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E-commerce content marketing #1: Content is King

Content Marketing could be said to have originated with the invention of the Gutenberg printing press – from which pamphlets could be mass produced and circulated widely. Since the first spam email in 1978, content for web-based marketing has had some highs and lows – spam, clickbait and content purely to drive search engine optimisation (SEO) have featured in those troughs.

 

The name ‘Spam’ comes from Spam luncheon meat by way of a Monty Python sketch in which Spam is ubiquitous, unavoidable, and repetitive. The first blog – or web log – is credited to a Swarthmore College student named Justin Hall, who in 1994 created the site Links.net.

As time has progressed Marketeers have grown to understand that rich, relevant, quality content is the only content worth producing. To quote the entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk in 2018: “Content is King, but context is God”

From the rise of video, social sharing and SEO, content on the web and content marketing have been through some major changes. Below you will find some key facts and figures providing insights into these changes:

 

  • Sessions and page-views, conversion rate, and time on page make up the five most popular metrics with 60 percent, 47 percent, and 39 percent respectively (Obelero.com 2020)
  • The most popular forms of content include videos (72%), blog posts (69%) and research and original data (60%) (com 2020)
  • More is being invested to create & distribute content – 33% increase in spending via new hires and 29% increase in marketing/web agency resources (Source: Hubspot.com 2018)
  • Blogging remains the most effective technique for content marketing (75%) followed by e-newsletters (66%), infographics (60%) and long-form content (50%). (Source: Hubspot.com 2018)
  • “Only 55% of bloggers update old posts. Those who do are 74% more likely to get strong results” – Orbit Media 2018
  • “61% of consumers are influenced by custom content.” – Dragon Search Marketing 2018
  • Content marketing was rated the top marketing technique based on commercial impact on incremental leads and sales by 21% of marketeers (Source: Hubspot.com 2018)
  • 60% of marketers create at least one piece of content each day. (Source: eMarketer 2017)
  • Content marketing costs 62% less than sales marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads. (Source: DemandMetric 2017)

 

Content Marketing SEO 

One way to improve search engine visibility is to include a list of ‘SEO snippets’. These could appear beneath the result on search engines such as Google in order to reach as large an audience as possible.

You do need to get into the top ten search results for your desired keywords to have a chance of getting your snippets listed. Below are some examples of SEO snippets:

 

Key objectives when creating marketing content for e-commerce sites:

  • Be relevant, useful and inspire trust
  • Integrate product call-to-actions
  • Connect with other lines of communication and in-store experience
  • Be mobile friendly
  • Produce data-driven, personalised content

 

Approaches to building content:

  • Become an authority on solving a challenge
  • Become a community organiser
  • Show off customer case studies
  • Provide help guides, how-to-guides or competitions
  • Join forces with influencers and encourage user generated content
  • Use infographics
  • Consider the SEO impact

 

What to expect

In a short series of articles, I will be covering different areas of content creation and provision. The snippets above summarise the topics that will be covered. SEO impact will be discussed together with how relevant content, within proper context and limited to specific topics and challenges, is integral to good SEO.

I’ll also consider case studies to help both clients and service providers and cover how content can be presented – and made easy to digest – together with techniques used to integrate products and services – instant click to buy, live streaming, videos with ‘stitched in’ links and chatbots.

The articles will also look at how organisations are connecting with other content – product pages, blogs, social sharing, video, email and in-store experience, together with the different channels involved: social media, curated content, keeping content fresh, live streaming, social commerce, reviews, videos, emails and brick and mortar stores.

 

Next instalments

Throughout this series of articles, I will include references to research and examples of good practice.

Each article will also contain some key figures, statistics and research to back up the advice.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have been enticed by this introduction and return for the follow-on sections arriving soon.

App Store's 30% commission: the apple of discord

Apple’s App Store and its 30% commission fee are currently the source of heated debate. The fee has angered the likes of Spotify, Fortnite and Digital Content Next. Are the tables turning?

Apple reaps significant profits from its store, where, in exchange for a secure environment, simple transactions and a large audience, a 30% commission is charged for each payment. In 2019, the revenue generated was $50bn. While the commission seemed to be no problem for developers up until now, they are beginning to make their voices heard. Three organisations in particular have expressed their discontent with what they refer to as the “Apple tax”.

 

Spotify, Fortnite and Digital Content Next: big fish that feel like they are caught in a net

Spotify, the leading music streaming provider, was one of the first to publicly denounce the 30% commission, describing it as anticompetitive. This is because Spotify and Apple have been competitors ever since the Apple Music service (priced at €9.99) appeared on the market in 2015. The latter is, of course, not required to pay the “tax”. One year before, Spotify had increased the price of its monthly subscription on the App Store (from €9.99 to 12.99), passing on the cost of the commission to the customer; it later came back on the decision, however, in order to remain competitive. In 2019, Spotify filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission, arguing that it was undeniably at a disadvantage to Apple Music.

Furthermore, in the autumn of 2020, Apple launched Apple One, a bundle subscription including TV+, Arcade, iCloud and Music, starting at €14.95 a month, provoking the ire of Daniel Ek, Spotify’s CEO, who declared that “Apple is using its dominant position and unfair practices to disadvantage competitors and deprive consumers by favouring its own services.”

 

In the gaming sector, in-app sales on the game Fortnite, developed by Epic Games, earned $2.4bn in 2018, beating the record for most annual revenue in video game history. It has been available on the App Store since 2018 and, in August 2020, the publisher launched an alternative payment system in order to get around the commission. Furthermore, this allowed gamers to get 1000 V-Bucks (the game’s virtual currency) for €7.99 instead of the €9.99 they paid through Apple’s in-app payment system. Apple’s response was swift and Fortnite was removed from the store the same day for violating its terms of use.

Following this eviction, Epic Games immediately responded by filing a complaint against Apple, in order to put an end to practices it sees as anticompetitive. Fortnite’s creator was well prepared, presenting a solid case, and even a publicity campaign based on the 1984 launch campaign for the first Macintosh (which was aimed at IBM and its “old school” approach). The trial is still underway, with a possible conclusion in July 2021.

 

The American trade association Digital Content Next has also been in the news of late. Its members include the New York Times, Washington Post and CNBC, which attract an audience of more than 220 million unique visitors.

In August 2020, Digital Content Next asked Tim Cook if it could benefit from the same “advantageous” conditions as those granted to Amazon for its Prime Video service. Instead of a 30% commission (and then 15% from the second year), Amazon immediately benefited from the “privilege” of only paying 15% of its revenue. Legal documents revealed that this agreement was concluded between Jeff Bezos and Apple’s Vice-President, in order to attract Prime Video to the App Store. Following these revelations, Tim Cook admitted that this type of arrangement was possible with other companies, if they were able to satisfy certain conditions. Digital Content Next did not receive a direct answer concerning the “terms” required to benefit from the 15% commission, which would enable its members to invest more in providing quality information… Unless the condition to be satisfied was “simply” to become one of the most valuable groups in the world or, conversely, to be a “small player”. Indeed, in November 2020, Apple launched the Small Business Program, which enables developers that generate less than one million dollars in annual sales to pay a 15% commission right from the first year.

 

What can we expect in 2021 and subsequent years?

In September 2020, a dozen companies, including Spotify, Epic Games, Deezer and Match Group (Tinder, Meetic, etc.), grouped together via the non-profit Coalition for App Fairness in order to put pressure on Apple to change store regulations. There are now nearly 50 members.

Developers may need Apple to exist and prosper, but the opposite is also true. Specialists in this area, such as Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, and Mitch Stoltz, lawyer of the international non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation, agree that winning cases like this against Apple would be a good thing, in order to experiment with new ways of doing things and new business models. For the time being, the only solution is to reduce dependency on Apple by finding alternative channels, as Spotify has done by investing massively in its Progressive Web App (accessible from a browser) to offer a quality experience, while increasing its margin.

We are indeed seeing the beginning of a shift in the balance of power between these major brands. Companies are no longer shy about expressing their views on the company with the apple logo and what they see as anticompetitive practices. First steps have been taken with the cases against Apple, the Coalition for App Fairness and the Small Business Program. We will be watching to see what happens next.

Six questions to ask when defining the scope your digital project

Building a sufficiently clear and detailed requirements specification that will put your digital project on track is a big challenge. The definition of your need will be the foundation of your project, the basis on which your teams or partner(s) will establish a viable, relevant and, above all, realistic recommendation in terms of the solution, resources, workload and time frame. Each requirements specification remains specific to the company’s governance rules and environment, as well as the size of the project. Information gathered often lacks clarity, quality, coherency and consistency, which can lead to failure.  

 

Bearing in mind that the success of a project is largely based on its justification, correct definition, understanding and adhesion, it is crucial to devote the time and resources needed to the pre-project phase known as ‘project scoping’. I would like to share six guiding questions, based on the ‘Five Ws and How’ method, to help you bring your ideas to maturity and accurately define the project scope 

 

Why?: the justification, challenges and aims of the digital project 

  • How did your project come about? What is its reason for being?  
  • What will this project bring you? What is its value proposition? What problem does it solve?  
  • What opportunity does it offer?  
  • What are your project’s challenges and aims (qualitative and quantitative)?  
  • Does it meet your company’s strategic objectives (business, performance and image)?  
  • What results does your senior management expect?  
  • Which criteria will be used to judge its success?  

You need to ask yourself all of these questions to define the expected goals as accurately as possible. You also need to make sure that these goals are specific and measurable. If you realise that the project does not meet a clear or objective need, you should probably not pursue it.  

A project’s reason for being will differ from one business sector to another. In banking and insurance, many projects come about for external reasons, such as regulatory changes that need to be complied with. In industry, companies may be interested in digitising processes, from manufacturing to order and stock management, in order to pursue a cost reduction and performance improvement policy. By setting a valid and achievable goal, you will also be able to lastingly motivate the project team. 

 

What?: the project description 

  • How do you define your project?  
  • What are its content and scope? What are its limits? 
  • Which solution is being considered to meet the objectives? What are the possible alternatives, if any? 
  • What are the expected deliverables? Can they be prioritised?  

This is admittedly a difficult exercise… We often begin with a global idea expressed by the requester and have to achieve a sufficient level of detail to correctly identify activities, and their related workload, which will stem from the need. It is essential to clearly determine the limits, whether related to the expected functionality or services, the use cases, the processes, the organisations and information systems impacted, or the technology used. Carrying out this step reduces the risk of unpleasant surprises and changes of direction, which are often costly, occurring during the project. To do so, you must fully consider the various aspects of the project, for example by conducting interviews and workshops (to share a single vision by gathering information and comparing ideas and viewpoints). This offers a dual benefit: identify key needs and be able to formulate requirements in a clear and structured way, while ensuring that everybody involved is on board 

 

Who?: the entities and stakeholders involved 

  • Who are the project stakeholders?  
  • Who are the sponsors, project team, executive managers, departments involved, clients, end users and external organisations, for example?

You must make sure that nobody is forgotten (such as users of a back-office, the customer relations centre, etc.) and identify their roles (their influence on the project’s success, their expectations and fears). It is also crucial to maintain a targeted communication plan (what type of information and how often) for the duration of the project, in order to ensure you have their active involvement and support. It is not rare to see projects fail due to a clear lack of interaction between the various stakeholders. How can you expect to have the support of your senior management if the project drifts off course and you have not ensured they are sufficiently informed or forewarned? How can you guarantee the quality of deliverables if you have not involved end users in building your product or have done so too late? 

 

Where?: your project’s internal and external environment 

  • What is your project’s environment? What kind of existing or future ecosystem will it operate in? 
  • Are there interactions with other projects?  
  • If similar projects have been carried out, what kind of feedback did you receive?  
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses, threats and opportunities?  
  • What sets you apart from the competition? 
  • What are your target audiences and personas?  
  • Which need must you fulfil? How to reach your target? 
  • What are the internal (HR, technical, legal, etc.) and external restrictions?  
  • Where will the project be carried out (internally, outsourced, nearshore, offshore, etc.)?  
  • Are you able to bring together the project team on a single site? 

It is essential to effectively analyse the existing situation and gain a clear view of reality, in order to give the project a chance of success. This exploratory phase will often help you highlight the added value of your project and support its reason for being. 

 

When?: major milestones in the timeline 

  • Have you identified the main phases?  
  • Have you set the project start date, the main tasks, and the intermediary and final deliveries?  
  • Are there imperatives in terms of the schedule (a set or legally required deadline)? 

As explained above, the more mature your project is, the better you will be able to estimate and plan the workload of the main activities, without forgetting to take into account the availability of resources required to carry them out. You need to set reasonable and possibly adjustable deadlines as the project advances, adapting to any unexpected circumstances along the way. If you have an end date that ties your hands in terms of deadlines, then you must either allocate the necessary budget or reduce the scope 

Once again, even though it is only a macro schedule at this stage, you must be as realistic as possible. Approval phases are often underestimated, failing to take into account deadlines for legal validation. Another example we have encountered: user training sessions scheduled during summer holidays, when most of the personnel are absent. 

 

How?: organisational, human and financial resources 

  • Have you identified a project methodology?  
  • Which authorities? Which governance?  

Be coherent in terms of your organisation and project maturity (V-model, iterative or agile). Perhaps because it is in vogue, or due to the promises of agility, the agile project approach is very popular, while it does not always suit the corporate culture or even the project.  

  • What are the allocated material (machines, tools, software, premises, etc.) and human resources?  
  • What skills, expertise and resources have been identified (internal and/or external)?  
  • What are the roles and availabilities of each individual?  

Prior to the launch of the project, you will need to have identified the resources that are essential for its deployment and effectively planned ahead for their management, in order to maintain sufficient productivity and motivation throughout the project. 

  • What budget are you prepared to devote to it?  
  • Do you have the financial means to meet your ambitions or requirements?  
  • What return on investment do you expect?  

In any event, your ability to stay on budget will largely depend on how accurate your initial estimations are and the budget margin you have provided, as well as on managing costs in a way that enables you to identify and adjust any discrepancies. Defining your expression as clearly as possible will limit financial risks.  

In short: do not be afraid to ask questions! Asking questions is key to achieving a clear definition of your project and securing it. In addition, doing so will enable you to identify and assess the main risks early on and take preventive actions. No project is risk-free, but you can reduce uncertainty! This analysis phase, which will play a major part in your project’s success or failure, is a complex step that can be highly strategic depending on its size, so you should not hesitate to seek assistance. An outside perspective is often very helpful when producing your requirements specification.  

BOPIS and BORIS: the retailer's friends

While retailers are always obsessed with the competition, in particular Amazon, we feel that physical stores can be used as a key differentiating factor, in particular thanks to our friends BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick up In Store) and BORIS (Buy Online, Return In Store). In this article, we will look at how they can significantly improve retailers’ daily lives. 

 

BOPIS and BORIS: an introduction 

One case illustrates the arrival of BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick up In Store) and BORIS (Buy Online, Return In Store) particularly well. It is Walmart, which sees assistance of online customers as strategic, in particular through its delivery service direct to the doorstep. Customers benefit from Walmart’s Grocery Pickup service, which combines the convenience of online shopping and the ease of not having to leave the car, all without additional fees. 

If you were wondering, the advantage of BOPIS over click-and-collect is that it makes the order available at one of the brand’s stores, while speeding up the returns process. In the case of clothing, for example, customers benefit from the use of fitting rooms and a sales advisor, who is on hand to handle returns and update stocks. This makes it possible to reduce shipping costs and put returned items back into stock almost in real time, making them available for other customers to buy. 

To achieve this, retailers need to overcome organisational and operational challenges, particularly in terms of personnel, digitization and process optimization. 

However, BORIS and BOPIS open up major opportunities in terms of both sales and store footfall. Any retailer that offers fast-selling products, i.e. common consumer goods, will see an increase in its global revenue. This remains true for retailers in general. 

 

How to meet these challenges?

Current processes are not optimized. The management of orders as part of a ‘pick up in store’ and ‘return in store’ system involves additional workload and requires available employees to welcome customers who have purchased online. Furthermore, these employees must also receive and manage product returns, including operations such as adding to/removing from stock and checking returned products. The workload related to meeting consumers’ new expectations (speed, buying convenience and the ability to make an immediate return are at the top of the list) is, therefore, growing, and presents an organisational obstacle to the adoption of BOPIS and BORIS by retailers.  

In the view of retailers, the best way to overcome these challenges is to make the processes more efficient by optimizing and digitizing them1. In particular, this means having improved real-time visibility of stocks, at all points of sale, and a central stock that enables consolidation of all incoming and outgoing flows. These points are essential in order to set up a BOPIS and BORIS system. 

If retailers want to optimize the management of returns, or even avoid them altogether, they can adopt ROPIS: Reservation Online, Pick up In Store. The main difference here is that instead of customers paying for products before picking them up in the store, they can first reserve them online and then try them in person before deciding whether or not to buy. The product is kept on hold until the customer comes to the store. Not only does this method eliminate order processes, it also avoids unnecessary returns. 

 

What will BOPIS’ and BORIS’ roles be in tomorrow’s world? 

The Covid-19 crisis and its effects on consumption will most likely be felt for a while to come. It looks as though day-to-day consumer behaviour will change permanently and, in many cases, significantly. Nobody can predict how exactly, but it seems likely that consumers will be less inclined to spend as much time in stores, particularly those that do not offer added value or a “wow effect”.  

This means that BOPIS and BORIS will soon be one of those services that retailers need to offer without delay. Customers will only need to go to stores to pick up orders made online or return a product. 

It seems that BOPIS and BORIS, along with ROPIS, are extremely useful allies that no retailer can do without. 

Marketing attribution: beware of the last-click model

It’s Friday and it’s time to look at your KPIs. As you analyse your performance levels, your attention is drawn to one indicator in particular: Cost Per Acquisition, or ‘CPA’. As you examine it tool by tool, you notice that there are differences in performance and, therefore, cost. To make your media mix more effective, you are tempted to cut the tools with high CPA in order to focus on those that earn you more. Not so fast! Often, costs per acquisition only reflect conversion on the last click. You may be missing a big part of the story and making decisions a bit too hastily. In order to better understand a prospect’s journey up to acquisition, we need to take a look at marketing attribution. 

 

What does ‘marketing attribution’ mean?

Attribution makes it possible to link acquisition with the right tool or combination of tools. By looking at the contribution of each tool, you will see a very different picture than that drawn by last-click attribution.  

In practical terms, a last-click sale will be attributed to SEA, which is a particularly effective tool. But that’s not the whole story! Before clicking on your Google ad, your future customer may have clicked on a display banner first, and then a Facebook ad. Finally, it was only once the customer had decided to buy that they went to Google, entered the name of your brand and clicked on your ad. As the saying goes: It’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey. This is the very essence of attribution! 

 

Why adopt this approach? 

Understanding the contribution of each tool to the final acquisition simply enables you to make decisions based on the whole picture and, above all, to avoid making bad decisions due to a lack of information.  

As an example, the Facebook page of one of our clients in the travel industry had a very high CPA, brining only one or two sales per sponsored post. However, when we looked at the sales generated indirectly by this tool, the results were very good. While the last-click model made this tool seem unprofitable, the page was actually an effective initial touchpoint. Cutting out this tool would have risked damaging the performance of other tools! 

 

Which model to choose?

Attribution is a complex area and there are various models available: Think carefully about the model to adopt in order to understand the result.  

  • Initial touchpoint: in contrast to the last-click model, this helps you understand how the customer found you in the first place. However, it is insufficient if you want to track your user’s entire journey. 
  • Linear model: it attributes the same value to each visit, making it possible to follow the user’s journey, but not to accurately calculate the importance of each tool. 
  • U model: while the previous model flattens the importance of attributions, this model lends significant importance to the first and last clicks, and less importance to the tools in between. Remember that it is up to you to configure the importance attributed to the first and last clicks. 
  • Time decay model: somewhat similar to the last-click model, it attributes greater importance to touchpoints closer in time to conversion. Actions performed the same day are therefore given more credit than those on the previous day. Touchpoints further away in time lose value. 
  • Algorithmic attribution: more complex, this approach frees itself of the above models and is designed to measure the actual contribution of tools. While it is the most accurate, it is also very demanding in terms of the quality of the data to be processed. If you are unable to provide the data for all tools, including offline tools (quality, online visitor engagement, time stamping of touchpoints, etc.), this model may not function correctly.  
  • It is also possible to create personalised models in Google Analytics, where you can choose how much importance to attribute to each interaction. 

 

How to proceed?

The complexity of this area means you need to use a reliable tracking tool, which will give you the information you need. There are many solutions available on the market. It is often difficult to choose the best partner as the solutions are so similar. When choosing, we recommend that you take two factors into account: look carefully at how the algorithms offered work and make sure that the solution does not take into account fraudulent clicks and impressions 

In order to set up your attribution model, you can use the Google Analytics tool, including Google Acquisition. You can also create your own model using SQL. However, if you have many and complex data sources, it becomes difficult to manage the attribution model without using a dedicated tool. Several companies have specialised in a data-driven approach, such as Quantmetry, Funnel, Daitaku and Mazeberry, which was recently renamed Easyence. To find the right partner, make sure you specify the various data to be analysed and the attribution model that seems most relevant to you.  

The last-click model is now outdated and, above all, it is too blunt a tool to help you make relevant decisions. However, this remains a complex area to grasp. You need to take the time to choose the model that suits you best and the tool that will then enable you to obtain useful and intelligible data, in order to guide your acquisition strategy.  

Is loyalty still the best proof of love?

There was a time when loyalty was rewarded with stamps on a recycled paper card, with no tracking, no customer data and no history, and yet there were valued, happy and loyal customers all the same! This was followed by a period when it was hard to find a wallet with enough room to contain the many cards, now plastic, shops gave to their customers (in 2016, a study carried out by TNS Sofres estimated there were seven cards per customer)! However, such schemes are costly and investment in them has been called into question; not to mention those that are more a test of patience than a reward for customers. At a time when certain brands, such as Décathlon1, are rolling them back, we take a look at good practices and new trends for loyalty schemes. 
 

The art of seduction 

All relationships begin with a period of courtship! And, in a fiercely competitive environment, brands must find ingenious ways to make their loyalty schemes stand out. In ‘The Loyalty Report 2017’, Bond Brand Loyalty highlights two types of benefits: dividends and experiences.  

‘Dividends’ means anything that brings monetary value for users, including coupons, discounts, cashback, gift vouchers and free delivery. These various pecuniary benefits do encourage purchases, but, over the years, consumers have come to expect them. According to the report, these privileges no longer influence members’ satisfaction, so brands must go further in the way they offer benefits, in particular by personalising their offerings. Auchan has done just this, with its loyalty scheme named “Waaoh !”. Each week, the supermarket sends personalised challenges to its scheme members, who select which ones they would like to take on. The supermarket Monoprix is adopting a similar approach, making personalisation a core part of its redesigned loyalty scheme, allowing members to choose the top three products they would like discounts on, based on their order history. This gives them a 10 to 20% discount on each purchase! 

Fidélisation 1

Source : https://www.lsa-conso.fr/les-clients-de-monoprix-vont-choisir-eux-memes-leurs-produits-en-promotion-exclu,257160

 

Experiences: virtual badges, personalised recommendations, content, partnerships with other brands, forums, creation of communities, exclusive experiences, charity actions, co-branding… There is vast potential for brands to use their imaginations in order to offer ever more innovative, emotional and rewarding experiences for their members, while building a more personal relationship with their customers. With this in mind, M&S has chosen to offer exclusive invitations to fashion shows and cookery classes run by big-name chefs, for example, rather than discounts.

In order to get off the beaten track of the “same old” loyalty scheme dividends and experiences, now is the time for differentiation! Here, once again, brands are putting all their energy into coming up with original, sometimes surprising, and always attractive rewards in order to encourage membership 

 

Fidélisation 2

Source : https://www.marmiton.org/communaute/blog_plant-sitting-vos-plantes-seront-bien-gardees-cet-ete.aspx

Bio c’ Bon is offering a “plant-sitting” service to take care of members’ plants while they are away. The ready-to-wear brand Devianne is promising to refund damaged clothing up to six months after purchase! Elsewhere, Mango is giving members the option to use their points with a wide selection of partners (including Deezer and Rakuten), or to give them to friends or non-profits. There is a growing trend towards engaged and responsible approaches, which reflects the concerns of today’s “consom’acteurs” (socially responsible consumers). Nature & Découvertes is paying €1 of its club membership fee and 10% of its profits to its biodiversity protection foundation. Toms is giving a pair of shoes to children in developing countries for each purchase made. Similarly, Weight Watchers is offering members the option to donate their rewards to Secours Populaire, a non-profit that fights poverty and exclusion in France and around the world. These approaches show how loyalty and social responsibility can be combined, while enhancing brand image.  

To make sure their loyalty schemes are not dull, brands must position themselves as a source of value for their members, by offering benefits that reflect their concerns and social engagement.  

 

Keeping the flame alive 

Earning loyalty is not the same as maintaining it and, in the loyalty scheme war, diligence and commitment are the most important battle to win, particularly when you consider a study by Accenture Strategy, which found that loyalty scheme members generate between 12% and 18% additional turnover in comparison with non-member customers. Based on this observation, the meal delivery brand Food Chéri gives its members monthly challenges in order to encourage opportunistic consumption. If they buy four meals during the month, they get a free dessert. And they get a free dish for nine orders. Customers therefore only have 30 days to meet the challenge, which is a good way to boost brand preference.  

Fidélisation 3

Source : https://foodcheri.fr

 

Brands are using membership fees to build loyalty to their loyalty schemes: in exchange for an annual subscription, they offer services that enhance the customer experience and increase the loyalty of their members. For €15 per year, La Redoute & MOI (La Redoute) offers its members a 10% discount on orders, free delivery and a payment facility. For €49 per year, Amazon goes even further by offering free access to multimedia content on Amazon Prime Video. However, in 2018, JPMorgan estimated that in order to achieve profitability, this service would need to be provided at $785 in the United States (or $65 per month). And yet, this long-term strategy is paying off, since, in 2018, Prime members spent an average of $1400 on Amazon, compared with $600 for non-Prime members. One of the reasons for this is that many Amazon Prime members feel the need to justify their membership fee! In the brand preference race, this strategy seems to be bearing fruit.  

However, loyalty is about more than just transactions. Today, there are all kinds of ways to allow members to earn points, including sharing on social networks, downloading the mobile app, enriching user data, sponsorship and birthdays. All of these are opportunities to touch base with customers and learn more about them, while building a long-term relationship. And this is where content comes into its own: Kinder is courting parents with its Kinder club, which offers content in the form of a webzine. Parents are given access to articles and activities to enrich their family life, based on their children’s ages. The brand is going even further by enabling them to share their own content, such as ideas for days out, in order to earn points. 

Fidélisation 4

Source : https://kinder.fr

 

Another fast-growing trend is the use of tiered loyalty schemes. While they are nothing new in the travel industry, these schemes are becoming popular in other sectors: Lacoste offers three tiers according to members’ purchases. With ‘Legend’ status, members can access very private events and are given a premium birthday present. At Sephora, ‘Gold’ status provides access to free make-up classes, private evenings and even a dedicated product line. By appealing to pride and a feeling of belonging, brands are encouraging their members to move up to higher tiers in order to access increasingly high-end services. It is a way for brands to make a greater distinction between their various customers.    

Never say never, in love and in loyalty… The field of possibilities is wide open to ensure that schemes are anything but dull and a source of value for their members. Between providing a global experience, addressing customers’ concerns and creating a feeling of attachment, brands have various means at their disposal to imagine the schemes of today and tomorrow.  

Loyalty is like love: it is a work in progress.  

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Luxury brands in Asia have reinvented themselves

Following a drop in sales of approximately 25% during the first quarter of 2020, brands in the luxury sector have decided to experiment with new methods to attract an online audience and build loyalty in the face of the health crisis. With online sales in the sector accounting for only 10% of total sales in 2019, according to McKinsey1, luxury brands have sped up their transition to digital.   

In Asia, China has been driving growth in the sector for several years, to the extent that Chinese consumers are set to represent 50% of the market by 2025, according to Bain & Company2. Hyper-connected Chinese consumers are therefore a core consideration. Digitisation of luxury brands is mainly happening through marketplaces, which are essential platforms in this country.  

With the pandemic, two underlying trends have emerged. On the one hand, brands have been led to use new channels, such as live streaming and online auctions. On the other, growth in second-hand purchases is encouraging them to rethink their products’ life cycles. Furthermore, some brands are already using blockchain technology to improve the traceability of their products and, therefore, the buying and reselling experience.   

 

Marketplaces: the emperors of China’s luxury sector 

Marque luxe asie 1

Image of JD.com’s 618 shopping festival. Source: pandaily.com 

 

Have you ever heard of the ‘618 Shopping Festival’ (618 stands for June 18th)? It is a sales period in China, like the now famous Singles’ Day. During the 2020 festival, luxury brands achieved the same sales in just half an hour as they did in one day the previous year, via the marketplace run by Chinese e-Commerce giant JD.com. On the Tmall platform, operated by its competitor Alibaba, 178 luxury brands took part in the festival, which is double the number of brands that took part in the last Singles’ Day festival in November 20193 

More and more luxury brands are creating stores on these platforms, after having attempted to focus on a Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) strategy aimed at maintaining total control over their image and prices. Marketplaces have indisputably become essential, particularly during the crisis period. Alibaba and JD have created specialised platforms to attract luxury brands: Tmall Luxury Pavilion and JD.com TopLife respectively. Here, the brands have dedicated luxury spaces, where there is a guarantee that their products will not be displayed alongside general consumer products. These stores also offer total freedom to personalize their interfaces, content, prices, and so on.  

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Tmall launched its Luxury Pavilion platform in 2017 in order to attract luxury brands.  

 

Live streaming and online auctions: new boons for the luxury sector? 

Luxury brands have also begun to experiment with live streaming, which grew massively during the health crisis as a new sales channel. Louis Vuitton was the first international brand to try out live shopping on the Chinese platform XiaoHongShu (also known as RED or Little Red Book) on the 26th of March 2020. The company chose a famous actress and fashion influencer to carry out this one-hour session, which was viewed 880,000 times4. These two figures shared their advice about accessories and ready-to-wear in the summer 2020 collection.  

Marque luxe asie 3

 

Another example: in February, during the Paris Fashion Week, the company Lanvin broadcast its 2020 autumn-winter fashion show as a live streaming event on Secoo, a Chinese e-Commerce platform dedicated to luxury5. The audience was able to watch the show, which was commentated by a Paris-based Chinese influencer, using virtual reality headsets. The campaign was run in partnership with iQiyi, China’s answer to Netflix.    

Marque luxe asie 4

 

Many fashion shows around the world were cancelled due to the pandemic. In March, Shanghai Fashion Week linked up with Alibaba to broadcast the show exclusively online, on the tech giant’s dedicated platform, Taobao Live, making this Shanghai Fashion Week the first entirely digital fashion event.  

 

https://www.facebook.com/alibabagroupofficial/videos/2628120837407009 

 

Last May, the Asian subsidiary of the auction house Phillips carried out a sale of contemporary art pieces in Hong Kong, alongside luxury jewellery and watches. This cross-category auction was a first6The health crisis obliged Phillips Asia to carry out this auction exclusively online, which also helped to attract younger generations. 90% of the lots were sold at the auction, with 56% of the buyers new to Phillips and 42% aged under 407 

Marques-de-luxe-asie5

 

Second-hand shopping and blockchain are forcing brands to rethink product lifecycles
 

The second-hand market is thriving in China, and elsewhere in Asia, and looks set to continue to expand after the crisis. Luxury brands will need to take into account the entire lifecycle of their products and rethink their distribution models in light of this new trend. Blockchain is the technology that could enable this change.  

Read our article on the growth of second-hand shopping in China 

The Hong Kong-based luxury brand Lane Crawford is a pioneer in this area, encouraging its community to donate clothes that it resells in order to raise money for charity organisations and sustainable projects. It lets customers know the date of the donation, how long the item was previously worn, and in which city, by simply scanning a QR code. What’s more, customers can access information about the environmental impact of their purchase: for each item, the amount of resources saved (water and CO2) is calculated and displayed following the product description. Lane Crawford does this via its own pop-up store, Luxaritywhich uses a platform built on the blockchain Ethereum.  

Marque luxe asie 6

The brand Lane Crawford enables second-hand buyers to see the life cycle of a clothing item

 

More recently, Southeast Asia’s leading second-hand luxury products platform, Reebonz, announced that it was working on a digital certificate with VeChain, a Singapore-based startup specialised in blockchain technology. The aim of this digital certificate is to enable customers to establish the origin of items bought. Since January 2019, all of the products in its inventory have a QR code that provides access to the product’s details, origin and transaction history. While the project is still in the pilot phase, 50,000 products have been linked with a digital certificate since December 2019. The system also offers other advantages: it will enable Reebonz to achieve economies of scale with its authentication service and customers to revoke the certificate in the event of a theft.  

 

As we have seen, digital is no longer optional for luxury brands. With the opportunities it offers in the areas of marketing and the circular economy, digital is an essential tool for brands to reinvent themselves and overcome the Covid-19 crisis.   

 

Brands are taking back control with the emergence of direct sales (D2C) in Asia

Direct sales, or D2C (Direct-to-Consumer), is a fast-growing channel in Asia and around the world. As brands increasingly find themselves dependent on marketplaces, such as Alibaba in China, D2C has become a strategic challenge to regain control of their customer relationships and data.  

 

 

Direct sales to counteract the grey market 

Switching to direct sales is no easy thing to do for brands in markets that are traditionally dominated by intermediaries, which are considered to be more reliable. China has popularised the use of “daigou“, where trusted intermediaries are asked to buy brands’ products abroad in order to bypass customs duties. 80% of products belonging to brands such as Unilever, Samsung and L’Oréal sold on marketplaces in Southeast Asia were sold by unauthorised intermediaries on the “grey market” in 2018, at a price that is generally 30% lower than on official websites1These sales have a negative impact on brand image, as consumers’ ratings on these platforms are 24% lower than for the same products on official websites.  

A tightening of regulations in recent years is limiting these practices, and should give a boost to D2C. For example, a new law passed in 2019 now requires those offering daigou services to obtain an official licence and pay taxes.  

 

Marketplaces: a boon or threat to direct sales? 

Asian marketplaces, such as Alibaba and Lazada, dominate e-commerce in Asia, similarly to Amazon in the West. These new digital intermediaries have a growing hold on brands. In addition to registration fees, which can cost up to 8000 dollars per year, Tmall, operated by Alibaba, and its competitor JD.com, take commissions of up to 6% on sales made via their platforms. Even social platforms, such as WeChat, are becoming a threat to brands, which increasingly depend on paid advertising through this channel.  

However, the real sinews of war is data and, when they sell through these third-party platforms, brands have limited data access. Alibaba is already beginning to commercialise this data with a specific consultancy service for new product development, called the Tmall Innovation Center, which will collaborate with brands such as Unilever, Samsung, Mars, L’Oréal and Mattel. Products recommended by the innovation centre are then exclusively sold on the Tmall platform for an initial period of two months.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1CbNISh9-k 

JD.com offers a similar service, which it calls “Consumer-to-Manufacturer” (C2M), with clients including Huggies and Head & Shoulders for example. According to figures provided by JD.com, these brands sales’ have significantly grown following its recommendations. On the basis of its sales data and queries made on its platform, JD.com has observed the growing popularity of Chinese baby nappy brands that use composite materials. Huggies has therefore launched a new range of products based on the same materials. Since then, sales of this range have accounted for more than 62% of the brand’s total sales on the platform. 

 

Three striking success stories 

 

Nike

Nike’s direct sales grew globally by 142% between 2015 and 2020, and the brand aims to achieve 16 billion dollars via this channel in 20202. The brand has reduced the number of its contracts with third-party distributors and invested in its mobile app and customer relationship. For example, the mobile app offers a product personalisation service called “Nike By You”. Nike has successfully grown this sales channel: in 2018 alone, D2C accounted for 40% of its sales in China. In addition, now that it can exploit its own sales data, Nike has increased its investment in data science with the acquisition of the predictive analysis start-up Celect in 2019, enabling it to optimise its inventory 

Thanks to its strong customer relationship, the brand has succeeded in minimising losses related to the closure of its stores during the Covid-19 crisis in China. While it announced a slowdown in growth of 5%, online direct sales grew by 36%. This growth is in part due to its other mobile app: Nike Training Club. The brand made the premium version of its app free, which offers virtual sports training sessions, leading to an 80% increase in its use. 

Vente 1

Nike’s mobile app in China  

 

Xiaomi 

The Chinese smartphone and connected device brand Xiaomi, which is often compared with Apple, has built its empire around a D2C model.  Xiaomi began with an online sales strategy on its own platform, before opening its offline stores. Mi.com is currently the third largest online platform for smartphone sales in India, behind the e-commerce platforms Flipkart and Amazon3. 

Vente 2

 

Perfect Diary

Perfect Diary is one of China’s most innovative D2C brands, which has been valued at more than a billion dollars. Positioned in the cosmetics sector since 2016, the brand has firmly established itself, becoming the third best-selling brand, after MAC and Maybelline, in 2019. Behind this outstanding achievement is a strategy of direct sales via private groups on the WeChat platform. These groups are managed by virtual influencers that play the role of users’ friends and advisers. This strategy has enabled the brand to communicate directly with consumers, without having to pay commissions to intermediaries.  The brand recently made the leap to phygital and is now planning to increase the number of its physical stores in China from 40 to 300.  

Vente 3

The Chinese cosmetics brand Perfect Diary’s virtual influencer. Source: JingDialy

 

Love Bonito

The Singaporean fashion brand Love Bonito has become the most vertically integrated brand in Southeast Asia. Originally, the blog sold clothes purchased in Thailand and South Korea. In light of its success, the three founders rapidly decided to produce and sell their own creations via their blog Bonito Chico, which was renamed Forefront, hosted on the platform LiveJournal. In 2017, annual sales grew by 85%, while spending on marketing represented only 10% of sales4 

 

Vente 4

Forefront, the brand’s blog 

 

The success of brands that engage in direct sales in Asia is mainly based on their ability to use social networks, and offer quality content and additional, personalised services, via their own channels, in order to build a privileged customer relationship. The analysis of data to optimise their offering is also a success factor. While it is an obvious course for new arrivals, D2C remains a challenge for more traditional brands. However, direct sales is a fast-growing distribution channel in China and around the world. It appears that by increasing their independence from marketplaces and offline intermediaries, brands are able to better understand consumers by being in control of data, launch new products that keep up with changing demand, strengthen the customer relationship, and reduce distribution costs, while maintaining control over their reputation.  

 

Graphic facilitation: capturing words in the air

Now more than ever before, with a constant flow of inputs, we need to record information that concerns us. Organisations face a tough challenge in the current work environment. And all it takes is an open window (Slack, Zoom, Teams, etc.) to pull our attention in a different direction. One method to address this issue (in addition to filtering and closing parasitic channels) is known as ‘graphic facilitation’, or notes augmented with drawings. It seems suspiciously simple.  

Facilitation 1

 

However, there is no doubting the results: drawings can be memorised three times more rapidly than text. Producing drawings yourself also increases this effect and they do not need to be “well executed” (see Ref. #1). By using the channels that our brains respond to best, you can capture people’s attention.  

 

Graphic facilitation covers several areas  

It can be divided into the following: 

  • Scribing, or visual recording, captures oral content by recording it live through writing and drawings; Facilitation 2

 

 

 

  • Sketchnoting means augmenting text notes with drawings, in an individual manner; Facilitation 3

 

 

 

 

  • Modelling aims to take data that is already known and structure it into a written and drawn document Facilitation 4

 

 

 

  • Talking and drawing involves making an oral presentation and sketchnoting at the same time. 

OK, but what is it for?  

Facilitation 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We already have many tools at our disposal, including meetings, workshops, presentations, conferences and more. 

But using graphic facilitation is something different. The complexity of ideas to be expressed means we need to invent something new, while getting back to basics. We have all endured meetings that seem to go on forever, with too many details provided at the wrong time. Or workshops where, under the guise of encouraging participation, entire pads of post-its are stuck to the walls, or where the tedious reading of painstakingly written reports could have been avoided. None of the people trying to get this information across wanted these results. 

 

Graphic facilitation offers an approach that is both fun and provides structure. It enables us to engage the channels our brains respond to best, capture attention and provoke thought. Participation and the memorisation of information presented will naturally follow. 

 

Facilitation 7The universality of this practice is also its strength: you do not need to be a Da Vinci to do it. The drawing ability of a five-year-old is easily enough. I have met very few facilitators (if none at all!) who are designers as I am. They are agile coaches, project managers, developers or UX designers, for example. Actually doing it can be scary though. For me, as a graphic designer, the main barriers I had to overcome were to let go of my work and avoid being too demanding of myself. The rest is all about training and structure: once you have learnt how to write legibly, draw shapes that are simple and provide structure, and listen actively, the hard work is done.  

 

One of the essential parts of graphic facilitation is the ability to tell stories and, as you do it, you realise that anything can be used to do this: a story has a beginning, a middle and an end. The way in which we structure our words, our speeches and our presentations is no different. Once you identify the underlying hierarchy in any structured speech, applying simple images to it is child’s play. 

 

The resulting physical material becomes valuable, fun, organic and inspiring again (and it can be shared and re-explained).  

 

(Tempted? So why not come and try! A caring community) 

Facilitation 8

 

(And now/Some references/Visual food and entertainment) 

 

(see Ref. #2 #3 #4 #5 #6). 

 

References 

#1 Association for Psychological Science (APS). (2018). For Learning, Drawing a Picture May Really Be Worth a Thousand Words. Found online, on the APS website at www.psychologicalscience.org/publications/observer/obsonline/for-learning-drawing-a-picture-may-really-be-worth-a-thousand-words.html 

#2 @romaincouturier 

#3 @Jan_Gunter 

#4 @UnPictoParJour 

#5 playability_de 

#6 beingvisualwithadam.mystrikingly.com