Friday, December 27, 2013

Northwestern announces a Free MOOC on Content Strategy for Professionals

On January 13, 2014, Northwestern University will add to its record of designing learning systems for the future by offering a unique new MOOC (massive open online course). It is entitled Content Strategy for Professionals - Engaging Audiences for Your Organization and can be found on the Coursera platform. Enrollment is free and open now at:

Northwestern produced the MOOC because professionals in every organization – for-profit, non-profit, volunteer, and government – face an enormous challenge. With ever-more information competing for people’s limited time, they need to know how to develop and deploy more engaging content to reach key individuals inside and outside their organization with important information.

The Content Strategy MOOC has been developed to meet this challenge. In the MOOC, 10 expert Northwestern professors share their new insights and actionable advances. The faculty come from the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and the Kellogg School of Management. They are led by John Lavine, professor and director of Northwestern’s Media Management Center.

“Content strategy is a conversation that provides thought-leadership.” Lavine explained. “Regardless of their level, area of work, or expertise, professionals who use content strategy have new knowledge that enables them to be far more effective with words, graphics, video, social and mobile media. They learn how to give their most important stakeholders trustable, transparent, actionable information that those individuals will value and use.”

The MOOC is divided into six modules with each broken into a number of succinct, easy to complete sessions that will easily fit each user’s schedule. It is a rigorous program, but because it is for professionals, there are no exams or term papers.  There is, however, a case study that weaves throughout the MOOC, allowing the participants to build their content strategy skills and receive feedback on them.

In addition, the MOOC features videos and multimedia from companies and organizations around the world. They are best practice examples of what an effective content strategy looks like in action. The MOOC also has an electronic toolkit for the participants to use in the future to help them and their colleagues as they encounter new challenges in their organization.

“The goal of the MOOC,” Lavine concluded, “is to give those who take it the content strategy knowledge and skills to advance their enterprise and their own careers. It is free, and we welcome those who are interested to join us on January 13th.”

For more information, view a short video at:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Shopper Customer Journey in E-commerce

               Hey E-commerce Manager, are you thinking about how to acquire more customers, or how to boost loyalty to your brand? Good questions, but first, you should ask: Do I understand who is my customer? what is his/her customer journey? These are key questions because in the online environment the old marketing "push" strategy is not going to work as you expect anymore. As an Integrated Marketing Communication grad student at Northwestern University, I have learned that the first step in good marketing starts with a good understanding about consumer behavior. And yes, you should use data to support your insights.

                In 2009, McKinsey developed the above model about the journey that customers follow these days. Because of the rising of internet and social media, customers have more control (and power) of the information. They relay more in friends and family opinions more than brand messages. So "Push" marketing is not going to work. Brands should start thinking about how to promote conversations and give relevant content to potential customers in the first part of their journey (Active Evaluation). Take in consideration that customers can have different paths to seek information during this first part of the journey. You should consider what is the category that you are selling and the cultural context (country, region) where your product is sold. Google Think Insights has a fun tool where you can play moving the two variables I just mentioned.

                At the moment of purchase, the core idea is to make the purchase process easier. Depending on the category, you can promote cross-selling of products (shopper marketers know that very well because in brick and mortar stores  40% of the shopper decisions are still taking place in the store). After that moment of truth, You can track your customers to understand if they repeat the purchase because that defines the beginning of loyalty. If they repurchase in your site, that means that you are one step closer to develop customer loyalty. If they do not, they are going to start their journey all over again.
So what to do now? here is your call to action
  1. Collect, analyze and understand in which part of the journey your customers are located. You can use the data that you have been gathering in your CRM, Google Analytics, Omniture, etc, etc. Quality is more important than quantity.
  2.   Segment your customers, and align your resources where "your customers spend their time."
  3.   Test, learn and improve. That is the beauty to be in E-commerce.

Remember that you also are in this journey about understanding your customers, which should be your first step into this travel.

 "There is a new reality for marketing: that consumers are continuously evaluating brands, and our brands need to be present and accounted for at every stage of consideration." Dany Bosomworth

Customer Journey
Google Data

Alvaro Gutierrez is a MSc. Candidate in Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University with an emphasis on e-commerce and marketing analytics. He previously worked as a Category Manager consultant for Nielsen Chile. Follow him @mktgdata

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

CEOs, Take Actions to Confront Changing E-Commerce Challenges

Online retail sales will grow from $225.5 billion in 2012 to $434.2 billion in 2017, according to eMarketer[1]. Challenges and competitions follow opportunities. As a graduate student at Northwestern University Integrated Marketing Communications program as well as product manager at H2O E-Cigs (, I have been studying e-commerce industry trends, customer online shopping behavior patterns and how companies can catch the wave in such a transformative era. I found two articles that gave pretty good summaries and suggestions on future trends in e-commerce industry and how to deal with them.

In the article “Ecommerce Future Predictions That You Should Know”, it explains several practical suggestions on how to deal with upcoming marketing challenges in e-commerce industry.

On the other hand, the article “8 Emerging Trends in eCommerce Technology” talks about eight emerging trends in e-commerce and how to leverage them in an effective way.

Incorporating those two articles, as well as my experience and research done at Northwestern University and H2O E-Cigs, here are three things you should do right now to get ahead of the competition.

  1. Images are important, but get more videos. As YouTube becoming the second most popular search engine, e-Marketers cannot overlook the importance of adding videos onto your product page. Product demonstration videos should be short and engaging for customers to get relevant information.
  2. Multichannel is not a myth anymore. Integrate your website, mobile, tablets and social media. The biggest e-commerce trend in 2013 is singular experience, which means marketers should think about how to create a seamless shopping experience across platforms.
  3. Get a big data analyst to understand customer behavior patterns. Transaction data and web metrics data are both very important in terms of finding customer behavior patterns and maximize marketing investment. 

Jeanine Jiang is pursuing her master’s degree at Northwestern University Integrated Marketing Communications program. She is a SAS certified base and advance programmer and also a storyteller. She is looking for career opportunities in e-commerce and marketing analytics. Follow her on Twitter @jeaninejiang .

Monday, October 28, 2013

Journalists: You’re doing the Internet wrong

As journalists, we often make a MAJOR mistake by publishing the same article in the paper magazine and then copying it - word for word - to our tablet version.  As a graduate student in the Medill School of Journalism focusing my studies on interactive storytelling, I see examples of how journalism is getting the internet wrong on a daily basis. The following are a couple of articles that point out the good, the bad and the ugly of online journalism.

The Gaurdian’s “The rise of the reader: journalism in the age of the open web” is a long read but important as Katharine Viner brings up a few interesting ways to think about journalism on the web. One idea is that by putting journalism online storytelling is brought back to a free-flowing form of Ancient Greece and Homer. The stories are always changing and are “limitless, relentless.” This makes storytelling online perfect to be molded into any shape and in innovative ways beyond the rectangles of newspapers.

Gigom’s “Why tablet magazines are a failure” is an article that isn’t surprising but a necessary one. Everyone is putting their magazines on tablets, thinking that it will automatically bring in the same amount of revenue. Not true. It cites a Nielsen study that the average mobile user has 41 apps but only uses eight apps a day. Magazines must take these numbers and really think out of the box to become one of those eight apps a day.

A tough pill to swallow for most media companies, but things can be much better online with a few simple ideas.

1.     Switch it up – You’re not one of those eight apps a day? Readers need a reason to open your app everyday and most times the same content across platforms isn’t cutting it. Even a few changes (a weekly blog with the editor, behind the scenes interactive content, etc.) can entice the reader to open your app more.
2.     Design matters – Would The New York Times’ “Snow Fall” have as much impact if it were in the same template they use for most of their stories? Absolutely not. Design has the power to make a story sing on the web. Don’t forget about it.
3.     Go with your gutbut back it up with data – Taking a suggestion from Katharine Viner above, when thinking about ways to innovate trust your guy instincts, but look at the data too. Your audience isn’t interested in photo slideshows? Don’t do them. What works well for one publication may not work well with your’s, but use the data you are most assuredly stockpiling to further understand your audience and their behaviors on your website.

The internet and online journalism isn’t a passing fad that companies can sit by and watch. Particularly now, this is a time of transition between three different digital platforms and the strong traditions of print media where every media company is expected to change. By rolling with this internet tide and understanding the trends, you might be able to acquire a new, better and more interested audience.

Hailey Mahan is a journalism graduate student at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She specializes in interactive storytelling and web development for journalism. Follow her on Twitter @HaileyMMahan.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Every Brand- Even Yours- Needs an Open API

By Kaylee Pohlmeyer

As a marketer, it is important to have strategies that will scale your business with minimal investment. As a graduate student in Medill’s Integrated Marketing Communications program, I have had the opportunity to see many open API platforms, and I am going to share with you thoughts from two leaders in the industry as to why an open API is essential for scaling your business through innovation.

In the article “Why Every Brand Needs an Open API for Developers,” Adam Kleinberg suggests that you can establish a value platform for your brand by creating an API that allows your assets (data that is of value to others) to be accessed and used by anyone. Why? So you can let other developers innovate and create for you. An API is a way for an established brand to think like a start-up. Look at Netflix, who opened up their data, and now their interface can be accessed on hundreds of devices. Allow your content to be where your consumers are, as depicted in the graphic below from Apigee:

I was lucky enough to interview John Bernier, Senior Manager of Marketing and Developer Engagement at Best Buy, who has played an essential role in one of the first, and most successful API’s- BBYOpen. Bernier believes that APIs are the future of open data, and Best Buy’s API has allowed them to surround customers and their shopping experience with data that is relevant and timely.  The biggest advantage of their open API is that it has allowed them to scale in a way that was never before possible. Although Best Buy has monetized their API through partnerships and endless e-commerce platforms, that was not the key business objective upon launch. Bernier remarks:

            “Developers can create really interesting applications and ideas using your data and profitability will follow; the API is the fuel behind it.”

So you may be thinking, my brand doesn’t need an API, we already have a mobile app- but that is where you are wrong. APIs, not apps, are the future of digital and mobile marketing and you need to establish your brand in this space before your competitors do.

Here are three things you need to do right now to help establish a winning API strategy:
  • Identify your business assets- information, products or services- that are of value to others
  • Start out small- let your API evolve on its own
  • Do not focus on monetization- that will come with time

There are 50 new APIs every week, adding to the 10,000+ companies that have opened up their data to the public. Your API and the developers that use it will take your business in ways that you never imagined possible. The world of big data that we live in is waiting- so jump in!


About the Author:
Kaylee Pohlmeyer is a M.S. student at Medill’s Integrated Marketing Communications Program. She will be joining General Mills in 2014 as a Marketing Communications Planner and has a passion for food and technology.  Find her on Twitter- @kpohlmeyer