Ever wanted to send flowers or a gift to a friend or family member while they were staying in Rome? Have you ever lived abroad and wanted to buy something from a US based web retailer? Marketers sometimes forget that it’s the World Wide Web, not the US web.

Many brands are unaware of the significant demand for their products outside the US. More importantly, traffic reports show that enormous amounts of organic traffic from international locations go unnoticed. Particularly in the US, there’s a tendency to have a much narrower view of the world. Many marketers only think in English and market their products in English. A recent Google internal study into the top U.S. based search query demand for the gift & floral market revealed over 15% of queries were targeted to countries outside the U.S. How well are you connecting with shoppers who want goods and services shipped abroad?

If you are thinking about expanding your brand internationally, you may want to consider some general best practices:

101 The Basics

Fish where the fish are.
  1. Perform a cursory analysis of general market statistics such as GNP, economic and social indicators, political analysis, etc. Does it make sense to start in Latvia or Italy? Some things may surprise you, so a good first step is to verify where your current international traffic is coming from.
  2. Perhaps to make it even simpler, US retailers can start with one of the biggest markets first – the US Hispanic market. This market represents almost 15% of the US population with domestic spending at just over $1 trillion [1]. Over half of that market wants or needs to communicate in Spanish. It’s not simply a matter of preference; it’s a requirement to access this lucrative market.
  3. Canada is an ideal opportunity for cross border sales since this market is familiar with many US brands. It is the perfect place to jump in and get your feet wet.
In-Language Splash Pages for English sites. Drive potential customers to your site and greet them with an in-language splash page. Speak to those users in their native tongue and you’re sure to see a lower bounce rate than if you hadn’t.

Display prices in the local currency. Particularly in light of today’s economy, buyers are price sensitive. If they can’t figure out how much something costs, they likely won’t pull the trigger.

Keywords and ad copy for paid search should be in local languages. People tend to search in their native languages. Leverage translation services that many SEMs offer for a fee.

Include negative keywords to prevent mishaps and ads showing against unwanted/inappropriate content. Be careful with your choice of keywords. There are many linguistic nuances that could cause you to be associated with the wrong type of content that may damage brand perception.

With these simple strategies, you can easily enter a new international market, often without needing additional resources. On Thursday we’ll discuss some more advanced strategies.

[1] US Census and, December 2008.

Like most retailers, you're probably spending your time analyzing your Positive ROI (Return On Investment) to determine how to spend on your next Search campaign. But do you also have a solid understanding of your Negative ROI (or Risk Of Inaction)? How many sales are you leaving on the table by not taking action? And how many of those sales are going to your competition?

Here's how I would think about your negative ROI: when your customers are searching for you online -- every time you are NOT in front of them is a missed opportunity for a sale. And thus a negative ROI.

Here are a 4 suggestions about how you may want to think about your negative ROI:

Your Daily Budget Strategy: Do you know at what time of day your daily caps start kicking in? Are they set to tap out at 7:00 in the evening when your customers stop shopping … or do your ads stop serving at 2:00 in the afternoon? Thought about a different way, are you closing the doors to your brick-and-mortar stores at 2:00 or 7:00? Because if you are “closing your online doors” too early your customers are walking down the street and shopping elsewhere (i.e. clicking an ad and visiting your competitors’ sites).

Your Non-Brand Terms Strategy: A new face walks into your store who’s never been there before. Do your salespeople completely ignore him or do they ask him how they can help him? Well, if they ignore him there’s a good chance he walks out that door never to return – which is what you are doing when you ignore many of your non-branded keywords. Queries you never address are queries that will never be converted to a sale.

Matching Your Customer’s “Search Cycle” Strategy: Are you coordinating your search plans (both creative and buying) to match your customer’s buying cycle? Are they getting a different message when you know they are in the information-gathering phase than when they are in the buying phase? Are they being directed to different landing pages after they’ve already visited your site versus their first visit? If your search strategy fails to recognize these different cycles of customer behavior -- you risk your customers failing to recognize why they should be visiting your site.

Your Bidding and Positioning Strategy: You know the top 100 queries you want your ads showing up on … but do you also know which position is most profitable for you on each page? And at what CPC? Asked another way, do you know how to best spend your next $100? Do you know which keywords will pay-out at a higher ROI if only you bid a little more to get higher position and thus a higher CTR? Test and optimize so that you are keenly aware of how you might spend your next $100 to get your maximum ROI … by not knowing your further promoting your negative ROI.

In summary, make sure to take the time to understand your negative ROI as much as your positive ROI. It’s important to expand your strategic thinking beyond what you already know and start trying out new methods to gain new learning. Test and Optimize. Work with your Google consultants. Don’t let your Risk of Inaction catch you buy surprise. By being proactive and strategic, you’re sure to improve that other positive ROI – your bottom line!

There is good news for clothing retailers this Father’s Day season. American consumers expect to spend close to $1.3 billion on clothing out of a total $9.4 billion. Of that $1.3 billion, an impressive 20% is expected to be spent online. [1] The old standbys, socks, neckties, and belts, will remain popular, as will gift cards.

So while dad may not need another tie, it looks like that’s exactly what dad’s going to receive. That said, online retailers can think creatively in the final push. What is it that dads would like to receive and families can afford to purchase? What should online retailers be doing to encourage these purchases?

Many have discussed the possibility of family members purchasing gifts that can be used by the entire family: grills, tents, and luggage. Others think that given the economy the past nine months, dads deserve to be pampered with more luxurious personal care products like high-end shaving creams and razors. In fact, the demand for men’s beauty products has grown over the past years [2] but some men still feel uncomfortable purchasing those products for themselves. This leads to increased online sales from the privacy of their own homes, in fact, online sales of cosmetics and fragrances will grow by nearly 67% between 2008 and 2012. [3]

Keep in mind that the main purchasers of Father’s Day gifts are wives and children, each bringing a different budget to the table. Both are interested in sales and coupons and will benefit from clear ‘Order By for Father’s Day Delivery’ dates on the website. For websites with accompanying brick and mortar stores, don’t forget to push last minute in-store purchases through coupons available on your website. Use text ads to highlight ‘In Store Pickup’ or ‘In Store Coupon Available’ as we pass the final ship-by dates.

In 2008, Father’s Day fell on June 15th. As the data below shows, searches for “father’s day gifts” began to rise about four weeks before the holiday. Searches on this term then hit their peak on June 14th, and although consumers may not have purchased items online, they reviewed products and sales on the internet and then headed to the nearest retail store. As an advertiser you must be thinking, “If my consumers can no longer purchase online in time for Father’s Day, how I can attract them to my store?” Again, use what’s been working all year: coupon codes and special promotions. Once the gift is chosen, the consumer is still going to want to find the best price, so make sure your ad emphasizes any current in-store deals. This is a great time to update your Local Business Ads to reflect that as well.

In addition, Father’s Day is later this year, which means consumers are thinking ‘summer’ more than they have in the past. Timing is right for bathing suits and sports apparel like golf shirts, running shorts, and flip flops. As we’ve seen in years past, the online activity peaks on Father’s Day but continues for a few days afterwards. There will always be the last minute and forgetful shoppers, so it’s important to be “on” through the very end.

We all know dads have been working hard, which means they deserve the cards and presents more than ever. Happy Father’s Day!

[1] “Tough Economy Brings More of the Same for Dad: Ties, Gift Cards and Lots of Love,” NRF, June, 2009.
[2] “Marketing to Men: Opportunities for Growth in the Grooming Market,”, April, 2008
[3] “Outlook for E-Commerce in 2008 and Beyond,” Forrester Research, February, 2008

You may remember a time in the not-so-distant past when compelling messaging and an attractive product mix was all you needed to increase sales volume and build your business. In today's economy, your job has gotten considerably more difficult; because consumers' values have evolved, not just their buying behavior, retailers are facing unprecedented challenges.

How do you reach a consumer base for whom skinny wallets have become trendier than skinny jeans?

Psychological Segmentation:

In the April 2009 edition of The Harvard Business Review (HBR), John A. Quelch and Katherine E. Joez published an article titled "How to Market In A Downturn" in which they discuss the need for marketers to rethink their current attitudinal and behavioral marketing segmentation schemes in order to carefully balance scaling costs, growing short-term sales and investing in long-term brand health.

The article asserts that while marketers typically segment according to demographics or lifestyle, this may not be the most effective strategy in a recessionary economy. Instead, smart marketers may choose to leverage psychological segmentation, which enables them to target consumer segments based on each groups' emotional response to the recession.

Psychological segmentation works because it enables marketers to operate based on an understanding of the way their consumers prioritize purchases. This is especially valuable during a recession, as costs are being cut at a time when marketing is more of a necessity than ever. Marketing is a “good cost,” essential to bringing in revenue from both existing customers and potential new ones; for best results, a retailer must ensure that they are crafting their messaging by segment, and focusing on those consumers most likely to invest in their product or service.

For example, while nearly all consumers consider basic levels of food, shelter, and clothing to be essentials, beyond that, consumers' perception of there own financial situations can sharply alter their views on whether they see a given expenditure as a want or a need. Likewise, determining whether a given product or service is an immediate or future need, or whether a treat is justifiable, tends to be highly subjective, and often varies during multiple points in the life of a buyer.

Note, however, that while some brands may cater to all segments the authors provide, most will not. The goal should be to first identify your key consumer segments below and then consider marketing accordingly.

Tailoring Marketing Strategy by Segment:

The slam-on-the-brakes segment is the most vulnerable and price sensitive of all groups. They reduce all spending by sharply limiting unnecessary purchases, postponing necessary expenditures, and, whenever possible, substituting the things they continue to buy with lower cost alternatives. Although lower-income consumers typically fall into this segment, anxious higher-income consumers can as well, particularly if they have been disproportionally impacted by the recession.

Targeting Tactics:
  • Consider highlighting discount prices and offering lower priced alternatives to your current product line.
  • If your product is not a necessity, you may want to consider offering it in a smaller size for a lower cost - this group is less considered about gaining value and more focused on conserving funds.
  • When selling a potentially postphonable product or service to this group, financing or layaway plans may help overcome their immediate financial concerns.
  • Marketing messaging might discourage postponing services, such as an oil change, because they will cost consumers substantially more in the long run if not handled immediately.
  • Expendables, or purchases consumers view as unjustifiable, will be a difficult sell for this group. To overcome these challenges, consider providing do it yourself alternatives to pricey services.
Pained-but-patient consumers tend to be optimistic about the long term but less confident about the prospects for recovery in the near term. They reduce spend in all areas, but are more flexible than the slam-on-the-brakes segment. They are the largest consumer segment and include most of the households where the primary breadwinner is still employed. As such, they represent a wide range of income levels.

Targeting Tactics:
  • Appeal to these consumers practical side by offering better pricing at higher volume - this can take the form of a loyalty club to foster repeat visits or discounts on bulk purchases.
  • Market non-necessities as affordable alternatives to luxury purchases.
  • Focus on promoting repair services - with their eyes on an optimistic future, this group is likely to prefer repairing a current item to purchasing a new one.
  • Build longer term brand awareness now, while you face reduced competition in the market place. Expect that the investment may not pay off until this consumer is feeling less financially constrained, but that it may pay off big in the future.
Comfortably well-off consumers feel secure about their ability to ride out current and future bumps in the economy. Their actual consumption has altered only slightly, but they are feeling more cautious about spending, and a bit guilty for indulging when others are struggling. The segment consists primarily of people in the top 5% income bracket as well as those who feel particularly confident about the stability of their finances.

Targeting Tactics:
  • Focus on selling online or other places where you can offer discreet purchasing opportunities to enable the wealthy to shop in secret.
  • Highlight any applicable charitable or green initiatives associated with your company - guilt about spending can be reduced if this group believes they are helping others simultaneously.
  • Showcase long-term value and quality - make it clear your product is an investment, not a mere babble.
  • Create a sense of urgency that helps consumers understand that they can save by buying immediately.
The live-for-today segment tends to be the least emotionally impacted by the recession. Typically urban and younger, they are more likely to rent than to own, and spend on experiences rather than products. They’re unlikely to change their consumption behavior unless, of course, they become unemployed.

Targeting Tactics:
  • Use social networking to generate buzz around your product and let consumers know what they may be 'missing out' on.
  • Promote exciting new products as 'must-haves'. This group has a profound appreciation for all things novel.
  • Remind them of the quality of life benefits to buying now, for example, "Buy it now, before someone else does".
  • Challenge these consumers to 'seize the moment' - they tend to enjoy seeing themselves as a bit impulsive.
While timing remains uncertain, in all likelihood the current recession will eventually end, and consumers’ attitudes and behaviors will likely shift yet again. To prepare for these times, retailers should be focused on consumer needs, their core brands, and a careful balance between long term and short term goals. Marketing methods must allow for targeting, accountability and the flexibility to make rapid changes in response to shifts in consumers' needs.

And, ultimately, those who consider consumer responses to the recession when crafting their marketing strategy and making decisions about where to invest, are likely to flourish - both in the present and long into the future.

Can you say the same for skinny jeans?

14 years ago, ecommerce became a household word and retailers set up separate P&Ls, executives and infrastructure to cash in. By 2004, it was becoming clear that eCommerce had potential to be the "growth engine" and was rapidly becoming the jewel in a retailer's revenue portfolio. This led multi-channel retailers in different directions. Some brought their .com's under corporate management and created a single reporting structure with accountability to a single marketing department.

Others, the majority, have continued to run the ecommerce businesses separately with some accountability to corporate marketing. This second scenario has created one of the most inhibiting paths to success with the consumer.

In the second scenario, corporate marketing remains disconnected from its website and hasn't learned to interpret its gold mine of consumer intentions data or obtain experience optimizing its digital assets for the highest potential sales success both online and in stores.

As a result, this has led corporate marketing to rely on agencies to inform corporate digital marketing strategy. The ecommerce team continues to either manage digital marketing themselves or hires a second agency to manage ecommerce marketing. In either scenario, the parties can be optimizing for different, but potentially competing outcomes. Most damaging is that the key insights to helping consumers "buy" are locked in silos with the agencies having half the picture and the digital side of the corporation holding the other half.

This has the potential to create a dichotomy within organizations with those who “know” digital and those who rely on the agency. In some cases, the .com marketing team is given fewer resources and less influence on overall marketing strategy even though it holds powerful behavioral and purchase intent information to unlock value and loyalty from the in-store shopper.

While this structure of agencies, corporate marketing and .com can be optimized, it can never be optimal unless data is broken free from silos, jointly analyzed and used to establish a common framework that delivers results (sales, engagement, loyalty, etc.) for the retailer. This leads me to a second critical point.

Everything in the digital environment starts with the website. Consumer behavioral data (analytics) must inform the marketing strategy that drives online and in-store sales.

It is now common knowledge that stores and websites work together. Customers visit a website to inform their purchase decisions, research assortment, colors, sizes, prices, reviews and purchase. It’s important to remember that it happens in that order of frequency as well, with purchasing being the smallest percentage of website activity. 98% of visitors to a website are doing something else other than buying online. The questions for a multi-channel retailer to be laser focused on are: Why did they come and what did they do once they left?

The answer to unlocking the multi-channel customer centric shopping experience is to break down the silos between agencies, corporate marketing and .com. All these entities must share consumer insights data and consider an internship or rotation program for employees and their agencies so that everyone gains an understanding of how traditional and web analytics data can be used to drive optimal site traffic, online conversions and in-store purchases.

Once retailers understand how customers use the website, they can begin to optimize their media mix around a single outcome…sales, no matter where or how they happen.

Advertising is designed to connect, but, only a website is capable of sharing information back about the most valuable connections you make as marketers. Interpreting and leveraging that behavior, is the key to delighting the customer.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, chances are you've discovered how valuable good data on traffic to your store's web presence can be -- more data means you can make better-informed decisions on how to drive more traffic to your site and to your brick-and-mortar locations. Well, starting today, the Google Maps team will be making a brand-new kind of data available to business owners who maintain a physical presence: the Local Business Center dashboard (

This new dashboard will provide business owners with detailed metrics on traffic to their local listing in Google Maps -- helping you understand, for example, how many times your listing appeared in or Google Maps searches, what search queries are leading users to your listing, and where customers are coming from when they search for directions to your location. This is the first time this kind of data has ever been made available to business owners, and we think you'll find it highly useful.

If you're interested in learning more, head over to the Official Google Blog for a more-detailed overview or the Lat Long blog for a walk-through of the dashboard's features.