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.
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.
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.
PWA (Progressive Web Apps) have gained momentum among the web development community and are one of the most talked about technology shifts across the web landscape.
If you are someone who builds for web, there is a good chance that PWA is one of the latest ‘buzzwords’ that have been added to your work vocabulary. Progressive Web Apps have made installing web apps on phone possible.
There has already been a lot of spotlight and ‘geek speaks’ on building PWA and its advantages. Most of the attempts to introduce PWA, especially to the newbies, seem to be jargon filled or had too much of code that could intimidate them to take the first step. In this article, I’m trying to give a snapshot of PWA, just enough to kickstart their learning process.
This is what Wikipedia says about PWA. Well, this might seem a bit vague or even contentious. So let’s look at PWA in an informal way.
If ever the best of web and the best of apps had a clone child — it is PWA. Or else, it’s just that the web page has taken all the ‘right vitamins’ so that it can behave more like an app downloaded from the App Store/ Play Store. It starts as a normal web page in a browser, and as a user explores the webpage, they get the prompt if they would like to “Add to Home Screen”. Once the user gives the thumbs up to this prompt, VOILA! PWA gets added to their home screen. Once open from the home screen, it can even hide the browser UI controls and appear as an app.
This is more like a glorified bookmark that has hit the sweet spot between the web and mobile apps. I say this because PWA has managed to bridge the gap in the web. The web has always been thirsty for reliable performance at par with the native apps. It has always yearned for a place in the notification tray and in the home screen just like an app. More than 40% of the users bounce from the websites that take more than 3 seconds to load. PWA is a solution for this “Web Obesity Epidemic” faced by the users.
It is all about removing friction and making it easy for the users to get to what they want.
The entire credit for this seamless experience should be given to the Service Worker( A script that the browser runs in the background separate from web page), which is the backbone of every PWA. The service workers enable reliable and intelligent caching, background content updating, push notifications and the most attractive offline functionality to prior visited sites. This means that, after the first visit to a website, the site and app will be reliably fast even on flaky networks.
But a question could arise here — what about the fast first load with reliable performance? That’s when Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) meets service worker. AMP provides reliably fast web components for first load. These components are much faster to load and less data hungry. Websites that use the combo of AMP and Service Worker will provide reliable speed as of native apps. Once the page is loaded the site setups the service worker and assets are cached intelligently. This will always keep the PWA up to date thereby freeing the users from the frequent updates to be done from the App Store.
PWA in a nutshell:
Reliable : Fast loading and works offline
Fast : Smooth Animations, jank free scrolling and seamless navigation even on flaky networks
Engaging : Launched from home screen and can receive push notification
2. Why is it important ?
It is a myth that the users will happily download the app of every website they visit frequently. According to Comscore Mobile App Report, over 50% of America’s smart phone users download Zero Apps a month. i.e. Gone are the days when the phone is full of apps and people-smart phone honeymoon phase is getting depleted. Each step to download an app reduces 20% of users. PWA reduces the steps between discovery of an app and getting it on the home screen and thereby eliminates friction of getting an app installed. This provides a very fertile ground for businesses to pitch in their PWA.
The following three metrics can be highlighted to understand the importance of PWA in moulding the future web.
a. Reach : The mobile web audience has grown at a skyrocketing pace over the last few years. Google has reported that Chrome has whooping 1 billion mobile users compared to the erstwhile 400 million users in 2016. As per Comscore’s report the reach of mobile web is 2.5 times more than that of apps, while considering the top 1000 sites and apps. This is the reason why the decision of Flipkart, Myntra etc. to abandon their website and be ‘app only’ backfired. If we could provide a better experience to a wider audience, we could surely get a competitive edge over the others.
b. Acquisition : Another serious concern faced by the mobile apps are their user discoverability compared to websites. The user acquisition cost of web will be 10 times cheaper than that of native apps. With more exposure and low friction for on-boarding, PWA is likely to acquire more users at very less expense.
c. Conversion : The seamless end to end user experience even with flaky networks provided by PWA improves the number of successful conversions. Flipkart launched their PWA ‘Flipkart-lite’, which they claim to have delivered an increase in the conversion rate by 70% with lower acquisition cost.
To sum up : PWA helps to improve conversions by increasing potential reach with low acquisition costs.
3. How to get started ?
Once you get to know a new technology, the next challenge in-line is the decision to adopt it. Most of the people get into a dilemma at this point. Decision should be driven by your specific business need. The following two cases could help you identify the method that fits you to implement PWA.
a) From ground zero
Consider the scenario when a company is building a new website or going through a redesign. In this case, building a PWA from ground zero makes sense and is feasible. This will have the business to harness the power of PWA with AMP, service workers, App shell and Web Manifest. For e.g.. According to Ali Express, once they revamped their website as PWA, they were able to increase their conversion rate for new users by 104%, gained 2X more pages visited per session per user across all browsers and 74% increase in time spent per session across all browsers.
b) A simple version or A Single feature
When building from scratch is not realistic, one can always build a simple version of the website or focus on a single feature that has a high impact for end users. The focus is to deliver a fast, engaging and reliable experience. AirBerlin is an appropriate example in this case. They focussed on the post- booking experience in their PWA. After a passenger has checked in, they can access their journey details and boarding pass even without internet connectivity.
4. Challenges in PWA
There are some challenges in PWA which have to be considered while choosing it.
a) Cross Browser Support : While Chrome, Opera, and Samsung’s android browser supports PWA, IE, Edge and Safari are yet to extend their support.
b) Limited Functionality: PWA doesn’t have support for any hardware that is not supported by HTML5
c) Limited Legitimacy: As there is no central download Store for PWA, they lack in giving a sense of legitimacy and confidence which is usually given by native apps from Play Store/App Store.
d) Cross Application Login Support : Native apps have the capability to talk to other apps and authenticate logins (Facebook, Twitter, Google). As a webpage, PWA doesn’t have the capability to communicate with other apps installed.
We can’t say that PWA will kill Native Apps in the future. But still there is a growing interest for this approach in the community. PWAs are still in their infancy with a lot of challenges to be addressed. Yet, they have the potential to create a shift in the way the web works.
Food for Thought
According to Henrik Joreteg, “PWA is the single biggest thing to happen on the mobile web since Steve introduced the iPhone!”
Looking for a way to kickstart your business’ CRM strategy? Look no further. Browse our top CRM strategies for 2021, and compare quotes from leading CRM software suppliers
Launching a business venture. Budgeting for the next financial quarter. Hanging on to your get-out-of-jail-free card and building a hotel on Park Lane. Whether in business, life, or the frustrating realm of family board game night, almost everything you’ll ever do requires some kind of strategy. That is, if you want to do it right.
That’s why developing a fully-formed CRM (customer relationship management) strategy is the most important thing your business will do this year.
A CRM strategy governs the who, what, how, why, and where of your business’ interactions with your clients. It’s how you’ll acquire, sell to, re-engage, and retain your customers, and – ultimately – how you’ll grow your business and bottom line.
The only thing is, CRM strategies (like Monopoly strategies) can be pretty tough to put together.
Plus, CRM goals, visions, and strategies alone won’t revolutionise your business; and they don’t operate in a vacuum. The brains of your strategy should always go hand in hand with the brawn of a CRM system – and if you don’t have one already, you should look into it.
All that aside, you’re here for some CRM strategy inspiration. But before we get started on our top 10 CRM strategies for UK businesses, a quick word on the distinction between CRM strategy and software – and what it means for you.
CRM: Strategy or Software?
CRM refers to both a strategy, as well as a type ofsoftware (or system) for enacting that strategy. So how do they fit together?
Well, while a strategy will guide your approach to your customer relationships, a CRM system will help you implement it. We’re big advocates for CRM systems – and, that being so, the ten CRM strategies below will all require your business to be using CRM software to execute them to their full potential.
If you don’t already use CRM software, don’t fret – it’s easy to get set up with one.
Simply take our quick questionnaire, providing us with some information about your business’ CRM requirements. When we’re confident that we know exactly what you need – that is, your team size, the particular CRM features you’ll require, and what type of contact management software you already use – we can do our best work.
That involves matching you with CRM suppliers. Not any old companies, though – just those that are a good (the best!) fit for your business. They’ll then be in touch with you directly, to provide tailored CRM quotes and advice.
It takes 30 seconds, and is free for UK-based businesses. And, when you’re done, you’ll have everything you need to plan, develop, and execute your own CRM strategy – and start reaping the rewards.
1. Customer interaction and behaviour tracking
The first and foremost tenet of any good CRM strategy? Knowing your customers.
CRM software takes the guesswork out of tracking how prospects and deals find and interact with your business online. It also allows you to store a wide range of data about current clients, as well as those still being courted.
Which ad did Geoff click on? Did Beatrice engage with your email, or leave it unread? Which social media platform is Miriama most likely to find you on?
Once you’ve hooked your customers, CRM software then paves the way for you to get to know them a little better. And we don’t just mean their name, email address, or job title. Nope – we’re talking the date and nature of their last engagement with your brand, their previous orders, and their total spend – essentially, exactly what you need to target them with discounts tailored to their particular purchasing preferences.
This CRM strategy example, pulled straight from HubSpot, illuminates how easy the platform makes it to track your clients.
In addition to Greg’s contact details, you can view how many products he’s bought, how much he’s spent, and when he first made a purchase from your company. You can also email, call, or ‘meet’ him through the CRM’s interface – and any conversations you have with the guy will be recorded in the activity feed.
Of course, storing data comes with a few ethical issues, and you need to ensure that you’re respecting your customers’ privacy. That’s why CRM software is GDPR-compliant, and set up to only retain the customer data that you’re required (and allowed) to keep.
CRM strategy #1: Establish an extensive, ethical database about your customers to learn about how, when, and where they’re interacting with your brand. The more you know them, the better you’ll be able to sell to them.
2. Loyalty and rewards programs
The Tesco Clubcard. Starbucks Rewards. The IKEA Family.
Whether it’s tallying up Avios points or earning ourselves a free coffee, we all love being rewarded for our loyal custom. But is your business taking advantage of this powerful marketing tool? And how do you get started?
CRM software is the easiest, most direct route to fostering customer loyalty. Whether it’s reaching out with a special birthday treat or following up to check on a recent purchase, CRM allows you to personalise and perfect the customer experience.
And, by allowing your customers to accumulate digital currency when they buy, they’ll be more motivated to come back to you – and spend again. After all, why let those points go to waste?
Cosmetics behemoth Sephora provides an excellent example of this particular CRM strategy.
With more than 17 million members, Sephora rewards its customers with tailored offers and discounts. The program is structured in three tiers, so the more you spend, the better the rewards – and the greater the exclusivity.
Better still, Sephora further nurtures customer loyalty and engagement through running an online forum. Here, its members can come together to discuss products, and share user-generated recommendations and advice.
CRM strategy #2: Reward your best customers with discounts and offers that are personalised to their preferences. Engender exclusivity with a tiered loyalty system, and cultivate user participation through an online community.
3. Tailored, targeted marketing
So, you’re committed to customer interaction and behaviour tracking, with a customer loyalty strategy firmly in place. Now it’s time to get (even more) proactive – to start putting that data into use with marketing campaigns that are hand-crafted to your audience.
Here are four tips to help you build a CRM strategy around more effective marketing:
a) Personalise your emails!
Research suggests that emails with personalised subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened – and it’s not hard to see why. You’re already sending your customer an unsolicited email – the least you can do is address them by name!
Plus, it makes it feel a bit less like bulk marketing (which, of course, it is), while adding a dash of the personal.
Did I open this email? Yes, yes I did. And the food was delicious.
b) Segment your customers
Marketing with a ‘one-size fits all’ kind of approach rarely succeeds. Because, naturally, what works for one customer won’t necessarily resonate with another.
That’s why you need to segment your email lists. With the right marketing CRM software, you can sort your audience by demographic, purchase history, and personal preferences. This ensures the right messages always go to the right people, while helping you steer clear of any embarrassing slip-ups.
c) Be specific!
Being specific about what you’re offering is key to good email marketing. It also helps reduce any mental strain on the reader, allowing you to get straight to the point. Take the following CRM strategy example I received recently:
This discount from ride-sharing app Bolt is an attention-grabber.
I know what the offer is, how many trips I can use it on, and where (and when) I can use it. The stipulations are clear and signposted, and I know exactly where to go if I get stuck (the app).
d) Make it easy to unsubscribe
This may sound counter-intuitive to what you’re trying to achieve, but it’s hugely important.
Making it easy for your user to unsubscribe – ideally, by including a clearly visible link in the email footer – helps you remain GDPR compliant, while minimising annoyance to the reader. Aside from being the right thing to do, it also helps you inspire trust and confidence in your brand, and avoid being ‘spammy’.
Plus, it has benefits for your CRM database, too – clearing out users that are no longer engaged, and freeing up room for more lucrative prospects.
CRM strategy #3: Build a marketing CRM strategy around tailored, personalised emails,. Segment your customer lists to avoid mistakes, and maximise the effectiveness of your marketing messages.
4. Data cleansing and deduplication
Profits, prestige, power – as your business grows, lots of things will come your way, many of which you’ll enjoy. However, we’re guessing that increased media scrutiny isn’t one of them.
That’s why you’ll want to avoid any high-profile mistakes when communicating with your customers.
Attempting to sell a product to a customer you should have known was long-deceased, or addressing marketing emails to a married couple that split long ago? These pitfalls can cost you your reputation – and they’re surprisingly easy to fall into.
Fortunately, these kinds of errors can be avoided with the right CRM software.
By unifying your data into a single system, you avoid entries being duplicated across disparate systems. Sensitive customer data will be easier to manage, cleanse, and regulate – and you can be confident that you’re always working with the most accurate information.
CRM Strategy #4: Prioritise the regular auditing and cleansing of your customer database to eliminate mistakes, and ensure data integrity and relevance.
5. Sharper stakeholder reporting
Stakeholders, shareholders, auditors. The media. If they have anything in common, it’s that they all expect you to be able to deliver an accurate, segmented view of your entire customer base – often at just a moment’s notice.
And, let’s face it – no matter how much of an ‘Excel wizard’ you are, spreadsheets alone aren’t going to cut the mustard here. So what will?
Pulling your range of business and customer data into a single place – and allowing you to manipulate it via a series of online dashboards – analytical CRM software enables a new level of number-crunching. Reports are easy to generate, simple to export, and a breeze to read.
This CRM strategy example from AgileCRM shows how dynamically you can visualise your business’ key customer data. Agile, indeed!
CRM strategy #5: Utilise CRM software to generate internal and external reports about your customer base and business’ health. Increase your credibility and transparency in the eyes of stakeholders and the media – and do it in style.
6. Customer relationship identification
When it comes to cultivating good customer relationships, simple management isn’t enough. You’ll need to identify, too.
That is, you’ll need to understand not only your relationships with your customers, but what professional or personal relationships they have with each other, too.
The right CRM software offers a holistic view of your customer database – allowing you to identify where any need-to-know (and potentially profitable) connections occur between your clients.
It also helps to know about personal connections, too. Being aware that a customer has two young children might be important for marketing purposes, for example. But it can also help you avoid major embarrassment – like sending inappropriate sales propositions to your clients’ kids.
CRM strategy #6: Develop an understanding of your client’s professional and personal connections to better tailor your sales and marketing efforts to them.
7. Customer service team integration
Sure, CRM software does a lot for your sales team. Your marketing department, too. Still, for everything to perform at its peak, you’ll also need to keep your customer service staff in the loop.
Fortunately, that’s easy to do. Your CRM system feeds info about any interactions or successes your sales and marketing teams have had with a client directly to your customer service team. This allows the latter to quickly see what’s gone wrong – and how to fix it.
After all, there’s nothing worse than being stuck on hold – bouncing from one customer service agent to another, and having to explain your issue several times over. It’s bad service, and a common CRM problem. So don’t fall prey to it!
Use a CRM system instead. With everything they need at their disposal via the software’s unified, cloud-based interface, your customer service team will be able to handle issues, requests, and complaints with greater ease and professionalism.
CRM strategy #7: Connect your teams, unify your business, and make knowledge-sharing with your customer service team a top priority.
We’ve discussed the benefits of email marketing – that is, reaching out to customers directly to sell to them. But what about people coming the other way? How do you attract, engage, and convert new, inbound customers to your website – and turn them from prospects into clients?
The answer, of course, is content.
Whether it’s a blog, an innovative social media strategy, or a downloadable ebook or guide, you need to offer your users something they can’t get elsewhere.
Publishing original content in unique formats – videos, infographics, case studies, whitepapers, tutorials – is an excellent route to establishing yourself as an authority in the eyes of your readers. It’s also a great way to offer them some genuinely entertaining, informative content (with a few call-to-actions along the way, of course!).
Here’s where a CRM system comes in. As well as providing a platform for you to create, curate, schedule, and publish original, SEO-optimised content, it integrates with your social media accounts, to simplify community management.
Let’s take this CRM strategy example from Salesforce.
You can monitor keyword trends, review past social media post performance, and assess engagement levels – all from within a single interface. The software also integrates with social media monitoring tools– keeping you forever in the loop as to what your customers are saying about your brand and industry.
CRM strategy #8: Creating unique, value-added content for your website and social channels (and monitoring it with a CRM system) adds a whole new dimension to your services. Your customers will love it.
There are plenty of ways in which a CRM system can boost employee empowerment. It breaks down data silos, fosters more efficient team collaboration, and adds a layer of transparency to every interaction your sales, marketing, and customer service teams have with clients.
Not only will your staff feel more accountable and independent, they’ll feel more confident – freed up to use the CRM tools and data at their disposal to make better decisions,
All killer CRM strategies place an emphasis on the people behind the business, rather than solely the profit. So should yours.
CRM strategy #9: Use CRM software to empower your team with greater access to data and improved collaboration.
10. Inspiration from CRM’s big names
When you’re all out of ideas, there’s nothing like turning to the biggest, most successful businesses in the world for inspiration.
Let’s take a look at two: Amazon and Apple.
Amazon’s CRM strategy is built around Prime, its premium subscription service. Prime is designed to personalise the entire purchasing process. Whether it’s sending you an offer for a product you were browsing, or encouraging you to revisit a forgotten shopping cart, Amazon has several CRM tricks up its sleeve.
Pictured: Thanks to Amazon Prime’s persistent, persuasive algorithm, I’m now the proud owner of the latest Mark Edwards thriller… and seven jars of Nutella.
Apple’s CRM strategy, meanwhile, is much more hands-off.
Led by founder and disruptor Steve Jobs, Apple famously eschewed market research and traditional customer loyalty programs.
Instead, Apple built its brand around its products, with its CRM strategy stemming from how the Silicon Valley giant’s customers interact with its innovative inventions.
Just think – thousands of videos exist online of Apple users ‘unboxing’ their new iPhone or Apple Watch. Elsewhere, Apple’s physical stores are a hub where potential customers can play and explore Apple’s range without the pressure to purchase – a monument to Apple’s playful, immersive approach to CRM strategy.
CRM strategy #10: Learn from big brand CRM case studies. Make inviting customer participation a key part of your marketing strategy. Tailor your checkout process to re-engage lapsed customers and minimise cart abandonment.
Why Use WordPress? A Deep Dive Into 10 Good Reasons
If you find yourself wondering, “Why use WordPress?” you’ve come to the right place. Pondering this question means you’ve at least researched WordPress a bit or heard about it from a friend or colleague. But that doesn’t mean you’ve completely weighed any pros and cons or checked out the features in-depth.
Therefore, we’d like to break down the benefits of using WordPress for you, giving a clear view as to why it’s the most popular content management system and website building software in the world. WordPress can really do just about anything!
The Website Dilemma – Why Use WordPress?
For average business owners, names like WordPress, Joomla, Shopify, Magento, Wix, and Weebly might sound like alien names. The process of building a website brings these names into your life, since they’re all platforms used to build websites. Each has its own benefits, while many are used more often for niche websites with specific purposes. For instance, Shopify only makes sense if you’re running an online store. It’s not a platform you would start a blog with then turn into an eCommerce shop (check out Shopify alternatives to compare solutions). Magento is in the same boat. Other website builders and platforms have more flexibility, and those are typically the ones that are most popular.
Everything from Squarespace to Wix has wonderful tools for certain skill levels, but we’re going to explain why you should use WordPress over all of them.
Using WordPress is a no-brainer. There’s a reason 34% of the web uses it. 😉
1. The Software is Free and Open-Source
Both WordPress.com and WordPress.org are completely free to use. You can learn about the difference between the two here, but in short, WordPress.org is a self-hosted version where you control more of your site and take advantage of advanced plugins. WordPress.com works great for complete beginners, but it’s not exactly the best for a business that plans on making money so moving away from WordPress.com makes sense. It does have higher paid plans, but we recommend it for personal and hobby blogs.
But moving on, WordPress is free for anyone to download. It’s an open-source project that’s been around since 2003. This means that WordPress is developed by a collection of contributors. Open-source projects are typically free, with large communities. The users often take part in this community as beta testers or simple brand advocates, but there’s really no requirement for any participation if that’s not your style.
Warning: Although the WordPress software is free, you will most likely end up spending a bit of money. WordPress is self-hosted, so hosting is required. This can start at around $3 per month, for the really cheap shared servers, and go all the way to up to a few hundred per month for those needing ultimate speed and performance (Like with Kinsta).
You can typically find themes and plugins for free, but the premium (paid) ones often provide better features and quality support. Finally, many WordPress users end up paying for additional services, whether it be from freelancers or agencies. For instance, you might pay a freelancer to design a logo for you or adjust some of the CSS code on your site. Other WordPress users are keen on keeping graphic designers or maintenance experts on call. It all depends on your experience and the scale of your website.
But overall, you can absolutely keep your WordPress costs to a minimum. Many webmasters end up only paying for hosting.
See it in Action:
When you navigate to the WordPress.org website, it explains the basics about the platform, but the only button (besides the regular menu) is a link to “Get WordPress.”
This brings you to a free download page, which is updated frequently depending on the newest release (currently WordPress 5.2+). This provides an instant taste of how the WordPress software is presented to users. You’re not bombarded by banner ads or prompted to complete a survey before downloading the free software. You see a basic page with some descriptions, beta releases, requirements, source code, archives, and a download counter. It delivers multiple download options (like .zip and .tar.gz files,) along with the proper instructions to install the WordPress software on your own.
Download latest version of WordPress
The Easy Installation Method
If you’re looking for an even easier installation method, we recommend looking towards your hosting company. The most reputable hosts have one-click installation buttons for getting WordPress running within minutes. At Kinsta, installing WordPress is as easy as clicking on “Add Site.”
That way there’s no need to manage files and upload them through an FTP. Managed WordPress hosting companies take it a step further by handling the entire installation, maintenance, security, and backups down the road.
As for updates, you don’t have to go back to the download page every time a new WordPress version is released. Instead, WordPress lets you know about the update in the dashboard, where you can usually complete the process in less than one minute.
2. It Adapts So You Can Make Any Type of Website
One of the common misconceptions about WordPress is that it’s mainly for building blogs. At one point in time that was, in fact, the case. WordPress was developed as a blogging platform, but that has changed drastically with the various new releases over the years.
In fact, WordPress is at an advantage due to its blogging roots. It’s by far one of the cleanest, fastest ways to write and publish blog posts, and that’s all included right from the start. Some website building tools think about design and apps first, then the blogging interface comes in as an afterthought.
That’s not the case with WordPress, so you can create a beautiful ecommerce site and know that the blog is an integral part of the development process.
See it in Action:
The list is endless, but here’s a taste of the types of websites you can make with WordPress:
Personal websites for self-promotion
Q&A websites like Quora
Non-profit websites for collecting donations
Wikis and knowledgebases
Media-centric sites like YouTube
Auction and coupon sites
Clearly, the list goes on and on. The good news with WordPress is that the functionality for things like forums and ecommerce websites is achieved with simple plugins and themes. So, for instance, if I wanted to make an online portfolio for my web design business, I could go with the theme below. All it would require is a small one-time fee, an upload of some demo data, and whatever changes I wanted to make myself.
WordPress portfolio site
The screenshot below is a rather popular ecommerce theme that pairs with the WooCommerce plugin. WooCommerce is one of the primary ways you turn your regular WordPress website into a functioning online store, with payment processing, a shopping cart, and product galleries. Check out this in-depth tutorial on how to install WooCommerce.
The final example below shows a forum. This website was constructed using a theme, but you might also consider looking around the internet for some forum plugins. Several are available if you already have a cool theme picked out but it doesn’t have forum functionality. And that’s exactly how to accomplish different types of websites with WordPress. Write down the feature you need, then go to Google and see if there are any plugins or themes to fit your needs. I’ll bet you’ll always find good results.
In my own experience, I’ve never had WordPress tell me that a file is not supported. You can expect to upload common files like .jpg, .png, .gif .pdf, .doc, .pptx, .mp3, .m4a, .mp4, .mov, .wmv, and .avi. Along with that, you won’t have any problems with more obscure file types like .odt, .key, .ogg, and .3gp.
And while the are some file formats, such as SVGs, that aren’t allowed, there are good solutions to get around this. Check out this tutorial on how to safely upload SVGs in WordPress. In short, if you’d like to put a photo, gif, video or document on your website, it’s usually fair game with WordPress. It’s even common to host documents and presentations on a website without publishing them on a specific page.
A Word of Warning
Yes, WordPress supports pretty much any type of media. However, you should follow the rules and only legally use media that’s either owned by you, open for free downloads, or usable when credit is given.
Here are some places to find legal media such as photos and video:
As an excellent example of WordPress media support, the Sony Music website promotes both music tracks and videos. Therefore, you can often find several forms of video and audio clips on the website. Furthermore, it’s a picture-heavy website, as you can see with the large Kenny Chesney picture in the header. Although some website builders are getting better at media support, it seems like you’ll almost always find something that isn’t allowed.
Sony – WordPress media example
The Variety website also uses WordPress, and its homepage is littered with items like background images, short video clips, movie trailers, animations, music tracks, and galleries from film shoots and TV shows. It’s tough to find a better example than Variety, since every single article written for the entertainment magazine has something to do with media.
Variety – WordPress media example 2
4. It’s Easy to Learn and Has a Huge Community
As an open-source software, WordPress can be used by anyone. The userbase isn’t limited by pricing, premium customer support, or even skill level. Sure, there are plenty of things to learn about WordPress, but any person could play around with the dashboard for ten minutes and start to absorb how the interface works.
And since there aren’t many roadblocks to gaining access to the software, users have made blogs, forums, online courses, seminars, webinars, and books, all outlining different aspects of the WordPress platform. Then there’s the more official customer support from WordPress. You can either pay extra money for dedicated support or work through the WordPress forums.
It’s truly incredible how many resources there are for learning about WordPress or having quick development questions answered. For instance, you might follow a blog like this to receive a consistent flow of WordPress tips in your email inbox. On the other hand, you can also search Google to locate immediate solutions (WPBeginner is known for quick fixes).
See it in Action:
We see the WordPress community as assisting with two parts of the learning process:
Organized training for long-term knowledge.
Quick solutions to your WordPress problems.
WordPress training can be found for free or for a charge, but one thing’s certain: The best courses online are well-organized, affordable, and packed with information you can use yourself, give to clients, or share with your employees. For example, the WP101 website is a well-known training spot with flawless video course on the following topics:
The Yoast SEO plugin
Learn WordPress tutorials
Once you learn about WordPress through a training course, you’re going to end up working with your very own websites. Since traditional dedicated support isn’t provided through WordPress, you’ll need to turn to blogs, forums, Google, and other communities online. The primary WordPress support forum should do the trick for most of your development situations. In the screenshot below it shows topics for fixing WordPress, networking with WordPress, localhost installs, regular installations, and more. I’m personally more of a “Google it and see what comes up” type of researcher, but both forums and blogs are crucial to resolving problems in a timely manner.
As for premium plugins and themes, those developers typically provide their own dedicated support through knowledge bases, forums, ticketing systems, and email.
WordPress support forums
5. You Can Scale Up and Expand Your Website with Themes and Plugins
We’ve already discussed how the WordPress themes and plugins make it easy for you to construct a website, but these elements are also essential for scaling up. For a standard blog, you’ll install a theme, adjust the design, then start blogging. The same goes for a business website or portfolio.
It’s common for the themes to serve as the site’s foundation. After that, the design work is minimal besides some color changes, logo additions, and of course, the new pages and blog posts.
But every once in awhile you realize that something new needs to be added to your website. Maybe your customers are clamoring for a membership section of your site, or maybe you realized that a monthly quiz is a great way to get customers to interact with your brand. In both of these situations, a plugin rectifies the issue.
Yes, plugins typically run the show when it comes to adding functionality to your site. Most of the time you only need one theme at site launch.
But as your site grows, you’ll start to notice different needs for your own site, along with changes in the industry. A great example of this was when Google started rewarding mobile responsive websites. Within a year it seemed like all WordPress theme developers began selling mobile-friendly designs. Therefore, lots of website owners needed to go out and get new themes.
It’s also common for growing websites to get new themes for the following reasons:
A fresh look is needed.
It’s required to switch from a free theme to a more powerful premium one.
The website owner wants better customer support from the theme developer.
There has been a shift in what the business offers online.
The site owner needs different tools that plugins can’t deliver.
See it in Action:
Looking for a WordPress theme is as simple as completing a Google search. You can find an onslaught of lists covering the different categories of WordPress themes. Try searching “real estate WordPress themes” or “flat WordPress themes,” and you’ll see plenty of choices. However, your best bet is to pick from a trusted WordPress theme shop and or developer. This ensures you get quality support, fast and well optimized code, and updates for the long haul.
WordPress theme shop
Here’s a list of some reputable and well-known theme hotspots:
There are also online theme marketplaces. However, be careful with these as sometimes developers will drop off the face of the planet, leaving you with an unsupported theme. But they also have a large variety, and high-quality themes do exist, you just have to look a little harder:
Plugins are similar to themes in that you can find both free and premium versions. The only difference is that free plugins are far more commonly used by actual business websites. Free themes are nice for personal and beginner blogs, but the pros usually spend the $50-$100 to get a much nicer premium theme. Read our in-depth post on WordPress free vs paid themes for a little more insight into which might be better for you.
That’s not always the case with plugins though, since many of the best plugins have always been free. You can search for new plugins through your WordPress dashboard or go to the WordPress plugin library. This library has over 50,000 plugins, most of which are free (or in some form of a freemium business model). The library has everything from caching to forum plugins, and spam to social media plugins. Installing a plugin takes no more than a few minutes, and each of the plugin pages include screenshots, feature lists, and even some demos.
WordPress plugin repository
Many premium plugins are sold throughout the internet as well. The main difference between a free and premium plugin is that you often get better customer support with a paid plugin. Here are some great places to search for premium plugins:
Website development companies often sell pricey packages where they ask for an upfront downpayment and recurring monthly payment for maintenance. The only problem is that WordPress isn’t all that difficult to manage if you learn the ropes and go through the proper training. Website management typically involves a few things:
You don’t personally check on the server, so it’s more about you getting a good host and seeing if the site is running at all times. Security and backups are either handled with plugins or through a managed WordPress hosting plan. Everything else on the list only needs to be done on occasion. For example, here at Kinsta backups are automatically taken every day, stored for 14 days, and can be restored with a click of a button.
One of the only manual maintenance tasks is updating plugins, themes, and WordPress itself. The good news is that WordPress notifies you when updates are released. Therefore, you make the updates whenever you see the warnings. It usually takes less than a minute for any updates, then you can get back to work.
Update WordPress plugins
Everything else (like SEO, backups, speed, security, broken links, and spam) can be managed using plugins. For instance, the WP Time Capsule plugin is a wonderful tool for setting both incremental file and database backups. The plugin runs in the background. If a file gets corrupted, or your site crashes, the restore function is there to solve the problem.
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WordPress is known for having SEO built into the platform. In fact, WordPress automatically generates title tags and meta descriptions for all of your pages and posts. This lets search engines know about your content, and it will get you indexed and potentially moved up in the rankings. As with everything in WordPress, there are also more advanced features offered by plugins and online tools. Here are some SEO favorites to consider:
The Yoast SEO plugin is also a must-have for any WordPress site. The default SEO tools in WordPress are great, but Yoast takes it to the next level.
Below is one section of Yoast that asks you for a focus keyword. This could be for either a page or blog post. Upon targeting that focus keyword, Yoast analyses the current post or page and shares how effective you are at targeting the keyword. You’ll see the keyword density, thoughts on the keyword locations, SEO title mentions, page title suggestions, and more. It’s basically a giant checklist for you to make your SEO the best it can be on every page.
A Google search for “website builders” or “website platforms” will reveal all sorts of results. WordPress will most likely be on all website building lists, along with competition like WIX, Squarespace, Joomla, Magento, Shopify, Weebly, and Jimdo. All of these are perfectly fine for making websites, but the non-open source ones, like Squarespace, Shopify, and WIX, limit your control to whatever features are offered in the premium packages.
That leaves you with some limitations like the following:
The ecommerce functionality is usually built-in, so there’s not much you can do about expanding with plugins.
You’re typically stuck with whatever hosting is provided. You don’t have the freedom to test hosts and go with the best value or highest performing.
Adjusting code is limited to what the companies share with you. Even worse, you get stuck with a completely unique coding language, like with Shopify (It uses a language called Liquid). In short, it almost guarantees that you have to hire a specialized developer for changes you can’t handle yourself through the editor.
You don’t technically have full ownership of your site and content. You’re renting the website from these companies. So when you stop paying, all of those files and pages are either lost or held by the company. With WordPress, you own the files, and no one can prevent you from moving them to other hosts.
See it in Action:
The Appearance tab is the control center for all customizations in WordPress. It’s where you have free rein over themes, fonts, colors, widgets, menus, logos, and code. Just about anything you can think of can be adjusted in this area. It’s great for beginners, intermediates, and advanced users, since it limits the amount of code you touch, while also speeding up the development process.
Furthermore, several themes have their own customization modules, or you could install a drag-and-drop editor to almost remove the need for coding.
Customize WordPress appearance
As for the advanced edits, all website files are accessible through the WordPress dashboard, your hosting account, or through a local environment. Whether you’re trying to insert a snippet of code for Google Analytics, or you’re attempting a complete overhaul of the landing page’s CSS, WordPress has you covered.
WordPress appearance editor
9. The Blogging is Hands Down the Best in the Business
WordPress was born as a blogging platform. It’s had its competitors, but nothing currently compares to the power, elegance, and advanced tools you find in the WordPress blogging engine. Options like Tumblr, Medium, Ghost, and Blogger are all perfectly fine for hobbyists, but the pros go for WordPress. An incredible set of tools is located inside the WordPress blog editor.
You can run a simple, one-author blog by taking advantage of the formatting and media tools. There’s also the option to build a full online magazine by scheduling posts far in advanced and setting multiple user types for contributors and editors. Along with options for previewing, editing everything in the post, and keeping code completely out of the equation, you really can’t beat WordPress.
See it in Action:
One advantage of the WordPress blogging platform is the permissions or user roles. Let’s say you run the site as an administrator. This means you have access to the files, all plugins, SEO, and security tools. You hire an editor and three writers to create content for the blog. The only problem is that you don’t want them messing with anything besides the blog posts.
Therefore, you can set the one person as an Editor role and the others as Contributors. The Editor can now edit and publish posts, while the Contributors can create posts but not publish them.
WordPress roles and permissions
We can also look at the blogging interface to see how powerful and well-organized it is. You can add media and change formatting with the click of a button. It lets you change the title and permalink at the top, and there are options for categories, tags, and readability. Revisions are displayed for going back and recovering past versions, and the Preview and Publish buttons are waiting for you until the very end.
The Visual view renders the HTML, similar to what the end users are going to see. You can also switch to the Text view, which reveals all your post content in HTML format.
WordPress HTML text view
10. Everyone is Doing It
So jump off the bridge with them! Okay, just because every else is doing something isn’t always the greatest reason to follow along. But WordPress has proven itself time and again, so the word has gotten out about its performance, expandability, and ease-of-use. There’s a reason why over 29.3% of all websites on the internet use WordPress.
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Patrick Coombe, a well-known SEO, asked a question for website owners and marketers on inbound.org: “If you could start your website over, what would you change?” Here’s what Larry Kim, the founder of WordStream, had to say:
WordPress vs Drupal
You can read more about the two platforms here: WordPress vs Drupal – Which One is Better? (Pros and Cons)
Clearly, WordPress is doing something right. You also don’t have to sacrifice much to test it out. As mentioned, the WordPress software is free, and most hosting companies have some sort of money back guarantee.
Most experienced WordPress users will praise the developers on their constant updates and improvements. What’s cool is that whenever an update is released there’s an informational page that outlines how the update will improve the WordPress experience.
See it in Action:
62% of the top 100 fastest growing companies in the US (Inc. 5000) use WordPress. – Nelio Software
WordPress has a full showcase of brands using WordPress, which includes everything from the Houston Zoo, the Obama Foundation, and even Toyota. Some other notables include The Tribune Media Group, jQuery, Plesk, The Chicago Sun-Times, Dyn, Nginx, TechCrunch, and many more. Check out this list of the top 130+ sites using WordPress.