Knowing the best practices from across our industry can help us work smarter. In my 2017 online marketing research report, I first looked at how businesses promote online.
This report segments that research, looking at the retailers only. The aim is to help greetings card and giftware retailers see how they can promote themselves better online.
With better promotion, they can reach more people, gain more customers and sell more cards and gifts.
by Charlotte Biggs
The research was conducted over the last year. I started my online marketing research in October 2016, just after the Autumn trade shows and before Christmas could distract me. For this first initial stage I simply wanted a broad view of what how card and gift retailers were marketing online. From there I would look deeper into each area. (This subsequent research will be published soon so please join the community, and you’ll be advised as soon as it’s available).
The first step of the research was to gather a list of potential companies to evaluate. For this first stage I was aiming for around 300 retailers.
From our initial batch of 642 companies analysed, I looked at how many of these card and gift businesses had a retail (selling direct to consumers) element to their business.
This gave me a final count of 343 card & gift retailers to research.
For this first piece of industry research I was concentrating on online marketing. This involved looking at 6 key areas:
Reviewing the websites of our 343 card and gift retailers I found…
161 or 47% of the companies had a blog
182 or 53% had no visible blog on their website
This tells us that the majority of greetings card and giftware retailers are not blogging for their business.
The next online marketing technique to review was email marketing. For this I was reviewing how many websites had an email sign up form on their website.
164 or 48% of the websites had at least one email opt in box on their website.
179 or 52% of the reviewed sites had no visible email sign up.
This means that almost two-thirds of card & gift companies are not utilising email marketing.
With so many options for paid advertising, researching this area could have been a never ending project. With this in mind I chose to focus on search engine PPC (pay per click) advertising, which could provide us with real comparative data.
The research reviewed advertisements placed in the last 12 months via Google Adwords and Bing / Yahoo Ads in the UK.
The research showed…
52 or 15 % of the companies reviewed had used PPC advertising in the last 12 months.
291 or 85% of the card & gift companies examined had not used PPC advertising in the last year.
As with blogging and email marketing, the majority of card & gift companies are not using PPC advertising to promote their business.
Like paid advertising, a companies PR output is not easy to measure. Reviewing individual magazine, newspaper or blog mentions would have been more than I could take on at this time with all my other work. I did however have one route for measuring the PR endeavours.
At the start of my research I’d cross-checked my contacts list with companies that had exhibited at a recent trade show.
As exhibitors each of the companies had access to a free PR team via the show organisers. They were able to submit as many press releases and product images as they liked; these would then be distributed on their behalf to bloggers, editors, press agencies and all of the show organiser’s press contacts.
I therefore set about measuring how many companies had used the free PR services at the trade show & my research showed…
33 or 10% of the card & gift companies had submitted at least one press release.
310 or 90% of the businesses had not submitted any press release information.
PR was so far the most unpopular online marketing technique with just 9% of the companies reviewed using it to promote their business.
For the next part of my research I moved onto looking at SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). There are lots of facets to SEO but generally they tend to fall into 2 categories; on page SEO and off page SEO.
For the purposes of this first study I decided to focus on on page SEO, which focuses on how website content is optimised for search engines. This looks at how a website is constructed and how easy it is for a search engine to find and understand the content.
To see all the hidden and “backstage” elements of the websites I used an SEO analyser for this part of the research; the tool looked at 3 on page SEO categories: Tech & Meta, Structure and Content. For each element the websites were given a % score for tasks that had been completed; a 50% score, for example, would indicate that half of the recommended tasks had been completed.
An average of the 3 individual scores was then calculated to give an overall SEO score out of 100%.
5 of the companies had an error with their site, which meant it couldn’t be analysed. This part of the research therefore is looking at 338 retailers.
The overall SEO scores (out of 100%) ranged from four companies graded 0/100 to one company who was awarded the top score of 90/100.
63% of the companies (the largest majority) were awarded a score between 60% and 79%, which isn’t too bad; but still has some room for improvement.
Just 17 companies (5%) have got a top score of over 80/100 SEO tasks completed.
A higher SEO score is preferable in order to improve a company’s chance of ranking well and getting positive results from search engines.
While the majority of companies had an overall rating in the top half of the scale it is worth noting that ideally websites should be getting a score of 80+ and only 5% of the card & gift shops reviewed reached this rate.
This could suggest that SEO is not high on the list of priorities for card & gift brands.
For the final part of my online marketing research I looked at how card & gift companies were using social media. Specifically I looked at how many were utilising social media marketing and which platforms they were using.
First I looked at how many of the card & gift companies reviewed had social media profile links on their website & found…
303 or 88% had links to at least 1 social media profile on their website.
40 or 12% had no visible links to social media profiles on their site.
Straight away this told me that social media appeared to be the most popular form of online marketing.
HOW MANY SOCIAL PROFILES DO CARD & GIFT COMPANIES USE?
Next I looked at how many social media profiles the companies were using. Each of the companies was displaying between 0 and 7 social media profiles.
The social media channels used were: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linked In, Google + and YouTube/Vimeo.
Just 12% of the retailers had no social media profiles. Almost three-quarters of the companies reviewed (74%) had between 1 and 4 social media profiles showcased on their websites.
Closing up the group were a hardcore of 13% that were using 5-7 social media marketing channels.
WHICH SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS ARE MOST POPULAR?
For the final part of the research I looked at which social media channels were most popular with card & gift brands.
With 295 companies (86%), Facebook was the most popular social network for greetings card and giftware brands.
Followed by Twitter (64%), Instagram (45%) and Pinterest (38%).
Linked In followd with 12%, YouTube/Vimeo with 11% and Google + at the bottom of the pile being utilised by just 9% of card & gift retailers.
This first piece of industry research was intended to give us a general overview of how the greetings card and giftware industries are employing online marketing. Here’s a summary of what we know so far…
The research showed that the most popular form of online marketing for greetings card and giftware retailers is social media; with 88% promoting social media profiles on their websites.
The card and giftware shops as a whole used up to 7 different social media channels. The most popular of all the platforms was Facebook with 86% having a Facebook page.
The majority of companies (74%) used between 1 and 4 social media channels. The four most popular platforms were: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
The next popular forms of online marketing for greetings card and giftware businesses are blogging and email marketing, but even these aren’t hugely popular, with only 47% and 48% respectively using blogging and email marketing.
47% of greetings card and giftware companies had a blog on their website. A blog offers great potential to easily add new content to a website.
I reviewed all of the 343 card and giftware websites for opt in forms and found that 48% had at least one chance for customers to get more information.
A lot of greetings and giftware companies have the potential to boost their online marketing with a blog.
Over half of card and gift business have an opportunity to utilise email marketing.
At this early stage it’s hard to say exactly how popular SEO is with the greetings card and giftware industries, but if we take the higher end of the spectrum (scores of 60+) to indicate some effort being made towards SEO best practices then we could say that 68% of card & gift companies are utilising Search Engine Marketing.
If we push our hopes a little higher and say a better score would be over 80%, then only 5% of the websites reviewed are reaching this overall SEO score. This tells us there is definitely room for improvement if card and giftware companies were to employ Search Engine Optimisation techniques.
There are some good signs that card and gift companies are utilising SEO, but there’s also potential to do even better.
The final element of this introductory research is PR and PPC Paid Advertising, which appear to have been the least popular forms of online marketing.
Only 10% of the companies researched had fully taken advantage of the PR services at their last trade show exhibition. PR services tend to be expensive so it wouldn’t be overly surprising if companies couldn’t afford to consider PR as a marketing strategy, but as the particular PR task reviewed was free suggests that something other than price might be putting brands off using PR.
Just ahead of PR was PPC Paid Advertising, which was being utilised by 15% of the 343 retailers surveyed. For this I think it is natural to assume that budget restrictions may be holding many greetings card and giftware companies back. PPC tends to be seen as an expensive marketing strategy, which is understandable as it can get expensive. This may be putting smaller retailers off.
PPC and PR can be highly effective but often benefit from being used after other marketing strategies are in place. This data shows us that the majority still have these options as another avenue of marketing potential.
This segement of research gives us a good picture of how retailers in the industry are using online marketing.
The industry has embraced social media, but in other areas online marketing seem a little neglected. This isn’t however a gloomy situation; it means there’s plenty more for card & gift brands to try.
The research I’ve done so far has raised a lot of questions. Next steps are to look deeper into each of the marketing strategies; email, social media etc. This should give us a better understanding of how greetings and giftware companies are using each marketing channel.