Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image

Tim Peter Thinks

Tim Peter

By

August 10, 2015

Why Mobile Payments Will Rule

August 10, 2015 | By | No Comments

Share

Mobile payments will rule

I remain convinced that, before too long, mobile payments will rule mobile commerce (and e-commerce generally). New data from eMarketer and AudienceSCAN helps explain why. Some recent studies show that somewhere between 13% and 14% of US smartphone owners have used digital wallets over the last 6 months. As eMarketer notes,

“…unsurprisingly, this also-small slice of the population is more tech-savvy than average. AudienceSCAN found that US mobile wallet users were more likely than internet users as a whole to report using every social media site the company asked about—in some cases, more than twice as likely.”

eMarketer also rounds-up these mobile/social-friendly customers’ favorite sites,

“Notably for retailers, mobile wallet users were especially likely to overindex on usage of Instagram and Pinterest, both of which are making plays to appeal more to retail advertisers. Yelp was also especially popular among mobile wallet users, and likely helping to send them to local brick-and-mortar businesses like fast-casual restaurants.”

In a separate report, eMarketer said,

“As people grow accustomed to using devices to pay at the point of sale, the mobile wallet will become an important hub that will enable marketers to provide customers with more context as well as greater convenience…”

I completely agree.

In fact, I’ve mentioned the importance of digital wallets to connecting with mobile and social-savvy customers a number of times, along with how much future e-commerce growth we can expect to see thanks to the rise of mobile payments. First off, we now know that mobile drives purchases and that the frequency and value of those purchases continues to climb, representing a true game-changer for mobile commmerce. See if this playbook feels familiar to any of you:

  1. New technology appears.
  2. New technology gains traction among early adopters (i.e., the “cool kids”).
  3. Some backlash occurs because this new technology doesn’t gain as fast as originally predicted.
  4. The cool kids keep using the new technology, ignoring the backlash.
  5. A short while later, everyone’s using the new technology.

Feel familiar? It should. In my career alone, we’ve seen it with the Web, generally; e-commerce, specifically; social media; mobile, generally; and, pretty soon, mobile commerce. When the early adopters stick, the rest of the world follows. Every. Single. Time. And early adopters don’t seem to be running away from mobile payments. Quite the opposite, in fact. So, tf the pattern holds, mobile payments will rule. Just wait a short bit.

And if you’re interested in more insights about mobile payments, you might enjoy my past coverage, including:

Interested in learning even more about how your customers’ changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing? Be sure and 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 can also check out these slides and video from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions: Three Key Trends Driving Your Marketing Next Year”:

And, finally, you might want to take a look at some of our past coverage of the e-commerce, mobile commerce, and digital marketing overall, including:

Tim Peter

By

August 7, 2015

9 Must-Read Mobile Strategy Posts: E-commerce Link Digest

August 7, 2015 | By | No Comments

9 Must-Read Mobile Strategy PostsZOMG, Big Thinkers! It’s gorgeous outside! No, seriously. I don’t know about where you are, but here in the Northeast, we’re enjoying some of the most beautiful weather of the year. So, do me a favor: Go outside. Soak up a little sun and fun with your friends and family. And once you’ve done that, then c’mon back and check out these 9 must-read mobile strategy posts. Enjoy:

  1. First off, you simply cannot miss this astute analysis from Benedict Evans on why the smartphone is the new sun. Thought-provoking read. Providing just one example of what Benedict is getting at, Mobile Commerce Daily explains how mobile payments will help us become more mobile. I’ve often said we’re still in the early days of digital transformation. These posts help underscore why.
  2. Along those same lines, Brian Solis offers up a great presentation on SlideShare about “The Inevitability of a Mobile-Only Customer Experience” that’s well-worth checking out.
  3. And as yet more evidence of where we’re heading, Marketing Charts points out that mobile is now more than three-quarters of Facebook’s ad revenues. Yep.
  4. Skift, a regular contributor to our Hospitality Marketing Link Digests, makes the Friday list with these 8 charts that show the state of mobile video around the world.
  5. BuzzFeed New reports that Target is rolling out a new pilot program to track customers in stores.
  6. Despite all these changes — or maybe because of them — you really want to check out Andrew Schulkind’s recent Biznology webinar, “Why Your Website Matters and How to Make It Matter More” that I helped host. Great stuff.
  7. Mike Moran highlights the content marketing book you should not miss in his review of Mark Schaefer’s “The Content Code: Six essential strategies to ignite your content, your marketing, and your business.”
    I completely agree with Mike; you simply should not miss this book.
  8. Continuing this week’s theme, I rounded-up the 7 key digital marketing trends this summer, the top posts of July, for you.
  9. And given the massive disruption enabled by digital generally, and mobile specifically, it’s entirely fair to ask, “Is Your Business Screwed?” which is just what I did in a recent episode of Thinks Out Loud, our weekly e-commerce and digital marketing podcast. Definitely worth checking out.

If you’re interested in learning more, make sure to check out these “6 Major Stories About Millennials and Mobile Commerce” these “9 Marvelous Mobile Marketing and E-Commerce Columns: The Top Posts of May” and other entries from our E-commerce Link Digest series, including these “8 Amazing E-Commerce Posts Winning this Week”, these “10 Damn-Good Digital Marketing Posts,” another “10 Spectacular Mobile Marketing and E-Commerce Essays”, and this set of “6 Major Stories About Millennials and Mobile Commerce” too.

And if you want learn even more about how your customers’ changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing, be sure and 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 can also check out these slides and video from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions: Three Key Trends Driving Your Marketing Next Year”:

And, finally, you might want to take a look at some of our past coverage of the e-commerce, mobile commerce, and digital marketing overall, including:

Tim Peter

By

August 3, 2015

7 Key Digital Marketing Trends this Summer: The Top Posts of July

August 3, 2015 | By | No Comments

Key digital marketing trends for summer

Every month, we flip through your favorite posts from the past 30 days to see what we showed that you shared, liked, linked, and loved. We cheated a little bit this time ’round by including posts from both June and July due to our round-up of the top 15 posts of 2015 (so far) at the end of last month (and that you’ll find at the #2 spot below). What we noticed while putting together the list, though, is that this month’s collection focuses heavily on key digital marketing trends that you can put to work for your business right now. So, without further ado, let’s get to the list. Enjoy:

  1. Leading off, we’ve got these “9 Killer Posts Featuring This Year’s Key Digital Marketing Trends”, part of our regular E-commerce Link Digest series, which highlights key trends around the visual web, mobile and mobile search, and using reviews to improve your search marketing. Be sure to check out the whole list though for the complete set.
  2. You also want to check out this amazing list containing killer digital marketing ideas, a round-up of the “Top 15 Digital Marketing and E-commerce Posts of 2015 (So Far).” Hugely popular. Hugely helpful.
  3. You can gain a ton of great ideas from this recent episode of Thinks Out Loud, our weekly e-commerce and digital marketing podcast, “Breaking Down the Mary Meeker 2015 Internet Trends Report.” Just like it says in the title, we broke down the key trends and offered insights into how you can apply them to your business this year—and beyond.
  4. Yet another article from the E-commerce Link Digest series, “11 Excellent E-Commerce Entries from the Past Week,” focuses mostly on e-commerce, including ideas around visual search, using social to help customers, and how your customers are likely to use mobile wallets, among others.
  5. Our next entry uncovers “Facebook’s Big Beacon Secret” and how that will impact your marketing going forward.
  6. Of course, if your marketing works, you should expect to see more traffic to your website, in which case you’ll want to check out these “5 Warning Signs That Your Website Sucks.” Because traffic that doesn’t convert is rarely helpful traffic.
  7. Finally, we’re seeing a huge shift towards visuals on the web generally (as noted in the first item in this month’s list), and video specifically. To make the most of this, give a listen to Thinks Out Loud Episode 127, “2015’s Top Digital Trend: Online Video Arrives,” for some great advice on how to make that work for you.

Well, Big Thinkers, I hope you’ve enjoyed these 7 killer digital marketing trends for summer and come away with a few that will work for your business. If you’re interested in learning still more, make sure to check out these “9 Marvelous Mobile Marketing and E-Commerce Columns: The Top Posts of May” and other entries from our E-commerce Link Digest series, including these “8 Amazing E-Commerce Posts Winning this Week”, these “10 Damn-Good Digital Marketing Posts,” another “10 Spectacular Mobile Marketing and E-Commerce Essays”, and this set of “6 Major Stories About Millennials and Mobile Commerce” too.

And if you want learn even more about how your customers’ changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing, be sure and 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 can also check out these slides and video from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions: Three Key Trends Driving Your Marketing Next Year”:

And, finally, you might want to take a look at some of our past coverage of the e-commerce, mobile commerce, and digital marketing overall, including:

Tim Peter

By

July 16, 2015

Three Quick Business-Building Tips That Don’t Involve Google

July 16, 2015 | By | No Comments

Three tips to grow your business that don't involve GoogleWhat do email, social, and channel partner apps all have in common? They’re among the best ways you can grow your traffic—and your business— without Google, as I point out in my latest Biznology post. Here’s a quick excerpt:

“I debated whether to include channel partners in this list at all. For one thing, you use search, social, and email specifically to avoid using channel partners. And, let’s be fair, not all “partners” always actively work in your best interest.

That said, many channel partners have had great success in driving app adoption amongst customers, and may prove a valuable way to drive revenues and sales for your business. Just be sure that the ones you’re choosing work as a true partner and not in competition with your own direct efforts.

The best way to distribute your products or services via a channel partners’ app is an exceedingly complicated topic, well beyond the scope of this simple post. However, there are a few questions you should consider to help select appropriate partners to work with. Ask yourself:

  1. Can this partner reach a customer I can’t?
  2. Can they do that at a reasonable cost?
  3. Do they provide access to the end-consumer’s data? (So you can continue to build your list and decrease your dependence on partners overall)”

I think you’ll really enjoy the whole post, including entries on email and social—as well as a special bonus tip, too—so be sure to check it out on Biznology today.

And if you want learn even more about how your customers’ changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing, be sure an 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 can also check out these slides and video from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions: Three Key Trends Driving Your Marketing Next Year”:

And, finally, you might want to take a look at some of our past coverage of the e-commerce, mobile commerce, and digital marketing overall, including:

Tim Peter

By

July 8, 2015

15 Key Travel Marketing Posts of 2015 (So Far). – Travel Tuesday

July 8, 2015 | By | No Comments

15 Key Travel Marketing Posts of 2015 (So Far). Well, Big Thinkers, we’ve reached roughly the mid-way point in the year. Seems as good a time as any to take a moment and assess where we are and where we’re going. To help you do just that I’ve gathered these 15 key travel marketing posts of 2015 (so far), so you can take a look at the top trends in travel marketing among your fellow Thinks readers. Enjoy:

  1. The biggest travel marketing post of the year rounded-up these “5 Key Facts About Mobile, Millennials, and Hotel Marketing.” It seems like a pretty solid set of trends to watch as we enter the second half of the year, too.
  2. Another hugely popular post collected a “Huge List of Lessons Learned at HSMAI’s Digital Marketing Strategy Conference.” You’ll love it. It’s huge. And great. Seriously. Did I mention it was huge?
  3. This next post explored
    “The Big Myth About Digital Strategy”
    and explained what that myth means for hotel marketers.
  4. The ever-popular Hospitality Marketing Link Digest series offered up these “4 Key Posts About 2015 Travel Marketing Trends” for you.
  5. Mobile represents a huge opportunity for most hotel marketers. And the #5 post explains precisely “Why Mobile Matters for Hotel Marketing.” Good stuff, well worth your time.
  6. With the rapid changes in the distribution and digital marketing landscape, it seems like a great time to ask “Are Hotel Brands Doomed?” The answer might surprise you.
  7. And the next post operates among similar lines, asking “How Safe Are Independent Hotels from Airbnb?” While I hate saying this, it really depends. Be sure to check out the whole article to see why.
  8. Posts providing insights from industry leaders almost always capture the hearts and minds of your fellow Thinks readers, which helps explain why this post, “CEO Darren Huston from Priceline Explains Why Driving Brand Value Matters” proved so popular.
  9. This collection of “5 Hotel Marketing Trends for 2015″ from a Hotel News Now profile gained lots of looks, likes, links, and love from Big Thinkers all across the globe. Check it out to see why.
  10. Another Hospitality Marketing Link Digest featuring “7 Hot Hotel Marketing Insights” enters the list at #10. Good stuff.
  11. This review of “3 Keys to Compete with OTA’s in 2015 and Beyond” thrilled readers way back in January… and still gets plenty of action today.
  12. As a matter of fact, my round-up of “The Top 14 Hotel Marketing Posts of 2014″ also got plenty of attention all year long. Well, y’know. So far, anyway.
  13. Our next entry celebrated “3 Mobile Milestones for Travel Marketing,” highlighting a trend that shows no signs of slowing down.
  14. For instance, these “5 Amazing Mobile Hotel Marketing Stories” from the Hospitality Marketing Link Digest series serve to illustrate exactly how big a deal mobile remains to your fellow hotel and travel marketers.
  15. And, finally, we’ll close out this recap of these 15 key travel marketing posts of 2015 (so far) with this look at “How the Best Hotels Own the Guest.” Nothing like learning from the best, eh?

I hope you enjoyed this look back at the top travel marketing posts of 2015 (so far), and that you stay tuned for even more hotel marketing, distribution, and e-commerce goodness all throughout the year. Thanks for reading and for making this all worthwhile. Don’t forget that you can sign up for our free newsletter to stay in touch with the latest e-commerce and digital strategy information and insights we provide here on Thinks every day.

And, if you’re looking to learn even more about how changing guest behavior shapes hospitality marketing, e-commerce, and distribution, be sure an 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 want to take a moment to review the slides from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions 2015: Three Key Trends Driving Your Hotel Marketing Next Year” here:


(And, yes… you can hire me to speak at your next event, too).

Finally, you will definitely want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your business, including:

Tim Peter

By

July 7, 2015

The Top 15 Digital Marketing and E-commerce Posts of 2015 (So Far)

July 7, 2015 | By | No Comments

The Top 15 Digital Marketing and E-commerce Posts of 2015 (So Far)Um… have you checked your calendar lately? Somehow, we’ve made it halfway through 2015. That happened quickly, didn’t it? Before we head into the back half of the year, how about we take a moment to review the top 15 digital marketing and e-commerce posts of 2015 (so far) and get ready for the rest of the best year ever? Enjoy:

  1. Leading off is the biggest post of the year, by far (so far), “The Big Lie About Mobile Commerce Everyone’s Telling Right Now.” Great read. Well worth your time.
  2. These “5 Key E-commerce Ideas to Kick Off the New Year Right” from our regular E-commerce Link Digest series kicks off an impressive run for the Link Digest series — 3 of the top 5, and 4 of the top 15 overall.
  3. Given that I just mentioned the popularity of the Link Digest series, these “8 Amazing Social, Mobile, Millennial Marketing and E-Commerce Posts” shouldn’t come as a surprise here at #3.
  4. These “8 Must-Read Posts Connecting Content, Search and Mobile Commerce” — again, from the E-commerce Link Digest series — offers terrific insights here at #4.
  5. Rounding out the first five is this post, “Mobile Will Disrupt Your Industry: 3 Ways to Protect Your Business.” Definitely worth a read.
  6. Another Link Digest entry, this one a collection of “10 Must-Read E-Commerce, Search, and Mobile Posts” kicks off the next set of five posts here in the Top 15 of 2015 (so far, anyway).
  7. A really important post from very early in the year asks, “How Big Will E-commerce Be in 2015?” As you probably guessed: Big. But read the whole post all the same.
  8. Another key question enters the list here at #8 and asks, “Are You Still Making This Major Email Marketing Mistake?” Curious what that mistake is? Check out the post to find out.
  9. Want to hear a secret? Be sure to check out “The Big Secret About E-commerce” for yourself.
  10. Payments — especially mobile payments — play a huge role in the future of e-commerce. This post, “What’s Up With Google’s Latest Mobile Wallet Move?” (along with companion pieces, “What Amazon’s Mobile Wallet Failure Can Teach You” and “Google’s Mobile Buy Button: Should You Buy In?”) help illustrate the reasons you need to pay attention to this important topic.
  11. Our weekly e-commerce and digital strategy podcast, Thinks Out Loud, examines a wide array of topics. Episode 116, for instance, looked at “Why Millennials Matter” and is definitely worth a listen.
  12. OK, we’re in the home stretch now, with just five more posts to go. So you won’t want to miss this post that explores “Why Mobile Changes Everything—and Nothing At All.” Great stuff
  13. Building on that theme, a post from earlier this year says, “We’ve Reached Another Mobile and Millennial Milestone” and, more importantly, explains what that milestone means to your business.
  14. This post, which breaks down “The Coming Massive Mobile Disruption,” rounds-out the mini-run of mobile commerce focused entries.
  15. And, last — but by no means least — comes another Thinks Out Loud episode. This one asks, “Is Customer Experience the Future of E-commerce?” Spoiler alert: Yes. But the devil is in the details, so be sure to check out the whole episode, as well as all our past episodes of Thinks Out Loud too.

As ever, folks, thanks for reading. I really appreciate it. While you’re catching up on these past posts, you might also enjoy these 4 Keys to Executing On Digital and this presentation on Putting Digital to Work: 4 Key Actions to Drive Digital Transformation. Don’t forget that you can sign up for our free newsletter to stay in touch with the latest e-commerce and digital strategy information and insights every day.

And if you want learn even more about how your customers’ changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing, be sure an 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 can also check out these slides and video from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions: Three Key Trends Driving Your Marketing Next Year”:

Finally, you might want to take a look at some of our past coverage of the e-commerce, mobile commerce, and digital marketing overall, including:

Tim Peter

By

June 17, 2015

What Disruption Means: Thinks Out Loud Episode 126

June 17, 2015 | By | No Comments

What does disruption really mean for your business?

What Disruption Means – Headlines and Show Notes

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about how to lead mobile-focused digital transformation within large organizations (a topic we’ve been talking about a fair bit lately). Here are the slides for your reference:

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 32s

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

February 19, 2015

Marketing vs. Math

February 19, 2015 | By | 2 Comments

Marketing vs. math

Too often, the data-driven marketing practices at the core of digital marketing get represented as a battle between “marketing” and “math.” “Traditional” marketers may sometimes perceive you as more akin to IT than marketing, assuming you’re attempting to substitute computers and calculations in place of creativity. But anyone who claims that “traditional” marketers don’t care about measurement and testing simply doesn’t know what traditional marketing is.

In fact, the most successful marketers in history created best practices—the traditions—that continue to this day. Traditions like understanding the power of word of mouth in creating a brand story, and the need to monitor, measure, and modify your marketing to reach exactly the right customer with exactly the right message.

The great Walter Landor (creator of the logo script for Coca-Cola), once said, “A brand is a promise,” a lesson that takes on heightened resonance in an age where failure to deliver on your promise usually leads to both scathing reviews in social media and significant damage to your brand overall. The legendary Mary Wells Lawrence—one of the creators of the “I ♥ NY” campaign that’s run for nearly 40 years, along with classic work for Alka-Seltzer, Midas, Ford, and P&G—recommended the need to learn about “…every kind of person… and endlessly stretch what you know,” using observation and data to drive that learning. And Claude Hopkins literally wrote the book on data-driven marketing, in a work titled, appropriately enough, “Scientific Advertising.” Hopkins pioneered the use of A/B tests for his headlines and copy, using coupon codes to track their effectiveness. Pretty creative, no?

These techniques should no longer represent a new concept for savvy marketers. To prevent the secrets behind his process from damaging his clients’ business, Hopkins waited to publish his masterpiece until after he retired—in 1923!

The point? Data-driven marketing is about as traditional as you can get.

What’s really different today is not the use of data. It’s the speed at which you’re expected to adapt to changing customer needs and the diversity of channels in which your customers connect to your brand. Landor, Lawrence, and Hopkins only needed to worry about print, outdoor, and (to varying degrees) broadcast. When Lawrence retired 25 years ago, the biggest media shift of the time was the rise of Fox Broadcasting as a fourth major television network. And even then Fox still only broadcast three nights per week.

Meanwhile, your customers today have slightly more available media options. They carry the entire Internet—and every possible print and broadcast channel, along with email, social, messaging, and more—in their pocket, connecting wherever and whenever they like, and using whatever device is at hand that allows them to accomplish their goals.

A big part of my work for clients and RBSEE revolves around how to create personalized digital experiences for targeted customer segments, how to integrate social into the overall marketing and customer outreach process, and how to use analytics most effectively to improve business results. A few examples of how those tie data and marketing together look like this:

  • Integrating social into your overall customer outreach depends on understanding lots about who you’re talking with, the channels that matter to them, and how they interact with their friends and family, fans and followers.
  • Creating highly relevant and deeply personalized digital experiences depends on understanding your customers’ specific interests in a variety of contexts, and providing relevant messages that support their objectives at any given time.
  • And both of these rely on having the right processes and tools to provide you the meaningful, actionable data necessary to really connect with your customers. Data represents the lifeblood driving each of these forward—and crucial to driving results.

Trusting your gut in a media environment this fragmented and dynamic is beyond silly—it’s career suicide. The largest, most innovative brands and businesses in the world have long since incorporated data-driven marketing into their best practices, reaching diverse sets of customers with well-crafted brand stories, brilliantly managed campaigns, and tightly targeted messaging.

Most importantly, these businesses ignore the debate around “marketing vs. math” and focus instead on following the finest tradition amongst marketing leaders: driving results. You should too.

If you want to learn even more about how customers changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing, be sure an 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 can also check out these slides and video from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions: Three Key Trends Driving Your Marketing Next Year”:

And, finally, you might want to take a look at some of our past coverage of the e-commerce, mobile commerce, and digital marketing overall, including:

Note: A version of this post originally appeared on the Rutgers Business School Executive Education blog, where Tim Peter teaches and writes regularly.
Tim Peter

By

February 12, 2015

The Simple Truth About Net Neutrality for Your Brand and Business

February 12, 2015 | By | No Comments

The simple truth about net neutrality for your brand and business.

I don’t know about you, but I grew up in an era when we were taught to avoid talking about religion, sex, and politics in business contexts—never mind that these seem to be three of the biggest ways to drive clicks to content on the web. And I still believe, as much as possible, that it’s best to steer clear of these topics.

So, why am I wading into the fight around net neutrality? And, more importantly, why am I encouraging you to do the same?

Simple. A failure by government—whether the FCC or Congress—to establish clear rules for what cable companies and Internet service providers (ISP’s) may and may not do with your business’s web traffic remains critical to keeping a level playing field online for businesses large and small.

The simple truth of net neutrality is that, unfortunately, a couple of large ISP’s have actively worked to limit consumers’ access to specific content and services, hurting both consumers and the businesses working to meet market demand. Plain and simple, that’s bad for those businesses, bad for consumers, and, ultimately, bad for you.

Let’s be clear. In no way do I welcome excessive government regulation when it comes to the Internet. In my professional life, an excess of regulation has caused as many problems as it’s solved. And, as anyone who has read this blog in the past knows, we here at Tim Peter & Associates work extremely hard to help our clients increase sales, revenues, and profits. I can’t imagine a scenario where we’d be viewed as anti-capitalist. In a perfect world, I’d love to see the market decide this one. But, it’s not a perfect world; for reasons I’ll get to in a bit, a market-driven solution simply isn’t an option right now.

I’ve made some of these arguments before, but it’s worth noting that—despite some expected and understandable disagreement on specific implementations of the rules—this whole net neutrality debate is not a partisan issue. It is about the ability of businesses large and small to compete effectively in the global marketplace. Right now, the FCC’s proposal is the only legitimate way to ensure continued open competition and access to consumers for every business. Congress can certainly act to come up with a better solution, but who are we kidding? At least at present, that doesn’t seem too likely.

If you want some simple background on the history of all this and what’s under consideration, The Oatmeal has a sarcastic, but kind of funny and very informative overview of the issue as does Economix Comix. Both are worth your time.

That said, let’s talk about why you want the FCC to take action and maintain a fair, open Internet for your customers and your business.

The (Real-World) Nightmare Scenario

Imagine that, like most businesses in your competitive set, you’ve built a website to market your products and services. Then imagine that, one day, you start hearing customer complaints about your website being really slow, especially compared with your largest competitor. You invest in improved servers or a faster Internet connection or both to improve your customers’ experience, only to find that it has no effect. Which would be a real problem, since it’s well established that faster websites rank better in search engines and enjoy higher conversion rates than slower sites. While all this is going on, you’re losing traffic, sales, and loyalty to your largest competitor—and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Finally, after weeks of frustration and plummeting sales, you find out that one of the largest ISP’s in the country—a major cable company serving a large chunk of the country—is actively slowing down traffic from your site to its customers, but has let your competitor buy improved access to the folks on its network. They’ll improve your speed, but only after you pay a substantial fee.

That would suck, wouldn’t it?

I know, you’re thinking, “Yeah, but that would/could never happen in the real world.” Unfortunately, it already has:

That’s a huge problem. Imagine if your retail store, hotel, or restaurant had to pay the same market rates as Amazon, Booking.com, or OpenTable just to continue appearing in search engines, achieve target conversion rates, and reach customers generally. If that’s not a nightmare scenario, I don’t know what is.

What About Letting the Free Market Decide?

As I’ve already said, I’m in favor of free market solutions. I think they’re undoubtedly the right answer in many cases. Unfortunately, when it comes to broadband access for consumers, the simple truth is that no free market exists.

As this incredible graphic originally posted on Ars Technica points out, about 5 out of 6 consumers in the United States only have a single option to choose from if they want to subscribe to the current state of the art in broadband service:

Broadband availability by speed across the United States

Another 39 million Americans only have one broadband Internet provider to choose from—period—regardless of the speed of access they want to buy. Compounding the problem, some ISP’s have even gone so far as to lobby state lawmakers to block communities from providing alternative Internet access in underserved markets.

Clearly, you can’t rely on the free market for a solution if there’s no free market. Your customers can’t choose to move from, for example, Comcast to Verizon or Cox because, in most markets, only one of those providers exists. If all the big ISP’s had to compete with one another by providing the best service to their customers, this kind of thing simply wouldn’t be a problem. And, again, you care because those individual providers, if allowed to operate as they’d like, have demonstrated they’re ready, willing, and able to act as gate-keepers, potentially preventing you from reaching your customers and driving up your costs.

Won’t “Regulation” Hurt Innovation and Competition?

I’m no fan of excessive regulation. In many cases, the market can solve any number of problems. Won’t net neutrality regulation hurt innovation and competition? Not even a little. Actually, the FCC proposal is designed to keep the big ISP’s playing by the same rules they’ve lived with for the last 20 years.

The simple truth is that these really aren’t new rules. The large ISP’s have lived with rules designed to maintain an open, fair Internet ever since the Internet first emerged. What’s changed is that several of the large ISP’s sued the FCC over the last few years, stating that existing FCC regulations—the ones that ISP’s, cable companies, and wireless companies had lived with for the first 20 years of Internet innovation—shouldn’t really apply now that they want to start limiting customer access to content and services. The court agreed that the current rules didn’t apply, though went out of their way to explain that the law permitted regulation only under a different format (what’s called “Title II”).

The new rules that the FCC is planning to vote on come on the heels of that loss and reflect the change the court recommended. Ironically, the very thing the ISP’s now are desperately fighting to prevent only exists because they didn’t want to play by the earlier rules. Be careful what you wish for, indeed.

Even better, though, is that the new rules really don’t hurt the ISP’s either. In a letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, Sprint’s chief technologist, Stephen Bye wrote:

“When first launched, the mobile market was a licensed duopoly. This system was a failure, resulting in slow deployment, high prices and little innovation… It is absolutely true that this explosion of growth [in the mobile marketplace] occurred under a light touch regulatory regime. Some net neutrality debaters appear to have forgotten, however, that this light touch regulatory regime emanated from Title II common carriage regulation”

Verizon’s CFO Francis Shammo essentially confirmed this view when he told investors recently:

“…we’re going to continue to invest in our networks and our platforms, both in Wireless and Wireline FiOS and where we need to. So nothing will influence that. I mean if you think about it, look, I mean we were born out of a highly regulated company, so we know how this operates.”

In other words, all the growth and innovation and competition that’s existed in the mobile phone space for the last decade-plus occurred under precisely the same rules that the FCC wants to apply to ISP’s for broadband access.

And, the only reason the FCC wants to implement those rules is because those ISP’s want to make it tougher for you to put your content, products, and services in front of customers.

Shouldn’t an ISP Be Allowed to Set Its Own Prices?

One of the more complicated bits about this whole debate revolves around pricing. ISP’s should definitely be able to set their own prices. But the simple truth is that this current discussion doesn’t change that at all. Unless you’re curious about the really icky bit here—and, as marketers and strategists, I can sympathize if you’re not—feel free to skip to the next section.

Still here? OK. Here’s what’s going on: Today, you pay a hosting company to host your site or have your own datacenter where your site lives. One of the costs associated with running a hosting company or datacenter is gaining access to the Internet, typically through what’s called a backbone provider. Those backbone providers set their prices basically by usage and the FCC’s proposal doesn’t really change that (some regulations already exist here and aren’t affected by the current debate).

Similarly, your customers pay their local ISP (a cable company or telecom provider), for their Internet access. Again, those companies often charge varying prices depending on how much data those consumers use. Again, that won’t change under Title II[1].

Instead, what’s really happening revolves around the connection between the company on one side of the backbone (someone like, for example, you) and the ISP delivering traffic to consumers (a telecom provider or cable company). The ISP’s want to charge companies an additional amount—much like Comcast did with Netflix—to carry traffic through to its customers. In effect, they want to get paid twice: Once by the consumer and then again by the company providing information, products, and services to that consumer. That’s the big problem, because, as it currently stands following the various lawsuits I mentioned earlier, nothing prevents those ISP’s from limiting the quality and speed of sites that don’t pay the ISP for access. That’s precisely what Comcast did with Netflix. And without the right protections, the same could happen to you.

The biggest players on the Internet—Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Walmart, Expedia, and others—might be able to afford those fees. Could you?, MOre to the point, you’re already paying your freight for the bandwidth you use. Why should you, or anyone else, have to pay twice?

The Bottom Line

Again, despite what a handful of politicians are claiming, this isn’t a partisan issue, nor should it be. We’ve got a handful of ISP’s lobbying actively to change the rules of the game and the terms of the debate so they can restrict and/or profit directly from the sites your customers want to visit, quite possibly including yours. It’s only logical that intermediaries who own the roads will eventually charge you tolls to use them.

The public overwhelmingly supports net neutrality. The FCC received a record 3.7 million-plus comments on its last proposal—the overwhelming majority in favor of maintaining net neutrality. Several polls have found that greater than 80% of consumers support net neutrality, regardless of political party (given who’s leading the protests against net neutrality in Congress it’s ironic that a slightly greater share of Republicans in the survey supported net neutrality than Democrats).

Ultimately, this is an argument about maintaining an open and fair Internet—a level playing field for businesses large and small. It will never be easy to compete against the biggest players in retail, hospitality, e-commerce, technology, or any other industry. But the simple truth about net neutrality is that is without it, you won’t be able to compete at all. Don’t let a small number of ISP’s change the game.

What can you do to prevent that? Well, Tumblr offers a great tool to help you contact your local representatives and make your voice heard on keeping the Internet as open and fair as it’s always been. I still plan to avoid talking about sex and religion ’round these parts. But I strongly encourage you to take a stand and tell them to support the FCC’s action.


If you want to learn even more about how your customers’ changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing, be sure an 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 can also check out these slides and video from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions: Three Key Trends Driving Your Marketing Next Year”:

And, finally, you might want to take a look at some of our past coverage of the e-commerce, mobile commerce, and digital marketing overall, including:

Note: Title II usage fees. This one gets a little more complicated because subsection 202 of Title II would prevent ISP’s from making “…any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services” [emphasis mine]. In theory, the FCC could regulate prices if they determined those prices were “unreasonable.” While the ISP’s have a legitimate reason to worry about this in theory, in practice, the FCC’s enforcement actions on “unreasonable” pricing under Title II have been, well, both pretty reasonable and largely uncontested in the mobile space. If the big telco’s haven’t griped overly much about it in the one area, I really can’t see where this would be an issue on the Internet access side.

Tim Peter

By

January 23, 2015

7+ Marvelous Mobile E-commerce Posts: E-commerce Link Digest

January 23, 2015 | By | No Comments

Mobile e-commerce linksWhat a week, Big Thinkers, for great writing and analysis of the mobile marketing and e-commerce space; just tons of great stuff out there on the Interwebs across a wide range of topics. Why not take a few minutes to review these 7+ marvelous mobile e-commerce posts? You’ll be glad you did. Enjoy!

  1. Starting us off, we’ve got Luxury Daily’s coverage of an excellent Forrester report that says mobile is “tail wagging the dog” of business transformation. Two words: Damn straight.
  2. Continuing that theme, Get Elastic has a great infographic that explains how retailers can meet omnichannel expectations.
  3. On the topic of omnichannel, Retail Online Integration lists 4 things every retailer should know about attribution management. Luxury Daily builds on that, noting how e-commerce provides a testing ground for bricks-and-mortar expansion (something I talked about a bit while looking at the big secret about e-commerce). Good stuff all around.
  4. While we’re talking about e-commerce overall, you might want to give a listen to this week’s episode of Thinks Out Loud—our weekly e-commerce and digital marketing podcast—“The State of E-commerce 2015.” Definitely worth a moment of your time.
  5. There’s a ton this week about mobile payments for you to check out. First, Mobile Commerce Daily asks if the Softcard deal will be enough to save Google Wallet (and you can read my follow-up look at what’s up with Google’s latest mobile wallet move here). You might also enjoy this look at what Amazon’s mobile wallet failure can teach you.
  6. Shifting gears to mobile search, Search Engine Land reports that search is number one content discovery tool for mobile users, which also explains why Google is sending mobile usability warnings to huge number of webmasters. And Mobile Commerce Daily details this BIA/Kelsey report that explains search’s evolution towards push and app-based, particularly as evidenced by Google Now.
  7. And, finally, here are some great tips about mobile email, including MarketingProfs’ look at what consumers dislike about mobile email and this post that asks “Are You Still Making This Major Email Marketing Mistake?” Try ’em. You’ll like ’em.

Like this list? Then make sure to check out this round-up of 7 Magical Mobile Marketing and E-commerce Picks, these 8 E-commerce and Mobile Marketing Must-Reads, and the rest of our E-commerce Link Digest series. Plus don’t miss the top posts of 2014 right here.

If you want to learn even more about how customers changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing, be sure an 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 can also check out these slides and video from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions: Three Key Trends Driving Your Marketing Next Year”:

And, finally, you might want to take a look at some of our past coverage of the e-commerce, mobile commerce, and digital marketing overall, including: