2020 has seen a great boom in the use of chatbots across the industrial sector. Chatbots are full of advantages to provide undeniable experience for customer services. So, conversational AI is an integral part of business practices across all industries.
The role of chatbots is not limited to customer services only. Although they are recommended for customer support. Conversational Bots are helpful to promote marketing and sales activities.
Since chatbots are a small application of conversational AI. Conversational Intelligence has a much wider scope. It compiles the trending technologies and utilizing the mix for variant purposes. Artificial Intelligence has captured a significant share in conversational marketing.
“What” & “Why” paves a path towards the Conversational AI trends for 2021. And, also, to the reason why it is a priority for the major section of the industry.
What Is Conversational AI?
The set of technologies that help simulate the conversational environment is coined as conversational AI. These sets of instructions are used in conjunction with Virtual agents like bots to make them capable of understanding the intent and tone of the words framed together into a sentence and then process a response to the text or voice message and reply in natural ways. Therefore, Conversational AI accommodates the interaction between peoples and complex systems.
Why Conversational AI Is In-Demand?
The systems and processes are getting more complex. Because of the increasing technical demands in the industry. And it gets difficult for the non-technical users to navigate through the complex problems without any expert help. The use of chatbots at the forefront eases the movement of the user when surfing or shopping online. It is a step ahead towards betterment. Customer experience is the priority for the industries now. Hence, the customer experience will be simpler and more intuitive. (Only by replacing the traditional UIs with the conversational dialog boxes).
Why Conversational AI Becomes A Priority In 2021?
1. Manages Dialog Turns & Twists
A normal human conversation is full of uncertainties. Each dialog in conversation is capable of changing the flow of conversation further. Understanding these turning points is the major goal of inducing Natural Language Processing techniques into AI applications. Hence, the Conversational AI concept manages instant pauses, rollbacks, or repetitive conversations. It also provides a fluent hassle-free experience to the users.
2. Context Management
Since we are talking of bots, we can’t be sure that the bot you chatted with a month ago still remembers the highlights. Neither we can be sure it will continue the conversation from the same endpoint. But Conversational AI knows that every conversation has some context involved. And it is also aware that context levies the importance of information. Conversational AI holds the context from past conversations. Because of this, it can resume the conversation from the same endpoint. For example, user information, preferences, queries, etc.
3. Sentiment Analysis
Conversational AI makes bots capable of analyzing the emotion and tone of the conversation by breaking down the sentences/phrases into singular words. Each word or utterance is then further analyzed considering the key triggers, connotations, and placement in the sentence. You can count them as individual metrics that combined together to define the type and intensity of the emotion conveyed through the conversation.
4. Multilingual Support
Conversational AI supports almost every language. Hence, contributing to your business growth by giving you access to understand the intent of individuals across the globe. Online stores can integrate a chatbot that provides multiple language support without any translator. Read more
5. Rapid Industry Adoption
The introduction of chatbots in the commercial industry has captured every sector from marketing promotions to customer support. Automating business processes in certain sectors allows the marketers and owners to focus on the more critical issues that can’t be taken care of under bots for now at least. With Conversational AI, bots are one step ahead of the artificially intelligent earth.
6. Behavioral Analytics For Bots
Chatbots employed by the industries have fetched them huge user data, performance, and/or other metadata. But, if data is not providing any information, it is useless. Hence deciphering the information contained in the data and delivering significant insights is what is required. And Conversational AI is capable of doing so. Conversational AI-based analytics provides a visual representation of the user journey via plotting the flow of dialog in the conversation between the user and the bot. These flows define user behavior. Further, it can also determine the intention of the user.
7. Machine to Machine Conversations
We can’t skip IoT since we’re talking about intelligent technology behind the smart devices. Internet of Things or IoT enables the machine to machine conversation by creating a data-sharing network. Conversational AI plays a vital role in deciphering the information shared between machines. And vital information shared with the man via conversation too. In other words, Conversational AI is the mediator. It supports the conversation between the man and machines without any manual help.
8. Voice Assistants
Conversational AI caters to resolve the communication hindrances too. Voice assistants are the chatbot capable of conversing with the human. Rather by talking instead of typing long sentences. Amazon Echo, Google Home, etc. are the real-existing examples of voice assistants. Hence, supporting the hands-free conversation.
The use and trends of Chatbots use cases have been widely embraced in 2020. And there is no doubt that it will proliferate in 2021 as well. Since the use of chatbots is not restricted to any particular sector or industry type. Any enterprise can enjoy this technology.
Analytics Insight has listed top 10 chatbots to watch out for in 2021
Companies are trying every possible way to meet customers’ expectation. Yet another way that enhances their relationship with customers is coming up with chatbot, a software that’s capable of carrying out conversations with the customers. What better than being addressed to your issue at any instant of time? Right from responding to your queries to offering you the best, chatbots have got you covered. Chatbots are employed to improve customer engagement and reduce customer support expenses as well. They are an excellent way to automate most of the customer interactions. If you’ve been hunting for the best chatbots then have your task is done for you’ve landed at the right place. Read on to know which the best chatbots are and what is so unique about each one of them.
10 Best Chatbots to look for in 2021
Who wouldn’t want to improve customer engagement to boost up sales? Now that we are well aware of the fact that chatbots aid in improving customer interaction, learning about the best platforms does make every possible sense. Here’s a list of 10 best chatbots of 2021.
• Acquire: Acquire is an AI-powered chatbot. This works round the clock and aims to solve all the customer queries. There are some questions that are most frequently asked. It is here that Acquire comes into play. It answers these queries of the users. Since, the most commonly asked queries are addressed by the bots, the agents can now handle other complex questions. This is a no nonsense chatbot. All that you’ve to do is decide your goals, purpose of the chatbot, and then set up a custom workflow.
• OMQ chatbot: OMQ chatbot is a self-learning AI-powered chatbot platform. The main purpose of designing this is to reduce the workload of the agents who deal with customers on a regular basis. OMQ chatbot is linked to the central knowledge base. It is capable enough of understanding the query or issue of the customer and responding with the most suitable answer. If it finds the issue to be too complex to handle, it directs the same to an agent.
• Netomi: This chatbot aims to deliver the highest accuracy due to its advanced Natural Language Understanding (NLU) engine. This platform boasts of an out-of-the-box integration with most of the leading agent desk platforms. This is available in a variety of languages and supports analytics and real time reporting as well.
• Watson Assistant: This chatbot, developed by IBM, makes into the list of the most advanced AI-powered chatbots in the market. Watson Assistant holds the potential to keep a track of the users’ historical chat or call logs. If it is not able to address the issue at its best, it can ask the customers for more clarity and also direct them to human representatives, if necessary.
• Ada: Ada is yet another AI-powered chatbot that’s ruling the market. It comes with a drag-and-drop feature. This chatbot platform allows the users to add GIFs to certain messages, and the companies can make the best of their customer data. Ada holds the potential to send personalized content to the customers and also ask for customer feedback. Using this feedback, the companies can work better.
• ChatterOn: It is one of those AI-powered chatbots using which one can create Facebook Messenger chatbots without coding. Hence, this is no less than a saviour for non-technical users. This bot is self-learning thereby making it agile and adaptable.
• Aivo: This is one of those excellent platforms that enables you to communicate with your customers in real-time via text or voice. It is flexible enough to the extent that it can adapt itself to the rules. It promises to deliver a seamless and a high-quality experience.
• Rulai: Ruali is an AI-powered chatbot for enterprise brands. It has several advantages – it is capable of predicting the behaviour of the users, can understand the context of a conversation, know what the preferences of the customers are, can take actions accordingly. If it is not clear with something then it can also ask customers for more clarification.
• Sequel: This chatbot platform has a range of chatbot templates to offer. One can customize the template as well using the drag and drop interface. It is built on NLP and engages the users in a great manner.
• Botsify: It is a Facebook chatbot platform. It caters to integrating other chatbots into your system. The best part of this is that it is apt for non-technical users. Additionally, its basic version is available for free. The only drawback is that it cannot handle multiple entities to be correlated with one phrase.
All in all, Chatbots are an added advantage for your company. The right chatbot can save your time, money, and help you make better decisions.
Yes, it’s that time of the year again. The time when we close the balance for the current year and start planning for the next one. Can you imagine 2021 marketing without automation? No one can! But this doesn’t mean that we don’t need to be prepared for what the future holds in store for 2021.
So let’s take a close look at the top marketing automation predictions for 2021. There has been enough uncertainty this year to warrant extra attention to being prepared in the next one, don’t you think?
In fact, the uncertainty that shrouded most of 2020 lays the foundation for what will happen in marketing automation in 2021. With most businesses going fully digital or moving most of their operations online, the need for marketing automation software has increased exponentially.
And this is not something that will change too soon.
Marketing Automation Predictions for 2021
Digital marketing was largely viewed as a must-have strategy by most marketers even before the pandemic. Seventy-eight percentof marketers believe that digital marketing was the key to their marketing efforts successful.
People turned to their devices with studies showing that device usage leaped by 16 percent in a single day in the US! Everyone is online (still!) so there has never been a better time to polish your marketing automation strategy.
Video marketing is not a new concept — it stuck around because it works. Everyone loves watching a relevant, entertaining video.
Statistics show that 85 percent of internet users watch video content and it is estimated that the average person will be spending 100 minutes a day watching online videos in 2021.
They are easy to follow and when done right, educational too. There are several video types that you can use to reach your targeted market. For instance, some people have turned to vlog to reach their audience.
Recorded or live Q&As are also extremely popular and will continue to be this way. These are great for interacting with your audience. Q&As are more informative and don’t seem like sales so you can attract people to your business easily.
Ninety-three percent of companies say that their video content helped them to get new customers, with 63 percent of businesses saying that they get the best ROIs through their videos.
One of the best things about video marketing is that, even though you can’t automate production, you can definitely automate its distribution. There are dozens of social media management tools to help you distribute your video content automatically. Just schedule the post and go on with your day.
The same goes for sharing your video content with your email subscribers. Schedule a campaign in your favorite automation tool and go back to your dashboard to see how it performed.
Pro tip: leverage marketing automation for a video like a pro. Schedule your most important videos to be published at different times on different days. Why? Organic reach on social media is low, so posting a video just once means that you’ll only reach a small fraction of your audience. Play with different times of the day to catch bigger chunks of your fan base, especially if you cater to an international audience, in multiple time zones.
Remember, when we all used to rely on a clear customer journey: awareness, consideration, decision. That’s it! Start creating content and campaigns for each stage.
Well, not anymore. Today’s customer journey is complex and unpredictable. Sometimes, they will narrow down their search to a single brand only to expand it again minutes later.
With more time to spend online researching options, consumers are becoming more and more aware that they are in charge of the process and that they don’t have to give in to remarketing ads or persistent email campaigns.
What can you do?
Automate, but smartly.
Invest in marketing automation software that allows you to have a 360-degree view of the customer’s behavior and cross-reference reports. Integration is your best friend here: integrating your CRM with your marketing automation tool (for instance, Salesforce with Mailchimp), you can send hyper-targeted and relevant messages to your contacts.
Marketing automation in 2021 has to respond to the customers’ demands: less generic campaigns, more personalization, and more relevance.
It feels like email marketing has been around since the beginning of time. But just because it’s rather old, it doesn’t mean it’s any less significant.
Marketing automation has taken an email to the next level.
Email marketing has progressed over the years and it has now become more personalized and tailored to every recipient’s needs. Nowadays, it has all been hyper-simplified. All you need is your email address, and the rest can happen on auto-pilot.
Email marketing automation will also get a significant upgrade in 2021. Forget about siloed marketing tactics and integrate email with your business goals in 2021 and beyond.
How can that happen?
When you integrate your email platform with your CRM or ESP, you get a birds-eye-view of your customer’s profile. This means that you can (and should!) set automated campaigns for:
Thank you notes after purchases
Reminders for clients who usually purchase things at regular intervals (for instance: “Hey, it’s time to refill your cat food bag”)
Very specific segments: import data from your CRM into your email marketing platform to know, for instance, who will attend what class in your gym. Then proceed to send automated emails to those people alone.
4. AI (Artificial Intelligence) Use on the Rise
No, this is not about the kind of artificial intelligence you see in movies. This breed of AI is specifically made for businesses. It is meant to make processes and operations easier.
Let’s look at two kinds of marketing automation AI. Despite the low uptake of AI in business over the years, 2021 will most likely see a spike in usage.
Most of the behavior patterns that consumers follow when looking to make a purchase, like asking friends and family for referrals, checking out reviews, or online researching, have made their way into the business world. A lot of research is done before the potential buyer goes to your site.
Conversational AI is here to help with that. It is an artificial intelligence technology that powers chatbots to respond to inputs.
In short, this technology looks for a way to narrow down where a potential buyer is in their buying process and what are the next steps they should take. This can be done by asking questions to website visitors while they are still on your site, for instance.
AI makes it easy for a customer to navigate through your website, making it easy for them to get what they are looking for instead of wasting their time going through everything.
It also shortens the sales cycle and leaves your website visitors more fulfilled. In short, AI (in marketing automation) can improve your chat conversion rates significantly.
Email marketing also uses artificial intelligence to make email tasks easier. Email service providers offer AI-based tools that you can easily adjust to make it specific to your brand’s needs.
If your goal is to increase your click rate and conversion rate for your campaigns, 2021 is the year when you should consider AI for email. It is going to help you organize your campaigns by making it possible to send specific emails to the recipients who need them.
Artificial intelligence can create algorithms that optimize content according to the price, relevance, display order, etc., and send it to each subscriber catering to their needs.
AI for email considers a subscriber’s behavior on your website, looking at how they respond to messages, their social media activities, and purchase histories, among other factors to know where their interests lie.
Once it has narrowed down a subscriber’s interest, AI now filters these interests to find the one email that will fit the customer’s needs. It then proceeds to send it to them.
When people receive offers they are interested in, it creates better customer engagement and increases sales for your company. Email AI is still evolving and increasingly becoming easier to use, even for small businesses. This is the kind of marketing automation prediction for 2021 that you can use to grow your business starting right now.
5. Better Personalization Fueled by Marketing Automation
Yes, personalization takes center stage in 2021 and beyond. But personalization without marketing automation is a nightmare. Can you imagine emailing everyone in your list separately, so you can add personalized information in each email?
It’s OK, you don’t even have to go there. Marketing automation can do this for you. And, in 2021, it goes beyond adding the recipient’s name.
New developments in marketing automation will allow you to deliver hyper-personalized messages across channels. In fact, this will be the norm starting with next year.
Picture this: you have a loyal customer who follows you on two social networks and orders from you regularly. They sometimes also use your website chat or call your support department. How do you which channel works best when you try to reach them?
Marketing automation will take that off your plate. Coupled with AI and cross-dashboard views, you will be able to know which is their favorite channel and send personalized, automated messages.
6. Integration Is no Longer “Nice to Have”. It’s a Must.
Integration helps bring together different facets of your business to work as one efficient tool. It’s not just sales and marketing that will live prosperously under the same “roof” (read: dashboard). It’s also accounting, IT, operations, customer support, and more. Pretty much everything that counts towards your business goals can be brought together in a single dashboard using iPaaS or integration services.
Come 2021, SaaS and iPaaS will become increasingly popular for obvious reasons. These tried-and-tested solutions will enable industries affected by the crisis to transit effortlessly and seamlessly into the new normal.
Integration is a crucial marketing automation prediction for 2021 because it marks the end of siloed business operations and the beginning of seamless transitions between departments and channels.
As iPaaS services evolve, they bring easy-to-use interfaces that come with a plethora of benefits for both the companies using them and for their customers.
7. Offline Conversion Tracking
While acknowledging that almost everything is turning digital, let’s not forget that brick-and-mortar stores will continue to exist. Only they will have an online presence, too.
But in the era of seamless communication across channels, you can’t afford to keep the two separate. This is where offline conversion tracking comes in.
To achieve this, some companies have been using promotional codes, coupons, sensors, and other means to translate digital marketing and in-store foot traffic into sales.
Google uses features like geo-targeting to show potential customers and uses product searches to determine conversion rates. Facebook uses data from customers with location services to show local store advertisements.
Marketing automation tools can now give you combined insights from all your customer touchpoints. Neatly grouped in a single dashboard, they will fuel your growth through data-driven campaigns.
With the new changes looming on the corner, a lot has to be changed for businesses to perform well in the coming year. The above marketing automation predictions for 2021 are just some of the ways to ensure your business thrives.
Investing in the right marketing automation now will mean you have a leg up before the next business year begins.
Take your time and evaluate your options and marketing efforts. Find better and more efficient ways to interact with your customers so that you can cater to their needs. Digital marketing is an ever-changing field and you need to adapt with time using the right strategy and tools.
While marketing automation is great, it’s not everything you need. The human touch is also important, perhaps more important than ever. Even if you can automate every email and social media campaign, remember to always humanize them. A hand-written thank-you note sent along with the order can turn a first-time buyer into a loyal customer for life.
Remember that catering to customers’ needs means understanding them first. So take the time to do that. Analytics reports in marketing automation get more refined every year, so you have the perfect opportunity to dig deep into customers’ behavior and adjust your strategy according to it.
While some businesses employ both mobile websites and apps, other companies might have to choose one of them. The choice between mobile apps and websites depends on their cost, usability, required features, and the audience they serve.
That being said, studies show that users prefer mobile apps more than mobile websites. This makes for a strong reason to create mobile apps for reaching out to potential (and existing) customers.
In addition, there are various other reasons that make mobile apps better than mobile websites.
Following is our list of the top 10:
#1 Mobile apps offer better personalization
Personalization is about offering tailored communication to users based on their interests, location, usage behavior, and more.
With mobile apps, it’s easy to treat users with a personalized experience. Using a mobile app A/B testing tool, you can also test out different experiences for your customers.
Mobile apps can let users set up their preferences at the start, based on which users can be served with customized content. Apps can also track and observe customer engagement, and use it to offer custom recommendations and updates to the users. Furthermore, they can also identify the location of the users in real-time to provide geography-specific content.
However, improving user experience is not the only purpose that personalization serves. It can also help improve the conversion rate of apps.
When users are pampered with personalized content, they have a higher chance of converting as it offers a human touch as opposed to generic content which comes across as rather robotic or automated.
#2 Ease of sending notifications
For the last couple of decades, email has been the most widely-used business communication tool. Businesses have extensively used email (some almost abused it) to reach out to their users. As a result, email has lost the effectiveness it once had; its open rates and click rates have constantly dropped.
Well, there’s no reason to worry.
Enter mobile app notifications.
These notifications are of two types: push and in-app notifications. Both are exciting alternatives for communicating with app users in a far less intrusive manner.
The ability to send instant, non-intrusive notifications to users is so desired that it is one of the major reasons why many businesses want to have a mobile app in the first place.
In-app notifications are the notifications that users can only receive when they have opened an app. Push notifications, on the other hand, are those notifications that users can receive regardless of any activity they are doing on their mobile device.
There have been instances where the push medium of notifications has delivered click-through rates of 40%. In case you chose to stick with a mobile website or are running one while building an app, you can send your push notifications with VWO Engage.
Mobile apps have the advantage of utilizing features of a mobile device like camera, contact list, GPS, phone calls, accelerometer, compass, etc.
Such device features, when used within an app, can make the user experience interactive and fun.
Moreover, these features can also reduce the efforts users would have to make otherwise. For instance, users completing a form on a banking app might need to submit their photograph for completion of the process. The app can let users take the help of the camera of their mobile device to capture and submit a photograph.
The device features can significantly shorten the time users take to perform a certain task in an app, and can even boost conversions.
Note: Mobile websites can also use some features of a mobile device like camera, GPS, etc. Still, there are technological constraints and privacy concerns in utilizing multimedia features of a device (which mobile apps can use).
#4 Ability to work offline
It is probably the most fundamental difference between a mobile website and an app.
Although apps too might require internet connectivity to perform most of their tasks, they can still offer basic content and functionality to users in offline mode.
Let’s take the example of a banking app again.
The app can provide features like tax calculation, installment calculation, and determination of loan limits. These features can work even without the help of an internet connection.
Note: Even though mobile websites can use caching to load web pages without an internet connection, they can only offer limited functions.
#5 Freedom in designing
Even with all the technological advancements in web designing, mobile websites have to rely a lot on browsers to perform even the most elementary functions. Mobile websites depend on browser features like ‘back button,’ ‘refresh button,’ and ‘address bar’ to work.
Mobile apps don’t have any of these restrictions.
A mobile app can be designed with a lot of elaborate functions, based on advanced gestures like ‘tap,’ ‘swipe,’ ‘drag,’ ‘pinch,’ ‘hold,’ and more.
Apps can use these gestures to offer innovative functionality that can help users perform a task better. For example, an app can let users move to a next or previous step using the swipe gesture.
#6 New branding experience
Since a mobile app is distinct from a company’s website, it has the liberty of offering a new brand experience to users. It means that the company can experiment with new branding styles for the app, which can be different from the regular brand style of the company’s website (or the company altogether).
Going a step further, companies can build mobile apps specifically to transition into a new brand style for themselves.
Additionally, a mobile app can also allow users to customize its appearance, as per users’ liking. This can further help on the personalization front of the app.
Note: The concept of microsites works on similar lines. Microsites offer a distinct brand experience to users, as compared to their parent sites. They are often used to promote a sub-brand, an event, or a newly-launched service.
Mobile users spend 86% of their time on mobile apps and just 14% of the time on mobile websites.
Moreover, a study by eMarketer concluded that users spend more than 90% of their mobile time on apps as opposed to mobile web.
Note: A point to consider here is that users spend a majority of their time on gaming apps and social media apps.
Note: We also don’t have data telling us which mobile websites users visit more often (out of the 14% of their time mentioned above). Hence, it’s not possible to make a comparison.
#8 New stream of conversions
If you’re looking to increase conversions, mobile apps can be a great medium to push users down the conversion funnel.
Mobile apps can be used to acquire both top-of-the-funnel (ToFu) and bottom-of-the-funnel (BoFu) users.
For instance, utility apps can bring-in ToFu users, which can be later nurtured into BoFu leads. On the other hand, apps like eCommerce already have BoFu users, who have a higher possibility of converting.
Add-on: Since mobile apps are much more targeted in nature (through their content and utility), they can be used to tap specific users in the funnel. Mobile websites, in contrast, reach out to a diverse set of audiences.
#9 Brand presence
Users spend a substantial amount of their time on mobile devices. It’s safe to say that many of the users encounter the apps they’ve installed on their devices, almost every day. This regular encounter can be viewed as a branding opportunity for the apps.
Even when users are not actively using a mobile app, they are still reminded of the brand associated with the app. The icon of the app acts like a mini-advertisement for the brand.
The presence of an app on a users’ device helps influence user’s perception about a brand, subconsciously.
This user behavior can be linked to the Signal Detection Theory, which suggests that users process even those ads which they’ve ignored at some level in their minds.
#10 Apps can work faster than websites
A well-designed mobile app can perform actions much quicker than a mobile website.
Apps usually store their data locally on mobile devices, in contrast to websites that generally use web servers. For this reason, data retrieval happens swiftly in mobile apps.
Apps can further save users’ time by storing their preferences, and using them to take proactive actions on users’ behalf.
Mobile app v/s mobile site—what should you choose?
Developing both mobile website and mobile app for your business can prove to be a costly affair and you may have to choose one of the two channels, based on your budget and business goals. While both channels have their own pros and cons, mobile apps, especially, can help you get higher conversions and retention. Mobile apps offer greater personalization and operational efficiency, along with multiple other exclusive features.
However, once you’ve designed a slick mobile app, how do you ensure it also delivers on all its promises and drives the intended growth for your business as opposed to being just another channel that you have to manage and maintain? Well, the answer is simple – you test it rigorously.
Mobile app A/B testing allows you to steadily enhance your in-app user experience by experimenting with features, app flows, and other UI-based changes to improve your engagement, conversion, and retention rate. Therefore, while having an up and running mobile app is definitely the first step towards engaging with a whole new audience segment, optimizing it continuously will help you drive tangible improvements in your key business metrics. VWO Mobile App Testing is a robust mobile experimentation platform that empowers you to build engaging experiences that delight users as well as launch world-class features by mitigating any risk. If you’re unsure how, request a free demo by one of VWO’s experimentation experts to understand how you can leverage VWO Mobile App Testing to improve your app’s key metrics.
2. There are fewer barriers for first-time CRM users
65% of sales professionals use a CRM and 97% consider sales technology “very important” or “important”, according to LinkedIn State of Sales 2020.
However, that leaves one third of sales professionals not using CRMs. Common barriers to adopting a CRM include reservations about cost and lacking the resources and tech knowledge to implement a CRM system.
As CRMs continue on their trend of becoming cheaper, simpler to implement and easier to use, these objections are becoming increasingly irrelevant. We forecast a higher percentage of companies adopting CRMs for the first time in 2021.
3. Social CRM keeps rising
What is social CRM? It’s the integration of social media channels into CRM platforms.
By viewing social media and CRM together, companies gain a more powerful overview of what people are posting about them on social media, as well as a clearer understanding of brand sentiment.
If organizations can use social CRM to respond to comments quickly and thoughtfully, they can build stronger relationships with existing and potential customers and incorporate more user feedback into their roadmap.
4. There’s an all-star line-up of CRMs to choose from
Even though Salesforce’s share of the CRM market is over 19%, there’s a huge range of tools competing for consumer attention.
Customers are choosing from a diverse market of over 609 CRM systems, with tools that cater for both generalized needs and specific niches and requirements.
The CRM systems leading the way for user satisfaction right now on G2 are:
Less Annoying CRM
5. Businesses can condense their sales and marketing tech stacks
With the rise of sophisticated CRMs and core tech tools, sales and marketing teams can get away with using fewer tools than before.
As a tech trend for 2021, teams will increasingly wonder: why do we pay for App A when App B can now tick that box and more?
For best results from their tech stack, teams will be creating more integrations and two-way syncs to ensure contact data is always updated across all apps.
6. Voice and conversational UI will start integrating with CRM
Voice technology is critical for the evolution of SaaS tools. It’s a key factor for accessibility, but it also simply makes tech easier and more enjoyable to use. According to Adobe’s research on voice technology:
“Almost all users (94%) consider voice technology easy to use and say it does more than save time – it improves their quality of life.”
We anticipate many more CRMs following suit in the next few years of the 2020s with voice assistant usage and supporting hardware in operational processes and interfaces.
7. Businesses are automating more processes using their CRM
To stay relevant to tech-savvy customers, top CRMs need to offer advanced automation features.
Many of the top players have been investing heavily in automation in the last few years; including HubSpot, Salesforce and ActiveCampaign, which have placed automation front-and-center in their product and marketing.
In 2021, we predict CRM will become more synonymous with automation. For instance, using chatbots to communicate with customers and solve help tickets automatically, or using automated email workflows to nurture sales prospects down the funnel.
With automation, businesses can offer high-quality customer services while optimizing operational costs – something that an increasing number of businesses are realizing, and CRMs are continuing to support in new ways.
8. One of the top advantages of CRM? A high-def view of customers
Choosing a strong CRM and filling it with reliable data that’s enriched by other apps is the easiest way for a company to build a comprehensive view of its customers.
According to LinkedIn’s State of Sales Report 2020, top-performing salespeople have a higher confidence level in their CRM data than their counterparts. Of the top group, 53% are very confident, and of the non-top only 32% are very confident.
9. CRM is becoming interwoven with IoT technologies
From smart home devices to wearable health monitors and cybersecurity scanners, there are expected to be more than 64 billion IoT devices worldwide by 2025, says TechJury.
This also applies to the corporate world: 93% of enterprises are believed to have adopted IoT technology in 2019, according to Fierce Electronics, which will only continue in coming years. This ranges from simple IoT devices, such as energy meters and smart appliances, to more advanced solutions for greater cost efficiencies, organizational capabilities and supply chain visibility.
Improving customer experience is the area where most enterprises are using data generated from IoT solutions. With IoT technologies, companies can monitor and service their clients in new and proactive ways that were previously unimaginable.
10. CRM: not just for customer-facing teams
CRMs have been traditionally thought of as tools for sales and customer success teams. Times have changed – and CRMs are now a crucial part of a company’s wider tech stack. In 2021, more organizations will realize that CRM benefits everything.
Marketers can use CRMs to best understand the contacts in their pipeline and monitor how CTAs convert. Customer success teams can access a 360-degree view of the customer to provide the most personalized experience. And management can access valuable data on performance across the board.
11. CRMs keep getting more sophisticated
The most requested CRM features are basics like contact management (94%), interaction tracking (88%) and schedule/reminder creation (85%). About a quarter of buyers want monitoring of the sales pipeline and funnel.
However, a fifth of CRM users want slightly more advanced functions: sales automation, a central database, email marketing, customization and reporting/analytics.
Mike Richardson, managing director at Maximizer Software, shared with MyCustomer the importance of balancing sophistication and a centralized view of the customer:
“Best-in-breed systems are rapidly appearing in the market, bringing increasing layers of sophistication and becoming extremely good at solving specialized needs… However, all of these different touchpoints with the customer need to be centralized into a single view of the customer experience, in a system of engagement.”
12. A CRM’s customer experience is as important as its features
According to Salesforce, 84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. There are several ways to use CRM technology to meet the expectations of today’s customer:
Live chat for quick support
Enriched data to show the full customer journey and previous support tickets
As more organizations up their customer experience game, others must follow suit: 73% of customers say one extraordinary experience raises their expectations of other companies.
13. Consumers expect companies to know more about them
A business-to-customer relationship is becoming increasingly like any other human relationship. A company needs to remember previous conversations with a customer, understand their needs and expectations, and adjust communication accordingly. To enable this, all required customer data must be quickly accessible and accurate.
This isn’t always guaranteed: 87% of consumers believe companies need to provide a more consistent customer experience, says Zendesk.
Over 50% of CRM buyers in 2019 were in one of four markets: real estate, consulting, distribution and insurance. As we head further into the 2020s, a great deal of new CRM growth will come from other vertical markets. These include:
15. Younger generations are pushing for CRM use
28% of millennials think CRM applications are “extremely critical” to their success, compared to 18% of Generation X and 9% of Baby Boomers.
This CRM trend will grow as millennials and Gen Z continue to gain buying power and the next generations enter the workplace. In the decade ahead, more teams will become tech-centric and insist on maximizing performance through intelligent CRM technology.
16. A company of one is big enough for a CRM
How large does your business need to be to have a CRM? The answer for 2021 is: a company with one employee is big enough.
If you’re managing contact details, juggling a busy pipeline and have customer data to keep track of, you can benefit from using a CRM. These are familiar pain points for freelancers.
As automation becomes more synonymous with CRM (see #7), bots are completing more contact management tasks and saving team members from having to lift a finger.
Chatbots offered by platforms like Drift and HubSpot automatically guide prospects through marketing and sales pipelines – collecting data, asking questions and delivering more personalized content.
With self-service, customers get their questions answered faster with far less effort required from the provider. It’s a win-win.
18. Analytics features need to be a CRM’s strength
With sophisticated analytics at their fingertips, organizations are in the best position to identify problems, solutions and opportunities. Companies recognize this – and are increasingly looking for powerful analytics tools to process and report on their data in real time.
CRMs must offer advanced analytics too. Organizations want the most accurate data into how their sales pipeline is performing, how happy customers are and what’s contributing to churn, for example.
Although not all organizations are ready for sophisticated stand-alone analytics platforms just yet, more SMEs are viewing CRM analytics as a must-have, not a nice-to-have.
19. XaaS – everything as a service
SaaS – software as a service – is well-known, but what’s XaaS? Everything as a Service takes the concept of SaaS and spreads it to encompass every form of product and service.
With XaaS, any IT function can be transformed into a service for enterprise consumption – from platform as a service (PaaS) to infrastructure as a service (IaaS) among many others. XaaS includes any computing service delivered via the internet and paid for via a subscription rather than an upfront cost.
As a tech trend for 2021, we predict more organizations will seek cloud solutions for new corners of their business, whether as part of their CRM, a stand-alone system or a connected tool.
20. CRMs need to be connected to every other part of a business
As each year rolls by, more organizations are viewing their CRM as an essential organ for the wellbeing of their company. To make this happen and reap the benefits, a CRM has to be connected to all other tools and processes in your organization.
From your email marketing tool to your invoicing system, make sure to have two-way syncs set up between tools that store customer data and your CRM.
Keeping your data in sync is the best way to avoid human error, resolve pesky data silos, save time on manual input and paint the clearest picture of your business for every team.
In the 2020s, you should have no reason to distrust your customer data and wrestle with unending lists of duplicate emails and misleading data.
To benefit from the CRM trends for 2021, make sure your data is connected
If we have to make one overall prediction for tech and CRM in 2021, it’s that more businesses will be using technology to eradicate or automate what they don’t want to deal with – while getting better results from the tasks they focus on.
The recipe for that is a strong CRM, automated workflows where possible, and a connected app stack where data moves freely between your apps.
It seems everyone is whining and in a tizzy about Google not providing organic keyword data in Analytics. While I believe it diminishes the value of analytics somewhat, I would argue that it’s a great move that will help content Marketers. I’ve written in the past that SEO is Dead and I’ve watched as the industry has slowly gone away. This may be the last nail in the coffin.
If I sound happy about it, it’s because I am. I wrote this in an interview with our marketing automation clients, Right On Interactive:
Google’s move to block the tracking of all keywords makes marketers’ lives more difficult, but not impossible. Marketers will still be able to monitor click-through rates using Webmaster data to understand how organic traffic is impacting their overall inbound marketing efforts. If anything, this continues to make us better marketers. We should be focused on writing content that’s valuable to our audience and listening to our audience – not chasing keywords, manipulating sites, and seeking out links to artificially grow our search rankings.
This is especially good news for the average business that doesn’t have the budget to invest in SEO strategies to generate keyword-rich content throughout the web to artificially inflate the ranking of their content. Most of us can’t compete with large companies and an industry that has grown to billions of dollars. Where there’s a financial benefit to cheat, companies will cheat. And the industry has been cheating (and cheating and cheating). Many of the players are delusional about their strategies but it’s clear that Google is not. Google wants organic traffic to be organic, not driven by wealthy SEO companies that have million-dollar sandboxes to uncover ways to cheat and get their clients ranked. Google’s change is hurting those folks – not you.
And, while you won’t be able to attribute a specific keyword to a specific prospect, you will be able to know that person arrived organically and from what page they did. Knowing the topic of the entry page your prospect arrived on your site on will help you to better understand the content that’s providing value. And doing keyword research and competitive research can still uncover opportunities for finding and writing additional content that will be found and be of value. Search optimization is a foundation for any content strategy, but writing and sharing better content (written, spoken and visual) will always outperform tweaking page titles or keyword density in a page.
The gap provided between Webmaster data, Content data, and Analytics data should help you sharpen your ability to develop great content. Instead of jumping to the keywords section of analytics, you should be diving into the traffic by page title to understand which articles are providing the most traffic to your company. Keywords were distracting and made many marketers lazy. They just kept writing crap to drive more traffic based on keywords instead of focusing on the overall content that was attracting the most attention.
There’s really no data that’s leaving a hole in your ability to develop a fantastic content strategy. You can still review Webmaster data to understand the keywords that are driving the most content – but you can apply it to the content that’s driving the most views and conversions. Understanding the context around the keywords you were writing about can provide a ton more insight into what’s popular or not popular.
As an example, focusing on ‘google keywords not provided’ could lead me to a few blog posts about the trend and alternate solutions. Instead, I’m focused here on how it’s going to help marketers. That context should ultimately prove more valuable to my content strategy than just tossing a keyword combination around! The context around your keywords should be a focus of your attention as well!
Avoid repetitive or boring questions. You’re looking for insights into your target customers’ specific wants and needs.
3. Collect and analyze data
Remember those metrics I mentioned earlier? Start tracking them. You can use conversion rate optimization tools like Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and Google Analytics to make sure you cover all your bases.
As you gather more data, look for patterns. Maybe most of your customers find you via Twitter, for instance, or read your about page before looking at your products. You can use that information to boost conversion rates.
4. Run A/B tests
I can’t stress enough how important it is to run A/B tests. I’m always testing every aspect of my offers because I don’t want to leave money on the table.
Tools like Crazy Egg have built-in A/B testing functionality. This means you don’t have to comb through the data yourself and develop a pounding headache. Instead, you know the “winner” and the winning variant gets the majority of the traffic even before the test concludes.
5. Discover the exact journey visitors take through your site
Mapping your buyers’ journey can yield lots of tasty nuggets of data. Do they read lots of your blog posts? Do they follow you on social media? How far do they scroll down each page?
6. Focus on the content that matters using heatmap analysis
The most important pages on your website, such as your landing pages and product pages, deserve special attention. Run heatmap analysis on those pages to see where people click and how they use the page. You can then optimize it for maximum conversions.
7. Create the perfect page with A/B testing
A/B testing doesn’t stop after just one test. In fact, you might need dozens of tests before you craft the perfect page.
Test your headline, body copy, hero image, CTA, CTA button color, font size, font color, and anything else that might impact conversions.
8. Don’t “guess”
Everyone starts out with a guess, but that’s where the guesswork should stop. Once you’re actively collecting data, make decisions based on what the numbers tell you.
9. Guide your customers
CTAs and directional indicators can help you guide your customers where you want them to go. Be strategic about where you place CTAs, arrows, navigational panels, and other elements.
10. Reduce friction
Remove any elements that give the user pause or promote objections. For instance, if you don’t need a paragraph of copy on your sales page, delete it. Or, if you want to make the information more digestible, turn it into bullet points.
Conversion Optimization Rate Mistakes
Unfortunately, even with lots of information circulating the Internet, business owners still make mistakes when it comes to conversion rate optimization. I’d like to help you avoid the three most common pitfalls:
1. Not adding positive emotional response
In your copywriting, include positive storytelling to help convey benefits. Help your reader envision himself benefiting from your product or service.
2. Not adopting a mobile-first strategy
More than half of consumers use their mobile devices to surf the Internet. If your store isn’t mobile-ready, you’ll turn off prospects.
Multivariate, or A/B Testing? Find out How to Test and Optimize Conversions
We’ve already touched on multivariate and A/B testing. They’re both highly useful conversion rate optimization tools.
A/B testing (also called split testing) is useful when you want to take a granular approach. You want to know how a CTA button’s color impacts conversions, but you don’t want anything else to contribute to the test.
Multivariate testing, on the other hand, works great when you have two very different versions of the same page or asset. Which one appeals most to your target audience?
Choose a testing platform
You can run A/B and multivariate testing manually, but I don’t recommend it. Use a tool to automate the process and get your results faster.
Crazy Egg, for instance, allows you to set up a split test and run it automatically. Crazy Egg will divide traffic evenly between the two versions, then hand you a “winner” once the test has reached statistical significance.
Analyze A/B test results
Once you have your results, record and analyze them. Why did your target audience prefer Version B, for instance? What aspect of the color red or the font Georgia or the wording of the CTA appealed to them?
A/B tests: Conduct A/B tests on any variation of a web page.
Forms: Get detailed information about prospects and turn them into leads.
Advanced CRO Techniques
Once you’ve nailed the basics, you can drill down on more specific aspects of your website’s design, format, and copy to take conversion rate optimization to the next level. I recommend testing all of these facets of your website.
Test big ideas, not small ones. To get big lifts on your conversions, you generally need to try bigger tests. Changing little things like button colors won’t impact many visitors.
Focus on headlines. People use the headline to make a snap judgement on whether or not they should continue. A better headline could easily increase conversion rates by 30%. It’s on the few “small” elements that have a major impact.
Remove fields in your signup form. The fewer steps in your form, the higher your conversion rate will be, usually.
Interview customers. Use customer research to find the primary benefit that your market wants. Also look for the top three objections. Then make changes to your site that focus on the main benefit while addressing the main objections.
Always run an A/B test. Results are often counter-intuitive, we’re still surprised by results. Hard data is the only way to ensure that your idea truly works.
SEO vs. Conversion Rate Optimization: Should You Focus on Increasing Traffic or Converting your Existing Traffic?
SEO and conversion rate optimization might seem like two sides of a coin. One is designed to attract more traffic (SEO), while the other optimizes content for existing traffic (conversion rate optimization).
So which matters more?
In my opinion, they’re equally important. Without SEO, you can’t get traffic in the first place. Without CRO, your traffic will produce fewer sales.
Let’s say you have a pretty good baseline for SEO, but it could use some improvement. First, though, you focus on conversion rate optimization. After a few months of hard work, your conversion rate jumps from 10 percent to 25 percent.
Great work! But it’s not over yet.
Now that you have a good CRO baseline, how do you grow your sales even further? You drive more traffic to your site and get even more conversions.
I’m a big fan of CRO and growth hacking.
Through conversion rate optimization, I’ve vastly improved my businesses’ conversion rates, and I’ve helped my clients do the same.
Sure, it takes work. But once you have the data, you can generate more sales and dominate your industry.
Start by understanding the definition of CRO and how it works. Focus on following the CRO best practices and avoiding the most common mistakes.
Use the best conversion rate optimization tools in the business. Crazy Egg offers an ideal tool. Then keep testing. The more data you have, the better your chances of converting visitors.
Microsoft has unveiled a number of new features and technologies including private search, new ad units & more. Here are the highlights!
Microsoft unveiled several new features and technologies at Microsoft Advertising Elevate. In addition to new ad units, the announcement included new tools and technologies that are noteworthy even for businesses that aren’t currently advertising with Microsoft, such as private search technology and an upcoming small business hub with paid and organic social integrations.
Private Search For Microsoft Bing API
Microsoft is now empowering publishers to give consumers more options for privacy-first experiences. This feature is specifically designed for their search partner network, and is currently being used by Duck Duck Go.
Private Search is hosted on Azure with a setup that incorporates a private search proxy between the private search site or app and Microsoft Bing’s private search API. This would allow Bing to deliver results without ever receiving the search term.
The search partner will send the search request to the private proxy. Fraud detection would happen through the private search proxy and then the private search proxy would pass through an anonymized user agent and anonymized IP through to Bing’s Private Search API. The API would return search results and ads.
This would prevent personal data from being shared with other Microsoft services, including Bing, by anonymizing the user agent and IP, and by withholding the search query.
The search partner will be responsible for anonymizing the user agent and IP and they must comply with Microsoft’s policy in order to be eligible to use Private Search.
New Price Comparison Beta
Microsoft’s Edge browser has a feature that delivers discount codes in a flyout panel format. They’ve now announced a beta that would allow folks using Microsoft’s shopping features will be eligible to show up in that panel as a price comparison.
The ads will be delivered in the flyout within the toolbar when browsing product pages on Edge or through Collection by saving a product and manually clicking to view price comparisons.
This unit would enable businesses to deliver product listings to relevant consumers while they’re browsing the sites of other retailers.
These listings will pull from existing Merchant Center feeds so no further work is required for businesses that already have shopping campaigns created.
Best of all, since it is in an experimental phase, these placements are currently free – businesses will not be charged for the clicks on these ads.
The price comparison feature in Edge is a great example of where Microsoft is trying to provide a great experience for users (find the best deal!) and gain additional exposure for the products in advertisers’ feeds. Consumer research shows that most folks comparison shop at some level and price comparison surfaces this information automatically. It’s a win/win. – John Lee, Microsoft Evangelist
The metrics will be reported under the “O&O other” traffic segment within Microsoft Ads.
This is currently in beta within the US and the listings will only show on desktop, within the Edge browser. To request access to any of the Microsoft Ads’ betas, reach out to your Microsoft Ads account team or support.
New Video Extension Beta
Microsoft has announced a new beta that would allow advertisers to include multimedia extensions to their ads. The extensions are eligible to show alongside other ad extensions and, as with other ad extensions, advertisers will be charged when prospects click the ad unit.
Video extensions is an inflection point in the evolution of the SERP. Searchers are hungry for more information and we know that video is one of the most consumed forms of media for research (and more, of course!). This extension surfaces video at the point of search to improve and enrich the user experience. – John Lee, Microsoft Evangelist
Clicking the ad unit will result in the video expanding on the page with a CTA in the lower left-hand side.
If a prospect clicks the video extension and then clicks the ad unit in the same session, the advertiser will only be charged once.
The extensions currently only deliver on desktop but mobile is coming soon.
Videos must be uploaded and can either be uploaded from a local directory on the computer or a publicly accessible filer server location, such as OneDrive, FTP, Dropbox, etc.)
This is currently an open pilot within the US, CA, DE and AU with FR and IN coming soon.
New Ad Units for Property Promotion and Tours & Activities
Similar to the new automotive ad units that Microsoft recently announced, these new units are feed-based units that will promote vacation rentals (Property Promotion Ads) as well as tours and attractions (Tours & Activity Ads).
Property Promotion Ads
Property Promotion ads show in the top two slots on the hotel grid on Bing Maps, when someone delivers for hotels, or properties with certain amenities, in a specific location. The ads will deliver on desktop.
The first click on a Property Promotion ad will expand the listing to allow the user to select dates and proceed to booking. Advertisers will only be charged for the second click when users visit the site.
In order to run Property Promotion ads, advertisers will need to have Hotel Price Ads set up. To be considered for Property Promotion Ads, advertisers must provide at least five images and the star rating (which is currently optional in the feed for Hotel Price Ads but required for Property Promotion Ads).
Advertisers will have the option to add bid multipliers for Property Promotion Ads within Site Type.
Property Promotion ads are currently being piloted within the US only.
Tour & Activities Ads
Tour and Activities Ads will be triggered for travel intent and travel experiences intent queries to help advertisers promote their local experiences.
The ads will deliver on the Bing SERP when a user is searching for things to do in a specific location. When delivered on the SERP, advertisers are eligible for up to three ad placements.
The ads can also be delivered on Bing Maps when the user searches for a destination or is looking for things to do in a particular area or when they hover over Maps landmark pins.
A Potential Placement for Tours and Activities Ads
Ads Can Show When Searchers Search for a Destination
Last but not least, ads can deliver in the Bing Travel Guide as a carousel under the header image and destination description.
Tour & Activities Ads Can Deliver Within Microsoft Travel Guides
These ads could be a good fit for single-day or multi-day tours, theme parks and attractions, museums, cultural experiences, adventure and outdoor activities, food and dining, and educational experiences and classes.
These ads will show on desktop. To run Tour & Activities Ads, advertisers should visit Tools > Business Data > Dynamic Fields within the Microsoft Ads UI to set up their feed.
Tour & Activities Ads are in an open beta within the US and the UK. To request access to any of the Microsoft Ads betas, reach out to your Microsoft Ads account team or support.
New Audience Network Features: Facebook Import, Video Ads, & Geographic Expansion
Microsoft also unveiled new Audience Network announcements including a new Facebook Import option for native campaigns, video ads on the audience network, and expansion into New Zealand, Australia, and Canada.
Check out this post to learn more about these new Audience Network announcements and features, which also includes clips from Marketing O’Clock as Microsoft’s Evangelist, John Lee, discusses each of these new features.
Expanding Auto-Bidding Options
Microsoft plans to expand its auto-bidding options. Target Impression Share is currently in pilot and Portfolio Bid Strategies are coming soon.
Coming Soon: Unified Smart – an SMB Hub for Multi-Channel Campaigns & Social Media Management
Microsoft announced that. Businesses will be able to create “Smart Pages”, which allows businesses to set up a website for their advertisements to use as a landing page. The website is intended to be used as their webpage for all sources; meaning, they could also use this site as a destination for ads run on other networks.
Coming soon: Unified Smart campaigns, which will enable advertisers to set up campaigns in a simple interface where advertisers choose their goals, input their URL (which could be their Smart Page but does not have to be).
For search campaigns, advertisers will be able to choose keyword themes. Unified Smart goes beyond search, though. Advertisers would be able to target audiences on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with ads. Linkedin is planned as a later addition.
The current plan is for advertisers to have one budget which is shared across all channels.
Unified Smart’s audience targeting is AI-based, using data points from setup inputs, business type, the URL, and other information shared.
Businesses will also be able to post to their social channels and respond to comments all from the Unified Smart interface.
Unified Smart will track calls and/or conversions, visits, time on site, visits to specific pages, and more so that businesses can monitor the performance of their efforts.
Expanding into New Geographies
In addition to all of the new releases that Microsoft has announced, they’re also continuing to expand into additional geographies. Microsoft plans to expand into 29 new countries in 2021. They haven’t yet announced which countries will be part of the expansion.
Requesting Access to the New Betas
To request access to any of the Microsoft Ads betas, reach out to your Microsoft Ads account team or support.
There are a couple of trends within the Google Ads world that keep cropping up and catching our attention. While no one can make any promises, these four trends are good indicators of the direction PPC marketing will be headed in 2021. Check it out:
1. Hello, Trend Lines in Digital Advertising Spend
Even though traditional advertising spend is going through some things, some people are still forecasting growth in 2021 digital ad budgets. This, despite the relative flux affecting so many ad budgets. According to the latest research from IAB, “buyers with at least ballpark budgets project +5.3 percent ad spend for FY2021 vs FY2020.” That’s a start! In its Global Digital Ad Spending Update Q2 2020, eMarketer predicts a 17 percent increase in digital ad spend for 2021.
This might be why so many Google Ads people are predicting that any lulls in spend, cost, and competition will be short-lived—a “v-shaped recovery,” if you will. Indeed, many marketing teams already have their sights set on a 2021 bounce back, in which digital ads promise to play a prominent role.
After all, businesses still get a $2 return for every $1 they spend on Google Ads (according to Google Economic Impact). It remains an effective way to reach targeted audiences with highly targeted and timely ads, even while the global pandemic continues to grip the world.
2. Hello, Responsive Search Ads (RSAs)
A reduction in manual tinkering ought to be welcome news to the ears of any Google Ads professional. Which is exactly the idea behind responsive search ads (RSAs). Powered by Google AI, RSAs automatically optimize your headlines, ad copy, and CTA variations based on audience and search terms. All you have to do is supply the content (time to hire some copywriters).
Since their introduction in 2019, RSAs have proven quite effective. Here are a few data points to support that claim:
More broadly, the applications of artificial intelligence (AI) within the Google Ads space are becoming far more sophisticated. This should be welcome news for marketers looking to squeeze every ounce of return they can out of their digital advertising budgets in 2021.
First and foremost, AI has been shown to more accurately target audiences and reach them when they’re most ready to buy. New automation technologies can predict click-through rate (CTR) and conversions, giving marketing brass more time to guide strategy and shape messaging. Today, most of that magic is built right into your Google Ads platform, often without much fanfare.
One of the central developments that many PPC marketers are using to make their campaigns more effective is Google Smart Bidding. Essentially, Smart Bidding is Google’s way of helping marketers get more out of their ad spend through automated “bid strategies” powered by machine learning.
Now, does Google Smart Bidding do it all for you? Not quite. At a high level, though, Smart Bidding was developed to “set more precise bids tailored to each and every auction.” Where you take it is up to you, but there’s real potential to identify and act on trends, behavior patterns, and even seasonal changes much faster than a human might be capable of.
4. Behold, the Rise of Video Ads
Much the same way you can target topics, keywords, and demographics with traditional Google Ads, you can launch Google Ads video campaigns to surface timely ads while people consume their favorite YouTube videos. It’s yet another effective way to reach what has become a wide and deep pool of viewers.
For brands trying to break in and expand their reach, YouTube is kind of like advertising at the Super Bowl.
Video ads are effective for a simple reason: you have a captive audience. Video ads are displayed while people are already looking at the screen watching their favorite videos, inherently driving more impressions and, potentially, engagement. With Google Ads, you currently have five options for video ads:
We recommend you take a look at the create a video campaign section in Google Ads Help for more detail on how to take advantage of these different video ad types. Frankly, you could devote an entire role to this aspect of your PPC mix, depending on how far down the rabbit hole you want to go.
Updates and Changes You Should be Aware of
Trends are one thing, but there are some recent changes to the Google Ads platform itself that will have a bearing on your 2021 strategy. We’ve earmarked the five changes we think will be most impactful, and that we’re advising our own clients to consider.
1. Privacy Concerns Prompt Google to Limit Data Availability
The ability to derive intelligence around keywords, target audiences, and demographics is essential for PPC marketers. It’s how we strategize, optimize spend, and build out campaign creative. Unfortunately, at least for us, the pool of available data is going to get a bit smaller in 2021 and beyond.
In response to increased scrutiny around data privacy, including new legislation such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), access to keyword and search query data will be even more limited in 2021. Google now limits the availability of search data, including query information in its widely used Search Terms Report. You’ll only be able to see data for terms “searched for by a significant number of users,” a change that has generated a fair amount of hubbub on the PPC forums.
The debate rages on. For advertisers, the implications of this more limited data set are multifold. At a high level, filtering negative keywords, optimization tasks, and keeping campaigns as efficient as possible will all become more difficult. Just think about it: what good is knowing that someone clicked a PPC campaign target keyword without knowing the term that the user clicked? It makes allocating ad spend far more difficult.
2. Google Makes Shopping Ads Free, Worldwide
Of course, it’s not all restrictions and limitations. You’ve probably noticed the expansion of certain search engine results page (SERP) experiences on Google to include a shopping tab. This is where companies can display product listings for certain keyword searches and, potentially, drive traffic to their marketplaces (and capture more sales).
It’s now free for all businesses to sell on Google, which means paid campaigns can now be augmented with free listings.
In the past, merchants would have to pay to put listings on Google. Now, Google is opening the floodgates: the company recently announced that it’s free for all businesses to sell on Google. For a search engine that gets “hundreds of millions of shopping searches” every day, this is a big leveling of the playing field—and a tremendous opportunity for businesses to get their slice of the pie.
Shopping ads are sort of a big deal. According to data from Smart Insights, shopping ads drive more than 76 percent of retail search ad spend, while generating more than 85 percent of all clicks on Google Ads or Google Shopping campaign ads. There’s just a whole heck of a lot of people who come to Google looking to shop.
Here’s Bill Ready, President of Commerce at Google:
“For advertisers, this means paid campaigns can now be augmented with free listings. If you’re an existing user of Merchant Center and Shopping ads, you don’t have to do anything to take advantage of the free listings, and for new users of Merchant Center, we’ll continue working to streamline the onboarding process over the coming weeks and months.”
At a basic level, advertisers have an opportunity to surface their product listings in unpaid Google search experiences. So for the eCommerce folks, we recommend getting set up with Merchant Center and checking out the prerequisites needed to take advantage of free shopping ads. As Ready points out, advertisers already using Shopping ads will be able to augment their campaigns with free listings, providing more ways to reach target audiences and drive conversions.
3. New Custom Audience Tools for Better Segmentation and Targeting
Remember when you used to have to configure custom intent and custom affinity separately? Google just combined both into a single “custom audiences” tool available in Audience Manager. Essentially, Google has streamlined your ability to target people through YouTube, Gmail, Display, and Discovery ads, while making this form of personalization a bit more transparent for the end user.
This is Google’s way of automatically choosing the right audiences for your ad campaigns based on all of the information you specify. In terms of keyword targeting, you can now target based on “People with any of these interests or purchase intentions” and/or “People who searched for any of these terms on Google properties (such as Google.com and YouTube)”.
Again, this is yet another development in the move toward intent-based targeting and personalization, which Google is getting really, really good at. From a strategic standpoint, now is probably the time to revisit your Google Ads audiences through the lens of interest, intent, and keyword searches.
We mentioned the impact of video in the first section. Assuming YouTube and Discover are part of your Google Ads mix, you’ll want to tune into this update to Google Ads. Now, using extensions, you can capture leads directly from Google Ads campaigns on YouTube and Discover. This assumes, of course, you meet Google’s eligibility requirements (USD 50,000 total ad spend in Google Ads being the biggy among them).
Embedding a lead capture form in an ad that displays after a user expresses interest is just a better journey, when you think about it. Rather than sending someone off to a landing page, which requires more effort on their part and yours, why not give them the form directly? All you have to do is put together the ad creative, tell Google Ads whether you want more leads or more high-intent leads, and configure the field you want to be included in your forms.
5. Start the Countdown and Unleash Your Image Extensions
While it’s not quite as splashy as RSAs or the ability to capture leads from Google Ads, “countdowns” are an exciting new twist to Google Ads (see: Highlight upcoming events with countdowns). Essentially, you can now add countdowns to your ad text, alerting users to special events or offers that are coming to a close at a certain time.
Countdowns are yet another way to capture attention and build urgency with your ads. The most obvious use case is within the eCommerce space, where apparel vendors, for example, can compel people to click through and shop for seasonal sales that are closing soon.
That’s not all! As noted in Search Engine Land, you can now add image extensions to certain Google Ads as well, a “single right justified image alongside your ad.” Honestly, we think it looks great and gives advertisers yet another way to spice up their ads and win eyes on what have become rather crowded pages. Between image extensions and countdowns, vendors have plenty of tactics to get more people clicking through to their pages from ads.
Big Takeaway: Targeting and Timeliness Matter
There’s just no getting around it: PPC advertisers—or any marketers, really—need to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work of closely defining their audiences. Of getting to know who their target market is, when their time of need occurs, and what they need to hear in that time of need to take action.
Looking back at the Google Ads trends and updates that we’ve earmarked for 2021, this timeliness and audience targeting emerges as a common theme throughout. Matt Gove, Chief Consumer Officer of Piedmont Healthcare, put it nicely in a recent interview with Cardinal Digital Marketing:
“We still use digital as much or more than any other channel. Specifically search, we spend a great deal, like a shocking amount of money, on trying to own search. Because we know healthcare is one of those disciplines where people do a great deal of searching at the time of need. So we’ve got to be able to capture people’s attention while they’re there, but we’re also doing more and more these days.”
“Searching at the time of need” should be plastered on the wall, cubicle, and window of PPC marketers, shouldn’t it? Chryssa Rich, Director of Marketing for Primary Health Medical Group, echoes this sentiment in another interview with Cardinal:
“We run lots and lots of Google ads. They all have outstanding click-through rates. Our best performing ads have about a 14 percent to a 15 percent click-through rate because we get really specific and really focused on when and where those ads are delivered and what the people are searching for.
Again, what Chryssa and Matt are telling us is that they find the most success when they can get really specific about the when, where, and who of their Google Ads campaigns. To us, this remains the fundamental underpinning that will guide PPC marketers in 2021 and beyond, no matter how the tools and tactics themselves evolve.
Blog conversion rate optimization (CRO) can be a difficult content marketing skill to master. Knowing the major do’s and don’ts is the place to make a start
From the marketing point of view, the main goal of content is no longer to just amuse, entertain, or educate. Rather, it is to convert – convert visitors and readers into customers, users, and subscribers. Your content may be a unique piece of brilliant writing, but if it doesn’t convert it is worth nothing.
However, there are techniques that you can use to turn your great content into a working marketing instrument. Let’s talk about what you can do – and what you definitely should not do – to increase your blog conversion rate.
Out of the many conversion goals, blog content can effectively achieve two:
Make visitors navigate to the sales page
Make visitors subscribe by leaving their email address
With a few exceptions, blogs do not exist by themselves. They are a part of a complex marketing strategy planned and intended to sell a product or service. Naturally, a company wants to sell their own products and makes blog content one of the instruments to push readers to buy. This is where the content creators do their magic to make readers want to click the link or subscribe.
For example, a popular content marketing education platform, Copyblogger, aims at getting more subscribers which is their conversion goal. For that purpose, it places a subscription form on the blog page sidebar. A reader – who probably found the blog post looking for content marketing tips or recommendations – can be engaged enough to decide to enrol in free training and leave their email. Bingo, they are converted!
However, not every piece of content converts and your content marketing strategy may benefit from conversion rate optimization, or CRO, techniques.
Look for CRO opportunities
Start with analyzing your blog posts to identify those that you think can perform better. This is going to be your first stop in increasing your blog conversion rate. Use an analytical tool, for example, Google Analytics, to find blog posts that, on the one hand, bring high traffic but, on the other hand, have a low conversion rate compared to the site average.
These posts will be your primary candidates for conversion rate optimization. High traffic means they are properly searchable and relevant but something stops users from converting.
Try applying some of the techniques below both to your old posts and the ones you are just planning to write. Such a strategy may increase your overall blog conversion rate significantly.
Do’s and Don’ts of blog CRO
Let’s look at the best practices of conversion optimization and the most common mistakes that content creators make when trying to improve their blog’s performance.
Do post frequently
In content marketing, consistency is the magic word. You need to keep your existing and prospective readers engaged with new interesting content published regularly. More posts mean more traffic and, consequently, more leads and possible conversions.
However, how often should you post? Statistics show a dramatic jump in inbound traffic when you post 11 or more times per month. Thus, aim for that frequency and if you can post four times per week, that’s even better.
Another insight into this matter comes from none other than Google. As early as in 2011, Google introduced an algorithm filtering the search results by their “freshness”. Of course, this filtering applies to hot topics or recurring events but also to the information that is updated frequently. Posting often might increase your searchability.
The same principle applies to Google’s featured snippets where the algorithm picks the most recent updates to return after a query.
Don’t be spammy
While achieving an optimal posting frequency is something you should aim for, don’t post just for the sake of posting. Believe me, readers will see through it immediately. If you have nothing to post one day, then don’t post.
Both your loyal readers and visitors who found your blog for the first time expect to see meaningful posts related to your industry. Of course, you can be funny and entertaining once in a while but the main thing is that your content should create an impression of integral, organic flow. Anything that is placed just to fill the gap will stick out and ruin your reputation with users.
Do A/B testing
Experiment until you find the perfect – or near-perfect – strategy that can help you reach a good blog conversion rate. Sometimes little things matter – for example, did you know that the color of your CTA button can play a big role in improving the conversion rate?
During A/B testing, it turned out that red CTA buttons perform better than green ones, which was sort of unexpected as red is usually a “stop” color, while green is the color for “go”. However, the results showed a 34% conversion increase when the red button was used.
You can do similar testing to validate the strategy ideas that you wish to implement. Try several options and compare their performance.
Don’t try all the CRO tips you can find
While setting up your strategy of blog conversion rate optimization, you will come across dozens of lists of helpful hints, tips, tricks, and best practices (ha, you are reading one right now!).
Don’t try all of them at once. Some of them will work for you while others won’t. Test each new option carefully monitoring the results – and remember that proper A/B testing can take up to four weeks, so be patient.
If you try all optimization techniques you can lay your hands on, some of them might produce a certain increase of your blog conversion rate. However, you will not know exactly what worked in your case and keep using unnecessary practices wasting your resources.
Do use calls-to-action smartly
People often forget that CTAs aren’t just for your landing page, but for your blog too. I strongly recommend that you review your CTAs both for the old and new posts. CTAs may be the reason why your old posts do not produce as many conversions as you expect them to. If they are just sitting at the bottom of your post, your readers may just ignore them. Time to revamp your CTA strategy!
There are some CTA design options that you can experiment with:
Place your CTA in the sidebar. The sidebar is where most readers will subconsciously look for extras – links to other content, special offers, and, of course, CTAs.
Tweak the CTA design. You’ve seen how just changing the color of your CTA button can boost the conversion rate. See whether the CTA button design is outdated and needs a facelift.
Consider a slide-in CTA that appears while the reader scrolls the page and does not cover other content. A slide-in CTA has a better chance to attract the reader’s attention and will not annoy them by blocking the content.
Try not to clutter the area around your CTA button. Of course, you might want to use the sidebar space as effectively as possible, but some studies show that reducing clutter around a CTA button can improve the blog conversion rate by as much as 23%.
Make CTAs open in the same window. Users are mostly wary of links leading to new windows and trust them less than those that open within the same one.
Pop-ups can work well. However, they can also prevent Google bots from getting too far when crawling your site, which means you may be scoring an SEO own-goal!
Don’t mislead readers with CTAs
Read what is written on your CTA. Yes, that text that should make people click the button. Does it promise what is actually delivered? Is your “free” offer truly free? Will the user download what they expect to?
Your CTA should be clear on what the user is going to get. If your service is not exactly free, try to avoid this word on the CTA. Disappointed customers may be more damaging to your reputation than non-converted ones.
Another good practice is to avoid vague and general messages on your CTAs. In the image below, the company replaced the unclear “Test it out” CTA with “See demo” explicitly saying what the user is going to get clicking the button. And, by the way, this change led to a conversion rate increase.
This one is in the “No comment” league, but let’s spend some time on it. For all these techniques to work, your copywriting should grab the readers’ attention and be interesting, relevant, and engaging. Most importantly, your content should be alive.
What can you do to make your blog posts alive and vibrant? There are two basic principles:
Write on interesting topics. For each industry, the interesting topics are, naturally, different, but the rule of thumb is to write about the most recent and fresh events and developments. It’s always a bullseye to post your company’s updates – press releases, product news, upcoming events. Besides, monitor your industry sector and provide your own analysis of the recent innovations.
A good practice is to post useful content. Share something your readers can use in their processes – tips, checklists, how-tos, tutorials. Make your posts visual and eye-catching by including images, videos, animations. Your audience will like large, detailed long reads, but you can add some color to them with infographics illustrating your unique research on the subject.
Use bright and lively language. Don’t kill your great content with bland and boring wording. Don’t be afraid to joke, provoke, tease, and make fun of things. However, use these techniques in moderation and only to liven up the topic. Don’t become another Internet troll.
The most straightforward way to create great, engaging content is to be true. Write about real things and experiences, use case studies and quotes that resonate, all this should mean your content will never be boring.
Don’t focus on the volume alone
Some say people don’t read anymore, others say that people love long reads. The truth is that in this case, size does not matter much. What matters is the subject and the way you write about it.
If your content is relevant and engaging, your visitors will read it to the last word regardless of the volume. To reach that, your posts should really resonate with your audience and capture their attention from the first word to the last one. How can you achieve that – read the paragraph above.
At the same time, there are certain guidelines as to the volume of your blog posts. If you are aiming to increase social media sharing, try to write at least 750 words per post. However, for the best SEO results, your blog posts should be around 2,450 words.
Of course, these guidelines only work if you are posting content that helps to resolve real problems. To get high searchability, you need to write on topics that people search for. And, in this case, they will surely read even very long posts.
Content marketing is a wealth of opportunities. The great thing about it is that there are no cookie-cutter principles of how you should organize your blog. You can have a sleek, minimalistic blog or a page packed with graphics and animations – and get the same high conversion rates.
Find your best blogging strategy using the good old trial-and-error method. Test different techniques and tools to see what best fills your conversion funnel with leads. You may achieve an increase in your blog conversion rate by usual techniques, such as homepage and blog redesign to improve the overall user experience, or by non-standard options, such as adding a live chat choosing one of the different live chat software solutions.
Of course, do not forget to promote your blog to increase traffic and get more conversion opportunities. There are ways to increase your presence and visibility and make your brand recognizable among users. Try guest posting, social sharing, or email marketing, for example.
I hope my little list of do’s and don’ts will help you plan your content marketing strategy better and succeed in boosting your lead generation. If you have other ideas and suggestions, I would be happy to discuss them. Do reach out, and let’s talk about how to produce great content!