Thursday, 27 December 2012

My 2012 Spotify list: never too much of a good thing

To keep it simple: 2012 was a brilliant year for music, full of new discoveries for me and with too little time to listen to everything worth listening to. The first few months of 2012 were just OK, but once Alt-J launched their album, the avalanche of high standard music kept coming and coming. No need to stop just yet.

Best Album 2012:
Fragrant World by Yeasayer

Best Song 2012:
Sometimes I Forget You've Gone by Dirty Three

Here is my list of 2012: like every year a combination of best albums (Alt-J until Two Gallants) and a mix of favourite songs. You can listen to my list of 2012 on Spotify over here: Lista 2012 Stefvanef

Apart from Yeasayers, great albums came from Kendrick Lamar (who said there is no variance in rap?), Alt-J (what a debut), Peter Broderick (subtle, perfect pop transformed into an internet address), Bill Fay (Respect for such a comeback), John Talabot (perfect summer album: volume at 10 and wind blowing through the curtains on a hot afternoon), Actress (best electro/beats/noise since Burial) and Two Gallants (hurray for the twisted guitar-bridges in their songs).

Two Gallants, The XX and Azealia Banks got extra points for some really good concerts in 2012, which helps to get in the list.

Florence is in the list since I got so disappointed by "Ceremonials" in 2011. In 2012 she came back strong with her Unplugged. Glad to have her back.

A lot of stuff  like Mala, Nick Waterhouse, Django Django, Soulsavers and Dylan, didn't make the list because there was some much else of high quality. Still happy to listen to you guys.

Deception of 2012 The Ting Tings, no discussion there.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

My books in 2012

Should have read more in 2012, I know. But I blame Coursera: I was reading quite a bit up until I enrolled into 2 Coursera courses and haven't picked up since I finished. I've enrolled on more courses for 2013, so maybe this list won't exist next year, let's see.

Poor Economics - Stefvanef 2012
Poor Economics was the most amazing read of this year. It challenges what we all think about poverty and how it can be beaten.

This is what I've read:

Freedom by Jonathan Frazen (2010)
Scorecasting by Tobais J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim (2011)
Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (1951)
You are not so Smart by David McRaney (2011)
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2011)
Poor Economics by Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee and Esther Duflo (2011)
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (2000)

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Extreme email retargeting in Spain:

The email you can see below has been the most extreme version of retargeting I've seen until now. It's in Spanish, I'm sorry. But don't worry, I'll translate. This is how it goes:

Dear user,
2 years ago you compared quotes for a car insurance on We remind you that in a 2 weeks, your car insurance for your Toyota Auris will expire and you will have to renew your policy.

Click image to enlarge

Really? targets me for something I did on their site 2 years ago? That's some heavy stuff - 2 years in the online world seem like various lightyears away.

I can't say that it's bad. First of all: it's true. I did compare quotes for an insurance 2 years ago for the car mentioned. Though it wasn't for my actual car. I don't even have a car. So the part of 'in 2 weeks your insurance will expire' isn't correct. I remember that for the devellopment of new site, I made some trials on insurance sites, that's all.
Second reason why it's not bad: even if might not sure if I have to renew my insurance, it's a good try. It might have been true and they're message doesn't put them in any bad light, even if it's not.

Retargeting in emails is actually good practice: if you, as a company, can send a specific message to a specific group of customers, as a rule, results tend to be better. Here's another example of Amazon:  I looked for a new telephone. Since I didn't buy the phone, Amazon reminded me a couple of days later, suggesting me also some other phones.

Click on the image to enlarge

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Email Search Optimization (ESO)

A friend of mine was pretty honest when giving me feedback on the emails my company sends him:
"I never read or open your company's emails."
It didn't sound like my friend wasn't interested in what my company had to say. He also didn't seem to be fed up with too much email or advertising from a company. He just said it as a matter of fact.

He continued:
"I do know that I have those emails somewhere in my inbox. And when I need to buy your product I find that email and I make my on-line order from your email onwards."
Now here's a way I hadn't looked at email marketing: Some customers just keep the emails in their inbox, un-opened, for when they want to buy something from you and they can find you.

I have always looked at email marketing as the company reaching out to the customer to try and pull him back to your site. With emails to customers, the company is in control: the company defines when to send, how many times they send, what products to include, if our clients are worthy of a promotion, etc, etc. We see the client as the passive receiver of the email, and he can do what the company wants (open the email, read the email and buy) or ignore your communications (which about 90% of your clients tend to do with your emails).

Now my friend was telling me a complete new way of looking at email: the client is now in control, and he doesn't want to follow the company's lead. He opens the email when he wants, he doesn't give a damn about how great your products, promotions or designs are. He just uses the email as a way to come to your site and to buy what he already knew he was going to buy. It's very similar to a bookmark: people keep preferred links to pages as a bookmark to come back to that page pretty quick.

It explains various things I've noticed over the last couple of years:

  • Outcomes of emails are sometimes very unpredictable: your email can focus on one product, or give the customer a specific promotion. But chances are that they just go on and buy what they were already going to buy and don't bother with your great design or splendid campaign.
  • I've seen people open their Christmas email in May and actually buy something, although the products announced in the email weren't available anymore.
  • In some cases I've noticed that more then 50% of the clicks on the email sent are on the header-logo: clients don't even bother to read or scan your content, they just open the email, click and move on from there.
  • A lot of what I wrote last week about the importance of transactional emails can be explained by this.
  • I've also seen that sending more emails can increase your sales of customers coming from emails, but it usually takes away sales from clients coming from other sources.

All this does put email better in perspective: your client is not a passive number in your data base that will jump up and do whatever you want them to do when you send them an email.

Email Search Optimization?

This also opens a new discussion of email-findability. Companies think that clients who already know what they want, search for your brand on Google. That's why company's spend so much time and effort of appearing on the first results in search.

But maybe we have to start thinking about how easy it is to be findable in the inbox of your customers. Everybody now has a spam-email where all the campaign emails enter. Your email will probably end there together with literally thousands of other emails. To be found there when your client is ready to use the email to find your site might require a different approach then sending your daily 'best offers' email. Maybe it's time to start a new sort of internet marketing. Email Search Optimization.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Transactional vs. Promotional Emails by Dolce Gusto

This week I came across this presentation by the Silverpop, experts in Email Marketing. They argue that transactional emails, like confirmation emails of orders or registrations, are pretty badly used by companies. They don't seem to get a lot of the attention, even though they are highly read and appreciated by clients.

This is especially surprising since companies invest so much resources and money into promotional campaign emails. These are the emails that announces offers or new products or try make you buy your mom flowers for Mother's Day.

Have a look at Silverpop's presentation, before I show you a case-study below.
Transactional Email Best Practices
(View more presentations from Silverpop here)

Case Study: Dolce Gusto

I found this example of the above discussed when I was buying coffee on the e-commerce of Dolce Gusto by Nescafé. We have this coffee machine at home and I wanted to order some capsules.

Here's an example of a campaign email by Dolce Gusto. Click on it to enlarge.
As you can see, the email has a nice design. You can see they have put some thought and resources in it:
  • The branding is clear and recognizable.
  • The message is personalized ('Hola Stefaan').
  • It comes with a nice promotion.
  • It's got a strong call-to-action button.
  • The message expresses urgency ('Only today' / 'Sólo hoy').
  • 3 advantages of on-line buying are highlighted.

It's not the best promotional email, though: I don't tend to spend much attention to promotional emails, and since the promotion is only in the text, I confess I missed out of it until I retrieved it for this post.

Now here's the transactional email I received when placing my order. Click on it to enlarge.

As you can see, there is a big difference with the campaign email. Dolce Gusto's transactional email has a couple of flaws.
  • The email is text only. That shouldn't be an issue but becasue of this, the email doesn't have a recognizable branding or logo.
  • The title is not correct: it says 'Order of confirmation' instead of 'Confirmation of order'.
  • The email askes me to revise the order and in case of any error it invites me to enter to my profile and change it or give Dolce Gusto a call. However, it doesn't have a link to my profile, it doesn't tell me until when I can update my order or what telephone I have to call to.
  • It doesn't tell me when my order will arrive, which would be nice for a confirmation email.
  • The promotional email tells us about a Return Policy, but the transaction email doesn't say anything about it. 

¿Missed chance? 

Apart from the flaws mentioned above, Doce Gusto doesn't seem to take advantage of the opportunity this confirmation email gives them. As an active client, I can tell that I looked with more attention to this email than to all the promotional ones combined, so Nescafé could make a lot more out of it.

Here are some ideas for Dolce Gusto's Transactional Email:

Voice of Customer
  • Ask your client to rate his experience.
  • Ask what would help your client to spend more on your site.
  • Ask what new flavours or other products he'd like to try out.

Anticipate on questions by clients
  • Link to his profile where he can amend his order.
  • Tell the client if and how he can track his order.

Tell a friend

  • Ask your client to tell his friends on facebook, or to share his experience on twitter.

Keep in touch
  • Ask your client to follow on facebook or twitter.
  • Aks your client to update his profile, so you know where to find him for other occasions.

Sell more
There are all sorts of possibilities for selling more in these transaction emails. In this case, I ordered about 70 coffees just so i didn't have to pay shipping costs. This means I probably won't be buying again for a while. Unless, of course, you give me some sort of incentive to buy earlier. For instance: free shipping if I order in the next 3 weeks.

The funny thing is: it doesn't stop here. Dolce Gusto sent me a third email, and a second transactional email, the confirmation of the shipping. Click on it to enlarge the image.

It's a pretty good transactional email for the following reasons:

  • It has a good design, nicely readable.
  • It includes relevant information about the delivery of my order
  • It includes the indications for a tracking system of my order.
  • It gives a phone number and a link to a web-form for questions.

The email doesn't do anything outside the ordinary transaction email, but still: it's a nice email.

Why so diffent?

It's a mystery to me why I receive these 3 emails from different accounts (, and and why they are so different in approach. Just like Silverpop point out in their presentation, I guess the problem is that different departments are in charge of these emails: the promotional email looks very Marketing & Sales, the order-confirmation email is probably from the IT department and the shipping-confirmation will be responsibility of Delivery & Support.

There is another reason that makes me think that different departments are in charge. On the same day I received my order, I got a promotional email telling me that only for ordering that day I would receive 3 free samples. I ordered just 3 days too early, and didn't get this promotion! What an epic fail: for this promotion, Dolce Gusto could have filtered out the clients who recently ordered. Or they could have send me the samples anyway, knowing that I would probably be not very pleased.

Anyhow, time for a coffee now.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Just Launched: Objetivo Graffiti

Great news: this weekend we've launched our new website, Objetivo Graffiti, representing a collection of all the graffiti Frida has been photografing since we've been living here in Lavapiés, Madrid almost 2 years ago.

The site is built with, which is quick and easy to set-up a visual attractive site. We've used a HTML5 template, which is, of course, pretty cool - all credit to Wix. There are some limitations though, especially for Analytics and SEO, issues that would be nice if Wix could get a solution for.

You' can have a look here:

We've also launched a Facebook Page for updates, new material and your feedback. You're very welcome to follow us here.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Crazy Egg: Great 404 Page

In essence, you can define the web as a set of links. When surfing the web, every know and then you come across a page which is not correctly linked or doesn't exist at all. In that case, you'll get to see a 404-error page.

A 404 page is the equivalent of ordering a tuna salad in a restaurant and you get to hear from the waiter that their out of tuna. At best, the waiter will apologise and give other options, perhaps telling what other people might have liked. At worst, the waiter will say: 'We don't have Tuna', and walk away.

This is a bad way to design a 404 page: it says 'No Tuna today' and leaves it at that.

A 404 page is an opportunity to turn a bad experience (the page that doesn't exist) and make it into a positive experience: don't let the visitor just go away. The visitor might have cost you money, so you need to take care of him.

In this great article, Crazy Egg, which sells a Usability Tool, gives some good advise on how to design a great 404-page. Have a look at it if you want to see some good advise.

What is even greater is that they have a really cook 404-page themselves: it's from their blog, The Daily Egg. They don't only write about good 404 pages, they also deliver on what they recommend, which is a great way to gain trust.

Here it is:

Click image to see in full size

It does various things very good:  

Taking the customer/visitor serious: comparing to the above example of the standard, you can tell there has been put some time, thought and design into this page. That creates confidence.

Humour: a smart way to say 'Sorry, the page you try to find doesn't exist' is using humour. Since the blog is called 'The Daily Egg', the humour of telling that the Egg was mislaid uses a nice quirk to explain what is basically a tecnical error.

Search-box: including a tool in which you can search the site is like the waiter who has to tell they ran out of tuna, who gives you back the menu so you can have a second look to see what elso you might like.

Recomended links: apart from the search box, telling what other people might have liked gives new options to your visitor.

Call-to-action: a very smart move of Crazy Egg is to use the 404 page to include a button for a free tial of their product. 

On their coporate site, Crazy Egg uses a different 404 page, which is maybe not as funny, but still pretty good:

Click image to see in full size

Would you change this 404-page or is it good enough?

Saturday, 31 March 2012

YouTube EarthHour Campaign

Today is Earth Hour day: at 8h30 everybody is invited to switch off al electricity to create awareness about using energy in our daily lives and how we need to deal respectfully with our environment.

YouTube is helping the initiative with a nice and very Google-like campaign.

First of all they have a light bulb next to their logo today, linking to the Earth Hour page:

Even nicer is the light switch you get to see next to the video you are playing on YouTube:

Here you can see it more clearly:

And when you click on the switch, YouTube turns down the lights on their page:

Nice campaign. And please use all energy-sources thoughtfully.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


Today Internet is protesting against 2 Acts that the American government is trying to pass. The acts are designed to fight Piracy (which I think is a good thing) but it is designed in a way that might affect the foundations of Internet and how information is used and shared these days (which I think would mean a great loss).

More info on the wikipedia page here.

Some of the protest are actually creative beauties, like this one from the OpenDNS Guide: Search results get blacked-out partially, as a protest to the censorship-effects the acts may have when passed through.
The search results actually work and are clickable, so 100% Internet. Just that part of the results are hampered in sight, just as the Acts will be doing.

Monday, 9 January 2012

This was 2011: the new black comes in herds

A very quick review of 2011, now that 2012 is well under its way.

In 2011 I kept working in online marketing and e-commerce, now back on the client side. E-commerce is by far the most exciting branch of online marketing and it was good fun.

Less for more
Working client side, you get to see a lot of sales-people of all sorts. They always come in herds: when you get a call from one service or provider, you're bound to get to speak to one of its competitor really soon.
In 2011 the biggest herd of sales-people came asking for promotions. Deals and coupons, they came in every kind of form. In my opinion, the mere existence of a promotion can't justify a platform, and we've trialed with many sites who got the promotion, but didn't give us the sales promised.

Old is the new black
A lot of new services were launched in 2011. They always tend to look good and flashy, but they tend to take a hard time to deliver. An example was Google Shopping, an online directory of products. Brands and shops can upload their catalogue and clients can check online availability and prices. We went live pretty quick. But no sales. Bugger. Just because it's new and promising doesn't make it work. Sometimes it's not bad to remember that old-fashioned stuff like email still give very good results: old is the new black!

Amazon Spain
Amazon launched in Spain in Septembre. That's not world-shoking news, but boy do I enjoy buying with them.

Fiends & Privacy
From time to time friends complained about privacy in 2011, almost every time related to Facebook. I always think that's a bit weird: Facebook is among the most transparent websites on privacy and it gives control back to the user. Google is far worse on privacy, but it's not perceived that way.

The most telling story about this was when a friend of ours told that she was shutting down her Facebook account: she didn't want to give personal information to a company who makes money out of it. Fair enough, but it was a bit ironically when she told us we could still call her (on a number from a company who holds track of every call she makes, to who shee call, for how long she calls,... not to mention that her phone company could be listening to her calls) or reach her on her gmail (being a product of Google, the company that knows a little more stuff about us then just our birtday's and some status updates).

Privacy online is easy: if you don't want it to come back at you, don't publish it. 

The on-line wedding
Personally one of my favourite moments of the year was our marriage. Nice to see that internet also had a great part in it: we found a nice dress from an Israelian designer and a wedding ring (the precious, pictured on the right) from a goldsmith in Florida. We also planned our honeymoon using our smartphone and using handy apps.

Also funny to see in 2011: in only 6 months, all our friends choose a smartphone. 5 years ago, herds of sales people told me it was going to be the 'year of mobile'. Personally I missed it back then, and now that I have a smartphone, it looks like everything still needs to be done.

So what will be the new black in 2012?

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

My Tag Cloud for SEO in 2011

It's nice to see that also in 2011 most of the traffic to my blog has come from organic search results. It looks like there is some relevance in what I write.

Just as in 2010, I've used Wordl to see what people have been looking for most, before coming to my blog.

Here is my little SEO Tag-Cloud 2011:

There a couple of new keywords which generate traffic, and the ones from 2010 are still there. Also nice to see that the strategy of including 'Avinash' in the title of one of my posts paid off: it provided for quite some traffic.

Here is my SEO Tag Cloud of 2010:

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year 2012

I'd like to wish all of you a very happy new year.

Since 2010, my wife and I have been taking a picture every day from our balcony in Madrid, Embajadores 35. The view is very nice, looking over the San Cayetano & Lorenzo church. The first months that we lived here in 2010, I got caught up with the changing of the threes and wanted to capture the changing of the seasons. So we started taking pictures, one every day, for a year long. You remember Harvey Keitel in the film 'Smoke'? Well it's just like that: one picture every day.

We've now made a video of the pictures of last year.

Hope you enjoy it and hope 2012 makes for some nice views for every one of you. 

Oh, did I forget to say: Titles are in Spanish.

You can also see the video here:

And you can follow the project here:

We have a facebook page; you can see a widget on the right hand side of this blog.

Hope to hear from you this year!