• Underrated Marketing Metrics

    Repost from AZDS Blog: Written by Viktor Stigson

    Many sports fans mistakenly reduce Kobe Bryant’s basketball greatness to a few overarching statistics: 19 NBA seasons, 25.4 points per game, and 32,482 career points (good for 3rd all time).

    Impressive, yes, but do they tell the whole story of No. 24? Not a chance.

    Kobe’s legendary career doesn’t just come down to the “sexy” statistics (i.e. scoring), it’s also about the less glamorous, behind-the-scenes numbers. A shooting guard with 6,122 assists (4.8/game), 1,882 steals (1.5/game), 6,800 rebounds (5.3/game), and 627 blocks (0.5/game)? Now that’s truly great.

    Forgive us for rambling about Kobe Bryant (we can’t help it), but the story of the Black Mamba can actually teach us a lot about another of our favorite topics: digital marketing analytics. Namely, instead of focusing exclusively on the world’s most popular website metrics (i.e. total visits, conversions, revenue), let’s dig a little deeper and uncover the full story behind your online presence.

    With that said, below are some of the most widely used metrics in the world of digital marketing and a few of our favorite, most underrated metrics that merit equal attention.


    The UsualVisits
    There’s no denying the significance of overall site traffic, but simply reporting on visits leaves us with a significant unknown: did these visits represent quality or simply quantity?


    The UnderratedPages Per Visit
    There are many metrics for measuring quality of visitor, but few are as straight-to-the-point as pages per visit. The premise is simple: large quantities of visits are only beneficial if they are actually interested in your content. If visitors are bouncing directly after the first or second page, you are either a) targeting the wrong audience, b) lacking compelling content and/or design, or c) both.


    The UsualAverage Visit Duration
    In principle, average visit duration seems like the perfect metric for tracking user engagement. On closer examination, however, it’s not always as reliant as one would think.

    For example, when Google Analytics calculates time on site, it does so by compiling the totals of each time on page. The problem is that if a visitor bounces from a specific page, that page’s total time will be calculated as 0:00—regardless if said visitor spent 10 seconds or 10 minutes on that page. As such, there’s no accurate way of knowing exactly how much time each visitor actually spent on the site as a whole.

    Secondly, we also have to consider the impact of site speed. Ideally, your site will be getting faster with time, meaning visitors will spend less time waiting and more time browsing. If that is indeed the case, they could hypothetically have a shorter visit duration than a year before but ultimately be more engaged in the content.


    The UnderratedGoals
    A better, and more reliant, way to track your visitor’s engagement is by measuring how many goals they completed on your site. Google Analytics allows you to track virtually any kind of objectives, from email signups to contacts to inquiries. For our clients, we consistently measure goals like spa reservations, weddings rfp, meetings rfp, party rfp, Open Table reservations, and email subscriptions. It’s a great way of tracking not only engagement but also the most coveted stat of all: conversions.


    The UsualMobile/Tablet Visits
    Non-desktop visits are a crucial metric, but the fact of the matter is that tablet and mobile visits are sky-rocketing across all industries. How can you measure if your site is making the most of these lucrative channels?


    The UnderratedMobile/Tablet Conversion Rate
    Optimization for mobile and tablet is arguably the biggest trend in digital marketing and no metric tracks its efficiency quite like non-desktop conversion rate. As you build your responsive sites, watch this stat like a hawk (for both mobile and tablet)—taking note of the slightest conversion fluctuations following design and layout changes. The day mobile and tablet conversion rates start approaching desktop conversion rates—at least in the luxury hotel industry—is the day we can all rejoice.


    The UsualPages Viewed
    It’s imperative to know which of your pages drives the most traffic. Wouldn’t it also be imperative to know which pages are the most user friendly?


    The UnderratedPage Timings
    Enter page timings, a Google Analytics tab that allows us to compare how quickly each page loads compared to overall site average. The key here is to make sure your most popular pages also perform efficiently. If they do, you’ll create positive user experience, happy visitors, and excellent customer retention—returning visitors who had a good online experience with your site. If they don’t, you’ll see the complete opposite—bad UX and poor retention—and you’ll also lose ground in the Google SEO algorithm for bad site speed.

    Here are some statistics to get the wheels spinning about the importance of fast load times in an age of sky-high expectations (courtesy of Relentless Technology):

    • 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
    • 40% will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
    • Amazon discovered that a 1/10th second delay equals a 1% drop in sales.


    The UsualConversions
    Conversions are the most important online metric of all—for good reason—but there are ways to supplement these stats to gain further insights into your visitors’ most frequent conversion processes.


    The UnderratedAssisted Conversions
    Combine all your major acquisition channels—from organic search to direct traffic to referrals—and you’re left with the giant, interconnected web that is digital marketing. This is where assisted conversions come in.

    Also known as multi channel conversions, these insightful metrics are the best tools around for tracking how all of your marketing efforts work together to create conversions. How did your visitors find you? Which touch points did they engage with before converting? Which acquisition channel was ultimately responsible for the conversion? How many days did your visitors take before converting? Which were the top conversion paths? All of this information is available to you simply by studying your multi channel funnels—allowing you to optimize and improve each of your marketing efforts accordingly.

    We like to think of it like this: a healthy multi channel process map is a foolproof sign of a holistic and complete digital marketing campaign.

  • year in review

    It has been way too long since I last posted.  Suffice it to say, we have been very busy at AZDS.  I hope to be able to blog more on entrepreneurship, small business and luxury brands in 2015 — at least once or twice per month.

    In the meantime, Happy New Year and enjoy my year in review!


    My 2013 word of the year was “Proud.” As the founder of AZDS I can certainly say it has been one amazing ride. After eight years sailing this ship through mostly calm Caribbean waters (with the occasional shark spotting), I couldn’t be more proud of where we are as an organization and where we stand in terms of our industry and the hospitality sector.

    The word of 2014 is “Remarkable.”

    Webster’s defines remarkable as: “worthy of being or likely to be noticed especially as being uncommon or extraordinary.” Google says, “worthy of attention; striking.”

    I say this next statement without any hubris. I have the most remarkable team in the digital marketing industry. I am honored to be able to work with consummate professionals who are both innovative and design-centered. Everyone in our organization has a similar forward-thinking mindset that simply doesn’t fizzle out. Our direct aim is to revolutionize our clients’ interactive products and ensure that we are providing beautiful, yet trackable solutions that drive new business opportunity.

    This year we did just that.

    One of the most exciting projects of 2014 was the Montage Hotels & Resorts domain migration. Montage was setup on individual domain names for every property and business unit (i.e. montagelagunabeach.com, spamontage.com, montagedeervalley.com). As the much needed foundation for a site redesign, we took each existing website and migrated them into an entirely new content management system with information architecture that fit the bill. The entire site, including the booking engine was setup for a 2015 redesign that is currently underworks. If you are interested in beta testing the new website, send us a note.

    In addition to the migration, our team helped launch Montage Kapalua BayThe Inn at Palmetto Bluff, and continued our digital marketing work as the Digital Agency of Record. Montage Impressions, the luxury lifestyle editorial that our team created in 2013, also had a tremendous year of successes and milestones. A significant amount of our content was shared socially by other leading luxury brands such as Malin & Goetz, Sprinkles, Thomas Keller and St. John Knits to name a few.

    2014 marked the acquisition of several new exciting clients, one of which was Le Sereno in St. Barths. In November a few lucky members of the team headed down to the Caribbean to explore the resort and the magnificent island. It is a young property that is doing some extraordinary things. Mark my word; it will become a legendary property, one for the ages. 2016 will mark the opening of its second property, Il Sereno on Lake Como.

    I would also be remiss not to mention our strong work for some of our longtime signature clients, with continued projects for Shutters on the BeachCasa del MarPetit Ermitage, and the Starwood Luxury Collection.

    Lastly, we have an exciting black-box project in the works for 2015 – stay tuned to our blog for more details on this innovative new solution that is going to bring the hospitality industry into the 23rd century. It will be the way of the future.

    As 2014 comes to a seemingly roaring finish, I’m thoroughly enjoying reflecting on where AZDS started, where we are now, and where we are headed. This ship certainly isn’t on auto-pilot.

    Wishing you and yours a healthy, happy, and prosperous holiday season and New Year.

    Here’s to a remarkable 2015,

  • viral content: how do you make it stick?

    A great read on content outliers that become viral: http://moz.com/blog/content-outliers.


    1. Make it visual
    2. Make it personalized
    3. Make it specific/niche
    4. Make it scalable around a theme
    5. Get people’s emotions going (see empathy)
  • tory burch sells $300 coronas

    Retail roots….and why in-store can’t be matched.  This is a fantastic read.

  • a great read on corporate decision making

    As an entrepreneur I’m always working to expand our business gracefully, hire employees that carry a similar vision to me, and build a company that makes a difference.  There was an excellent editorial in the NY Times in November, 2013 about millennials and how they work, but more importantly why they make the decisions that they do.  The readers digest version is that ‘meaning’ is more valuable to the millennial generation than ever before.  More specifically that finding meaning in what they are doing and believing that they are adding value in what they do on a daily basis is more important than money or anything else.  This is very different than previous generations.

    In fact this is a good finding, especially for us entrepreneurs.   What we are doing at AZDS is much bigger than any of us as particular individuals, and rather as a team we are working with marquee clients and non-profit foundations that make the world a better place.  I think the overlap in a shared vision across the team and finding team members that truly care about the work at hand is what creates meaning upon deliverables and also for individuals.  It is easier than ever, with the incredible variety of small businesses, to find something that you are passionate about as an individual and surround yourself with others that share your similar passion.

    Personally, I love the fact that when your business is relatively small you are able to make swift and quick decisions that allow for true change to actually occur.  Large corporations are so slow in innovating (for the most part) because they are often so concerned about sinking the boat that they miss the boat.  The Harvard Business Review crafted this article last year about how playing it safe on a daily basis is riskier than you think.  This embodies why innovation is so often found in smaller companies that foster a sense of forward thinking, take risks, and encourage new ideas.




  • our year in review

    I don’t normally cross post between the AZDS blog and my personal blog, but our year end summary is worth the repost.

    Enjoy the read here.


  • small business design

    I love small business.  I am a strong believer that small business is unquestionably the backbone of America (and yes, I likely got that from some political debate over the past century).  Being a designer and developer at heart (with very limited time) I don’t think I share enough tips for small businesses to use in the creation of their digital deliverables (websites, ads, analytics, social, etc.).  In fact the whole reason I started this blog five years ago was to give back information that I have learned, studied, and become knowledgeable about, so small business owners could read it and hopefully find tools and tips that are simple, yet actionable (we also have great content and case studies on the AZDS blog, posts at least once per month).  I don’t do this because AZDS is a small business (but speedily growing), rather because I know so many small business owners (many friends included) simply cannot afford to hire agencies such as mine to help build their brand in the digital space.

    Often in digital marketing it can seem as if everything is working against you as a small business:

    1. Google favors big brands (in fact they even said “it is to weed out the cesspool”)
    2. Small brands cannot afford to advertise on marquee websites
    3. Small business has a very difficult time finding resources that they need to create great social content
    4. Lack of manpower to manage and handle all digital channels
    5. and this list could go on and on.

    YET, you have so many things working in your favor as a small business.  As Will Critchlow said, “You either have time or you have money.  If you don’t have either, then you are doing something wrong.”  If you have time, you should be spending that time creating and improving your product or service.  You should be working to share great content on social channels that helps your customers and attracts new potential customers.  If you don’t have something that you want to talk about, then candidly you probably don’t have anything worthwhile.  If you can’t talk about it for hours and hours, then why would anyone else really care?  As a small business you also are limber.  You don’t move like a thousand pound gorilla, and therefore you have the ability to hop onto trends and deliver great content within the appropriate context.

    With all that said, here are my tips for small business owners with time:

    1. Invest heavily in improving your product or service.  Good is never enough.  Shoot for extraordinary.  If you have something very, very good, then people will want it.  We are always fine tuning and revisiting our services at AZDS to improve them and improve both our deliverables and our response times.
    2. Create a social strategy.  No, this isn’t just a list of social posts, but rather a strategy around the content you are going to be sharing.  Why is it interesting to your target, and are you going after the right target?  I recommend developing a list of points that represent the differences in your business vs. your competition.  Then, keep those in mind when searching for content ideas.  When your customers ask you questions, pay attention.  Those are the answers that you need to be delivering socially to your network.  If one of your clients is asking particular questions, then it is likely information that others would find valuable.  Don’t sell in social, instead be trustworthy and informative.  A strategy around how you want your social voice to be heard is critical in delivering content on the web that is actually going to be useful.
    3. Use social as your megaphone for great awards, press, and customer comments.  Don’t be afraid to boast.
    4. Invest in photography.  You’ll notice that this point is also included below for small business owners with money, but no time.  Frankly, good cameras have gotten so inexpensive (the iPhone 5s camera is incredible), that there is absolutely no reason for bad photography.  Take classes, learn how to shoot beautiful photos…..photograph is key to playing with the mind.
    5. Earn press.  Contrary to what you hear most often, good press is not that difficult to get as a small business.  Reporters are always looking for stories and love to share about small businesses making a difference in the community.  You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to find the contact information for journalists, reporters, and editors (through tools like FollowerWonk or Rapportive) and then reach out to them to share what you are doing and why it is press worthy.  Using followerwonk, you can search Twitter profiles for keywords like “Mashable, Huffington Post, NY Times, Time, etc.”  Most of these bloggers and writers are active in the ‘Twittersphere’ and include what they do in their bio.  You can then use a tool like Rapportive to find their e-mail addresses and other contact info.
    6. If you are a brick and mortar business (hotel, restaurant, bar, store, etc.) use tools like Spots to find who is tagging photos at your location so you can interact with them, solve problems, and assume needs before they actually become needs.

    Small business owners with money, but no time:

    1. Invest in photography (notice how important I think this is).
    2. Invest in digital branding.
    3. Invest in a social strategy.
    4. Invest in a new website that creates who you are online.
    5. Invest in inbound and earned marketing .
    6. Invest in well targeted pay per click and remarketing .

    I think small business has more opportunity than ever before to create meaningful digital experiences.  Go out and do it, and I’m always happy to help fellow business owners and entrepreneurs.


  • IFTTT (gift without the g)

    All marketers should know about IFTTT.  The service has been around for several years, but it is time I share some tricks and recipes that we have been using for clients at AZDS.  For those that don’t know, IFTTT is a web service that allows something to be triggered automatically if a specific event occurs (a social post, a social link, a blog post, etc.).  Each piece of the recipe is an ingredient (for example in an e-mail trigger and ingredient could be a subject, body, attachment, etc.)   For more information on IFTTT, check out this guide.

    Recipes we love (send me a note if you have further questions or need the recipe):

    • Alert you every time a high influence social follower begins to follow you.
    • Automatically respond to certain social posts based on either location or hashtag (Instagram and Twitter specifically).  This one is a bit tricky.  No one likes automation so you need to make people think that they are getting personalized responses.  This is simple to do in IFTTT.  Setup filters based on content type and make those filters relatively different and sophisticated.  Here are the basics (and you’ll need to modify based on what you need):
    • Automatically find pictures that have been hashtagged and post them as drafts to your Tumblr or WordPress blogs.
    • RSS feed monitoring to e-mails.  Scan RSS feeds of your competitors to closely monitor changes in both content and keywords that they may be targeting.
    • Instagram photos cross post to Twitpic.
  • personalization – the future of luxury advertising

    Digital has always led the way in personalization of advertising.  From search, site, and social retargeting to simple geographic and interest/content based targeting we have always had ways to target specific advertising to ‘supposedly’ the correct audience.  None of the third party technology (third party cookie) is perfect, but as more data is recorded, the targeting improves.  With the automation of media buying (especially with television and online), targeting will become even more sophisticated, however one of the biggest problems we still run into is tracking across multiple devices to synchronize the message and provide accurately customized marketing.  Automated media buying will certainly help with this challenging task, but there are still a variety of issues that will need to be worked out for this process to be flawless.  I’m the first to admit that I see ads targeted and customized for me that aren’t properly targeted or personalized.  This is often the result of corrupt third party data.

    Google is working on an alternative to third party data (ad ID) that might work better than a cookie, but I am still dubious.

    Some suggestions for cross device messaging include: 

    • using a synchronized content message
    • customizing the content based on PMS or CRM software and preferences (individualization)
    • using mobile data first
    • for brand messaging, use digital to personalize the big brand message in larger, more traditional media buys

    For hospitality we are currently developing a system that will collect content from a hotel’s property management system and then aggregate that data into usable information.  Once the data is usable, we will be creating algorithms to serve customized content based on past guest history and concierge requests (1st party data) in e-mail and other digital forms.

    Custom personalization of advertising and content delivery is the future of luxury marketing.

  • why ‘lorem ipsum’ is relatively useless

    I hope to catch fellow ui/ux designers by surprise when I title an article like this.  The fact is lorem ipsum puts constraints around content.  It puts constraints around content to fit within a shell or a design.  This is a big mistake.

    Content is the reason people are coming to a website, using a mobile app, or exploring a particular page (insert channel here).  It is critical to create and methodically understand a content strategy before the design is created.  With content being bigger than ever, more and more designers will begin to realize the importance of content and more importantly having a content strategy in place prior to actually designing or creating an interface.  The use of lorem ipsum is to fit content within a design to allow visualization.  Visualization is great, however the last thing you need to do is make people believe the content needs to be exactly a certain length.

    Look at these websites without content (I covered all content with yellow boxes- google was especially fun):




    Nada. Zilch. Nothing without content.

    I personally believe that photos, video, etc. are all forms of content, but if I covered all of the media, then the entire screen would be yellow and my wonderful screenshots would make literally no sense.  My point is not that lorem ipsum should never be used, but rather that it shouldn’t be used early in the design process.  There isn’t a need for content to be constrained within a particular layout, because good quality content is as importnat as the shell it is being delivered in.  Content, or at the very least a strategy, should be implemented first and then elegantly designed into a concept.

    We have recently been tasked at AZDS to create interesting content portals for a variety of our luxury clients.  The goal is to create interesting hubs of information that essentially make up or represent the brand.  We want to create editorial content that is worth sharing.  The success of these sites is not measured by standard metrics such as time on site, or visits.  The success is measured through a variety of softer metrics including how we are improving inbound marketing, how we are creating viral content that is being shared on social networks to thousands, organic links that we are gaining through quality acquisition, and most importantly how many new customers we are obtaining (the last certainly being the most measurable metric).

    My ultimate goal with these projects is not to create content, just for the sake of creating content.  There is enough crappy content on the inter-webs.  Rather, our job is to write, inspire, create, and challenge new paradigms in how we build brands in the interactive space.  My suggestion is to use graph search and followerwonk to analyze customers and understand what they like, and how that may relate or encompass your brand.

    And more about content (I love this presentation):