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Keeping up with all of the interesting content shared by the people we follow is an impossible challenge. But that doesn’t stop us from trying. It’s easy for the good stuff to get lost in the crowd, so here are a few of the pieces that have us thinking, talking, and sharing.

For Impatient Web Users, an Eye Blink Is Just Too Long to Wait
by Steve Lohr, The New York Times

We all hate waiting for websites to load. According to Google, if a website is slower than a competitor’s site by more than 250 milliseconds – less than the blink of an eye – people visit the slower site less often. And if an online video stalls while loading, four out of five people will click away. On smartphones, sites take nine seconds to load, on average – compared to three and a half seconds on PCs in the US.

Takeaway: Consumers will keep demanding speedier responses across every device. Soon, they won’t be willing to wait longer for a page to load on a phone or tablet than they’d wait on a computer. Take steps to quicken your site’s loading time across devices. This demand for speed isn’t restricted to website load times, either. Strive to deliver what your customers want faster by shortening your customer service response time, product shipments, point-of-sale wait times, etc.

Five Things to Take Away from this Year’s SXSW
by Brad Stone, Bloomberg Businessweek

Thousands of startups, big brands, and social media elite gathered in our hometown of Austin this week for South by Southwest Interactive. Brad summarizes some of the conference’s top stories: there’s always a newer “next big thing,” SXSW popularity doesn’t always equal success, and big brands and old media want in on social’s perks.

Takeaway: Chatter around our office among SXSWi-goers has been about “Big Data” – the massive amounts of data people are creating in digital, and the (infinite?) potential business uses for this knowledge. This data theme permeated presentations and conversations at SXSWi. As one commenter on the article put it, “It was clear that this next year’s interactive breakthroughs will not be hardware or apps. It’s what we can do with data.”

The Effect of Mobile on the Path to Purchase
eMarketer

Twenty-nine percent of smartphone owners use theirs for shopping – but don’t necessarily buy via mobile. Most often they’re comparing prices (38%), browsing products (38%), and reading reviews (32%). People who used their phone for 2011 holiday shopping ended up buying across channels – in stores (46%), via mobile (41%), and online (37%). “Consumers are way ahead of retailers in terms of their investment in mobile and how that plays into the purchase process,” says Google’s industry director for retail, Todd Pollak.

Takeaway: Mobile plays a role in shopping, no matter where the consumer eventually buys. Don’t focus solely on selling in your mobile experience. Make it simple for mobile browsers to locate your nearest store and check that the product they want is available. Include tools for shoppers in the aisles, like barcode scanners that lead to product reviews and more information.

5 display advertising metrics you should know
by Pablo Cohan, iMedia Connection

Display advertisers rely mostly on click-through rates (CTRs) to gauge their ads’ effectiveness, but research shows that ads can be effective even at low CTRs. Pablo encourages businesses to consider other metrics to judge ads: reach, engagement, lift in site visits, search and display overlap, and conversions/ROI.

Takeaway: Before launching a display ad campaign, consider what action you want ads to drive. Is it important that viewers click your ad, or would you be happy to simply engage their interest? And no matter your chosen goals and metrics, consider what makes ads most effective. Additional research says consumers are more likely to respond to marketing messages that are tailored to their personal interests (26%), specific to their location (22%), or relevant to what they were doing (21%).

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The Conversation Index Volume 3