Julian Moskov :: My Online Marketing Blog

The Elephant In The Room: European e-Privacy Directive

Posted in Work by Julian on March 25, 2011

The recent success and widespread use of of remarketing has certainly lead to some annoyance with its smart but creepy banners. Here’s an example from Twitter:

Together with hightened privacy concerns and debates around the policies of Facebook, Google Street View and others, it is hardly surprising that regulations are being proposed. The use of customer behaviour data has been reviewed and our European friends have decided to make cookies strictly opt-in. So as of 25 May, webmasters will will need to obtain prior and explicit consent for using cookies before deploying them on visitors’ machines. Here is an extract from the directive:

“…on condition that users are provided with clear and precise information…about the purposes of cookies… Users should have the opportunity to refuse to have a cookie or similar device stored on their terminal equipment.”

Full text available here.

It is now up to Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to translate this EU piece of law into practical regulations for the UK. They may not be ready in time for 25 May, which is just as well since UK e-commerce seems completely unprepared. We use cookies to store baskets, provide recommendations, track revenue, remarket, MVT, gather analytics, etc. It is almost unimaginable to continue trading successfully without cookies in their current form, not without serious technical changes. Maybe this is why we’re so far ignoring the elephant in the room and sticking our heads in the sand.

So what does the EU want to see from online reatilers? To start with, we will need to update T&Cs and provide detailed information about use of cookies. But obtaining consent from visitors can be a less pleasant experience – as this example on David Naylor’s blog shows :)

While we’re unlikely to ditch cookies completely, it is clear that visitors will need more control. And it could be a case of browsers to the rescue. Having easily accessible controls for blocking individual, first and third-party cookies within the browser could be just the solution to make the European bureaucrats happy. Alternatively, centralised tag management systems like Tagman can help with on-site controls.

To me the whole cookie business is a response to the aggressive comercialisation of the web and people’s reaction against it. But it is not up to the EU to “correct” us. Surely, it will be those companies that strike a good balance (set frequency caps, do not resell data, etc) that will prosper naturally. It is exactly events like the recent Facebook scandals that will correct our ways in the long run. Either that, or Internet users will get used to it all over time. Still, it is not about what I think, but what the DCMS thinks – and that we’ll find out shortly. Keep your eyes peeled, eCommerce chums!

Make The Most Out Of The Weather

Posted in Guest by Julian on February 3, 2011

We need to look no further than last Christmas to see the link between weather and online retail. Not many have explored this relationship (though there are some nice branding campaigns) in detail, but luckily my good friend Simon has – and he’s agreed to guest blog and shed some light on this misty topic. So without further ado, let’s hand it over to him:

The esteemed Julian Moskov, multi-talented online marketer, photographer and to a lesser extent footballer invited me to promote a project I have been working on fusing our beloved weather and online retail, otherwise known as Weatherlytics. A simple aim which is ”To highlight the growing trend weather can play for online retailers as part of their digital marketing strategy”

Regular followers of my blog, www.weatherlytics.co.uk will notice how I have identified specific case studies on if using the weather as part of your online sales strategy, you can maximise a specific product promotion and even better help to differentiate your strategy awar from your competition.

Key online channels can benefit from abnormal and seasonal weather changes and I’ve put together some of my own thoughts on how an affiliate marketing channel can be maximised through understanding weather patterns…

Different weather parameters can play host to a number of fluctuations in online user habits as well as types of products that are sold dependent on a season (summer, winter etc) or if it is hot, cold, raining or snowy – a recent article in the Guardian referred to how Google is now beginning to embed key weather insights into a PPC strategy using Google Adwords.

I digress…so, you’ve completed some research on the weather but how can this be used within your affiliate program?

Communicate directly with your affiliates – ensure affiliates are up to speed with the latest promotions and offers that are weather impacted. Affiliates should be seen as an extended sales force who are reaching out to their own online community to promote your product offering

  • Search Affiliates (PPC) – Have you thought about communicating to your search based (PPC) affiliates to tailor their campaigns through geo-location? e.g. should the UK be experiencing rainfall in the south west and snow in the north east, different products which reflect an uplift in sales based on these different weather can be promoted through a PPC campaign.
  • Product Feed – Do you have a product feed available through your program for affiliates to download? Have you thought about segmenting your feed into different weather related categories e.g. Products associated with Rain, Sunshine, Snow?
  • Affiliate Commission Incentives – Categorise your products whose sales are impacted by specific weather patterns – e.g. outdoor clothing during the winter months. Look to offer an incentive to your affiliates to push these types of products e.g. think about an additional commission tier for “winter clothing”?

Further reading on this specific subject (as well as latest news and thoughts) can be found at my blog – www.weatherlytics.co.uk or www.twitter.com/weatherlytics

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Offers Can Harm PPC Performance

Posted in Work by Julian on November 14, 2010

Recently I’ve been running a bit of testing with a live account, trying to determine the elasticity of visitors’ shopping behaviour. I wanted to know exactly how performance changes in response to different offers. This insight would be quite handy when trying to forecast changes in CTR, CR (conversion) and ROI.

Common sense tells us that a comparatively better offer will be more attractive to the visitor than a worse offer. Interestingly, this is not always the case.

Below are the results. On the horizontal axis we have five types of ads tested – with no offer, 10% off, 15% off, 20% off and £10 off £50 spend. These offers were all put across a dozen generic ad groups. Each time a certain ad type won (i.e. it got the highest CTR or CR within the ad group), it gets a point, and its score is plotted on the vertical axis.

As you can see, the highest CTR was achieved by the strong 20% offer – this ad also frequently won the highest CR as well. However, ads that had no offer in them did even better at converting the visitor and they attracted good CTR as well. By contrast, the standard 10% discount fared relatively poorly. In the past this was increased to 15% to “push things”, but it may not have been enough of an incentive. £10 off £50 did even worse. Interesting – from these results we can reason that switching off poor offers may improve CTR and CR, while saving margin.

What explanations could there be for the results? Well, many:

  • PPC is not a great medium for offer advertising. In trying to provide ad relevance and promote an offer, we do both unconvincingly. That is unless it is a very good offer that is worth shouting about.
  • Generic PPC may come too early in the conversion path. Weak offers are of no consideration while the customer is in research mode.
  • Customer demographic. Maybe this website’s customers are too affluent to care and look for quality product rather than a deal.
  • Wording. The results may be a red herring, as they could all be down to use of language and not the actual offer. This may be particularly true for the £10 off £50. Trying out different messages with the same offers is a good way of confirming the results.

    My conclusion is that within the limited space of a PPC ad, making a solid impression can be hard. Having a mediocre offer (10%/15%) is just a waste of space. But having a strong offer (20%) or a rich, attractive product description (no offer) can really make the ad stand out and attract the right customer.

    The above is only the beginning of the road to understanding customers’ behaviour. Changing the wording, the offers and checking how new and returning customers’ reactions differ can all provide more insight. In any case, this is a simple bit of testing that can be quite interesting and valuable. It is easy to set up and can be brought to conclusion within a few test trials (I hope), while providing very actionable results.

    Sort It Out, Ikea

    Posted in Work by Julian on October 8, 2009

    Ikea may be dominating the homeware market with its spacious blue stores and 99p burgers, but user experience online is a different matter. Its website has some way to go before it recieves my stamp of approval (well, admittedly not the most highly sought award) and I’ll show you what I mean below.

    Meta Tags

    Starting with the site’s meta tags, things are already looking grim in Google. The title and description are not easy to read or informative at all, very much in contrast to the international Ikea website. This is messy, and it’s so easy to sort out.

    Broken Links

    Clicking on one of the big product images on the home page leads me to an error page. And not any old error page, but the dodgy one pictured above with broken images. Tsk tsk!

    Shopping Online

    The biggest disppointment with Ikea’s website is that you can’t actually buy much. To be fair, working out the logistics for the entire product range can be a colossal nightmare and lots of businesses, such as Ikea and Habitat, do not offer it yet. Still, Conran, on the other hand, seem to have everything shown on their website available for home delivery.


    The limited product line available to buy online makes the Ikea website more of an extension of the physical shop rather than a sales channel in its own right. It’s brilliant for checking stock availability or ordering that kitchen that you inspected in-store last weekend, and that is that. Still, there is no excuse for having messy meta tags or broken links and images. Sort it out, Ikea!


    Well, either Ikea’s web team is ready my blog, or they’re just busy doing their job, but the broken images and availability of home page products have been sorted. Well done, it’s just the title tags now and I’ll be happy.

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