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The 7 Pillars of Digital Marketing Blog

Best practices, training and innovations in Digital Strategy.

The Value of E-mail Surveys

February 15, 2011 – 3:54 pm
Abdul Fattah Ismail

Interactive marketing has a spectrum of strategies available for your business.  The key is to truly understand the channels in which your customers show a vocal response.  Certain demographics prefer to communicate through mobile applications.  Others prefer to receive direct mail.  Focus groups are staples of market research implementation and reveal strong information on consumer taste and preferences.

When Facebook launched an e-mail service last year, traditional direct marketers worried that their tools would become obsolete.  The relaunch of Bloomberg Business Week was a tale of hope.  According to this piece in Direct Marketing News, e-mail surveys to its subscribers about content produced a 2 to 3% response rate.  Alec Casey, head of circulation at Bloomberg, makes this known proclamation.  ”The days of sending paper surveys in the mail are gone.  We find e-mail surveys a reliable gauge in terms of what might work longer term with a broader consumer audience. ”

E-mail service also is far more dynamic.  An outreach letter could have a video installed that demonstrates new products while testing their compliance.  This is just one example to gage reader interest.  I find progress bars helpful when completing customer surveys. They give you a tangible goal to strive for when answering questions.  The whole idea is to build a community where ideas and concepts are shared.  The personalization of e-mail marketing can do this when streamlined.

email surveys images Pictures, Images and Photos


Urban Outfitters: The E-Commerce Store of Our Holiday

December 13, 2010 – 2:31 pm
Abdul Fattah Ismail

Urban Outfitters has grown to over 100 stores across North America and select European nations with visions of greater expansion.  It carries a wide portfolio of casual wear paired with modern furniture design. The product portfolio brims with retro design and venerable American labels.  Urban Outfitters also has a complex reach into the digital world with their online stores for the desktop and mobile phones.  In an age of shifting transitions, Urban Outfitters is the quintessential apparel business for our times.

Urban has an extensive strategy reach across multiple channels.  They publish a monthly mail-order catalog, which spotlights designers who are rising on the independent fashion circuit.  Women are the primary demographic, wearing featured pieces along with various accessories and jewelry.  The men do get a small section, mostly filled with durable goods such as sweaters, boots, sneakers, button down shirts, and denim.  The latest catalog for December covers 55 pages of holiday goods for your friends and neighbors.  Urban Outfitters also promotes rising musicians on their blog from the independent rock circuit, but also gives credence to several other genres and styles.  You can find a select mix of 12 free songs available for immediate download to your laptop, which can then be transferred to your audio player.  

The e-commerce website is one of the more sophisticated in apparel.  It contains a multimedia mix of Adobe Flash Interactive, drop-down selection boxes, video, and photographic slideshows.  Products are featured with attractive models in crisp photographs easily navigable with your cursor.  You can swipe and click the accompanying looks to find your preferred taste.  The website also has a section for online exclusives in each category, along with e-mail and text updates on sales of those rare items.  This does wonders for building brand equity with preferred customers that have a lengthy online history. Product categories also allow extensive navigation with select subcategories.  Shoppers can sort through inventory according to price, most reviewed, highest rated, or brand.  Some consumers may find this flexibility overwhelming, but Urban’s demographic demands choice, and they get it.

Since we live in New York, the consumer can research the product features then call the closest store for availability.  The consumer can create a profile and tailor a level of communication to their tastes. Then they start receiving exclusive promotions and digital goods such as music or coupons.  The Gift Center section on the website offers standard services like gift cards with other stocking ideas at fixed price points.  Their blog, on the other hand, is a diorama of trends. The content could be a music video of an emerging band or an interview with a young designer.  You don’t even need to be on your home computer to view all of this content.

Urban Outfitters made a seamless transition with their website onto a mobile phone.  The mobile commerce site can be accessed on your phone’s Internet browser or through an application module for the iPhone and Android.  Mobile commerce is developing into a force within the consumer industry.  Customers can gain a brief but thorough review of their preferred product without the haggling of salespeople.  Images can be shared through all of the familiar social media networks.  The inventory is limited on a mobile phone due to the inherent limitations of mobile technology such as a smaller screen size. Nevertheless, the design has won favor with industry experts.  According to The E-Tailing Group, Urban Outfitters ranks number one on the list of best mobile gift centers during this holiday season.

E-Tailing cited the retailer’s focus on creative categories and fixed price points that hold kitschy merchandise.  They also mentioned the multiple offers for gift cards as an asset, which reinforces the efficiency of mobile browsing.  It requires little more than your personal account, which can be created on the desktop website.   One last observation I noticed is the colloquialisms. For example, when I tried to log into my mobile account, an error message with “BUMMER: We don’t know what went wrong, but refresh this page and try again. It’s probably not a big deal.”

A similar instance comes up if you forget your password on the desktop website.  This quote rises:  “We Got Your Back.  Just Give Us Your Email Address and We’ll Send You Your Password.”  Unlike many websites, which send a link to create a new password, Urban Outfitters simply sends the password created when the profile was first registered.  You don’t have to extend yourself with yet another unique code for access.  Customers will appreciate this loyalty over time as traffic on e-commerce sites continues to grow.  These minor but crucial details reinforce the retailer’s commitment to their young, mobile demographic that is a step ahead of other retailers.


Yahoo Mail: Diversified For Your Email Marketing Pleasure

December 7, 2010 – 5:33 pm
Abdul Fattah Ismail

I remember Yahoo Mail being my first personal account back in undergraduate studies at The University of Notre Dame. The transferral of typed messages online through a network system had been going on since the 1960s through the military, but for me, it made the world flat. I could communicate with anyone across the globe, provided they had an account and solid network connections. Nowadays, you can engage with viral demographics at so many levels and intentions. Direct e-mail marketing looks like the Pony Express today, despite its value to generate high response rates.

In this piece from Direct Marketing News, Tom Sather delivers some insight into how e-mail marketers can use web interfaces like Yahoo’s Beta Email to gain ROI on their service campaigns.  Yahoo! just released an interface dubbed “Minty”, which integrates text, a status update box for social media portals, video, and photo uploading boxes.  As we know, Facebook just launched their own revamped email service in their quest to be the first stop on the browsing experience.

Nevertheless, Yahoos’ roots as an e-mail service provider can provide a professional hub for philanthropic organizations who have employees with digital marketing acumen.  Agencies can also benefit by using the interface to experiment with new digital campaign strategies at no cost to their balance sheet. As Sather mentions, using web analytics that can segment the data will prove invaluable to measure campaign effectiveness.  Some basic examples could be special event invitations, staff news, executive announcements, and so on.  We haven’t even discussed much the possible benefits of updating your social media portals without leaving the interface. That is because some folks already understand and have maximized this advantage.  Variety is still the spice of life, and e-mail services can be the spoon for Yahoo.


“Face-mail Me”, by Facebook

November 16, 2010 – 11:39 am
Abdul Fattah Ismail

The executives at Facebook are about to announce the launch of a new method to communicate online.  Titled “Messages”, Facebook is offering their users the flexibility to communicate in real time regardless of platform.  Buzz circulated last week that Facebook was looking to challenge Google’s Gmail as an e-mail service purveyor, but this quote from CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggests otherwise:  ”We at Facebook believe that modern messaging is seamless, informal, immediate, personal, simple, and minimal. Facebook is going to provide every existing member an e-mail per request, but again Zuckerberg quotes, “It’s Not E-mail.”

It seems that Facebook’s new model is more interested in generating longer website visits to increase advertising opportunities for corporate accounts and online vendors.  This is another strategy in a step for Facebook being the portal for data integration and management.  The “Like” application was a major step in synthesizing personal statistics from the content of flailing media web providers.

By management differentiating this new service in public from e-mail yet providing addresses, I do not see another rationale. The website engine already optimizes indexes from Bing, a partnership that began late last month.  The traffic flows with millions of photography, art images, and video installations.  One more part of Facebook’s business transformation involves sourcing all of its data in a solitary environment.  As this piece in Financial Times explains, technology firms are looking to source their data centres independently from major city networks in order to load and transfer content at a higher pace.  North Carolina offered huge tax incentives for Facebook to build a prime facility for data management.  It will be interesting to see if the corporations reciprocate for those states subsidizing such grand projects.


The Online Ad Is Back..And Back In Black

October 19, 2010 – 10:29 am
Abdul Fattah Ismail

Online advertising is coming back with strength.  According to this note from via Magna Global, web advertising revenues will reach $25.6B, an increase of 12%.  Display advertising has led the charge, as e-commerce merchants gear up for the holiday spending season, which starts in earnest after Thanksgiving.  Strangely, however, analysts have noticed the decrease in market share of direct media. Direct media is the umbrella term given to lead generation, pay per click advertising, online yellow pages, and e-mail marketing.  Large technology firms nevertheless continue to integrate websites in order to generate click-throughs and collect personal data for web analytics.

Yahoo aims to emulate the Facebook Connect module of multiple site integration with Y! Connect. An opportunity exists for Yahoo! to present the module as a potential boom for small and mid-size businesses looking to organize their interactive marketing services.  Philanthropic organizations can use Yahoo! for their e-mail marketing campaigns. E-mail marketing involves gathering extensive data on donors’ web activities to observe behavior, then tailoring your message using a hybrid of images and text to elicit the desired feedback:  revenue.  If a campaign has an extensive reach with quality content, then traffic flows. The Y! Connect hopes to deliver on this elusive adage.

Yahoo!, despite its management uncertainty, remains credible with the public as an e-mail provider. Facebook’s continual privacy issues have left the door open.  Can Yahoo! step in and yodel? Only if they can step up their security protocols, and the market is always kind to those with capital.


Interactive Luxury, Neiman Marcus Style

October 5, 2010 – 5:52 pm
Abdul Fattah Ismail

The leaves have yet to change colors, but retailers are starting to ramp their advertising campaigns for the holiday season. Although the economy is at a higher level than 2009, when retailers had to cut inventory due to consumers closing their wallets, caution still hangs in the air.  Luxury goods, however, are starting to generate sales revenue.  One venerable patron has a vision of penetrating with many channels.

Neiman Marcus has been popular with mothers of upper-middle incomes and the divorced for years.  eMarketer interviewed Michael Crotty, Neiman’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Programs and Customer Insight.  Despite the statistics of his customer demographic, his staff sees a different story on the floor.  ”Our customer likes to shop on both channels depending on what they’re looking for and how much time they have.  In markets where we don’t have stores, the customer doesn’t look that much different.  In general, though, like a lot of other retailers, the online customer’s a little younger–not dramatically, but younger.”

The website design has a mix of traditional Neiman Marcus photography, with evening wear and classic formal pieces. Every section is crisply organized on the homepage, accented by a silver dashboard that highlights with soft shadows, exhibiting swift navigability.  Their desire for a multichannel reach is best exemplified with their mobile applications that bring their images first to your imagination, then to life.  The Editions application for iPad bursts with stills of classic editions, e-commerce, and The Christmas Book.  Editions is also available for the iPhone consumer, with the same bouquet of digital features.  The ladies who start browsing early should experience the Flipbook here. At the moment, online shoppers get free shipping regardless of order total.


Blueliner Webinars 2010

September 30, 2010 – 6:41 pm

Blueliner Marketing, LLC is proud to reintroduce its successful webinar series on Internet Marketing. For years, various members of the Blueliner team have lead webinar discussions on Internet Marketing, SEO Best Practices, Web Development, and Marketing Strategy for companies worldwide.

This fall, Blueliner CEO and visionary Arman Rousta will lead a series of webinars, giving audiences insight into Blueliner’s award-winning strategy. These hour-long, informative sessions will take place twice a month from the comfort of your home or office, with different members of Blueliner’s team providing insight and lending their expertise.

The first of these webinars is set to take place on Tuesday October 12th, 2010 at 2 PM EST.  Blueliner CEO Arman Rousta will lead you through the top Web Design Trends of 2010, where you will discover the difference between a good website and a great website. Your website’s navigation, graphics, and layout could be the difference in hundreds of thousands of dollars of potential revenue. Learn where your company stands and what you can do to improve. Rousta will also lead audiences through the 7 Pillars Approach to web design and provide insight to social media trends and the importance of mobile integration.

Blueliner will follow the October 12th webinar with Arman Rousta’s renowned “7 Pillars of Internet Marketing” on Wednesday October 27th. Rousta’s “7 Pillars” outlines the basic principles of Blueliner Marketing and has led us to be one of the most successful Internet Marketing companies.

Blueliner’s success is partly credited to their “World is Flat” business model. This model provides 24/7 implementation and ROI-centric Internet marketing methodologies. With offices already in New York, India, Bangladesh, and an office opening in Macedonia (2011), Blueliner has become a world-wide success and a model for all businesses looking to expand overseas. A webinar scheduled for November 11th, 2010 will discuss expanding into Asia and making your business more efficient and cost-effective.

Information on upcoming webinars can be found in the Events Section of Join Blueliner for a webinar and let their successful business strategies work for you!

Reservations for the Web Design Trends 2010 webinar are being taken now. Registration is free!


Weekly Blueliner Newsminer

September 24, 2010 – 3:32 pm
Abdul Fattah Ismail

1.  CEO Jeff Zucker to leave NBC.

The news is hardly shocking, as the impending transfer of management to Comcast meant that his leadership would be in jeopardy.  It will be interesting to see the future direction of online media, especially with advertisers. This video interview on from June reveals more insight into those strategies.

2.  Facebook Outage From Yesterday.

I noticed the issue on several instances of my laptop space, when the Top Sites view had a status in Bold Type stating “Service Unavailable DNS Error”.  The Like button on Blueliner’s blog had a similar statement.  Then you had a tweet from Facebook’s user profile about the outage.  Many were shocked at the turn of events, wondering if the mighty social media network had fallen.  All jokes aside, it happens in the viral world.  It meant that everyone would just have to tweet or watch YouTube. The engineer explains the fiasco above in the headline.

3.  Blockbuster Enters Bankruptcy Protection

I think the biggest shock from this news is how it took this long for the chain to claim bankruptcy.  Once Netflix arrived on the scene with such a seamless business model in 1997, the clock was ticking on Blockbuster as a brick-and-mortar enterprise. When I lived in Washington, D.C., and saw a Redbox machine on 18th and Kalorama, where you can instantly rent videos at a fraction of the Blockbuster cost, the grave was in cement.  Blockbuster tried to copy both business models, but it was too little, too late.  Renegade investor Carl Icahn is still a shareholder, so the company’s future direction is unclear.  They do have an extensive video library, so a future for online advertising and web development still exists once the business model is settled.

4.  FCC Approves White Spaces For Mobile Broadband

This news, reported nationwide today, would seem to eliminate the need for a net neutrality showdown since the major technological players who plan to push internet television now have space to distribute content and market hardware. Time will tell if internet television becomes the next foray into content distribution.  Network libraries are still limited, and the average American watches over 35 hours of television a week. This could be an opportunity for Blockbuster to resuscitate their brand and develop a business model that spearheads the digital content wave, as the name still holds cache with advertisers.  If they can partner with a service like Google TV, who knows?

5.  The Social Network Debuts Today at The New York Film Festival Written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by David Fincher, the impending release is doing more than creating buzz in cyberspace.  The supposedly negative light shown on Mark Zuckerberg manifested into quick public defense.  Today, he donated $100 million to the Newark public system, one which has actually done a good job of raising funds but a poor one of leveraging them into top graduates.  Regardless, the discussion add another dimension to Facebook’s brand development, which has been heavily criticized this year for privacy issues amongst a long outage yesterday.  I take it that this isn’t Mr. Zuckerberg’s year.


Visa Launches Small Business Network

September 20, 2010 – 5:17 pm
Abdul Fattah Ismail

Small business owners are the generators of our national economy. In today’s interconnected society, access to network along with the tools to distribute content is paramount for long-term success. Standing by their tested campaign slogan of being everywhere you are, Visa has launched the Visa Small Business Network.  The Visa Small Business Network is a free website aimed to connect small business owners everywhere with one another through a viral portal rich with presentation and content. The owners can use the website to not only develop network channels for sales opportunities, but also seek advice on a plethora of topics. Here are some examples:

1.  Business Goal Toolkits – unique step-by-step “how to” guides that lead small business owners through the process of setting and achieving business goals. The interactive toolkits correlate with goals which small business owners have identified as being the most relevant to the challenges they face in growing their business – from best practices for promoting their business on Facebook and other social networks, to developing and delivering email newsletters to reach new and existing customers.

2.  Small Business Mentor Program – small businesses get personalized help and guidance from other successful small business owners. Having faced similar business challenges, these seasoned mentors offer advice and perspective to help Visa Business Network participants achieve their goals.

3.  Question & Answer Forum – members are able to collaborate by asking questions related to their goals and receive personalized advice and responses from small business peers and mentors with experience across a wide range of industries.

4.  Content Ranking – this feature provides small businesses with quick access to the resources and articles fellow small business owners have declared most useful.

As mentioned, the website offers a voluminous depth of interactive marketing, ranging from social media connection, podcasts, video from small business owners, and a library section with written content from luminaries such as Richard Branson. I also like the simple navigability through subsections and the flash content is fluid, rather than intrusive on comparable portals.  For small business owners who want to find resources to manage their business, Visa is everywhere for you as promised. Read more here:


Post Stamps Are Forever

August 9, 2010 – 4:20 pm
Abdul Fattah Ismail

The United States Postal Service has been bleeding funds for a long, long time.  The markup on stamps has been outpacing inflation over the past decade.  The technological advancements of information distribution have affected the value of postal service to the average citizen.  UPS and FedEx tout faster delivery with various modes of transport, but at a prohibitive cost for corporations. In fact, these shipping firms align select services with the Postal Service to reduce delivery fees.  The latest news concerning the rise of first-class mail postage to $0.46 breeds the longstanding question:  Is direct marketing still viable for advertisers?

Today’s campaign has even transitioned away from e-mail marketing into social media targets, which is a dangerous proposition.  For organizations small and large, direct marketing should be a reduced percentage of campaign strategy but not negated.  The Postal Service has integrated a flat rate for selected package sizes deliverable within the States and has the Forever stamps that can manage distribution prices.  Direct marketing, in these economic times, is not only cost-effective, but holds the cachet of federal protection that rival shippers do not possess. Its reach across less densely populated regions cannot be denied, and is still the cheapest option of delivery in the Western World. Secondly, value also shows up during tough economic times in which a business reaches out to their consumer base with a note or gift of gratitude. Consumers remember those touches and will look to reciprocate in the future, even if the wallet is lightened. Therefore, marketers should not be alarmed by the constant rise in postage fees.  They should wonder if the USPS management will ever be pared down with sensibility. I see the 75 cent stamp on your envelope before that occasion comes to roost.

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