Weekly Finds - Week 47, 2020

This week with Amazon reviews, CTR as a success metric, engagement, and Tik Tok's new ad model.

Weekly Finds - Week 47, 2020

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Amazon's reviews are one of their mightiest flywheels. People, including myself, even look at them when not shopping on Amazon. Recently, Amazon started to allow users to leave ratings without written reviews and state how many stars you'd give it without any further information instead. As a result, the total number of reviews increased significantly (doubled in some cases). Products on Amazon have more reviews. In my mind,  more reviews do not equal more value. First, written opinions and context of the rating are valuable. Second, users losing trust in Amazon's reviews is one of the worst things that could happen to the platform. Marketplaces are built on trust, and if brands figure out how to spam "light reviews", it might come at a high cost.

Trust is also what glues users to Google's search results. If they don't trust that the top result is really the best one, the whole value prop falls apart. "Interesting Finds" SERP Features are one of Google's ways to provide more helpful results, and they gain more visibility and clicks in the SERPs, especially on mobile. Interesting Finds push organic results further down the SERP. Upbuild ran a test on 1,500 e-commerce keywords that found roughly 30% of SERPs displaying the Feature. In conclusion, even e-commerce brands should think about Content Marketing.

SERP Features impact click-through rates, but organic search is not the only context the metric should be considered in. Any type of search or inventory interface has a CTR. Pinterested asked themselves "How do you track user engagement beyond CTR?"

In the context of ads, CTR puts platforms in front of multiple problems: position bias, clickbait, and a narrow perspective. Pinterest created a metric that weighs the engagement with the ad against the engagement with neighboring content. They measure the engagement on organic content next to paid content and grade the latter based on engagement with the former. Something to think about in the context of user experience.

Engagement is one of the key principles of Growth, also for newsletters. The Morning Brew grew its subscriber list by prioritizing engagement over list size. How? They have a dedicated onboarding email to optimize delivery. They test every subject line in four variants and send them to 3% of subscribers each before sending the winner to 88% of the remaining subscribers. And, they weed out churning subscribers (no clicks in the last 90 days or no opens in the last 18 days).

On top of that, engagement is The Morning Brew's north star: they measure a metric called HQ CAC (high-quality customer acquisition cost), which calculates the cost it takes to get an engaged subscriber, and then optimize channels for that.

Interestingly, readers who subscribe through the referral program seem to be way more engaged. The Growth team uses look-a-like audiences to target people similar to those who already referred other users.

When writing about engagement, I have to mention Tik Tok. It's a phenomenon, bringing movement into consumer platform stagnation and Google’s and Facebook’s chokehold. TikTok is a departure from old social networks based on geography, following, and shared interest - all based on engagement.

The challenge Tik Tok is figuring out is providing good ad-targeting. All businesses have to make money in the end. An opportunity might be shoppable ads, an attack on the traditional funnel: they allow customers to buy products without leaving the experience. In other words, users are not leaving the social network when buying a product. It might just be a good idea because 3rd party cookies are on the decline and privacy on the rise. It will also be interesting to see how that performs against Instagram's recently introduced shopping experience. The engagement is already up to par.