Minimalist Web Design: Where Less is More

By Sandra D’Souza

Do you want to turn website visitors into prospects? Then pare down your web design into the bare essentials to keep them engaged.

Nothing flashy, keep it classy

In our fast-paced world, consumers can easily purchase clothing, mobile devices, holiday experience – just about anything – with a push of a button. The Internet and developments of technology have made laborious tasks easier to do.

Preparing for a birthday party?

There’s an app for that!

Of course, this has fed the mindset that everything can be done in an instant. This is especially relevant when it comes to consuming information on the web. Anything that requires effort to access can easily be tossed aside, in favour of something that can be understood at a moment’s glance. The average attention span of a website user lasts for only four seconds in a study done this year. In 2013, the average was six seconds. Therefore, the attention span of a web site visitor is becoming shorter by the year, which means you only have so much room to keep them coming back for more.

With this in mind, how can you capture the interest of your site visitors? The answer lies in having a simple design, which requires less effort to comprehend. Some well-known news sites and brands have realised this, and revamped their website design accordingly. Time, for instance, broke down its interface into defined columns, big pictures and clean lines so that users could get around faster. Others have followed suit, because a minimal layout will be more convenient for users browsing through their mobile devices. On the part of the designers, a minimalist approach enables them to achieve economy to provide room for internet ads. And of course, a simple layout speeds up loading time.

A minimal design has a limited color palette, and uses up to three fonts only. Implement this and your website will go easy on the vision of your visitors. Power this up with great content, and remove the troublesome add-ons and elements that make your site slower to load. An effective design should unveil your site in a matter of 2.5 to 3.0 seconds to target the attention of your visitors.

In addition to plain aesthetics, your website also needs to be user-friendly. Make sure that your visitors could easily glide from one page to the next. Create straightforward menus, and your “About Us” page should be easily visible. Never forget to prominently include your contact details if you require customers to contact you; and make it more interesting with unique details about your company or your staff. Keep the information up-to-date so that your audience is continually enticed with something new with each visit.

A simple web design doesn’t mean it has to be boring at all. There are different ways to roll out a minimalist layout. You could use one colour in varying shades; go for a flat-look style or a tiled format to present content. Add images and videos to add visual enhancements as long as they are not disruptive, or a hindrance to the user’s experience. For videos, avoid using Flash as this prevents them from working properly on mobile devices.


Simplicity always works

What if a minimalist design is all it takes to turn visitors into patrons? It might be time to get your website down to the bare essentials. A plain, straightforward layout ensures that your content iseasy to access on tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices. Having a layout such as this would pitch your business as attentive to the needs of its customers. This is essentially theprinciple of responsive design, which ensures that the elements of your site can be seen properly whether it is on a desktop monitor or a smartphone screen.

When your website sports a responsive design, the content and the information of your company would have a wider reach across a broader segment of the populace. It would also keep your business up to speed with customers who prefer to use mobile devices over their desktop computers for convenient browsing. You wouldn’t want to lose out on a potential market just because of an old-fashioned website. A responsive layout would not affect your content, and it would not be inferior in performance with proper implementation.

In addition to creating a responsive site, a clean, plain design would also help you to reducebounce rate; that is, the number of visitors that leave your website from the entry page without navigating to any other page. Naturally, web sites that are difficult to use and are slow to load would turn away potential customers. To address this, implement a usability testing to see how your page fares for user experience. You may also want to check on the load time of your site to ensure it opens smoothly.

With a minimal design, you would be able to expand the viewership of your site and cater to a wider market. Who knows, it may be the catalyst that could turn your visitors into brand advocates in the future. As the old saying goes, ‘sometimes less is more’.

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A Glance at This Year’s Top 10 Digital Marketing Highlights

By Sandra D’Souza

As 2014 comes to an end, we take a look at some of the major developments in the sphere of digital marketing. Here’s a rundown of the 10 digital marketing trends of the year.

Take a step back to move forward

Chambers inside medieval castles are often lined with metal sconces so that torches can light the way of the dark hallways and prevent people from stumbling. In the same manner, businesses need to look back at the beacons that lighted the way of digital marketing in 2014. This is especially important, as majority of various organisations plan to raise their budget for digital marketing by 17% in 2015. So how can we make the most out of our investment? We need to remain well-informed of the trends that emerged this year, so that we can improve on how we reach out and relate to our prospective customers.

Let’s take a look at the Top 10 trends that rocked the digital marketing landscape in 2014.

1. Responsive, multi-faceted marketing

To gain an edge in marketing, companies are learning more about their customers to offer the right products and/or services for their needs. This includes studying the behaviour of your website visitors to measure the likelihood that they can become your customers. It also entailspaying attention to the platforms that people use to learn more about your business. If your prospects spend more time on their mobile devices, then capitalise on that.

Of course, you will also want to retain your customers. Keep them coming back by setting up your site to be responsive to their needs in order to enrich their experience. For instance, Pinterestorients its new users by showing them high-profile members to follow so that they can immediately access attractive content.

2. Interactive screens

Thanks to touchscreen technology, you can make your advertising more attractive and responsive to your potential customers. In shopping malls for instance, retailers can employdigital out-of-home media with interactive screens to encourage people to interact with their business and purchase from them. Combined with Wi-Fi, you can use digital displays to lead people to check-in at your store in exchange for coupons. Or you can set up games on your interactive screen and invite people to play, with assorted goodies for prizes.

3. Experience design in digital marketing

To truly become attentive to their prospects, organisations are also implementing the tenets ofexperience design into their digital marketing. Through this, you can customise your interactionwith your prospects with the aid of attractive interfaces and responsive features in your website. For this to be achieved, you need to understand Big Data to learn more about your customers. An effective experience design will illicit powerful emotions in your prospects such that you can convert them to become your followers. For instance, Airbnb has achieved success in the design of its user experience by encouraging property owners to disclose the condition of their homes while assuring renters that they made the right choice.

4. Programmatic advertising

When it comes to advertising, the delivery of content is expected to become more personalisedas more people use mobile devices across the world. Digital advertising is even expected to trump over broadcast media as this allows users to access information at their own pace. Furthermore,programmatic advertising is allowing different organisations to buy and sell ads depending on the data available about their prospects. This will enable them to become more effective in the audience they are trying to reach, thus becoming more efficient in their strategy.

5. Widespread use of mobile in advertising

As mentioned above, the widespread use of mobile devices can power up digital advertising. Theproliferation of smartphones nowadays has redefined our interaction and decision-making processes, and this carries implications for marketers. Mobile devices can carry businesses through the “last mile in marketing” – the point where customers are closest in making the choice to purchase a product or a service. You can send out your messages through apps, social media or mobile messaging. However, you may be more successful at interacting with your audience through mobile messaging rather than mobile ads, because users can easily block the former on their device. On the contrary, mobile messaging can help you engage your prospects even offline.

6. Use of social media for revenues

For various brands, social media has proven to be effective in converting followers into customers. It offers a new way for companies to connect with their audience, and increase their sales pipeline eventually. Moreover, reviews left by users in the social media often influence others to make their purchase. The ability of social media to strengthen sales has led some social networks to make the most out of this trend. Twitter will roll out its “Buy” button for the holiday season. Meanwhile, part of Facebook’s updates to its privacy policies includes a “buy now” button that will allow users to purchase products without having to exit the social media platform. These changes may go live by January 1.

7. Marketing automation replacing traditional email marketing

Companies that aspire toward growth, or are experiencing growth spurts may find it hard to keep track with all their customers through regular email marketing. Oftentimes, the need to send email-blasts can be time-consuming, without any real assurance that these messages are contributing to sales. Through marketing automation, you can reach out to your prospects with minimal effort. In addition, the process can be tailor-made for each customer so that they will not be overwhelmed with useless information. For instance, Australian sleep therapy company ResMed has implemented a responsive email marketing platform known as Silverpop along with the upgrade of its customer relationship management platform to Salesforce. Together, these two help the company to learn the behaviour of their clients, and send them the appropriate email.

8. Combination of PR, SEO and social media for marketing campaigns

Smart marketing campaigns combine PR, SEO and social media to gain a wider reach. Through agood public relations strategy, your brand can be covered by media outlets, renowned writers and reliable websites. As a result, your business can climb higher in search engines such as Google. After all, “Google is like a mean girl in high school,” said Andy Crestodina at the Social Media Masters Summit of the Digital Megaphone. “Once you get everybody else to like you first, only then will the mean girl like you.” Aside from being mentioned in media outlets, PR can also be used to request influencers in the social media to spread your content. Doing so will take your content farther, and enable your business to reach new customers.

9. Storytelling gives a new face to advertising

Stories are increasingly re-shaping the game in advertising nowadays. To engage their audiences, brands are using storytelling to provide value to their customers, to show them what they can accomplish with this product. For engaging content, marketers are leveraging the impact of storytelling, according to the Nonprofit Content Marketing 2015: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America report. Google, for instance, touched the heartstrings of many with its“Parisian Love” ad where a young man sought for love in Paris through Google search. Aside from creating a relatable and compelling narrative, storytelling also includes sharing your plot across social media channels, and employing different tools to expand its reach. Visa scattered its“GoInSix” campaign across different social media channels, where it informs people that brands may only get 6.5 seconds of attention from a person. The company also encouraged influencers to share their six-second stories to increase engagement on its initiative.

10. Marketing to the senses for stronger impact

Aside from sight, brands are shaping their marketing strategies to appeal to the senses of taste, touch and smell to attract their customers. Those that have left a lasting impression on their audience are more likely to stay on top. Nowadays, this marketing strategy is accompanied bytechnology. For instance, the “Teleporter” from Marriott Hotel simulates the sights, sounds and feelings of a vacation in Hawaii or in London through the help of Oculus Rift technology.Meanwhile, the Fat Duck restaurant enhances the experience of eating its “Sound of Sea” dish by serving it up with an iPod that plays the sound of waves. This sensory approach to marketing is expected to be more effective, than the traditional method. “What you’re trying to do is buy time in people’s brains. The more time you have to spend in someone’s brain in a positive way, the more likely they are to buy your product,” said Sam Bompas, co-founder of Bompas and Parr, a company specialising in food art.

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What makes B2B content marketing effective?

By Sandra D’Souza

Business-to-business content marketing is more effective in organisations that document their strategy, the report of the Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs and Brightcove states. Content marketing is also more successful in organisations that supplement it with a structure, and allocate more funding for it.

2015 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs from Content Marketing Institute

Effective content marketing calls for a smarter approach

The changes afoot in the field of content marketing call for organisations to take a wiser approach when it comes to implementing their strategy for it to be effective. Content marketing used to refer to the creation and distribution of content to attract customers, but a recent change in its definition calls for the strategy to disseminate valuable, relevant and consistent content that would generate results – that is, to prompt customers to act and generate profit for the company. This development injects a results-driven orientation to the practice of content marketing, for it to become more fruitful in the future.

So what makes a content marketing strategy effective? About 35% of business-to-business marketers in the U.S. who rated themselves as efficient in content marketing reported that they documented their strategy, the survey of Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs and Brightcove found. On the other hand, 48% of B2B marketers said they have a content marketing method in place, but they do not have it down on paper. Aside from documentation, 62% of marketers who are deemed competent track their strategy “very closely”.

It only goes to show that B2B marketers need to write down their content marketing strategy and monitor its progress. How will they determine that their content is effective? How will they know whether it engages their target audience? They need to implement a system that documents the strategy and evaluates its performance. This includes being knowledgeable about metrics, tracking Return of Investment (ROI) and marketing automation.

As of the moment, 63% of marketers say they turn to website metrics to calculate the impact of content marketing. Other metrics used include Sales Lead Quality, SEO Ranking, Qualitative Feedback from Customers. . Less than 30% of the respondents employed other measures such as Benchmark Lift of Company Awareness, Customer renewal rates and cost savings. In terms of measuring ROI, only 21% of those surveyed said that they were successful in doing so. The need to measure the performance of the strategy is especially important as 70% of B2B organisations are creating more content as compared with the previous year.


Repurposing content, higher budget ramps up content marketing

To expand the reach of content, marketers employ different means for distribution. On average, organisations use 13 methods to repurpose content. About 62% of marketers report the use of infographics, up from 51% last year. The use of this tactic has soared the highest as compared to other means of distribution. When it comes to social media, LinkedIn is the most prevalent platform, and deemed the most effective for B2B marketers.

A connection has also been noticed between efficient marketers and the budget allocated to content marketing. On average, organisations designate 28% of the marketing budget for content marketing, but those that are competent set aside 37%. As you might expect, content marketing approaches seem to be more fruitful with more funding. Therefore, more than half of B2B marketers plan to raise their allocation for content marketing in the next 12 months.

B2B marketers that have documented their strategy appear to use more methods to repurpose content, as well as publish new content more frequently, than compared to those who stick to a verbal approach. It seems that tracking content marketing has enabled organisations to expand the means to distribute content and enhance its production to achieve efficiency. As compared to B2C marketers, B2B groups are also more inclined to write down their strategy. However, more B2C marketers are successful in tracking ROI, and use more means to repurpose content and social media platforms than B2B organisations.

Therefore, documentation and measuring ROI allow organisations to multiply the means to repurpose content and allow them to engage more clients. This helps them determine what works and what does not, and enable them to strategically allocate their resources for productive content marketing.

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Measuring ROI is Kraft Foods’ secret spice for effective content marketing

By Sandra D’Souza

Kraft Foods has been able to make content marketing work for its business by measuring its Return on Investment (ROI). By studying the response of its audience, the company tailors its marketing for them and achieves higher returns.

Measuring ROI streamlines marketing strategy

When buying a new house, you need to study the property carefully to ensure you make the most out of your investment. Assess the indoors and the outdoors, and every nook and cranny to check for repairs. A fixer upper may be cheap at first, but it may end up being more costly than a house that is already in mint condition.

Similarly, this mindset should be carried out in content marketing. To get the most out of your strategy, you need to study it carefully and its impact. Nowadays, almost every company on the market is creating content. This leads to a saturated pipeline, which can drive out your content from the view of your audience. People only have 24 hours in a day to process information, and they may not get to yours! Therefore, you need to study your audience carefully: find out what they want, and the best way to present it to them. Soon, your content will come out on top of the ladder.

One of the companies making gains from this process is Kraft Foods. The company has already been generating content for quite some time through its Food & Family magazine, but it has recently adopted a mindset that equated its content marketing as similar with paid advertising. The food manufacturer puts investment behind its content, to maintain high quality and reap profits in return. “If you wouldn’t spend money behind it, then why do it? It’s shouting into the wind without making a sound…” said Julie Fleischer, the company’s director of Data, Content and Media.

So how does Kraft ensure that its content marketing makes the most bang for its buck? It studieshow its audiences respond to its content. The company has combined its data and management platforms to study over 22,000 characteristics of people that have interacted with it on the web. And then, it uses this data to generate content that will specifically cater to the preferences of its prospects. Moreover, the company gleans new interests and trends from this information to shape its advertising accordingly. But Kraft does not stop there. It determines whether its strategy leads to an increase in sales, Fleischer said.  This approach has supplied an equivalent of 1.1 billion of advertising impressions for Kraft each year. Aside from this, the return of investment (ROI) from Kraft’s content marketing strategy is four times better than its traditional advertising scheme, she said.

Know the Ins and Outs of ROI, and boost your content marketing

Rarely does a one-size-fits-all approach work, but marketers and companies can learn lessons from the example set by Kraft. Measuring the ROI of content marketing has delivered gains for the company, and may serve others well in the future. So how do you get started with the process?

Well, you should recognize the need to measure ROI of your content marketing strategy. This entails gauging the performance of your content on digital and social media. You should measure it in terms of whether it brought in revenue or lessened costs. This will require testing your ideas, to know what works and what does not.

Now, how do you do this? First, you’ll need the numbers behind the content!

When using metrics, strive to understand the story behind them to see how they impact your business. Make use of key performance indicators that measure how your prospects engage with your content and the time it takes for them to make an action. You need to factor in all the costs associated with customer acquisition, which includes the expenses on advertising and sales staff, as well as on outsourced jobs, if there is any. Compute that against the number of people that have engaged on your website, and that’s how much you spend on your content marketing.

But of course, the process does not stop there. You also need to measure the number of the site visitors that become your customers. Otherwise, you won’t know whether your strategy has been effective. From there, you also need to gauge how your strategy provides new business for your company. This entails setting up a closed loop marketing system where the marketing and sales platforms share information about leads in order to turn them into loyal customers. For instance, leads that come through the HubSpot platform are then assigned to salespersons coming from Salesforce. In the end, this can become a win-win for both marketing and sales, as it enhances the efficiency of their respective jobs. If you go back to Kraft’s example, you can see that they have done the same thing.

In the midst of all of these, there is one thing you shouldn’t forget: the people you care about.These individuals do not only buy from you, but they are willing to share your content to others. You should nurture them throughout your strategy to bolster marketing for your business. Better yet, you may use their insights to create appealing content in your website and turn more prospects into customers.

Measuring the return on investment of your content marketing could enhance its potential to gain customers for your company and increase your business as a result. It may be challenging to do at first, but it will help you reap rewards in the long run.

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Why an ad-free, social media platform is too good to be true

By Sandra D’Souza

A new social media platform known as “Ello” has made waves on the internet on the promise of being ad-free.

A Social Media Platform just for you?

For many Facebook users, scrolling down their news feed can be a way to procrastinate or keep tabs on their friend’s lives. Some posts can make you laugh, while others simply pique your interest. As you scroll down the page, you chance upon articles on weight loss supplements, online sale of gadgets and similar others that you have not liked or followed. Do you find this annoying? Or do you simply ignore these ads and move along?

If these items are a nuisance to you, then you might find new social media channel Ellointeresting. The new entrant to the world of social media claims to shield users from beingbombarded with intrusive ads. Its manifesto states that advertisers pay social media networks to access profiles and user posts, and utilise these to push market their products and services. In essence, people that join social media networks are “the product that’s being bought and sold,” according to the Ello ‘About’ page.

This statement coupled with their ad-free promise of a social network has attracted thousands to flock to the new platform. As of Sept. 9, Ello received 34,000 requests to join every hour. However, the membership on the newest social media network is by invitation only, and those who are already registered can only add up to five friends.  You can request an invitation on the site, but itmay take weeks before you secure an approval.

Paul Budnitz, the CEO of Ello, created the social media site for his own circle of friends. The clutter made by advertisements prevented Budnitz from seeing the posts of his friends, thus he built an alternative. Soon enough, the site gained traction and was made available to 90 users by Aug. 7. Now Ello is seeing thousands of requests each day. However, the surge in applicants to the site may be fueled by the fear of missing out on a new trend.

Aside from its strong stance against ads, Ello also does not track your location, and it allows you to use pseudonyms on your own account. Recently, Facebook’s  “real name policy” inspired backlash from many. This news made Ello a better substitute for Facebook, even if the social media behemoth has since then changed its policy and offered an apology for those affected. Nevertheless, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg doesn’t appear to be concerned much about Ello. “I haven’t seen the site. Ever since I’ve been at Facebook, I see things all the time which are like, ‘My Mom’s getting on Facebook, I’m getting off’…What really matters is that people get the best product. And they get that by a company being very focused.”

Following its skyrocketing debut, pundits have been  doubtful whether this new social media platform will fare well.  Its stance on being ad-free could run out of steam, since it received$435,000 in seed funding from FreshTracks Capital in Vermont. This relationship may soon compel the company to look for avenues of profit, and compromise its manifesto eventually.  Budnitz, however, said that they still own the majority stake in Ello, and they plan to rake in profits by offering users to purchase additional features and customise their experience.

Ads are starting to creep up in other social media platforms

The revolutionary stance of Ello on ads seems so promising; it might inspire a new trend across other social media channels. This might be too optimistic though, with the advent of advertising on previously ad-free platforms. First off is Instagram. Users in Australia will soon notice ads from partners of the photo-sharing company under the roll-out of its advertising platform. Instagram has teamed up with brands like Kraft, Ben & Jerry’s Vegemite, Audi, Lenovo and others. Concerned users, however, can hide and provide feedback on the ads that they see in their feeds. Chris Chambers, digital marketing director of Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ), said the partnership with the photo-sharing platform will allow them to share the beauty of spending the holidays in Queensland. Meanwhile, the proliferation of ads on the site will enable Instagram to expand its business.

Another social media platform that will soon roll out ads is Snapchat, said CEO and co-founder Evan Spiegel. The Stories feature that hosts photos and videos for 24 hours only would soon be the venue for advertising. Aside from this, the company will also release a stand-alone app of Stories known as Snapchat Discovery, which would also serve the same purpose. The proliferation of ads at the company worth $10 billion will allow it to generate revenue and address the demands of its investors. Spiegel said users would still be in control of whether they want to see the ads or not. For marketers, the move offers new opportunities, but given the self-destruct feature of posts, it is uncertain whether they will be able to conduct further verification on effectiveness.

Social media as tools for marketing and commerce seems to be the future.  What were once ad-free platforms are changing their stance. Facebook and Twitter are soon launching a “buy” button on their respective websites to capitalise on the upcoming holiday season. The plan builds on the notion that people purchase products and services based on the reviews and recommendations given by their friends on social media. To be successful, ads should be targeted to the right person to ensure that they would be encouraged to use the button.

An ad-free social media platform comes at a price

Advertising seems to be a permanent fixture in the realm of social media, since it would be the only way for these sites to last for a long time. Therefore, Ello may need to be tested if it stays true on its manifesto.

But, if you really want to stay from ads, you can do it. You just need to cough up $9,000 to join theNetropolitan Club. The site bills itself as a network for “people with more money than time.” Netropolitan offers an ad-free refuge for those who can afford it, and the site is not indexed toGoogle. In addition to the $9,000 initiation fee, you also need to pay $3,000 yearly under your membership. Users would be able to gain access to a platform that is similar to other free social media networks, but they would get to connect with other wealthy members and discuss luxurious endeavors in discussion forums without condemnation. Moreover, members would also have an unlimited cloud storage drive. The site, however, is not a concierge service, so users should not expect that moderators would get them a seat at a charter jet or any other favours.

Therefore, evading ads on social media comes at a high cost. It is not yet known whether Ello can be a truly advertising-free environment for the long term.  If you want to be bothered less, you can also simply ignore the ads in your feed, writes Metro’s Jessica Napier. Like an old adage says, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” Ads will be prevalent, whether in social media or not, but it is still your call whether you’d be affected by them. Or if you really don’t like them, you may just have to find a way to get that Ello invitation – or spend over $9,000, so you better start saving!

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