DistroTV announces Spanish-language ad-supported free streaming bundle


Independent free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) platform DistroTV announced a new Spanish-language bundle, DistroTV Espanol. The free-to-stream package includes over 20 Spanish-speaking channels, available to audiences in the U.S., as well as in Latin America.

The new bundle includes movie channels that show films either produced in Spanish or dubbed, among them award-winners and independent features. Additionally there are Entertainment and Lifestyle channels, as well as the Euronews Espanol channel for news and opinion.

Read more: 2022 Predictions: CTV and cross-channel advertising

By breaking into Latin America, DistroTV is making it easier for audiences to see many shows that are produced in their country but weren’t available through free ad-supported channels. For U.S. audiences, they will be able to access programming not available through other OTT services.

Why we care. The growth of free, ad-supported streaming TV depends on the kind of programming and, of course, the audience.

A recent study we reported on suggested that U.S. consumers might be leveling off in their appetite for ad-supported streaming. But still, about three quarters of the public are interested. This is a massive audience for advertisers that want to run ads on streaming.

And as the expansion of DistroTV shows, there are many flavors of ad-supported streaming. It’s one thing to choose an ad-free version of HBO Max over the one with ads, when your intent is to watch widely-distributed feature films uninterrupted. But for Spanish-speaking news and lifestyle programming you can’t get elsewhere or don’t wish to pay for, ads might be more readily accepted as part of the value exchange.


About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country's first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on "innovation theater" at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.



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How restaurants are innovating with digital loyalty programs


Digital sales have more than tripled for restaurants since the start of the pandemic, says Paytronix’s Annual Order & Delivery Report. Other research mirrors these findings, suggesting that digital is increasingly a differentiator for restaurants. According to the Restaurant Readiness Index, restaurants now generate around 40% of their total sales by selling to customers online, via a mobile app, using third-party aggregators, or via other digital ordering options.

But this isn’t the only way that restaurants can compete for the attention of digital customers. The RR Index also found that 16.1% of restaurant customers would be more inclined to order from restaurants that offer loyalty and rewards features, making this the most-desired digital feature. What’s more, 16.7% also said that loyalty or rewards programs would be the one feature that would encourage them to spend more at any given restaurant.

So, how are restaurants tapping into this opportunity?

Digital rewards are driving higher frequency and spend among digital customers

A small number of quick-service restaurants offered digital loyalty schemes before the pandemic, such as Starbucks and Chipotle, but the pandemic has spurred many more to do so.

McDonald’s is the latest to bet on digital loyalty, with the fast food chain now piloting its MyMcDonald’s Rewards program in the UK. It has launched in 10 restaurants in England, with plans to add 65 before the end of January, and roll out nationwide by the end of this year. Customers can access the scheme via the MyMcDonalds app, and earn points which can eventually be redeemed for menu items. 

Chris Kempczinski, President and CEO, explained in McDonald’s Q3 2021 earnings call how the scheme has already generated success for the fast food chain. “It also creates another touch point to increase engagement and take our relationship with customers to more responsive, more personalised places,” he said. “We’re already seeing increased customer satisfaction and higher frequency among digital customers, compared to non-digital.” According to McDonald’s, the scheme – which is already active in the US, Canada, and Germany – already has more than than 21 million enrolled customers. 

Chipotle is another restaurant that has seen huge success from its digital loyalty program, which CEO Brian Niccol says now has more than 23 million members, and is “consistently able to generate more transactions from light, medium and high frequency users.” Chipotle also says that its digital loyalty members represent around 25% of its total customer base, making it a big driver for overall sales. 

Similarly, Taco Bell’s Rewards program continues to drive digital sales. Speaking in the company’s Q2 2021 earnings call, CEO David Gibbs said that it has resulted in an uptick in frequency and higher spend per visit, resulting in a 35% increase of overall spend for active customers compared to their pre-loyalty behaviour.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, loyalty also turned into a lifeline for some, with Starbucks’ digital scheme helping the company to recover from a difficult 2020. The company added over one million active Starbucks Rewards members in Q3 2021, with over 24 million active members representing 51% of all spend in US Starbucks stores. CEO Kevin Johnson stated that it is “very clear that our Rewards program has accelerated our recovery in a meaningful way.”

Customer experience in 2022: What do the experts predict?

Engaging customers through deeper personalisation

Digital loyalty schemes aren’t only about driving top line sales, of course. Restaurants want data, in turn using it to create personalised experiences that deepen engagement with loyal customers. This is particularly important given the amount of choice within the quick-service market, and the fact that customers are likely to be loyal to more than one restaurant. According to PYMNTS’ ‘Digital Divide: Mind The Loyalty Gap’ report, 64% of customers who use loyalty programs do so at multiple restaurants from which they frequently purchase.

So how are restaurants using this data? Interestingly, with many also working to enhance the drive-thru experience – for example, using automation to make ordering faster – another related trend is restaurants incorporating data from digital loyalty programs to personalise the experience. One example of this comes from Burger King, which last year began testing Bluetooth technology to identify members of its Royal Perks program at the drive thru, and showing their previous or recommended orders on digital signage boards. The idea is that customers are likely to have a favourite or regular order, so automatically delivering this option creates a more tailored and convenient experience.

Panera Bread is also working on automatic identification, integrating into its ‘Next Gen’ bakery store which opened late in 2021. The store, which is designed to offer a seamless experience for both dine-in and dine-out customers, automatically identifies loyalty members in both the drive thru and when entering the store. Speaking to CNBC, chief brand and concept officer, Edward Luz, explains that “Once you are identified, the vision is that we interact and acknowledge and treat you as a person, with preferences. It’s what you expect when you go to a neighbourhood cafe.”

In some ways, this also aims to offset the ‘contactless’ technology that restaurants are also using, which can often feel rather impersonal. Panera’s store aims to offer a personalised experience, one that recognises the individual rather than a faceless customer, even if the customer in question chooses to order via a digital kiosk. This also aligns with the rising consumer demand for multi-channel, acknowledging that even digital customers are not exclusively digital (and vice versa), and that long-term loyalty more likely stems from meeting customers wherever they are.

Going beyond transactions to drive emotional loyalty

Alongside personalisation, restaurants are also integrating gamification into digital loyalty programs, which can help to incentivise the customer to continue being active.

Starbucks Rewards members have been able to play games such as Starland (celebrating the company’s 50th anniversary) and the Starbucks Summer Game for a chance to win either badges in-game, prizes, coupons or raffle tickets.

Chipotle does too this with its ‘Extras’ feature, enabling customers to unlock rewards faster and more often, rather than having to wait and earn them via transactions. Last June, it also launched the ‘Chipotle Race to Rewards’ video game – available for just 48 hours – which challenged users to compete for points, with the top player winning a 2021 Tesla Model 3 and other high ranking players winning an electric bike.

Alongside short-term, high-impact activations like this, Chipotle’s Rewards program also allows members to redeem points in support of the company’s charity partners, including the Farmlink Project, as well as a range of additional menu items and Chipotle branded merchandise. 

Altogether, with competition in the space increasing, there appears to be increasing recognition of the importance of driving emotional and experience-based loyalty in customers rather than basic, transaction-driven loyalty, with restaurants becoming increasingly creative in how they do so. 

Again, this often boils down to personalisation, with restaurants using data to target and engage customers in meaningful ways. Another good example of this is Dunkin Donuts and its ‘Year in Review’ emails, which it sends to DDPerks members based on their yearly purchases and activity. Similar to Spotify’s campaign, this email helps to build a story around the individual customer instilling the sense that they are valued by the brand, which in turn, fosters continued loyalty.

Data & analytics in 2022: What do the experts predict?



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Best Auto Dialer Software


PhoneBurner interface for Best Auto Dialer Software

Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.

Want to jump right to the point? Nextiva is my top pick for the best auto dialer software.

You’re making a lot of calls, but leads aren’t converting and agents are losing track of conversations.

These are just two of the problems that businesses solve with good auto dialer software. It automates thousands of repetitive manual tasks—not just dialing—and optimizes the experience of everyone involved.

Agents can focus totally on customers. Managers get real-time KPIs at a glance. Customers never get another 2 a.m. phone call.

What I’m saying is: everyone loves these products. 

Here are the top seven auto dialer software options on the market. They’re helping companies revolutionize outreach and connect agents with a more high-quality leads per hour. 

Which one is right for you? Let’s find out.

#1 – Nextiva Review — The Best for Calling Quickly Within Your CRM

I like a good auto dialer, but I love my CRM more.

And while many auto dialers can integrate with my CRM (and others just have their own built-in), I prefer the approach Nextiva takes to make outbound calling more efficient.

Other auto dialers don’t seem to sync as cleanly as Nextiva One does with HubSpot, Zendesk, Salesforce, and all the other big names in CRM space. And, though Nextiva doesn’t offer a true auto dialer with their VoIP communications platform, integration with any CRM unlocks super useful one-click calling.

So, instead of an program churning through a list for reps, you can use the segmented lists in your CRM, share those with reps, and they can just click the phone icon next to each contact to immediately initiate a call in Nextiva.

You can even do the same when searching your whole contact list. Search for any qualification, segment, or demographic split and then dial away one click at a time.

Nextiva’s telephony syncs with your CRM through Go Integrator, which is why it’s so easy to use one tool in the other. Not only do you insert one-click Nextiva calling into your CRM, but it enhances Nextiva’s call and contact pop as well. Reps get a quicker view of each contact they’re calling and get that same benefit with inbound calls as well.

So, although not a true auto dialer, Nextiva’s one-click calling still massively streamlines your efforts and improves your reps’ output—especially if you’ve already been doing the smart work of segmenting your CRM contacts into multiple grouping lists.

This all comes as part of Nextiva One, the company’s all-encompassing VoIP solution. I love that you can get this benefit while also improving your overall communications through Nextiva’s voice and video calling, texting, team messaging, and faxing.

To properly wield Nextiva’s CRM integration, you’ll need either the Professional or Enterprise plan which are both currently on sale for a limited time.

The former allows for syncing with the big names in CRM: HubSpot, Salesforce, and Zendesk. If you’re using Oracle Sales Cloud, ServiceNow, or others, go for the latter. There’s only $10 difference between the plans, which both scale based on number of users.

Professional starts at $21.95 per user per month for a team of 100 or more. Fewer users raise that rate a bit, up to $27.95 per user per month for a tiny team of up to four users.

If you’re like me and your CRM is the beating heart of your sales efforts, go with the VoIP solution that brings out the best in your CRM and your reps—go with Nextiva.

#2 – PhoneBurner Review — The Best If Your Sales Team Isn’t In An Office

PhoneBurner interface for Best Auto Dialer Software

Need an auto dialer that works whether people are in the office or not? PhoneBurner should be one of the first tools you check out.

There’s no special equipment necessary. Employees can log into the dialing platform from their browser or call in from their phone. From there, they can start to make 60-80 calls per hour. All the wasted time from manual dialing is gone.

There is no lag in the calls between when a person answers and your reps start talking. It’s not like someone knows they’re receiving a call from an auto dialer, which does a lot to help first impressions. Get the call-quality you’d expect from an office landline anywhere you call from.

Using the PhoneBurner interface is stupid simple. Critical information is prominently displayed, and any action a rep needs to take has been streamlined. With one click, they can drop a voicemail, log a call, send an email follow-up, and more.

There’s a lot you can do to automate workflows in PhoneBurner, but no code to worry about. Everything is handled with clicks. Move prospects automatically from one group to another based on whether an agent reaches them, gets a busy signal, or hits a fax machine.

That’s just one small example, but sorts of post-call busy work can be completely eliminated. Now it will take some setup. But once all of your configurations and phone scripts are ready, they can be shared easily in PhoneBurner.

These collaborative features become really important when employees aren’t always in the office. Admins can add seats that are perfectly tuned for new employees with the click of a button.

Managing a high-volume of calls in PhoneBurner’s LeadStream platform is no problem for supervisors. This is crucial considering a small team will be making several hundred calls an hour.

Select from distribution types like depending on the nature of the calling. Do you want to divide up leads evenly or make sure your most experienced agents are getting the hottest leads?

There’s no need to be in an office to make sure that every lead is getting the attention it deserves.

Every call is tracked in PhoneBurner’s built-in CRM. It’s easy to stay organized, monitor agent performance, and manage contact lists. Alternatively, you can connect PhoneBurner to your own CRM. There’s a direct integration with Salesforce, and connections via Zapier to hundreds of other apps.

For my part, I think of PhoneBurner as a suite of best-in-breed outreach tools. Reps love to use it because the platform has been trimmed down to the essential features. There’s no clutter, and every feature available does exactly what it needs to.

Sending an email or text followup is one click. And unlike many other platforms, reps will be able to tell which emails have been opened. Work those metrics into your calling lists to hit contacts that are showing interest.

PhoneBurner is an all-in platform. You’re not paying extra for per-minute charges. There are simply no hidden fees. Admin accounts are free unless they want to dial.

Pricing starts at $124 per user per month for a yearly subscription or $149 monthly for the Standard plan.

PhoneBurner pricing page for Best Auto Dialer Software

There’s no set up cost, which is remarkable because PhoneBurner will onboard your team. By onboard, I mean they will help train your admins and agents. This includes understanding how to configure and use the platform to reach your business goals.

The company works with you to make sure that you are getting the most out of the auto dialer software. This includes team training and guidance building your first reports.

PhoneBurner insists that you use the free trial to get acquainted with the platform and see what it can do. Your trial can be as many users as you need to get an actual feel for how it will perform.

If you are in the market for an all-in-one auto dialer solution that helps your team perform at the top of their game, no matter where they are, this is a great option.

Try PhoneBurner today for free, no credit card required.

#3 – RingCentral Engage Voice Review — The Best for Fearless Nationwide Telemarketing

RingCentral Engage splash page for Best Auto Dialer Software

Anyone who reads my blog knows I’m all about growing your business as fast as possible. 

If you are working auto dialer software into a go-big game plan, I support you and highly recommend RingCentral Engage Voice.

No other option is going to reduce your risk of regulatory violations, which is important if you are looking to hit the telemarketing game hard.

Cast a wide net. Hit a super-diverse audience. But do it carefully, respectfully, and most of all, legally. 

Something as simple as calling a cell phone that hasn’t opted into a campaign could result in a fine. Or maybe a new rep forgets to read a mandatory disclaimer before ending a call. A single violation can be thousands of dollars—a string of them is a lot worse.

RingCentral Engage Voice is an auto dialer that’s been designed for safe outreach on a large scale. 

There are easy-to-use tools for scrubbing your lists of numbers on national and state cellular Do Not Call lists. RingCentral can also run a time check to ensure that people aren’t called outside of authorized time windows.

These hands-off features help you stay compliant without taking a hit to productivity.

One of the key elements is the TCPA Dialer, which is purpose-built for keeping your callers compliant. It’s a separate manual system that fits into your auto dialer work flow. It adds the minimum number of steps to get around the restrictions against calling cell phone numbers with an auto dialer.

The powerful scripting features included with RingCentral Engage Voice help you craft call scripts that are effective and compliant. Customize scripts for every situation, then quickly revise and update them whenever you need to within a simple drag-and-drop builder.

Lots of other “safe” dialing solutions are really cumbersome. RingCentral has streamlined everything so your teams can focus on conversations instead of compliance.

You can also create guided workflows that help new hires learn the ropes. Make it as easy as possible for them to remember mandatory disclaimers, consent to record, and all that annoying but super important boilerplate.

It has basically everything but an attorney to keep you in the clear. Supervisors have a complete view of what’s happening. They will have robust real-time and historic reports, as well as the ability to drill down into individual performance.

You’ll have to get in touch with RingCentral for Engage Voice’s pricing. One of the sales team members will put together a custom package that includes all the tools you need. 

RingCentral connects to hundreds of popular tools: dozens of CRMs, marketing automation software, merchant services, and more. No matter what other channels you are using to increase your reach, you’ll be able to keep everything centralized.

Some companies work off highly curated lists of corporate clients. They probably don’t need the advanced compliance features as much. 

But if you are looking to reach out on a grand scale, you want an auto dialer that’s built to match. RingCentral offers the complete arsenal of tools to ensure that your newest rep has everything they need to start having courteous conversations on day one.

#4 – VanillaSoft Review — The Best For Managing a Long Sales Cycle

VanillaSoft interface for Best Auto Dialer Software

Not everyone needs an auto dialer simply to reach more leads. For some, the real benefit lies in staying connected with prospects over months (if not years) and never once missing a follow up call.

VanillaSoft is a great option for people who have to navigate these long, complex customer journeys. 

The auto dialer is supported by lead tracking and routing capabilities that put people on the phone with the person they need to talk to next. Leads are tracked, scored, and prioritized according to rules you set.

And you’re going to have a lot of control. Intellective Routing allows you to be really granular with how leads are managed. Prioritize based on job title, company revenue, or use geolocation data to get leads to reps based in that territory.

VanillaSoft makes it as easy as possible to keep track of everything you learn about potential buyers. 

You can create custom fields, which let reps track whatever metrics and information are actually important. Reps are prompted to collect data at the right time, so you’re not making people remember more.

It’s barely any extra work, but it ensures you’re capturing all the relevant information and getting higher quality data. Your reporting will improve tremendously.

Another helpful feature is the Corporate View, which lets you keep track of multiple people at the same organization. 

This helps reps keep things straight dealing with different points of contact. They’ll be able to see the whole conversation, not just one voice, and you can set it up so all calls from a company get routed automatically to the same rep.

It’s rarely a straight path to reaching the decision maker, and it may be the case that influencing people in their orbit winds up being more important.

Appointment setting couldn’t be easier. You can tell VanillaSoft was designed with input from busy sales reps. Little things like having calendar items displayed in the contact’s local time help minimize errors. 

No more double booking, or accidentally scheduling a demo outside business hours for your first international prospect.

With one click, you can set up automated text and reminders sent to prospects once you get something on the schedule. It also gives your prospect more channels to get in touch when they are ready to take the next step.

VanillaSoft pricing is very straightforward. Start with the base sales engagement platform, and add on the features you need: dialing, recording, VoIP, and SmartCaller ID.

VanillaSoft pricing for Best Auto Dialer Software

If you purchase all of these services through VanillaSoft, the total price will come in on the high end. But if you already have a business phone service or VoIP set up, Vanilla soft will plug into that just fine, and the price drops to the lower middle of the pack.

A company that only needed the base platform plus auto dialer would be looking at $110 per month per user to start, which is an exceptional price on a premium product.

I highly recommend VanillaSoft to companies that don’t have a CRM they are in love with. The sales engagement platform is worth every penny. You’ll be able to track and nurture leads with high levels of control and visibility. 

It also works very well for people using Salesforce, as VanillaSoft offers direct integration.

You can also use Zapier to connect VanillaSoft to other CRMs and business applications to automate data transfer. It may take some doing to set everything up, but it’s very worth it in the long run to be able to manage a massive number of leads at different stages of the buying journey.

If you are looking for an auto dialer that helps you stay in touch over the course of a long and productive relationship, VanillaSoft is the best tool for the job. Try VanillaSoft for up to 6 users for free for 14 days or 2,000 calls.

#5 – Voicent Cloud Review — The Best Pay-As-You-Go Auto Dialer

Voicent Cloud main splash page for Best Auto Dialer Software

Paying hundreds of dollars a month of auto dialer software doesn’t pencil out for everyone. Some companies need the ability for massive outreach a few times a week or seasonally. 

Voicent Cloud gives companies that don’t use auto dialers all day everyday a cost-effective option to pay for exactly what they need.

At an exceptionally low starting cost of $19 for a single user each month, Voicent Cloud includes a CRM, 2 voice channels per user, and every mode of auto dialer on the market.

It’s everything you need to supercharge your outreach. Call more people per hour and track every lead within the intuitive CRM. Use the auto dialer to make tons of connections, the progressive dialer to work through lists, and the preview dialer to follow up with customers.

You can add on virtually any other feature you need à la carte, but you don’t need to purchase an expensive package just to get the powerful calling features. Pay for exactly what you need, and nothing you don’t.

Now you don’t get unlimited calling—there are a few different plans to pay as you go—but for teams that aren’t using an auto dialer day in day out, the savings can be pretty substantial compared to other options.

For such an affordable plan, you might think that you’d be on your own in terms of support. However, Voicent actually includes a dedicated account rep with every plan they offer. 

You’ll have a point person at the company, the ability to open support tickets 24/7, and even the ability to file urgent support tickets, which are usually answered within a few minutes.

All of this for the starting price of $19 per month.

Voicent Cloud pricing for Best Auto Dialer Software

If you only want to sign up month-to-month, it’s $29 per user with no long term commitment.

As I mentioned, your total cost will be the plan plus usage fees. For a true pay-as-you-go plan, the cost is 4¢ per minute. Alternatively, you can purchase 1.5¢, 2¢, and 3¢ per minute plans, which include several thousand minutes per month and lower your per-minute costs.

If you have consistently high call volumes, Voicent Cloud could wind up being way more expensive than one of the unlimited calling plans. But for the company that doesn’t isn’t always auto dialing, this can be much more cost-effective.

Another option is to purchase Voicent’s on-premise auto dialer software. This is a one-time purchase, but it only comes with full support for a year.

I recommend the cloud-based options for most users, but the on-premise software could be more cost-effective for buyers with a strong in-house IT department.

Shortlist Voicent Cloud if you are in the market for an auto dialer instead of an all-in-one platform. Take control and only pay for what you need.

Voicent Cloud will let you try their service free for 30 days. Get in touch to see how little you need to spend to get started.

#6 – Mojo Review — The Best for Cold Calling The Most Numbers Per Hour

Mojo main splash page for Best Auto Dialer Software

If cold calling is a big part of your sales process, nothing on the planet will get you through more numbers as fast as Mojo Dialer.

You can choose a single line dialer (80 calls per hour) or go with the triple line dialer (up to 300 calls per hour). 

It almost seems like too much, but Mojo has taken several important steps to ensure that calling remains productive at such high volumes.

For one thing, you can throttle the speed of calls with the triple line dialer. Match the pace with the type of prospecting you are doing to work through a list as fast or carefully as you need to.

Another key factor is that all calls are made across Mojo’s copper wire technology, so you are getting crystal clear communication. Customers probably think you’re calling from a landline because the quality is so good and there’s never any awkward telemarketer delay when they pick up.

This remains true even if you’re calling from the Mojo app, which works just as well on cell phones and tablets as it does on a desktop.

If you think 300 calls per hour is stretching the bounds of reality, let me tell you this. Mojo power users have been known to use two triple-line dialers at the same time. They wear two headsets with one speaker in each ear and hit the phones like nobody’s business.

It’s not for everyone, but just be aware that Mojo has the power to let one person make five to six hundred calls in a single hour.

Mojo was originally built to help real estate agents, but all the sector-specific parts of the product are extras. You can just get the ultra-powerful auto dialer and lead management tools that are going to work fine regardless of your line of business.

It’s got more than 500 integrations via Zapier and incredibly easy to import your lists to the lead manager. You’re not going to have much trouble pushing or pulling your information from Mojo.

One of the reasons I like Mojo so much is that you’re set up for everything after the cold call. It’s easy to track leads and move them through the later stages of the relationship. Mojo has the power, but also the finesse to let you set appointments, categorize leads, send customizable Q&A forms, and more.

Mojo pricing breaks down differently if you are a single user or a team. For the single user, a single line dialer costs $99 per month, and a triple line dialer costs $149.

There are zero hidden fees or extra charges. This is an all-in price. There are some extra lead generation services aimed at real estate, which I can’t speak to, but they are optional.

For teams, the pricing breaks down a little differently.

Mojo pricing for Best Auto Dialer Software

Each user pays $10 for the lead management platform, and then purchases the number of lines they want. It’s very straight forward, and there is nothing else you need to buy in order to start calling.

I like the pricing structure because you can set up each agent with the dialer that makes sense. Can a new hire handle the triple-line? Start them off on the single line and upgrade when they’re ready.

If you are looking for a no-hassle way to start making more calls, I highly recommend taking a close look at Mojo today.

#7 – Kixie Review — The Fastest Way to Respond to Inbound Leads

Kixie main splash page for Best Auto Dialer Software

Kixie can turn leads from your website into conversations within minutes. 

Say someone fills out a form on your website. They want to know a little bit more about your product, but they’re just browsing the best options according to Google, putting out the feelers, thinking about lunch, and then their phone rings.

It’s one of your sales development reps, ready to learn more about why they are interested in your company.

This is a great way to start a productive conversation. Your rep is speaking with someone who’s actively engaged. Potential customers have real questions in their mind about how you might be able to help their business. They’re not trying to think back through the hundreds of options they skimmed last week.

Behind the scenes, Kixie’s auto dialer and lead routing tools have put this conversation together. Your employee is simply calling the next best number because Kixie routes new leads from your website to the front of the call queue.

Kixie lets you reach inbound leads with the efficiency of an auto dialer. You can skip the steps it normally takes to turn online visitors into a prospecting list because it’s already done.

Expand your reach on social media and meet your potential clients where they spend their time. When they are ready to learn more, you can make that human-to-human connection at the exact right time.

This is a platform reps love to use. They’re going to have better conversations and all the tools they need to stay organized and efficient.

Account executives, too, will enjoy the clean dashboards for keeping track of how their reps are doing. There’s live call coaching features, to improve training and quality control.

It’s like a call center for a sales team—you get all the core inbound/outbound functions, but it’s not freighted with additional tools they don’t need. The interface is clean, easy to navigate, and plugs right into many of the most popular CRM software.

Kixie has one-click integrations with Salesforce, Hubspot, Pipedrive, Zoho, and more. There’s also integrations with Slack, Zapier, and Mailchimp, to further extend the reach of your auto dialer.

It’s going to take a little set up to get everything working just right for your dream sales workflow, but the integrations are going to minimize the basic legwork a lot.

Kixie offers three plans at quarterly and yearly rates:

Kixie pricing for Best Auto Dialer Software

I highly recommend the Professional plan because it comes with the key features you need to sync your auto dialer with your inbound marketing. If you want to capitalize on website visitors, this is what you need.

The Integrated plan is a low-cost way to add auto dialer power to your CRM. I’d consider it if you’re wasting time trying to call out of your CRM. It’s the perfect tool for giving your reps a more efficient, enjoyable calling experience.

These prices are not all-in. You can opt for a per-minute plan or unlimited calling plan. To get exact pricing, you’ll have to get in touch with Kixie, but the company recommends that anyone who’s making more than an hour’s worth of calls a day should just get an unlimited plan.

Texting is also an additional charge ($0.007 per text or $7 per 1,000). Bear in mind that texting is often an additional charge, even with some of the “all-in” platforms.

And don’t forget, Kixie’s base price is less than half of what other premium auto dialers cost. I don’t think it cuts any corners. Kixie is just as good at helping reps manage leads and connect across multiple channels.

If you have put time in trying to draw people to your business, Kixie is the best way to bridge the gap between timid and active interest. Put a rep on the phone moments after someone’s curiosity has been piqued.

Strike while the iron is hot. Call Kixie today for a seven-day free trial.

What I Looked at To Find the Best Auto Dialer Software

All auto dialer software options available today attempt to accomplish the same thing: call from a list of numbers in a preset list.

Where your decision becomes crucial is in thinking about how that software can help your agents handle the flood of dozens of calls per hour.

Good software will help your team manage contact lists, store information, and better track leads as they move through your pipeline.

That last part also relies on being able to maximize the conversations your agents are having with leads on your call lists.

Ideally, too, it will make it easy to onboard your reps and get them familiar with the platform.

That’s what separates good auto dialers from the one that fits your operations like a glove. If it makes it easy on your team to wield all of its capabilities, then it’s an investment worth buying into.

Here are the main factors you should be using to assess your choices.

Flawless Integration With Your Customer Records

Before you fall in love with any auto dialer software, you need to make 100% certain that it will sync perfectly with your customer relationship management (CRM) software

This is a must, as far as I’m concerned. Most auto dialers have a decent list of integrations with popular CRM software. You should be able to find several auto dialer options that will plug right in.

Now your agents can start dialing simply by clicking on a contact in their CRM screen. Call notes, recordings, customer statuses—everything is stored perfectly, with no extra work.

This is ultra-important when your reps are trying to field upwards of 60 calls an hour. An autodialer won’t even break a sweat, but are your employees prepared for 20-30 productive conversations?

CRM integration means that reps get up-to-date accurate information about who they are talking with. No digging necessary.

Virtually all the second-order benefits of an auto dialer are tied to your CRM integration. Leaving contact notes, grooming lists, prioritizing leads—none of that is possible unless your auto dialer is integrated with your CRM. 

Or, it’s only possible through time-consuming data entry and repetitive manual tasks. That is to say, you will wind up doing exactly the type of stuff you are getting an autodialer to avoid.

Best case scenario, there’s a direct one-click integration. It’s ready to go off the shelf. I would definitely shortlist the products that have direct integration with your CRM. 

Next best case would be integration via Zapier or APIs. Even if that’s in your wheelhouse, it’s going to be more work with more that could go wrong.

If you aren’t using CRM software, be sure your auto dialer works with whatever you use for organizing your current clients and future opportunities, like Google Calendar, Outlook, Airtable, and so on.

You might also consider choosing one of the auto dialer options that has a built-in CRM. With the exception of RingCentral Engage Voice, every option on my list comes with a platform dedicated to helping you manage customer relationships at scale. 

One last thing—test the quality of the integration before committing. Demo the product, take a free trial. Ensure that it has tight and predictable integration in order to get the most out of your auto dialer software.

People Can Basically Train Themselves

The auto dialer interface has to be intuitive and self-explanatory. Supervisors can’t be taking time to help new hires perform the basic day-to-day functions. 

Remote workers need to be able to teach themselves how to use and troubleshoot the platform.

This is kind of a subjective area, but there are a few ways to figure out how easy it’s going to be to start using different auto dialers.

During your free trial or demo, I’d pay attention to how your less technically confident team members fare with the new system. Are they able to get the help they need from the online knowledge base provided by the company? 

Can they get in touch with customer support if they need it?

One metric that you can measure is the number of actions that can be accomplished with a single click. Some of the most important actions include:

This last action, leaving a voicemail with a single click is adored by users. They are not waiting 4-5 rings and then listening to an answering machine, and then leaving a message. Instead they are on to the next call as soon as they don’t get an answer. The voicemail is automatically dropped.

Just think about how many hours this feature saves a rep each month. The time-savings are huge, but it also restores agent energy. Instead of feeling like a robot leaving messages, each rep is talking more with clients instead of listening to rings and static. 

And that’s just one example. Each one-click feature provides a similar boost to agent productivity and energy.

The other side of the coin is that people aren’t going to use powerful features if they aren’t easy. Marking call dispositions is critical for ensuring that leads are appropriately tracked throughout the buying process. Making this simple for agents is going to increase the quality of information.

Another aspect to consider is the mobile app. Can agents work as well from a phone or tablet as they can from a desktop? A well-developed mobile app is going to give your employees more flexibility to work on their terms. 

A sales rep can have a short productive calling session while they are on the go, for example. They’ll be able to log the same quality of information from their phone as they can from their laptop, so there are no tasks left hanging. 

Plus there’s no guarantee that customers are going to call back when a rep is at their desk.

You are really looking for something that cuts the number of steps it takes to complete every process in a user’s day. People are happy to use tools that make their lives easier, and equally unhappy when new tools complicate their process.

You Can Make More Connections, Not Just More Calls

Every auto dialer is going to supercharge an employee’s ability to make more calls per hour, but that’s hardly the most important metric to watch. You need to pick an auto dialer that makes more calls the right way.

Auto dialers have different modes. Some providers will give you a variety, whereas others offer a specific mode for their dialer. You want to pick one that meshes with your workflow. I’ll outline the basic types of dialer modes first, and then talk about ideal use-cases.

In general, this is the terminology you are going to see, though there is definitely some overlap and variation in the marketing lingo. For example, any auto dialer with good CRM integration is going to function as a preview dialer.

There’s a time and place for each one. A progressive dialer is great for making your way through lists methodically. You ensure that every contact is called, in the order you want, and there’s no way for brash agents to cherry-pick the good leads.

Predictive dialers are a little more of a gamble, since they start calling before an agent is done with their current call. This is great for high-volume call centers, but potentially a little challenging for sales reps trying to make an authentic connection at breakneck pace.

You’ll also see intelligent auto dialers, which prioritize leads based on factors you control. Kixie will take hot leads from your website (someone just filled out a form, for example) and put them at the front of the call queue.

VanillaSoft will let you set prioritization rules so that leads can be bumped to the front of the line based on a number of factors, such as job title, revenue, or geolocation.

You have options. Find a balance between making lots of calls without sacrificing on quality. What’s going to put your reps on the best possible footing for conversations? 

Know What Your Team Is Doing

The auto dialers I like come with tools that make it easier for managers and supervisors to know what’s going on. This goes beyond the CRM integration of logging information to give those in charge real-time visibility and tools to respond quickly.

I’m definitely a fan of dashboards for every user, not just the managers. Agents need to keep tabs on their own progress in order to know when to ask for help. Having a simple dashboard with their calendar, next steps, and KPIs can help them understand and improve their efficiency.

Obviously live performance dashboards are critical for supervisors to have at-a-glance knowledge of what’s happening. Who are the top performers? Who needs more support and guidance?

Call monitoring tools can also be really beneficial. Some of the auto dialers I reviewed allow managers to whisper to reps, which means only the rep can hear what the manager is saying. This can be an important coaching tool, providing on-the-spot guidance for someone learning the ropes or dealing with a particularly challenging client.

Managers will also want the ability to generate reports in order to steer the overall outreach strategy. What scripts are working really well? Which ones need some serious revision?

The richer the reporting and easier it is to query, the more informed decisions you can make about your campaigns.

If you are using an auto dialer, you are operating at a scale where it’s incredibly easy to lose track of what’s going on. Find a solution that has the tools you need to ensure reps and managers aren’t flying blind.

Compliance Tools Keep You Out of Hot Water

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and other regulations have put legal limits on what telemarketers can do. In fact, “robocall” lawsuits can result in five-figure damages for a single call. 

In order to meet all legal and privacy obligations, you want auto dialer software that works behind the scenes to ensure that you are only calling the right numbers and keeping every conversation securely stored for future reference.

The good news is that the best auto dialer software helps the companies who use it from getting in trouble with regulations.

All of the products on this list, for example, have tools to make sure you aren’t calling numbers on the national Do Not Call list (DNC), as well as tools for tracking your own DNC list.

At the end of the day, your employees are still on the hook for using the technology correctly.

Depending on what you are selling, there may be mandatory disclaimers that employees need to say. An auto dialer that makes it easy to share and customize scripts for agents will minimize the risk that someone makes a careless oversight.

If you are recording calls, for example, you have to let the customer know. Some auto dialers will let you automate a message that alerts people as soon as the call begins. If that’s too impersonal for you, be sure to script the disclaimer into your agent’s workflow.

Be conscious of compliance, but don’t stress too much. By picking auto dialer software from the top vendors, you know you are getting a product that has kept many other businesses safe.

Summary

Good auto dialer software can save a sales team hours each week and potentially weeks each year. Boost your productivity by eliminating the busy work that drains agent energy and give them more time to spend talking with actual customers.

The key is finding the right one. Start with the reviews of my top recommendations:

  1. Nextiva – Best for calling quickly within your CRM
  2. Phoneburner – Best if your sales team isn’t in an office
  3. RingCentral Engage Voice – Best for fearless nationwide telemarketing
  4. VanillaSoft – Best for managing a long sales cycle
  5. Voicent Cloud – Best pay-as-you-go auto dialer
  6. Mojo – Best for cold calling the most numbers per hour
  7. Kixie – Fastest way to respond to inbound leads

Nextiva is the top answer for companies whose CRM is an essential part of the business. It integrates perfectly with the top CRMs out there and makes quick dialing from within it a breeze.

With Phoneburner, remote and work-from-home teams are completely set up. The lead distribution system routes calls to the right agents without oversight. Agents can quickly and easily transfer calls and share information within the platform, making coordination easy in the distributed workplace.

RingCentral Engage Voice is going to let you call on a massive scale without worrying about compliance. Agents will be able to stay in the clear with less work. Reduce violations without taking a hit to productivity.

VanillaSoft is a boon for companies that have to negotiate a long buying process.Build relationships over a dozen calls with multiple people at the same company. Find and convince a decision maker over months with an auto dialer that never drops the baton.

Companies that need an auto dialer now and again will enjoy Voicent Cloud’s pricing structure. Get the ability to powercall for a fraction of what it costs through other vendors and pay per minute for exactly what you need.

Mojo is your ticket to the most calls per hour. Supercharge your cold call game by giving a single agent the ability to make 300 calls an hour.

For businesses looking to capitalize on their inbound marketing, Kixie is a great choice. Draw your audience to your site, blog, and social media. Once they reach out, one of your agents will be in touch within minutes to find out why.

What are your thoughts? Have you had success with auto dialer software?



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Fuel Marketing Transformation with Team Alignment


Fuel Marketing Transformation with Team Alignment

The Pain Points of Misaligned Teams

Anyone who’s worked on a team knows what it feels like to be part of a team that isn’t aligned, and this can have a real impact on your ability to make strategic improvements. Does this sound familiar?

  • Your organization has invested in and developed strategy after strategy, but none of them are sticking; execution is a real challenge.
  • Teams aren’t working well together and the silos between teams are cementing into territories that are heavily guarded – resource and information sharing is forced, rather than the norm.
  • Leaders keep getting the feedback from their teams that they need more headcount to do the work.
  • Team members aren’t bringing their best –  no breakthrough creative ideas, less innovative problem solving, fewer examples of working “above and beyond.”
  • It seems like team members don’t enjoy coming to work – there are complaints that the day-to-day work is frustrating, a total grind, or unmotivating. 
  • Teams are experiencing high turnover from people that seemed at least moderately satisfied at work.

I imagine you’re nodding your head and also feeling a growing apprehension about the big plans you have for the coming year. 

For many of you, a new strategy, campaign, or initiative is on the horizon and success is the only acceptable outcome. You’ve likely tried implementing change in the past with less-than-ideal results. The issue is likely a mix of individual motivations, team culture, tools, and resource gaps that internal leaders are having difficulty parsing out and addressing. 

But there is a better way: when team members actually trust their team, know how to point out flaws and learn from each other to co-create the strategy, inevitably objections and silos dissolve, enthusiasm skyrockets, and entrepreneurial thinking abounds. 

Team Alignment is a Predictor of Success

This just in: Leading business researchers have discovered a revolutionary new approach that makes any business more profitable. It reduces costs and increases productivity and profitability. It increases lead quality, pipeline velocity, leads to happier customers, and more repeat business. Companies using this approach also have more satisfied employees, willing to work harder (often for less money!), and higher overall employee retention. It has no hard costs and you can do it internally, with resources you already have. Are you interested? 

Any business leader would be negligent not to at least open that link and try to figure out if it was too good to be true. When they come to realize the research was conducted by Google, Harvard Business School and dozens of reputable sources consistently since the mid-1990’s you’d expect that they’d be adding this new approach to the very top of their to-do lists and retraining managers to incorporate the findings. 

Team alignment, and it’s underlying foundation of psychological safety, is not something that should be relegated to HR or written off as “soft skills.” In almost two decades of writing and overseeing strategic marketing transformations, I can say with confidence that team alignment is the number one indicator of whether a new initiative will succeed or fail

Unfortunately it’s also a topic many leaders would rather gloss over when they get ready for a big strategic change – they want action plans, not “warm and fuzzy” team alignment plans. I’ve had pushback more than once from clients who would prefer we “stay in our lane” and just focus on research, metrics, and action plans.

Research Shows Aligned Teams Are Critical

When you ask most business leaders about team alignment and psychological safety, they often point to the HR department, mumble something about culture, and shrug their shoulders. Which is too bad, because the research is clear:

  • Companies that successfully align sales and marketing retain 36% more customers, generate 32% higher revenue and achieve 38% higher win rates. (Source: Ascend Ebook)
  • A study of 1,000 professionals across a range of industries found teams with cross-functional collaboration and an open work style are 60% more likely to achieve more, faster. Plus, they’re 80% more likely to report high emotional well-being. (Source: Ascend2)
  • More than half (54%) of employees say they’re willing to stay at a company longer than what’s in their best interest due to a strong sense of community. (Source: Ascend2)
  • Google’s “Project Aristotle,” explored over 250 team-level variables, found that psychological safety is the most critical factor and a prerequisite to enabling successful teams. (Google, 2015). Team psychological safety is a shared belief that people feel safe about the interpersonal risks that arise concerning their behaviors in a team context (Edmondson, 2018).
  • Despite the importance of psychological safety, only 47% of employees across the world described their workplaces as psychologically safe (Ipsos, 2012).

What’s Team Alignment and Psychological Safety?

Team alignment can feel hard to pin down if you’re new to the topic but here’s a simple definition: team alignment is the team’s ability to work together and learn from each other. 

As researchers have tried to study and measure this trait, they have settled on the term “psychological safety” and defined it as having four key domains or areas that can be assessed:

  1. Attitude to risk & failure: does the team see failure as a necessary byproduct of growth and innovation? Or is it punished and avoided at all costs?
  2. Open conversation: do team members feel comfortable expressing concerns and reservations as they work together? Can they learn from one another and hear constructive feedback in the spirit it is intended? 
  3. Willingness to help: Does the team have a spirit of being “in this together” and do they easily pick up slack for the benefit of the whole? Does this shake out fairly or do some team members take advantage of others?
  4. Inclusivity: Does the team work hard to ensure all perspectives are represented, even from those who are not always first to speak?

Roadmap for Successful Change

Let me give you the shortcut formula to planning your success. Every single business transformation comes down to two simple questions: 

  1. What exactly do we need to do differently?
  2. Who is going to do it?

The first item is your strategy, and companies are always paying for more and better strategies. Unfortunately, all too often they completely ignore the second item, assuming that once the WHAT and HOW are clear, the WHO will fall into place. 

A plan can be strategically sound, backed by data, and make perfect sense on paper but that doesn’t mean the team will get on board. Considerations like who gets credit, who will benefit from less work or more resources, job security and perception of rank, and how success is measured all inherently affect the buy-in for any new plan.

STEP 1: Strategic Alignment – What exactly do we need to do differently?

  • Define what you’re trying to achieve, clearly, concretely, with metrics. 
    • Link the change to a larger organizational vision
    • Specifically define the change: current state, target state, the gap and what is NOT changing. 
    • Identify past lessons learned. What has been tried before and how did it go?

It’s worth noting that most teams are pretty good at step one, but they stop there.

STEP 2: Stakeholder Analysis & Team Alignment – Who is going to do it?

  • Ensure the team agrees on the problem and it’s urgency
  • Confirm the team believes change is possible in this setting.
  • Ask whether the team has the time, energy, and willingness to change. (Change fatigue is real!)
  • Uncover whether each individual believes they can personally succeed with this change

Team Alignment In The Wild 

For the last couple of years Convince & Convert has worked with a large national association ($1.7B in revenue, 38 million members) on a wide variety of marketing initiatives. One change in particular was in process when we started working together, and the outcome was anything but certain. A new project management system was intended to be a centralized place for updates and tracking, intended to increase collaboration, reduce meetings, and allow workloads to be distributed more evenly across the team.

Unfortunately, team adoption of the new tool was low and falling farther – the grumbling was increasing over time. Leaders in charge of its success were struggling to come up with a way forward. Confidential interviews with individual team members uncovered some real and specific challenges, both with the actual tool and how the change was communicated. Owners of the tool went back to developers to overhaul the tool and improve functionality, and are in the middle of a much more successful rollout with an enthusiastic reception from previously reluctant team members. 

Setting Up New Norms

In another example, a nationally-recognized, top-50 university we worked with was struggling after some changes to the marketing team organizational chart and reporting structure. Two teams that had previously been independent were combined, but the merger was not a smooth one. 

Assessments of the team showed that each smaller team felt psychologically safe to communicate openly. However, when the teams combined to collaborate, that index score went way down. The norms of each smaller team were different. They needed to be revisited to openly agree what type of feedback was preferred, how to run meetings, and a number of other patterns that develop almost without noticing but need to be identified, agreed upon and communicated to new team members. Once new norms were established, the teams were able to work together fluidly and begin finding the synergy that was intended with the original combining of teams. 

“What’s in it for me?”

It’s important to dig in here and get curious to understand team strengths, weaknesses, passions, and drains. This often means closed-door confidential sessions where team members have a safe space to talk about their ambitions and concerns, what skills they do or don’t possess and where they might like to grow. Effort is not the same for everyone; work to understand perceived effort with perspective taking, empathy, mentoring, coaching.

Smart leaders understand that all change in responsibilities comes with a power shift across a team. When changes are on the horizon, the first question everyone wants answered is, “how will this impact me and my job?”

  • Who on the team will have to learn new skills? 
  • Whose job might be in jeopardy after the change? 
  • What new resources will various team members get? How do I get my share of the pie?
  • Will the extra responsibilities be rewarded fairly? 
  • If the new work sounds fun, can I get rid of some old tasks I hate? 
  • …and dozens more

Answering these questions in advance, equitably, and with your individual skills and goals in mind is the core job of a great manager. Allowing the team to negotiate among themselves, speaking honestly about their strengths and weaknesses, skills they have or want to develop, and how they’d like to see the change unfold is the gold standard. 

How Does Your Team Rank?

These areas are so critical to navigating change, and more and more of our clients are interested in getting better, not just at the “what should we do to innovate?” question but also understanding the people and motivations that will make or break the strategic plans they’ve laid out.  A seven-question assessment that takes under 3 minutes can help teams understand their ability to bring new ideas and challenge each other, essential qualities of a successful organizational change process. 

Benchmarking the team’s score and growth over time can provide tangible, actionable goals for managers and teams to work towards. The Convince & Convert team has strategists trained to conduct these assessments and facilitate improved team alignment, and we’d love to help your team on the next stage of your journey.



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Do LinkedIn Newsletters Actually Get Results for Brands?


The notifications keep popping up in the My Network section of my LinkedIn account. But they’re not the usual request to connect. Instead, they’re invitations from people asking me to subscribe to their newsletters.

I received six click-to-subscribe requests on one recent day. I’d already subscribed to a newsletter or two through the platform. Why the sudden onslaught of requests? Did everybody realize the power of newsletters at the same time?

The answer was simple: LinkedIn expanded its newsletter creation feature to more people recently (and will continue to roll it out to even more in the coming months.)

I started to wonder: Do (personal and corporate) brands find these newsletters beneficial? How hard are they to create?

To answer these questions (and more), I turned to brands and agencies who use the LinkedIn newsletter, one of the people who worked on the newsletter feature, and LinkedIn’s published guidance.

Connect through conversations and ideas

The LinkedIn newsletter capability grew naturally from the platform’s articles feature, according to Lorraine K. Lee, who served as editorial lead for the LinkedIn newsletter product launch.

The idea is to help the LinkedIn audience stay up to date on topics and conversations important to them through content created by the people they’ve connected with and brands they follow. It also gives brands and other newsletter creators the opportunity to connect with their followers on topics they are (or want to be) known for.

Lorraine advises any brand or individual to focus on content that’s genuine and open. “A company that’s writing a newsletter each week sharing high-level policies or updates isn’t going to get a lot of traction.

A company that shares employee stories or struggles the HR team faced when implementing remote work policies is.”

“Any time you can tell a story and show what’s behind the curtain — that’s what will help you engage and grow your audience,” says Lorraine, who now heads editorial at Prezi.

Tell a story and show what’s behind the curtain to engage and grow your @LinkedIn newsletter audience, says @lorraineklee via @AnnGynn and @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Get results with repurposed content

Andy Crestodina, co-founder of Orbit Media, created Digital Marketing Tips on LinkedIn when LinkedIn made the newsletter option available by invitation only. The results have been crazy, he says. In the first 10 months, he gained over 100,000 subscribers. Today, more than 118,000 people subscribe to the weekly LinkedIn newsletter.

His motivation was simple – he wanted to get more value from older blog posts. “Virtually all of our content is evergreen, so I had a virtual assistant start moving old articles into LinkedIn to give them exposure to a new audience. They required very little adaptation, so it was a near-zero effort,” Andy says.

Each LinkedIn newsletter article is about half or two-thirds of the original, with a call to action to read the rest on the Orbit Media website.

The strategy paid off in increased traffic to the Orbit Media website. Since introducing the LinkedIn newsletter in early 2021, more than 10,056 visitors have come to his site from LinkedIn, and almost 90% of them were new visitors.

“For years, we warned against building on rented land,” Andy says, “but when the location of that rented land is amazing and the cost is low, you should go ahead and rent.”

A @LinkedIn #newsletter strategy based on repurposed #content worked for @Orbiteers. So go ahead and rent if the location is amazing and the cost is low, says @Crestodina via @AnnGynn and @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Tweak content for the platform to earn subscribers and leads

Christina Daves, president of CastMedicDesigns, launched the Get PR Famous newsletter on LinkedIn and now has over 2,500 subscribers. (Get PR Famous is also the name of a course and live event she created.)

“I am repurposing content by taking old articles or blog posts and updating them. I also include YouTube videos I’ve done in the past that will help with that particular topic,” she says. “I’m a huge proponent of reusing your content and not always reinventing the wheel. You just need to tweak it specifically for this audience and the topic you’ve chosen.”

Christina says she’s been blown away by the results. She publishes twice a week and averages 1,500 to 2,000 views per newsletter – about 10 to 20 times more than she gets on regular posts. Each newsletter also nets her one or two consultations with prospects.

“More and more people are jumping on board, which will dilute the excitement and newness of this type of content. (But) provide great content, and people will stay with you,” Christina says.

More people are creating LinkedIn newsletters, which could dilute excitement. But if you provide great #content, people will stay with you, advises @PRforAnyone via @AnnGynn and @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Test which format readers prefer

VEM Tooling made LinkedIn its primary newsletter distribution platform based on the surge of readers and positive reactions it received, according to Sales Director David Reid. He says subscribers find the LinkedIn newsletter format more comfortable and enjoyable than traditional email newsletters, though both formats feature the same content.

As far as a marketing tool, David says, VEM has found more success with its LinkedIn newsletters because it reaches a broader audience and allows them to see reactions from readers who click on like and other emojis or write comments. (LinkedIn newsletters also are less likely to get stopped by spam filters than traditional email newsletters, he says.)

How to get started

The first step in creating a LinkedIn newsletter is to see if the option is available to you. To find out, go to the Creator hub by visiting the Resources section of your LinkedIn profile page. Here you will see if the newsletter feature is available:

According to LinkedIn, the newsletter creator access is available to members (and brand pages) that have:

  • At least 150 followers or connections
  • Recently shared original content
  • Agreed to adhere to its professional community policies

(Note: Creator mode will affect your profile appearance, moving the Activity and Featured sections before the About section. It also allows you to use hashtags underneath your title.)

From there, the process is simple. At the top of your LinkedIn home page, click “Write an article.” Create the content and then click “create a newsletter.”

LinkedIn offers these tips as best practices:

  • Choose a name that clearly describes your newsletter’s content focus.
  • Make sure to include your logo in the newsletter and a cover photo for each article.
  • Be direct in your article headlines.
  • Engage subscribers by adding a few lines of commentary or asking a question when you share the newsletter.

Once you publish your first newsletter, LinkedIn automatically sends a newsletter invitation that includes your name and newsletter title to your connections and followers. You also receive a dedicated newsletter page link you can share on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.

Another tool for your content kit

LinkedIn newsletters offer an option for delivering content to and interacting with a community that may not want another email newsletter popping up in their inboxes.

Even if you aren’t the earliest bird to the LinkedIn Newsletter feature, you can still test the tactic to see if it helps your content fly further and attract a wider audience.

Want to learn how to balance, manage, and scale great content experiences across all your essential platforms and channels? Join us at ContentTECH Summit this March in San Diego. Browse the schedule or register today.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute





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Microsoft buys Activision Blizzard, audiences expect brands to acknowledge crises, and mobile providers limit 5G near airports


Hello, communicators:

PepsiCo announced that it will award $5,000 to 40 community organizations focused on the outdoors as part of the MTN DEW Outdoor Grants program. The soda brand launched its grant program in 2020 as a response to the uptick in outdoor recreation during the pandemic as outdoor organizations struggled with declines in funding.

Applicants who received the grants shared how they or their favorite community organizations positively impact their local outdoor spaces. Recipients were selected based on their efforts to preserve and protect the great outdoors and get people outside through conservation or infrastructure initiatives.

“We’re proud to invest in the work of even more diverse, local organizations who are helping the great outdoors be even better for future generations,” PepsiCo Beverages North America, Central Division CMO Jill Abbott said in a press release.

MTN Dew says it will consult the recipients later in the year to share how they spent the grant money at their organizations, offering ongoing storytelling opportunities. Contests, awards and grants also set precedents for future partnerships.

Here are today’s top stories:

Microsoft explains Activision Blizzard acquisition

Microsoft announced that it will acquire video game publisher Activision Blizzard in an all-cash transaction valued at $68.7 billion, acquiring hit franchises including “Warcraft,” “Diablo” and “Overwatch” in the deal. The company said that Activision Blizzard’s Bobby Kotick will stay on as CEO until the deal closes and focus on strengthening the company culture. Microsoft said that the announcement is part of its commitment to the future of gaming.

According to its press release:

“Gaming is the most dynamic and exciting category in entertainment across all platforms today and will play a key role in the development of metaverse platforms,” said Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO, Microsoft. “We’re investing deeply in world-class content, community and the cloud to usher in a new era of gaming that puts players and creators first and makes gaming safe, inclusive and accessible to all.”

News of the acquisition came just days after reports that Activision Blizzard terminated dozens of employees over workplace misconduct, the company’s latest response to a series of sexual harassment allegations that were addressed by Kotick in heavily criticized employee memos. Kotick previously vowed to take a pay cut until the company’s recently set DE&I benchmark goals were met.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

An Activision spokeswoman, Helaine Klasky, confirmed that 37 people have “exited” and 44 have been disciplined as part of the company’s investigation. In a statement, she said employee comments included statements on social media, and the issues raised ranged from what she described as benign workplace concerns to “a small number” of potentially serious assertions, which the company has investigated.

What it means:

As some reports suggest that Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard was motivated by the latter company’s workplace problems, Nadella’s words emphasize Microsoft’s values on safety in the workplace. The acquisition comes as Microsoft has announced its own internal review of sexual harassment policies and safeguards.

The messages from Microsoft and Activision Blizzard are reminders of the many opportunities to emphasize your organizations’ values and commitments to employees.


MEASURED THOUGHTS

A new report from Twitter found that 61% of its users said brands should acknowledge crises in their advertising and communications as they are occurring, while 60% said they want to hear from brands on sensitive cultural or political topics. Forty-eight percent said that it is more important for brands to support economic, social, political or cultural issues compared to a year ago.

Twitter-brand-report

Courtesy of Twitter

Twitter’s latest research challenges the practice of staying silent amid a brand or national crisis in hopes it becomes buried in the news cycle. It also suggests that Twitter users equate authenticity with vulnerability, whether a company is commenting on its own troubles or addressing a sensitive topic of national conversation.

Partner with your social media team to find a balance between being vulnerable and open with digital audiences that still stays true to brand voice.

Check out the full report here.


TAKE OUR SURVEY

If you’re looking to further your understanding of your industry to navigate what’s ahead in 2022, lend us a hand—and help yourself and your peers identify shared benchmarks in areas such as budgets, team structure, ESG and DE&I efforts, and more. Participate in Ragan Communications Leadership Council’s 2022 Benchmark Survey, a comprehensive look at how to negotiate budgets with your executives, how to best reach deskless workers and foster culture among a hybrid workforce, and more.

Both internal and external communicators are encouraged to participate.

By taking part, you’ll be entered to win one of three $100 gift cards. All who complete the survey will receive a full report on the findings. Responses are anonymous.

Survey takers will receive an executive summary of the findings.


SOCIAL BUZZ

After outdoor workwear company Carhartt sent an employee email reinforcing its commitment to employee vaccine mandates was shared on Twitter, several customers weighed in on whether Carhartt’s messaging was in line with its brand identity and target audience.

Several Twitter users supported the messaging:

Others attempted to start a boycott on Carhartt products:

PR Daily reports:

Amy Hellebuyck, Carhartt’s senior public relations manager, confirmed that the email—from CEO Mark Valade—was legitimate and accurately represented the company’s position on vaccines for employees. Hellebuyck notes that while the email to employees was not originally intended for an external audience, the team anticipated the possibility.

“While a company may not intend for its internal communications to be shared publicly, communications professionals are always aware that the possibility exists,” she says. “Which is why at Carhartt, our communications team works hand-in-hand to ensure that our messaging is consistent, regardless of the channel.”

Hellebuyck’s statement is a reminder that what is internal always has the potential to become external.


Announcing the PR Daily Leadership Network

PR Daily is launching the PR Daily Leadership Network, a unique membership group from Ragan Communications offering peer-to-peer advisory and team training along with a unique slate of resources and events to help public relations professionals break through the noise, increase their visibility and forge meaningful connections.

The Network provides daily insights and coverage on a range of topics including media relations, social media, measurement, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, branding, thought leadership and crisis communications.

“The fast pace of change coupled with the demand on public relations professionals to protect and sometimes defend their company’s reputation make it imperative for leaders to tap into the wisdom of other communicators and continue to learn and grow,” says Diane Schwartz, CEO of Ragan Communications. “The PR Daily Leadership Network provides the answers but also encourages members to question the status quo and push for positive change.”

Visit leadership.prdaily.com to learn more.

AT&T and Verizon announce limits to 5G services around airports

Telecom giants AT&T and Verizon have announced plans to temporarily limit the larger rollout of their 5G networks within 2 miles of airport runways. The decision is the latest in a series of concessions the companies have made to delay the 5G rollout after airlines issued previous warnings about the widespread disruptions that 5G would cause to flight operations. The carriers did not specify which airports would have limits imposed on them.

CNBC reports:

“The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and our nation’s airlines have not been able to fully resolve navigating 5G around airports, despite it being safe and fully operational in more than 40 other countries,” Verizon said Tuesday afternoon in a statement announcing a temporary limit in service around some airports.

AT&T said Tuesday that it had agreed “to temporarily defer turning on a limited number of towers around certain airport runways as we continue to work with the aviation industry and the FAA to provide further information about our 5G deployment, since they have not utilized the two years they’ve had to responsibly plan for this deployment.”

“We are frustrated by the FAA’s inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it do so in a timely manner,” an AT&T spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We are launching our advanced 5G services everywhere else as planned with the temporary exception of this limited number of towers.”

Why it matters:

The blame shifting and deflected responsibilities between telecom companies and the FAA amounts to a missed opportunity for partnership between the two groups. Verizon’s statement demonstrates how your messaging can put public pressure on a partner by comparing their handling of a crisis to other organizations in the same industry.

AT&T’s statement demonstrates how that pressure can also be applied by sharing a clear timeline, which also helps to align any frustrations with those of external stakeholders to drive toward a meaningful solution.

 

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Report: Engaging Customers Around Aspirations



The premise and promise of both business and technology, beyond just making a profit, is to positively impact the lives of the average consumer, and the stakeholder populations they serve. As real customer lives become increasingly supported by a variety of interconnected solutions, the smartest brands are deploying powerful tools to help their target audience embrace positive purpose in all aspects of life. This aspirational marketing strategy aims to improve everyday life by providing consumers opportunities to learn, improve, and grow across areas like financial health, personal wellness, and through increased access to career opportunities and education. Within this beneficially-focused behavioral climate, companies and aspirational brands who leverage their scale and access to resources in order to help their customers reach their full potential are finding they can build loyal and engaged communities, while simultaneously establishing stronger consumer connections to core aspects of their business.

A deepening suite of tools, platforms, and programmatic solutions from businesses both big and small are allowing modern consumers to overcome the ever-present barriers behind positive behavioral change, increasing their individual motivation and accountability with built-in incentives and personalized positive reinforcement, as well as offering community support, skill-sharing, and collective feedback. This general shift by aspirational consumers from passive and reactive approaches to personal management, toward one that is supported, proactive, and even at-times automatic, can be seen across all age groups and audiences. Data-fueled, future-focused frameworks are supporting baseline goal-setting in both consumers’ personal and financial health, while curated coaching solutions and community skill-sharing approaches are being paired with personalized education to empower incremental long-term change that takes advantage of the holistic understandings arising around consumer wellness, fitness, and financial planning. 

In this report, the PSFK Research team explores the innovative tools and emergent methods being deployed by businesses and brands to engage with an aspirational audience, drive loyalty, and improve lives. To help our members better understand the trajectories at play in this increasingly important and valuable space, PSFK has identified 5 key trends powering the connection between core business propositions and aspirational consumer growth.



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Google and marketing industry predictably hostile to proposed surveillance advertising ban


The Banning Surveillance Advertising Act (BSAA), was introduced in the House of Representatives on Tuesday by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). The bill would no longer allow advertisers to target ads to consumers based on personal information. Two exceptions would be broad, location-based targeting and contextual ads.

Why the legislation was introduced. “Disinformation, discrimination, voter suppression, privacy abuses,” and other harms were cited by California Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, the lead sponsor of the bill, as the basis for the legislation forward. 

Privacy search engine DuckDuckGo tweeted its support of the bill, saying that “The collection of your private data to target you w/ads violates your privacy & leads to discrimination, manipulation, & disinformation.”

In short, the lawmakers want to stop allowing advertisers to “exploit” and profit from the data collected from consumers. It’s not clear that this excludes “first-party” data. The text of the bill makes no explicit distinction between data collected voluntarily and data collected by surreptitious tracking.

“An advertising facilitator may not target the dissemination of an advertisement; or knowingly enable an advertiser or a third party to target the dissemination of an advertisement, including by providing the advertiser or third party with (i) a list of individuals or connecteddevices; (ii) contact information of an individual; (iii) a unique identifier that may be used to identify an individual or a connected device; or (iv) other personal information that can be used to identify an individual or a connected device.”

Google’s response. Google’s take was both predictable and apparent from the title of the blog post it published: “The harmful consequences of Congress’s anti-tech bills.” This was in reference to this legislation, as well as other antitrust bills pending in the Senate this week (the American Innovation and Choice Online Act and the Open App Markets Act).

How might all of this impact Google search? The end result would be lower-quality search results, Google said. For example, the company warned that the proposed legislation would prevent it from:

  • Showing directions from Google Maps in its search results. 
  • Providing answers to urgent questions.
  • Highlighting business information when someone searches for a local business.
  • Integrating its products (e.g., Gmail, Calendar, Docs). 

Why we care. Legislation like this could be a game-changer for every digital marketer. What’s particularly troubling is that, as drafted, it seems to prohibit the use of voluntarily submitted names, addresses or emails for targeting purposes. Whether the bill’s sponsors intend this — whether, indeed, they understand the distinction between first- and third-party data — is hard to know.

Not for the first time in the technology space we see Congress preparing to address a problem that surely exists, but that it seems only faintly to understand.

Read next: Data and privacy concerns grow among consumers

Industry says the bill goes too far. The general consensus seems to be that the bill won’t (or at least shouldn’t) pass in its current state, won’t actually accomplish what lawmakers want, and would have serious consequences for the marketing industry.

Susan Wenograd, VP, performance marketing at Marpipe, said the bill is well-intentioned. However, the idea that the user would have no say in how their personal information is used swings the pendulum widely into the other direction, she noted. 

“It removes personalization from advertising under the assumption users want no tracking,” Wenograd said. “As with many things, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.”

Marketing strategist Doug R. Thomas of Magniventris, however, seemed more accepting of the overall direction of the legislation: “I’m really not sure of the viability of specifically The Banning Surveillance Advertising Act. I’ll leave it to horse race bettors to wrangle those odds, though. Feasibility notwithstanding, my gut says that this is a statement of the direction display ads are going to be forced to move towards as legislation both in the US and abroad is refined.” He described the bill as “a bellwether for the overall tack of future regulation.”

Additional reporting by Kim Davis.


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How Contextualizing Topics can Lead to Press-worthy Content for Your Brand


The author's views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

More brands than ever are investing and producing quality journalism to drive their earned media strategy. They recognize that it’s a valuable channel for simultaneously building authority while finding and connecting with customers where they consume news.

But producing and distributing great content is no easy feat.

At Stacker and our brand-partnership model Stacker Studio, our team has mastered how to create newsworthy, data-driven stories for our newswire. Since 2017, we’ve placed thousands of stories across the most authoritative news outlets in the country, including MSN, Newsweek, SFGate, and Chicago Tribune.

Certain approaches have yielded a high hit rate (i.e., pick up), and one of our most successful tactics is helping add context to what’s going on in the world. (I mentioned this as a tactic in my Whiteboard Friday, How to Make Newsworthy Content: Part 2.)

Contextualizing topics, statistics, and events serves as a core part of our content ideation process. Today, I’m going to share our strategy so you can create content that has real news value, and that can resonate with newsroom editors.

Make a list of facts and insights

You likely have a list of general topics relevant to your brand, but these subject areas are often too general as a launching point for productive brainstorming. Starting with “personal finance,” for example, leaves almost too much white space to truly explore and refine story ideas.

Instead, it’s better to hone in on an upcoming event, data set, or particular news cycle. What is newsworthy and specifically happening that’s aligned with your general audience?

At the time of writing this, Jack Dorsey recently stepped down as CEO of Twitter. That was breaking news and hardly something a brand would expect to cover.

But take the event and try contextualizing it. In general, what’s the average tenure of founders before stepping down? What’s the difference in public market success for founder-led companies? In regard to Parag Agrawal stepping into the CEO role, what is the percentage of non-white CEOs in American companies?

As you can see, when you contextualize, it unlocks promising avenues for creative storyboarding.

Here are some questions to guide this process.

Question 1: How does this compare to similar events/statistics?

Comparison is one of the most effective ways to contextualize. It’s hard to know the true impact of a fact when it exists stand alone or in a vacuum.

Let’s consider hurricane season as an example. There’s a ton of stories around current hurricane seasons, whether it’s highlighting the worst hurricanes of all time or getting a sense of a particular hurricane’s scope of destruction or impact on a community.

But we decided to compare it another way. What if we asked readers to consider what hurricane seasons were like the year they were born?

This approach prompts a personal experience for the readers to compare what hurricane seasons are like now compared to a more specific “then” — one that feels particularly relevant and relatable.

I’ll talk more about time-based comparisons in the next section, but you can also compare:

  • Across industries/topics (How much damage do hurricanes do compared to tidal waves?)

  • Across geographic areas (Which part of the ocean is responsible for the most destructive hurricanes? Where has the most damage been done around the world?)

  • Across demographics (Which generation is most frightened of hurricanes?)

There are dozens of possibilities, so allow yourself to freely explore all potential angles.

Question 2: What are the implications on a local level?

In some cases, events or topics are discussed online without the details of how they’re impacting individual people or communities. We might know what something means for a general audience, but is there a deeper impact or implication that’s not being explored?

One of the best ways to do this is through localization, which involves taking a national trend and evaluating how it’s reflected and/or impacts specific areas. Newspapers do this constantly, but brands can do it, too.

For example, there are countless stories about climate change, but taking a localized approach can help make the phenomenon feel “closer to home.”

We put together a piece that illustrated significant ways climate change has affected each state (increased flooding in Arkansas, the Colorado River drying up, sea levels rising off South Carolina, etc.). You could take this a step further and look at a particular city or community if you had supporting data or research.

If you serve particular markets, it’s easy to implement this strategy. Orchard, for example, does a great job publishing real estate market trend reports in the areas they serve.

But if you’re a national or international brand that doesn’t cater to specific regions, try using data sets that have information for all countries, states, cities, ZIP codes, etc., and present all of it, allowing readers to identify data points that matter to them. When readers can filter data or interact with your content, it allows them to have a more personalized reading experience.

Question 3: What sides of the conversation have we not fully heard yet?

The best way to tap into the missing pieces of a story is to consider how other topics/subject areas interact with that story.

I’ll stick with our climate change theme. We did the story above on how climate change has impacted every state, which feels comprehensive about the topic, but there’s more to dive into.

Outside of just thinking how climate change is impacting geographic areas, we asked ourselves: How is it affecting different industries?

Now we have a look at a more specific angle that’s fascinating — how climate change has impacted the wine industry.

When you have a topic and want to uncover less-explored angles, ask yourself a set of questions that’s similar to the compare/contrast model:

  • How does this topic impact different regions? (E.g. What is wine’s cultural role in various countries?)

  • How does this topic impact different demographics of people? (E.g. Who profits most from wine making?)

  • How does this topic impact different industries? (E.g. How have wineries/vineyards impacted tourism?)

  • How is this topic impacted by these various things? (E.g. How is the flavor of wine impacted by region? Who buys the most wine, and where do they live?)

This should create a good brainstorming foundation to identify interesting hooks that aren’t often explored about a really common topic.

Conclusion

Not only will taking the approach of contextualizing differentiate your story from everything else out there, it will also allow you to re-promote it when a similar event occurs or the topic trends again in the future. Contextualized content is often this perfect blend of timeliness and evergreen that’s really difficult to achieve otherwise.



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Stats roundup: the impact of Covid-19 on ecommerce


From consumer behaviour to demand prediction to retention, the events since March 2020 have altered or sped up almost every facet of online retail.

We’ve rounded up a selection of stats to try to illustrate how the pandemic has impacted, and continues to impact, the ecommerce industry. We’ll update this post regularly as the world of online shopping continues to evolve.

Click the contents below to jump between sections…

  1. Latest
  2. Ecommerce penetration
  3. Amazon and marketplaces
  4. Customer experience
  5. China
  6. Black Friday and Singles Day

You can also read Econsultancy’s marketing and advertising stats roundup, again looking at the impact of Covid-19, and our fashion ecommerce stats roundup and online grocery roundup.

And for more on ecommerce, you can explore the following Econsultancy resources:

1. Latest

Total time spent in shopping apps on Android in 2021 reached more than 100 billion hours globally

App Annie’s State of Mobile 2021 report has revealed that the total time spent by Android users in shopping apps globally came to more than 100 billion hours in 2021, up from just under 85 billion in 2020.

This means that the amount of time spent in shopping apps globally has more than doubled since 2018, when Android users spent 48.7 billion hours in retail apps.

According to the report, fast fashion apps, social shopping apps, and “mobile-savvy big-box players” saw the strongest movement in 2021. The three regions that saw the most growth in shopping app time on Android were Indonesia (up by 52% year-on-year), Singapore (up 46% YoY) and Brazil (up 45% YoY).

The most-downloaded shopping app worldwide in 2021, according to App Annie’s data, was Indian ecommerce app Meesho, followed by Singaporean Shopee at #2. Chinese ultra-fast fashion giant Shein took the third spot, while Alibaba.com came in fourth. Fifth was AJIO, an Indian fashion and apparel shopping app owned by retail giant Reliance Retail. The download rankings combined data from both Google Play and Apple’s App Store, save for in China, where the data came from the App Store only.

70% of global consumers say online marketplaces are the most convenient way to shop

The State of Online Marketplace Adoption report by Mirakl, which surveyed 9,000 global consumers on their online shopping habits, found that 70% believe online marketplaces are the most convenient way to shop, with two thirds saying they prefer ecommerce sites with online marketplaces.

The report drew together responses from nine different countries – Australia, France, Brazil, Germany, Singapore, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States – with 1,000 consumers surveyed from each. It found that 57% of online shoppers said they shopped on marketplaces “exclusively” or “a lot” in 2021; this percentage has held steady since 2020, and is up from 42% in 2019, representing a 35% increase. Regionally, Brazil has experienced the largest percentage increase in consumer use of online marketplaces since 2019 at 75%, followed by Singapore and Australia at 65% each.

When asked for the reasons that they prefer to shop on online marketplaces, the most commonly-cited was price, given by 62% of consumers. Following that, the second-most compelling reason was product selection, cited by 53% of consumers. Joint third were delivery options and the shopping experience, each cited by 43% of respondents.

“Ecommerce is mostly marketplaces”: Colin Lewis on how brands can seize the marketplace opportunity

Almost half of all UK non-food retail sales took place online in 2021, notching up double-digit growth

The latest BRC/KPMG Retail Sales Monitor has revealed that close to half of non-food retail sales in the UK – 46.9% – took place online during 2021, and that ecommerce sales of non-food items for 2021 as a whole were 14.3% ahead of 2020, as reported by Internet Retailing.

This otherwise strong growth tailed off somewhat at the end of the year, however: in December, 45% of non-food retail sales took place online, down 13.9% from 2020, in which 52.5% of non-food retail sales were online. While the UK had just exited its second national lockdown at the time, tier restrictions meant that many non-essential retail stores were closed, driving more spend online.

Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail at KPMG, noted that footwear was the only online category to see “mild growth” over the Christmas period in 2021 as “overall online sales continued to decline, falling by over 8% in December albeit against strong comparators in 2020.”

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that the overall double-digit rise in non-food ecommerce sales in 2021 was a “testament to retailers’ huge investments in their online platforms”, and that retailers had done well to weather the challenging trade conditions throughout the year. She warned, however, that retail will face “significant head winds” in 2022 due to a variety of factors including rising inflation, increasing energy bills, and an oncoming National Insurance hike set for April.

“It will take continued agility and resilience if they are to battle the storm ahead, while also tackling issues from labour shortages to rising transport and logistics costs,” she concluded.

Subscription economy market value due to reach $275 billion globally in 2022

New research by digital technology market research firm Juniper Research has predicted that the global market value of the subscription economy will grow to $275 billion in 2022, up from $224 billion in 2021.

The report, Subscription Economy: Future Strategies & Market Forecasts 2022-2026, evaluated 10 key subscription-based markets and identified that physical goods, digital video, and digital music will generate the highest revenue in 2022. It predicts that increasing adoption of new device types such as smart speakers, as well as the increased availability of streaming content, will drive further adoption of subscriptions to digital services over the coming year.

However, physical goods remain the largest subscription revenue opportunity, according to the report, and are expected to represent 45% of global revenue by 2022. The Covid-19 pandemic is of course a key driver of increased demand in this area, with shoppers “keen to secure reliable sources of medicines and daily essentials” amidst the ongoing pandemic.

The report by Juniper Research also stated that support for alternative payment methods will be key to growth for future subscription-based services. It urged sellers of subscription services to support multiple payment methods such as Open Banking and digital wallets, focusing on the most popular alternative payment forms in their target countries to minimise friction and reduce churn.

Will subscription retailers retain customers post pandemic?

US consumers spent a record $204.5 billion online throughout the 2021 holiday shopping period

According to figures released by Adobe as part of its Digital Economy Index, US consumers spent a record $204.5 billion throughout the 2021 holiday season, denoted as 1st November – 31st December. This spend represents a rise of 8.6% from the previous year, and was driven by categories including toys (5.4 times more online sales compared to pre-season levels), video games (4.5x), gift cards (3.6x) and books (3x more).

The data also gives an insight into changing shopping habits throughout the holiday season as a whole, as Adobe found that consumers were spreading their shopping out beyond big sales events like Cyber Monday, and beginning to spend earlier. The weeks before Thanksgiving (1st – 24th November) were up 19.2% on 2020, while spend during Cyber Week (the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday) actually fell by 1.4% compared with 2020. Spend then rose again between 30th November and 31st December, coming in at 5.6% above 2020 levels.

Adobe noted that the demand for online shopping was not deterred by persistent supply chain issues, even as consumers encountered more than six billion out-of-stock messages online, a 10% increase on 2020 levels and a 253% increase on 2019 levels. The figures also reflect the considerable growth of Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) payment options, which saw double-digit growth in 2021: revenue was up 27% year-on-year, while orders were up 10% year-on-year. However, the software giant observed that growth of BNPL options has slowed, “signalling challenges for gaining mass adoption”.

Why ‘buy now, pay later’ services are booming in ecommerce

2.Ecommerce penetration

UK online clothing sales expected to overtake in-store in 2022

According to a report from Retail Economics and Eversheds Sutherland, online sales of clothing rocketed by £2.7 billion over the course of the pandemic, but total sales fell by £9.6 billion. As a result, the dramatic shift to ecommerce in this category over the past 18 months has meant online clothes shopping could overtake in-store purchases by as soon as 2022, ahead of previous expectations that it would happen in 2025.

If this occurs, Britain would be the first European nation where the majority of clothing is bought from online sources. The next closest market – the Netherlands – isn’t due to cross this threshold until 2025, while Germany and France aren’t predicted to do so until several years after that.

The permanency of the shift to online clothes shopping is most potent among British consumers, with more than one-third (36%) stating they would stick with their changes in habits brought about by the pandemic. This is compared to an average 31% of consumers across the rest of Europe.

While online-only apparel retailers will no doubt benefit from this moving forward, there are grave predictions for lost revenue in in-store locations. Among the four European countries analysed, the report indicated that clothing stores will lose €8 billion in total sales per year thanks to new online shopping habits.

Global online sales grow 11% year-on-year in Q3 2021

Salesforce’s Q3 2021 Shopping Index reveals global online sales increased by 11% year-on-year in the three months to September, compared to a massive 63% growth in Q3 2020. This figure is also a notable rise from just a 2% uplift in the previous quarter of 2021 as it faced tough competition from the boom in ecommerce transactions at the height of the first wave.

Consumers in Eastern Europe are particularly keen on shopping online, with ecommerce in the region growing faster than the average global rate. During the three-month period, it experienced a 40% jump in sales versus Q3 2020. Meanwhile, the UK saw a 20% increase.

The UK also experienced a higher-than-average conversion rate against the global 2.4% average, ranking third overall at 2.8%, behind Australia and New Zealand (3.6%) and the Netherlands (3.2%).

After a volatile 18 months, average shopper spend per-visit levelled out in Q3 2021 to $2.80, just one cent lower than the amount reported in Q2. Furthermore, average order value increased from $94.56 in Q3 2020 to $103.43 in Q3 2021, demonstrating increased consumer confidence and less Covid-19 uncertainty.

2021 product subscriptions drop notably in the US

SaaS brand Attest has released an October 2021 report which shows interest in product subscription brands has begun to subside in the US after experiencing high levels of new sales during 2020.

Forty-one percent of US consumers say they currently have an active subscription, down from 47% a year ago. Those with multiple subscriptions have declined as well, dropping from 21% to 18%, while additional data shows that the number of shoppers looking for new product subscriptions has also waned, from 18% in 2020 to 14% in 2021.

Interestingly the number of consumers surveyed that said they have never subscribed to one of these brands has remained the same – 29% – for the last two years, revealing brands have been largely unsuccessful at encouraging firm non-subscribers to convert.

Food and drink subscriptions continue to be the most popular among the US population, with more than one-third (37%) of respondents claiming they subscribe to products in this vertical. Ranked second are personal care/health and fitness subscriptions (36%), followed by pet subscriptions (32%), which have seen the largest jump in growth in recent months, up from 5th place in 2020.

Despite a drop in active subscriptions, there remains an openness among 65% of Americans to the possibility of purchasing one in the future. Moreover, the percentage of people that say they are unlikely to has reduced from 27% to 21%, meaning there is plenty of opportunity for brands to tempt their audiences into buying subscription products moving into 2022.

48% surge in global ecommerce app downloads from Jan-July 2021

AppsFlyer’s State of Ecommerce App Marketing 2021 report reveals a 48% global surge in downloads of online shopping apps on mobile between January and July, rising 55% on Android devices and 32% on iOS.

According to the study, the fastest growing regions for online shopping app downloads include markets like Pakistan (up 240% year-on-year on Android), Turkey (up 204% on iOS) and Pakistan (up 140% on Android).

Consumer spending via apps is growing alongside these downloads, with data indicating a 55% increase in worldwide consumer spend on the format between March and July compared with the same period in 2020.

70% of Britons surveyed prefer online shopping to in-store, up from less than half pre-pandemic

Reuters reports new Q3 2021 research from finance startup Credit Karma that reveals 70% of Britons now prefer shopping online and on mobile, up from less than half pre-pandemic.

Meanwhile, more than half also claimed that their online shopping behaviours had increased since the onset of coronavirus, but that their personal finances had been negatively affected as a result. Consequently, 60% of those surveyed admitted to using buy now, pay later services in order to better manage their new spending habits.

The data, which studied responses from more than 1,000 British consumers, found that credit solutions like these are not the only methods shoppers have been implementing over the last 18 months. Usage of online and mobile banking has seen a considerable acceleration, thanks to many branches closing either temporarily or permanently during lockdown. Now, just 8% of consumers prefer to pop into a physical branch than they do using online services, down from 19% before the pandemic began.

UK charities sell 185% more items online in six months to August 2021 compared to the same period a year before

Internet Retailing reports findings from Shopiago that indicate UK charities have sold 185% more items online in the six months to August 2021 compared with the year before. Many of these sales were conducted via marketplace sites like eBay, analysis suggests, as non-profit organisations turned to online channels in an attempt to plug an estimated £10 billion total loss in funding that came with the pandemic.

Certain donation categories have seen a particularly large rise in interest from online shoppers. After an unprecedented spike in pet ownership over the last 18 months, Shopiago has seen a 162% increase in the price of second-hand pet supplies being sold via its platform between February and August 2021. Resold donations in the baby category also experienced a 73% rise in pricing over the same period, while those in the toys and games category spiked 104%.

Unsurprisingly, as many employees continued to work from home, the number of laptops, tablets and similar equipment sold online by UK charities grew by an impressive 110%.

These upward trends indicate that non-profit organisations have been embracing the power of ecommerce for selling donations (and reaching a larger audience of shoppers) since brick-and-mortar stores were forced to close during the lockdown. In a statement, Thom Bryan, Head of Product at Shopiago, said of the shift,

“More and more UK charities are realising that there is a huge opportunity to generate funds by listing shop donations online and so in future we look forward to growing insight on how trends develop and how consumer tastes change.”

Ecommerce penetration in South East Asia projected to grow 85% year-on-year by end of 2021

Facebook and Bain & Company’s latest annual SYNC South East Asia report has revealed that ecommerce penetration in South East Asia is projected to grow by 85% by the end of 2021, vastly outpacing the growth of other major markets like India (estimated +10%) and China (estimated +5%). Data suggests almost 8 in 10 people above the age of 15 in SEA will be digital consumers by the end of 2021, while a further 70 million people in the region have begun shopping online for the first time since the pandemic started.

Digital consumer spend per person in South East Asia is projected to increase by 60% over the course of 2021. The number of consumers who say they ‘mostly shop online’ has increased by 35% year-on-year, and 80% of the channels they use to browse and discover new products are now online. Shoppers within the region have also bought items from 60% more online product categories than they did in 2020, with Indonesian shoppers leading the way by purchasing from an average 8.8 different verticals annually.

In the next five years, analysis predicts SEA’s ecommerce GMV will skyrocket to US $254 billion, almost double what it is expected to reach by the end of 2021 and equating to a compound annual growth rate of 14%. Ecommerce executives who were interviewed for the study believe that, thanks to a mostly hybrid model of working, 75% of the hours consumers spent shopping online from home in 2021 will be retained after the pandemic subsides. This is corroborated by a majority of consumers indicating they would either increase or maintain their levels of spending on key categories.

Shopify revenue up 57% year-on-year in Q2 2021 as the ecommerce boom continues

Shopify posted revenues of $1.12bn in Q2 2021, a 57% rise year-on-year and a better result than estimates from experts predicted ($1.05bn). The company’s Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) also rose significantly, up 40% to $42.2 billion.

Perhaps most impressive of all was a 67% increase in Shopify’s Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR), meaning the amount of revenue the brand can expect from recurring payments of users that are billed monthly. In its financial statement, Shopify’s MRR was recorded at $95.1m up from $57m. Subscription solutions, meanwhile, were also 70% higher, thanks to a wave of new merchants joining the platform since Q2 2020.

91% of ecommerce CMOs believe their brand’s revenue will grow in the next 12 months

Netimperative reports research findings from ChannelAdvisor and CensusWide which reveal 91% of 304 ecommerce CMOs surveyed believe their brand’s revenue will grow over the next 12 months beginning August 2021.

An additional 92% said that they are also more confident in their company’s ability to attract new online customers than they were before the pandemic began, with nearly one-third claiming this will become ‘much easier’ for them.

This could be down to increased investment in digital advertising now that initial uncertainty has subsided. Four in every five ecommerce brands that took part in the study explained that their digital marketing spend has risen in 2021, while another 91% predict this will rise further over the coming 12 months.

Drilling down, digital marketing efforts have mostly been dedicated to enabling D2C opportunities for consumers, with 36% of CMOs saying their ads were driving traffic directly to their brand websites. Meanwhile, almost three in ten said their clickable digital advertising directed customers to marketplaces like Amazon, and another 20% said they were pointing traffic to retailer partner websites.

As a result of continued expected ecommerce success, the data found ecommerce expertise will be the most in demand type of talent for the sector during 2021 and early 2022. This is followed by marketing talent, while demand for web developers ranked third and senior strategic expertise fourth.

Study shows retail profit margins down from 6.4% to 4.5% in a decade

A June 2021 study by management consultancy Alvarez & Marsal, in partnership with Retail Economics, has found that pre-tax profit margins for retailers in six European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the UK) have fallen from 6.4% to 4.5% in the last 10 years, and is forecast to drop to 3.2% by 2025. The chief contributing factor? Likely ecommerce. The study found a negative correlation between share of sales made online and margins.

The study also forecasts that, if the pandemic hadn’t happened, the profit margins in the countries studied would be 3.7% by 2025, half a percentage point higher.

For more on the study, download it here or see a summary in QZ.

9 out of the top 10 global ecommerce companies saw double-digit revenue growth in 2020

Analysis from GlobalData shows that 9 out of the top 10 global ecommerce companies (by revenue) experienced double-digit growth in 2020 as new consumer habits swayed in their favour.

Pinduoduo came close to triple-digit year-on-year revenue growth at 97.6%, raising its total 2020 sales to $8.6 billion, while South Korea’s top marketplace Coupang saw a 90.8% growth, ranking it 7th overall for 2020 revenue at $12 billion. Amazon unsurprisingly topped the list at a reported revenue of $386.1 billion, although its growth was far lower at (a nevertheless impressive) 37.6%.

Other top performers included US-owned home furnishings marketplace Wayfair, which saw a 55% year-on-year revenue increase thanks to a jump in interest from consumers looking to carry out home improvements, and Alibaba which posted 40.9% growth. Meanwhile, Zalando, eBay and Rakuten experienced a 25.4%, 18.9% and 18.9% rise in annual revenue respectively.

UK online sales volumes dropped by record amount in May 2021

The IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Sales Index has found that online sales in the UK fell by 9.1% in May 2021 versus a year earlier, Charged Retail reports – the largest drop on record since the Index’s inception in 2000. It is worth noting that this most recent comparison is being measured against a 61% boom in growth recorded in May 2020, which was driven by the first peak of the pandemic.

Sales growth across most retail categories is now flatlining, with some such as health and beauty declining by 29.2% year-on-year. Multichannel retailers saw the largest rate of drop off, -13.9%, as consumers increasingly opted to shop in-store instead. Online-only retailers, however, experienced a much smaller decline of -1.34%. Also hit hard were budget retailers, seeing a -12.8% drop off in sales, in contrast to a +0.2% growth for their luxury counterparts.

Despite this news, online sales overall remained significantly higher than those reported in 2019, before the coronavirus outbreak shifted the landscape of the retail sector. In fact, sales volumes for May 2021 are 46% up compared to May 2019.

British consumers spent £113 billion online in 2020

A June 2021 report from Ofcom has found British consumers spent a total £113 billion online throughout 2020, a rise of 48% on the year before. Online sales in the food and drink category experienced the highest rise of all, up a massive 82% year-on-year, while the household goods category saw a 76% spike. Online share of spending on household goods grew from 17% in Q1 2020 to 42% in Q2 2020 alone.

The online spending power of under-18s has also risen since the first lockdown began in March 2020, driven somewhat by the increased adoption of digital pocket money apps and pre-paid bank cards. According to research, this trend is continuing into this year – teenagers spent 68% of their money online in March 2021 and just 32% offline.

Meanwhile, spend on online entertainment and visual media, which includes streaming services and video games among other products and services, grew to £5.6 billion over the course of the year. Of this surge, audio subscription streaming increased by 23%, driving revenue for the sector up by 19% to £1.3 billion. Audio subscription streaming through platforms like Spotify and Apple Music now accounts for 87% of online audio revenues, up from 84% in 2019.

Overall, the amount of time an average UK adult spent online per day in 2020 was 3 hours and 37 minutes, rising to 4 hours and 34 minutes in 18-24 year olds. This is a substantial half an hour more than the next most digitally focused population in Europe – Spain – which recorded an average 3 hours and 6 minutes online every day.

Global ecommerce sales rose to $26.7 trillion in 2020, making up 19% of all retail sales

Analysis from UNCTAD has found global ecommerce sales rose to $26.7 trillion in 2020, making up 19% of all retail sales (up from 16% in 2019). This increase in share, which the UN has called ‘dramatic’, is reflective of the huge worldwide shift towards online shopping since the onset of coronavirus.

Zooming in, it appears some markets saw a more notable jump in ecommerce sales than others. Data shows that the Republic of Korea experienced the most growth in share, where the proportion of online sales rose from one in five (20.8%) to more than one in four year-on-year (25.9%). For context, China came in at one percentage point lower for total ecommerce penetration in 2020.

The UK also saw big growth compared to regional counterparts, growing from an overall 15.8% online share of retail sales to 23.3%, placing it third in a list of growth in seven major economies which also includes the US, Australia, Canada and Singapore.

Singapore’s ecommerce growth marks it as one to watch as its ecommerce infrastructure develops at a rapid pace. While just over one in every ten retail sales are now made online in the country (11.7%), this figure increased from a tiny 5.9% in 2019.

Kingfisher’s online penetration grew from 7% to 18% from mid-2019 to the end of 2020

Online sales penetration across Kingfisher’s brands (which include Screwfix and B&Q) has soared from just 7% in mid-2019 to 18% by the end of 2020, diginomica reports.

In an interview, the retailer’s CEO, Thierry Garnier, revealed just to how extent Kingfisher’s online channels have benefitted from changed shopping behaviours brought about by the pandemic. Its group ecommerce sales rose 158% year-on-year in 2020 to £2.3 billion, with click and collect becoming the fastest growing fulfilment channel, according to its data.

This is thanks to 10 million new customers shopping with Kingfisher brands since the onset of the coronavirus. Recent surveys conducted of their customers showed that 18-35 year olds were driving a large chunk of overall sales, with 20% carrying out DIY projects for the first time, 55% increasing the amount of DIY they have done and 65% feeling more confident in their DIY skills.

B&Q alone experienced a 117% jump in online sales during 2020, while Screwfix performed even better at a 146% increase.

Mobile transactions saw the biggest shift for the retail giant. Sales on mobile devices now account for 62% of Screwfix’s ecommerce sales, while it accounts for 56% of online orders across all Kingfisher brands – more than a 200% increase year-on-year.

UK January 2021 online retail sales up 74% year-on-year

IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Results for January reveal that UK online sales grew 74% year-on-year in January 2021.

Typically, online sales in January are fairly restrained as consumers recover from the Christmas shopping frenzy that occurs in November and December. However, a lockdown announcement for the new year caused a record-breaking growth in sales, with results also far above the 3, 6 and 12-month rolling averages – 46.4%, 44.9% and 41.3% respectively, according to analysis.

Omnichannel retailers were the biggest winners in January, seeing a 99.8% year-on-year rise in sales across their online channels compared to their online-only counterparts, which experienced a smaller (but nevertheless impressive) 31.2% growth. Meanwhile, mobile ecommerce sales soared 169.1%.

Data shows a multitude of categories benefitted from increased online shopping across the month, including health and beauty, which saw sales up 102% year-on-year, and beer and wine (up 105% year-on-year), despite many consumers partaking in the Dry January initiative. Electrical sales remained very high – up 206% – and there was even some promising news for fashion retailers as clothing sales grew 22%.

UK online sales accounted for 35.2% of all retail in January 2021

Data from the ONS has found UK online sales in January 2021 accounted for 35.2% of all retail, a record that beats even last May’s high of 34.1%, when the coronavirus crisis was at its first peak.

While retail sales volumes were predictably down 8.2% on December 2020, the proportion of online spending was higher in January than it was in the busiest two months of the retail calendar, November and December, which saw online account for 31.8% and 29.6% of retail sales respectively.

Amid a third national lockdown, 50% of textile, clothing and footwear sales came through online channels in the first month of the year, declining to 37.4% for department store sales and 31.5% for household goods stores. Although online made up just 12.2% of food sales (including grocery) in January, it saw the highest year-on-year growth of 143.5% compared to the same month in 2020.

With little sign of lockdown restrictions lifting any time before spring, it is possible this trend will continue and perhaps experience even higher record proportions of online sales in results published over the next few months.

A Jan 2021 survey found that since the pandemic began, 46% of UK consumers purchased a product online that they had previously only ever purchased in store

A January 2021 outlook report from Retail Economics and Natwest has found that, since the pandemic began, nearly half (46%) of UK consumers have purchased a product online that they had previously only ever purchased in store.

When asked directly, 32% of consumers surveyed said they expect to continue with their new ecommerce habits in the future, a figure that rises to 40% in 45-54 year-olds.

More affluent households are also more willing to stick with the change. Data shows a positive correlation between those that believe their online shopping behaviours will become permanent and the amount of money they are prepared to spend on products. This is particularly true for higher earners aged between 25 and 44.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents from households earning £96,000 or more per year agreed or strongly agreed that they are likely to spend a higher proportion of their income on retail products online than in store, even after the pandemic subsides. By comparison, just 31% of households earning less than £19,000 said the same.

Global consumer mobile spending is expected to reach $270 billion by 2025

Global consumer spending on mobile is expected to reach $270 billion by 2025, having been accelerated by increased mobile activity during the pandemic, according to SensorTower’s 2021-2025 Mobile Market Forecast report. This figure is almost 2.5 times the $111 billion spent throughout 2020 (+30% on 2019), reflecting mobile’s continued dominance over other devices.

The compound annual growth rate across mobile app stores is also predicted to be very healthy over this five-year period, at 21% and 17% respectively on the App Store and Google Play. Meanwhile, app downloads for the 2020 calendar year rose 24% to 143 billion – the highest levels seen since 2016 – and are forecast to reach 230 billion by 2025.

UK consumers led the way last year in spending in Europe, totalling an equivalent $2.9 billion, closely followed by Germany ($2.8 billion) and France ($1.7 billion). By 2025, mobile consumer spend in these regions is expected to grow by 181%, 164% and 170% respectively to equal a collective $20 billion.

Zooming in, SensorTower forecasts that consumer spending on non-game apps, such as streaming service and ecommerce apps, will overtake that of games on the App Store by 2024, while non-game app spend growth will surpass growth from mobile games on Google Play. Overall, non-game apps will account for 49% of all revenue made across both stores by the end of 2025.

2020:

Shopify’s Q4 2020 revenue rose 94% year-on-year amid ecommerce boom

Shopify’s fourth quarter 2020 revenue rose 94% year-on-year to $977.7 million, the company announced in February. This figure helped boost Shopify’s overall revenue to $2.9 billion (+86%) across the full financial year.

Its Subscriptions Solutions revenue rose 53% in Q4 2020 alone, due to a number of new merchants joining the platform, the statement explained, likely in a bid to capitalise on the golden quarter rush, . GMV also grew 99% year-on-year to $41.1 billion, as many businesses saw record online sales of goods over the period. In 2020, its merchants’ Black Friday weekend sales reached over $5.1 billion versus $2.9 billion across the same event in 2019.

Shopify has been heavily investing in its product by developing its software, support capabilities and fulfilment processes, as well as introducing Alipay as a payment method. In April, the launch of ‘Shop’, its mobile shopping assistant, allowed customers to personalise their shopping experience to enhance discovery, use accelerated checkout, take advantage of Shopify’s own buy-now-pay-later scheme Shop Pay, and track their orders. Shop garnered 100 million registered users by the close of 2020 and has 19 million Monthly Active Users as of early 2021.

Up to 70% of John Lewis sales came from its online channels in 2020

Online channels accounted for 60-70% of John Lewis sales over the course of 2020, up from 40% before the pandemic, according to details from the retailer’s report Shop Live Look 2020.

The data reveals mobile and desktop browsing of the brand’s website increased by 55% year-on-year, while tablet traffic declined by a whopping 41%, reflecting wider trends in device popularity across the retail industry.

Evenings remained the most popular time to browse, but online orders were more spread out throughout the day, peaking between 11am and 4pm, whereas they were typically placed between 7pm and 10pm in 2019. Meanwhile, the number of John Lewis purchases destined for home delivery rose a quarter on 2019, quadrupling in the case of Waitrose.com orders, and 55% more products were sent to others as gifts.

Some of the most popular items bought by John Lewis customers in 2020 included beauty tech (such as electronic facial devices) – up 178% – chess sets (up 121%) and nostalgic toys, like Scalextric kits (up 100%).

However, sales of products such as suitcases, high heels and clutches and ‘party handbags’ all saw dramatic declines of 69%, 62% and 56% respectively thanks to customers’ dramatic lifestyle changes brought on by the pandemic.

Uber Eats revenue from online orders was up 224% year-on-year in Q4 2020

Uber has announced that revenue acquired from online food delivery was up 224% year-on-year in Q4 2020 (19% quarter-on-quarter) to $1.36 billion, with delivery bookings rising 128%.

This coincided with the continued rollout of the newly designed Uber mobile app, which now integrates its ride hailing and food delivery services in an attempt to incrementally increase user and revenue growth across both of its offerings. According to its financial statement, the app now drives more than 10% of Uber Eats first-time orders. Meanwhile, the number of restaurants enlisted on the Uber Eats platform rose 75% in the final quarter of 2020, indicating a huge growth in interest from both retailers and customers in this arm of Uber’s business.

Additionally, monthly active platform consumers grew 19% quarter-on-quarter to 93 million, with the average customer spending $60 per month across five or more transactions.

Despite the successes of its food delivery service, the number of people booking rides through its app has been hit dramatically by continued restrictions imposed by regional governments. Ride bookings fell 47% in Q4 2020, resulting in a 52% year-on-year decline in ride revenue over the period. High demand for delivery has therefore partly made up for the shortfall in ride hailing over 2020, however, despite Uber’s total revenue rising 13% quarter-on-quarter, it declined by 16% across the whole of 2020.

UK online sales growth hit +36.6% year-on-year for 2020

Total online sales growth in the UK rose by 36.6% year-on-year in 2020 – the largest growth seen since 2007, according to data from the IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index.

After unprecedented uptake of online shopping out of necessity, local and national lockdowns throughout November and December (traditionally the busiest shopping period of the year) helped to boost the overall yearly figure to even loftier heights. Online retail sales in December remained slightly higher than the year average at +37%, while Black Friday events caused November to take the crown for peak performance at +39%.

Multichannel retailers saw a particularly bumper year for online sales, seeing them surpass the rate of growth of online-only competitors for the first time since 2017 (+57% year-on-year vs. 9.1%). Categories that experienced the greatest success over 2020 were garden (+222.5%) and electricals (+90.8%), the former of which is typically sold by multichannel retailers. However, online sales of clothing performed quite poorly, up just 1.3% in 2020 compared to growth of 8.2% the year before.

There was also good news for mobile commerce, which saw a huge 73% year-on-year uplift.

Cross-border ecommerce sales grew by 82% year-on-year in 2020

Data from eShopWorld has revealed that cross-border ecommerce sales grew 82% year-on-year in 2020, as globally optimised retailers cashed in on new opportunities.

Sales analysis shows international online shopping slowed quite dramatically in March 2020 before picking up at speed again in April and remaining high throughout the rest of the year. In April alone, cross-border sales exceeded 100% year-on-year growth before peaking at +141% in July.

A survey of over 22,000 consumers from 11 different countries found that 52% claimed to have made six or more cross-border purchases online since the beginning of 2020. Respondents cited lower cost (such as taxes and shipping) and better availability of products than in their home region as key purchase drivers.

The Phillipines ranked highest in the top 10 growing markets for international online sales, experiencing a whopping 258% year-on-year growth in 2020. This was followed by Morocco, Chile and Puerto Rico at 215%, 211% and 203% growth respectively.

US ecommerce penetration accelerated by 10 years in 90 days in Q1 2020

The rate of ecommerce penetration in the US grew by 10 years in a 90-day period in 2020, reaching around 33%, according to data from McKinsey.

The result of this acceleration, brought about by rapid digital transformation, has caused the gap in corporate profits between the best and worst performing brands to widen further than ever before. In total, McKinsey predicts the top quintile of industries that has fared well over the course of the pandemic could accumulate $335 billion additional profit, while the quintile that has fared the worst could lose $303 billion.

Organisations that have invested in superior customer experiences, following the shock of the coronavirus outbreak, have emerged stronger than they did before it began. It is thought that these brands have seen triple cumulative shareholder returns against other companies, according to analysis.

These figures are despite very volatile retail performance at the time, with April 2020 seeing the largest drop in US retail sales ever recorded. Fifty percent of American households were reported to be actively reducing their household spend, while a further 20% abandoned past brand loyalty in favour of others that were more convenient, inexpensive or had better stock availability.

Digital Transformation Monthly – 2020 in Review

4. Amazon and other marketplaces

Ebay’s GMV down 7%, active buyers down 2% in Q2 2021

Following Amazon’s latest set of financial results, which revealed its slowest revenue growth since the start of the pandemic, eBay is also showing some signs that the ecommerce boom may be starting to wane for the internet’s most popular marketplaces.

In the three months to June 30th, eBay experienced a better-than-expected 14% year-on-year rise in revenue, reaching $2.7bn in sales. It also saw an increased number of global sellers flock to the platform, increasing 5% over the period to reach 19 million.

However, its Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) declined by 7% to $221bn and its active annual buyers fell by 2%. It is worth noting that this comparison has been made against an unprecedented quarter for sales and customer growth for eBay in Q2 2020.

While these declines are fairly modest, it does indicate a turning tide for ecommerce as marketplaces and online retailers alike try to retain the numerous customers they have attracted over the pandemic. Overall, eBay’s GMV remains above pre-pandemic levels recorded two years prior (Q2 2019), but its annual active buyers are 23 million fewer.

Ebay says it predicts its Q3 earnings will total between $2.42-$2.47bn, a lower estimate than experts predicted and a downward trend for its quarterly revenue, which saw a peak of $3bn in Q1 2021.

Amazon revenue rises 27% in Q2 2021, marking its slowest growth since the pandemic began

Amazon saw its revenue rise 27% year-on-year in the three months to 30th June 2021, totalling $113bn. While sales for the ecommerce giant remain healthy, this figure did not meet the $115.2bn revenue predicted and marked the slowest rate of growth for the company since the pandemic began.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) continued to perform strongly, with net sales rising 37% to $14.8bn – the second quarter in a row to record over 30% growth across this arm of the company. This, new Chief Executive Andy Bassy explains, is a result of ‘more companies bring[ing] forward plans to transform their businesses and move to the cloud’. Meanwhile, Amazon’s advertising revenues skyrocketed by 87% versus the same period of 2020 as brands ramped up their investments.

Despite the results, Prime Day appeared as successful as ever for Amazon. Prime members bought more than 250 million items during the event, with its Fire TV Stick ranking as the most popular purchase. Customers also spent almost double the amount of money ($1.9bn) than in 2020 on products from third-party sellers in the annual Spend $10, Get $10 promotion, which typically runs for two weeks leading up to the big day.

Amazon is now on course to become the UK’s largest retailer by 2025

Thanks in part to a surge in sales during the pandemic, Amazon is now on course to become the UK’s largest retailer by 2025, Charged Retail reported in June 2021 from findings from Edge by Ascential. It is predicted that the ecommerce giant’s total sales will outpace that of Tesco in the next four years, at £77 billion versus £76.1 billion respectively, thereby bumping the popular supermarket off the top spot.

Amazon’s compound annual growth rate over this period is also expected to be much higher (at 16.3%) than Tesco’s (at 3.5%), which is somewhat due to the marketplace’s gradual increase in share of the UK grocery sector since the start of the coronavirus crisis. Growth in Amazon’s grocery category in 2020 alone rose 17.6%.

As ecommerce becomes an ever more popular way of purchasing food products and groceries, this will no doubt give online-only retailers like Amazon gain the edge over those with brick-and-mortar stores and omnichannel offerings. In fact, data suggests that 57.4% of added sales between now and 2025 will take place online, helping the retail sector accelerate by £123.6 billion to reach a £500 billion market value.

Sainsbury’s sales are predicted to rise 4.5% to £42.2 billion by 2025, which will rank the supermarket as the third largest retailer by that time, while Asda is likely to come in fourth place with total sales of £26.7 billion.

Alibaba serves 1 billion active users on its ecommerce platform

In a press release announcing results for the full fiscal year 2021, Alibaba revealed it has now served a total 1 billion active users on its ecommerce platform, including 240 million customers based outside of its primary market of China. Active users in China have grown by 85 million year-on-year, or 32 million quarter-on-quarter. Additionally, mobile Monthly Active Users reached 925 million, up by 79 million on the same period to March 2020.

The year ending March 31st 2021 has marked one of the strongest performances for the retailer to date – total revenue for the group increased a huge 41% in the full year to an equivalent $109.5 billion, and revenue for the quarter alone grew 64% year-on-year.

Overall GMV rose 21% across the year, mostly driven by the home furnishing and FMCG categories, and later by apparel in the first three months of 2021. Further data also found that the longer a customer has been shopping on Alibaba platforms, the higher their annual spend and the more product categories they purchased from. Average annual spend was measured at $1,404 for the fiscal year 2021, however, retention remained high among existing Alibaba customers regardless of their basket size.

The Taobao app endured as Alibaba’s most popular social retail platform in 2021, and indeed the whole of China, as its livestreaming capability continued to make waves with sellers. GMV for Taobao Live climbed to $76.3 billion, reflecting the ever-growing interest in livestreaming in the region and signalling it to be the next big ecommerce trend in the West.

Amazon revenue jumped 44% year-on-year in Q1 2021

A year on from the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon’s first quarter 2021 results showed just how much online shopping and streaming services have accelerated in that short time. Data from its financial statement shows revenue jumped 44% year-on-year from $75 billion to more than $108 billion, beating analysts’ prior expectations. Meanwhile, ‘other’ revenue, which primarily includes sales accrued from advertising, grew a whopping 77%.

Revenue from its subscription services, including Amazon Prime memberships, digital video, audio and ebooks rose 36% to $7.5 billion, while Amazon Web Services grew 32%. Streaming hours on Amazon’s Prime Video platform are now up more than 70% year-on-year, with over 175 million of its >200 million Prime members streaming TV shows and movies over the period.

Amazon sales grew 38% in 2020 to $386.1 billion

Amazon revealed sales grew a total 38% throughout 2020, reaching $386.1 billion. Meanwhile, sales of its web services (AWS) accelerated 29.5% to $45.4 billion vs. $35 billion last year.

In Q4 2020, usually the most lucrative time of year for Amazon, the company’s sales increased by 44% year-on-year to $125.6 billion, marking its first ever $100 billion quarter. This was no doubt aided by fresh stay-at-home restrictions across the globe as a second wave of the coronavirus began taking its toll. In the same quarter, 175,000 full-time and part-time employees were hired by the marketplace giant to help keep up with demand, compared with just 50,000 hired in Q4 2019.

It claims that the 2020 holiday season was ‘the best ever for independent businesses selling on Amazon’, with worldwide sales averaging 50% higher year-on-year and exceeding $4.8 billion in sales alone over the Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend. US small and medium-sized businesses sold close to one billion products via the marketplace in the last quarter.

This came as Jeff Bezos announced his stepping down from the role of Amazon CEO, instead taking a position as Executive Chairman.

Alibaba posted 37% rise in revenue for Q4 2020, with its cloud computing services growing 50%

In early February 2021, Alibaba posted its financial results from Q4 2020, which revealed a 37% year-on-year rise in revenue to RMB221.1 billion (or US$33.9 billion).

The company’s overall core commerce grew a total 38% over this period, with the Tmall marketplace faring particularly well – it reached 19% growth in physical goods GMV and a 60% rise in the number of international brands and sellers on its Tmall Global platform. As a result, Tmall Global also experienced triple-digit growth in the purchases of products shipped and warehoused overseas.

A portion of its success can be attributed to its record 11.11 Singles Day sales, expanded in 2020 to continue for 11 consecutive days, which created RMB498.2 billion in sales (US$74.1 billion) – an increase of 26% on the same event in 2019. Alibaba also claimed over 470 of its brand sellers made RMB100 million or more during the holiday.

Customer engagement also rocketed. Taobao Live generated more than RMB400 billion (US$61.8 billion) over the course of 2020, highlighting the huge and growing influence of livestreaming on online shopping in the APAC region. Moreover, views of recommended pages displayed on the Taobao app homepage grew a whopping 90% in the fourth quarter alone.

Aside from its retail achievements, Alibaba’s cloud computing business saw a huge 50% year-on-year boost in Q4 2020, making these services profitable for the company for the first time.

UK online reselling jumped in 2020, according to data from top second-hand sites

The Guardian reports online reselling in the UK saw a substantial boost in sales and traffic throughout 2020, according to information collated by top second-hand sites like MusicMagpie.

Sales at the aforementioned brand, which now resells many other products outside of old music, rose 22% over the course of 2020 to around £120 million. Sales of second-hand books via the site grew by a massive 75% in this period, while products like preowned smartphones and games consoles saw sales increase by one-fifth.

The most popular items sold included the series of Harry Potter books, Michael Bublé CDs, PlayStation 4 consoles and old versions of the iPhone.

MusicMagpie’s sales figures follow the same trend as similar sites such as eBay which saw a 30% growth in revenue between March and June 2020 alone. Meanwhile, Depop, a site for selling pre-loved fashion, grew its user base to 18 million since the end of 2019 and ‘experienced record sales’ in the summer, according to the Guardian’s report.

This suggests shoppers are taking a more sustainable and cost-friendly approach to their online shopping behaviours since the coronavirus crisis began, something which could continue past the pandemic as consumers cement their habits.

35% of all UK online purchases during first UK lockdown were made via Amazon

A report from Wunderman Thompson Commerce has revealed that Amazon’s share of the UK ecommerce market rose to 35% during the first lockdown, up from 30% at the end of 2019, highlighting the retailer as one that has benefitted most from the pandemic.

One fifth of the 2000 UK consumers surveyed claimed that their intention to purchase from Amazon after the coronavirus outbreak ends had increased, even though a similar number (21%) said that they were concerned about the company’s growing dominance in the industry.

Sixty-one percent of respondents cited free delivery as a key purchase driver, followed by availability (57%) and price (53%), while the most sought-after change to consumers’ online shopping experience was free returns.

Amazon marketplace sellers thought to have sold an additional $95 billion worth of products in 2020

Marketplace Pulse has estimated Amazon marketplace sellers sold an additional $95 billion worth of products last year than they did in 2019. That’s around $295 billion in total.

Taking its place amongst the winners of the pandemic – which include brands like Walmart, Etsy and Target – Amazon is also predicted to have sold $180 billion worth of products (worldwide) in first-party sales (Amazon Retail), up from $135 billion in 2019 and $117 billion in 2018.

Amazon’s GMV – Gross Merchandise Volume – is thought to have increased by 42% year-on-year in 2020, with its marketplace arm accounting for 62% of its total global GMV (although this equates to just a 2% increase in total share since 2019).

March was a particularly notable month for the marketplace as the coronavirus began to overcome multiple regions of the globe. Products sold via the platform accumulated a 46% share of the top 100 most searched queries related to Covid-19 as consumers rushed to buy essentials and safety equipment like PPE and sanitiser. Meanwhile, more than half of new US Amazon sellers joining the marketplace across the month were located in China, an increase of 39% on the same period in 2019.

Amazon: Lessons and Success Stories

Amazon sales up 37% year-on-year in Q3 2020

A press release outlining Amazon’s Q3 financials has confirmed that the company’s net sales grew 37% year-on-year worldwide, totaling $96.1 billion for the period and surpassing estimates of $92.7 billion. North American net sales were up by 39%, while international net sales rose by 37%.

Sales of its subscription services grew 33% year-on-year, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) grew by 29%. Total profits were up by 200% to $6.3 billion compared to the same quarter the year before, beating Amazon’s previous record of $5.2 billion profit back in Q2.

Ebay’s Q3 revenue rises 25% year-on-year in 2020

Ebay’s Q3 2020 financial statement has revealed that its revenue rose 25% to $2.61 billion compared to the same period in 2019, beating expert estimates of $2.48 billion. In the quarter ending 30th September, the marketplace also reported that its number of annual active buyers increased by 5% to total 183 million globally.

6. Customer experience

Number of out-of-stock products surged 172% between pre-pandemic and August 2021 in the US

In the US, the number of out-of-stock products online, across 18 product categories, surged 172% between January 2020 and August 2021, according to a report from Adobe Analytics. On a year-on-year basis, products were out of stock 24% more of the time in August 2021 than in August 2020, despite more restrictions lifting in the region this summer.

While the report didn’t reveal specific figures across verticals, clothing is reported to be the category with the highest number of out-of-stock products online as of August 2021. Second comes sporting goods, followed by baby products, electronics and pet products.

Quoted in a CNN Business report, Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights, said of the figures, “We’ve never seen it as high as this for the 10 years or so that we’ve done this report. It’s a record.”

Part of the reason that out-of-stocks remain so prolific, even as the US and the world emerges from the pandemic, is ongoing supply chain issues. Schreiner warns that shoppers should “make two lists for their holiday shopping”, one being a list containing products they should have shipped early to combat any potential shortages in the run up to Christmas.

54% of global shoppers find browsing for new products more enjoyable online than in-store

As consumers become more and more accustomed to making online purchases, fifty-four percent of global shoppers now prefer online window shopping to browsing instore, according to April 2021 research from Bazaarvoice. The study, conducted on more than 8000 consumers worldwide, has found that they not only enjoy browsing for items online, but also find it less of a hassle.

Indeed, data shows that almost two-thirds (64%) of those surveyed found browsing online easier than doing so inside a brick-and-mortar store, while a further 61% said they discovered new items more frequently online than in store. Analysis of responses revealed the top three reasons for better product discovery online were convenience (55%), greater choice (46%) and the ability to research items and any corresponding reviews (45%).

The report suggests most of this online product discovery is happening on mobile devices. Forty-six percent of consumers claimed they spend their time window shopping on mobile, versus 26% on desktop and 10% on tablet.

However, it seems consumers are significantly more likely to make an impulse purchase, as well as spend big, in store than they are when online shopping.

Buy now pay later firms see a rise in interest over coronavirus

Several buy-now-pay-later firms have confirmed they have seen a rise in interest and usage of their services, particularly in the US, since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reports.

Afterpay, a service based in Australia, told Reuters that it had seen the number of active users from the US more than double, reaching 6.5 million by the fiscal year end June 2020, while its sales in the region saw threefold year-on-year growth throughout Q3 2020. More than half of its US customers are between 25 and 40 years old, the report reveals. A similar company, Affirm, based in San Francisco, also claimed its revenue rose 93% to $509.5 million for the year ending 30th June 2020.

It is perhaps unsurprising, in such a volatile year for the economy, and with job security uncertain, that consumers are turning to buy-now-pay-later services to help spread the cost of their online purchases. However, data suggests they are becoming increasingly unlikely to meet repayment deadlines.

In a study conducted by Credit Karma for Reuters of 1038 US consumers, almost 40% of those that have spread their payments online have missed more than one payment, and as a result 72% have had their credit score lowered. More notably, 42% of respondents have said they had used a buy-now-pay-later plan before, indicating interest in the service is becoming more and more prevalent among Millennial consumers.

Over 70% of D2C brands have, or will, integrate subscriptions into their ecommerce strategies

Data released in Bold Commerce’s Subscription Trends 2021 report indicates that over 70% of D2C brands have – or will soon – integrate subscriptions into their ecommerce strategies. Furthermore, over half (54%) of respondents claim subscriptions account for 20% or more of their overall sales.

Subscription-based retailing is a proven way to improve loyalty and customer lifetime value – both of which have been badly affected by new shopping behaviours necessitated by the virus. Indeed, fifty-seven percent of brands that have implemented such loyalty programmes have measured their customer lifetime value at a year or more, while just 35% of those without said the same.

Twenty percent of retailers that have so far included discounts as a way of incentivising the purchase of subscriptions have reported month-on-month growth of over 50%. Meanwhile, one-quarter of brands that offer additional benefits as part of a subscription package, such as free shipping or early access to new collections, are seeing the same level of growth compared to 1 in 10 brands that don’t. This suggests brands need to think about more than just discounting if they want consumers to take out a subscription, as other perks appear more influential on overall uptake.

At the moment, industries that are seeing the highest growth (25% or more month-on-month) in subscription services are not all what you might expect. Sporting goods ranked first according to the survey, with 69% of brands in this category citing this level of growth, followed by the Industrial/B2B (60%) and Automotive (57%) sectors. Other up-and-coming industries with modest monthly subscriptions growth of 10% or more include food and beverage, technology and fashion.

More than two-thirds of European consumers have expressed interest in ‘shoppertainment’

Following China’s ecommerce success in this area, more than two-thirds of European consumers have expressed an interest in ‘shoppertainment’ – i.e. online shopping via livestreaming, interactive games and video content – according to a 2021 Forrester and AliExpress report.

Shoppertainment has proven to be beneficial for consumer engagement and sales (particularly impulse buys) and has been accelerated by the boom in online shopping over the past year. Previous research from Forrester forecasted a 45.7% compound annual growth rate in shoppertainment in China alone by 2023, but the pandemic has shifted the goalposts and made it more likely that this will be achieved much sooner.

Now regions in the west have begun experimenting with the idea of shoppertainment, and European consumers are especially excited for the future of this concept, particularly those in the 18-34 age category. Twenty-eight and twenty-seven percent, respectively, believe they will be able to take advantage of cheaper deals and a wider product offering by participating in shoppertainment, although one in five did admit they were concerned about the quality of the products featured in these initiatives.

Electronics, fashion and cosmetics are some of the biggest product categories that consumers are most interested in exploring through shoppertainment, especially through livestreaming. They have also expressed their desire to be able to shop practically and quickly through these sorts of channels, aside from being entertained. Features such as the ability to place orders, get vouchers, see estimated delivery times and read returns policies were the most popular with survey respondents, as was content that was 10 minutes or less in length.

47% of British consumers had issues with parcel delivery between March and October 2020

An October 2020 survey of more than 2000 British consumers, commissioned by Citizens Advice, has found that nearly half (47%) of British consumers have had issues with the delivery of parcels since the first lockdown began in March 2020.

With the UK having been in full or partial lockdown for much of 2020, 51% said they felt more reliant on having products delivered to their homes. The increased numbers of people now shopping online, whether for necessity or convenience, seems to have thrown retailers’ logistical issues into the spotlight.

Of all respondents, a whopping 96% claimed to have ordered products that require parcel delivery since March. Three in 10 of these have experienced shipping delays, making it the biggest issue cited by consumers. A further 18% said they had lost out financially due to a home delivery gone wrong or missing, with 40% of those losing out by more than £20.

As a result, nearly one in four have lost confidence when ordering goods from online stores – something that could have a larger impact as people begin their Christmas shopping.

Citizens Advice has said views of its webpage providing advice on parcel issues had more than doubled to 208,000 between March and October 2020 compared to just 94,000 over the same period in 2019.

Customer Retention Best Practice Guide

US shopping app downloads slowed to a 4% year-on-year growth in Q3 2020 after a Q2 spike

US shopping app downloads slowed to a 4% year-on-year growth in Q3 2020, following a spike in Q2, according to Sensor Tower’s Mobile Retail Trends Analysis, published in Q4.

Across the Apple App Store and Google Play, shopping app downloads in the region surpassed 150 million. The ranking of most downloaded apps remained mostly unchanged throughout Q1-Q3 in 2020, with Amazon, Wish and Walmart remaining in the top three, in that order, as they did in 2019 However, three new retail apps entered among the remaining seven spots, mirroring their successes in the US market in 2020 – Shop (by Shopify) rocketed to fourth place overall, while fashion retailer SHEIN ranked number seven and Nike crept in at number 10.

Sensor Tower data also revealed that US app download growth for top brick-and-mortar retailers between Q1-Q3 2020 was almost double that of top online-only retail apps (+27% vs. +14%). Downloads for stores that also have a brick-and-mortar presence also dropped off less sharply over the Q3 period compared to those of online-only retailers.

This suggests US consumers found a new way to shop with their favourite high street stores in 2020 under unprecedented circumstances. Customers who favour flexible shipping policies and contact-free pickup particularly reaped the benefits of apps from these kinds of retailers.

7. China

Cross-border ecommerce in Singapore booms in year to June 2021

A study released by YouTrip, shared by WARC, has found cross-border ecommerce in Singapore has boomed under the conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic, rising 84% year-on-year in the 12 months to June 2021. Cross-border purchasing is quickly taking a larger share of the ecommerce market in the country, which is expected to reach $8 billion by 2025.

Many of the most popular websites driving heightened amounts of cross-border commerce originate from either China or the US. Taobao took the top spot for the year, with transactions via the site rising by 131%, followed by Amazon at number two. Alibaba placed third (with transactions up 120%), while eBay also made it into the top five (up 98%). June and November/December were reported as peak cross-border shopping periods for Singaporean consumers, reflecting prevalent seasonal sales promotions and events like Prime Day and Singles Day.

According to 8 in 10 consumers in the region, the main reason for shopping with overseas retailers was the lower cost of products compared to those promoted by native retailers. It appears to be a much more pressing reason for shopping in this way, data suggests, than the prolonged closure of international borders. In fact, 9 in 10 plan to continue with their cross-border purchase habits even once overseas travel reopens post-pandemic.

Singaporeans’ demand for bicycles drove the sharpest growth on cross-border websites over the year-long period, as did purchases of various K-Pop merchandise, which saw double and triple the number of sales respectively.

JD.com sees annual active customer accounts rise 27.4% in year ending June 2021

Chinese retail giant JD.com has experienced a 27.4% rise in annual active customer accounts in the year ending June 2021 to almost 532 million, due to an increased appetite for online shopping. These accounts are defined as unique customers that have shopped at least once with JD across the 12-month period, either via online retail or its online marketplace.

In Q2 2021, the company also reported a 26% year-on-year overall rise in net revenue to RMB 253.8 billion (£28.5 billion), beating experts’ predictions. Revenue from its Product segment, which includes JD’s ecommerce arm, rose 23%.

The brand’s popular 618 Grand Promotion, which spans 18 days in June and whose popularity is second only to rival Alibaba’s annual Singles Day event in November, helped accumulate additional online revenue, as well as 32 million new users on its platform during the quarter. Its grocery category drove many of these promotional transactions, with JD Fresh seeing a 70% year-on-year boost in sales within the first hour of the event, while alcohol sales exceeded RMB 200 million (£22.4 million) within the first five minutes.

The maternal and baby, pet, and luxury categories also performed strongly, demonstrating continued momentum across several verticals despite the return to a new normal. However, there were other unspecified categories that JD.com admits had previously ‘peaked during Covid-19’.

China’s emerging night-time shopping habits revealed by JD.com

Big data compiled by one of China’s largest ecommerce players, JD.com, has found emerging night-time shopping habits among Chinese consumers.

Analysis shows online sales conducted from 8pm-11pm local time between May 1st and July 1st 2021 grew more than 100% year-on-year, as shoppers increasingly choose their evening hours to browse products online. The trend is largely driven by the healthcare industry, which saw sales of medicine quintuple and sales of fitness equipment triple during throughout this time of day. This suggests home workouts are here to stay for many, despite recent widespread reopening.

Other product categories that saw a spike during these evening hours were alcohol, skincare and beauty and pet services, all of which also experienced a 100% increase in sales versus the same period of 2020. Meanwhile, purchases of digital products out on top by rising 500% year-on-year, with 8pm-11pm accounting for more than half of transactions for this vertical across that take place across a whole day.

According to the data, the over-85s and white-collar workers make up the bulk of consumers shopping online in China during the late evening hours. Typically, these cohorts have higher-than-average disposable income and are ‘playing an active role in the night-time economy’, far more so than students and residents in smaller towns do, JD says.

Cross-border ecommerce in China rose 46.5% in Q1 2021

According to a report published by Wunderman Thompson and JingDaily, ‘Transcendent Retail: APAC’, cross-border ecommerce in China rose 46.5% year-on-year in Q1 2021, reaching an equivalent value of $63.8bn.

The pandemic has spurred on this trend in a number of ways. By December 2020, as many as 70% of China’s population – around 989 million people – were online, the majority via their mobile devices. Nearly 80% of this cohort were shopping online at this time, while 86% were actively using mobile payments. Add to this the restrictions on travel, Chinese consumers and tourists found it more difficult than ever before to make in-person purchases of international goods and have therefore turned to cross-border online retailers to do so.

In an overview, the report explained, “China’s dominance of global ecommerce is no accident. It came about because of a specific set of planned circumstances: the rollout of fast-speed mobile networks even to rural communities, the building of logistics networks including warehousing and delivery; and the near total adoption of mobile payments across China in recent years.”

Pinduoduo’s MAUs increase by 74.6 million quarter-on-quarter in Q3 2020

Chinese ecommerce platform Pinduoduo increased its monthly active users (MAUs) by 74.6 million in Q3 2020 compared to the previous quarter, to a total of 643.4 million. Its number of annual active buyers also rose by 36% to 731.3 million compared to the same period in 2019. At just five years old, this makes Pinduoduo the fastest ecommerce company to have surpassed 700 million active buyers.

Gross merchandise value (GMV) reached a whopping 1.5 trillion yuan (+73%), while its revenue climbed 89% year-on-year to 14.2 billion yuan ($2.1 billion US) as Chinese consumers continued to favour online shopping after its peak of the outbreak in the region. A twenty percentage point decrease in sales and marketing expenses helped to boost this figure further.

This success follows innovative action taken by the company to extend its offering to consumers. In August, Pinduoduo launched its grocery delivery service Duo Duo Maicai to meet growing demand amidst the fallout from the pandemic.

What’s behind the success of China’s social commerce app Pinduoduo?

8. Black Friday & Singles Day

Supply chain delays and winter lockdown fears prompted 45% of UK consumers to start their 2021 Christmas shopping early

Forty-five percent of British consumers planned to get their Christmas shopping done earlier than ever in 2021 thanks to supply chain delays and fresh fears of a winter lockdown as Covid-19 cases remain high. According to data from Braze, shoppers hoped to complete their festive shopping on average one week earlier than they have in prior years.

Thirty-five percent of respondents said their prime reason for starting their shopping sooner is the fear of supply chain issues delaying the delivery of their online purchases, while a further 31% claimed they’re worried about another lockdown being imposed closer to the celebrations. They’re also expecting to spread their spend more evenly across the coming months, with nearly two-fifths stating they will avoid purchasing too much during discount events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It is thought that this is partly down to brands offering more consistent discounting throughout the year, which is enticing shoppers to buy more frequently and over a longer period of time.

This more consistent spending pattern indicates that customer loyalty is once again on the rise in the lead up to Christmas – spelling good news for brands that have invested more in customer retention over the pandemic. In September 2021, new customer growth decreased by 14% on the year before, while sessions per user increased by 17%.

2020:

Third party sellers on Amazon saw a 60% growth year-on-year in Black Friday weekend sales

In a blog post on 1st December, Amazon revealed that sales performance on Black Friday weekend, which includes Cyber Monday, helped the 2020 holiday season become the ‘biggest yet’ for the company.

Black Friday promotions saw third-party sellers grow their sales by 60% year-on-year, surpassing $4.8 billion worldwide. Amazon also claimed that more than 71,000 small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) selling through the marketplace had made more than $100,000 during the holiday season at the time of publication.

UK retailers saw a 23% YoY increase in online store sales on Black Friday 2020

Analysis from Nosto found UK sales in online stores soared 23% on Black Friday 2020. This was accompanied by a 35% rise in online store visits and a 2% increase in conversion rates compared to numbers from the same event in 2019. However, there was a 4% decline in average order value, likely due to heavier discounting than usual to get consumers to part with their cash amid financial uncertainty.

Globally, pet supplies and home and garden came out on top compared to other verticals, seeing a 60% and 52% increase in online sales respectively. The majority of the remaining categories analysed saw growth compared to 2019’s Black Friday results, except for fashion and accessories, which experienced a 4% decline despite a 7% uplift in traffic. This category also saw a 5% decrease in conversion rate and a 3% drop in average order value.

Overall, global online consumer behaviour changed quite significantly over the Black Friday Cyber Monday weekend. In 2020, there was a 24% increase in the number of pages viewed and a 20% increase in the time spent on any one page. Meanwhile, bounce rate dropped by 2%, suggesting that shoppers, more than ever, are making more purposeful and considered purchases during the event.

Interestingly, there was also a 30% uplift in the number of product recommendations shown, indicating that retailers have put in place additional measures to ensure a personalised experience for visitors and a greater chance of conversion and/or upselling.

Ecommerce Best Practice Guide

Alibaba’s 2020 Singles Day sales event broke records

November 11th 2020 saw Alibaba pull in record sales during one of the largest retail events in China – Singles Day. Purchases made in the 11-day campaign period covering the unofficial holiday topped $74 billion, a new high for the company and a 26% increase on 2019’s event.

In its press release, the ecommerce giant said that more than 470 brands using Alibaba made 100 million yuan in gross merchandise value (GMV) as a result of the shopping festival. The platform also claimed it had processed 583,000 purchases per second during the peak of activity across the campaign. Of the quarter of a million brands that participated, 31,000 originated from outside of the Chinese market. 2,600 of these were joining the event for the first time.

Digital tools came into their own during the Singles Day event in 2020. According to Alibaba’s data, its AI customer chatbot dealt with 2.1 billion questions, and more than 30 livestreaming channels on Taobao Live (Alibaba Group’s livestreaming tool) made over 100 million yuan in GMV.

Rival JD.com made 271 billion yuan (US $40.9 billion) in sales throughout the holiday, while major omnichannel retailer Suning.com exceeded 5 billion yuan (US $­756 million) in omnichannel GMV across its ecommerce platform, Tmall shop, and livestreaming outlets 19 minutes after midnight on November 11ththe South China Morning Post reported.

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