Apps, widgets and gadgets connect with your customers even when they are away from your website. Branded Web browser toolbars are similar, but they provide slightly different opportunities.
We talked to two marketers who created toolbars for their most devoted customers last year about the results they’re seeing. We found out that toolbars can reach your most loyal customers and encourage them to stay in touch while they’re browsing the Web.
Below you’ll find the steps that two marketers took to get their brands’ toolbars up and running and discover the results they’re seeing. Browser Toolbars for Power Fans
The first marketer we spoke with is Bevan Clark, Co-Founder, Stateless Systems, the parent company of RetailMeNot.com. RetailMeNot is an online coupon code aggregator where consumers can share and find coupon codes for thousands of ecommerce sites. The RetailMeNot toolbar alerts users when a site they’re visiting has coupon codes available.
We also spoke with Gary Colabuono, Marketing Director, Incredible Technologies, the makers of the Golden Tee Golf video game found in barrooms across the world. Golden Tee’s browser toolbar helps players find games in their area, update their stats, and connect to the Golden Tee online community. Step #1: Establish need
First, you must determine if a toolbar is a good fit for your brand. A toolbar works well for companies that provide information or a service that customers need regularly during their web browsing. Example #1: Requested by customers
RetailMeNot’s toolbar alerts Web surfers when they land on a site with a coupon. It is a useful way to save money for those who frequently shop online. Clark and his team decided to build the tool bar after customers requested alerts in emails, forums and on blogs, he says.
“They wanted to know when they go to a site and they’re considering making a purchase if there’s a coupon available. In the past what they used to do is they would jump on Google to find out if there was a coupon. We’ve eliminated that extra step.”
RetailMeNot’s business model is based on sales commissions from partner sites and advertising. The toolbar can boost both revenue streams by alerting customers to sales on partner sites, and by driving traffic to RetailMeNot’s homepage.Example #2: Feed fanatical fans
Golden Tee’s toolbar is not made for the casual player. Those who play regularly and compete in Golden Tee tournaments -- the serious fans -- are the ones who are most likely to use it. The toolbar provides regular access to game locations, stats and other info.
Colabuono and his team wanted to make it easier for fans to connect with the Golden Tee community and to find the game in regions across the world. And, since Incredible Technologies collects a percentage of the revenue from every game played on Golden Tee, Colabuono’s team wanted to make sure that players always know where to find a game. Step #2: Select features
Both RetailMeNot and Golden Tee’s toolbars have features to help them blend with the Web-browsing experience, and to connect users with the brands’ communities. RetailMeNot’s features include:
1. Coupon alert
2. Link to view coupons for site
3. Link to submit a coupon for site
4. New-coupons feed
5. New-forum-discussions feed
8. Local weather
The first four features connect users to RetailMeNot’s core service. The fifth connects users to RetailMeNot’s community. The last three features blend the toolbar with the users’ general browsing (the chat is not exclusive to RetailMeNot’s audience). Golden Tee’s toolbar includes:
1. Links to find a game, player stats, news, forums, a branded YouTube channel, and other Incredible Technologies websites.
2. Podcast player
5. Email notification
The links and the podcast player are intended to enable the visitors to get more information on Golden Tee, find games, and connect with the community. The last three features blend with the users’ browsing. The email notification can be set up to alert users when they receive email to their third-party accounts. Step #3: Build
Clark and Colabuono say that creating their toolbars was not difficult, time-consuming or expensive. RetailMeNot’s was built in less than a week, and Golden Tee’s took about four months. Colabuono notes that Golden Tee’s toolbar could have been created faster if the task had been their primary focus.
Both companies worked with a third party that did not charge to build the toolbars. The provider collects revenue from ads served in the toolbars’ search results. Other providers may charge for building the toolbar and share ad revenue from search results. Some may charge for creation and not include ads. (See links below for toolbar providers and resources) Step #4: Promote
RetailMeNot’s marketing primarily focuses on PR, Clark says. His team relies on the sites to spread virally, and they use PR to spread word-of-mouth. To promote the toolbar, they posted a link to download it on their homepage, mentioned it in RetailMeNot’s forum, and emailed the news of the launch to their member base.
Colabuono’s team promoted the Golden Tee Golf toolbar with:
- Link in the website “downloads” section
- In-game promotion (see creative samples)
- Mention at industry conferences
- Mention at Golden Tee events, such as tournaments
- Email to subscriber base Step #5: Tweak features
Golden Tee has a branded YouTube channel to host videos about contests, and to provide users a place to upload videos of their best in-game shots (when players make a great shot in the game, the game will ask if they want to upload it to YouTube). Colabuono’s team added a YouTube button to link to the channel in December of 2008. Step #6: Monitor the results
About 7% of GoldenTee’s monthly unique visitors have downloaded the toolbar, Colabuono says. Site traffic and sales at Golden Tee’s ecommerce site increased after the launch, but he is not able to directly attribute any of that to the toolbar, he says.
RetailMeNot.com’s monthly unique visitor counts are much larger. Although they have more regular toolbar users, they comprise a much smaller percentage of their audience. About 30% of those who have the tool bar use it every day, and users positively responded to the toolbar’s launch in RetailMeNot’s forums, Clark says.
“The average user of the toolbar sees about 50% more pages on our site than a standard user…and a toolbar user stays on our site for 50% longer…and they have a 20% lower bounce rate,” he says. Useful links related to this article:
Toolbar Creative Samples:
Special Report: Marketing with Widgets
How to Turn Subscribers into Affiliates with Widgets and Viral Marketing
Golden Tee Golf
Conduit: Helped marketers create free toolbars
Dynamic Toolbar 5: Toolbar provider
VNM Toolbar Wizard: Free