As eCommerce continues to surge, everyone’s looking to innovate marketing and the methods by which brands win the hearts and minds of new, and hopefully, long term customers. 

The six-part customer persona

It starts with the customer persona, which is no longer just about demographic. In fact, according to, things like age, gender, marital status, profession, education, location and income – basically all the conditions brands used to filter for when creating Facebook ads  – are just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s almost comical now that at one time, prior to massive security breaches, when Facebook was less concerned with how much data they were allowing advertisers to leverage, brands using Facebook ad buys as a core marketing strategy were thought to have found the holy grail. Look back a little bit further, and those ad buys were relatively cheap relative to traditional print and TV advertising, or even Google adwords, for instance. Both Google adwords, and subsequently, customized audiences for Facebook boosted posts were the pinnacle of digital marketing. Now, as nearly everyone has a hand in eCommerce and nearly every potential consumer is allocating at least a portion of their usual spend online, the world of digital commerce and the means by which customers are acquired has become more nuanced. 

To that end, Benzinga lists 6 parts of a customer persona. In addition to demographics, there’s journey, triggers, mindset, language, and communities. We will let you look into what those all look like in greater detail via their May 17 article. 

But with those pillars in mind, we’d like to point out a series of headlines from this past month highlighting the new ideal for customer acquisition practices. From the small DTC’s you’re just beginning to hear about, to the company names we’ve adopted as standard english verbs, May demonstrated how drastically consumer product spaces are changing post COVID. 

The “new normal” for content marketing: engaging, interacting, personalized…

Let’s start here: an article from marketing jack of all trades, Chris Lema on the rise of interactive video content in eCommerce advertising. On his website, Chris calls himself a blogger, storyteller, and public speaker, but at his core he is a product strategist. Back in 2005, Lema began working with startups and software companies, mainly as a member of the WordPress ecosystem. These days he mostly wears the coach hat. 

Lema claims “Interactive video is starting to show up in all sorts of large eCommerce sites. You might find it at the site for a major brand, or one of the anchor mall store’s site…

They’re clearly selling to Walmart, Delta, and Mastercard. I’m talking about companies like hapyak, idomoo, Rapt, and wirewax.

But that’s what makes it exciting. Because when you see it taking shape, you know it’s bound to happen on WooCommerce sites.”

Chris mentions how part of the interactive video trend has a lot to do with access. What was once the work of professional videographers can now be easily replicated by anyone willing to learn a little software. 

That’s not a knock on videography, and we do not intend to imply that the artform has lost its mystique. Pros are still pros for a reason. It’s just that technological advancements and smart device accessibility has closed the gap a bit between what a marketer can do and professionally shot content. 

The interactive part, Lema explains, is a bit trickier. Creating video that speaks directly to customers, content that companies can batch and segment based on customer behavior – that used to require some pretty advanced programming. Enter a cornucopia of SaAs platforms, and that is no longer the case. 

“Today”, Chris explains,  “you don’t need to learn Lingo (the object-oriented programming language of Director).” Instead, marketers are able to use one of a seemingly endless list of products to upload videos. 

Lema mentions one in particular. “It’s called MindStamp.

“You can upload videos. Connect several together for more complex storytelling. You can add buttons or hotspots to the video. You can ask questions. Collect customer data. And even add personalization based on data passed on the url.”

Think video content, with do-not-pass-go, choose-your-own-adventure style check points embedded along the way like so: 

The rise and fall of the Facebook Ad platform   Speaking of Facebook ads, it may be that the social media giant’s profit puppy is actually in worse shape than even Zucks could have predicted. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Facebook’s ad-revenue growth in the first quarter was driven by a 30% increase in the average price per ad…Facebook is asking its advertisers to pay up even during lagging user engagement in its most lucrative regions.”

What’s more, this past year Facebook “lost roughly three million daily active users in the U.S. and Canada between the second and the fourth quarter.” Wall Street expected a slight uptick in those numbers for the first part of 2021 fiscal year, however, Wednesday’s report showed quite the opposite. 

So what does this mean? 

Well it seems to validate the previous assertion that marketers are going to need to restock their advertising sheds with new tools. Not to overdo a metaphor, but those new tools may not necessarily be the latest brushless set of Ryobis either. We’re talking analog – crank drills, a good set of chisels, and maybe a file or two. In order to replicate the preposterous ROAS of the Facebook ad platform back when it was a bit more affordable, brands are going to require a little more time and a lot more attention to detail.

That’s because mass Facebook exodus also seems to run parallel to an Apple IOS update “which essentially asks for users’ approval to allow apps to track their online browsing habits.”

According to marketing and data analytics firm, Tinuiti, about 70% of iOS users currently share their personal identifier information with app publishers. But once the newest Apple upgrade rolls out, that number is expected to drop to about 10% to 15%.

Here’s how it all connects: we previously mentioned the Facebook data breaches. You’ll likely remember meme cultures depiction of Zucks as a water guzzling alien seated before a technologically ignorant congressional committee.

Earth Senate on a Galactic Tuesday | Mark Zuckerberg Congressional Hearings | Know Your MemeMark Zuckerberg is the New Favourite Meme on Social Media    

The hearings drew attention to the way in which the social media giant employs its ad platform as a vehicle for the mining and exploitation of user data. In response, companies like Apple are working to get out ahead of a breakdown, offering a method of opt in/out for users. And given that choice, seemingly for the first time, users are going to take it. But the numbers seem to suggest that even before the opportunity to control data sharing is made available, many Facebook users have already taken it upon themselves. These former disciples of the wall, the poke, the original .edu exclusivity are doing so in the only way they know how – by simply leaving the platform.

Fast forward to today and what this means for the future of Facebook. On the invite-only audio platform, Clubhouse, CEO Mark Zuckerberg spun the Apple changes positively. During his state-of-the-company like address, Zuckerberg discussed the consensus at Facebook that an all encompassing data sharing opt-in may actually encourage advertisers to conduct commerce directly on the platform.  Also gleaned in the wake of the Clubhouse update, the CEO announced plans for a copycat audio-first application in the stye of Clubhouse – the latest in a string of IP mimicry on the part of Facebook, affectionately deemed “Zucking” by some industry pundits. 

But we digress. More important, is an April announcement from Facebook regarding plans to build “broader commerce infrastructure-like payments, which will support direct user conversion on his platforms. Mr. Zuckerberg also said Facebook Shops, which launched last year, already has 250 million monthly visitors. AB Bernstein analyst Mark Shmulik estimates that Facebook could generate $200 million to $300 million in revenue from Shops alone in the third quarter.”

Moves like Apple’s sweeping opt-in on the new ioS rollout has many brands seeking creative solutions and a way to completely replace Facebook as an ad channel. Unfortunately there is no equivalent stand-in. Swapping out Facebook for some other Ad channel to be named at a later date is as bold as the old weighted sandbag trick from Raiders of the Lost Arc and marketers won’t likely fare much better than Indian Jones did. But still, marketers are seeking a more scaled approach, less customized than something like interactive video content, that can be replicated in greater proportion to a larger audience.

Mobile commerce begets mobile marketing (especially for Gen Z)

These methods land somewhere between adwords or Facebook ads, and the more back-end heavy ad content creation methods like interactive video for instance. A clear favorite in this field is mobile marketing, and specifically SMS campaigns.

Now, mobile is nothing new. If you’ve shopped online in the last decade you’ve been on the receiving end of a text ad. However, for the first time really since the onset of the practice, users seem much more open to mobile message ads. 

We’ve talked in the past about the surge in mobile-first commerce in previous blogs (like this one from August of 2020). At that time, it seemed Americans were still lagging behind on the trend, with Gen Z shouldering the weight of the rest of us old timers. But the past 10 months or so have been sort of critical. 

For starters, eCommerce made roughly five years worth of growth when you factor for the average YOY increase in share of total retail sales. puts the number around 44%. You can find that chart here. 

This is of course largely because of the pandemic and limitations placed on in-person shopping. During this time, devotees of brick ‘n mortar stores found themselves with few shopping options outside of groceries and some big box chains like the behemoth home improvement cousins, Lowes and Home Depot.

Needless to say, shoppers are going to find a way to shop.  And since participation in eCommerce requires access to the internet, which requires a device, it makes sense that mobile is flexing its own uptick. That’s because even though the majority of Millenials, Gen Xers, and Boomers prefer the laptop or desktop online shopping experience, and even though many of us are able to enjoy that experience from a computer at work or at home, there is still a considerable percentage of Americans whose predominant computing device is their phone. 

Here is the breakdown from the last US Census in 2018: 

Smartphone ownership surpassed ownership of all other computing devices. Smartphones were present in 84% of households, while 78% of households owned a desktop or laptop. Tablet ownership fell behind at 63%.

Regardless, it seems the proof is in the m-commerce data. In a new study from SimpleTexting, 97% of consumers polled said they had made at least one purchase from their mobile device in the past year. 54% made at least 10. When it comes to text marketing, though, surely noone actually gives incoming green messages from random numbers the time of day right? Wrong. 

According to the same study, 86% of consumers have signed up for text messages from at least one brand, and 61% are likely to sign up for a text message loyalty program. 

This article from MediaPost, which sums up the SimpleTexting data nicely, goes into list the types of offers shoppers are most likely to enroll in. The article’s authors note that this list of popular and even sought after content types likely also apply to email opt-in. 

  • Coupons or special offers — 64.9%
  • Product updates — 35.4%
  • Sales alerts — 35.3%
  • Loyalty programs — 34.4%
  • New product launch — 29.9% 
  • Customer service — 26%
  • Restock alerts — 25.2%
  • Event updates — 11.9%
  • Other — 2.8% 

From a marketing perspective, the MediaPost article points out one other SUPER interesting tidbit about the research that bears mentioning to “anyone trying to operate in a single channel….” 

78% of users polled are more likely to make a mobile purchase when its supported by user-generated content on social. 

What the heck does that mean? Well, many mobile shoppers and/or those willing to be on the receiving end of mobile ad offerings, are signing up with brands they discover on social media. To add another caveat to the formula, consider the term “user-generated content,” which ostensibly refers to influencers, or at very least, the content pushed out by a brand managed account. It’s completely fair and reasonable to interpret that slice of the overarching data as more evidence for the organic, experiential, interactive and against the use of what might be considered “traditional” online ad placements. 

Traditional is our own qualifier, but we think you get what we mean: think banner ads, retargeting ads, Google display ads, as well as fixed ad placement on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Youtube, Pinterest…the list goes on.

And here is where we contradict ourselves with a list of platforms where brands should still have some ad presence…because omnichannel, that’s why.

So what platforms do make sense? At risk of sounding hypocritical, let us first share this blurb from the article where we discovered this top 5 list:

Thanks to the data-rich internet, businesses can use consumer demographic data, interests and search engine queries to advertise the right products and services to the right consumers, thereby increasing their chances of making a sale. 

Not only are you promoting to people who are actually likely to desire your specific products, but you’re also inserting yourself directly into their social media feeds, where they’re already engaged.

Because social media advertising is so targeted, you can maximize your ROAS (Return on Advertising Spend).

Take this with a grain of salt. As we have just discussed, the ability to target consumers and perfect the ad spend the way brands were able to circa 2017/18 is the stuff of legend now. Someday soon, marketers will sit around a campfire speaking longingly and with great reverence for the hyper-focused demographic filters built into the Facebook ad platform: the bygone days. 

Regardless, in the spirit of a well-rounded marketing strategy, here is the list. 

  1. Facebook ads
  2. Instagram ads
  3. Pinterest Ads – This one we can get behind for no other reason than the fact that 87% of Pinterest users have actually bought a product they have discovered through Pinterest. And yet, the platform is severely under-utilized as an advertising channel. This is due in large part to the platform’s very one-dimensional demographic base and the way people generally use the platform. Here are some of those demographic details as per
    • 71% of Pinterest users are females. 
    • 70% of Pinterest users have a college degree. 
    • 80% of US mothers who use the internet use Pinterest.
    • The median age of a Pinterest user is 40, however, the majority of active pinners are below 40. 
    • 85% Pinterest users use the site when they want to start a new project.

And here are the top 10 trending categories from 2020 according to SocialMediaToday: 

    • Responsible Travel – Environmentally conscious travel tips
    • Internationally Inspired – Region-specific design and art inspiration
    • Beyond Binary – Products moving beyond gendered labels
    • Space Everything – Space travel and related themes 
    • Re-wilding – Outdoor adventure
    • Finding Balance – Self-care tips and products
    • Pampered Pets – Advanced pet care
    • Home Hub – Home, and home office, improvement tips and devices
    • 90s Re-Run – 90s inspired fashion 
    • Conscious Consumption – Sustainable living tips and tools

A couple of insights here: First, many of the categorical trends from 2020 imply that Pinterest is the place to go in search of inspiration, and maybe even to shop, but not necessarily to buy.  Second, the platform is clearly focused on changing what has become a pretty widely accepted narrative in eCommerce communities. 

The list sums it up well here: Based on the BeProfit study, 8% of e-commerce businesses use Pinterest ads to promote their products, predominantly print-on-demand stores, a fact that aligns with the app’s focus on personalization.

Beyond that, there is a sort-of DIY culture built into the app. According to SproudSocial, 98% of users have tried something they’ve seen on Pinterest. Pinterest has always been known for DIY projects, recipes, beautiful home and fashion pictures, and handmade crafts. And for years, users have enjoyed attempting the different ideas found on the platform.

This is why Pinterest eventually added a “Tried It” button to Pins, so that users can share when they’ve successfully tried a project. This is also how the platform is now able to measure this metric and determine that 98% of users – almost their entire user base – has tried something they’ve seen on the social network.

And yet, even if the most closed-minded interpretation of this data set were 100% the case, it is still hard to refute some of the other statistics and what they suggest about the site’s commerce potential. 

  • 1. Pinterest has over 450 million monthly active users
  • 50% of U.S. Pinners frequently shop on Pinterest
  • The number of users shopping on Pinterest grew 50% in the first half of 2020
  • More than 25% of time spent on Pinterest is spent shopping
  • 85% of users have bought something based on Pins they see from brands
  • Pinners spend 80% more in retail than non-pinners
  • 97% of searches on Pinterest aren’t brand related

4. TikTok Ads- Definitely relevant and more affordable than 1 & 2, but if history is any indication, TikTok’s ads are not too far off from the premium pricing Adwords and Facebook have adopted.

Be that as it may, TikTok is so so so young, and just last year, President Trump was a bad day away from banning the service in the US. A social media platform that just last year was on the chopping block cannot possibly be operating anywhere near scale in terms of users.

What more, TikTok’s youth means it “is still relatively unsaturated…Data reveals that 62% of TikTok active users in the US are younger than 30 years old…”

Additionally, at its core the app is a video creation tool. Through a marketers lens, that makes TIkTok “an excellent way to advertise in a visually engaging, targeted and viral manner.”

5. SnapChat Ads – This is another winner solely due to the nature of the platform itself.

From the article: There are a few ways to advertise on Snapchat to drive e-commerce traffic and sales, including full-screen mobile ads as well as interactive experiences prompting immediate action. For example, you could entice users to swipe up or tap on your ad to reveal a special coupon or new product..

How else are companies innovating around the digital marketplace?

A few ways, each more creative than the next, but all fall into the bucket where we are keeping all the timely and effective digital content advertising we’re finding in 2021. How are we ultimately determining the characteristics of “timely” and “effective”? What are the adjectives?

As mentioned with video content and mobile messaging, a lot of it has to do with the ability of an ad campaign to personalize, engage, and interact with users. A quick command-F search will also render a bunch of results throughout this article for the word “organic.” When we say content is organic we do not mean it is free of hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and fertilizers, but rather that it is purposefully placed and makes sense. 

In other words, organic content is that which users of a particular platform or digital service discover through normal, everyday use of said service. The organic quality has to do with how native it is to a particular platform. At a minimum marketers can pressure test ad campaigns with one simple question: does this particular piece of content feel like it should be here on this particular platform?

But outside of ad placement, there are a few companies thinking way outside the box and as a result, are poised to win big in the coming year. Here are a few of our favorites with links to the original articles: