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Proven Strategies for Enhancing Online Presence and Engagement

In Conversation with Stephen Herz

For this episode of E-Coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Stephen Herz, CEO at Moonstone Interactive, a Technology & Information company located in San Ramon, CA. Stephen advocates for experimentation, urging businesses to embrace A/B testing and multivariate analysis to optimize outcomes. He highlights the transformative potential of AI while cautioning against blind trust, emphasizing the necessity of validation. Through his expertise, Stephen champions a holistic approach to digital marketing, where ROI-driven decisions and a relentless focus on customer satisfaction pave the way for sustainable success in today’s competitive landscape. Watch the episode now!

In our digital world, data is everywhere. It may seem tedious, but leveraging it can lead to better decisions and improved outcomes.

Stephen Herz
CEO at Moonstone Interactive

Hey, hi everyone. Now, welcome to your show, E-coffee with Experts. This is your host, Ranmay here. Today we have Stephen Herz, who is the CEO and President of Moonstone Interactive with us. Hey, Stephen.

Hi, how are you? Thank you for having me.

All good, Stephen. How are you?

Good.

Lovely. Stephen, before we take it forward, let’s get to know the human behind the mic. Talk us through your journey. How did you line up in the digital marketing space and how did you start Moonstone Interactive? How has been the journey so far and what Moonstone Interactive is all about?

Moonstone Interactive, starting there, and then I’ll go how I got in there. Moonstone Interactive is a company that helps businesses optimize their website presence from a business perspective. Most of our customers come to us because they have yet to be able to achieve the results they want, and we help them achieve those results by analyzing their position, giving them the right tools, and setting them up for a future.

Lovely. Stephen, given your extensive experience at Visa International, how do you think the future of global e-commerce will be shaped, particularly with the increasing focus on data-driven strategies and cross-border transactions?

If you look at the history I started in online e-commerce in this whole space in 1995 at the very beginning. We have had quite a ride from then to now and very significant improvements and very significant adoption. I believe it’s just going to continue. One of the important things, since I came from Visa, is to make sure that you’re doing business online with someone who looks for legitimate and has security on their site and has all those basic things covered so that you know that they’re a legitimate site. That’s just a personal thing that you need to pay attention to so you don’t end up somewhere you don’t want to be.

Alan, with the evolving online landscape, Stephen, we are in this dynamic of volatile industry, which keeps on changing with the Google updates and everything. How do you approach strategic planning for businesses to ensure that they stay competitive and also feature-proof?

We look at a holistic picture where we, Pell Parts lines, look at ourselves today and look toward the future based on who is looking at them, and how the market perceives them. We start with looking at Google, the 800-pound guerrilla in the SEO space, how they look at them, how Google sees them because we want to make sure that they are positioned so that they don’t have any errors, they demonstrate quality, they give Google what Google is looking for. But then we’re also wanting to look very strongly at the competition. We put it in the context of who their main competitors are and how they look relative to their competition. Then the third piece is we look at how the visitors are behaving on the site. We dig deep into looking at the behavior, where the points of friction are when the visitor is on the site, what types of visitors, and what paths or experiences lead to conversion or engagement. We put all that together and then recommend tools, meaning the website platform, the content management system, marketing, automation, and whatever is appropriate to their goals so that they can have the capability to move with the market because the market will continually change.

Consumers change, technology changes, Google changes, and everyone changes. If they have the right tools they could see those changes and the effect on their business, then they can future-proof themselves by being part of that evolutionary past and watching the impact on their presence. Does that make sense?

Absolutely Stephen. You would be speaking to a lot of businesses as an agency owner. What are some of the common mistakes that businesses make regarding the website that affect their effectiveness and hamper their objectives in terms of achieving their goals?

The two mistakes I think are common in the industry. One is, that sometimes companies do not set up their key performance indicators, their main metrics about their business, and their website and user experience. If they don’t set up the feedback to see what’s happening, then they don’t make the adjustments. So sometimes people build a website and then they cross that off and they move on. Website and the whole experience is a living thing. You have to pay attention to it Just like you would if you hired a salesperson. You pay attention to what they’re doing. Are they doing sales? Are they making calls? Whatever it is. The website’s no different. You have to pay attention to it. That’s a first mistake. The other mistake is A lot of times I see companies making decisions on price. They might say, Oh, I don’t want to get this marketing automation because it costs X amount of dollars. I think that perspective is not as good as looking at what is the return on investment. If you invest in that, how could you use that capability or tool to help your business? And what is the return on that investment?

Whether it costs a dollar or $10,000 is not the question. The question is, if I spend $10,000, are you going to make $50,000, that’s the type of question they should be asked. So the two things are not measuring, not looking at the data, and making decisions only on price, not on contribution or billing.

Absolutely. And then as a marketer, we understand that customer costs have risen, right? What are some of the effective strategies for e-commerce businesses in particular to optimize customer retention?

The thing I’d recommend most on customer retention and sales conversion and things like that is to look at the customer experience. Today, everything’s about customer experience. It always should have been, but there’s a lot of emphasis on today. In particular, in e-commerce, you have the potential to get a huge amount of data on the journey through the website. At each point you’re going through, from shopping through to paying, look at where you’re losing people, where there are points of friction, where you’re abandoned, and monitor that closely, and address those changes that are necessary. There is so much data that you can get that assess the customer’s journey. Make sure you’re getting it and make sure you follow up on that. E-commerce is just perfect for that type of analysis. We call it the funnel, the E-commerce funnel. Look at how they’re going through the funnel, where they’re falling off, figure out why, and address it, and your sales and conversion rate will go up directly. It is one of the most effective ways you can improve.

Lovely. And according to you, Stephen, what are some of the common pitfalls businesses fall into when conducting their ROI analysis? And how do you feel that they can avoid committing those mistakes?

One of the things that I think is common is that to do what I’m talking about, setting up the data, setting up the tracking, monitoring it, evaluating it, is very tedious. It’s a lot of data. You need to set it up and make sure it’s set up right in your monitoring. Quite frankly, a lot of companies are busy running their company. If they don’t have the time to do that, hire someone. Hire someone to do that, whether it’s an agency like Moonstone or whoever it is. Just hire someone to do it. It’s, yes, it’s more expensive, but then you get those insights, you can make better decisions and improve your overall conversion rate and return on this. One of the pitfalls, I think, is it is tedious and you’ve got to learn it and people don’t have time. If you don’t have time, hire someone. It would be what I recommend.

That is a nice pitch, Stephen, for all of us agencies out there.

It’s so true. I can’t say. Sometimes I talk to a little company, and they don’t do it because they don’t have time, but they still should do it. Another thing that I’d like to interject here if you don’t mind, is experimentation. When you want to make a change, or you’re introducing something new, or you’re trying to solve a problem, if you have the right tools, you can experiment. Do A/B testing, and multivariant testing, and get the behavior of your visitors to help you make the right decision for them and you. Because when you’re evaluating A versus B on a change, and you see B gives you a 30% greater conversion rate, it’s a no-brainer. But if you don’t know that, then you might make a mistake. In the industry, sometimes we say, Don’t fall into the HIPAA problem. Now, HIPAA, a lot of people don’t know what that means. What it means is that in some companies, the highest-paid individual is whose opinion drives the decision. What that means is if the CEO of a company says, I think the website should work like this, then everyone does it. That’s the opinion of one person, and it’s a very important person.

It’s a very important opinion. But if you test a thousand visitors and they say something else works better, which one should you pick? If you want conversion rate, you pick the one that’s your visitors, right?

Your CEO will thank you at the end of the day. So data in our digital world, data is everywhere. But it’s TPS, it’s minutiae, you get it, bro. But it’s there and you can make better decisions.

Absolutely. Stephen, considering today’s environment, the space that we all are in. How do you see the role of artificial intelligence evolving in the space of online marketing in particular?

I think AI is going to help improve productivity because AI can help start and help draft and help do research and things of that nature today. However, I don’t think anyone yet, maybe in the future, but not right now, should trust AI 100% because we’ve played with it and it doesn’t need to be validated. Don’t trust it.

Yeah, that’s right.

It could be embarrassing, but it can get you through a blog article or an article or whatever. It can get you there faster because it can pull information into a draft. Then make it your own. That’s what I would recommend. But it is advancing very quickly, and it adds a ton of productivity and can process a lot of data. Once you have a proven AI approach, like some of the AI recommendations that we have in the digital experience platforms we provide for our clients, it can recommend products to a customer based on behavior and be very accurate based on all the data of all the visitors and all the people and how they’re going. It can make good recommendations, but make sure you validate it before you put it out. But it will help tremendously in personalized content, personalized product recommendations, and things of that nature, and can be extremely effective.

Absolutely. Great, Stephen. Finally, any piece of advice that you want to give to our young listeners today who are trying to make a career in the digital marketing space? Or let’s say, trying to start their agency, start their entrepreneurial journey, what is that advice that you’d want to give to them?

Be open-minded. Follow the data. If you’re servicing your customer, listen to your customer. They know what they need, know what they want, and they know their business. Listen to them, and help be part of their success. We take everything we do very personally and we want to see our customers succeed.

A very important point. It is really about helping your customers.

If you are constantly making your customers better, you’re not doing any job. Lovely. Lovely. See. Lovely.

Lovely, Stephen. The very important point is there. I’m sure our audiences would have benefited a lot from the insights that you shared. Thank you, Stephen, for taking your time and doing this with us here. Appreciate it.

Thank you for having me. I appreciate the opportunity for you to provide whatever insights might be helpful to others.

Lovely, Stephen. Thank you so much.

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