ShopAdvisor Gets a Makeover

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Noticed anything different about us lately? Your eyes haven’t deceived you – ShopAdvisor has a new look, and along with it, a slew of updated great new features. So now, in addition to searching our database of 200 million products, setting alerts for price and availability, and scanning items in-store for price comparisons, you now can also:

  • Browse and shop entire issues of magazines. Visit our website or download our app, and instantly shop entire issues or magazine-themed collections from magazines likeCosmopolitan, Real Simple, People StyleWatch, Men’s Health, and many more.
  • Browse carefully curated collections. If you are looking to browse and discover, ShopAdvisor collections provide curated product selections with endless shopping inspiration.
  • Search recommended products. See a pair of shoes you like, or maybe you’re interested in the latest wearable tech? Our recommendation engine will suggest more products based on what you love.
  • Love itor leave it. Tap the new “love it” heart icon for a product you’re interested in and you can see what percentage of ShopAdvisor users love it too. Not into a particular product? Tap/click “leave it” to make future recommendations even better.

ShopAdvisor Study Lists the Hot Holiday Picks

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With Black Friday and Cyber Monday now in the rearview mirror, everyone officially has holiday shopping on their minds. But what products are users actually interested in this holiday season?

In our latest research, we looked at users’ searches, scans, and browsing of more than 200 million available items from thousands of shopping sessions to identify what exactly is on shopper’s most wanted lists. Though some products proved to be reigning champs in their categories, we also uncovered some fun surprises:

  • “iPad” and “Xbox” are at the top. The two were among the top five category terms searched, solidifying Apple and Microsoft brand dominance.
  • Uggs are still as popular as ever. The popular boot brand ranked among the 25 most searched products.
  • Cats are “in” right now. The Best Cat book Ever: Super Amazing; 100% Awesome book, was number one among readers who shopped from magazines.
  • People still covet luxury items. Of the top 10 items on magazine shoppers most wanted lists, two were luxury goods: a leather monk boot by H by Hudson and a large icon pendant from Astley Clarke.
  • Some toys are classics for a reason: Crayola crayons pulled ahead of Disney’s “Frozen” toys by a count of 6:1 by users who scan product barcodes in-store.
  • Cameras are here to stay: Shoppers were looking for high-end camera items, scanning for a drone with image and video-capturing capabilities and a pricey camera lens.

Is Black Friday Really the Best Day for Holiday Shopping?

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Black Friday has widely been regarded as the best day to get the greatest discounts for holiday shopping. And in truth, for those limited inventory “door-busters” that is the case. But what about the majority of gifts that most of us really end up buying? Are those who choose to sit-out Black Friday really missing out on great deals?

According to a recent study by the team at ShopAdvisor, the best day for holiday shopping across the board is actually December 18th – not Black Friday. In fact, post-Black Friday discounts reached double digits as opposed to discounts on the actual day.

These statistics come as a result of ShopAdvisor monitoring 16,000 real-time data feeds from both individual retailers and affiliates, and analyzing the lowest available prices for 6,000 products across major categories.

So what else did we find, and – more importantly – what does this mean for holiday shoppers?

  • Prices were up on Black Friday: 42% percent of the products were actually priced higher on Black Friday than in the four weeks leading up to it.
  • Weekday shopping reigns supreme: Discounts were 30 percent deeper on weekdays than on the weekends, spanning from Black Friday through the holidays.
  • There are still deals after Christmas – but not as great: You’ll find deals between December 26th and New Year’s, but the deals on December 18th will still be the best.

Ultimately, if shoppers want the best deals, they should consider waiting it out as opposed to joining the frenzied Black Friday. Using an app, such as ShopAdvisor, to monitor and compare prices ensures that shoppers will actually get a great deal on all of their gifts this holiday.

Driving Native and Commerce Revenue from Mobile Web Content

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While desktop web and social are far from dead, content consumption continues to port to mobile devices. With this trend comes the inevitable fact that advertising opportunities (and revenue) will decrease on desktop, and increase on mobile web. Yet neither publishers nor agencies have figured out the exact right approach to monetize this shift.

Consider these statements from the 2014 Forrester report, The State of Mobile Technology For Marketers:

  • 42 percent of marketers surveyed have had a mobile strategy for less a year or were in the early stages of building one.
  • Only 35 percent report having the necessary budget for their mobile initiatives.
  • Only 46 percent use key performance indicators to measure the success of mobile.

A reasonable conclusion from this research is that publishers have an immediate opportunity to take a leadership position to help their advertisers figure out how to engage with the mobile audience. But the approach and offerings have to be simple, require few technology resources, and include built-in metrics of success. The key to success is to make sure these programs are completely aligned with your audience’s mobile behavior.

The following are several ways publishers can offer effective, high margin native and commerce placements via mobile web content.

1) SMS: Over 74% of U.S. online adults who use a mobile phone send or receive SMS messages at least weekly, yet many publishers forget about the potential of SMS programs. Why not instruct mobile web visitors to text “magoffer” to “yourshortcode” to receive special discounts from advertisers, or a message from their celebrity spokesperson? There’s no heavy lifting – just use one of the many short code providers available (txt180, Trumpia and EZTexting are just a few). They provide both the gateway and the platform to manage a campaign.

2) Native Commerce: According to Forrester, 21% of mobile users rely on their device to research products. Your edit content is FULL of products – so why not add complimentary advertiser products to create a richer experience for your visitors? Check out how PeopleStyleWatch successfully integrated advertiser product native placements within their mobile experience (link to the PSW case study).

3) Smart Social: The majority of mobile users access social networks at least once a week (Gen Y/Z closer to once an hour). Provide your mobile audience with two paths from every social post – one to the full story on your mobile website, and the other to information that helps the user research and shop for mentioned/related products. This way you get the site visit from those that just want to read the article – and you get the native placement and affiliate revenue potential from those that want to shop.

4) Proximity Marketing: The beauty of mobile is that it is completely portable. That means most of your readers will be out and about when consuming your content. And more and more mobile consumption happens while in-store. If you have an article about hot new jeans (perhaps from one of your advertisers) why not push out an offer to that reader while they are near or in the store that carries those jeans? With beacons and proximity marketing platforms this is now possible, and easy to implement.

Four Ways to Use Social to Drive Native and Commerce Revenue

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We don’t need to tell you how important social media is to your strategy for driving website visitors (ad impressions) and in some cases, paid subscribers. But are you approaching it the right way?

More often than not, social content is simply an on-ramp to a website. That’s not a very satisfying experience for visitors, especially when the first thing they are presented with is a pop-up that asks them to subscribe, or take a survey, or watch an ad. Or worse, if they happen to be on mobile, they land on a site that is not mobile optimized.   

Is there a way to provide more value to your social audience while maximizing revenue potential? The answer is YES.

Consider this – 93% of shopping purchase decisions in the US today are influenced by social media. So by proxy, the more content you push out across your social channels, the more opportunities you have to influence shoppers. And if that influence can be translated into native placements and affiliate conversion, that’s a pretty compelling revenue story.

So how can you turn social into a more engaging, yet efficient revenue generating channel? Here are four ways:

1) Tailor the “landing experience.” Consider the context and content that drove that user to click, and then make sure the corresponding landing experience enhances it. When you do SEO or paid search promotions, do you just point to your website home page, or do you use customized landing pages to increase engagement and conversion? The same rule should apply for social.

2) Don’t rely on just one link. Provide two paths – one to the full story on your website, and the other to information that helps the user research and shop for mentioned/related products. This way you get the site traffic (and ad impressions) from those that just want to read the article – and you get the native placement and affiliate revenue potential from the shopping experience.

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 3.59.51 PMCooking Light does it right! They provide their Facebook visitors with two paths – one to the full article and the other to a shopping experience featuring items to replicate the cheese presentation. (Visit the shopping experience here)

3) Don’t translate the shopping experience literally. If the post is about a new Christmas cookie recipe, don’t offer them an option to “buy” vanilla extract online (news flash – they won’t). Instead, offer the reader the option to explore new cookie presses and decorating kits (which they will buy online). You’ll be providing real value while increasing your change for revenue.    

4) Do help your audience bridge the digital and physical worlds. The majority of social is consumed on mobile, and more and more mobile consumption happens while in-store. If you are pushing out content on Twitter about hot new jeans, and your follower happens to be in a store that carries them, and your advertiser is that jeans brand or the retailer, who would love to push out a special offer to that follower, why not satisfy them all at once? With proximity marketing (beacons, geo-fencing) this is now possible.

ShopAdvisor partners with leader publishers and content providers to create unique native advertising and commerce opportunities that work perfectly in social (bonus – they are always mobile optimized).

Five Tips for Instantly Growing Website Revenue from Native Placements and Commerce

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According to the IAB’s latest report, digital ad revenues hit a landmark high in the first half of 2014, surging to $23.1B. Unfortunately, when you look under the covers, nearly all the growth was fueled by mobile, video and social. Combine this with decreasing margins driven by programmatic buying and the ad revenue picture is not so bright for those that still rely largely on display advertising.

Many content providers have turned to affiliate commerce as a secondary revenue stream, offering shopping links directly from content. However, sales volume (and corresponding revenue) from a typical affiliate model is limited since it is reliant on the visitor immediately purchasing that exact product, using that exact link/path from your website.

Native ads certainly offer an advantage when properly executed. However, inventory is often limited and production can be intensive, making it more difficult to scale revenue (and margins).

So what is today’s publisher to do? Find the right way to offer shopping and native placements from your website content. Here are five ways to flip the traditional affiliate model on its head to your advantage:

1) Don’t rely on just one product to do the trick. Increase the odds your visitors will find something they do want to buy. Let visitors explore entire collections of products.  You can feature one, and yet offer visitors similar ones (including those from advertisers – the perfect native situation) that make sense given the context.

2) Don’t rely on just one link to do the trick either. Make sure there are multiple “referral” points from product collections into retailer site(s). With proper tracking you can get credit for any sale you produce as a result.

3) Do offer your visitors the option to save an item and purchase later (you still get credit). More often than not, the moment the visitor discovers a product on your site is not the minute they are ready to purchase it. They need time to consider – compare – and then buy.

4) Do offer multiple retailers to increase the odds you will drive a sale. Shoppers will often dismiss a shopping link when they see the only retailer featured is one that is not on their short list. Featuring multiple retailers – especially those also advertising – can not only increase conversion but also create unique native placements when one is given prominence.

5) Do get credit for offline sales too – where 90% of the sales happen. In today’s environment shoppers are omni-channel, so merchandising needs to be the same. They might find a product your editors recommended on your website, and then go to their favorite local retailer to purchase. With a platform integrated with beacons, it is now possible to close this loop.

Part 3: Case Study: The Real Proof Proximity Marketing Works

Pilot Goals

A well-known retailer wanted to test the impact on retail store traffic when mobile proximity-based offers were combined with their back-to-school branding campaign.  The pilot involved ShopAdvisor users only, the use of beacons placed in proximity to their stores, and the ShopAdvisor proximity marketing platform.

To protect ShopAdvisor users, three important measures were put in place. First, a limit was placed on the number of alerts allowed so as to not annoy the user.  Second, users were always in control.  They could turn off their location permission at any time, and/or elect not to receive notifications from the ShopAdvisor app. Third, no personally identifiable information was collected by the beacons.

The Optimal Consumer Experience

When a ShopAdvisor app user passed a beacon, they received a customized, mobile push alert notifying them of a nearby deal from the retailer (for example “you just passed a great <retailername> deal on 3rd Street”).

Clicking the alert brought the consumer to a mobile landing experience (much like those offered within ShopAdvisor partner magazines) with multiple options for exploring the retailer’s apparel.  There was also a mobile coupon and store locator presented.

Those shoppers who were ready to purchase could visit the nearby store to immediately redeem the coupon – those shoppers who were not ready to purchase could still save the coupon for a later visit and engage with the brand on their own terms.

Surprising Results

The combination of brand exposure in the city, combined with the ShopAdvisor proximity alert and durable mobile brand experience yielded 4x the store visit rate of similar mobile marketing/proximity programs available in market today.  In fact, of those shoppers who received the alert and explored the experience on their phone, 65% actually visited the retailer’s location(s).

Why was ShopAdvisor rate so much higher?  There were two primary factors:

  1. Many (nearly two-thirds) of those who received the push alert did not engage immediately, but rather opened and explored the shopping experience well after receiving the initial notification, and later were ready to purchase.  This “deferred” shopping behavior is consistent with what is observed among magazine readers who can shop directly from content in book or online.
  2. Some users had previously expressed interest in the retailer’s brand via the ShopAdvisor experience offered via magazine partners or through the app.  Those users were 3.5x more likely to interact with the alert, and 2x more likely to visit the store than those without this interest profile.  This demonstrates the importance of engaging and learning about shopper interests early in their journey (as in magazines) and then using this information to more effectively target brand/retailer offers.  This not only drives more shoppers into the store (where 90% of all sales still take place), but also enables full attribution back to the magazine source.

Practical Applications for Brands

This case study illustrates the potential to use a combination of traditional branding mechanisms (advertising) with cutting-edge mobile technology (proximity marketing) to lift in store visits for participating retailers, and more importantly quantify that lift.

To learn more, visit https://www.shopadvisor.com/retailers.

Part 2: The Path from In-Book to In-Store. How to Drive More Retail Ad Dollars

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 4.08.14 PMIn the second part of this special series, we outline how publishers can utilize proximity marketing extensions to gain more advertising and sponsorship dollars from retailers.

Let’s assume for the sake of this article that all publishers offer their readers some option for shopping their print issues. It doesn’t matter if it is a simple edit credit for a retailer who carries the product, or a more sophisticated scan to mobile shopping experience using a combination of Blippar or Digimarc with ShopAdvisor. The goal is still the same. Publishers need to protect (and grow) ad dollars from key retailers, who constantly look for proof that their print advertising dollars are driving sales. And since 90% of all sales still happen in store, the fastest way to a retailer’s heart and purse strings is to prove that in-book advertising drives in-store traffic.

The problem is that closing the gap between what happens in media and what happens in retail has been difficult, if not impossible to do. That is until beacons and proximity marketing platforms were introduced. There is a reason the use of beacons is being called the “Holy Grail” for retailers (and media). Not only can they accurately track the source of foot traffic back to presence in a magazine, but they can also be used to increase the rate by which that magazine-driven foot traffic converts from browsers to buyers.

So exactly how does this work? Let’s take a look at an example of how a typical reader might go from discovering something in the pages of a magazine to visiting a local retailer as a result, and how beacons can be used to link these two actions.

Mary Loves Celebrity Looks

Mary is a voracious reader of entertainment content, both in print magazines and via their digital/social counterparts. She’s also a die-hard iPhone user, and has downloaded too many apps to count. Mary was thrilled when her favorite magazine introduced the ability to shop directly from the print issue and Twitter feed. As instructed, she used the ShopAdvisor app to scan the pages of the magazine to learn more about edit pick and advertiser products. She also caught a tweet about her favorite celeb and was delighted to see the associated shopping collection with one click. Mary found some looks she loved from the print issue and magazine’s tweet so she saved them to her ShopAdvisor account. She did note that Macy’s carried a few of the items (convenient since there was a store in her local mall) but she wasn’t ready to buy. About a week later, Mary was in the mall, and remembered Macy’s had some looks she liked. Unbeknown to Mary, Macy’s had placed iBeacons strategically at the entrance and around their store. So when Mary walked in, her ShopAdvisor app registered the beacon signal and recorded that Mary, who shopped from the October issue of magazine x and their Twitter feed a week earlier, had now visited a Macy’s store. Since Mary had items that Macy’s carried saved to her account, the app pushed her an instant notification with a special 10% off mobile coupon for all Macy’s apparel. Mary couldn’t resist.

The New Age of Measurement

In the previous example, if the magazine had not offered a way for print readers or Twitter followers to explore products in a measureable way, the relationship between Macy’s presence in the magazine’s content and Mary’s store visit would have been impossible to track. Nor would the magazine have received any credit for the resulting sale. But with beacons and proximity marketing platforms, that now all changes. Magazine titles can finally get the credit they so richly deserve.

How Do We Get Started?

There are three pieces that must be in place. Turnkey solutions like ShopAdvisor can handle all, with little setup time or cost:

  • Readers must have an app installed (with location permission turned on) that can listen for beacon signals. The ShopAdvisor app is already integrated with iBeacons and existing proximity networks like Gimbal. And since the ShopAdvisor app can be used as a scanner, as an in-store comparison shopping tool and much more, those who download it actively engage and welcome push alerts.
  • There must be context for targeting the user. By shop enabling content with ShopAdvisor, publishers can actually capture context and brand/product affinity as readers browse the pages of their magazine, website or social feeds. This context is then used to appropriately target messaging and offers that will be appreciated by readers. The resulting engagement metrics are invaluable in supporting ad and sponsorship sales efforts.
  • There must be a technology infrastructure for managing messaging rules and tracking all beacon activity. The ShopAdvisor platform is designed to handle an entire campaign, from the point of product discovery in a magazine, through the point of product purchase in store.

Up next – “Part 3: The Real Proof Proximity Marketing Works: Case Study Results”

To learn more about the potential of native commerce and proximity marketing revenue for your magazine, visit http://www.shopadvisor.com/retailers.

Part 1: The Basics – Why Publishers Should Care About Beacons

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Open any marketing article and you’re bound to see the word “beacon.” They are being positioned as the Holy Grail for retailers since they can be used to drive store traffic and increase in-store conversion. You’ll be hard pressed to find retailers that don’t have plans to install them in store this year.

For publishers, beacons and proximity marketing is the Holy Grail because it will become possible to track a reader’s shopping journey, from the minute they discover a brand in your magazine, to the moment they walk in the store to purchase. Since 90% of sales still happen in store, that’s a whole lot of “credit” that is not being attributed to your title right now.

In the first part of this special series, we present a brief primer on beacons – the real challenges and opportunities for deploying them in today’s marketplace.

Poised To Explode

Beacons are not new. A beacon is simply a transmitter of a signal that can be recognized by a “receiver” programmed to listen. So why haven’t they been used for marketing until now? The answer is simple – until the proliferation of the smartphone and advent of BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), it was not practical to place these transmitters in high traffic areas, nor was there a device that a consumer might carry with them to “listen” for these signals.

Thanks to today’s technology, a beacon is roughly the size of a hockey puck, costs about $10 per unit, and can be easily placed in locations where marketers might want to communicate with consumers, for example on an outdoor advertising panel on a city street, or at the entrance to a store.

According to Forrester, about 30% of smartphones are enabled to connect to beacons using BLE today, and that number is expected to grow to 80% in the next 15 months. So now you understand why we’re early in the adoption cycle, yet there is a real urgency to figure this out.

Let’s Get Practical

To use this technology it takes more than simply placing a beacon and waiting for massive BLE smartphone adoption. There has to be a shopping related app (of value) installed on that phone, plus the backend messaging infrastructure to turn a signal into a meaningful consumer engagement via that app.

Retailers today are taking a simplistic approach, placing beacons in store to help their existing app users navigate to specific departments. The more sophisticated (and ultimately the desired) use of the technology by retailers, such as messaging to a broader base of consumers located outside the physical store, who have a preference for that retailer and demonstrated intent to purchase a product the retailer carries, have not been implemented until now.

Companies like Gimbal and ShopAdvisor are changing this, partnering to offer a turnkey solution for taking product/retailer preference data and using it to drive in store purchase from a broader base of mobile shoppers – just in time for this holiday season.

How Can Publishers Play?

Ask yourself this question – what is valuable enough to you as a consumer that you would keep your smartphone location turned on, and install one shopping app that listens for BLE signals?

ShopAdvisor recently did a survey of female shoppers to answer this question. The resounding answer – the value received had to be personally relevant. They wanted to know if there was a deal for something they wanted to shop for, or for shopping at a store they liked to shop in. To sum it up in the words of one respondent, “…allow me to be the first to find the items that I love, with a price point I also love.”

Where do consumers turn to find the latest looks, or see what their favorite retailers are offering this season? Magazines of course. And that’s where magazine publishers have a distinct advantage, because they can capture that interest by offering shopping directly from their pages – and now, with the help of proximity marketing solutions from ShopAdvisor and Gimbal – turn that interest into a retail store visit they can get full credit for.

In closing, rest assured you are not late to the party. We’re just getting started. But if Forrester is right in their predictions, anything you can do today to pilot a proximity marketing program using beacons will put you way ahead of your competition when these programs are ready to scale. And that looks to be in the not so distant future.

Stay tuned for part 2: Creating the Path from In-Book to In-Store

To learn more about the potential of native commerce and proximity marketing revenue for your magazine, visit http://www.shopadvisor.com/retailers.

Give your audience what they want: Best practices for shop enabling your content

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More publishers are offering shopping directly from the pages of their print, tablet and web content. But are they doing it right? Here are some best practices that when implemented, really make a difference.

1. Give them more to shop. A recent survey found that readers want to shop for both ad and edit products.  Don’t frustrate them by selecting just a few articles to curate. Let them shop the entire issue. You’ll get higher engagement and stronger response.

2. Make it easy for your readers to learn about (and keep using) the shopping feature. Give them one main launching point for shopping in each issue. Use a promo page that lets them “shop the entire issue right from this page.” You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the response when they only have to take one action to gain access to all the products featured in the issue.

3. Make it easy for your readers to launch the shopping experience on their terms. Give them multiple options — scan an action code with an app like ShopAdvisor; text a short code to receive a link: or including a vanity URL they can access anytime.

4. Understand shopping and buying are two different things. Discovering is not a signal they will immediately purchase, which is why affiliate links often fail. Be sure to use a platform like ShopAdvisor which offers easy ways for your readers to save the products that interest them, with options to buy later.

5. Be the first to offer a product. On average, a fashion magazine might feature products of which 40% are not yet available in retail. Leverage your ability to be the first to offer a product. Offering them a service where you tell them when products become available at retail is the perfect opportunity to re-engage your readers and remind them of where they first discovered those products.

6. Use early learning as fresh content. What readers are engaging with most in your November tablet issue  within the first two weeks can then be pushed out across digital and social channels as “top reader picks” later in the month.

Want to offer readers the ability to shop every issue – even on mobile?  Try the free ShopAdvisor collection tool.  You’ll have a ready-made catalog of products curated from each issue (edit, advertiser or both) that is completely mobile-optimized, and easily linked from print, tablet, web and social each month.

Next: stay tuned for a three-part series on proximity marketing!

Photo credit: Image courtesy of Ambrose at FreeDigitalPhotos.net