San Diego, California – Red Herring announced its Top 100 North America award winners in recognition of the leading private companies from the region, especially celebrating these startups’ innovations and technologies across their respective industries. Symphony Commerce was recognized for its wholly unique approach to optimizing eCommerce and redrawing the rules when it comes to commerce infrastructure.
Since 1996, Red Herring editors have had a knack for spotlighting future successes. They were among the first to recognize that companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, Skype, Salesforce.com, YouTube, Palo Alto Networks and eBay would change the way we live and work.
“In 2015, selecting the top achievers was by no means a small feat,” said Alex Vieux, publisher and CEO of Red Herring. “In fact, we had the toughest time in years because so many entrepreneurs had crossed significant milestones so early. But after much thought, rigorous contemplation and discussion, we narrowed our list down from hundreds of candidates from across North America to the North America winners. We believe Symphony Commerce embodies the vision, drive and innovation that define a successful entrepreneurial venture. Symphony Commerce should be proud of its accomplishment, as the competition was very strong.”
Red Herring’s editorial staff evaluated companies on both quantitative and qualitative criteria, such as financial performance, technological innovation and intellectual property, DNA of the founders, business model, customer footprint and addressable market.
Symphony’s ground-breaking platform provides Commerce as a Service – which means best-in-class DtC, Wholesale, and Fulfillment capabilities that are all seamlessly integrated without costly installations. Symphony’s flexible platform can automatically scale and expand to fit unexpected surges in demand. Our continuing innovation ensures that our customers remain focused on growth without the distractions of technology constraints. With that in mind, we’re proud to be selected for a Red Herring Top 100 award.
To learn what great brands know, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, give us a call at (800) 494-2802, or visit us at symphonycommerce.com.
Between over saturation and hype, it’s not surprising that consumer confidence in advertising is at an all time low. The good news is that brands can leverage their customers to generate new business that is both more effective and cheaper than paid advertising. Interchangeably called “word of mouth marketing,” “crowdsource marketing,” or “referral marketing,” the business case for building brand advocates is staggering:
- 92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.
- 77% of consumers are more likely to buy a new product when learning about it from friends or family.
- 65% of new business comes from referrals.
- Referred customers are about 25% more profitable per year for businesses than their non-referred counterparts
- Referred customers are 18% less likely to churn, and they have about a 25% higher lifetime value than non-referred customers.
- Referral programs are extremely efficient, costing only 5% – 15% of the customer acquisition cost for online advertising like PPC.
How It Works
Referral technology is an online system that tracks the referrer and a referrer’s recommendation and the friends’ actions – including purchases. In order for the matching to work, the friend must click a custom link, called a pURL (personal URL), with embedded referrer information.
Referral technology makes it fast and easy (and fun!) for the referrer to share the custom link via integrations with Email, Facebook, and Twitter. Since the goal is to spread the link to as many people as possible, good referral programs allow the referrer to import their email address book to blast all of their friends at once.
Once the friend clicks on the referral link, they receive a promotion code. The code may be located on a dedicated landing page, sent in an email, or both. The friend applies the promotion code during checkout and receives the discount. At the same time the order is completed, the referrer receives an email notification that they have a new credit. Referrers can receive multiple rewards, and friends can continue to earn rewards by becoming referrers too.
Best Practices for Success
There are three types of referral marketing structures; Reciprocal Offer; One-Sided Offer; and No Offer.
The most popular (and successful) program structure is the Reciprocal Offer where both the referrer and the friend get an equal benefit, such as, “You Get $10, Your Friends Get $10.”
In a One-Sided Offer, only the referrer or the friend receives a benefit, such as “Get $10 for every friend you refer’ or the reverse, “Your Friends Get $10 When You Share.” For the former, you can try to motivate the referrer to share by offering the reward to the referrer; for the latter, the referrer is more likely to share an offer that directly benefits the recipient. Without balancing both sides of the equation, this program structure usually results in lower results.
In some cases, simply asking for the referral is enough and No Offer is required for either party. Non-profits, or socially motivated brands, may be able to motivate their brand ambassadors to “save the whales,” or make a donation. But in the commerce world, direct incentives like cash rewards or discounts rule the roost. According to marketing automation technology advisory firm Software Advice, 50% of consumers reported that a direct incentive would make them more likely to give a referral.
Spread the Word
Once you’ve decided on the best offer structure to launch your program, it’s time to promote your referral program to your best advocates: your existing customers.
Anyone who buys from you should get a referral promotion. Referral widgets, links or banners can be appended to the shopping and post checkout experience via auto popups and transaction emails. On brands’ sites, the referral program should be displayed across social media, home pages, store pages, product pages, the checkout complete page and all static pages with consistent creative, messaging, and locations.
Additionally, plan on sending out a dedicated referral email to your entire databases regularly: ideally, once a month bolstered with social media promotion. Many of our clients overlay additional contests to enter for a chance to win a “grand prize” in addition to the usual reward. Once or twice a year, try doubling your referral bonus for a limited time. At Symphony, we’ve seen a double referral bonus more than triple referrals during the promotion time.
Interestingly, there are consumers who have not purchased your products that will also refer you. This is especially true for aspirational brands or brands with a very specific audience, such as baby products, etc. Sometimes the referrer hopes to accrue rewards to use on the site, sometimes the referrer does it to pass along discounts and offers to friends who they know are likely to purchase the product. The key takeaway is to make referring easy for ANYONE who wants to spread the work about your brand. The best referral platforms allow customers to share and earn credit even if they don’t have an account.
Key Performance Metrics to Optimize
Like all marketing campaigns, referral marketing is not a “set it and forget it” tactic. It requires ongoing monitoring, testing, and optimizing.
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). Referral marketing should be your lowest cost of acquisition. Structure your offers to optimize customer acquisition at an acceptable cost to your business: if your average order value (AOV) is $25, a $5 reward may be appropriate. If your AOV is $250, then a $25 reward may be appropriate.
- Sharing Rate. Test different calls to action to increase the number of people who share.
- Referral Visits (calculated as clicks on shared content). Test different offers to increase the friends who visit.
- Referral Conversion Rate. Test different offers, landing pages, and products to increase the number of friends who redeem the promotion.
Once your referral program is underway, your brand can test other referral incentives such as coupons, gift cards, loyalty points, discounts, bonus products, free month (for subscriptions), donations to charity, exclusive merchandise, free shipping, free trials, and more. You can add gamification to referral marketing by creating tiers that unlock additional prizes or discounts when the referrer achieves benchmarks such as 5 friends have redeemed the reward, or 5 referrals in a particular time period. Your imagination and creativity are the limit when motivating your customers to become brand ambassadors.
At Symphony, we have developed a launch sequence that includes the following steps.
- Launch with a “dollars off” promotion that is easy to understand. Since the goal is to attract new customers to your site, “25% off”, or even “50% off”, is meaningless to someone who doesn’t know how much your products cost. However, everyone grasps the value of $5 or $10 off.
- Create a reciprocal offer where both the referrer and the friend benefit equally.
- Do not force referrers to login before they share – extra steps dampen participation rates.
- Do not limit referral rewards, so your best referrers will continue to accrue rewards and spread the word. Most referrers will generate 1 – 2 referrals, however your superstars will generate 5 – 6 referrals or more.
A Symphony brand in the Food and Beverage vertical achieved dramatic results after implementing a referral program. Within the first month, the brand discovered that referrals are 8.5 times more likely to convert than any other channel. Plus, each referral share is worth an additional $5 in revenue.
According to Symphony CEO & Co-Founder, Harish Abbott, “The best and greatest companies actually use their customers to bring in new customers. These brands deliver an amazing experience to their customers across the entire lifecycle, so the customer ends up referring more customers. That is the most powerful way to grow a brand, and it is also why the most cost effective way to grow a brand is to service your existing customers.”
With effective referral marketing, brands can expect to see lower customer acquisition costs, faster growth, higher profits and a reduced reliance on paid advertising. To get there, you need a plan to launch, test, and optimize the way you would any other marketing program. You also need to maintain focus on the core traits that help your brand stand out: great products and a memorable shopping experience. By first delighting your customers and then providing the right incentives to refer, you can turn your customers into a powerful referral engine for growth.
Here come the holidays. The good news is that 86% of retailers expect holiday sales to increase YOY, and online sales will be the fastest growing segment. The challenge is that sub $10M ecommerce brands and Fortune 500 corporations prepare for retail’s biggest season in dramatically different ways. Most notably, SMBs don’t have the staff and resources to offer the volume and breadth of promotions, web site optimizations, marketing campaigns and volume discounts that are standard for mega-retailers. So what can SMBs do to increase efficiency and sales given constrained resources? Stick to the basics: focus on these five areas to deliver an awesome shopping experience and maximize revenue regardless of your brand size.
Get your mobile experience right.
Many of Symphony brands see upwards of 45% of traffic coming from a mobile phone or tablet. And guess what? Some of the biggest brands are difficult to shop on mobile—it’s hard to build a mobile site on top of decades-old technology. Here’s where being a smaller, more agile brand works to your advantage. Optimize your marketing emails to be read on mobile phones, use large call to action buttons in these emails to direct traffic to your site, and make sure it’s as easy to browse and checkout from a phone as it is from a computer.
Keep your online store open 24/7.
Shoppers can’t buy from you if your site goes down. Last year, Symphony’s top clients experienced 1100% increase in traffic during peak periods like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Check with your hosting provider to make sure that your site has sufficient bandwidth to handle demand spikes without going black.
Focus on the big five days.
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Free Shipping Day, Shipping Cutoff Day, and Christmas Eve each require a different messaging strategy to tap into the holiday buying cycle. For Black Friday and Cyber Monday, set up your email and social campaigns in advance and offer your most competitive pricing – shoppers are cruising online for deals before they hit the mall and your online ads should be firing at maximum capacity during this time. At a minimum, ensure that your ads, emails and landing pages are all aligned with the same messaging.
For Free Shipping Day and Shipping Cutoff, messaging switches to delivery times and “Guaranteed Delivery” messages should be more prominently displayed. Once these dates pass, make sure to pull your ads and swap them out with the next promotion messaging. Expect to severely slash your online advertising after Shipping Cutoff, and switch all messaging over to “last minute gifts” such as digital gift cards.
Christmas Eve is the biggest day of the year for digital gift cards. Yes, all of those last minute shoppers are desperate for something to stuff in a card or wrap under the tree, and digital gift cards that have a coupon or promotion code are just the ticket. Make sure your brand is ready and able to cash in on this trend.
Plan your shipping strategy.
As an SMB, the economics of fulfillment and shipping are stacked against you: you can’t negotiate the volume discounts that the mega-retailers can. Worse, 71% of consumers EXPECT free shipping, which puts pressure on your brand to compete on services that eat into your bottom line. As an alternative to a blanket free shipping policy, SMBs can implement smarter and more targeted promotions such as tiered shipping rates, free shipping to your best customers, free shipping on certain days (Today Only!), free shipping in exchange for referring a friend, or even free shipping in exchange for social media participation such as liking you on Facebook.
Optimize your web site for holiday shoppers.
For many shoppers, this may be their first experience with your brand, so your first impression has to be a great one.
Leading up to Christmas, make it easy for customers to find what they want by creating gift guides (“Gifts for Him”, “Gifts for Her”, “Gifts Under $100,”), easy to understand return policies (in case the gift doesn’t fit), explicit delivery times (including updating your normal shipping delivery times to account for holiday delays), easy gift messaging options, and automated package tracking so frazzled customers can quickly locate where their package is and confirm it will arrive on time without burdening your customer service team.
After opening presents on Christmas Day, consumers are back online looking to spend those nifty gift cards and hunting for bargains on gifts they wanted but didn’t receive. Make sure your site messaging ties into post-Christmas shopping experience by featuring new items (at full price) for those gift card shoppers who want to splurge, and swap out your gift catalogs with “After Christmas Sales” to move excess or seasonal inventory. Whatever they want to buy, redeeming their gift card should be quick and easy.
From planning to promotions, there is much that brands can do to boost holiday sales. For SMBs, just keeping up with holiday demand can be a daunting task. By covering the basics, SMBs will be ready to take on this holiday season with a strategy that addresses consumers needs on five levels: be where your customers are shopping (mobile), be open when your customers want you (increase site bandwidth), communicate differently during the buying cycle (pay attention to calendar milestones), anticipate consumer demand for free shipping (craft your free shipping strategy) and make sure your customers have a great online shopping experience (optimize your site for gift buyers).
A high Google ranking is a great way to boost site traffic, and Symphony’s latest release helps make that happen. Starting this week, all Symphony sites automatically send daily sitemaps to Google Web Toolkit (GWT), helping your brand achieve the best Google ranking possible.
What’s a Sitemap?
Sitemaps organize the information stored throughout your website and arrange it in a way that’s easily read by Googlebot, the giant Google machine that crawls the Internet and ranks web pages.
Why Should I Submit a Sitemap?
Sitemaps lead to a more efficient Google crawl by telling bots how to crawl your site. Sitemaps pass along information like what links are there, how to find them, how frequently they’re changed, and so on.
Who Benefits From Sitemaps?
Every site can benefit from submitting well-organized sitemaps. You might benefit even more if you have:
A large website: If your brand has a big catalog or lots of static pages, Googlebot is more likely to miss some pages, especially ones with new or changed content. A sitemap is a giant sign that says “Hey, Googlebot, stop here for instructions about where to go.”
A new website: Older and/or popular sites have more clout with Googlebot. That’s partly because there are more sites linking and directing traffic toward them. Delivering a clear sitemap to Google helps you compete with these sites.
A lot of product photos: Sitemaps with properly named images help your photos rank higher when customers search for products in Google Images.
A lot of static pages that don’t link to each other: Your static pages probably all link out from your home page, but they might not always link to each other. If your site doesn’t have a strong network of interlinking pages, listing them on a sitemap can ensure Google
doesn’t skip some pages.What Information Does my Sitemap contain?
Symphony-generated sitemaps are generated and submitted daily. They contain all of the following features:
- A sitemap index, which links to the following individual sitemaps:
- Static page sitemap
- Product page sitemap
- Category page sitemap
- Image sitemap (including all product images)
- Googlebot-friendly naming and prioritization.
- Pages are prioritized so the bot understands that a Home page is more important than a Category page, which in turn is more important than a Product page.
- Images are properly named
- Submission logging. In addition to being automatically generated and submitted to GWT daily, sitemaps are fully logged in case of errors.
By making it easier for Google to crawl your site in an efficient way, you can cut down the time it takes to earn a higher Google ranking. This extra boost to your Google ranking works best when paired with other SEO-driving tactics like secure HTTPS sites, solid site architecture, and stellar product copy. Start paying attention to all three, and you’ll see your rankings rise with less work, less upkeep, and improved results.
You build your brand experience to optimize everything about the online shopping experience. Mobile Responsive? Check. SEO? Check. Awesome product copy? Check. Beautiful product photos? Check. Optimized shopping cart? Check. Your customer punches in her credit card details, sits back…and waits.
What will happen next? Your customers are probably experiencing a wide range of emotions right about now.
- Excitement (I can’t wait to get my new Darth Vader thumb drive!)
- Anticipation (I hope this candle has a $5,000 ring!)
- Urgency (This gift better arrive in time for my friend’s birthday!)
- Wariness (Will my new umbrella work like it says?)
Chances are your customers are checking back frequently to find out where their packages are. Has it been shipped? What is the estimated delivery time?
Providing shipping and tracking information for your customers is a best practice for multiple reasons. First, customers expect it. Second, providing the information reduces strain on customer service (Where is my package? When will it arrive?) Perhaps most importantly, tracking information also reduces chargebacks. Customers are less likely to cancel an order when they see it’s already en route.
But is there a way to leverage what is basically a transactional experience for the customer into more brand engagement? Turns out, your customers are checking on their delivery tracking a lot. Furthermore, the customers that do check their orders, do so more than once.
Instead of bumping your customers off to the shipping carrier and forfeiting any possibility of an up sell, why not bring them directly back to your site? Sophisticated brand retailers like Nordstrom, Bonobos, and One Kings Lane have all shifted their delivery tracking to an onsite model. In fact, by implementing onsite delivery information, Symphony brands noticed an immediate increase in visits – over 10% of landing page sessions were checking on the status of their orders.
Remember that this is basically free traffic that you would have been sending directly to FedEx, UPS, or USPS. Considering how much energy and money goes into getting website traffic, onsite tracking offers brands an easy way to up sell and reinforce brand identity.
Savvy brands want to own as much of the customer experience as possible: onsite tracking provides a way to re-engage customers during the waiting period from the excitement of the order to the “moment of truth” when your customer receives her awesome new product.
(You did use your own unique packaging, so your customer had another great brand touch point, right? Of course you did.)
Wish your site ranked higher on Google’s search algorithm? Starting last week, all Symphony sites do.
Have you ever noticed that some website starts with “HTTPS” instead of “HTTP?” That extra “S” stands for “Secure.” Essentially, it means there’s an extra layer of encryption in the data between the browser and the site (Forbes does a good job of explaining it). Google recently announced they’re starting to use HTTPS as a rankings signal, meaning sites using HTTPS will rank higher than sites using HTTP.
Symphony sites have always run on HTTPS, so they’ll automatically see a rankings boost. Our philosophy is this: while you dedicate yourself to creating the best content for your site, we’ll worry about security, stability, speed, and the rest.
Symphony is committed to providing best-in-class security across all our sites. On the Qualys SS Labs test, our sites achieved “A” scores in security when they followed our best practices. A rankings boost on Google is now a nice bonus. High fives all around