I returned back to actively seeking conversation on Twitter last night, after several months off due to general burn out of the medium, I found my self caught up in the litany of angry tweets about the cost of such a site. I have written a guest post over on vancitybuzz.com about the matter and spoke to The PEAK FM’s morning team with Kiah Tucker and Cory Ashworth about why such projects can cost this much. Mine is just one take and there are many voices with valid points about “open government” projects around the globe. The point of view I took is why this project likely cost what it cost and will leave that conversation to others more familiar with the subject matter. Read more
There was a follow up from the paper (The Province) that originally broke the story the day before. They noticed my blog post on vancitybuzz.com and thought I might want to add to the follow up. Much has surfaced since my original analysis including the fact that there were a total of 60,000 pages of content completely rewritten, the decision by the city to re-do the design after the first agency did not deliver what was envisioned for the user interface, and many other flubs and inefficiencies.
PEAK FM Interview:
Photo credit: Kenny Matic
So do it right
Depending on which marketing professionals you listen to, or what articles you read, direct email marketing is either on the decline or maintaining its impressive ROI. Despite the differing opinions, almost everyone agrees that the digital marketing tactic must evolve with the changing technology and online habits of the intended audience.
Much of the focus has been on pairing email marketing with social media. But most recently there has been an urgent need to adapt practices again, this time to meet the rapid growth of mobile users. Marketing strategies that don’t have a mobile component are less successful now and will be in the future.
Mobile use growing
We’ve already experienced declining numbers of consumers visiting web-based email sites using PCs, according to comScore. A November 2010 study also showed email engagement using desktop and laptop computers declined by nine per cent while the number of page views dropped 15 per cent. However, during the same time period daily email access using mobile devices increased 40 per cent. Further to that, comScore’s January, 2012 study estimated 90 million Americans access email through a mobile device, with 64 per cent doing so on a daily basis. With such overwhelming numbers, its obvious today’s email marketing campaigns must cater to both PC computer and mobile users. Unfortunately for many campaigns, mobile is still an afterthought, where it should be front and centre.
Old webpages not good enough
The growing number of mobile users are increasingly fickle and likely won’t engage with a website if it isn’t mobile optimized. A 2012 survey conducted by BlueHornet, a leading email marketing service provider, found 70 per cent of consumers delete emails immediately that won’t render on a mobile device. Marketers must ask themselves, who wants to view a website if they can’t read the tiny type on their four-inch smartphone screen? To answer this, conduct your own experiment to better understand the experience of mobile users. Open your emails in the morning with a smartphone – chances are you receive three or four marketing emails each morning. When you open an email, click through the links all the way to the checkout, as if you were going to buy the product or service.
It’s likely that somewhere through the steps you came across a PC-designed webpage and the type was so small you had to zoom in to read it. For an example of how to cater to the mobile audience, have a look at the marketing emails sent out by Groupon. They’ve recognized the growing number of mobile customers and geared campaigns towards them, further proof of the importance of mobile.
Take it from Groupon
One thing Groupon and other daily deals marketers do correctly with their mobile strategy is they employ a specific mobile landing page with a prominently displayed call to action (CTA) and use large buttons, photos and type.
Some others tactics and elements that should be incorporated into a successful mobile email campaigns include:
- Design emails to be easily viewed by both desktop and mobile email consumers.
- Images should be larger and should span the full 600px
- Buttons and CTA’s should also be larger and clickable if viewed in a mobile browser.
- You can use media queries for iOS devices so that emails dynamically serve up emails optimized for each platform. Lululemon does a great job with their newsletter using this technology.
- Have a link at the top that lets users view both desktop and mobile versions on the web.
- Auto direct mobile users to mobile-optimized landing pages.
Marketers using e-commerce emails that drive users to auto-direct websites should consider using mobile e-commerce platforms such as shopify.com and mobecommerce.net to ensure the mobile user experience encourages sales.
Photo credit: Marc Flores
Hard to believe that anything good could ever come out of recent disasters like the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
But in the midst of these catastrophes we learned all about the power of mobile to help those who were suffering. The American Red Cross became one of the first charities to successfully use text-to-give campaigns to raise funds for disaster relief. For Haiti, $32 million was raised and $312 million for Japan.
Mobile has far-reaching implications for all charities. And is not limited to disasters of the magnitude of Haiti and Japan. In fact, we’re seeing some charities adopt it as their main fund-raising channel to pay for homeless programs and school lunch programs.
In May I wrote an article for CharityVillage.com, a prominent website for Canadian charities, explaining the power and reach of mobile that not-for-profit organizations can harness. I also made sure to include some of the dos and don’ts for mobile campaigns.
As someone that runs a digital agency, I must admit I have mixed feelings on the use of QR codes in general. I like the concept in theory, and I am seeing them more and more in market, promoting a whole list of products and services. The principle is a solid one, and you would think that the abundance of smart phones equipped with both cameras and onboard software to process the QR codes would bring leads and customers through the web channel. The reality is that if things don’t change quickly, this too will be another passing marketing gimmick that never really took off. Agencies and marketers are sticking the QR codes in the ads without an end-to-end strategy. I would say 8 out of 10 QR codes I snap a picture of takes me to a site that is not optimized for mobile; hell, most of the time, it just dumps me at brandname.com without even a custom campaign landing page built for desktop browsers, let alone mobile ones. It’s true that modern smart phones can render web standard compliant sites just fine, but the scrolling and zooming looking for the related content in the mobile browser is tedious at best when viewing a site on the move. When was the last time you did a digital campaign and just dumped the users off at your homepage? Well, the same applies to QR strategy if you want it to succeed.
Take a ride with me.
I went for a ride on one of Vancouver’s more popular commuter subway lines to test this theory for this article, and I have the following examples of the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly.
The first example is for an online learning campaign for a college in the interior of British Columbia. The campaign is for online learning, which I suspect is essential for an educational system that is not located near a major metropolitan area. They understand that their target market is professional, mobile savvy, and looking to advance their career through online learning. The posters are well placed on the trains, although a bit weak in design, and have a triple call to action (CTA) at the bottom to call, go to the web, or snap a QR code. The code itself is unobtrusive but visible and supports the other two CTAs well. When the QR code is snapped, the user is taken to a mobile optimized site designed with clear paths into areas of the site that would be of interest to the potential online student. Viewers can see tabs entitled “About,” “Programs,” “Courses,” “Testimonials,” and—most importantly—a large button that says “Open Learning” placed an inch away from where the thumb would be on a smart phone. This is a campaign that I suspect is doing well in lead generation and mobile page views. If viewed at the beginning of a commute, then I would guess that the time on site might also be quite long. Commuters are a captive audience thirsty for something to do during the ride through town, so you should give them something good to read. They may even have time to sign up for a course or two before the end of the journey if the site is built correctly. At the very least, there will be significant recall on “Open Learning” for the college.
In the second example, I chose a black mark on our city from last year’s NHL playoff run of the Vancouver Canucks. Long story short, when we lost in the final game, many fans decided to riot and trash the downtown core to bits. As
luck would have it, the event was documented like no riot before through the use of camera-equipped mobile phones; the event was uploaded to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, then turned over to the police for the ongoing (now year-long) investigation. They are actually in phase II of the campaign
that invites every day citizens to go to the VPD website and identify rioters in the uploaded photos. The out of home posters are big, bold, and eye catching with a large QR code in the middle. They are peppered at bus shelters around the city, which is great for those with nothing to do while waiting for the bus. Sounds like a great idea right? Unfortunately, when a user snaps an image, the user is taken to the non-mobile optimized VPD homepage with only a tiny banner on the lower right of the page to direct the user to the campaign site. It’s a shame that all that effort is wasted in the last portion of the campaign.
The third example is probably the worst of the bunch. The idea for the campaign was for the Vancouver Autoshow to sponsor free papers on the subway line and have prominent placement on the front page with a very strongly-worded CTA to go to the website to learn more. When I tried to snap a pic of the QR code with my smart phone, it became apparent that no one tested the size required for the QR readers to be able to clearly focus on the QR code. I tried everything to make my iPhone 4S focus on the QR code, but without a macro lens, I could not. Again, all that money to own the frontpage and to pay for the paper distribution on transit that day with a strong focus on QR and the web was wasted with an untested QR code for the CTA.
Top things to consider for a QR campaign:
- Plan your campaign from QR code to conversion.
- Point the QR code to a campaign page, not just the home page.
- Optimize your site for mobile—if not your entire site, then at least the campaign landing pages.
- Add analytics to the QR codes to track usage and ROI.
- Make sure that the QR code is large enough to be processed by smart phone cameras.
- Test your QR codes; does the path work for you all the way through?
Let me know if you have had a successful campaign in the comments below, and please send any other tips for others doing QR code campaigns.