The bigger they are…

Apple has a long way to fall

The mocking began almost three years ago today. Apple Fan boys & girls chorused in smug, urbane disdain of my Apple hate. How I dared question the gospel according to Jobs.

Well, I did.

In March 2010 I wrote, “Increasingly, fashion’s undesirables are adopting the iPhone as their key to cool, just as the true cool are heard to say “it’s just a phone, I’ll change it soon”. iPhone has some runway yet, there are a few hundred million people still to buy one meaning Apple have at least a couple of years of stellar revenues to look forward to from their phone division; but when the fickle face of fashion is looking the other way, what damage will have been done to the broader Apple brand?”

Right now, the Kids are buying Samsung’s range of Android powered devices, they are unmistakably cool. Parents of those same Kids are “doing Facebook” on iPhones, and there’s nothing cool about that!

The challenge for Cupertino is in the awesome strength of the Apple eco-system, the all of nothing iTunes lock-in they so clearly hoped would bind Appleites to polished metal and white doesn’t work when they have found religion elsewhere.

Losing Mobile Phone share and therefore command of the users’ Media collection undermines the entire Apple product range as well as the economic model – meaning the whole business is on very shaky ground if can’t reverse its fortunes, and fast.

I foresee a very rapid demise ahead for the once mighty Apple, truly a victim of their own incredible success.

Is Privacy dead, or just too hard?

Lorrie Faith Cranor and Aleecia McDonald from Carnegie Mellon conducted a study recently which repositioned the lack of online privacy as a time issue.

They reported “To read every [online] privacy policy you encountered in a single year would take 76 work days……”

So we all want our time online to be a more private affair, but find it impossible to wade through the policies and figure out what’s what? Further, even if you had the time to read them, would anyone but a Privacy Specialist understand them, and worse, be willing to forgo the benefits brought by Facebook and Google in an effort to maintain some sort of online anonymity? I suspect not in each case.

It’s hard to see how to solve this issue.

At a minimum it would seem appropriate to provide a simplified privacy policy, which would at least encourage consumers to become familiar with the terms they are signing up to. Controlling what your cookies are used for may also be key, Personalisation, yes, targeted advertising, no.

Over time I worry that the role of government will be to reign in on the issue if left unsolved, which would be a bad outcome for all.

Google Analytics – Top 3 Features for Ecommerce; A Digest

This post was written by Boris Gefter – freelance Acquisition Guru and consultant to 57 Signals.

Google analytics (GA) is rubbished more often than not by Omniture diehards and hardcore data analysts. They bleat persistently about their inability to feed GA with non-standard data (outside the scope of what the javascript captures) and readily extract the data (in the way you can with a data cube). But these guys are locked in time, probably still awaiting the arrival of the iPhone 3!GA has evolved in a fantastic way over the past 3 years! In its evolution it has made available rich data to those that care to harness it. But what is more impressive, is how easy and intuitive it is to use the interface and find answers to questions a sophisticated online store owner may ask. But, let me curb my Google appraisals for the time being, lest this blog post be censored by the powers that be. 😉

Jumping right in, here are my three favourite GA features (and there are many!)

1. Google URL Builder.

A humble servant of GA’s ability to capture and store url parameters. It is surprising how many people do not know that this functionality exists! The standard user will be used to viewing the “Traffic Sources Overview” report, but when you want to know what campaign, keyword, ad or placement on which network and partner has resulted in a sale, coding your own unique URLs could not be easier. Then, when it comes to retrieving this information, you can rely on your friend ‘Custom Reporting’….

clip_image002

2. Custom Reporting:

The humble tab that sits atop the interface is the key to unlocking analytics glory. For those that know and love pivot tables and data cubes, GA has a gift for you. For those that are new to looking at dimensions and metrics, they key is not to be intimidated by the blank canvas. Start playing around, adding metrics (things that are measurable) such as time on page or conversion rate (if you have ecommerce tracking enabled) is really easy. Dimensions (what describes the data) can be configured to retrieve information that you coded into the Google URL builder in step two, by adding “Source” and “medium” alongside the metrics you are interested in.

clip_image004

As an example, say you wanted to find out how successful your google adwords campaigns are (which you had already coded with the url tool, as seen above), you can simply add source as one of your dimensions and the relevant metrics such as visits and number of transactions as shown in this example. Then, you can filter by the source code which you coded in your URL tool.

The key, is figuring out what question you want to answer first, and then what sort of information will help you answer that question, then validating any data using common sense!

3. Conversion Segments/The Repunzel Report:

What if I told you that you were potentially losing out on more than 50% of your revenue by under-investing in a particular form of advertising. Wouldn’t that be valuable? This is where the “Conversion Segments” or “The Repunzel Report” as I have dubbed it (due to the fact that it is hidden in the top left corner of the analytics tower) becomes extremely valuable.

First let me assist the budding princes willing to use this report. You need to have ecommerce tracking enabled and implemented correctly on your site, then you can make your way into the conversions tab>multi-channel funnels>top conversion paths, then navigate to the top left section of the page to find conversion segments. Simple, right?

Now that you have found it, you can filter the potential traffic sources by first and last interaction. Whilst, the philosophy of attribution can be a prickly one, I like to refer to reports such as these to understand where advertising money is going and how much impact it is having.

What you can see from the example below is that paid advertising on a “last touch” basis, is reporting $140k+ worth of revenue, whereas on a “first touch” basis (where the value of the transaction is attributed to the first channel that brought the customer to the site in a default 30 day window) there is over $220K+ worth of revenue to be had. Now imagine that you are only spending $100K on advertising, thinking that it is only bringing in $140K, when, if you look at your conversions through the “first touch” lens, you can see that there is potentially more value to be had from your advertising dollar!

clip_image006

I often like using first touch attribution to model the efficacy of acquisition channels because it is simple, and usually rather effective. This model can become complicated by things like remarketing and more diverse marketing channel portfolios. But, hopefully, this report will, at the very least get you thinking about the complexity of multichannel advertising interactions and spark a discussion about what is the right approach for your company in modelling and tracking conversions.

As much as I love diving into data and exploring new features of GA, I am always weary of tempering my enthusiasm to extract findings with solid statistics, common sense and other analytics tools (where possible). Having noted this, it is very easy to become intimidated with analytics tools and software. Which is why, often there is no substitute for simply getting your hands dirty with what tools like GA have to offer. I hope this post helps to make some of the less accessible features of GA more manageable.

Google still thinking about search, apparently!

English: The relationship and evolution in Int...
English: The relationship and evolution in Internet Search Business (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was struck by how seldom I hear of Google’s search endeavours when I read about the recent release of their updated Search Algorithm, codenamed Caffeine. Given Paid Search accounts for 96% of G’s revenues you’d think it would be the focus of most of their efforts? It doesn’t look that way. Can Google’s solitary cash cow really be getting too little focus from the Mountain View Mafia?

The Caffeine Algo promises significantly fresher results as well as an adapted architecture etc etc – but it’s primary focus has to be on maintaining revenue momentum when the vast majority of effort seems to be focused elsewhere. More than ever, Google has to defend its position in search, not only is Microsoft is about to land its much vaunted Yahoo! partnership providing the first real chance of competing with Google, but there is the problem of a wholesale shift away from Web Search as the primary navigation tool in favour of Social tools such as Facebook and Twitter.

The cracks are already showing, Google’s Q1 Revenues were $6.77bn, up 23% from last year of which 96% relates to search. Clearly Google’s revenues will be hard to improve on through share gain, given their already dominant position, leaving only the increase in Internet Population, Searches per User and Revenue per Search as the growth levers. Google’s numbers show only a 7% YoY uplift in Cost per Click and a 15% YoY uplift in Paid Clicks, so that leaves only the Growth in Internet Population and the number of searches conducted by each to fuel growth – each under threat for the reasons listed above.

Taking a very long  term perspective, Apple and Microsoft were incorporated 25 and 35 years ago respectively, it looks like Google’s Cash Cow will dry up long before they find an alternative source of revenues and never at the yields offered by Search. The fan boys won’t be pleased.