Tag Archives: Methodology

Insights on Social Media Monitoring for Luxury Brands: Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and Forums.

Major B2C companies should increase their marketing investments in On-Line activities in 2010 according to a recent survey completed by Forrester Research. Social Media should be the Big Winner.

Marketing Investments 2010 - Forrester Research
(*) Forrester Research – Global Marketing Leadership Online Survey (multiple answers)

However, the main question remains the optimal allocation of resources in Social Media Marketing: recruitment of a Community Manager, selection of specialized agencies, production of specific content?
One way to look at it could be to monitor actual behaviors of Social Media users in order to define priorities.

I have recently performed an in-depth analysis amongst 28 brands in the Luxury, Jewelery and Watchmaking industry based on Customer Centric MatrixTM methodology (using the monitoring tool Radian 6).

Social Media and Luxury industry: Blogs and Forums are still ahead.

  • “Traditional” Social Media Channels (Blogs and Forums) represent almost 80% of the content published on Luxury and Watchmaking brands
  • The second largest Social Media Channel (Twitter 19%) is the one where brands are the less present and active
  • 34% of brand related content is not supported by a Luxury Brand environment (Twitter and Forums)

Social Media Monitoring - Luxury Brands - Split by Media Type

3 major profiles of Social Media usage amongst the 28 Luxury brands analyzed

  • Active engagement (7 brands)
    Social Media content related to these brands reflects a very active involvement of brands and their communities of “Fans”. A regular and frequent follow-up of brands takes place mainly via Blogs and Twitter. Brands are usually present with an active presence through their Official Facebook page.
    Louis Vuitton communities  are a good example of this profile.
  • Passionate and Sharing (4 brands)
    Committed communities of passionate clients and fans are interacting regularly with their brand(s ). Moreover, they use all Social Media channels to discuss and share points of views.
    Breitling Fans illustrate well this profile.
  • Personal Involvement (17 brands)
    Posts related to these brands are mainly channeled by Blogs. It corresponds usually to individuals sharing their interest via Blogs dedicated to a sector (e.g. watchmaking) or a brand.
    Jaeger Lecoultre can illustrate this profile.
Social Media Monitoring - Luxury Brands - Split by User Groups

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The main conclusions of this analysis indicate some practical tips“Story Telling”Frequent publishingSpecific content initiated by the brand,synergies between Social Media channels are some of the critical success factors.

28 brands were monitored and analyzed in March/April 2010
The research sample includes the following sectors: leather goods, watchmaking, jewelery and accessories. The scope covers International leading brands, challengers and niche brands.

Methodology:

– Customer Centric Matrix combining quantitative and qualitative measurements
– Social Media Monitoring based on total number of posts (all languages and all regions) supported by Radian 6
– Social Media channels based on Radian 6 definition

Source: weblog.customercentric.org

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Four Powerful Strategies For How Luxury Brands Should Use Social Media

Luxury brands have a specific challenge in using social media: the need to retain the aura of exclusivity around their brands even as they embrace the inclusive, accessible nature of social media.

Here’s the solution: luxury brands should use social media in a manner that awareness of the brand’s promise is accessible while achievement of the brand’s promise is exclusive.

Here are four powerful strategies for how luxury brands should use social media to become accessible to fans but still remain exclusive for customers –

Luxury Brands Social Media

 

The four strategies are positioned along the accessibility-exclusivity continuum

1. Create awards, magazines and communities to interpret luxury lifestyle, fashion and design with your brand’s unique lens. Examples include LMVH NownessThierre Mugler WomanityD&G SwideWyndham Resorts Women on Their WayBMW Mini Space and Rolex Awards.

2. Leverage your brand’s desirability to create sharable digital artifacts. Examples include the Godiva virtual gift shop on Facebook and Hermes ties posters on Facebook.

3. Bring together designers, artists and customers to share how they interpret your brand. Examples include Burberry Art of the TrenchMac Artist TweetsCoach Design a Tote Contest and Sheraton Resorts Better When Shared.

4. Create a private invite-only social network like A Small World to underline your brand’s exclusivity. Examples include the Generation Benz community.

For more, do read (and share) our comprehensive guide to how luxury brands should use social media to become accessible to fans but still remain exclusive for customers.

Source: Thesocialcustomer.com

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Fashion Research Institute Collaborates with Intel Labs to Bring Premium Digital Content to Science Sim

“Content is King” has long been the mantra of the gurus of the Internet.  And now, Fashion Research Institute has teamed up with Intel Labs to provide users with a myriad of choices in premium digital content to help give those users a solid start to their Science Sim efforts.

Fashion Research Institute has been collaborating with Intel Labs since 2009, helping to push the limits of content development.

“Compelling content will drive the growth of virtual world grids; performance is essential to sustain that growth. But compelling content must be there first for the platform to host the business models to follow, including ours,” says FRI CEO Shenlei Winkler. “In particular, our research, which is supported by studying more than 65,000 new users to virtual worlds, shows that premium avatar customization content in particular aids in user uptake and deeper immersion to the platform”

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FRI provided Science Sim with six full avatars in various skin tones for male and females with multiple facial hair and makeup options, as well as a range of clothing, jewelry, shoes, and hairstyles. Additionally, FRI has provided landscaping, texture packs and buildings of various sorts.

“We were thrilled to have the opportunity to continue to collaborate with Intel Labs to bring over 800 items of inventory to the Science Sim project,” says Winkler.

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Along with recent performance enhancements, we are laying a foundation for further exploration of new problem solving methodologies. Fashion Research Institute is collaborating in this effort through their recent content contribution,” says Dr. Mic Bowman, Principal Engineer, Intel Labs.

Teach Parallel, the Intel Software Network TV, recently interviwed Dr. Mic Bowman, the principal engineer in Intel Labs, who leads the Virtual World Infrastructure research project, in which he discusses advances in Science Sim and the FRI content contribution. http://blip.tv/play/g5FLgoSJXgA%2Em4v

 

About Fashion Research Institute, Inc.: FRI is at the forefront of developing innovative design & merchandising solutions for the apparel industry.  They research and develop products and systems for the fashion industry that sweepingly address wasteful business and production practices. All items included in the Science Sim content library are covered by a license.  The class of the content determines the exact license. Scripts are covered by BSD, GPL, Creative Commons, and Public Domain licenses. All other content contributed is covered by Fashion Research Institute’s content license.

Science Sim is part of an evolution toward online 3D experiences that look, act and feel real. Sometimes dubbed the “3D internet,” Intel Labs refers to this technology trend as immersive connected experiences, or ICE. ScienceSim is differentiated from most virtual world environments
by its open source architecture. ScienceSim leverages open source building blocks (installation utilities, management tools, client viewers, etc.) based on OpenSimulator (OpenSim) software.

(Image courtesy Fashion Research Institute, Inc.)

Source: Hypergridbusiness.com

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Choosing the Best Internet Marketing Tactics

With so many new Internet marketing tactics appearing regularly, options in online marketing can seem endless. That can be problematic when running an Internet marketing campaign with limited resources, because there isn’t time to dabble in everything. Instead, the best Internet marketing tactics have to be chosen, which will provide the best return on investment (ROI).

Internet marketing is a very general term, which encompasses many types of niche marketing, all which can be used effectively online. The following are examples of types of Internet marketing:

1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Natural Search Engine Rankings through link-building, keyword density, and more.
2. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – A specialty form of online advertising, where ads are purchased on search engine results pages (SERPs) for certain keywords.

3. Email Marketing – Sending ezines, newsletters, or other email correspondence, with a marketing message, special offer, or inciting a certain action.
4. Online Advertising – Purchasing banner ads, text links, sponsorships, or other forms of paid advertising online.
5. Online PR – Using press releases, blogs, and other tools to convey company news and build an image online.
6. Affiliate Marketing – Bringing in third parties to sell for the company, for a share of each sale.
7. Viral Marketing – Using tools such as viral videos, file sharing, or tell-a-friend links to take advantage of word-of-mouth marketing on the Web.

To choose the most effective Internet marketing tactics for a website or online business, follow these five steps:

1. Choose an industry or niche that has a real demand or need to be satisfied.
2. Identify members of the target market, what their needs are, and how you’ll fill them.
3. Figure out what has the most influence over members of that target market.
4. Look at what the competition is doing, and see how you can do it better.
5. Decide on your Internet marketing budget, and build an Internet marketing plan around it.

While designing your Internet marketing plan, it can help to list every Internet marketing tactic within your budget that comes to mind, as long as it can reach the target market. That list can then be narrowed down by running each Internet marketing tactic through this checklist to find the best Internet marketing tactics for your needs:

__ The Internet marketing tactic has the potential to reach the target market.
__ The Internet marketing tactic has the potential to influence the target market.
__ This general tactic has been used successfully to reach this target market’s demographic group (in this industry or a complementary one) in the past.
__ The Internet marketing tactic will help to differentiate the business from competitors.
__ The Internet marketing tactic can be implemented effectively without exceeding the marketing budget.

Source: Marketingnova.com

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Using Footprints For Accurate, Efficient and Better Link Building

I’ve been into seo for a long while now. My specialty includes link building and the one very important factor which ‘most’ of the link builders don’t make use of is Google’s Advanced search alongwith ‘footprints’. Now there are two terms i need to explain here.

  1. Google’s Advanced/Customized Search
  2. Footprints

Google’s Advanced/Customized Search

This may not be the right word to indicate what i’m saying but its close to being accurate. You may have heard of ‘Google Codes’ that can be used within a search query. To mention some we have

  • intitle
  • inurl
  • inanchor
  • intext
  • site

Basically ‘inanchor’, ‘intitle’ are used while doing competition analysis.

’site’ which is used as site:http://techfrog.org/ will show all the indexed pages from within the particular website, in other words it will show all pages that precede with http://techfrog.org/.

‘intitle’ is used in the following manner, i.e. intitle:"dog food". What this basically does is that it will gather all the results that contain the words ‘dog food’ in their title.

‘inurl’ when used as inurl:"dogs and cats" will return results that contain ‘dogs-and-cats’ in the url(web address) of the page. Remember that the hyphen(’-‘) is the primary space separator for urls.

‘intext’ when used as intext:"dogs and cats" will get you all the pages that contain the terms ‘dogs and cats’ within the text of the page.

Footprints

Footprints are the unique identity of an entity that are existent anywhere at anytime. We as humans have fingerprints that are unique and stay the same wherever we may go unless ofcource if they have been manipulated manually. Similarly all the major website platforms like WordPress, Drupal & Joomla have their own unique footprints that can be identified on various websites that make use of these platforms.

These footprints can be used to search pages on the web which belong to only a particular platform. E.g. WordPress’ footprints can be used to search websites that are build only on wordpress. We can put this to use because WordPress and Drupal as platforms give the users the freedom to comment on various posts and articles. We can include our links within these comments so as to build backlinks for our website.

WordPress

Wordpress CommentsWordPress Comments 

WordPress is the largest blogging platform on the web and has millions of webpages to its credit. The best thing about wordpress for us linkbuilders is that comments are enabled by default and are present on every post. The ‘Website’ field also lets us place our website URL which ultimately helps in linkbuilding. The standard comment system format is as in the image aside.

The following footprints can be used to find wordpress pages where comments are open.

  • ‘Leave a Reply’ ‘Name (required)’ ‘Mail (will not be published) (required)’ ‘Website’
  • “Notify me of follow-up comments via email” “Mail (will not be published)”
  • “Leave a Comment” “Name” “Website”
  • “powered by wordpress”

The last footprint is more of a generalized one which will not necessarily give you refined results as it will also include the homepage and other pages of a wordpress blog on which there is no comment facility.

We can use these footprints with our customized Google search to get our desired pages. Now consider you have a primary keyword “quality dog food”. Let us search for pages on wordpress that can be commented upon that have the text ‘quality dog food’ either within the url, title or text. We enter the following query into google that gives us 3420, 121 results respectively

‘Leave a Reply’ ‘Name (required)’ ‘Mail (will not be published) (required)’ ‘Website’ intext:”quality dog food”

‘Leave a Reply’ ‘Name (required)’ ‘Mail (will not be published) (required)’ ‘Website’ intitle:”quality dog food”

‘Leave a Reply’ ‘Name (required)’ ‘Mail (will not be published) (required)’ ‘Website’ inurl:”quality dog food”

If we do the math, we have got 3421+121+107-(approx 50 common pages)=3599 targeted, keyword specific commentable pages based on wordpress in no time. If you happen to have the Ultimate WordPress Comment Spammer, you can do the job of posting on autopilot.

Drupal

Drupal CommentsDrupal Comments 

Drupal is a content management system which is also used widely. It also supports comments which are present in almost every page by default. Many Educational miniblogs on the .edu domain use Drupal, as an example you can consider psu.edu which has tons of dofollow High PR & commentable backlinks. Drupal has two major footprints that can help us find its pages anywhere on the web. It is as shown below :

  • “Login or register to comment”
  • “Login or register to post comments”

As you’ve learn’t in the wordpress section, you can use these footprints in the same way to find some keyword relevant pages for you to comment on. You may have heard that backlinks from .edu and .gov sites hold more weightage/importance. How true this is, we don’t know. Anyways, we can use the following query to find pages on Drupal on a .edu or .gov site specific to a given keyword.

site:.edu “Login or register to post comments” inurl:”my keyword”

site:.gov “Login or register to comment” inurl:”my keyword”

Note : Make sure you don’t copy-paste the search query’s above but type them yourselves as the text-formatting/encoding here is different from what your keyboard will produce on Google’s saerch bar.

I personally prefer Drupal for linkbuilding as it has an ace over wordpress. Here are some basic differences between WordPress and Drupal which you should know.

WordPress

  • Comment Links Are Nofollow By Default
  • Can Comment as a Guest
  • Link Can be placed Within Comment text or in the ‘Website’ field with the anchor text in the ‘name’ field.
  • Better Anti-spam Protection

Drupal

  • Comment Links are Dofollow by default
  • Need To Register To comment
  • Links need to be placed Within the Comment body in HTML
  • Comparatively Poorer Anti-spam protection

You can research and find your own footprints. These alongwith Google’s customized search is a Link Builder’s Best Tool.

 

Source: Techfrog.org

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Complete’ On-Page Seo in 12 steps

Though many Search Engine Optimizers may disagree, On-page SEO is very much important. The need for extra on-page optimization is surely a debatable topic. Considering the search volume provided by the other search engines like Yahoo, Bing and ASK and their priority towards on-page factors, i’d say on-page optimization is a must. SEO For Google mainly consists of relevant off-page optimization mainly consisting of link-building but this is not the case with its competitors.

anatomy-of-result-seo

Relevancy according to Yahoo mainly includes Authority, trustrank and ofcourse on-page content.following are the tips and techniques to be considered while optimizing your pages so as to rank better for the respective keywords :

keyword-in-url

1) Keyword In URL :

Having your keyword in the URL can have the best influence for ranking for that particular keyword.

keyword-in-title

2) Keyword in Title :

The <title> tag within the section should be the first place your keyword is placed.

3) First Priority :

Search engines read a page from the top left to the bottom right, place the Keyword within a <H1> tag to the top left such that it will be the First words that the spider would read.

priority

4) Last Priority :

So also place the Keyword in the bottom right corner.e.g. in the copy right text,i.e.© All rights reserved ‘Keyword’.

html-tags1

5) Html Tags :

Search Engines also give priority to text with the <b>,<em></i>,<u> tags. You may place your keyword within these, but be very sure not to overdo it. Having it once in each is more than enough.

images-in-content

6) Inclusion Of Images :

You ’should’ include images in your content,though search engines are not too smart with them’ images can be used for your benefit. They are even included in the ‘Google Images’ index thus driving you traffic from another source. Make sure the name of the image file is your Keyword,e.g. ‘Keyword’jpg. Also include the ‘alt’ attribute within the <img> tag which will contain your Keyword i.e alt=”Keyword”.

keyword-density

7) Keyword Density :

Maintain a moderate level of keyword density, there is no prescribed amount that is deemed best but make sure you don’t overdo it. Many people say keyword density doesn’t matter but actually it does. Google Webmaster Tools itself gives significance to keywords based on their density.

Keyword-Proximiy

8′) Keyword Proximity :

Place your keywords intelligently. Don’t keep a keyword 5 times in the first 50 words and 2 times in the next 500 words, that would be really stupid, its best to evenly place them across the content.

internal-linking

9) Internal Linking :

Linking to other pages within your domain wrapped within relevant keywords is a good practice for healthy on-page Seo. These inner links are known as deep links and internal linking has many benefits, i.e. (a) Reduces the bounce rate (b) Directs search crawlers to your inner pages thus helping some pages get indexed. (c) Acts as a low priority backlink highlighting the keyword wrapped.

10) Titles For Links :

How the ‘alt’ attribute is used for images, similarly the ‘title’ attribute is used for links within the <a> tag. It provides some kind of hypothetical authority to these links and strengthens the keyword significance for the link if the keyword is placed within the ‘title’ attribute.

meta-description

11) Meta Description :

Who says this isn’t important? The meta description is the description of the page mentioned in the SERPs(Search Engine Results Page). Keep the word count below 160 characters and place the keyword not more than 3 times. As per Matt Cutt’s last notice, Meta Description has no influence on SEO whatsoever. Make this description look genuine and not spammy as this is what will convince the users to click on the link leading to your site from the search engines.

no-spamming

12) NO Spam :

The last and the most important point. Your content is made for humans and not bots, don’t make it look even a bit spammy. You can compromise Seo but never compromise quality.

The best on-page Seo is the one that would not at all be visible to th normal visitor but would easily grab the attention of the search crawler. These are all the points I can get as of now, if there are any you would like to share you are welcomed to place them in your comments.

Source: Techfrog.org

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Marketing Methods and Trends – What’s New for 2011?

We are one year into a new decade and we have all seen the shift in how we market and reach consumers. In order to be efficient in marketing, it’s important to realize what will work and what marketing methods are being left by the wayside. Now, with that being said please understand that my statement of trends is broad and may not reach your specific demographic. For example, if you serve a senior market a yellow page may very well still bring in customers for you, but if your customer is under the age of 60 it’s best to put those dollar elsewhere.

This year there are five marketing methods and trends that I’ll be watching with a close eye. We’ve seen many changes over the last few years and this year will be no different. Trends and methods that I’ll be watching closely this year include:

 

 

 

 

Mobile Marketing

In a report done by CTIA Wireless Association it was reported that 250+ million Americans carry mobile phones – that’s over 80% of the nations population. Mobile applications will continue to be developed and smartphones and tablet PCs will remain a part of our daily lives. It’s no longer just about mobile access to email, messaging, calendars and websites. We will see more location based services, mobile gaming, applications, and event-based mobile marketing. We’ve been inundated with new technology from Apple’s iPhone, iPad and Google’s Android integration. I guarantee it won’t stop there, we will continue to see mobile marketing innovations throughout 2011 and beyond. We will see new devices, faster speeds, and location based technologies integrated with one another. If you are a marketer and you’ve not explored the avenue of mobile marketing, this is your year. Get on the bus or get left behind.

Social Marketing Integration
In 2010 companies began to take social media marketing seriously and because of that we saw social media explode as a marketing tool. This year we will begin to see companies integrate social media into their overall marketing plan, which is how it should have been done in the first place, but better late than never. We will see social media expand from a tool used primarily for customer service and brand management to being used to collect customer data and enable better target marketing of products and services that those customer are interested.

Traditional Marketing Continues to Diminishes
This is always a touchy subject, because there are so many that don’t want to say goodbye to the traditional marketing. Interactive or real-time marketing is easy to measure, engage and gain real time statistics that allows us to change a marketing message quickly. Customers are continuing to go online to search for information and in return making their purchases online. It’s important that marketers move their marketing dollars to where the consumers are and right now that’s making a gigantic shift to online. Internet marketing enables us to reach targeted audiences online, advertising costs are lower and they are easier to measure. What’s not to love about interactive marketing? Overall marketing budgets will continue to shift to a higher spend online and the traditional marketing spend will continue to diminish.

Consumers Will Determine Value
In today’s economy consumers are watching their pennies and because of this they will only spend on purchases that they consider to be of value. They will continue to seek value in every dollar spent and they will determine whether it’s value, not you. Consumers no longer purchase just because an item is on sale, rather they will justify every dollar spent. This means you must marketing the value of your product or service in order to get consumers to open their wallets – if there is no value, they simply will not purchase.

Regulations Abound
This is a trend that makes many of us as marketers anxious. It’s been apparent in the last six months that the FTC is looking at regulating the online industry. We started a few years ago with disclosures for blog reviews and paid endorsements. As recent as last week we saw rules passed regarding Net Neutrality and the FTC exploring a “Do Not Track” mechanism that would regulate the tracking of consumer behavior online and the calculation of data. I’m not sure how this will play out in the next year and beyond, but I do believe we will see regulations implemented when it comes to the internet industry and many of those regulations will affect us as marketers.

Relationships will Drive Loyalty and Sales
I listed this last year, but I believe it will still hold true in 2011. Customers want to know they matter to you and your staff. They evaluate now more than ever how they are treated, whether or not your business cares about their satisfaction. Gone are the days that they just purchase out of convenience. If you can give the best customer care, you will find that you will create consumers that are loyal to you, regardless of whether or not you have the least expensive price. They realize that in tough economic times their loyalty to you could be the life or death of your business and that’s often why they will go out of their way to spend their hard-earned dollars in your place of business – if you have helped in creating loyalty by giving them extraordinary care.

Source: Marketing.about.com By 

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Google Boutiques.com, a World of Fashion

Google unveils a new shopping portal, Boutiques.com. It showcases the power of search in the world of fashion. You can shop and choose from a variety of styles, designs and collections of famous designers and stylists. Shoppers can easily catch up with the trend because it allows users to save likes or dislikes in the site.

Shopping is the watchword today. Almost everyone around the globe is on a Shopping spree. Google understands this and thus, has launched a new shopping portal entitled Boutiques.com to add on to its almost full kitty of world class products and services. The portal, as they say, combines the goodness of both social and search. It allows for finding and discovering styles and fashions collections that have been put together by renowned celebrities, designers, stylists and fashion experts, to name a few.

Through this site, Google will be able to analyze the tastes of consumers by ways of a number of clicks, Google Trend data, computer vision and machine learning technology and ultimately, letting them know the entire world of fashion. As is the case with Youtube,  whenever a user logs into his/her account, the site would know the user’s taste for fashion and recommend those results that suit the taste.

Google got the technology from its acquisition of Like.com, along with which came the technology team behind it. They were already working hard on that and had also launched a site of their own called WhatToWear.com. The team at Google now consists of PhDs in Computer Science and Fashion Designers and Stylists. In fact, it is an amalgamation of computer nerds and fashion nerds. Altogether, the team is working on creating a new route to browse, find and buy world class fashion under one roof.

Source: Marketingconversation.com by ROBIN PANGILINAN

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How to Conduct Qualitative Market Research

A variety of techniques from online chats to video logs can reveal how people feel about your product or service and how you can improve it to make more money.

Everett Collection

As seen in Mad Men, fifty years ago, research was collected by having a one-way mirror installed and adverting guys would be on the receiving end. The homemaker would host the meeting with a group of women who would talk about soap or some other consumer product.

Visualize. Just as you head off to work you get a text message asking if you’ve had a cup of coffee. You reply “no.” About 20 minutes later you receive another text asking “did you have your coffee yet?” You reply “yes” this time. Now you receive a series of texts about when and where did you buy the coffee—a corner store Starbucks or company cafeteria. What brand or flavor did you choose—regular or Hazelnut? Why did you choose it? How do you feel now that you’ve had that first cup? Will you have had a second or third cup come lunchtime? Later in the week when you’re at the local grocer, you take out your cell phone to take a picture of the one pound of ground French Roast coffee you just purchased so you can post it online.

Welcome to the brave new world of qualitative research where companies can catch or capture their customers’ behaviors in the moment using modern technology. It could be a single person doing online journaling or a video log about a product or issue, a moderator directing conversations in an online chat room, or webcam gathering of people in Hollywood Squares game show-like fashion.

It’s a different spin on the traditional focus group. Social media is playing a bigger role. “We are even monitoring whole online communities; we have a targeted representative find out what selected individuals are saying in their social networks,” says Peg Moulton-Abbott, a certified professional research consultant and principal of Newfound Insights, a Virginia Beach-based market research firm. Such tech-oriented research is generally skewed towards a younger twenty-something demographic. But more importantly it speaks to how market researchers are sprouting new methods of qualitative study as an outgrowth of old techniques.

Comparatively speaking, fifty years ago qualitative research was done in a big city likeNew York or Washington, DC with focus groups conducted inside women’s homes, notes Moulton-Abbott. A one-way mirror was installed and adverting guys would be on the receiving end, she explains. The homemaker would host the meeting with a group of women who would talk about soap or some other consumer product.

According to the Qualitative Research Consultants Association, qualitative research can help business owners identify customer needs, clarify marketing messages, generate ideas for improvements of a product, extend a line or brand, and/or gain perspective on how a product fits into a customer’s lifestyle.

Any size and type of business can benefit from qualitative market research, says Moulton-Abbott. However, “my job is not to make a sales pitch for your product; my job is to find out how people feel about your product and what you can do to improve it so that you wind up making more money selling it,” she adds.

Qualitative research can help entrepreneurs to understand their customers’ or clients’ feelings, values, and perceptions of a particular product or service. Once you know the reason “why” people react a certain way or make certain decisions, you can use that feedback to help build your sales and marketing plan, says Moulton-Abbott.

The design and implementation of qualitative research will depend on your particular situation, says Robert E. Stake, PhD, author of Qualitative Research: Studying How Things Work and director for the center of instructional research as the University of Illinois. “The means are different in different situations. It’s what you are interested in that defines qualitative research,” he adds. “It isn’t the style of data gathering, it is whether or not you are interested in the experiences of your customers or clients.”

Business owners won’t have to wrack their brains over how to conduct the nitty-gritty aspects of market research if a professional is hired. But here are some general guidelines and what to expect on how qualitative research is handled.

How to Conduct Qualitative Market Research: Determine What You Want to Study

Do you want to investigate a current or potential product, service or brand positioning? Do your want to identify strengths and weaknesses in products? Understand purchasing decisions? Study reactions to advertising or marketing campaigns? Assess the usability of a website or other interactive services? Understand perceptions about the company, brand and product? Explore reactions to packaging and design?

Qualitative (qual) research is usually contrasted against Quantitative (quant) research. Quant asks closed-ended questions that can be answered finitely by either “yes” or “no,” true or false or multiple choice with an option for “other.” It is used to collect numerical data, employing such techniques as surveys. Whereas, qual asks open-ended questions that are phrased in such a way that invite people to tell their stories in their own words. Methods used to collect data include field observations, personal interviews and group discussions.

The job of a qual researcher is to design and deliver data that drives results.

How to Conduct Qualitative Market Research: Understand What Methodology will be Used

Typically qual researchers don’t use experimental methods such as field trials or test markets, Stake maintains. “Not many use really highly-developed psychometric (e.g., personality or psychological tests) or econometric (e.g., economic statistics) indicators.” Qual researchers generally rely on methodologies rooted in ethnography (e.g. field or participant observation) and phenomenology (e.g., understanding life experiences using written or recorded narratives). Market researchers partner with professional recruiters to identify and screen qualifying customers or consumers who in turn receive an honorarium for their participation in the study.

You should rely on a market research firm to choose the best fit for you based on: what is it that you need to learn and who is your target audience demographically, where they are geographically, and what are their lifestyle behaviors or time constraints, says Kristin Schwitzer, president of Beacon Research, a qual firm that specializes in innovative online methods, based in AnnapolisMaryland.

Conducting qualitative research is about asking the right people the right questions in the right format, says Hannah Baker Hitzhusen, vice president of qualitative research at CMI, a market research firm in Atlanta. What qual researchers do is very much on the front end, it is discovery or exploratory work. “For a qual study, we generally do a discussion guide to make sure we cover certain topics or issues,” says Hitzhusen. Qual is generally used for small sample groups, because, “you want to spend a lot of time with the participants, maybe 90 to 120 minutes. Quant usually uses a larger sample size of people and a smaller amount of time, 15 to 30 minutes (for someone to fill out a questionnaire),” she explains.

How to Conduct Qualitative Market Research: Explore Various Means to Collect Data

•    Observation – Direct observation can involve a researcher watching subjects and taking notes in the background which could be from behind a one-way mirror or video camera recording the happenings. With participant observation, the researcher is actually part of the situation being studied as with a moderated focus group or one-on-one interviews.

•    Focus Groups – This technique is good if you need a range of opinions, says Hitzhusen. In general, you want to get reactions from eight to 10 people. But you don’t have to have the traditional group of people closed in a room. You can do a webcam or online bulletin board focus group, in which consumers participate in an asynchronous group discussion over the duration of three to four days. Participants answer questions from the moderator and respond to images or video on their computer screen.

•    Subject Interviews – There are times when you want to talk with subjects or participants either over the telephone or face- to-face, says Moulton-Abbott. Such as if you want them to sample a product or if it is an emotional or sensitive issue, such as taking care of elderly parents with dementia or using personal hygiene products.

•    Hybrid Studies – This is a blend of qual and quant market research. So, you get some important metrics as well as the why’s behind the numbers through narrative, photo collection, and other exercises, says Schwitzer.

Moulton-Abbott says for example, you may have a couple hundred people come into a big meeting hall. Using a handheld dialer participants respond to a survey that is projected on a screen. Afterwards, you host a town hall session to debrief the group and to find out what they think. From there, you separate the respondents into smaller focus groups based on demographics, their responses and other parameters. At the end of day you can say we spoke to 700 people today and this is what they said they like or don’t like and this is how they feel about your product or service.

•    Online tools – The online piece is an outgrowth of in-person observation. “We can use tools such as their cell phones, iphone video cameras, digital cameras, and we can have them in the moment record what is happening in their world,” says Schwitzer. Whether it is how they use a product or interact from a service standpoint.”

For example, Schwitzer conducted a study on how teenage boys were spending their money over a course of a week. They took pictures of everything that they bought and texted it in. They then created an online blog to be probed as the second phase of the study. “Online tools allow us to get even deeper into the subjects’ lives and to see what is happening to them from an experiential level. We can be with them at crazy hours of the day now or during more private moments.”

How to Conduct Qualitative Market Research: Analyze the Collected Data

A qualitative study may take one day or three weeks for the data collection and up to six weeks in total for the final report generation and turnaround solutions. Researchers will look at the collected data to come up with theories and answers to your questions or concerns. Generally, researchers will use coding to identify themes, patterns and ideas. They may also incorporate some statistics that describe what the data is showing along with narrative analysis that focuses on grammar, word usage, and underlying messages.

How to Conduct Qualitative Market Research: Review Report and Recommendations

Finally, a researcher will generate a report featuring actionable recommendations. It doesn’t have to be just a written document; it may be a video report or slideshow. As the saying goes a picture paints a thousand words; visual reports are more effective than simply words on a paper. Of course, you need to be aware upfront what the cash outlay will be for such extensive feedback.

How to Conduct Qualitative Market Research: A Heads Up

Don’t expect to pay under $10,000 for basic qualitative research, cautions experts. There are cost associate with the recruiters, facilities, moderators and reporting. It you have a small or tight budget consider working with a university such as Chicago‘s Northwestern, Atlanta’s Emory Goizueta, or the University of Maryland, suggests Moulton-Abbott. Many of the top business schools have marketing research programs.

To find a reputable market research firm, check out trade associations, including directories from The Marketing Research Association, which publishes the Blue Book, and the New York American Marketing Association, which puts out the Green Book. Also, the QRCA has a search tool for locating market research firms geographically.
Choose a firm that is knowledgeable about your industry and be sure to get a couple of proposals and competitive price offers.

Source: Inc.com By Carolyn M. Brown

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Understanding how your Customers Think

John Zogby on how business owners can use polling to better understand their customers.

How can polling be helpful for small businesses?

The era of seat-of-your-pants decision-making is gone. I’m willing to accept the fact that there are some people who just have great instincts, but here is a powerful tool – opinion research, polling – that can either underscore or defy seat-of-the-pants thinking. And so, if it’s available and it’s scientific, you use it.

What can small business owners use it for?

What is your market, and what does your market want? How much are they willing to spend? Customer satisfaction: Are you doing a good job or a bad job? The work we’ve done over the years suggests there are two things you’re looking at when you’re doing customer satisfaction. You’re looking for score: good job, bad job. But among the clients that say bad or so-so job — why.

What’s one of the secrets to getting the most out of polling and opinion research?

We’ve done customer satisfaction for banks, for retailers. You can get a 95% [positive-experience] score either overall or in some specific item. But then when you ask why among the 5%, if there’s one person who says, “it was the worst experience of my life, I’ll never go back there again,” you have to know. You have to find that out. And you only find that out if you ask.

Most polling is done by telephone, but the Do-Not-Call Registry limits business owners when considering this venue for its polls. How do you suggest business owners reach their customers?

You find that even in this era of the Do-Not-Call Registry and people working an average of 50 to 60 hours a week, there are still people willing to answer questions [on the telephone]. But interactive services is one of fastest growing [areas of polling], and very useful and accurate.

Each methodology offers something that another methodology doesn’t. The telephone, for starts: We ask our people, don’t just give us the yes/no, agree/disagree, the scale 1-5 — tell me what the tone was. On the telephone, you can get the real attitude, the real tone. E-mail allows you to ask more questions in more detail.

Are there areas where polling works better than others, or those that don’t work at all?

Always, customer satisfaction. But also, if you’re going to do it yourself, you’re not going to get accurate information. Why is that? Because sometimes people don’t want to tell the actual vendor. They’ll tell us. Sometimes they don’t want to tell about a bad experience – you know, do unto others as you’d do unto you.

Can a business be too small and polling irrelevant to them?

No.

Source: Inc.com By Laura Rich

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