It’s a widget world these days. Amazon.com just launched widgets to let customers show off their favorite Amazon products on blogs, Web sites and social networking pages. USA Today offers online users the ability to install widgets on their blogs and personal Web pages that contain news updates and other information from the newspaper. There’s even a conference where marketers can gather to talk about the latest in widgets.
Widgets are small applications used to meet computer users’ specific needs by providing quick access to Internet sites; desktop utilities, such as to-do lists, calendars, clocks, weather, games, entertainment; and tools, such as system resource monitors or application launchers. Most widgets look like a tiny window on the user’s desktop or Web page. You might also see widgets referred to as gadgets, badges, capsules, gizmos, minis, modules, plug-ins or snippets.
Two ways that widgets work for marketers:
- Merchants can deliver offers via images, multimedia and coupons so viewers can click through to the product page and complete the transaction.
- Publishers can stream content to build brand and advertising dollars or increase paid subscriptions.
In either example, your widgets won’t go far if your brand has not already built a strong community. In short, if people who either author or patronize relevant niche blogs are not aware of your company or don’t respect your brand, you have some foundation work to do before you get serious with widgets.
“You need to have a pretty good idea of the size and shape of the blogosphere and be able to navigate your way around the most influential players,” says Adam Weinroth, Director Product Marketing, Pluck Inc. “Find the ones who are reaching your target audience and then reach out to them to start a relationship.” Widgets: The Basics
Technically, one could divide widgets into multiple categories since the term itself refers to anything that’s even hypothetically a gadget.
For our purposes, though, there are two essential types:
- Web widgets. These allow marketers to distribute product offers and information. In just a few steps, these widgets let people copy code from the marketer’s site and paste it into their blogs or Web 2.0 pages.
- Desktop widgets. These allow marketers to regularly deliver information to the user’s desktop without another Web site serving as an intermediary. While very direct, getting consumers to download them onto their computers can be tricky and they often have a short shelf life.
Despite that shorter shelf life, marketers shouldn’t ignore desktop widgets. These can be extremely successful. One of MarketingSherpa’s Viral Hall of Fame winners from 2007, Sunflower Market, used a desktop widget shaped like a potted plant to send coupons and relevant information to consumers who downloaded it for their first store in Indianapolis. The widget helped exceed opening-month sales expectations by 18%.
For retailers, Web widgets can work like more interactive versions of affiliate programs or banners. The key here is that blogs have more “association cache” -- i.e., viewer trust -- than ecommerce sites because the viewers are fans of the blogger or 2.0 persona.
So, the potential for conversions from Web widgets can be greater. Content marketers also reap from the association or trust factor, using widgets as enhanced versions of RSS feeds. Widget Use: Data Points
The numbers around widgets are exploding: In April 2007, the total US Web widget viewing audience was 72.6 million people (40.8% penetration), according to comScore, which recently launched a Widget Metrix to track widget usage. By June 2007, that number had increased to 87.1 million people (48.7% penetration).
The worldwide widget viewing audience in April 2007 was 177.8 million people (21% penetration of the worldwide online audience). In June 2007, the figure had grown to 239.3 million people (27.9% worldwide penetration).
ComScore also analyzed the top 10 widgets worldwide, finding that photo-related sites dominated the top positions, according to data collected in April 2007. Here were the top five Web widgets:
Widgets are especially popular among young people. A June 2007 study of 9- to 17-year-olds by Alloy Media + Marketing found that 20% had widgets on their profile pages on social networking sites.
Specifically to publisher sites, widgets that drive content can add value to the brand. Unless you have an extremely faithful audience, however, they also may experience short stays at blogs. For instance, according to exclusive cross-client numbers contributed by service provider Gigya Inc., each installed widget averages around 200 views before being removed from the page.
Two more data points from Gigya:
- The top 15 social network/blog platforms account for 90% of their clients’ widget installs.
- They tracked 500 million widget views per month from the hundreds of sites that they service.
It’s also worth mentioning that widgets vendors (for content or retail versions) can track all the regular key campaign metrics, such as clickthroughs, page views and sales conversions.
Hooman Radfar, CEO, Clearspring Technologies, says he has seen programs that have extended the online reach of big clients by more than 50%. “We are talking about hundreds of thousands of page views per day.” Using Widgets
To maximize a widget retail program, marketers need to recruit customers to become brand evangelists.
Three ways to get started:
o Highlight the widgets on your homepage and throughout your category pages
o Use promotions for your widget programs in your email campaigns
o Research blogs
If you’ve executed properly, before long the widgets can become virtual outposts across the Web for your online store. But it’s important to know that customers who become evangelists must believe that a company offers something distinct in terms of price, quality, functionality, etc.
It also helps if they think that the retailer understands their values, listens to them and shares their lifestyle principles. There’s also a cool factor to widget evangelism because most of the influencers in this equation and their audience will be under 40. So, you not only need to have a strong community, but it also helps if the community members are on the young side.
In terms of incentivizing the offer to bloggers who may become brand evangelists, publishers may want to consider offering a free low-level subscription to get the program started. Some publishers have found success using games in their widgets to drive clickthroughs.
“We’ve seen short quizzes work well to promote usage,” says Eyal Magen, CEO, Gigya. “The users forward the quizzes to friends. You want to include content that they will want to share with their friends.”
Here are nine more usage tactics from Pam Webber, VP Marketing, Widgetbox:
Tactic #1. While there are distinct differences between what widgets can mean to a retailer versus a content marketer, in both cases marketers MUST create an attractive value offer behind the idea to get people to post them at sites.
Tactic #2. Use your house list to create awareness during the first few weeks or months of the widgets program.
Tactic #3. Remember that widgets are evangelism tools, so hone in on who your brand preachers might be around the Web. Research the heck out of bloggers in your niche!
Tactic #4. Incentivize the offer to get them to join; perhaps use a rewards program.
Tactic #5. Hey, retailers, set up the widgets so there’s a section where the blogger can show friends what they have recently purchased from you.
Tactic #6. eBay users are continuously adapting widgets to their platforms and represent tremendous growth opportunities for the right brand. Therefore, merchandisers of all kinds would be smart to investigate possibilities on the auction site.
Tactic #7. Employ games and contests within the widget to encourage usage.
Tactic #8. “DIY widgets” are increasingly popular. Allow bloggers to personalize your widgets in the avatar sense.
Tactic #9. While allowing personalization is nice, keep the widget templates simple. Simple allows outperform complicated. “Remember that it’s not just data but a portable chunk of code wrapped in a user experience,” Webber says. “It’s something that should be easy to interact with.” Security tips
Since major portals, such as iGoogle, Live.com and Yahoo!, all offer personalized portals that use widgets and the MySpaces and Facebooks of the world are burgeoning, the phenomena is likely to result in heightened attacks by hackers, spammers and other keyboard crooks.
To avoid Widget infections, here are three tips from Finjan Inc. on what your IT people should do:
Tip #1. Refrain from using non-trusted third-party widgets. Widgets and gadgets should be treated as full-blown applications, and the use of unknown and untrusted widgets is highly discouraged.
Tip #2. Be cautious when using interactive widgets. Widgets that rely on external feeds, such as RSS, weather information, external application data, etc., may be susceptible to attacks that exploit this trust by piggybacking a malicious payload on such data.
Tip #3. Organizations should enforce a strict policy for their users on using widgets and widget engines. Since these are not considered business-critical applications, or even productivity enhancers in some cases, the use of widgets by corporate users should be limited. Additionally, blocking widget and gadget file types could be enforced at the gateway to prevent the downloading of such mini-applications to the corporate network. Widget Marketing Example #1. Karmaloop
Karmaloop has the perfect demographic of high school and college-age students as their customer base to fully exploit the potential of retail widgets in the Web 2.0 world. And, quite frankly, there's not a better existing example of a large group of evangelists who are faithfully serving a brand.
The eretailer has nearly 20,000 customers that push the brand on their MySpace, Facebook, Friendster and other social media sites and get discounts or cash when they, or someone they've referred, make a purchase. Members of what they call their "street team" upload images, photos or artwork to Karmaloop's site to make company stickers or banners other street teamers can download.
The eretailer has pitched the widgets offer across their Web site and in their emails to create the army of sales reps, while encouraging the customers to recruit other street teamers at multiple touch-points. And while less than 1% of Karmaloop's total customers are reps, their purchases and those they convert currently account for 25% of total sales.
"We've done it all in-house and have spent zero dollars on [out-sourcing]," says CEO Greg Selkoe. "The return has exceeded our highest of possible expectations. It's not going to work this way for everybody, though. You have to passionately participate with your community. You just can't sell them stuff and expect your customers to promote your brand. You need to have a culture."Widget Marketing Example #2: Due Maternity
Due Maternity recently tested a desktop widget and has already seen an ROI of more than 12.5 times. The widget allows users to receive product and relevant information at targeted times during their pregnancy.
As one example, because the user inputs her due date, a congratulatory message and coupon can be sent during her second trimester.
With a demographic of 25- to 35-year-old mothers-to-be, the widget program has given the eretailer an alternative avenue to staying in touch with their target audience. The widgets are converting at a higher clip than onsite traffic and are only 1% below email conversions. Furthermore, he believes that the medium is a growing alternative to email.
“People don’t sign up for newsletters anymore because their inboxes are so full,” says Co-Founder Albert DiPadova. “Some weeks, the widgets get a higher response than our emails. The emails typically get a 10% clickthrough rate to our customer audience. The widgets, once they are downloaded, at times get 50% that go on to the site.” Widget Example #3. The Motley Fool
The Motley Fool just wrapped up a four-month test on Web widgets to see if the features could help deliver their stock news, quotes and tips and build the brand. They promoted the program by creating a pair of humorous videos for the widgets and encouraging users to create their own.
Essentially, the videos were interspersed occasionally between stock news and quotes. With one low-key ad on the homepage promoting the effort, they got 32 bloggers to put up their widget, which helped increase site traffic.
“It’s created a win-win relationship with our consumers in that they can share content and do so in a way that adds value to their own site development,” says Sr. VP John Keeling. “It’s a way of delivering content to third parties that has low-barrier to syndication.”
Here are the monthly average clickthrough rates that the widget program saw in the test:
o June - 3.48%
o July - 3.66%
o August - 4.62%
Two other key benefits included allowing Keeling to repackage content from the site and facilitating more viral content sharing. However, he warns that widgets abuse was a problem that’s on the horizon, comparing it to a “potential [Google] AdSense.”
“As a result, we see a lot of community-oriented and blogging sites restricting the library of widgets available for embedding. I hope to see a security framework established, similar to what we have for Java applets, for example, which will address the current threats and support the objective of open widget development and publishing.”Useful links related to this article
Creative samples involving widgets:
MarketingSherpa’s Viral Hall of Fame 2007 - Sunflower Market’s desktop widget:
Industry resources -
ComScore’s Widget Metrix:
Finjan’s Web Security Reports page:
WidgetCon - annual trade event dedicated to widgets:
A sample of widget services providers -
Other sources -
The Motley Fool: