Although summer technically doesn't end until September 22, you probably think of August as the last month of the season. It's when parents shop for school supplies and professionals wrap up their vacation time.
In the midst of these transitions, the digital marketing game continued. Here were a few reads that stood out to us in August, many of which focused on what marketers can expect as autumn approaches.
2016 a better year for retailers
Overall, retailers are selling more products this year than they were in 2015. Digital Clarity Group gathered data from the U.S. Department of Commerce and Amazon, noting e-commerce sales rose 15.8 percent between the second quarter of 2015 and the second quarter of 2016.
However, that doesn't mean online retail is less competitive. Amazon is a "juggernaut", accounting for almost 20 percent of all e-commerce sales in the U.S. during the second quarter of this year, according to Digital Clarity Group. The fight isn't fruitless, however - DCG highlighted a few weak spots in Amazon's content strategy, so check out the article if you want to find out more.
Online retail inching toward $2 trillion
You read that right. An eMarketer study forecasted e-commerce transactions will hit $1.92 trillion by the end of the year. That's about 8.7 percent of global retail spending, which is expected to surpass $22.05 trillion in 2016.
eMarketer also gave a preview of the future: online purchases may account for a larger portion of all retail revenue as time progresses. Digital retail sales are growing at a much faster rate than brick-and-mortar sales, meaning companies will have to get creative if they want their stores to stay relevant.
PPC no longer just a keyword-driven strategy
Yes, keywords are still an important part of pay-per-click, but like other marketing strategy, the tactic is evolving with mobile. Econsultancy referenced data from advertising firm Kenshoo, which found 62 percent of clicks and 60 percent of impressions from search ads originated from ads that weren't linked to keyword bids.
Smartphones and tablets are driving this change. Econsultancy noted Google plans on making it easier for advertisers to include more text in their display ads, enabling marketers to deliver more context. Definitely worth a look if you want to keep your PPC strategy up to date.
The struggle is real
A big part of mapping out the customer journey involves identifying the roadblocks. Even if your website's user experience design is strong, you're still going to have visitors who have a hard time achieving their goals.
IBM and Econsultancy surveyed 225 executives from large North American enterprises and found 49 percent of upper managers had some, limited or no useful capabilities when it came to knowing when, where and how customers struggled. The study, which eMarketer covered went on to detail some of the problems companies faced with respect to this issue.
Mobile payment: The key to higher customer satisfaction?
Ben Davis, a senior writer at Econsultancy, asked this question in an interesting article about how mobile payments affect the customer journey. He summarized the unenthusiastic adoption of Apple Pay in the U.S., touched on the convenience of contactless debit cards and noted Google's recent app and payment innovations.
Overall, Davis maintained that Google and retailers are trying to reduce the amount of "work" people have to do when paying for products or services through their phones.
For example, Android Instant Apps allows people to receive in-app features without downloading apps to their devices. All customers have to do is click a link to an app of their choice. The article definitely made us reflect on how in-store and mobile customer behaviors will evolve over the next few years.
You might be ruining your customers' experiences
As a marketer, that's the last thing you want to hear. After all, you should be enhancing your customers' experiences. But Tom Petrocelli, business analyst at HSBC, wrote in an article for CMS Wire that marketers often neglect to carefully craft communications, disrupt site visitors with irrelevant suggestions and assume they always need to engage customers.
Infographic of the month: 'The CEO guide to customer experience'
You can't assume your CEO's a customer experience guru. McKinsey & Company's infographic placed these executives in their customers' shoes, emphasizing the importance of understanding the choices individuals make throughout the customer journey.
One point McKinsey made was that executives (as well as experienced marketers) often think of CX in terms of touch points - the website, the sales associate, the delivery, etc. All too often, we ignore what happens between those interactions. For example, how do certain customers want to interact with e-commerce companies once a product has been shipped? What's going on in their heads?
Blog post of the month: 'How to Use Personalization to Increase eCommerce Conversions'
Bouncing off Petrocelli's article, one of the steps toward increasing conversions involves personalizing experiences according to purchasers' desires. Duff Anderson, iperceptions' senior vice president and co-founder, wrote about how customers perceive personalization and the different tactics marketers can use to appeal to particular individuals' needs and demands.
What we liked about Anderson's article is that it doesn't try to convince the reader that there's some magic formula to achieve a 90 percent conversion rate. Instead, he asserted marketers should identify people who have an intent to purchase products and then craft experiences according to their behavioral preferences.