Stanoja Novakovića 8, Belgrade, Serbia

As Coronavirus (Covid-19) continues to impact our daily lives and routines with the situation in many countries changing on a daily basis, many of us are eager to travel again. As soon as the situation permits, hotels will be equally eager to welcome their guests back. The truth is that holding your breath and hoping for the best will make you feel …better (well, at least for a while) but ‘business as usual’ is no longer a sustainable approach. Nevertheless, the hotel and hospitality industry as a whole can actually do a lot right now to stay ahead of the crisis and be prepared to recover more efficiently.

More than 50 % of travelers have either rescheduled or cancelled their trips

Unfortunately, the hotel industry has been devastated by the pandemic. Even the big chains like Hyatt or Hilton have focused on mitigating the crisis through different measures, including layoffs, stopping recruitment and reducing hours. To uphold and save their businesses, independent hotels meet the similar challenges relating to termination of services, staff reduction and cost cutting.

For those in the hotel industry still operating, “the day after” marketing strategy is merely one of the challenges they need to deal with. Nevertheless, as Covid-19 is indisputably going to affect our lives and our work for many months (or years) to come, hotels need to adopt an action plan focused on both the current state of affairs, the future trends in travel demand and the changed concerns of their customers.

Impact of Covid-19 to travel industry 9 times worse than 9/11

Tourism Economics and STR have issued a special forecast indicating that the hotel industry is expected to report considerable declines in demand, occupancy, ADR, and revenue per available room (RevPAR). Regardless of the decline and the potential of the hotel industry to deal with the crisis, the market is expected to recover in the last quarter of 2020 and next year. CBRE’s research shows that US hotel demand will need at least 6-10 months to recover and 12-16 months for RevPAR and ADR to regain footing.

Accordingly, hotels need to adequately prepare for recovery, along with their capability to set reasonable expectations and KPIs. Most hotel industry experts suggest the hotels should adopt a three-staged approach:

While Travel is at a Standstill: While people are  mostly at their homes, not traveling and with most hotels temporarily shut down, hoteliers should focus on maintaining contact with their past and future guests by means of email, social media and editorial content that will keep them entertained and additionally enhance their brand relationship.

Demand going up: Hotels should boost their marketing activities related to brand awareness and attracting new guests through affordable CPCs and CPMs to reach those that are already planning their vacations and figuring out their long-awaited trips. To do this, hotels need to ensure a flexible cancellation policy and appropriate messaging in line with the situation.

Travel demand rises: Marketing focus should be sensitive to new demands and specificities of travel post-Covid-19, along with targeting the right demographics with adequate messaging and packages.

Projected revenue decline of 50 % for 2020

Stage One: While Travel is at a Standstill

As most travel is at a standstill, it is of critical importance to operate in line with crisis-management best practices through a well-developed prevention plan, efficient and effective communication with guests and employees, as well as to introduce necessary modifications to revenue management and digital marketing strategies to rump up recovery. In addition, it is necessary to clearly communicate all the relevant information relating to hotel’s operation and COVID-19 on the hotel’s website and through digital channels. Equally important is to maintain flexible cancellation policies both for current reservations and future bookings.

Changing Perception of Travel During COVID-19. Travel demand may be reduced, but this period should be leveraged to understand the changed traveler’s perception of the COVID-19 situation, think of different ways your brand can actually help travelers and get in touch with consumer preferences and changed attitudes. A recent survey by Fuel Travel showed that peoples’ prevalent associations of travel at this moment were ‘unsafe,’ ‘scary,’ ‘wait’ and ‘caution.’ This is in line with slow travel demand that is not expected to increase before June (at the best).

Creating Value for the Customers. The entire travel and hotel industry is still strongly affected by COVID-19, with most hotels closed or dealing with low demand, but your brand is in a bigger need than ever to remain connected to past guests through your website, e-mail and social media and share relevant and appealing content they can enjoy. You should also convey messages that are positive, encouraging and empathetic.

People are likely to remember that your brand made them feel better about the crisis and adequate content can considerably improve the brand relationship. During this time, your marketing focus should be on brand awareness and valuable and meaningful content that will drive traffic to your website. Ultimately, this is the best time for your hotel to focus on bigger goals and the community as a whole. This includes partnership with a charity and encouraging loyalty members to donate to earn loyalty points or rewards for future bookings or provide exclusive rates to first responders.

Eight in 10 hotel rooms are empty

Experts suggest that recovery strategy for hotels should broadly incorporate:

Sound Prevention Plan: To help your guest feel safe and have positive experience with your hotel, you should establish and implement a prevention plan that protects both guests and employees. Even if your hotel is temporarily closed, your guests will want to know that the prevention plan is still implemented after the hotel reopens.

Share Important COVID-19 Information: You need to inform your guests if the hotel is open, that you implement a prevention plan and that cancellation policies are in place though major communication channels, including your website, email and social media. Critical information you should communicate to your guests (primarily through your web site) include prevention plan, cancelation policy, contact information, FAQ relating to COVID-19 and the way your hotel is engaged in the community.

Flexible Cancellation Policy: With COVID-19 still determining travel demand, hotels need to develop and implement a clear action plan to manage existing reservations and cancellations, along with a flexible cancellation policy on both existing and future reservations. By communicating this properly to guests who have already made reservations, you can enhance your brand trust and boost future bookings.

You could, for example, reach out to your guests proactively by suggesting rebooking along with an added value or incentive. Fuel Travel survey shows cancellations-rescheduling ratio to be at 4:1, with around 50% of respondents rescheduling or cancelling their trips.

2020 is projected to be the worst on record for hotel occupancy

You can consider prompting the guests that have already cancelled their trips to book a future stay or purchase a gift card for the reservation amount, or add an incentive or complimentary bonus. Basically, if you want to enhance brand loyalty and trust and encourage people to rebook, a flexible cancellation policy for six months or even a year should be a solid recovery strategy.

Rethink Your Digital Marketing Strategy: With Covid-19 still dictating the travel demand, you should take time to rethink your digital marketing strategy, restore initiatives and processes to prepare your hotel for a time to come. These strategies may include auditing marketing assets and digital tools, redesigning creative or templates, developing or recreating reputation management strategy, assessing your website’s design, value, relevancy, and brand voice and creating a communication plan and editorial calendar for the next two-three months.

Indulge Healthcare Workers: Given the extreme effort and sacrifice on the part of healthcare workers worldwide, you may consider offering an affordable rate for them and first responders who have spent months in isolation from their loved ones. This may involve affordable rates, complimentary rooms, food donations to local hospitals, or donations to relief funds.

Boost your Editorial Content: Amidst social distancing, isolation and self-isolation, strong and attractive editorial is an effective tool to encourage your past guests who currently cannot visit your hotel. You can share at-home spa treatment tips from your hotel spa, workout or instructional videos your guests can use to stay active at home, your chef’s famous recipe or fun activities for children.

Leverage the Power of Social Media: social distancing has considerably increased time spent on social media. Social media represents a great way to maintain connections with your past guests and inspire followers with attractive travel content. You can ask your followers to share pictures from their past trips or stay at your hotel, share appealing and inspiring photos of your hotel or share virtual tours of your destination landmarks are just a few ways to engage past guests. You can boost your social media presence through activities like

  • “Around the World” social posts – you can inspire people to travel the world virtually by sharing their photos of destinations they travelled and their experiences with those destinations.
  • “Your favorite destination” social posts – invite people to share photos from past stays at your hotel and favorite landmarks in your destination
  • “Virtual Museum”  share virtual tours or videos of local museums and invite people to share their impressions of exhibitions.
  • E-mail marketing – maintain connections with your past guests via email to build awareness of your content by, for example, promoting blog content (spa treatments, workouts, recipes, and so on).
  • “Make a hotel out of your home” – inspire your past guest to create a minibar or use baht products you offer in your hotel to help them bring their hotel experience to their home

70 % of hotel employees laid off or furloughed

Advance Purchase Offers: Travel may be at a standstill, but some people may be interested in booking their trips in advance. Accordingly, it will be of critical importance for you to concentrate on the adequate audience by offering, for example, a 90-day advance purchase, as people usually take around 90 days to make decisions on their flights and hotels.

Focus Your Digital Marketing Activities on Adequate and Inspiring Messaging: During this period, brand awareness should be your primary point of concern, with sensitive messaging that will drive traffic to your website. Should you decide to maintain your offer, you should focus on advance purchases and a flexible cancellation policy. In conclusion, now is the time you should maintain contacts with past guests and foster a strong brand relationship, as people are likely to remember their experience with your brand in making their future travel-related decisions.

Sta with us in the next blog in which we will present strategies for the second stage of your recovery – demand going up.

 

Tourism Economics

Oxford Economics

STR

CBRE

Oxford Economics and Hotel Effectiveness

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Believe it or not, almost half of all small businesses don’t have a website.

Simply put, the importance of having a website to both large and small businesses cannot be overstated, as it connects them with millions of potential customers. Having a well-designed website makes it possible even for the small start-ups to make a lasting impression on their target audience and have a measurable method for making their brand visible and their business stand out from the competitors’.

75% of consumers report they make judgements on a company’s credibility on the basis of company’s website design*

Visibility is the key

For start-up businesses, location is everything. When opening a store in a location where a great number of potential customers can see it means a lot in terms of the exposure and business success. In this view, having an established online presence through a responsive website design means increased visibility, traffic and, ultimately, more potential customers.

For those running an online store, the Internet provides countless opportunities to market their products to, literally, hundreds of millions of people – the entire ecumene, to be precise! And to make them see you, they need to know that you exist. Recent studies indicate that between 70 and 80 percent of consumers research online prior to making a purchase decision, meaning that you need to have a website to let them know you exist.

According to Google, 61% of users are unlikely to revisit a site on mobile if they experienced trouble accessing it and 40% visit a competitor’s site instead

Let them hear your story

A well-designed website provides a platform to share your story with the customers, including your company/brand history, what you’re doing now and where do you see your company in the future. This will show users know about your experience in the industry, your success story and the organizational values you share. In addition, you can also use your website to inform the customers about new and upcoming products, your long-term goals and plans for your brand(s). You do want to let them know you’ll stick for a while, right?

Catch up and outrun the competition

When establishing a business, you need to assume that your key competitors are already present online. Chances are – anyone you can think of already has a website. To know the trends and understand your competition, you need to research your competitors’ web design, SEO or load time or the marketing methods they use, to be able to move ‘one step beyond.’ Without a website, you’ll be simply lagging behind, but merely having a website is not all it takes to ‘beat’ the competition and attract the potential customers.

You actually need a proactive and responsive design to convince the customers that you are better than your competitors.

Slow-loading websites cost$2.6 billion in lost sales each year

Social media? Sure, but not enough!

One of the common mistakes a lot of companies make is assuming that social media presence makes a website unnecessary or irrelevant (even more so with Facebook boasting with its 40 million small business pages). Undoubtedly, you can work hard on your social media pages and establish valuable connections to your visitors, but the thing is that with social media, you’re likely to experience the change of rules without even being informed, forgetting the password, or losing your page to hackers – meaning, you don’t have the control over the much of the process.

A good illustration for this is Facebook’s decision to shut down purging its site of 800 political accounts, declaring them spam, even though page owners reported they were sharing legitimate news stories.

More importantly, social media, as your only point of addressing the customers, is at risk of becoming obsolete. A social media platform’s popularity is not everlasting, considering the users’ changing preferences and trends, which is why you should probably not limit yourself to social media platforms, as each one of them is likely to be abandoned – sooner or later.

Moving to a new platform may be a solution, but it means you’ll be starting from ‘the scratch,’ unless you have a considerable number of followers. And many businesses don’t. Moreover, there’s no guarantee your customer’s will follow you to the new platform. Whereas social media can be a great choice for businesses, you should never underestimate the importance of a website, a space you both own and control.

70% of small business websites don’t have a Call to Action (CTA) on their homepage

Reach the best talents

A well-designed website allows you not only draw customers, but the best, the most talented potential employees. And all of these talented, brilliant, highly-skilled people are more than likely to check out your website and see what kind of company they might be working for. This is precisely why you need a website with attractive graphics, the one that loads quickly and is regularly updated, as it instills a sense of confidence.

If you want to attract the talents, you need to have (and present) a modern vision and constantly improve your marketing capabilities, and the best way to do this is a well-designed, responsive web page.

94% of first impressions are based on design.

Content marketing made easier

Content marketing broadly refers to all the content you produce across different channels and represents a rather common and unpretentious way of increasing customer trust in your brand. Your social media account is a good place to do it, but you also need a space where you can share more diverse content. Moreover, users will more likely feel safe about browsing or downloading your content if it is on your website.

You can use your website to build personal relationships with your customers via blogs, share the knowledge, run a podcast, embed videos, share infographics or create e-books for download. With a website, you can figure out what type of content works best for both your customers and your brand. Having great content on your website will get you closer to your target audience and help you understand their specific needs and preferences.

38% of people stop engaging with a website if the content or design are unattractive

Customers as advertisers

Word of mouth tends to be underestimated, as many companies don’t realize the benefits of letting customers convince other potential customers to give your brand a chance. This free boost is particularly important for small businesses. Website also provides you with the opportunity to share testimonials, especially if those are real reactions from your actual customers. Authentic customer experiences and real people sharing their impressions about products or services are more likely to draw new customers and additionally increase trust in your brand.

47% of Users expect a maximum of 2 seconds loading time for an average website

Website builds authority

Regardless of whether it is buying guides, white papers or the latest news from the industry, your brand can benefit from having a reputation as an authority. You need to gain your customers’ trust and respect to get them to buy your products, and this is exactly why you need marketing tools. Nevertheless, it may be difficult to present those materials to your customers if you don’t have a website from which they can download or purchase them.

Once you make these authority-building materials visible and available through your website, your business will be more likely to be easily found online.

It takes about 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds) for users to form an opinion about your website that determines whether they like your site or not

Experts build authority

An effective way to build authority is having experts from your field to guest post content to your website, especially if you have a blog. Having trusted experts can help you establish your authority as a leader in your business field. This could be guest bloggers with a reputation in a specific field or reputable influencers who could contribute to your brand authority. Still, you need to be aware that relying on guests exclusively can muffle  your own voice, which is the key in customers’ perception of your company’s authority.

57% of internet users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed website on mobile

Customer service

There are customers who would travel to a physical location to report their complaints or concerns and there are also customers who would make a phone call and communicate these concerns, but today, the majority of customers prefer a real-time, online option. In addition to an active e-mail, a chatbot can considerably improve customer experience with your brand, especially if involving a human customer service agent.

Unlike AI chatbot assistance which may not provide all the answers, a real person your customers can talk to can significantly improve their experience and, once again, increase trust in your brand. A good customer service may even neutralize their negative experience with the previous purchase.

88% of online consumers are probably not likely to return to a site after a bad experience

Leverage viral content

To maintain your relevance and keep your website attractive and relevant for the customers, you should regularly check viral trends that could increase your brand awareness. This could be viral jokes and memes that could draw attention to your website and, ultimately, make your brand more popular. Nevertheless, you need to be sure that you are not going viral for the wrong reasons, which is why you need to research and pick the trends that support your brand and your values, however humorous or provocative they may be.

39% of users will stop engaging with a website if images won’t load or take too long to load

Mind the design

A well-designed website is a perfect blend of good design and great content, but it is also user-friendly and responsive. Nowadays, it means your website needs to be optimized for mobile phones as most websites created for desktop browsing are difficult to navigate on a mobile phone. Considering that around 70 percent of web traffic originates from mobile phones, your website needs to be adapted for mobile users – otherwise, it will not positively affect their user experience as one of the key aspects of a business website.

You need to keep an eye on the upcoming website trends to know when and how you will have to adapt.

85% of adult users think that a company’s website when on a mobile device should be as good or better than its desktop website.

You should consider your business website the difference between ‘getting somewhere’ and ‘not getting anywhere.’ You have seen that there are many ways you can have your website work for you and your overall marketing strategy. Be sure not to do everything from a social media platform as you need to be in control of your content and your identity. Ultimately, the future may bring a completely new level of interaction with customers but, before it happens, you need to make your brand visible and easily found on the web.

 

*Statistics: SWEOR.com

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In the recent decade or so, social media have been dramatically changing the way individuals, groups and organizations create, share, and use information posted online. It is the reach, ubiquity, interactivity and usability of social media that makes almost 90% of Europe’s Gen Z and most of Gen Y embrace social media differ instead of traditional media. According to one survey, in 2017, users spent an average of 2 hours per day on social networks and messaging services. Many researchers and practitioners, marketers in specific, emphasize the “bright side” of social media and the advantages of engagement between companies and consumers. Companies are leveraging the enormous power of social media to boost their marketing, product development, customer service, public relations, personnel decision-making, and other activities driven by exchange of information and engagement with consumers and employees.

According to a survey conducted by Eurostat, almost 50% of all EU used at least one form of social media in 2017, both for the purpose of publishing company content but also for better understanding of the consumer behaviour worldwide through analysis of user-generated content, interactions on social media networks and consumer-generated intellectual property. Nevertheless, an increasing number of social theorists, psychologists, education specialists and legal experts are pointing to the indisputable “dark side” to social media. One of the former Facebook executives recently stated that he regrets that he helped “ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.” This statement ideally portraits the omnipresence of social media platforms and the way they are undermining the freedoms and the well-being of the individuals and communities worldwide. Everyone is familiar with (or have heard something about) cyberbullying, trolling, privacy invasions, fake news and addictive use. In addition, a large number of Britons, aged 14-25 reported that social media, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat, intensifies self-consciousness and “fear of missing out,” leading to depression, sleep disturbances and anxiety.  In addition to invading our private lives, social media seem to be messing with our work, as well, by creating work-life conflicts. Even though social media executives themselves point to harmful impact of their platforms, users seem to be unconcerned about potential risks and long-term consequences of their choices.

Given that the vast number of employees and customers worldwide belong to the so-called digital natives, the generation which have grown up in a digital environment, with social media at hand, the have become so accustomed to social media that the only reality they know is online engagement, conversations, self-expression or community building. To leverage the undoubtedly enormous power of social media, it is necessary to understand what has brought us here and what is that dark sides of social media that needs to be considered in order to eliminate potential risks and make better-informed decisions.

Referring to the “dark side” of social media is actually, like referring to the negative consequences of many modern phenomena, including entrepreneurship, junk food, capital markets, or the sharing economy, on the individual and society as a whole. In doing this, it is important not to make “black or white” references, like social media is either good or bad, bright or dark, useful or useless. Like with many other technological innovations, social media are not dichotomous, but have both bright and dark sides (think of Alfred Nobel’s dynamite, improving both quarrying, mining, and construction and warfare which capitalized on the use of dynamite). In the similar vein, social media are used to connect to friends and family we don’t see often, but also to disconnect from those we spend our lives with.

The fact is that the new types of interactions and other social media activities, like sharing or conversing, may result in decline in reflective thinking by promoting superficial thoughts leading to moral and cognitive frivolousness. With social media, it is also about the personal perception of their bright and dark sides. A gerontology nurse in a care home in the UK posted a photo on Facebook of herself singing with residents at the care home, considered a breach of privacy, for which she was fired. She considered the posting harmless and well-intentioned, but her employees didn’t. On the other hand, there are cases like that of another Britton who created an online competition and awarded himself and others “pedopoints” for sharing recordings of sexual crimes against minors.

There are also huge discrepancies in the way perpetrators perceive their actions. On one hand, cyberbullying is used to intentionally harm individuals, but oversharing photos of positive experiences and wealth may unintentionally do harm to those who are not so lucky. In addition, technological savviness is required for some actions (like hacking), whereas some actions can be performed by literally anyone (like posting videos online). In their work on the dark side of social media, Kietzmann et al. established the framework comprising the seven building blocks of social media to expand understanding on the way individuals, groups, and organizations can use different social media platforms, but also to describe different features of the social media user experience. These building blocks or functionalities indicate the extent to which users can converse with each other, share content, let others know about their presence, form relationships, know the reputation of others, form groups/communities, and reveal their identity (Kietzmann et al., 2011). Social media platforms are widely using these functions to achieve specific business functions or provide overall business model for the organizations. Each of these building blocks can also be utilized to examine different aspects of the dark side of social media (the key negative aspects or consequences for each of the functionalities are shown in the Picture below).

 

Social media may be improving, but people’s social behaviour online seems to be stalling, at best. Every now and then, it seems as if social media are modifying or even eradicating some of the human traits that make us a social species. Companies wanting to be safe from some of the common traps and risks of social media may find a useful tool in the above framework. Through a detailed analysis of the seven building blocks, being, conversation, sharing, presence, relationships, reputation, groups, and identity, companies can get an insight into the dark side of social media that can negatively affect their brands, customers, and workforce. Nevertheless, more research and more practical understanding is needed to improve the way we use social media and minimize the “dark side” effect. Finally, we do hope that this article motivates you to think about and realize the weight of the long-term consequences of the inadequate and unethical use of social media. You gotta lot to win, but a lotta loose, as well!

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The outbreak of the COVID-19 has imposed mandatory social distancing on hundreds of millions of people worldwide who are now opting (or not) to work from home. Being detached from our normal in-the-public lives and daily routines has reminded us of the importance of social media…once again. If there’s anyone out there who is not aware of that…at all.

In every corner of the world, people are using social media to stay connected, stay informed and stay sane. It is exactly at the time of crisis that we become aware of the importance of being intertwined, which makes the social media role more relevant than ever. The Coronavirus outbreak is an unprecedented event which has made the entire world question the priorities and which has made us realize the importance of doing things together.

To say that the Coronavirus has changed our everyday routine is a serious understatement as governments around the world have closed schools, enacted travel restrictions and banned restaurants, bars, parks, cinemas and other public gathering places to control the spread of the Coronavirus. With a crisis like this, immediacy is a must, which is why governments, NGOs and medical organizations are leveraging the influence of social media like Facebook, Instagram or YouTube to livestream information and instructions.

Why the social media? Because it allows you to get the news ASAP.  Research indicates that 68% of American adults get their news from social media, with the statistics being similar in other countries. There is no news network, major or minor that does not use social media networks to distribute their content. Moreover, if someone you follow go live, you will receive a notification to watch.

Another core value of social media is that it centers around your community – family, friends, colleagues or acquaintances, especially now that we’re quarantined and pushed into this social distancing relieving the stress and the anxiety of the situation. And we’ve seen some awesome examples of this in the last month or two – people in Italy singing together, Facebook groups sharing stories, ideas, shows, and so on, or friends letting each other know they’re OK.

In addition to social media, there are video calls helping people stay connected. People across the globe are using Facebook Messenger, Viber, FaceTime or Skype to see their friends and family and let them know they are here. With the necessity of quarantine, these networks have become an inextricable part of our reality. Due to the incredible reach and omnipresence of social media, we can all do something to ‘flatten the curve,’ without having to do it alone.

Given that the majority of people are in a quarantine, either voluntary (or not), they’re isolated from the rest of the world, except the people they live with. Sports events are banned, cancelled and postponed, sports institutions temporarily shut down, cinemas and theaters have cancelled their shows, restaurants and bars are closed or doing take-away only. You cannot visit ZOOs, entertainment parks or picnic sites.

Considering that a substantial part of our entertainment in the future will have some digital aspect to it, which means that social media will evolve to host the future of entertainment. Major movie studios have already started releasing new movies through different channels, like Netflix (list of 10 apps you can use to watch videos online) providing you  with the possibility to use your basic video calling apps to watch the movies “in the same room.”

The increased online activity represents an opportunity for your company or brand to boost your online conversation and address your customers more frequently and more systematically than before. There are a variety of tools that can help you manage and direct your online conversation more effectively by leveraging the unified voices of your strongest, most vocal supporters to extend your reach, provide more engagement and stimulate sharing and awareness. Additionally, you can match your followers and customers to content that they’re likely to engage with, thus increasing your ROI on the content you’re creating.

We may be living in times of uncertainty and value questioning, but we need to act as one to support our communities, at least through effective communication. This is how your voice is being heard!

 
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You keep wondering how to justify investing time and budget in SEO and prove the ROI? Or what steps to take to make your SEO strategy work for you? In 2019, everybody was talking about Google’s new BERT algorithm and, all of a sudden, every SEO professional wanted to know how to optimize for BERT. Still, instead of struggling with optimization for BERT, we should be dealing with user-focused optimization and the technical delivery of content.

Basically, it means we should reassess user access points to search and make our content comply with that. This refers to the mechanics of how something is crawled, indexed, and served in diverse search settings. Given that users now have multiple options to search for things, SEO needs to focus on the basics, like content delivery and seamless architecture.

With BERT incorporated into the ranking and featured snippets algorithm, Google has made a tremendous step forward into making search about intent matching rather than string matching. This basically means that content will really have to be written in line with user intent, but also that keyword research tools may become less significant with content creation being based on suggested queries. In time to come, we will have to get up from our desks and actually talk to our customers to find out what it is they really want.

An example of feature snippet:

 

Once again, keyword research as we know it, is becoming anachronistic. With the advance of new neurolinguistic programming (NLP) and deep learning, search engines are even more likely to shift from keywords to intent. It is exactly what Google has been doing lately – continually improving to optimize search results driven by user intent. It is also the reason SEO specialists need to understand the importance of this shift to their content to be able to catch up with the trend.

To be able to catch up with the trend, we need to focus on our users and the way they talk about their problems, concerns and needs. It goes beyond the purchase itself and includes the content that meets their needs after the sale, like support, advocating and community-building.

We need to keep the focus on our customers 24/7, and there are just too many companies and brands forgetting or failing to understand what they actually need to do to attract potential customers. And to make them stay. Customers want real value, and they also want to know that you understand them, that they can rely on you and that you are a confident and a reliable partner for the future.

You need to avoid being like so many marketers who market their products and services, but have never spoken to their target audiences or even their customers. If you don’t talk to your customers and if you fail to recognize their specific behavior patterns, you are quite unlikely to create a smart and holistic strategy. So, sit down and have a chat with your customers, that’s what you’re here for…among other things

Top-notch, optimized content

Ever wandered the essence of SEO? Sure, it’s content. Content is alpha and omega of everything in SEO, from your site structure to the types of links you build. To succeed in the period ahead, you need to produce valuable and relevant content. It means that you will have to learn how to write or find people who know it. Sooner or later (rather sooner), it’ll be the best content that wins, and you should make sure it’s yours.

This will help you remain competitive in long-tail searches (still about 70% of all search queries), build your site authority, boost demand for your content, and increase your ROI. To repeat, it’s time to get over the obsession with keywords and move to topics. The bottom line of this paradigm shift is to create content focused on an entire conversation holistically, thereby delivering comprehensive and intuitive experiences, but also achieving business goals.

To be able to do this, you need to know your audience and understand the way they search, the intent underlying their questions and give them answers/solutions to their problems in their preferred format. Don’t forget to iterate every now and then because the customers’ intent may change, and someone else may do it better. The fact is – you need to optimize your content for users instead of search engines.

Still, the ‘magical’ formula for success in search marketing is the same as ever – give ‘m some good content with consistent brand messaging adapted to their language, not yours.

And if you wonder how to protect your brand in an unpredictable environment, you need to be mindful of every single detail – from the initial interaction in the SERPs, to the overall landing page experience, and long after the users leave your site (including drip campaigns, remarketing or personalization for returning users).

The final destination of your SEO strategy must be the best possible experience for your customers and that, whether you are ready to get into this or not, involves your focus on shoring up your technical foundations, including such elements as site speed and page speed (mind the new Chrome “slow warning badges”, and the speed reports in Google Search Console). Your customers may know where they want to arrive at, but they also need to be there fast.

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Digitizing a business is no longer a novelty. According to Statista, almost half of the world population actively uses the Internet. Same as our lives, businesses have moved online and being digital is no longer a matter of future, but everyday necessity. Given innumerable options and opportunities, you can now easily digitize your business using software, digitize your data and apps to be in line with global trends.

Digital transformation has become an integral process for governments, businesses, mass media, healthcare, science, and so on, a key driver of an organization’s internal operations and external activities. By digitizing your business, you receive a tremendous opportunity to change your operations and adopt innovative and highly efficient ways of delivering value to your customers.

The necessity of the digital transformation is largely dictated by the customers expecting fast and efficient delivery of products and services. Basically, it involves engagement of technological advancements step by step, that is the establishment of a context for future implementation of new technology that will enable more streamlined processes and improve the quality of customer experience

To become fully digitized, the companies need to move their products and services into the digital environment and adopt new business models. Businesses that fail to accept the change, soon will be struggling for survival. Digitizing your business provides numerous benefits, including increased security, reduced costs, improved productivity, and so on. Most importantly, digitizing your data helps you boost your business, make it better and more efficient. What are the benefits of a digitized business?

  1. Storing your files in a cloud – Cloud-based systems are so helpful that you’ll keep wondering how, on Earth, you could do your business before. This is an efficient way of storing your important document safe and secure. Eliminating paper (printed documents) will free up a lot of office space and significantly reduce costs. Not to mention the environment…
  2. Sharing files digitally – although many companies still use printers to print loads of documents and share them with their colleagues, you need to go beyond this and share the files using a variety of digital methods like Gmail, Google Docs, and so on.
  3. Down with the fax and scan! Faxing and scanning demand loads of paper, whereas some apps are available for scanning at lower costs and in less time. These apps can be used via your smartphone – you can scan and save documents to your device, convert them to a desired format (like PDF) and share them via email.
  4. Communicate digitally – Rather than traditional communication methods, you can communicate with your employees via digital communication methods. Forget about paper-based messages, digital communication is the rule!
  5. Generate Digital Business Cards – Business cards require large amounts of paper…unless you digitize them! You can also use a variety of apps and software to scan and digitize cards.
  6. Electronic Signature – Physical signing of documents is history – instead of doing it, you can use digital or electronic signature (for example, use Adobe reader to sign documents)
  7. Go for digital bills – the bills you receive from your partners or suppliers and those you send to them can be sent in digital form.
  8. Paperless meetings – convey your information using technology instead of paper handouts at meetings.
  9. Training for digitally savvy employees – Digitalization IS about the process, but it is even more about PEOPLE, meaning that to digitize your business you need know-how and your employees should be aware of it. That is why you need to invest your resources in training your employees to be more digitally savvy.
  10. Be online – this refers to your online presence, primarily your business website you can use to offer your services and products online but also to interact with your clients or customers more effectively and receive their feedback.

Most importantly, however – you need to set digital protocols. To be able to evaluate and predict how digitization will impact your business and its processes, you need to plan to be able to prevent your company from launching a series of ineffective programs and protocols that lead to a negative response from customers and target audiences. Your plans need to exemplify your strengths, not your weaknesses.

The world at your fingerprints

Smartphones have completely taken over our daily lives. A survey by Statista shows that people mostly use smartphones and wireless devices to communicate and access data, including business processes, social media, gaming, tracking health, security surveillance, and so on. Therefore, to enhance your customers’ experience you need to think mobile, which is why mobile applications have become the key driver to reach the customer and an inextricable element of every marketing strategy.

This is also true of apps, especially custom-designed ones which have become a tremendous marketing tool, especially if they are user-friendly and paired with specific features. If you offer rich functionality or streamlined online payments and ordering, you are more likely to attract consumers to cooperate with your brand on a daily basis. More engagement from your customers makes loyal customers and loyal customers use their apps to make regular purchases, orders, but also to recommend the company to their peers or followers. 

Going mobile brings about important benefits for your business: no geographic limits, marketing on-the-go, added value for your customers, increased sales, information sharing, brand awareness, social engagement.

Finally, you need a connected business to survive and thrive in the connected world. Every business needs to be aware of the importance of technology, especially the cutting-edge technologies, which provide new opportunities for businesses, opens new markets and increases revenue, especially if accompanied by connectivity and personalization. To be able to respond to the requirement of the digitized environment you need to embrace the transformational opportunities that can digitize your businesses.

We are at your disposal for any idea you may have regarding your digital business. You just need to ask!

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You have already heard, got familiar with and maybe even (hopefully, not) experienced the consequences of the Coronavirus. What we all have to cope with is that the virus is spreading quickly, and it will continue to do so for some time.

At this time, it is difficult to estimate or predict how many people will be infected (or pass away, unfortunately), but it has certainly caused tremendous changes in global stock markets, which means that your business will be affected, as well. And because SIPOD Digital works with many brands and companies in different industries, we have already started analyzing the way it is affecting marketing. Let us explain what marketers should not do at this moment.

The first mistake any company can make is to try to exploit people’s fear of the situation. The supplies are running scarce, including sanitizers, toilet paper and other ‘bare necessities’… It is OK if you are selling any of those, but it is not OK if you are selling them at an unreasonable price, because it is not marketing and no one should take advantage of the situation for profit. It is wrong in so many ways, but is also imperceptive and near-sighted. Instead, you should focus on something that is long term.

Now that we got that clear, let us explain what the Coronavirus brings about for companies and marketers.

Businesses are going to struggle for a while

As the virus has brought about some important implications on a global scale, your business is likely to struggle for a while to make up for your losses. In China, for example, the sales decreased by 20.5% and the unemployment rate increased to 6.2%. Some companies will be able to pay their employees during a temporary shutdown, but not all of them will be able to do the same. In the tourism and travel industry, the expected losses amount to 820 billion dollars, with people being asked to take unpaid leaves and layoff rates jumping.

The total global losses caused by Covid19 are estimated at $2.7 trillion. It is not only money that is being lost, but traffic and conversions, as well.

In terms of SEO, there are evident and huge drops in organic traffic for most industries. News industry and finance have seen increases in their balances, but the travel industry has been facing tremendous drops in traffic. As for e-commerce, the consequences differ in relation to industry, whereby luxury goods have experienced the biggest drops in traffic and sales. Conversions have also been dropping in many industries, including the financial sector.

 
 

Nevertheless, experienced marketers suggest that the best time to double down is when others are not. During situations and circumstances like this, there is less competition, meaning that results can be achieved faster and easier, and you can even experience ‘a turn of luck’ in terms of potential reduction in pay-per-click advertising.

Even more so, if you are sitting on some cash during the economic turmoil, you may consider investing in new business and your digital marketing, because, to be honest – the more customers you have on your side, the more power over the market you will hold in the future and you will probably be able to sell anything.  

The results may not be so obvious right away, but in the long term, they will be. Every time the market goes down by 20% or more it takes approximately 536 days to recover, and for the Coronavirus, we cannot even predict how far down it will go. As your business recovers, you will see increases in your revenue and the ROI from your digital marketing skyrocket!

We hope the Coronavirus will not last long and that consequences will not be detrimental (albeit for some people, they already are). In the meantime, try to remain safe and healthy, as that is the best you can do to reduce the impact of Coronavirus on the world. Speaking of your digital marketing, this is the right time for you to double down. This may be the time.

 
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Our lives and our business have already moved online, and it is the online presence that actually makes you visible in the business world. Social media is a huge part of it. As a business owner, you may consider social media unnecessary for bettering your business and stick to traditional marketing techniques. Sorry, it is just not going to work! A social media presence is a core of any business for so many reasons.

OK, you’re skeptical and you think that social media doesn’t really work, especially for your business. You set up a Facebook account a year ago, you log in to it two or three times a week, you have about 250 followers, and there are still no leads or web site hits coming out of it. I don’t mean to lecture you, but the thing is – you need to put work in it to actually make it work for you.

Many businesses fail in terms of their social media success because they follow the same ‘strategy’ – open a bunch of accounts on the impulse without any idea what to do with them. To make your social media strategy successful and achieve your goals, you need to know the goals! Moreover, those goals need to match your overall business strategy. The below chart shows the usage of social media in the last 7 years.

 

The key benefits your business can achieve from social media include:

Increased website traffic – your website is, actually, your primary marketing tool, meaning that it is critical to generate traffic to your site if you want to attract new customers, make and increase sales. Not only is it important to generate traffic, but the right traffic to your site, which is the target audience that is actually interested in your product or service. To generate traffic to your site, you need content – providing relevant information to your target audience will not only boost your web traffic but help you make your brand more visible.

Improved customer service: In the social media era, nobody cares about picking a phone no more – your customers’ reviews and complaints are communicated through social media which is why you have to develop procedures to deal with them timely and efficiently.

Increased sales – Your customers increasingly need transparency, conversation, personalization, they want ‘special treatment.’ The more interest you show in your customers and their specific needs and preferences, the more likely they will be to purchase your brand.

Increased newsletter sign-ups – Regardless of the growing power of social media, email marketing is still one of the key elements of marketing strategy, especially in terms of keeping your leads informed by sending them updated news/offers.

Once you have finally set your social media goals and understood the necessity of social media presence, you can start thinking about key strategies to make sure your social media presence actually works for you.

A human ‘touch’– you don’t want your social media page to look like it is being run by a robot, as, after all, it is called ‘social’ media for a reason, right? You need to make your interactions on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest as personal and authentic as possible. It means you’ll have to say ‘good morning’ to your followers/customers, update them on your business activities and share stories that will be meaningful to them.

Advertising your brand is an important part of the process, but you need to give your customers a little ‘something’ to make them actually purchase something. It is important that when your customers ask a question, complain or praise your brand or your social media page that they are going to interact with a real, intelligent, interesting and, ideally, funny human being. So, be human.

You need to keep your channels separated – it may sound harsh, but you are simply not allowed to operate all of your social media channels the same way, because they have distinctive requirements. The users on each of these channels demand different, customized content – Instagram users prefer visual content, Twitter users are more int brief content that can be consumed on the timeline, whereas Facebook users want to be ‘spoiled’ with a more friendly approach and LinkedIn provides business-focused content.

Focus on your clients and customers – the key focus of your social media strategy needs to be on converting followers into customers and, ideally, brand ambassadors, which is why customer interaction is your priority. To have a successful social media channel, you need to provide answers to EACH of your customers’ comments. Remember when you’ve messaged companies merely to get information from them, only to be ignored…for days?

You get the point. To maintain a successful customer-centered strategy, you need to have someone who will make sure every customer gets the answer the same day. If you can also offer to solve their problem quickly – you win!

It may be dull, but analytics rule!  – Spending hours struggling with volumes of analytical data may not be your preferred activity, but it is critical for your social media strategy. You can have one day at the end of the month to go through the numbers and measure success of your social media campaign. It includes your post numbers, growth/decline in your follower numbers, the number of clickspage views, likes/shares and impressions.

If you think the analytics are too demanding for you, you can try with a software that can help you track your data and see what it tells you about your social media strategy.

Competition analysis – If you have the ‘wits’ for business, you will scout your competition prior to launching any business. It’s the same with social media – knowing your competitors will give you insight into what’s working for them which will ultimately help you understand potential pitfalls and successful techniques to boost your own social media campaign strategy.

The Team – to successfully manage a social media strategy, you need a well-coordinated team. Many businesses make mistakes by thinking that this could be a ‘one-man band,’ but, actually, it rarely works that way. Providing you have available resources, you should have different people working on interaction with clients/customers, content creation and strategy, and brand persona management. Once each person’s role in the campaign is defined, your strategy needs to be communicated to them in a manner that will make them all work towards the same objectives.

Content Strategy – creating a good content strategy is more than just posting something on your social media profile. It requires awareness of the market climate, your customers’ and potential customers’’ ‘pulse,’ but also some tactical thinking. You may consider creating a content calendar – there are lots of free templates that can help you with this – to help you find and sort out images, video, infographics or blog posts for each of your social media channels.

You gotta give some to get some – in our lives, nothing is black or white and it’s the same with your social media strategy. Basically, you don’t have to go for paid advertising, but you can certainly leverage clever targeted advertising to make your campaign even more successful and profitable. This does not require a massive budget – social media platforms offer targeted advertising that will enable you to reach the customers at reasonable costs.

Go specific – you don’t have to build your online presence through every single social media channel, and it is probably the best to initially focus on one, two or three particular media. This means that you need to do some research, scour your competitors, locate your target audience to see where they usually ‘hang out’ and go for that channel(s). Having one or two established channels makes it a lot easier to go for other channels and promote your brand there. It also means that if a particular channel isn’t working for you, you may decide to switch to an alternative one.

You have to judge a book by its cover – budgeting for marketing and content creation may not be a problem with you, but you need to think about visuals, too. You probably won’t get many customers with a poorly designed social media. Your visual branding may actually be your competitive advantage which is why you may also consider hiring a quality designer to create your social media visual identity which can later be changed (on regular or ad hoc basis).

To sum up, the importance of social media for your businesses is critical to your business success – you may even consider it a matter of survival. Social media strategy is also an essential part of your digital marketing strategy. If you think you need help with the development of your social media strategy or any other digital marketing concept, we’ll be glad to help you and your business.

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Over the last couple of decades, marketing has been challenged by constant advancement in technology and the way marketers have been coping with it. The rise of digital marketing has been affected by people spending less time on legacy media (TVs, radio, newspaper) in favor of the Web, apps and messaging. Given that the advertising budgets reflect the preferences of the audience, the marketing budgets increasingly focus on digital media. The question arises as to whether the astounding increase in digital marketing budgets truly reflects the shift in the audience.

Brands are spending enormous budgets on digital media with the trend expected to continue in the coming decades. The fact is that digital marketing is associated with unique benefits that cannot be found in legacy marketing. In traditional marketing, brands were reliant on intermediaries (media companies, retailers…) to reach their customers, which was costly and deprived them of much control over the process.

Although the majority of brands consider marketing spending critical to brand awareness, loyalty and, ultimately, sales, the direct return on investment is rather difficult to predict or calculate. Namely, most marketing professionals feel a great deal of uncertainty regarding their future and consider digital marketing the key to successful life of their organization in the next period.

Nevertheless, 68% marketers in the USA and 61% in the UK assume that the current form of their digital role will definitely or probably remain the same in the next 30 years. One has to be a wizard or a fortune teller to see what the future holds, but to cope with the future, we need to understand the past and three core technological developments that have forever changed the perception of marketing: the internet, big data and smartphones.

The Rise of the Internet

The mass adoption of the internet, launched by Tim Berners-Lee and his team in 1991, into everyday life is the single biggest event that has affected marketing over the last thirty years. The increase in users brought about evolution from email to search engines like Yahoo! (1994) and Google (1997) or e-commerce sites like Amazon (1994) and eBay (1995). Traditional media, including TV, print advertisements or radio faced the harsh competition from new marketing tools that enabled users to quickly find the information, products and services they desire without leaving their home.

Big data

The entire online activity of hundreds of millions of users is stored as digital information, the fastest growing type of unique information produced, with most text-based information “born digital” – big data. Big data has become an irreplaceable resource for marketers because of its capacity to store enormous data quantities, including paper, film and optical. 

The dot-com emergence in 2001 has made big data even more important for marketing tactics, especially in terms of inbound marketing – user-centered design, information sharing and collaboration. With the introduction of LinkedIn (2002), Myspace (2003), Facebook (2004) and Twitter (2007), more and more personal data was shared online. Big data enabled marketers to track patterns and trends of human behavior and their critical role in the development of marketing strategy.

Smartphones

Try to imagine your life without a smartphone or a tablet. Pretty rough, hugh? These devices have so dramatically changed our lives in the last decades that both individual users and marketing departments are still trying to catch up. Today, smartphones have become the primary digital device for going online with the daily time spent on media amounting to 291 minutes in 2019.

After the first true modern smartphone that supported email, text messaging, phone calls and web browsing was produced by BlackBerry in 2003, and especially after the release of the iPhone, smartphones entered the mass market, with 2.71 billion people owning a smartphone globally. Our lives have moved online and the whole world can now fit into our pockets and the only way from here is through personalization, transparency and agile marketing.

Marketing used to be about creating a myth and selling it and is now about finding a truth and sharing it. Customers themselves have evolved and are capable of researching products at an enormous speed, comparing competitors and reviews and unearthing myths along the way. This represents a serious challenge for sales professionals, with 70% of the buyer’s journey complete before a buyer even makes a decision to purchase a product or a service.

Thanks to the advancement of SEOkeywords and spammy backlinks have moved to the history shelves, leaving room for real value and good content as the new and far more effective marketing style. In the time when customers hold the key to a marketing strategy success, marketers need to engage them as much as possible to be able to create real relationships and brand loyalty.

Finally, the new generation of digital natives is transforming the way information is viewed and shared. Gen Z-ers are largely driven by personalization and relevance and unlike Millennials, who generally use three screens on average, Gen Zers use five: a smartphone, TV, laptop, desktop, and iPod/iPad.

Big data and user generated content represent the key tools of personalization by creating a unique experience for customers and empowering them. Millennials specifically value user generated content campaigns with 84% reporting that user generated content on company websites affect their purchasing decisions.

Agile marketing

Agile marketing measures the efficiency of an organization in terms of achieving the marketing goals. An agile marketing team is capable of developing and implementing strategy  with the focus on ROI as a key factor and new business. Basically, it refers to the speed of product development or its improvement that will help a company seize the opportunity and drive a business forward.

Social media is one of the key drivers of agile marketing, with brands already mastering the ways to communicate on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Social media provides insight into what can work and the type of content that will reach the customers. Moreover, many renown brands have a personality on social media with specific tone and voice and the ‘must-have’ transparency.

Agile marketing is on the rise and given the consumers’ expectations in terms of immediacy, it is a valuable tool in cultivating conversations (such as real-time dialogues) with the customers and creating a user-brand relationship.

Regardless of the revolution caused by the Internet and the growth in digital advertising, traditional forms of marketing, like TV, are still widely used. Adopting digital trends does not mean giving up on traditional marketing approaches – successful marketing campaigns can still leverage the integration of the new and old marketing methods.

Digital marketing has certainly reduced the use of legacy media, both with the new way of execution and pricing. Moreover, it provides a direct connection between a brand and customers by allowing brands to know their customers and interact meaningfully and efficiently with them. Unlike traditional marketing, digital marketing also allows brands to target the audience depending on the goals and create campaigns to match a predefined budget (newsletters, website, digital ad on Google or social networks…).

Finally, digital marketing provides you with an amazing opportunity to boost your business through digital platforms, increase conversions and generate higher revenues in minimum possible times. The question is – are you ready to be digitized?

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