All posts in advertising

  • 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.,, 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,

  • tory burch sells $300 coronas

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

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • giving interactive marketing a facelift

    inspire (verb): to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural.

    innovation (noun): the introduction of something new.


    The definition of innovation isn’t innovative (and definitions aren’t supposed to be).  I have established this before in a past blog post.  Having said that, it is our job as influencers in our space to inspire (or to influence, move, or guide if you prefer) change in not only the interactive space, but how people look at interactive marketing.  We are image makers or shapers in the interactive world, and therefore we need to sculpt the image of interactive marketing.  Within our industry I often hear things like, ‘this is the year of responsive design, improving user interfaces, and better targeting.’  All of these things are bettering overall user experience and creating a better online space.  When you look outside of our industry, however things never change as we are “those people that create banner ads, spam search results, etc.”  This is where as interactive innovators we need to move the needle.  Simply put, we are so much more than that and I am tired of people’s lack of understanding for what actual interactive creation is.

    The next time someone asks you what you do, I challenge you to say what I say.  That you are an interactive innovator.  When the inevitable happens and the person asks you what that means, and what you do specifically, you can say we drive revenue to our client’s through better targeting of customers online, creating elegant and beautifully designed websites, and creating experiences online that empathize with customers and create ‘that feeling.’  Then they will either say, “wow, that is awesome” or they will say ” oh so you spookly track people online and follow them around.”  At which point I say, “exactly, I control your mind, what do you do?”


  • very good compared to extraordinary

    I was recently approached by someone who needs something designed (print and publishing).  They went to a variety of different designers to pitch the project and get a proposal for cost.  Not having a particular designer that they work with on a regular basis it is always challenging to understand if the designers you are talking to are passionate about the project.  It’s generally easy to tell if someone is talented (look at their portfolio and investigate their work), but it isn’t so easy to detect passion and excitement.

    Here’s why: authenticity.  How do you know if who you are talking to is passionate or just energetic?  How do you know if they are authentically excited about a project, or if they are just great sales people with a particular energy.  There isn’t anything wrong with being a great energetic sales person (and in fact it is a great trait to have), but I think that in order to provide design that is extraordinary (and not just very good) you need to be authentically passionate about the project.

    In her story it was also interesting to hear about where the different designers came in at price point.  Most came in within a certain, reasonable window of one another and another came in significantly more expensive than the others.  When this happens, it often makes your decision even more difficult (if you can afford the more expensive option).  There are several questions to ask:

    1. Is this person’s work far superior (or just slightly better) to the others that pitched the project?  And is the slight difference everything?
    2. Depth of the proposal?
    3. Were they passionate when you met? (the challenge)
    4. Are they pricing extremely high because they don’t want to take the project, but if you are willing to pay that much, then it is worthwhile to them?  (happens more than you’d think)
    5. Is it the difference between very good and extraordinary?  Or is it the difference between very good and great?  (big differences here: think four vs. five star hotels and the price differences.)
    6. Are they pricing high because they can?  Because they want you to think that what they offer is that much better than the others.

    Price is often, but by no means always an indicator of quality that you are going to receive with professional services.  In fact, there are times when it is entirely opposite and the person that is the low outlier is the most talented and best option (this could happen because the person is authentically passionate about the project and wants to work on it).  Don’t let price be the only measure of quality for your decision.  The other point I would make is most certainly circling back to the title of this post: always go for extraordinary.  Very good just generally isn’t good enough when it comes to design (think Apple).

    Last, it’s important to realize that as a profesional services firm or agency, it is impossible to be authentically passionate about every single client that you work with.  Therefore as the prospective client you need to decide whether or not the puzzle pieces fit together.  My challenge for clients is to find authenticity, which is most often realized in small, boutique, or sole-proprietors that demand as close to perfection as they can possibly output.

    P.S. in case you don’t know my authentic passion is web design and analytics for luxury hotels and resorts.  We are selective in who we work with because I believe in creating extraordinary, authentic work.


  • why does good digital have meaning?

    I recently saw a very interesting TED talk about the meaning of work.  Dan Ariely spoke at TEDx in Rio about why human beings need and desire meaning in what they do to do their best work and ultimately innovate and inspire change.  If you haven’t seen the video yet (you still should watch the entire talk) he runs several experiments centered around having individuals complete tasks and showing them different reactions after the work is completed.  It turned out that the groups where someone reviewing the project after completion showed some sort of acknowledgement or care, were far more wiling do more work.

    I believe that in addition to seeing meaning in our work, there is a close connection here with empathy.  If as an employer or boss you can’t empathize with the work that you are assigning to someone, then it is very likely that the person will not have the drive to do it well (because they won’t find much meaning in what they are doing).  Obviously there are going to be tasks that simply need to get done and carry little meaning, but even on those tasks it is very important to acknowledge completion and compliment (or judge) the work.  By actually looking at results, or the completed task, you portray importance, which certainly helps someone create meaning in what they are doing.

    In the digital world, I think it is very important to look at overall campaign and brand meaning to establish a successful message or story.  As good advertisers we often sound like a broken record in saying that the story or the message is the most important aspect of the communication piece (whether digital or traditional or even non-traditional), but it is very true.  The story is what creates meaning with the customer and creates a connection that otherwise wouldn’t have taken place.

    With digital you have even less time than ever before to create meaning because there are so many crappy digital advertisements.  If you can create relevance through a combination of excellent creative and specific targeting then you have an opportunity to create an excellent campaign.  At AZDS we have been working with Chango (a search remarketing company) on a campaign for a couple of our clients.  The philosophy is quite simple, but the tactics and strategy are fare more complicated.  We are combining search remarketing (customer acquisition), with traditional remarkerting, with FBX (Facebook Exchange Network).  We are using specific search history to target relevant users with elegantly designed creative.  New customers (that previously haven’t interacted with the brand/visited the website) are being targeted and acquired based on their Google search history, and then repeat customers or customers that have interacted with the brand in some way, are being remarketed to based on their interests and level of connection with the brand.  This sort of specificity and detail is what adds value and creates a level of meaning with a growing audience.

    A similar strategy  is even more powerful if you can establish different creative based on purchase stage (where an individual is within the purchase funnel) and or create connections with personalized creative taking interests and other personal information into account.

  • empathy

    Empathy is another marketing buzzword.  Since I began the week talking about content, I wanted to relate it to empathy; primarily empathy for the customer.  In advertising empathy is key because if you cannot relate and understand  your customer then you will fail to connect with them.  See my previous post on connection through content.

    Merriam-Webster defines empathy as follows (noun):

    The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this.

    If we break apart the definition to better understand it, we see ‘being aware,’ ‘being sensitive to’ and ‘understanding.’  Generally (at least in my daily tasks) I have to deal with every single one of these pieces.  I need to be aware of what our client wants, and be aware of what the client thinks the customer wants.  I need to be sensitive to both the client and sensitive to their customer.  We need to understand that they (clients and their customers) are looking for value (even working with our luxury brands).  And last, but not least, I have to have understanding.  I need to understand both the desires, needs, wants, and objectives of both our client and their customers.  All marketing must empathize with the customer.  We must relate to our customer and connect with them on the subconscious level.

    In digital marketing, empathy is the chief, and in my belief often the difference between a successful digital campaign and utter failure.  It is the beauty that good user interface and design provides that takes into account the customer, their needs, and goals.  Read Peter Drucker’s books to better understand and this is also an interesting article regarding empathy in digital marketing.  It comes down to simply not annoying and rather providing content of value or interest.

    When discussing empathy, it is critical to circle back to value.  I don’t mean the value of advertising or marketing (see a previous post on that), but rather the value that the client is providing to their customer.  All customers want to feel and believe that they are receiving value in return for their dollar.  In our case, our clients provide their customers (or guests) memories.  They provide experiences that are unique, valuable, and most of all memorable.  We need our brand communications to connect with our guests, so that they can remember the moments that took their breath away.  Moments that swept them off their feet.  This is empathizing with the customer to the greatest extent.

    Sam Richards has a TED talk about Empathy (and a radical experiment).  He sums empathy up quite nicely.  Step out of your shoes and step into their shoes.  That is empathy.