Archive for November 2010

The real time Web   Leave a comment

The real time Web is changing the way we gather and disseminate all of our digital information, thus creating new opportunities for online businesses in every sector. Retailers can offer deals on items that consumers want right now; marketers can actively participate in real-time discussions about their products, and companies can increase their brand’s awareness in a fraction of the time it took just a couple of years ago. But with all of the new doors it opens, the real time Web is also a vast and uncharted space that you will need to know your way around before you can make it work most effectively for your business.

What is the Real time Web?
In simple terms, it is a rapidly growing part of the Internet in which users can access the most timely, relevant content at any particular moment, on any  particular topic, the second it is published anywhere on the Web. To see how others
are reacting to events as they happen or responding to various points of discussion, and to actively engage in those conversations themselves, has proven to be an immensely popular method of following current events and tracking the latest trends. Twitter and Facebook are the best examples that illustrate the massive social appeal of weighing in on a topic or expressing an opinion of something when the experience is freshest in our minds.
The topic could be anything from what you ate at a local restaurant five minutes ago to the immediate reaction to NBA mega-star LeBron James’ free-agency decision. The so called social relevance of the topic will be determined by the type of engagement it generates from other users, and, in many cases, by whom. An impromptu review of a local restaurant by an average consumer won’t demand the same attention as an NBA player’s reaction to LeBron James’ decision, but it could be an invaluable marketing opportunity for — or require immediate damage control from — the owner of said restaurant.
“Whatever niche you are in, the data on the real time Web is powerful data,” says Evan Britton, founder of Sency.com, a real-time search engine. “If you are  McDonald’s and you see a Burger King commercial on the Super Bowl broadcast on TV, you can follow what people are saying about that Burger King commercial in real time. And it trickles down to small business as well. You can monitor conversations in your niche and tweet about that — which will lead to streams of new traffic to your site. The ability to market new products in real time and to conduct free market research can be huge advantages for any business.”

The LeBron Effect
A few years ago, Internet users who wanted the latest information on a breaking news story like James’ free-agency decision would run a Google search and filter through a handful of developing stories from sportswriters (and old stories, too.) Today a user can run the same search on Google — or go directly to Twitter or to another real time search engine — and find 10 times the information that brings them up to the very last second of the story’s development in a fraction of the time.
In addition to links to the latest news stories, commentaries and videos  surrounding the decision, users could find abbreviated updates and reactions tweeted out in real time from sportswriters, other players in the NBA, team owners
and coaches, fans all over the world, and even from LeBron James’ own Twitter account — which he was compelled to set up in the days leading up to his  announcement.
The subsequent streams of stories and blogs and videos then branched into  thousands of different directions, and the savviest online marketers were tracking what they could to join the conversations that best suited their businesses. James’ final decision directly impacted companies in the professional sports apparel business, for instance, but the entire weeks-long process also presented  opportunities for a multitude of other companies in at least four major  metropolitan areas. Overall, it would be hard to think of too many businesses large and small that could not have found some marketing potential in the real-time discussions that were taking place.

How Can it Help My Business?
It doesn’t matter what your business is, the real-time Web can help it in a variety of ways. Some of the more obvious ones are identifying the latest and most important trends in your industry, cultivating professional relationships and potential
partnerships and interacting more effectively with the people to whom you hope to sell your products or services.
What may be less obvious is that simply by engaging in the conversations required to do any of the above, you will be significantly enhancing your Web content and boosting your search results and potential for traffic. “The more popular content will show up more frequently in real-time search,” says Greg Shuey of Seo.com.
“Ways to take advantage of real time in search rankings are to write lots of blog posts and optimize the titles; put lots of videos on YouTube, distribute lots of press releases and actively participate in conversations on Twitter and other sites.
It’s not that different from standard SEO best practices and it will always come back to the quality of your content.”
And to improve the quality of your content on the realtime Web, you will be forced to achieve a deeper level of engagement from users. It’s not about hitting the right keywords or even about providing something that users want to read or view — it’s about providing something they will also want to pass along to their friends and their groups.
“Content that rises to the top in real time is more democratic than traditional search,” says Tobias Peggs, president of the real-time search engine OneRiot. “It gets to the top if users really enjoy it and if they share it a lot. It all goes back
to creating compelling content that people want to share.
Making it as easy as possible for them to share it is important, too, with links and options to ‘Tweet this’ and ‘Like’ and so forth.”
Staying ahead of industry trends, engaging with consumers, enhancing your content and marketing your product are among the things you can do organically on the real-time Web, but opportunities in paid advertising are going to be the next major phase of the movement. OneRiot has an advertising platform called Riotwise that gives marketers the ability to attach their brands to the hottest trending topics, and now Twitter has launched its own version of e-commerce for the real-time Web, called @earlybird. It’s too early to tell what will happen with @earlybird, but as with anything on the real-time Web, the potential is enormous.

shopping search engines are a retailer’s best bet   Leave a comment

As the online shopping experience becomes more social every day, it is important for retailers and their products to be seen in all the right places. High on the list of those destinations are comparison shopping search engines, on which consumers are increasingly relying to drive their purchasing decisions.

With more than 100 million shoppers utilizing comparison search engines each month, e-commerce merchants whose products are not listed on these sites are essentially passing up additional sales. But it is an opportunity that can be tapped into easily, and often with surprising results. “We suddenly started to notice a lot of orders coming through Google Products,” says Shannon Wu-Lebron, head of operations for Viking.com, an office supply retailer that relaunched its brand this year. “We were delighted. It’s helped get the Viking name out there and brought us a lot of quality traffic and repeat customers. As we talk now about how to really build the business, we are definitely going to pursue more comparison shopping sites.”
While there are hundreds to choose from on the Web today, Google Products is the most-used comparison shopping engine according to the July 2010 rankings by CPC Strategy, a firm that helps retailers sell through comparison sites. The other leaders include NexTag, PriceGrabber, TheFind, Shopping, Amazon Product Ads, Shopzilla, Bing/Yahoo Shopping, Pronto, Become and Smarter.
Some comparison sites are free while others charge retailers a cost-per-click fee to list their products. But the impact of being seen on comparison shopping engines can be felt in a variety of ways, giving merchants one of the best ROIs in the e-commerce industry today.
“If Google is Madison Avenue and Bing is Rodeo Drive, then BizRate, NexTag and the other comparison sites are every other street corner out there,” says Sean Cook, CEO of e-commerce platform provider ShopVisible. “The goal for retailers is to be seen on every corner possible, and the next logical place to look after organic search is comparison shopping engines.”
In addition to CPC Strategy, ShopVisible, Shopatron, Mercent and Channel Advisor are just some of the qualified ecommerce solutions providers that can guide merchants through their integrations with comparison sites. But there  are some basic guidelines to follow that will yield the best results whether you seek outside help or elect to do the footwork yourself. Below are some proven strategies for working with comparison shopping search engines.

If this article prompts you to explore comparison shopping sites for the first time, that’s a great first step. But you will be selling yourself short if you limit your participation to just one or two search engines. If your budget is a concern, try a handful of the free sites first and see how it goes.
“Just listing with one engine is not enough,” says Greg Haslam of Become.com. “Some are better than others at accomplishing certain things for retailers, but a little research and a minimal investment can get your foot in the door somewhere. Then you’ll have a data feed that you can send out to other sites, and there’s no reason to stop at just one.”

Make this the most thoughtful part of the process and be absolutely sure that you provide the best available product images, error-free product data, accurate titles with separate and detailed product descriptions, customer ratings and reviews, and unique product codes such as UPCs or manufacturer numbers that will map together in the search indexes.

Discount coupons and  special-offer deals have a successful track record on comparison sites because they stand out from the crowd and invite consumers to engage with them. Many of the search engines now accept gift cards on their product listings and those have also been a profitable strategy for retailers.

You wouldn’t be the first retailer to be surprised by the success you are enjoying on comparison engines, only to run out of a hot-selling item. But don’t — it’s bad for business. Be sure not to list any products until you are certain they are not only in stock but plentiful, and always keep a watchful eye on your inventory.

Now it’s the merchant’s turn for some comparison and analysis. After your products have been listed for a while with a variety of search engines, identify what is selling and on which sites, what is not selling and where, and make the necessary adjustments. Many of the sites like Become.com not only have a full range of  metrics to guide you in this  process, but also dedicated customer service teams to help you get the most out of their services.

Posted November 13, 2010 by Anoop George Joseph in Internet

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