Blog

101: Segmenting your audience

Lots of different consumers may purchase the same product, or favor the same brand, but for vastly different reasons. Knowing those reasons – what motivates shoppers to buy from you (or your competitors) is key to growing both your customer base and revenue.

Segmenting your customers into distinct cohorts – moms who buy organic, budget-conscious consumers, golf enthusiasts, repeat customers, customers of competitor X – is a useful exercise that will deliver many dividends for years to come.

First and foremost, audience segmentation will allow you to craft messages that will resonate with each consumer. For instance, let’s say you’re a coffee brand and you learn that a sizable number of consumers who favor your brand are avid runners. You can use this insight to advertise on runners’ sites and channels, with a message that invites them to enjoy a well-deserved post-workout cup of Joe.

Or, let’s say you’re a mortgage company and you want to attract new customers to apply for refinancing. Your first message may emphasize your low rates, fast answers and streamlined applications. This is the first message in the customer journey, so you don’t want to spend your media budget targeting people with that ad who’ve already visited your site and engaged with your mortgage calculator. Rather, you can create additional segments – consumers who visited our site and used the calculator – to target with the next message in the sequence.

How to segment customers into distinct audiences

Segmenting customers is an art, and is very brand specific. That said, there are some widely used approaches that may be helpful to you. If you use a marketing automation system, it probably offers step-by-step workflows to help you build audience segments that are relevant to your brand. Or, you can ask an agency like Paragon Digital Services to help you do that work.

Here are some common tactics:

  • Enter & exit sites. Look at the sites your visitors come from when they arrive on your site, and where they go once they leave. These enter and exit points can provide valuable insights into their interests outside of your brand, and can help you hone your messaging and decide which channels to advertise in (e.g. runners sites for a coffee brand).
  • Customer surveys. Customers are remarkably open to sharing their interests and motivations with brands they trust. You can ask your customers about their preferences, outside interests, top priorities, and future plans. You can create audience segments based on survey responses, whether that’s age, gender, geolocation, income level, preferred product, values (e.g. sustainability, safety) or interest. What you learn may surprise you. Perhaps you have a cohort loyal to your brand that you didn’t realize before.
  • Analyze buying habits. Your CRM or point-of-sales platform contains rich insights into buying habits, which you can then use to create personas and audience segments for targeting. Let’s say you’re a grocery store chain, you can create audience segments based on what people buy. In other words, what additional products are in the basket of people who always buy seltzer or hand lotion when they come into your store?
  • “We miss you”. Everyone knows that it’s cheaper and easier to reactivate a dormant customer than to earn a new one. Create audience segments of your dormant customers by product, and target them with reminders of how much they love your brand.
  • Spending tier. Create segments based on the lifetime value of your customers. Frugal customers will probably respond to ads that offer cost-effective products, while high-end customers care more about the experience and convenience. You don’t want to send them the same message! With audience segments, you can customize the right message for the right type of customer.
  • Stage in the buying journey. As the mortgage example above illustrates, it’s a wise idea to create segments based on the buying journey. This will allow you to tell a store through a sequence of messages. The key to success with this type of segmenting is the frequency at which you refresh your segments.

Get in touch

Need help creating your audience segments for your campaigns? We’re here to help, get in touch today.

Author:Rekha Patil

Date:17th August 2021

Blog

How outsourcing delivers significant efficiency gains

Driving efficiency is seen as a major business imperative in every sector of the economy, media and advertising included. As business leaders focus on efficiency, the business process outsourcing (BPO) market has exploded. According to a report by Technavio, outsourcing is expected to grow by USD 76.90 billion, in the next four years. That’s a CAGR growth rate of over 7%. Is there a connection? Absolutely!

Outsourcing drives productivity, both directly and indirectly, by enabling employees to focus on strategic, high-value work, while leaving technical, manual and process-driven work to a team of experts.

At Paragon, we’ve seen this phenomenon playout time and time again. When we partner with a media agency or a brand that has in-housed its media buying, they always remark that Paragon’s ad operations teams are able to deliver more campaigns than their teams were able to achieve. And in general, and we shave 60% off of their ad operations costs.

This is no criticism of their Account Managers, mind you. Unlike them, our teams focus 100% of their time on the minutiae of campaign delivery. That’s our job, it’s all we do. And if you do the same thing all day every day, you’re bound to be at the top of the game.

But that tells only part of the reason. The efficiency gains we deliver stem from our commitment to standardization, and the detailed processes we follow, which are laid out ahead of time in the detailed onboarding process documents we create for customers, as well as our effective error prevention process.

On top of our process-driven approach, we only hire highly experienced people who are certified in the systems used to deliver services. All new hires go through our digital training academy. And we have one of the most effective performance management operations in the industry.

The rigor we apply to our processes are pretty unique in the industry. We recently acquired a client that once used Infosys, a very reputable BPO company located in India. Actually, it’s one of the biggest BPOs in the world. We were able to deliver the same services to the client with 52 people, whereas Infosys required 64. That’s a 20% efficiency gain over somebody doing the same work as us.

The gains we achieve when taking over the ad operations of an agency are even higher.

The other side of efficiency

But the efficiencies we deliver tell just half of the story. A significant portion of the gains you’ll reap as an agency lie with your Account Management and Sales teams. They’ll spend less time chasing down creatives, generating reports, and doing billing reconciliation.

By removing the tasks of trafficking, your team can focus on forward-looking work: finding new business, growing existing accounts, focusing more on creative strategies and discovering new audiences for your clients’ products and services.

Additionally, efficiency gains come from the institutional knowledge your company will keep within its walls. Account Managers are often frustrated with the task of campaign trafficking. It’s stressful, and can be complex, highly manual work, and not what they had in mind when they majored in communications at college. Attrition and recruitment are tough challenges for media agencies.

Here’s where Paragon outsourcing can help. One of our outsourcing clients told me that recruiting has become a lot easier now that she can tell candidates that they won’t be responsible for trafficking campaigns! There are a lot of efficiencies to be gained when an agency can spend less time recruiting and training new employees, and more resources on delivering outstanding services to clients.

Want to discuss how Paragon Digital Services can drive efficiencies in your ad operations? Get in touch.

 

 

 

Author:David Tyler

Date:15th August 2021

Blog

Female empowerment at Paragon Digital

Paragon Digital Services is deeply committed to closing the gender gap in employment the best way we know how: training women, and those identifying as women, in a growing field, and giving them the skills they need to build careers that are remunerative, personally rewarding and contribute to their local communities.

A stubborn challenge

According to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2021, the employment gap between men and women remains stubbornly wide. Unless we take active steps to provide women employment opportunities, it will be another 267.6 years before we achieve global parity.

Like you, we find that unacceptable.

Eliminating the gender gap doesn’t just benefit women, it’s good for everybody. Take India, for example, a country where many of Paragon’s technical teams reside. Increasing women’s participation in the workforce by just 10% could add $770 billion to India’s GDP by 2025.

Prior to lockdown in March 2020, India’s overall unemployment rate was 7%, but for women it topped 18%, per a 2019 a Google and Bain & Company report on women entrepreneurship in India. But once the pandemic hit, women in India, like women everywhere, bore the brunt of the unemployment crisis.

Closing the skills gap with the Paragon Digital Academy

The WEF Gender Gap Report states that gender gaps are more likely in sectors that require disruptive technical skills, such as cloud computing, data, AI, and engineering. At Paragon, we also know that it exists in the digital ad tech and mar-tech fields, and we aim to change that.

Paragon’s Digital Academy focuses on the personal and professional growth of our employees, and in turn, our organization, as well as the communities in which our employees live and work.

The Digital Academy provides learning and development opportunities to inspire and upskill our teams in areas that will help them succeed over the course of their lives. For instance, we offer training in technical skills, such as digital campaign management, programmatic advertising and other technical skills.

We also help employees obtain the critical “soft” skills including language, email and telephone etiquette, client communication, US culture sensitivity.

To ensure enough work -life balance, we conduct out our training programs during the office hours.

We educate our staff [men and women] on how important it is to treat our colleagues, and create a safe place to work for everyone.

Certifications to build lifelong careers

We provide women the opportunity to earn numerous certifications, including Google Ad Fundamentals, Google Ads Display and Campaign Manager Basics. We also train women in the full breadth of MS Office and Google Analytics. We also invest time for their individual Development Growth . We are also working on making a “All women team” within Paragon as a special initiative.

These skills are highly transferable to a wide array of occupations. Graduates can go on to hold a wide variety of positions in digital advertising, digital marketing, public relations, and more. And our training is recognized in other businesses. We are proud to help all of our students, women and men alike, build lifelong careers.

The gender gap in employment may be a difficult challenge to overcome, but with a commitment to empowering women, we can make the world a better place for all.

To find out more about the Paragon Digital Academy, or how we can drive efficiencies for your business, get in touch.

Author:Savitha Nair

Date:29th July 2021

Blog

Identifying the best roles and tasks to outsource (and why)

Which tasks should you outsource?

A lot of brands, platforms and agencies are wondering how they can drive efficiencies in their operations. The digital landscape is changing as new opportunities (CTV) and challenges (privacy, the death of the cookie) emerge. You need your Account Managers to be on the forefront of these developments, guiding your clients, growing the business, and demonstrating your agency’s leadership.

So what can you take off their plates in order to free up their time? Generally speaking, any work that’s mission critical – and therefore must be done with the utmost attention to detail and accuracy – is better served by a dedicated team that is 100% focused on the task. If you don’t have a dedicated team for that mission critical task, you may want to consider an outsourcing partner that can provide the expertise needed.

Ad ops is the perfect example. As a brand, platform or media agency, campaign setup, execution, ongoing optimization and reporting are certainly mission critical to your business. Too often, the ad ops tasks are assigned to the Account Manager who sold the campaign to the client. But here’s the challenge: ad ops is a function that falters when the trafficker must deal with too many distractions, like preparing for a new client presentation or responding to an RFP.

A dedicated ad ops team is a smart move for your organization, but if building and maintaining one is too costly or time consuming, outsourcing is a terrific option for your Account Managers, agency, and most importantly, your clients.

Account Managers want to focus on high-value work

It’s truly less than ideal to assign ad ops responsibilities to Account Managers. Setting up and managing a campaign is a time-consuming business. There are countless details to manage, and every single one of those details matter a great deal.

A campaign may come in missing a specific creative, say one that caters to a specific geography. Your Account Manager will need to track down that creative, do a pixel test to ensure it will display correctly on every single device on which it will be seen, and then load it into your ad server system.

This is tedious, high pressure work that they might not like doing. And let’s be clear: this work is indeed high pressure because the consequence of a missed detail is a campaign that misses its KPIs. Account Managers would rather do more strategic work, and if they’re not getting a sense of fulfillment, they may look for greener pastures.

Perfect campaign execution demands a process driven approach

You need to assure your clients that their campaigns are delivered as accurately as humanly possible. If not, you risk missing your KPIs, and if you are a media agency, you risk losing business.

Paragon Digital Services has designed a thoroughly processed-driven approach to ad ops, and it’s what we do all day. Our teams are staffed with people who like following processes, all of which are documented in our robust Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) roadmap that we develop for each client as part of our onboarding process.

All details are checked at the start of a campaign, enabling us to identify and resolve gaps or issues upfront. And, even in the event of staff turnover on our side, the machine continues running smoothly as our fully documented processes guide our daily activities.

Why partner with Paragon:

  • We have an unwavering commitment to standardization
  • We have a highly detailed onboarding process
  • Our proprietary error prevention processes guarantee a high degree of accuracy
  • We hire very experienced people who are certified in the systems used to deliver services
  • Our Paragon Digital Academy ensures success, so you can confidently tell your clients their campaigns will be well managed
  • Our performance management infuses every one of our processes.

Want to discuss how Paragon Digital Services can drive efficiencies in your ad operations? Get in touch.

Author:David Tyler

Date:19th July 2021

Blog

Ad operations lessons driven by the pandemic

Historically, digital-media platforms and content providers assumed that ad operations resources worked most smoothly when under a single roof, sitting within easy reach of their fellow traffickers and campaign managers. But a novel coronavirus upended that notion, and it’s worth exploring some of the lessons learned from it.

Lockdown orders meant all non-essential employees must work from home. The “non-essential” designation covered all information workers. If you could do your job using a computer, then there was no need to risk a commute and interacting with people outside of your pod.

Suddenly, ad ops teams were dispersed in homes across wide swaths of land. Complicating matters further, this fragmentation of the office coincided with a sustained spike in media traffic, as citizens all over the world checked news sources, blogs and social media continuously for updates on the pandemic. Some teams performed very well, while others faltered. Why? And what did we learn from the experience?

Lesson #1: With the right policies in place, distributed ad ops teams can excel

The pandemic taught the business community that proximity to co-workers isn’t as critical as we once assumed, as long as clear policies for engagement and processes to follow are put in place up. As a global outsourcing partner serving media teams all over the world, distributed Ad Ops is just par for the course.

To make it work, we created a comprehensive Standard Operating Procedures document for each client, which serves as the oil to keep all the cogs rolling in perfect order. Here are the key components that make it successful:

  • How, when and why we communicate with each other and our clients throughout the campaign cycle. When the pandemic hit, we simply updated the “how” to accommodate new contact methods for clients as necessary. Other than that, it was business as usual.
  • Which systems and tools to use. These procedures didn’t change much during the pandemic, so to a large degree, it wasn’t as if the pandemic even mattered (from a campaign lifecycle that is).
  • Services we provide. This part of our document is highly customized to each client, and in some cases we needed to update it to accommodate clients who, suddenly working remotely, needed extra help from our teams. This wasn’t a problem for Paragon for a simple reason: Our teams look to the Standard Operating Procedures as a roadmap to follow 100% of the time. If you instill a habit of “working from the same page”, adapting to change isn’t really a challenge.
  • Establish account priorities. Every client has priority accounts, and every account, regardless of size, has small, medium, large and extra large campaigns for them. We create a priority matrix so every Paragon team member knows our clients’ priorities. Of course, priorities can change during times of crisis – and 2020 was pretty much a sustained crisis! But if you create a system where everyone knows where to look for the most up-to-date list of priorities, it’s not that difficult for everyone to focus on the right campaigns.
  • Detail escalation procedures. Some clients want to know about every nit that arises, while others just want to know about the big stuff. We layout all the escalation procedures ahead of time, so that no team member is left wondering: should we tell someone, and if so, who?

In normal times, our teams work together under one roof. When the pandemic hit, we also had work from home. We are able to deliver a seamless experience for our clients because we create a client-roadmap upfront, which means we really don’t need to sit side-by-side.

Lesson #2: Outsourcing streamlines ad ops

When the pandemic hit and schools closed down, millions of people, mostly women, left the workforce in order to manage their children’s education. Paragon’s campaign teams stepped in as required to help fill in the gaps for clients who suddenly found they had a reduced workforce.

It quickly became apparent to the media teams with whom we work that by leaving the detailed campaign tasks to us, they had the time to focus on the bigger issues facing them (and obviously there were quite a few).

This is one of the most important lessons the industry has learned: Know what you need to focus on, and hand the rest off to a qualified team.

Lesson #3: Accept that what’s normal is ever-changing

Yes, the pandemic forced us to adapt to a new work environment, but that’s not the biggest change on the horizon in our industry. Over the past year digital advertising has faced multiple disruptions, the emergence of digital TV as a major advertising channel, privacy regulations that require us to rethink the customer journey and advertising strategy, to name a few.

Adapting to change isn’t difficult if that behavior is part of your team’s muscle memory. Change is inevitable, and can sometimes feel rather random. Knowing how to adapt – which steps to follow, how to communicate it and where to look for that guidance – is a vital skill in an industry like ours.

Want to learn more about how we can transform your business? Get in Touch.

Author:Rekha Patil

Date:7th July 2021

Blog

Equality, equity and what fairness really means

To a great many people, equality and equity mean basically the same thing and use the words interchangeably. But equality and equity are different concepts, the differences are more than semantic. We all want to be treated equally, but in order for that to happen, some of us may need more help, and some of us may need less.

Equality is when you give two people or entities something of equal value. If you’re the president of the university, that may mean giving two departments the exact same budget increase, say $1 million. But what if one of those departments is highly specialized and has only 20 students in it, say, a comparative linguistics, and the other has thousands, such as the university’s medical school. Is that a fair move on the part of the university president? One department, the medical school, will be woefully underfunded, and its students will suffer, whereas the other department won’t even be able to spend all of its budget.

The point is, equality sounds great, but it won’t necessarily mean everyone who is affected by a decision will be on a level playing field. To do that, you need equity.

Equity is when you give everyone the resources needed to be successful, which is very different from giving everyone the same thing.

Let’s say we hire two new employees at Paragon, one who came from another digital agency, and the other who just graduated from college. Treating them with equality would mean they’d each get the same level of new employee training, and then be told to service clients. The new graduate can’t possibly succeed without the critical knowledge needed to understand how campaigns work, how to use the tools needed to complete a task, and so on. That person wouldn’t succeed, they are almost set up for failure.

Fairness requires investing in people, in our case, our employees, so they can succeed in their jobs and find personal fulfilment (which is why we launched the Paragon Digital Academy). To many, fairness is getting the exact same thing, but that only works when we’re all the same to start with.

Paragon services clients across all industry sectors and who are located all over the world. Sometimes a client needs a little bit more help to succeed, and we’re okay with that. Equity is what we strive for.

Americans like to say that we all need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. But as Naheed Dosani explains, “equality is giving everyone a shoe; equity is giving everyone a shoe that fits.”

To find out more about the Paragon Digital Academy, or how we can drive efficiencies for your business, get in touch.

Author:Savitha Nair

Date:28th June 2021

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Google’s privacy announcement and what it means for digital advertisers

On 3rd March this year, Google made quite a splash when it announced plans to chart a new course with the aim of creating “a new privacy-first web.” Why change course when Google itself profited handsomely from the whole consumer-data economy over the past 20 years?

Well, the company read the writing on the wall. Consumers are unhappy with many aspects of the data collection industry, and their displeasure is well past the tipping point to act. An alarming 72% of people say they believe that most of what they do online is tracked by advertisers, technology firms or other companies, and 81% say they’re likely to see more risks than benefits come out of that data snooping.

We knew that Google was getting serious about privacy. Last year the company announced that by 2022, Chrome will stop using third-party cookies. Given that the vast majority of users (about 75%) use Chrome, the move will bring data-driven advertising as we know it to a screeching halt. Ditto for the way much of the world does attribution and measurement.

Of course, Firefox and Apple had already eliminated cookie tracking in their browsers, but they don’t have the same level reach, and therefore the impact, on the market as Google.

Many marketers were counting on Google to come up with an alternative to the cookie. After all, companies all over the world invested in data management platforms (DMPs), third-party data sets, and even DSP licenses to put all this data they collected to good use. But in the March, Google dashed those hopes by announcing it would not, in fact, build an alternate identifier to track individuals, and even if someone did, Google wouldn’t use them in their products. Google products, they said, “will be powered by privacy-preserving APIs which prevent individual tracking while still delivering results for advertisers and publishers.”

Instead of cookies, Google will leverage a federated learning of cohorts (FLoCs) API, an idea the company proposed as part of its Chrome Privacy Sandbox last year. The idea is that an unsupervised machine learning model will group people together based on their interests – aka cohorts – based on their browsing behavior. To preserve privacy, cohorts can be targeted, but not individual users.

Chetna Bindra, also of Google, says that FloCs are nearly as effective as third-party cookie targeting. Citing research conducted by Google’s Ads Teams, she says that advertisers “can expect to see at least 95% of the conversions per dollar spent when compared to cookie-based advertising.

This raises a lot of thorny issues for marketers. Cookies aren’t just used for targeting; marketers use them to measure campaign performance and to evaluate the efficacy of channels, tactics and partners via attribution. If you no longer have that data at your disposal, how do you know where to place your media spend so that you get the most bang for your buck?

Clean rooms

There’s one solution to the measurement and attribution challenge that’s received a lot of attention – clean rooms. Clean rooms are offered by LiveRamp, InfoSum, Snowflake, Habu and many other companies.

Sometimes called “walled gardens,” clean rooms are secure environments in which data is anonymized and processed in some manner for a multitude of purposes, including measurement and attribution.

Let’s say you’re a brand and you ran a two month campaign on the New York Times. Was it successful? As of 2022 you will no longer be able to rely on cookies to track users who saw your ad on the New York Times, visited your site and then converted. But a clean room will allow both you and the New York Times to match users. In this scenario, the New York Times allows the clean room to see the list of its users who saw your ad, and you allow the clean room to see the list of users who converted. The delta allows you to assess the efficacy of the campaign.

Clean rooms are touted as “privacy-first,” because you don’t get to see the New York Time’s data, and the publisher doesn’t get to see yours. Companies like InfoSum refer to this as the non-movement of data.

While clean rooms can be very privacy compliant, GDPR grants consumers some rates as to how their data is processed if you plan to use a clean room for marketing purposes. Let’s say you’re a marketer for a brand that specializes shirts and tops for women and you want to know if it makes sense to enter into a joint marketing arrangement with a brand that sells women’s shoes. A clean room can help you identify whether or not you have a lot of customers in common, and even if those common customers tend to be high spenders. If you see that there is significant overlap, a joint campaign may make a lot of sense.

If you intend to go the next step, however, and send ads for your shirts to shoe-customers of your partner, you may need to obtain consent. GDPR regulates data processing, and guarantees EU citizens the right to be informed of how their data will be used, in a “concise, transparent, intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language.”

GDPR gives consumers the right to opt out of automated decision making and profiling. In other words, Sally Jonas may not want the clean room algorithms to profile her as a likely candidate for your shirts based on her shoe-buying history.

A new future

We are still very much in the early days of a cookie-free world, but the digital ad-tech sector has been hard at work coming up with solutions to allow brands reach and engage consumers as they go about their digital lives in ways that respect their privacy. I doubt that there will be a single approach going forward, and the right solution will depend very much on the brand’s customers, goals, and a host of other factors.

The right partnership

Working with an offshore ad operations provider that has the resources and knowhow to navigate the cookie-free world makes good business sense. Get in touch today.

Author:David Tyler

Date:26th April 2021

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Harness the brand power of the evolving digital shopping experience

In the previous post, we talked about headless commerce, an approach to ecommerce development that decouples the backend of an ecommerce site from the front end. In other words, all the backend tasks – order processing, customer records, EPR integration – are separated from the elements that customers engage with, including content, images, product configurators and, critically, the shopping cart. What you’re left with is an ecommerce platform without a “head.”

What’s interesting about headless commerce is that it sets the stage for brands to sell anywhere in the digital universe. It’s a topic well worth exploring for brands, as whole generations of shoppers show signs that they favor non-traditional commerce channels, and your ability to reach and engage these consumers may hinge on how well you can meet them in the places where they make purchasing decisions.

Commerce is everywhere

When ecommerce first emerged in the early 1990’s, site developers sought to mimic the offline experience online, under the belief that such a replication would guide shoppers through the process. Online shopping was new, and many consumers were wary of entering their credit card into a strange new thing called a website. Mimicking the in-store experience felt fundamentally familiar, and gave consumers the confidence to try something new.

But the younger, digitally native Millennial and Gen Z generations don’t need that kind of analogy to the offline world. Moreover, they’ve adopted e-wallets and other tools that streamline shopping, allowing them to purchase a product with a click of a button. Navigating to an online retailer, going through the checkout process, and entering a credit card number and shipping address all feels so yesterday.

This combination of emerging attitudes and seamless technology has allowed innovative brands to sell anywhere, win new customers, and in some cases, leap ahead of their competition. Let’s look at some examples.

Social commerce & shoppable livestreaming

While social commerce isn’t exactly a new trend, 2020 saw an explosion of social commerce sales. And it’s not likely to slow down in 2021. In the US alone, social commerce sales this year will top $39 billion. Globally the numbers are even more eye popping, reaching $589 billion. According to Grand View Research, social commerce will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) 28.4% over the next 6 years

Social media platforms are keen to promote this trend. Over the past year many platforms formed partnerships with ecommerce vendors to enable tighter integration of the two disciplines (e.g. Shopify and Snapchat announced an initiative to make it easier for retailers to create ads and set-up campaigns via the Shopify platform).

Meanwhile, Chinese consumers are enthralled with a newer form of social selling, known as shoppable livestreaming. Platforms such as ShopShops and Pendoo have entered the market to support social livestreaming, and have provided social media influencers with an economic shot in the arm. It’s only a matter of time before shoppable livestreaming becomes a global phenomenon.

How does it work? ShopShops calls its influencers “hosts,” who present items from “iconic and trendy stores, sample sales and flea markets.” Holding up pieces from a sample sales or flea market automatically creates a sense of urgency within the customer: buy this now because it will never be available again.

News sites

Headless commerce is also paving the way for news organizations to get serious about ecommerce. Every news site has an ecommerce store, of course, but those sites are hardly a major source of revenue for them. That’s about to change, because headless commerce allows new sites to integrate shopping and content consumption and take advantage of impulse sales.

Take NBCUniversal which released its NBCUniversal checkout early last year. This new feature will incorporate commerce into the reading and viewing experience across its sites. Specifically, it allows the readers of articles and viewers of videos on NBCUniversal properties to click on a featured product, bring up the listing from a partner merchant and make the purchase. Users never need to leave the article they’re reading.

NBCUniversal isn’t alone in the field, as many major news organizations are fusing content consumption with commerce. But one of the things that is significant about NBC is the sheer number of properties the publisher owns, and the size of the audience who will be exposed to this new mode of shopping.

Within a few years I wouldn’t be surprised to see shoppable content become so common that consumers consider it a normal way to shop – and feel put upon if an ad or an article won’t let them purchase an item that’s right there in front of them.

Gaming commerce

Online games have always engaged in commerce, selling users tools and in-game currency to move up a level or acquire more power. In other words, online games already have the user’s payment information stored, and the consumer is already comfortable with spending money there.

Last spring, rapper Travis Scott performed a concert in the video game Fortnite (those who missed it can join the other 13 million viewers who watched it on YouTube). Given the scale and reach of audiences like Travis’, I can’t imagine that gaming companies will sit on the sidelines much longer. The technology exists to support in-game purchases, and with headless commerce, brands could offer up, say, the trendy sneakers or clothing worn by characters within the games to players with a purchase cycle that can be completed in a single click.

The future: Disappearing lines

These trends are obliterating the line between digital shopping and digital experiences. Soon watching TV, playing a game, keeping up with friends on social media may all become seamless commerce opportunities.

What’s interesting about these developments from a marketer’s point of view is that they collapse advertising and purchasing into a single interaction. A customer sees a product in her Instagram feed, video game or livestreamed fashion sale and makes an impulse purchase.

Headless commerce will usher in a world of new opportunities.

Author:David Tyler

Date:29th March 2021

Blog

What is headless commerce? And what does it mean for customer acquisition campaigns?

One can hardly pick up an industry journal without seeing an article on headless commerce. But what is it, and how will it affect the brand manager’s top goal of acquiring new customers?

First, let’s be clear about one thing: headless commerce deserves all the hype it’s getting because it is fuelling – and will continue to fuel – a lot of innovation in commerce, marketing and advertising.

For instance, let’s say I’ve had my eye on a winter coat but yet to take the plunge of buying it.  The brand can target me with a promotional offer on my Instagram feed, enabling me to buy it directly from the ad, bypassing a visit to its site and the whole shopping cart/checkout process. That’s a lot of obstacles eliminated!

The ability to extend your ecommerce storefront to any digital channel is just one of the many benefits of headless commerce.

So what does headless commerce mean exactly? Headless commerce decouples the backend of an ecommerce site from the front end, meaning the order processing, customer records, EPR integration are separated from the customer-facing elements, including content, images, product configurators and so on. What you’re left with is an ecommerce platform without a “head.”

APIs connect the frontend to the backend, sending requests from the presentation layer (i.e. the frontend) to the application. So in my example, when I click the “Buy Now” button on the ad in my Instagram feed, the presentation layer of the apparel company’s headless ecommerce system sends an API call to the application layer to process the order. The application layer then sends another API call to the application layer to show me the status of my order.

Benefits of Headless Commerce

  • Painless omnichannel marketing. Unlike a traditional ecommerce store, headless commerce allows you to sell in any channel, even those that have yet to emerge. You can include the ability to buy seamlessly any place where a consumer will see your content: social media, ads, blogs, SMS messages, and so on. And it’s not just selling; you can invite anyone to sign up for your email or SMS newsletter and offers.
  • Speed to market. It’s much easier to implement customer-facing site enhancements when the frontend is decoupled from the backend because you don’t need to roll out the update across your entire system, just one part of the system.
  • Flexibility. As new channels emerge, your developers can add new channels to your existing platform. You won’t need to replatform your entire store just to service customers in a new channel.
  • Save in development costs. If your store runs on a complex ecommerce platform, like Magento Commerce, headless commerce can offer lower development costs, as it’s much faster for a developer to write, implement, test and deploy site enhancements.
  • Marketing focus commerce. In traditional ecommerce, the technology typically drives how you engage your customers, but with headless commerce your marketing team can make those decisions based on how and where customers discover your brand.
  • Personalization deployed anywhere. Headless commerce allows you to personalize content in any channel, as my winter coat example shows. Going further, the brand can show me a hat and scarf set that goes with the coat when I’m on Facebook, or show me a spring rain coat a few months down the road, which I can buy with a single click.

Obviously this is a simplified explanation of headless commerce, but it shows why, as a digital marketing agency, we are super excited about the world of opportunities it offers our clients. Headless commerce is powering a new range of engagement possibilities – such as social commerce, that resonates with the younger generations. It’s the best way to ensure your ecommerce store and brand can keep up with consumers as they adopt new channels and shopping habits.

We’ll help you move into the future, get in touch.

Author:David Tyler

Date:23rd March 2021

Blog

Why a DTC channel is a must-have

If you’re a manufacturer, these past 12 months have been quite unnerving. Some 25,000 retail outlets closed in the US in 2020 due to COVID, and many other iconic brands are predicted to shutter in the coming months as the challenges of the pandemic and faltering economy linger on. If you relied on these retailers to get your products into the hands of your customers you’re likely thinking: what are my options?

It might be time to consider launching a channel in which you sell your products directly to your customers, better known as a DTC channel. In fact, it’s a strategy that many manufacturers, CPG brands and food companies now consider business imperatives.

These companies aren’t simply jumping on the latest fad; they’re meeting customers where they are. Seeking safe, contactless shopping, consumers have flocked to ecommerce, so much so demand for grocery delivery enabled Instacart to turn a profit for the first time ever. According to a McKinsey Report, COVID-19 has condensed ten years worth of anticipated growth in ecommerce into just 90 days.

There are plenty of opportunities and challenges to launching a DTC channel. Let’s start with the opportunities:

  • Customers favor eCommerce. Last July Digital Commerce 360 reported that online sales leapt by an impressive 76%. If you want to continue selling to consumers, you’ll need to offer your products in their preferred shopping channels, and increasingly that’s digital. More importantly, consumers have spent the pandemic forming new shopping habits out of necessity. But necessity almost always gives way to habit. If your brand isn’t on the consumer’s radar, getting their attention sometime in the future could be difficult, if not impossible.
  • Direct customer relationships. When you sell directly to customers you have the opportunity to develop one-to-one relationships with them, and to avail yourself of the many benefits such relationships offer: product feedback, surveys, loyalty and referral programs, to name a few. You’ll also begin to build a pool of first-party data that will no doubt morph into one of your most important strategic assets.
  • First-party data. Picking up on the previous bullet, GDPR and CCPA have left marketers scrambling for cookie-free ways to target new audiences and build their upper funnel. First-party data offers a bright spot for privacy-compliant marketing. You can use your customer data to send out product announcements, personalize your web experiences to the shopper, request permission to engage in marketing initiatives with your partners, and even model new prospects to target.
  • Customer journey insight. When you sell your products via third-party retailers, they — not you — own the customer relationship. They’re also the ones who get insight into customer journeys, and can understand how and why consumers favor one brand over another. A direct-to-consumer channel will allow you to capture that insight, use it to engage better with prospects, and be more responsive to their needs. It will also provide a roadmap for building your upper funnel by knowing where and how to apply marketing resources.
  • Better margins. Third-party retailers and wholesalers may have provided you with a lot of benefits, but they came at a price. When you sell directly to consumers, the 40% markup stays on your balance sheet.
  • Less noise. Marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart are excellent vehicles for getting your products in front of huge audiences, but it also means competition is stiff. These marketplaces are optimized to close sales, and so they present the consumer with multiple choices, even when the consumer arrives on your product page via a costly paid search campaign. A DTC channel lets you eliminate that competition.

There are many compelling reasons to launch a DTC channel, but it is, by no means, an uncomplicated endeavor.

Challenges to launching DTC channel

If your company has typically sold to retailers and wholesalers in bulk, you’ll probably need to restructure quite a bit of your internal operations in order to service end customers. You’ll also need new pricing, pick, pack-and-ship models to get your products out the door.

And there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll need to do substantial work to your website to support one-to-one sales. Unlike B2B sites which are meant to make placing bulk orders a quick and easy task for established business customers, a consumer-facing site will need to promote product discovery, provide an abundance of fresh content, and be optimized towards a new set of metrics such time on site, page views and repeat visits.

Creating a consumer website will require you to identify the customer journey and optimize towards it — a task that may have been left to your wholesalers and retail partners. If you’re like many manufacturers, you may have a fragmented view of the customer journey, and will need to engage some analysis to help you understand how consumers engage with your brand.

Finally, you’ll need to build new integrations from your DTC ecommerce site to your order management, Enterprise Resource Planning and other backend systems so that you can provide site visitors with updated and accurate inventory availability, shipping information, process orders, and ensure that key account data, such as their shipping address, payment information and other preferences, inform their shopping experience.

How Paragon can help

If a DTC channel makes good business sense to your brands/products but the prospect of building and maintaining an entire ad operations team from the ground up feels daunting, don’t fret. Paragon Services has a history of delivering world class omnichannel digital campaigns, audience management, reporting and analytics all designed to maximize DTC channel ROI.

We’ll guide you through all aspects you need to develop DTC campaigns, audience management, reporting and analytics.

We’ll help you move into the future, get in touch.

Author:David Tyler

Date:9th March 2021