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What marketers need to know for a successful transition

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What marketers need to know for a successful transition

Google rocked the boat for marketers last month with its latest announcement. Google will be sunsetting Google Analytics 3 (Universal Analytics) for free customers in July 2023 and frr paid customers in October 2023.

What we know

The biggest takeaway for marketers is that Universal Analytics (UA) is not compatible with GA4. This means users who rely on year-over-year metrics will need to act quickly to implement GA4 by July 2022, one year before UA expires. Although UA is set to sunset in July 2023, Google notes users will be able to access their data up to six months after that time.


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What is GA4, and why is Google making this transition?

GA4 is not an upgrade or the latest version of Universal Analytics – it’s an entirely new system of tracking metrics across the web and apps (UA could not provide cross-platform insights, so this is a huge upgrade). Google is transitioning to user- and event-based tracking, which means reports and performance dashboards in UA will no longer be available. This means major metrics that we’ve grown accustomed to, such as bounce rate, page hits, and sessions, will no longer exist. 

So, why the change?

Google is adapting to the privacy-centric world we live in. When UA was conceived in 2013, data privacy laws and browser privacy regulations were nowhere as stringent as they are today. GA4 is specifically designed to function without third-party cookies and instead, leverage machine learning and statistical modeling to collect data. 

This change comes with a host of benefits – from greater insights across touchpoints and data-driven attribution to enhanced engagement data. Users can look forward to new metrics to track engagement, such as engaged sessions, engagement rate, engagement time and more.

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Implications for marketing operations professionals

We spoke to Mike Rizzo, founder of MO Pros, the community for marketing operations professionals, about how to prepare for GA4. He explained that the transition from UA to GA4 is complex, even comparable to a Marketo migration. Since GA4 captures data differently from UA, marketing operations teams will need to be able to explain the gravity of this transition to senior leadership so they can allocate time to learn GA4. 

Marketing operations teams are bogged down as it is, so it’s crucial for teams to begin designating time for training and education.

Rizzo continued by explaining that the impact of GA4 will be felt by marketing operations, demand generation, sales and senior leadership, to name a few. UA sunsetting puts tremendous pressure on marketing operations teams to reprioritize workloads and learn how to leverage this new tool. Just like marketing automation doesn’t run itself, neither will GA4. 

How to prepare for a seamless GA4 transition

We’re less than 90 days away from July 2022, which is when companies will need to begin making the shift to GA4 to have YoY data by July 2023. 

Here are three ways you can begin preparing for the transition. 

1. Your tagging structure will need to be updated

GA4 tags capture data in a new way, so users will need to rebuild all existing tags to comply with the new structure in GA4. For events that live within Google Tag Manager, users will need to create an additional tag tied to the same trigger to send data to GA4.

Since GA4 relies on a new dataLayer structure that captures e-commerce data, users have two options:

  1. Reconstruct data laters on your site.
  2. Use Google Tag Manager’s custom JavaScript variables to reformat your data.

2. Reporting will also need to be updated

Data capture in GA4 is based on the Google Firebase platform – meaning it’s optimized for collecting data from mobile devices and applications. Better yet, this also means the fields captured in reporting are more customizable. The not-so-great news is that it’s not aligned with the existing fields captured in UA. This means the reports currently powered by UA connectors or data flows will need to be rebuilt using GA4 data. 

The good news is that Google has provided a list of UA dimensions and metrics equivalent to GA4 dimensions and metrics. This list will help users recreate reporting in GA4, but Google does note that not all GA4 data will match UA data exactly. 

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Since users will need to rebuild reports with GA4 data sources, it’s crucial to begin implementing GA4 to ensure you have YoY data by the time July 2023 comes. For those with data ETL and storage processes, you may be able to combine GA4 data with historical UA data to get a longer loopback window, but parity is not promised.

3. Allocate time for learning 

Despite the benefits associated with GA4, there will be a learning curve for users. For starters, the platform has a new interface that lacks many critical functions users have been accustomed to. For example, providing user control over features such as custom channel groupings and filters is unavailable in the GA4 administrative toolset. 

So, what’s the alternative? Users will have to set their filters via variables that leave the IP, domain, and other matching datasets up to the end-user in their tag manager. Setting custom UTM parameters for channel groupings is key for classifying campaigns from outside platforms.

GA4 cannot map custom dimensions, which is key for many users, especially GA360 customers who have 50 or more custom dimensions that they use for advanced reporting. What makes GA360 so great is the expansion of available customizations, so the fact that GA4 has these missing makes implementation that much more challenging. 

It is important to note that Google does have additional custom dimensions on its roadmap, but the fact that it’s missing during the transition announcement creates room for user error.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Digital Content Specialist at Perkuto. Detail-oriented wordsmith with a passion for creating memorable content that tells a story. Over 4 years of experience in the digital marketing space, focused on SEO-driven content, social media strategy, and boosting brand awareness. Loves hot yoga, traveling, and spending time with my partner and two French bulldogs.

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MARKETING

8 major email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them

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8 major email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them

As email marketers, we know we need to personalize the messages we send to subscribers and customers. I can’t think of a single statistic, case study or survey claiming an email program of one-to-everyone campaigns outperforms personalization.

Instead, you’ll find statistics like these:

  • 72% of customers will engage only with personalized messages (Wunderkind Audiences, formerly SmarterHQ)
  • 70% of consumers say that how well a company understands their individual needs affects their loyalty (Salesforce)
  • 71% of customers are frustrated by impersonal shopping experiences (Segment)

But what marketers often don’t understand, especially if they’re new to personalization, is that personalization is not an end in itself. Your objective is not to personalize your email campaigns and lifecycle messages. 

Rather, your objective is to enhance your customer’s experience with your brand. Personalization is one method that can do that, but it’s more than just another tactic. 

It is both an art and a science. The science is having the data and automations to create personalized, one-to-one messages at scale. The art is knowing when and how to use it.

We run into trouble when we think of personalization as the goal instead of the means to achieve a goal. In my work consulting with marketers for both business and consumer brands, I find this misunderstanding leads to eight major marketing mistakes – any of which can prevent you from realizing the immense benefits of personalization.

Mistake #1. Operating without an overall personalization strategy

I see this all too often: marketers find themselves overwhelmed by all the choices they face: 

  • Which personalization technologies to use
  • What to do with all the data they have
  • How to use their data and technology effectively
  • Whether their personalization efforts are paying off

This stems from jumping headfirst into personalization without thinking about how to use it to meet customers’ needs or help them solve problems. 

To avoid being overwhelmed with the mechanics of personalization, follow this three-step process:

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  • Start small. If you aren’t using personalization now, don’t try to set up a full-fledged program right away. Instead, look for quick wins – small areas where you can use basic personalized data to begin creating one-to-one messages. That will get you into the swing of things quickly, without significant investment in time and money. Adding personal data to the body of an email is about as basic as you’ll get, but it can be a start.
  • Test each tactic. See whether that new tactic helps or hurts your work toward your goal. Does adding personal data to each message correlate with higher clicks to your landing page, more conversion or whatever success metric you have chosen?
  • Optimize and move on. Use your testing results to improve each tactic. Then, take what you learned to select and add another personalization tactic, such as adding a module of dynamic content to a broadcast (one to everyone) campaign. 

Mistake #2. Not using both overt and covert personalization

Up to now, you might have thought of in specific terms: personalized subject lines, data reflecting specific actions in the email copy, triggered messages that launch when a customer’s behavior matches your automation settings and other “overt” (or visible) personalization tactics.

“Covert” personalization also employs customer preference or behavior data but doesn’t draw attention to it. Instead of sending an abandoned-browse message that says “We noticed you were viewing this item on our website,” you could add a content module in your next campaign that features those browsed items as recommended purchases, without calling attention to their behavior. It’s a great tactic to use to avoid being seen as creepy.

Think back to my opening statement that personalization is both an art and a science. Here, the art of personalization is knowing when to use overt personalization – purchase and shipping confirmations come to mind – and when you want to take a more covert route. 

Mistake #3. Not maximizing lifecycle automations

Lifecycle automations such as onboarding/first-purchase programs, win-back and reactivation campaigns and other programs tied to the customer lifecycle are innately personalized. 

The copy will be highly personal and the timing spot-on because they are based on customer actions (opting in, purchases, downloads) or inactions (not opening emails, not buying for the first time or showing signs of lapsing after purchasing). 

Better yet, these emails launch automatically – you don’t have to create, schedule or send any of these emails because your marketing automation platform does that for you after you set it up. 

You squander these opportunities if you don’t do everything you can to understand your customer lifecycle and then create automated messaging that reaches out to your customers at these crucial points. This can cost you the customers you worked so hard to acquire, along with their revenue potential.

Mistake #4. Not testing effectively or for long-term gain

Testing helps you discover whether your personalization efforts are bearing fruit. But all too often, marketers test only individual elements of a specific campaign – subject lines, calls to action, images versus no images, personalization versus no personalization  – without looking at whether personalization enhances the customer experience in the long term.

How you measure success is a key part of this equation. The metrics you choose must line up with your objectives. That’s one reason I’ve warned marketers for years against relying on the open rate to measure campaign success. A 50% open rate might be fantastic, but if you didn’t make your goal for sales, revenue, downloads or other conversions, you can’t consider your campaign a success.

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As the objective of personalizing is to enhance the customer journey, it makes sense then that customer lifetime value is a valid metric to measure success on.  To measure how effective your personalization use is, use customer lifetime value over a long time period – months, even years – and compare the results with those from a control group, which receives no personalization. Don’t ignore campaign-level results, but log them and view them over time.

(For more detailed information on testing mistakes and how to avoid them, see my MarTech column 7 Common Problems that Derail A/B/N Email Testing Success.)

Mistake #5. Over-segmenting your customer base

Segmentation is a valuable form of personalization, but it’s easy to go too far with it. If you send only highly segmented campaigns, you could be exclude – and end up losing because of failure to contact – many customers who don’t fit your segmentation criteria. That costs you customers, their potential revenue and the data they would have generated to help you better understand your customer base.

You can avoid this problem with a data-guided segmentation plan that you review and test frequently, a set of automated triggers to enhance the customer’s lifecycle and a well-thought-out program of default or catch-all campaigns for subscribers who don’t meet your other criteria. 

Mistake #6. Not including dynamic content in general email campaigns

We usually think of personalized email as messages in which all the content lines up with customer behavior or preference data, whether overt, as in an abandoned-cart message, or covert, where the content is subtly relevant.

That’s one highly sophisticated approach. It incorporates real-time messaging driven by artificial intelligence and complex integrations with your ecommerce or CRM platforms. But a simple dynamic content module can help you achieve a similar result. I call that “serendipity.”  

When you weave this dynamic content into your general message, it can be a pleasant surprise for your customers and make your relevant content stand out even more. 

Let’s say your company is a cruise line. Customer A opens your emails from time to time but hasn’t booked a cruise yet or browsed different tours on your website. Your next email campaign to this customer – and to everyone else on whom you have little or no data – promotes discounted trips to Hawaii, Fiji and the Mediterranean.

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Customer B hasn’t booked a cruise either, but your data tells you she has browsed your Iceland-Denmark-Greenland cruise recently. With a dynamic content module, her email could show her your Hawaii and Mediterranean cruise offers – and a great price on a trip to Iceland, Denmark and Greenland. Fancy that! 

An email like this conveys the impression that your brand offers exactly what your customers are looking for (covert personalization) without the overt approach of an abandoned-browse email.

Mistake #7. Not using a personal tone in your copy

You can personalize your email copy without a single data point, simply by writing as if you were speaking to your customer face to face. Use a warm, human tone of voice, which ideally should reflect your brand voice. Write copy that sounds like a one-to-one conversation instead of a sales pitch. 

This is where my concept of “helpful marketing” comes into play. How does your brand help your customers achieve their own goals, solve their problems or make them understand you know them as people, not just data points?  

Mistake #8. Not personalizing the entire journey

Once again, this is a scenario in which you take a short-sighted view of personalization – “How do I add personalization to this email campaign?” – instead of looking at the long-term gain: “How can I use personalization to enhance my customer’s experience?”

Personalization doesn’t stop when your customer clicks on your email. It should continue on to your landing page and even be reflected in the website content your customer views. Remember, it’s all about enhancing your customer’s experience.

What happens when your customers click on a personalized offer? Does your landing page greet your customers by name? Show the items they clicked? Present copy that reflects their interests, their loyalty program standing or any other data that’s unique to them?  

Personalization is worth the effort

Yes, personalization takes both art and science into account. You need to handle it carefully so your messages come off as helpful and relevant without veering into creepy territory through data overreaches. But this strategic effort pays off when you can use the power of personalized email to reach out, connect with and retain customers – achieving your goal of enhancing the customer experience.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Kath Pay is CEO at Holistic Email Marketing and the author of the award-winning Amazon #1 best-seller “Holistic Email Marketing: A practical philosophy to revolutionise your business and delight your customers.”

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