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As September begins many retailers are kicking off holiday promotional campaigns, which means the Christmas season is coming even earlier than normal this year. According to ChannelAdvisor’s 2015 Online Retail Survey, over half (59%) of retailers in the US and UK have already begun their holiday campaigns.

It’s not uncommon for holiday promotions to begin early in the year, as consumers begin holiday researching and shopping months ahead of time, but the survey shows retailers are beginning their holiday promotions even earlier than last year. The survey also shows that retailers say their top strategy this year is to offer more holiday sales in an attempt to boost sales.

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As with every year, most retailers are depending on strong holiday performances, with over a quarter (74%) of retailers saying at least 20% of their annual sales come from the holiday season.

While Black Friday sales were lower than expected last year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday remain key sales days for the holiday season. Among US retailers, 41% reported Black Friday was the most profitable day of the year, while 47% of UK retailers said the same.

Retailers have high hopes for this year’s holiday sales performance, with 82% saying they expect sales to increase. Of those, 21% said they expect holiday sales to rise more than 15% from last year.

For the full survey, click here.

 

A report by the US Commerce Department shows e-commerce sales in the US shot up 14.1 percent over the past year while overall retail sales have only climbed one percent year-over-year.

In the second quarter of this year, US e-commerce sales jumped to $83.9 billion in the second quarter compared to Q2 2014, even after adjusting for seasonality, according to the report published Monday.

In total, 7.2 percent of the estimated $1,171.5 billion in US retail sales transactions took place online during the second quarter, rising from 7.0 percent in the first quarter of the year and 6.3 percent a year ago.

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When not accounting for seasonal retail variations, the Commerce Department estimates US retail e-commerce sales racked up to $78.8 billion, jumping 5.1 percent from Q1 and 14.4 percent year-over-year. When not accounting for seasonality, the report finds e-commerce sales drove approximately 6.6 percent of all retail sales.

The data was based on a sampling of around 10,000 US retail companies, excluding food services, and may have included firms without an e-commerce presence.

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As Facebook’s video platform continues to grow in popularity, the social media giant is releasing a new set of tools aimed at making it easier for Page owners to control and manage their video content.

Now, when Page admins upload videos they will have new distribution and customization options available, such as setting for making a secret video or assigning an expiration date. Below is a full rundown of the new video options available for Page admins:

  • Secret videos: Upload non-discoverable videos that are accessible only via a direct URL.
  • Audience restrictions: Restrict who can watch a video based on age and gender.
  • Expiration date: Set a date for a video to be automatically removed from Facebook, while retaining all the insights data.
  • Prohibit third-party embeds
  • Upload without distributing in News Feed
  • Customize thumbnails
  • Tag videos by category
  • Edit video metadata

Along with these new options, Facebook announced it is introducing a new section under the Publishing Tools tab called ‘Video Library’. This tab will allow Page owners to manage all of their video content easily in one place.

Facebook is becoming a formidable competitor to YouTube, and could potentially bypass Google’s video service in video views in the near future. With these new features, Page admins have more reason than ever to give Facebook’s video platform a try.

Facebook says all of these upgrades will be rolled out globally to Pages “over the coming weeks.”

Mobile search has gotten a lot of attention this year as it has overtaken desktop search in many metrics, but a new report from mobile loyalty company SessionM shows how ubiquitous the use of mobile devices to aid in the shopping experience has become.

SessionM surveyed 12,000 randomly selected US smartphone users on their mobile shopping behaviors and the findings highlight just how large a role mobile devices play in the shopping process.

The company said 85 percent of respondents reported their m-commerce buying was steady or had increased compared to a year ago while approximately 15 percent told the company mobile buying had increased “significantly.

Personal data security and/or poor user experiences (e.g., too small images or text) were cited as barriers preventing mobile e-commerce from more growth.

According to the findings, more than 90 percent of respondents had made a retail purchase within the past 90 days before the study. The majority (73 percent) of those purchases were made in traditional, brick-and-mortar stores, and approximately 53 percent said they found the in-store experience superior to online/mobile shopping.

However, the study also found mobile search plays a vital role in the in-store shopping process. The overwhelming majority of respondents (90 percent) said they use their smartphones in stores while shopping. The top activities on smartphones while in-stores breaks down as follows:

  1. Price comparisons — 54 percent
  2. Looking up product information — 48 percent
  3. Checking reviews online — 42 percent

SessionM also had recommendations for valuable marketing opportunities for retailers from the data:

  • Opportunity surrounding in-store push notifications about deals/offers (57 percent were more likely to shop at a store if available)
  • Loyalty programs (76 percent would be more likely to shop at a store if available)

The data confirms what several other studies have found in the past. Shoppers are using their smartphones in stores to help them make informed purchases, but many retailers are failing to take advantage of any of the opportunities this presents.

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Tell me if this has ever happened to you. As you’re browsing a website, your thumb accidentally hits an ad as you try to scroll past it, launching a new page. You close it out, and try to scroll down again only to accidentally tap the ad on the page yet again, leaving you in a loop of trying to close the page and move past it but repeatedly wind up tapping an ill-placed ad that you have no interest in.

Not only is this scenario a bad experience for the user, but it is also a nightmare for advertisers who are wasting money on valueless clicks.

This has been a growing issue for the online advertising industry as mobile browsing increases, but sites have struggled to optimize their sites (and their advertising) for mobile viewers and errant taps. Now, Google is finally making changes to hopefully solve the so-called “fat finger” ad clicks problem.

  1. First, taps close to the edge of an image ad won’t be considered clicks. Google says it has identified the border area particularly prone to accidental clicks during scrolling.
  2. Second, for in-app install ads interstitial ads like the one on the right above users won’t be able to click on the app icon because the close button is overlayed on that image. Users will need to click the call-to-action button.
  3. Finally, ads will only become clickable after they’ve been onscreen for “a short period of time”. How long that period actually is isn’t clear, but Google says the delay is to give users “enough time to examine the content of an ad”.

While most of these changes are relatively common sense (why on earth was the app icon ever considered a click?), but they are still welcomed by the advertising community who have been complaining about “fat fingers” since display ads came to mobile.

Facebook Beacons

Facebook is expanding its Place Tips program, and that means retailers will finally have access to free beacons that push posts and photos related to their business when someone accesses Facebook in or near that location.

For example, if you are checking your Facebook quickly while you are waiting in line at a participating retailer you will see “more info about places you visit, including your friends’ photos, experiences and moments from that place.” Users will also be prompted to like the business’s Facebook page.

As Engadget reported, users will receive a “tip” notification for the place you are at when you open Facebook on your phone. If you tap it, you’ll be shown a series of cards related to the location. The cards will include current posts and photos from your friends who have also visited the location, as well as basic information about the business.

For now, the cards offer limited value from the perspective of the retailer, especially as advertising is not permitted. However, it gets retailers directly on users streams and is delivered based on an opt-out basis to users. That means there is still quite the potential for the program.

To make the service work, Facebook determines your location using a combination of cellular networks, Wi-Fi, GPS, and Facebook Bluetooth® beacons.

For now the Place Tips program is limited to the Facebook app for the iPhone and location services must be enabled for the tips to appear.

Mike Blumenthal did a great job explaining the importance of the announcement to small and medium businesses:

This marks the first time that beacon technology to interact with customers is being made available at scale to every business. While it might not appeal to a Macy’s that can implement their own beacon hardware and software stack, it now makes the option available for every Mom & Pop to participate with in-store customer interactions.

You can request your free beacon using this form.

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If you run a local business and haven’t logged into Google My Business in a while you may be at risk of having Google unverify your listings, according to a statement from a Google representative today.

In a post on the Google and Your Business Help Forum, Google’s Jade Wang confirmed the news that the company has been contacting some Google My Business users that it considers to be inactive:

In some cases, we may contact Google My Business users via email to confirm that they are still actively managing a business page. If a user is unresponsive to our attempts to contact him or her and has not logged into Google My Business for a significant length of time, then we may unverify pages in the account. We’re doing this in order to continue to provide users with the best experience when they’re looking for local businesses like yours. If you find that a page in your account has been incorrectly unverified, please contact support to get assistance restoring verification.

The news was first brought to light by Brian Barwig of Integrated Digital Marketing, who posted a message today about a phone conversation he had with a Google support rep who told him that this may happen to accounts which are considered inactive for six months.

Mike Blumenthal has also shared the text of the email Google sends out to warn inactive accounts about being potentially unverified.

To help prevent this, Wang included some advice: “It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the inbox associated with your Google My Business (Locations) account. It’s also a good idea to regularly log into Google My Business (Locations) to confirm that your business information is current and accurate.”

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Over the past decade, website operators have relied on Google Webmaster Tools for ensuring their sites were being properly displayed and indexed across the search giant, but big changes are on the way. Google is rebranding one of its most popular services to Search Console and there a few new features coming with the new name.

According to Google, the shakeup is the result of user feedback, as only a small portion of users actually identify as “webmasters.” Google is hoping the new name will help bring the service to a wider user base.

“It turns out that the traditional idea of the “webmaster” reflects only some of you. We have all kinds of Webmaster Tools fans: hobbyists, small business owners, SEO experts, marketers, programmers, designers, app developers, and, of course, webmasters as well… So, to make sure that our product includes everyone who cares about Search, we’ve decided to rebrand Google Webmaster Tools as Google Search Console.

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The rebranding is coming in the next few weeks, and Google has announced two new features that are expected to roll out about the same time.

With Search Console, users will have access to all the functionality they have come to expect of Webmaster Tools, as well as the ability to see how searchers are accessing your content via Android apps through Google Search within Search Analytics reports and the ability to see your app content through Google’s eyes with an alpha version of Fetch as Google for Apps.

Earlier this year Google and Twitter announced a deal which promise to bring more tweets to your search results, and that promise is coming true today. Google now includes tweets in a more cohesive and graphical format on mobile devices, including a tweet carousel.

Both Twitter and Google announced the news in blog posts today, including examples of how the feature appears, such as the example below which shows how it looks if you search on #madmen.

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You can also scroll through the carousel to see more results.

The placement of the feature isn’t always directly at the top of the page. According to Search Engine Land, the tweet carousel can appear in the middle or even the bottom of the page, as their example for “MacBook Pro” shows:

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Tweets don’t show for every search, and it is currently unclear exactly what types of searches include tweet carousels and which don’t. However, Google does say:

It’s a great way to get real-time info when something is happening. And it’s another way for organizations and people on Twitter to reach a global audience at the most relevant moments.

That suggests searches for hastags, topics, prominent figures, or trending events are most likely to include tweets.

Google has included Twitter in its search results in the past, even after their last deal ended. The new agreement simply allows for much deeper integration in the search results.

Currently, the new implementation on the search results is limited to only users in the US, in English, using either their browser in iOS or Android, or on the Google Search App. Twitter has promised further support for desktop and more languages in the near future.

Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm started rolling out Tuesday, and so far it looks like “mobilegeddon” was far from apocalyptic. Most SEO’s and webmasters are reporting little change to their rankings and the world has continued spinning.

However, a report from Google shows one way the new algorithm had an impact before it even arrived.

Shortly before the start of the mobile-friendly roll-out, Google announced it had seen a “4.7% uptick in the proportion of sites that are mobile friendly” compared to their previous stats released two months ago.

While 4.7% may seem like a small number of sites, it is important to consider the number in the context of the absolutely huge number of sites that are not being maintained and offer little value but are currently still resolving. It also shows many webmasters began to realize the importance of going mobile in the wake of the advancing algorithm.

Expect to see even more sites make the change in the coming weeks as the new algorithm begins to have a more pronounced effect and word spreads.