quality of thecontent itself, its optimization, and promotion methods. No specific terms can be specified here.

YouTube channels as a form of content marketing

You can discuss your production process and show and test products on your YouTube channel. If someone is looking for information about a product and is unsure which brand to choose, they will likely find your video and maybe make a purchase. Remember to choose a title that matches the search query and prepare a video description with product links. You can send out an email to announce when new videos are released. Whenever you have particularly compelling videos, you could also promote them via texting notifications to drive even more traffic.

Utilize user-generated content and social media

Not utilizing the content that your users generate is a huge issue. This is because it’s not easy to refresh an e-commerce website and keep it alive. But photos and videos taken by real customers are great for this purpose.

Adding a “widget” that connects your online store’s website to its official social media accounts brings significant benefits. These include revitalizing your social media accounts, increasing your credibility as a manufacturer, inspiring other customers to buy, and encouraging repeat purchases.

Snapchat Planets

Snapchat’s “Planets” feature provides a unique and interactive way to engage with your e-commerce store’s audience. Here are some creative ideas on how to leverage Snapchat Planets to create engaging content:

  • Virtual Store Tours: Use the AR feature to create a virtual tour of your store. Each planet can represent different sections or categories of your store. For instance, one planet could showcase your latest collection, another could highlight bestsellers, and another could offer exclusive deals.
  • Product Launches: Announce new product launches by creating a cosmic journey. Users can travel from one planet to another, each unveiling a new product with engaging visuals and detailed descriptions. This creates a sense of excitement and discovery around new arrivals.
  • Interactive Shopping Experience: Create interactive shopping experiences where users can explore products in a fun and engaging way. For example, users can navigate through different planets to find hidden discounts or special offers, making shopping more interactive and rewarding.
  • Customer Rewards and Loyalty Programs: Develop a loyalty program where users earn points or rewards by exploring different planets. Each planet can offer unique rewards, such as discounts, free samples, or exclusive access to new collections. This gamifies the shopping experience and encourages repeat visits.
  • Themed Campaigns: Align your marketing campaigns with planetary themes. For instance, during holiday seasons, you can create a holiday-themed planet where users can find special holiday deals, gift ideas, and festive content.

By leveraging Snapchat Planets, you can transform your e-commerce store’s content into a captivating and interactive experience that keeps your audience engaged, entertained, and coming back for more.

Use newsletters to captivate your target audience

Newsletters can strengthen the connection with the consumer and demonstrate that shopping with you is safe and profitable. Remember that the more personalized the message, the more effective it will be. It should contain a call to action (CTA), such as a button that redirects to products.

Don’t forget to put a box to check for consent to process personal data when subscribing to the newsletter. Also, add an option to unsubscribe from the newsletter in each email.

A regular email account is not adapted for the newsletter, so do not use your everyday email address. This way, you risk being blacklisted by spam filters. The benefits of newsletters are optimizing advertising costs, increasing loyal audiences from different channels, and building mutually beneficial relationships with partners.

Print and PDF Channel

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In the digital landscape, the significance of Print and PDF channels cannot be underestimated for manufacturers engaging in e- commerce. The tactile experience of print offers unique psychological advantages, enhancing comprehension and retention, which are vital for technical manuals and complex product details. PDFs merge this benefit with digital accessibility, ensuring wide reach while maintaining format integrity. This dual-channel approach not only caters to diverse consumer preferences but also bolsters marketing efforts, making technical content more engaging and understandable. Utilizing catalog software further streamlines the integration of Print and PDF channels into e-commerce strategies, enhancing product presentation and distribution efficiency.

Contextual advertising: Google Ads

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If you want the advertising you invest in to have an immediate effect, it’s worth turning to Google Ads. Google displays paid ads in search results and on Google’s network of partners (on-site ads in the form of banners).

You bid when you search for a keyword for which advertisers have set up a campaign. The search engine determines who will appear in the search results and at what position. When assigning bids, the quality of the landing page, the quality of the ads, and the stated maximum bid per click are all considered.

To start setting up your campaign, simply login to your Google Ads account. Using the service is free, and you’ll find plenty of online tutorials on creating a campaign. However, you may find that it won’t generate valuable traffic if you don’t set it up optimally. Your budget will be wasted on clicks that won’t lead to conversions. This is why most companies resort to the help of agencies, including specialized agencies.

There is probably no industry in which Google Ads campaigns cannot be used. However, advertising can be moderately profitable if there is a lot of competition in the industry and margins are low.

The benefits of this e-commerce strategy are large audience reach, the ability to get the target audience as accurately as possible, and very detailed statistics on results.

The effect of launching a campaign should appear almost immediately. A properly set up campaign will increase traffic to the website. By systematically optimizing the campaign, you can achieve much better results.

You also can use paid Facebook Ads post promotion. It is important to pinpoint your target group, but how do you do it? A popular way is to draw up a customer portrait, that is, to make a collective image of your customer.

This considers age, gender, income level, location, interests and hobbies, and online behavior. Such a person will display a group interested in your services or goods.

Implement personalized product selections

Recommended product block and cross-selling are very powerful internet marketing strategies. In addition to the recommended product block, which shows the analogs of the product being viewed, it is worth paying attention to the website’s functionality.

As a rule, the products in the “You may also like” block are selected based on the pages previously viewed by the customer, his previous purchases on the website, as well as what was purchased by other customers with similar tastes. If this functionality is implemented technically sound, it can lead to additional items added to the shopping cart. “You may also like” block partly acts as an alternative to the advice of a specialist or consultant.

With blocks for cross-selling related products is a similar situation. Usually, in them are placed products from the same product line, collection, or simply those that perfectly match the product being viewed. You can use AI-powered live chats to proactively engage in customer conversations and suggest products based on their behavior.

Conclusion

E-commerce for manufacturers is a vast field, and in this article, we have presented the most popular and most effective forms of selling online. Remember, no effective e-commerce strategy exists. Each industry and business will have specifics. Try combining the above mentioned e-commerce strategies to maximize your chances of success and increase your profits.

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

Did you follow the Apple iPad Pro content debacle?

Here’s a quick recap. A recent online ad for the new iPad Pro showed a large hydraulic press slowly crushing various symbols of creativity. A metronome, a piano, a record player, a video game, paints, books, and other creative tools splinter and smash as the Sonny and Cher song All I Ever Need Is You plays.

The ad’s title? “Crush!”

The point of the commercial — I think — is to show that Apple managed to smush (that’s the technical term) all this heretofore analog creativity into its new, very thin iPad Pro.  

To say the ad received bad reviews is underselling the response. Judgment was swift and unrelenting. The creative world freaked out.

On X, actor Hugh Grant shared Tim Cook’s post featuring the ad and added this comment: “The destruction of the human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley.”

When fellow actor Justine Bateman shared the Tim Cook post, she simply wrote, “Truly, what is wrong with you?” Other critiques ranged from tone-challenged to wasteful to many worse things.

Actor Justine Bateman shared Tim Cook’s post on X, which featured the ad, and added this comment: "Truly, what is wrong with you?".

A couple of days later, Apple apologized and canceled plans to air the ad on television.

How not-so-great content ideas come to life

The level of anger surprises me. Look, the ad does show the eyeballs on an emoji-faced squishy ball popping under the plates’ pressure, but still. Calling the ad “actually psychotic” might be a skosh over the top.

Yes, the ad missed the mark. And the company’s subsequent decision to apologize makes sense.

But anyone who’s participated in creating a content misfire knows this truth: Mistakes look much more obvious in hindsight.

On paper, I bet this concept sounded great. The brainstorming meeting probably started with something like this: “We want to show how the iPad Pro metaphorically contains this huge mass of creative tools in a thin and cool package.”

Maybe someone suggested representing that exact thing with CGI (maybe a colorful tornado rising from the screen). Then someone else suggested showing the actual physical objects getting condensed would be more powerful.

Here’s my imagined version of the conversation that might have happened after someone pointed out the popular internet meme of things getting crushed in a hydraulic press.

“People love that!”

“If we add buckets of paint, it will be super colorful and cool.”

“It’ll be a cooler version of that LG ad that ran in 2008.”

“Exactly!”

“It’ll be just like that ad where a bus driver kidnaps and subsequently crushes all the cute little Pokémon characters in a bus!” (Believe it or not, that was actually a thing.)

The resulting commercial suffers from the perfect creative storm: A not-great (copycat) idea at the absolutely wrong time.

None of us know what constraints Apple’s creative team worked under. How much time did they have to come up with a concept? Did they have time to test it with audiences? Maybe crushing physical objects fit into the budget better than CGI. All these factors affect the creative process and options (even at a giant company like Apple).

That’s not an excuse — it’s just reality.

Content failure or content mistake?

Many ad campaigns provoke a “What the hell were they thinking?” response (think Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad or those cringy brand tributes that follow celebrity deaths).

Does that mean they’re failures? Or are they mistakes? And what’s the difference?

As I wrote after Peloton’s holiday ad debacle (remember that?), people learn to fear mistakes early on. Most of us hear cautionary messages almost from day one.

Some are necessary and helpful (“Don’t stick a knife in a live toaster” or “Look both ways before you cross the street.”) Some aren’t (“Make that essay perfect” or “Don’t miss that goal.”)

As a result, many people grow up afraid to take risks — and that hampers creativity. The problem arises from conflating failure and mistakes. It helps to know the difference.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1987 to become a rock ‘n’ roll musician. I failed. But it wasn’t a mistake. I wasn’t wrong to try. My attempt just didn’t work.

Labeling a failed attempt a “mistake” feeds the fears that keep people from attempting anything creative.

The conflation of failure and mistakes happens all too often in creative marketing. Sure, people create content pieces (and let’s not forget that there are always people behind those ideas) that genuinely count as mistakes.

They also create content that simply fails.

Don’t let extreme reactions make you fear failures

Here’s the thing about failed content. You can do all the work to research your audience and take the time to develop and polish your ideas — and the content still might fail. The story, the platform, or the format might not resonate, or the audience simply might not care for it. That doesn’t mean it’s a mistake.

Was the Apple ad a mistake? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

Was it a failure? The vitriolic response indicates yes.

Still, the commercial generated an impressive amount of awareness (53 million views of the Tim Cook post on X, per Variety.) And, despite the apology, the company hasn’t taken the ad down from its YouTube page where it’s earned more than 1 million views.

The fictional Captain Jean Luc Picard once said, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness. That is life.” The Apple ad turns that statement on its head — Apple made many mistakes and still won a tremendous amount of attention.

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t criticize creative work. Constructive critiques help us learn from our own and others’ failures. You can even have a good laugh about content fails.

Just acknowledge, as the Roman philosopher Cicero once wrote, “Not every mistake is a foolish one.” 

Creative teams take risks. They try things outside their comfort zone. Sometimes they fail (sometimes spectacularly).

But don’t let others’ expressions of anger over failures inhibit your willingness to try creative things.

Wouldn’t you love to get the whole world talking about the content you create? To get there, you have to risk that level of failure.

And taking that risk isn’t a mistake.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 



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