Three Keys to Amazon’s Success

Keys to Amazon's Success

Amazon is, obviously, the giant of online retail. The company just announced that its Cyber Monday sales grew by 40% from 2014 to 2015. In one week last month, 3 million people joined their Prime loyalty program. We can’t tell you how to gain Jeff Bezos’s 20+ years of experience within a year, or how … Read more

The Top 12 Ways Companies Gave Back to Customers in 2015

The top 12 ways in which companies rewarded their customers this year.

The holidays are a time to give back and reflect on what went right (um, and wrong) this year. During this convivial time, we’d like to take a minute to appreciate the ways in which companies gave back to customers via brand advocacy and customer loyalty this year.  The reward of doing so isn’t just … Read more

The 7 Most Interesting Digital Marketing Trends for 2016

Here are the 7 most interesting digital marketing trends for 2016.

Maybe we’re unusual, but here at Annex Cloud we love how at the end of every year, tons of articles appear about the next big ecommerce and digital marketing trends. Rather than focusing on what’s already happened this year, marketers look ahead, brainstorm, and hypothesize about what we might see soon. In short, it’s all about possibility, … Read more

Cyber Monday is the New Black (Friday)

Cyber Monday

As you probably have already heard, this year’s Cyber Monday set a record with more than $3 billion in sales for the first time ever. The biggest online selling day of the year beat the forecast of a 12% increase from last year by four percentage points. The biggest online shopping day ever brought an average of … Read more

Omnichannel Loyalty: 4 Ways to Make Your Customers Thankful

omnichannel loyalty

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s common to reflect on the people, relationships, and circumstances for which we’re most thankful. We’d be remiss if we didn’t express our gratitude for one of the most vital components of our business lives–our customers. One way that ecommerce sites and brick and mortar shops can ensure that … Read more

Email Marketing Best Practices: Are You In or Out?

email marketing best practices

Whatever your social commerce and customer loyalty marketing plan is, it’s basically guaranteed that emails are part of it. When your customers click to use a tool like Refer a Friend or join your loyalty program, you’re probably going to collect their emails and then use them to send your customers more offers. But what … Read more

Is Conversion Rate an Antiquated Metric in eCommerce?


Today’s retailers, etailers, and ecommerce companies are heavily focused on acquiring new customers. Those who are forward thinking have already shifted some of their attention to Retention (think Loyalty), but there is still not enough attention been paid to use of conversion (think high impulse shopping items around the checkout lanes).  Within an organization each … Read more

The Apple Watch: A Challenge and Opportunity for Brands

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch: A Challenge and Opportunity for Brands As technology gets closer to us, (literally in the case of the Apple Watch), eCommerce companies are wrestling with an interesting dilemma. While it’s tempting to quickly jump on the bandwagon of wearable devices, it’s important for brands and retailers to think about ways they can … Read more

5 Ways Social Commerce Improves The Customer Experience

online shopping cart 2 sq

For a brand, providing your shoppers a memorable customer experience is crucial to keep them coming back and attracting new shoppers. There are many ways give them a great experience with your brand, however, with social media being an incredibly powerful communication tool, integrating social commerce into your marketing strategies is the most unique and … Read more

Amazon Dash Button: The Ultimate In Customer Loyalty

Customer Loyalty

About to run out of laundry detergent?

Press a button sitting on top of your washer and the button will automatically place an order for your favorite laundry detergent and have it shipped it to you right away.

Amazon’s release of their new Dash button whether intentional or not was perfectly timed. A day before April Fools Amazon released the Dash button, literally a small physical button customers can place in their home to press and order common household products you’re about to run out of. Some people thought it was a joke but Amazon confirmed that, in fact, it is very real.

Amazon already has a “one click buy” feature on it’s website, which essentially eliminates the traditional online checkout process. Some of us, (myself included) have only just gotten on board with the idea of ordering basic household goods like paper towels and laundry detergent from online retailers. And as a recent convert, I’m wondering why I didn’t do it sooner. All too often you make mental note that your running out of paper towels, laundry detergent etc, only to forget it the next time you’re at the store.

That’s the beauty of the Dash button. It gives customers a way to order coffee pods by literally pushing a button placed right next to your coffee machine, right at the moment they realize they are running low. The buttons are branded with the product they are ordering for you and are intended to be mounted on or placed close to the home appliance they correlate with, a red Tide button for your washing machine, a Keurig button for your coffee maker.

amazon-dash-button2 Coffee maker exampleAlthough I don’t relish the idea of my apartment being adorned with branded buttons, it’s hard to deny the convenience they could offer. And I think its important to note, the aesthetic downsides may become irrelevant pretty quickly as the next phase of excessively convenient shopping will incorporate our appliances themselves. Our washing machines will buy their own detergent and our refrigerators will order milk when its running low. 

amazon-dash-buttons various examples buggies, gillette, tide, bounty, GladAmazon’s Dash button is the ultimate in customer loyalty programs. Buy ordering a free Dash button your customers are pledging to always buy your brand and always from Amazon. It eliminates the possibility of losing your customers to discounts, out of stock items or attractive competitor packaging in the grocery store isles.

Is this a glimpse of what the Internet of Things movement going to mean for our daily lives? Regardless, Amazon’s Dash button is a brilliant innovative idea in the online shopping world and a new way of looking at customer loyalty. I wonder how it will perform in the market. I suspect that the entire senior citizen and accessibility-challenged population will quickly embrace it and so will the always-busy, no-time-to-drive-to-the-store professional. Will we eventually stop going to the stores for most of our purchases?

Live Streaming Video Apps – Could They Help You Build Brand Authenticity?

On March 1st Tech Crunch called it with the headline; “Meerkat Is The Livestreaming App Twitter Should Have Built”.

Yesterday, March 26 Twitter listened to that critique by releasing Periscope, an app very similar to Meerkat that lets you live-stream video of your life from your smartphone to anyone in the world. Like Meerkat it connects directly to your Twitter account to tweet out a link and it sends out a notification across the network when you are ready to begin your broadcast and giving your followers the ability to watch live from anywhere. You can see how many people are tuning in, how many people are liking the video, receive comments, and unlike Meerkat, you have the option to save the video.

In true social media form, people took to it quickly, broadcasting everything from videos of themselves eating lunch to streaming video of the explosion of a New York building. Live streaming is an interesting factor in the usually highly curated world of Social Media. It means anything can happen; viewers can influence the outcome, no-one can edit out an unflattering shot, and you no longer have unlimited opportunities to capture the perfect moment.

Given that it was only released a day ago it’s hard to tell if Periscope will gain a foothold and establish itself as a social media necessity. But, its popularity within the first day highlights people’s love of visuals and videos.

Brands could learn a lot from engaging with their customers in this new platform. Encouraging the use of live streaming video in social commerce could give brands a clearer look into their customers lives and the way they use their products.

On the flip side, brands and retailers could utilize live streaming video to build brand authenticity. In terms of social commerce the implications could be very interesting and lucrative. Live-streaming could add an element of authenticity many brands and retailers have a hard time establishing. It’s an opportunity for brands to give their consumers an unedited look into the inner-workings of their companies. In the age of social media, consumers expect more and more from the brands they’re loyal to and authenticity is at the top of the list. Consumers buy from companies they trust and the brands that truly reflect their outlook.

Socially and environmentally conscious brands could stream live videos for a look inside their factories. Start-ups could stream videos of the highly active and entertaining office atmosphere. Beauty and fashion brands could capture unedited videos of their products in use by real customers. And by using the Periscope platform your customers know the videos are truly live and unedited, building credibility, authenticity and ultimately the trust your customers have in you and your brand.

Social Commerce: The Proverbial Foot Traffic

Social Commerce

In the days of brick-n-mortar stores, the mantra was location-location-location. The right location meant higher foot traffic, which in turn, meant more sales. With the introduction of the Internet, location became irrelevant and foot traffic gave way to search engine and paid advertisement. Today, as the organic and paid searches become saturated, how do retailers attract new customers? Where is the proverbial “foot traffic” going to come from? Enter, Social Media.

When the internet gave birth to Social Media, brands and manufacturers were forced to hand over the control of product information and buying decision to consumers. As the majority of the consumer market became commoditized and the quality of goods and services plummeted, brand trust withered and was replaced with trust in the consumer’’s social network: their friends, family and fellow shoppers. Today Social Media is not only the starting point of most buyers journeys it is becoming the most powerful shopping channel.

Brands, retailers, and manufacturers are spending millions of dollars growing their Social Media following. They parade their large numbers of followers, copious tweets and numerous Pins as a sign of their success. But, what good are followers, tweets, and Pins if they do not convert into happy, repeat, loyal, paying customers?
All is not lost. Social commerce is the answer to the question: “How do I convert my Social Media fan base into paying customers?”

Social Media has opened new doors into the world of e-commerce. Combining e-commerce with things people do inside their social networks, like posting selfies with their favorite brands and reviewing products they purchase, lets brands tap into the excitement their customers feel about their products. Not only do they get to witness this excitement, they can share it with other potential customers. It’s the ultimate word of mouth marketing.
Today’s consumer is constantly plugged in to Social Media; Americans spend more time on Social Media than any other major Internet activity. In order to thrive, retailers need to fit this new model of internet usage and make the shopping process more social.

  • User-curated social and product galleries that help shoppers discover new products they didn’t know they would like.
  • Peers referring and sharing product ideas with their social networks
  • Shoppers reviewing, commenting and answering questions from fellow shoppers to help them make better buying decisions.
  • Active and frequent engagement between brands and customers on social media sites
  • Rewarding your most loyal customers for relevant activities and actions they perform on Social Media

Social Commerce Depends on Relationships

Social commerce is entirely based on relationships, among customers and between retailers and customers. Social Media is delicate, open, and transparent. Good customer relationships require that retailers pay attention to the smallest of details when it comes to customer experience. Only by truly differentiating your brand can you gain greater customer loyalty and increased sales. Here are a few ways retailers can build great customer relationships as the foundation of strong social commerce:

  • Being friendly, helpful, and prompt in social media interactions with customers
  • Being super knowledgeable about their own products and services. Customers today do their research, and they expect expert knowledge from brands and retailers.
  • Avoiding the hard sell. While it’s OK to make social posts about offers in around 20% of interactions, customers want more educational and useful content about the brands they follow and the products they love.
  • Listening to customers, and asking for clarification when there’s confusion around a customer issue
  • Helping customers save time by being agile and developing mobile shopping apps
  • Keeping promises and following through on interactions with customers on Social Media

Analyzing  the future of Customer Engagement

  1. Engaged customers represent a 23% premium in terms of profitability and revenue compared with the average, disengaged customer.
  2. For consumer electronics, engaged shoppers make 44% more visits per year to their favorite retailer compared with disengaged shoppers. They purchase more items during those visits.
  3. Fully engaged banking customers bring 37% more revenue to their banks each year than do disengaged ones.
  4. Hotel guests who consider themselves “engaged customers” spend 46% more each year than their disengaged counterparts.

Social Commerce: The Opportunity Is Now

As Social Media becomes increasingly critical source of new and repeat customers, it is imperative to the success of every small and large eCommerce business to have a robust 360-degree Social Commerce strategy. It needs to be well thought out and demand a complete tightly integrated technology solution that can deliver not only robust Social Commerce marketing programs, but also offers deep and complete business insight into effectiveness, usefulness, and return on investment of such programs.
Brands no longer control the buying decision because consumers trust their peers feedback over any product or brand literature. Social Media is where your customers are and they are openly talking about your brand and your products. You must invest in a robust and complete social commerce solution to serve your customers in ways they prefer to be served, Socially.

Where Does Snapchat Fit in The World of eCommerce?


Earlier this week, Snapchat announced it is seeking a new round of funding that would value the company at $19 billion. This is a huge increase from it’s 2014 round of funding that valued the company at $10 billion. To put this new potential value in perspective, if the deal goes through it would make Snapchat the third most valuable venture-backed company in the world.
With only 12% of snaps being shared with more than one person, Snapchat maintains it is not a social networking service, instead emphasizing it is a messaging app. 100 million monthly active users, 400 million snaps per day, and 29.4 percent of Apple iPhone users engaging with the  messaging app, demonstrates Snapchat’s massive growth. And this growth begs the question, how can retailers use Snapchat to engage and advertise with their customers? And is it worth it?

Organic reach is still an option on Snapchat, possibly giving it some traction with marketers above other networks like Facebook. However, the nature of its organic advertising is very different. It is a 1:1 messaging service so there is no room for growth in terms of utilizing a consumers network. It also requires active engagement because in order to watch the content, a customer has to hold a button down.

This presents both challenges and benefits for advertisers. It forces retailers who utilize Snapchat to work harder on their content because to make it successful they have to make their customers want to see their advertisements. However, for the consumers they do manage to engage it is reasonable to assume they are more valuable because they are demonstrating an interest by opting in instead of just scrolling past it on their newsfeed.

Snapchat has also started to offer paid advertising, but the jury is still out on its success. It offers little in the way of analytics and ROI and in some instances seems ridiculously overpriced. However, the release of the “Discover” feature in January may bring some traction. By introducing content from reputable sources like National Geographic, Yahoo News, Comedy Central and CNN, Snapchat seems to be moving away from its messaging app branding. This might give it more flexibility in working with retailers and companies and displaying advertising.

Snapchat is a new and strange player in the world of mobile apps and social media. It gained a lot of popularity very quickly and is looking to monetize on that. But it still has some work left to do if it really wants to become more than a fad. It needs to figure out what it wants to be; a messaging app, a news curation source, a social network? And in order to make retailers and brands stick around it needs to find a way to bring in more user data and analytics.

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