Amazon & Argos Anticipate Christmas by Appointing Thousands of Holiday-Period Personnel

It was announced at the start of October that Amazon.com, the world’s largest online retailer, will be recruiting 70,000 new full-time members of staff specifically for the upcoming festive season. That gigantic figure is 40% higher than the number of people they hired for the same period last year and the company have even suggested that thousands of the workers are likely to be kept on beyond Christmas 2013.

On a more local level, the internet retailer will be employing more than 15,000 seasonal staff in the UK – which is good news for the struggling British job market.

This huge recruitment drive shows just how important the festive period is for businesses. Highlighting how intense it can get, Catherine McDermott, director of operations at Amazon.co.uk, said to The Guardian: “On our busiest shopping day last Christmas, customers ordered a total of 3.5m items during one 24-hour period at a rate of 44 items a second.”

(Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian)

(Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian)

It’s not just international behemoths that are prepping for the festive sales flurry. Argos, the largest general-goods retailer in the UK, is set to recruit around 10,000 seasonal workers in the build-up to Christmas. While this is 2,000 less people than they added in 2012, considering the firm currently only has 30,000 employees it really is a substantial hiring burst for the busy season.

On the other hand, Amazon are adding 5,000 more new people in Britain this year than they did before Christmas 2012. The huge numbers for both companies show the sales boom they expect to have to deal with. But it’s important to remember that it isn’t not just somebody as huge as Amazon that needs to prepare.

(Photograph: Andrew Fox)

(Photograph: Andrew Fox)

While you might not have the budget to employ thousands of additional staff, or even a single extra helping hand, it’s important to note that these two stores are announcing their recruitment pushes in late September and the very start of October. They aren’t waiting for the weather to get colder, the days to get shorter and more neighbourhood attention-seekers to turn their houses into neon lit, inflatable-snowmen-covered abominations.

Amazon and Argos are acting early to have the infrastructure in place and ready because they know how important the upcoming time of year is, and your business should do the same.

Whether this involves devising email marketing campaigns, social media plans or other digital marketing tools, the more organised and well-equipped you are the better you’ll be able to handle a spike in business – or even encourage one.

Christmas Shopping Trend

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”, goes the famous Christmas song by Andy Williams. But the festive period is also the busiest and most crucial time of the year for most businesses, and things might not be so wonderful if you don’t make the right preparations! As mobile and tablet use is booming and customers are spending right through the holidays – even days when shops were traditionally shut – marketing has to begin early, plan cleverly and adapt to seize the initiative of the yuletide rush.
Christmas Shopping Trends

 
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Google Hummingbird

 

humming

What do Panda, Caffeine, Buffy, Big Daddy, Penguin and Jagger have in common? While they might sound like bizarre names dished out to a litter of puppies by an infant, they’re actually some of the names given to Google’s search algorithm’s updates over the years.

With the latest update, Hummingbird, Google have made their biggest algorithm modifications since 2001. This time, Google picked the name because the precision and speed of the animal apparently encapsulates their engine’s newly-honed capabilities. Although, I’m not convinced that past updates were named with such allegorical significance – I mean, Big Daddy?!

If the word algorithm is already sailing a bit over your head, and online definitions like this just make things worse, try to think of it as simply the mathematical way Google’s search engine does what it does.

In this article I’ll be examining how the search-giant unveiled the news, try to simplify and clarify what the changes mean for Googlers everywhere, whilst also taking an in depth look the impact it will have on marketers – and what they can do to adapt.

 

The announcement.

The mammoth search engine’s news was announced in typically quirky and enigmatic style. With a healthy dose of nostalgia and history, the company rounded up busloads of tech reporters at their Googleplex California HQ, before sending the confused journalists to a bland looking suburban address.

Inside the house’s garage Google revealed details of Hummingbird.

garage

And it was in that garage, owned by Susan Wojcicki, that Larry Page and Sergey Brin built their revolutionary tech company during the winter of 1998. In an extra special nod to that era, Google had even recreated the co-founders’ workplace in the back of the house, complete with original desks and chairs!

 

What does it do?

Hummingbird already affects around 90% of searches, which shows how far-reaching the changes are – although currently fairly unnoticeable.

To put it in as basic terms as possible, the main goal of the algorithm is that Google will now be able to quickly analyse full questions – long-tail queries – as opposed to deconstructing questions word-by-word. Then it identifies and ranks answers to those questions from the context they’re indexed.

Hummingbird aims to sift out “fluff” content that is designed exclusively for snatching SEO, in its place delivering superior, pertinent search results.

The algorithm focuses on searches that are more natural than simply lists of computer-friendly keywords. For instance, if I was to search “how to fix the hard drive on my PS3” Google now understands that I’m not shopping for a new PS3 hard drive, and will find me pages with repair guides and other answers to the question before all of the retail results.

Context is prioritised as much as the content, so that Google’s results are more relevant by accentuating the intention over simply matching phrases.

Basically, Google’s becoming more understanding – and, crucially, more conversational. When you consider the emergence of voice-activated searching, such as with Siri on the iPhone, it’s a big step that Google can now better handle the sort of questions you’d ask verbally.

 

What does it mean for marketers?

Well, former SEO signals, like inbound links and social shares, are still relevant. And Google’s response to marketing concerns is that, “In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.” Which is essentially the inbound marketing mantra anyway – good news for some!

In essence, if you blog about topics of interest then Google will now be even better at making sure you get found.

However, it’s important to comprehend these changes and start putting less of a focus on keywords and more of a focus on semantic SEO and semantic search (terms that are explained in detail here).

Content created just for the sake of getting traffic-boosting words on a page won’t have the effect it had before. With Hummingbird’s evolution, your content really has to answer questions that Google users might be asking. It’s vital that marketing objectives adapt to place a higher premium on content, but Google’s algorithm changes could also mean a new lease of life for forgotten content that may have lacked the SEO keywords before, but been undeniably worthwhile.

Even if you are placing a larger importance on your content, there are several methods to ensure Hummingbird doesn’t fly past you:

  • Put yourself in your customer’s shoes

Consider why existing customers need or want your product in the first place. Check that your content answers questions that your audience might be asking, or create content on topics they will find relevant and interesting.

  • Don’t be boring.

Even though you’re being helpful and informative, it doesn’t mean you can’t be hilarious. Or at least mildly entertaining.

  • A blog’s not the be all and end all.

Content comes in many shapes and sizes, such as infographics, videos, whitepapers, games quizzes and more. Utilise them to increase your chances of Hummingbird sending users your way. The more variety in your content, the wider the array of Googlers that will stumble across your site.

  • Analytics are your friend

If your site has a search tool, have a look at the data on what people are looking for on your site. If they’re often searching for existing content then it makes sense to produce further stuff along the same lines – but without too much repetition! If people are hunting for topics that you don’t have on your site, then it’s a pretty clear indicator that there’s demand there and you should produce something related, pronto.

  • Be social.

Hummingbird or no Hummingbird, this goes without saying; make it easy to share your content! Don’t stop at Facebook and Twitter, consider the whole range of social media – Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, StumbleUpon, Reddit etc. It’s easy to get the codes for simple and quick input of the buttons on your site, and it will really boost sharing potential by making it as easy as a couple of clicks for users to share – whatever their desired platform.

  • Love your language.

As explained earlier, a lot of Google’s changes are designed with mobile and voice searching in mind. So ensure your content’s language is clear and intelligent, while carefully thinking about sentence structure, to perform properly. In a brilliant development for content writers everywhere, now Google recognises synonyms! So you won’t end up reading articles that repeat the same words over and over and over again for hits, and Google will identify that even though you searched “incredible deals” you may have meant “great deals” etc.

British Airways’ Creative Race the Plane Campaign

A novel social-media based competition by British Airways really took off in September. The United Kingdom’s flag-carrying airline tempted entrants with the opportunity to win one of five pairs of tickets to Toronto or LA.

The competition was publicised using Twitter’s Promoted Trends and the entry requirement simply involved tweeting with the hashtag #RaceThePlane. But rather than just another bland Twitter hashtag competition that lacked the wings to get off the ground, BA’s concept was unique. And so interest really soared.

 

BA1

 

User’s tweets powered BA’s Tweetliner, a virtual plane. It raced against a real aircraft – the Boeing 787 Dreamliner – during flights between London and Toronto on September 19th, and between London and LAX on September 24th . The more tweets mentioning the hashtag, the faster the virtual plane flew and progress of these races could be tracked on a specially created website (see photos).

According to the social search and analytics company Topsy, there were over 30,000 tweets with the hashtag in 30 days.

 

BA2

 

It certainly encouraged huge social participation and ramped up positive brand awareness. Although BA did have some social media PR repair-work to do following negative publicity and press attention when a man went to the lengths of buying a promoted tweet to complain about the company’s customer service at the start of September.

 

BA3_3

Yet it doesn’t feel like BA were winging it with a hastily arranged effort to patch up the negativity from one disgruntled user’s tweet. The #RaceThePlane campaign felt carefully planned to really engage Twitter users and encourage mass-participation.

When their micro-site first launched there was some ambiguity about its purpose which fuelled anticipation and intrigue, and it certainly achieved its goal perfectly in advertising their new plane. A combination of the site’s sleek, impressive design alongside the considerable allure of the prize meant BA’s social media scheme was a huge success – as well as providing a flying start to rebuilding brand positivity.

Marmite Marketing

Marmite’s “Love it or Hate it” slogan seems to have been around for as long as time itself. Yet remarkably the love/hate campaign was only launched in 1996, 94 years after the product first hit British shelves. It feels like such an ancient tagline simply because of how deeply it has sunk into popular culture. Marmite has become a way of describing something that polarises opinion, and nothing’s safe from the description; from films to music to somebody’s personality.

What the yeast-extract spread’s legendary campaign proves is that good advertising is not always safe advertising. Mentioning in your adverts that some people hate your product probably breaks endless previously-accepted advertising rules.

Now, seventeen years later, the tar-like substance’s marketing team have been at it again with another ingenious (and controversial) marketing campaign.

The 90-second mockumentary advert shows a rescue team saving abandoned jars of Marmite from the backs of kitchen cupboards. After finding a small unopened jar one officer says tearfully, “I just hadn’t seen one that small.” A minor storm of controversy was kicked up by 504 complaints lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority, saying it belittled the work of welfare agencies and the abuse of animals and children.

In a mind-boggling example of inter-referencing, a spokeswoman for Marmite responded to these complaints by saying, “We have made every effort to ensure that this commercial entertains anyone who watches it. We believe we have created an unmistakably Marmite ad – people will either love it or hate it and they certainly won’t forget it.”

kh2893_uni_marmite_dont_forget_cupboard_1_48sht_master_0[1]

The posters for the campaign are almost as bold as the TV advert, relying on the phrasing “Love it. Hate it. Just don’t forget it” entirely for their brand recognition, and only allowing a miniscule glimpse of the Marmite jar to show from behind other packets and tins in a cupboard. Normal advertising logic would be appalled at the suggestion that the product was to be buried at the back of an advert, hidden from view.

Clearly, Marmite still aren’t happy to play it safe. Whether it’s admitting some people hate their spread, inciting the wrath of animal-lovers or hiding their product in promotional material, their risk-taking works. They should be an inspiration to all the bland adverts out there who are wondering why they’re being lost in the crowd.