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Tim Peter

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March 26, 2014

How Big is E-commerce Anyway? Thinks Out Loud Episode 67

March 26, 2014 | By | No Comments

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How Big is E-commerce Anyway? Headlines and Show Notes

You can also register to receive a free copy of my special report, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World,” produced in conjunction with Vizergy, here. While it’s targeted to the hospitality industry specifically, most of the lessons apply across verticals.

If you’re looking for more e-commerce tips, check out my recent presentation Elements of E-commerce: How Digital Storytelling Drives Revenue and Results as well:

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Technical details: Recorded using an Audio-Technica AT2035 studio condenser microphone through a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 16m 25s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], subscribe via our dedicated podcast RSS feed (or better yet, given that Google has now killed Reader, sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player below:

Tim Peter

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March 25, 2014

A Fair and Balanced Look at Balancing Direct and OTA Business (Travel Tuesday)

March 25, 2014 | By | No Comments

Hotel metasearch marketing exampleHow’s business these days? If you’re like many hoteliers, things are starting to get pretty good. Hoteliers I talk with are enjoying higher rates and occupancies, along with an overall improved business climate and increased optimism about the coming year. 

As tends to happen during good times, many of these hoteliers are taking this opportunity to evaluate their relationship with OTA partners — and to explore ways to drive more business through direct channels. 

While it’s popular these days to grab the torches and the pitchforks to “storm the castle,” that seems short-sighted to me. Instead, I prefer this balanced, measured approach. Yes, with increasing competition for high-performing search terms from OTA’s and metasearch, hoteliers are seeing their costs to acquire guests continue to rise. But the current business environment provides a perfect opportunity to evaluate each of your distribution options for its fit into your overall approach. 

Instead of assuming that this all about “good guys” and “bad guys,” take a new look at each of your channel partners with a clear eye and ask these questions: 

  • Can this OTA reach a guest you can’t? While the answer to this question is often yes, don’t assume OTA’s always reach new business. Look for channels that deliver first-time bookers and look for opportunities to convert these to loyal guests. 
  • Are the guests they reach the guests you want? One general manager I know once told me about his “cooler index.” He could accurately predict which booking channel his guests used by the number of beer coolers they dragged through the lobby at check-in; the more coolers, the lower rated the business – and the greater the effort needed to convert them into longer-term, higher-value customers.  
  • How much are you willing to pay to reach those guests? In other words, can the OTA reach those guests at a reasonable cost? Analyze your business to ensure an appropriate return on your cost of acquisition, whether paid as commission or as net rate margin.   

Of course, OTA’s represent only part of your overall distribution strategy. A balanced approach to distribution also puts significant focus on direct business, too. Research shows that guests spend significant time before booking, looking to answer two questions:

  1. Why should I choose your hotel for my next stay?
  2. Why should I book that stay through this channel?

Savvy hoteliers ensure guests can answer the first question across all channels — web, mobile, voice, metasearch, and OTA — while focusing their efforts and investments in answering the second question only on those channels delivering high-value guests.

Look to improve your guests’ shopping and booking experience on your own website, and in particular, pay attention to mobile. Many forward-looking hoteliers enjoy significant benefits from mobile, with Starwood, for example, noting that it’s seeing mobile booking growth five times greater than Internet booking in the Web’s early days. Mobile’s staggering growth rates continue to boggle the mind and they show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

The distribution landscape continues to evolve, but also continues to represent a crucial element of a successful hospitality business. When managed well, OTA’s, Web, voice, mobile, and metasearch work together to deliver increased room nights and improved revenues. And when not managed well, you risk leaving money on the table.

Take advantage of the improving economy to think about the role you want OTA’s to play in helping you find and acquire the right guests for your property. Pay only for those guests you can’t reach yourself, then work to migrate those guests to higher-value channels. Invest in your direct presence, particularly for the increasing number of guests choosing mobile. 

Taking a balanced approach to your hotel’s overall distribution enables you to achieve the results you want from the channels you choose. And provides you a great answer for when you’re next asked, “how’s business these days?”

If you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You may also want to review the tips in my recent presentation Elements of E-commerce: How Digital Storytelling Drives Revenue and Results:

And you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Note: A version of this post originally appeared on Hotel News Now, where Tim Peter writes a quarterly column for the magazine’s Digital Tech Impact Report.
Tim Peter

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March 24, 2014

The 7 Fastest Ways to Improve Your E-commerce Effectiveness

March 24, 2014 | By | No Comments

Happy family shopping on tabletIf you could do just one thing this year to grow your business, what should it be? Think about it for a minute. I’ll give you a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Redesign your existing website to improve SEO ranking and conversion rates.
  2. Develop a mobile website to support mobile commerce.
  3. Increase your content marketing to attract new customers.
  4. Grow your email list to increase repeat business.
  5. Improve your social media marketing to drive engagement.

Do any of these leap out at you? Long-time readers of this blog have heard me argue in favor of each of these, but if you can only do one, what should it be?

The answer is: None of the above. Not because these aren’t important. Every single initiative I just listed can help you improve your customers’ experience and increase traffic and revenues.

However, there’s a more fundamental opportunity for your business and that’s to develop a clear picture of who your customers really are and what they really want. Your customers have lots of things on their mind, and ultimately, care more about their needs than they care about you.

If you want to make sure you connect with customers through your mobile, social, web, email . and content marketing efforts — and drive sales through those channels — consider these 7 ways to measure what matters to your customers:

  1. Review your web analytics. It doesn’t matter if you use Google Analytics, Omniture, Webtrends, Analog, AWStats, or something else. What does matter is whether you review your data to see where your customers spend their time, where they bounce, and where they convert. Need help? We’ve got a whole series of posts on how to make analytics work for you.
  2. Conduct an A/B test. Pick one of your top pages and set up an A/B test to see if you can improve your customers’ experience. Not sure where to begin? We’ve got a whole series on A/B testing, too.
  3. Conduct a user test. Sites like UserTesting.com make it easy to see how customers interact with content and functionality on your site. Which goes a long way towards showing you how to make that content and functionality more useful for your customers.
  4. Try heat mapping. Another useful tool for seeing what actions your customers take on your site is heat mapping, which lets you see where consumers look, scroll and click on your site’s pages. Tools like CrazyEgg and ClickTale can show you where your customers spend their time — and where they struggle.
  5. Read customer reviews on social sites. For years, I’ve heard marketers say, “If only we could really know what our customers thought of us…” Now, with sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, TripAdvisor, and plenty more, you can. Spend time with your customer reviews, looking for common threads and themes your customers care about. Then use that information to shape — or shape up — your products and services.
  6. Launch a survey. Here’s an idea: When in doubt, ask your customers what they think. You can use tools like Survey Monkey or just set up a simple Google Drive form to capture customer information and get direct input on what your customers think about you.
  7. Talk to your customers. Finally, don’t forget to listen to what customers tell you in your offline interactions, too. Whether you ghost your call center reps to hear what customers call about or visit with your in-store employees, take the time to really listen to what your customers have to say.

The information you’ll glean from these efforts will help you ensure that all your marketing and e-commerce actions actually help your customers — and drive more business.

And that will ensure that your site redesign aligns with customer goals, that your mobile website meets customer needs, that your content marketing answers customer questions, that your email messages tell the right brand story, and that your social marketing connects with customers on a human level.

Still want to do more for your customers? Then you may also enjoy these slides from another recent speaking engagement “Elements of E-commerce: How Digital Storytelling Drives Revenue and Results” here:

And, if you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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March 21, 2014

5 E-commerce Trends Worth Watching This Week

March 21, 2014 | By | No Comments

E commerce tipsWell, folks, we’ve made it to another Friday. But if you’re looking for some light reading this weekend, check out these 5 articles that explore trends shaping e-commerce in the coming months and years:

  1. The Shop.org blog details five top trends from PSFK’s Future of Retail 2014 report. Definitely worth the read.
  2. This week’s Thinks Out Loud podcast dove into why the future of social and mobile marketing is happening right now — and what it means for your e-commerce business now and in the future.
  3. For those hotel marketers among you, check out this Hotel News Now article that I wrote about balancing direct and indirect business. And, even if you’re outside the hotel space, the general principles apply to any brand-direct vs. third-party e-commerce sites.
  4. Speaking of hotel marketing (and rules that apply across verticals), hospitality marketers, retailers, and other consumer brands can benefit from learning these 4 rules of social marketing. Given the rise of reviews and ratings leading to social influence of e-commerce decisions, it’s well worth the read.
  5. eMarketer offers a fascinating look at the growing trend of customers buying online and picking up those purchases in-store. Definitely a trend that highlights what I mean when I say “it’s all e-commerce.”

Hey, speaking of e-commerce, you may also enjoy these slides from another recent speaking engagement “Elements of E-commerce: How Digital Storytelling Drives Revenue and Results” here:

If you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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March 19, 2014

The Future of Social and Mobile Marketing is Happening Right Now – Thinks Out Loud Episode 66

March 19, 2014 | By | No Comments

Man using smartphone

The Future of Social and Mobile Marketing is Happening Right Now Headlines and Show Notes

You can also register to receive a free copy of my special report, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World,” produced in conjunction with Vizergy, here. While it’s targeted to the hospitality industry specifically, most of the lessons apply across verticals.

And, as mentioned during the show, here are the slides from my presentation on The Rules of Social Media:

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Technical details: Recorded using an Audio-Technica AT2035 studio condenser microphone through a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 17m 36s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], subscribe via our dedicated podcast RSS feed (or better yet, given that Google has now killed Reader, sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player below:

Tim Peter

By

March 18, 2014

The 4 Rules of Social Marketing for Hotel Marketers (Travel Tuesday)

March 18, 2014 | By | No Comments

Couple by pool sharing their stayA hotel group recently invited me to talk about how they could use social media more effectively for marketing. Their key question was: “What rules exist in social media for hotel marketers?” I thought you might enjoy finding out some more about that, too.

Based on my experience, 4 rules exist when it comes to social marketing in the hospitality industry (and in most other industries, too). They are:

  1. Social is people. Your guests (or clients, customers, members, or whatever you prefer to call them), have individual needs and concerns. They’re busy folks on a mission to solve their problem, not spend a lot of time listening to you. “Social” isn’t a channel that you can use to simply shout about yourself. Well, you can. But you won’t see any positive results. Instead, you need to listen, understand, and engage with customers in social on their terms. That is, as human beings.
  2. All marketing is social. Broadly, the role of marketing is to connect customers with a solution. And since customers are social by definition, your marketing must be social, too. More specifically, you’ve probably noticed the increase in ratings and reviews in search results, and the way your competitors make it easy for their guests to share information with their friends and family and fans and followers on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and all the rest. Have you made it easy for your guests to do the same?
  3. Your brand = What you say + what guests experience. Every single guest in your hotel is now, effectively, a professional reviewer. And, as you’re likely aware, they’re more than happy to share their experiences with those friends and family and fans and followers I just mentioned. As I’ve noted before, working to increase the quality and quantity of your property’s reviews and ratings represents the single most effective way to improve your online marketing.
  4. There are no rules. As Barbossa memorably notes in Pirates of the Caribbean, these are “…more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.” Social media continues to evolve. And your guests’ use of social evolves along with it. The “rules” that “everybody knows” today may turn out to be different tomorrow (in fact, I’d bet on it). So, instead, you’re best bet is to test and see what works for you to drive the results you need.

Anyway, that’s a quick look at what works today. When you get a moment, you can check out the whole presentation here:

If you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

And you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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March 17, 2014

Do You Feel Lucky?

March 17, 2014 | By | No Comments

Ambitious manHow many people do you know who are lucky? You know the ones. The people that get all the breaks, that everything goes right for, every time. The ones who find nothing but success in all that they do.

That’s nonsense, of course.

No one gets all the breaks. No one’s life is that perfect.

Instead, every “lucky” person I’ve ever known really succeeded because they were able to make their own luck, even following serious setbacks.

Businesses have lots of ups and downs, every day. But a marketing promotion that doesn’t succeed, a new product that bombs, or a project that fails often plants the seeds of future growth.

A client of mine, for instance, tells a great story about a promotion that didn’t work at all. While it raised awareness for their brand, most of the attention proved negative (as in, “did you see how these people screwed up?”) Instead of ignoring the failure, the company took what didn’t work (“wild promotion to attract more customers”) and turned it into a feature for existing customers (“offer ‘thank you’ deals to great customers to attract more repeat business”). The results have been extraordinary.

Was that lucky? Not really. As one of the team often says, “We paid the tuition; we may as well use the learning.”

So, sure, I’ve talked about luck before on St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s always worth remembering. As Louis Pasteur once said,

“Chance favors the prepared mind.”

In other words, luck is what you make of it.

Looking for opportunity? Check out my “Digital Marketing Directions: Three Trends Shaping 2014 Internet Marketing” on Slideshare. It was, by far, the most popular presentation there this month:

You can also register to receive a free copy of my special report, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World,” produced in conjunction with Vizergy, here. While it’s targeted to the hospitality industry specifically, most of the lessons apply across verticals.

Finally, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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March 12, 2014

Internet Marketing to Millennials (Gen X and Boomers Too) – Thinks Out Loud Episode 65

March 12, 2014 | By | No Comments

Millennial couple shopping on tablet

Internet Marketing to Millennials (Gen X and Boomers Too) Headlines and Show Notes

You can also register to receive a free copy of my special report, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World,” produced in conjunction with Vizergy, here. While it’s targeted to the hospitality industry specifically, most of the lessons apply across verticals.

And the tips in my recent presentation Elements of E-commerce: How Digital Storytelling Drives Revenue and Results, may come help you out as well:

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Technical details: Recorded using an Audio-Technica AT2035 studio condenser microphone through a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 17m 36s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], subscribe via our dedicated podcast RSS feed (or better yet, given that Google has now killed Reader, sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player below:

Tim Peter

By

March 11, 2014

You Won’t Believe How Many Guests Use Mobile to Make a Booking Decision (Travel Tuesday)

March 11, 2014 | By | No Comments

Woman traveler mobile phone70% of travelers use a hotel’s web site and/or its mobile app prior to making a booking decision, according to a report highlighted on Luxury Daily. That is, to put it mildly, a huge number.

Here’s the key quote from the report:

“More so than any other industry the travel sector comes with high expectations in mobile. Since consumers are inherently on-the-go when traveling, they tend to perform more activities on mobile devices, and they want hotels to match these expectations.” [Emphasis mine]

This underscores Starwood’s recent announcement that they’re seeing mobile bookings grow faster than Internet bookings did 10 years ago. Given that 97% of Americans have a cell phone within 3 feet at any given time, these numbers aren’t surprising.

What is surprising is how many hotel websites don’t accommodate mobile well, if at all.

But with the emergence of responsive design as a best practice for consumers and search engines, you really have no good reason to ignore mobile any longer. Today, if you’re not offering guests a responsive site, you’re driving up the cost of your bookings, either because:

  1. Your guests have to phone to make their reservation; or,
  2. They choose not to stay with you at all.

Happily, in addition to responsive design, a number of best practices exist to convert mobile guests, including improving the content you offer on your website and exploring upselling options on mobile, voice, and web.

Again, your guests expect you to help them while they’re on the go. And, ultimately, isn’t helping guests what hospitality is all about?

If you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You may also want to review the tips in my recent presentation Elements of E-commerce: How Digital Storytelling Drives Revenue and Results:

And you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

By

March 7, 2014

Tools of the Trade: A Process (and 6 Blogging Tools) I Can’t Live Without

March 7, 2014 | By | No Comments

Blog toolsI got an email the other day from Steve in Madison, WI, asking me for tips on how to blog more effectively and efficiently. Well, Steve — and everyone else — here’s what I do.

  1. It’s all about process. You can’t write regularly about any topic without a really solid process. I’ve developed mine over the course of some 9 years of blogging, plus loads of conversations with good friends like Mike Moran, Rob Petersen, and others about what works for them.
  2. Learning. First, I try to keep up on what’s happening in the world of e-commerce, digital marketing and marketing strategy. I talked a couple of weeks ago about using Feedly to keep track of my favorite news sources every week and keep a fresh list of ideas top of mind.
  3. Archiving. For news stories and viewpoints that I really like (or at least want to give more thought to, I use the web clipping feature in Evernote. Very handy, and it works across desktops, the Web, iOS, and Android, so I’ll always have my content where I want it.
  4. Brainstorming. I’m a big fan of outlining my ideas, though I especially like mind-mapping as a way of thinking through those ideas. These days, I’m using FreeMind (for the desktop) and SimpleMind+ (iOS). I may switch to using SimpleMind for the desktop, but I’ve got lots of all FreeMind maps, so… we’ll see.
  5. Planning. I develop a weekly and monthly content calendar. I haven’t switched to more robust tools yet, and still keep everything in an Excel spreadsheet (which you can download here).
  6. Composing. I love MarsEdit for writing and compiling my posts. No, like really. I’ve highlighted the program in my 2013 Holiday Gift Guide and bemoaned its absence in my list of essential iPad blogging apps way back in 2011. In fact, I’ve used MarsEdit for just about every post I’ve published since roughly 2007 or 2008. While you can definitely write and compose posts within WordPress’s editor, I find it’s easier to keep drafts on my local computer and only upload when they’re close to done. The editor integrates beautifully with WordPress and Tumblr (my two go-to publishing tools), as well as Squarespace, Blogger, Movable Type and lots more. I can’t imagine blogging without it. For images, I like iStockPhoto a lot. And I have a handful of little, but useful Python scripts I’ve put together over the years to help with things like compiling the top monthly posts quickly each month.
  7. Publishing. For me, it’s all WordPress, all the time (I run the self-hosted version at Dreamhost, though am really excited about their Dreampress offering). I’ve looked at most of the other big tools out there (and like many of them), but I’ve been using WordPress for most of my blogging life and can’t imagine changing now.
  8. Promoting. Finally, building a successful blog for your business entails promoting your work… but that’s another post. I’ll be sure and offer more details in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Anyway, that’s what works for me. Do you have a different process? Something you can’t live without? I’d love to hear more about it in the comments.

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including: