By Belinda Darling
November 12, 2012
Image is everything… I’ll explain with a small exercise. Visualize what a doctor looks like; they might be holding a tongue depressor or have a stethoscope around their neck. Now visualize an architect or a trades person. Are they holding tools or a set of plans? We all have notions about how people in these professions work, the values they hold and what they do.
Though with PR professionals, how do we visualize them? Which tools are at their disposal? The tools a PR professional has aren’t traditional; they’re complex and sometimes a little slippery to understand. We’re not that different from other professionals, we have tools in our box and we can make massive plans, but we generally call them campaigns. We are engineers of opinion and a PR professional can effectively plan and achieve your business goals with you.
Usually reserved for the corporates, public relations is finding new ground in the online space for SMB’s with blogger engagement, social media and good old traditional media placement that can help push sales in your online store. PR has the image that it’s expensive, time consuming and only practical with larger organisations, but there’s a few simple ways that small to medium business owners can use PR strategies and tactics on much smaller scales.
- Blogger Engagement
Bloggers are a new breed of journalist. They don’t have editors barking orders and them and they have huge amounts of creative freedom, sometimes bad and good. Their agenda is their own and they don’t have the same professional constraints that journalists tend to have; their audience are the moral arbitrators.
As a small business owner, don’t be afraid to contact bloggers with trials or product samples for reviews, comments and feedback. They’re passionate but generally very reasonable and open. They won’t shut you out and can provide a direct link to your online store. Alongside a rave review of your business, you could rake in the sales if they have a big enough readership.
- Social Media
The great democratizer, social media produces big results but some think it’s too unpredictable and time consuming. The great thing about social media is that it shouldn’t be any of these, it should only be 10 – 20 minutes of your day if you have a small to medium online business. They key when integrating social media into your marketing plans is simple, take the online offline and the offline online. Put ‘like’ buttons all over your website, retain customer details for mailing lists, find and add your loyal customers on Facebook and work on your relationship with them. It will help your earn return business. Check-ins also help build awareness around your business, especially when you incentivize it.
- Traditional Media
Got an interesting story to share about your business? Hit local publications with unique stories and never underestimate the power of a local focus. Make sure the story demonstrates your business values. How did you get your business name? How did the business start? When did your passion for ethically sourced coffee beans begin? Tell your story and help build affinity with your readers. Make them love the story and they’ll love you. They’re local and will most likely visit your website, too!
Work on a strong relationship with journalists and they may include a link at the end of the article. They understand you’re a small business and need support. If they’re really feeling generous, a QR code with special offers would tie in amazingly! They love small businesses, because they’re mostly dealing with pushy PR people from large corporates. Your small business is a welcome and refreshing reprieve from the usual.
Use these 3 scaled down PR strategies to start working on your company image. With a small amount of time each week, you can help your business grow by demonstrating your business values and building a better connection with the public and, most importantly, your target audience.
Guest author Belinda Darling is a specialist copywriter working along side Phoebe Netto, the founder and Managing Director of Good Business Consulting, a business advisory and PR firm specializing in marketing and public relations for small business and not-for-profits.
By James Pattrick
November 12, 2012
A blog is an excellent addition to any eCommerce website but, a lot goes into running a blog. While there are services out there that take a lot of the technical tasks out of the way, there is still a lot for a blog writer to do to make sure his or her blog is a success. While the full scope of a blogger’s struggle could be written as a book (or, at the very least, as a really long series of web pages), this page can at least cover the three most important things beyond “write good content.” The three things that could really help a blog are a solid theme, SEO, and interaction with readers.
The Theme of a Blog
A blog’s theme should permeate all throughout its pages. Your theme will affect:
- Your blog posts
- Your writing style
- Additional pages with static content
- Possibly your blog’s visual style
Blogs with a clearly defined central theme more easily attract a fanbase and a strong readership. This is partially because people searching for information about a particular subject are more likely to find your page. As you develop solid content around a central topic other writers on the web may refer to your work.
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the deliberate attempt to increase the pagerank of your website for certain keywords. There are several tasks associated with SEO, including:
- Writing with high keyword density
- Setting meta data
- Acquiring links from offsite
There is much to SEO, and entire websites have been created dedicated to explaining the ins and outs of search engines and how to get your website at the top of search results. If you do not want to perform any of these tasks yourself, there are also services that will do them for you for the right price.
SEO is an art every blogger needs to know, but whether you choose to utilize it can make or break your blog’s success. Unless the blog you plan to make is private in nature, there is no reason for you not to learn more about SEO and make use of these techniques to increase the pageviews of your blog.
Interacting with Your Readers
Getting readers to your blog is not as hard as getting them to stay there. While interesting content about something they want to read about helps, nothing keeps readers around like making them feel like they are part of the site. There are many ways to interact with your readers, such as:
- Asking them to comment
- Reader submissions for blog post ideas
- Contests and giveaways, where applicable
These are stock ideas any blog can use, and we encourage you to be creative with how you interact with your readers.
Ultimately, if you stick to it and write well on something you feel passionate about, there is no reason for you not to find some measure of success with your blog. Happy blogging.
Author Bio:- James Pattrick is a freelance writer, professional blogger, and social media enthusiast. His blog BlogCarnival.com James focuses on blog Internet Service, Technology and Blogging Tips. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook.
By Susan Delly
November 8, 2012
In today’s competitive market, it’s important for your brand to be noticed and remembered, as long as it’s in a good way. The proper website can help get the attention you deserve by attracting customers, increasing revenue and putting organic, word of mouth talk out about your company. This type of website building is harder than it may seem, however, as every store will have different needs and different paths to success. Like many other features in eCommerce, everything depends on your target audience as every different set of consumers will have different needs and wants. That being said, after you determine your ideal customer grouping, there are some standard features that will help you make sure your business stands out from the rest!
- A Professional Design– Making sure your website looks good at first glance can turn a browser into a shopper and instill a sense of trust. To do this, you’ll need professionally designed templates or a web designer. One of the worst things to encounter when shopping online is a site that looks sketchy or like it was built in the Miami Vice days. If the web shop owner doesn’t care enough to keep their look and feel up-to-date… how can we trust that they are reliable and keep their security up-to-date?! One of the top reasons for a high bounce rate, shopping cart abandonment and low revenue is an ugly, untrustworthy looking site. This is an easy fix though as most hosted eCommerce solutions software offers free, built-in themes and templates that are professionally designed.
CoreCommerce eCommerce software offers many free, professionally designed themes!
- A Clean, Easy-to-Navigate Page Layout – Enough cannot be said about making sure your page has an uncomplicated layout. Products and relevant information should be easy to search for and the shopping cart check-out process should alwaysbe quick and uncomplicated. Never require registration to complete a purchase. Instead, go for an onsite, 1-page check-out system and make sure you offer many payment options; this includes all major credit cards, PayPal and even possibly, Amazon Checkout! If a shopper has a hard time finding the products they want or finds themselves in a lengthy sales process that asks too many questions, they are likely to leave your site with no sale completion.
Nexternal‘s eCommerce solution offers a unique and extremely user-friendly On-Screen shopping cart. The cart automatically totals a purchase while you shop, reducing cart abandonment.
- Sales and Promo – Who’s guilty of price shopping? And when you find a great deal on a trustworthy site, do you share it with your friends? Most people are more likely to shop and return to sites that offer good pricing and sales events. Yes, almost everyone likes a good deal and luckily, nowadays there are many ways of delivering one. You can promote coupon codes, free shipping, buy-one-get-one-free, and other incentives through outlets such as email, blogs, and social media. If you set your store up with quality and customer needs in mind, you will drive traffic to your site with the sales and promotions you offer. Once the traffic is there, a clear call to action is important to ensure easy navigation. A call to action is usually a clickable button that draws user attention and encourages them to complete an action such as BUY NOW, READ MORE or REGISTER HERE. Be sure to place them well and not overuse call of action buttons as they can make a site appear gimmicky, if used wrong.
- An Interesting Logo – Since the beginning of commerce, kings and merchants alike have used methods such as seals, cattle brands, coins, statues, and other markings, in the same way that we use them today… as name or brand recognition. Logos can provide immediate insight on what a company is about and give impressions of a brand’s style at a glance. Best of all… logos lead to product recognition in a similar way that a catchy advertising song or motto would. Because of this, it’s important to put some time into your logo and take advantage of all the branding opportunities it provides. Think about what works for your target audience and create your logo around them, with an eye on the future. We recommend that you seek professional guidance and even hire a graphic designer to create your logo. After all, it’ll prove to be a major part of your brand recognition.
Top solutions like AShop Commerce can design custom logos for your online shop. Great logos are not cheap but are 100% worth the investment as they provide your company branding.
Pulling together a website is a complicated process that can be simplified with the help of hosted eCommerce solutions software. Following these tips can help you stand out from the competition, be remembered and shared by your audience, and will put you on your way to becoming the next trend.
Get your site ready for holiday spending!
By Kelly Ford
November 5th, 2012
Smart applications of online video foster the highest levels of brand engagement and deliver on key performance marketing objectives, so the holidays are the perfect time for retailers to invest in video and leverage it across all channels, from website, to email communications, to advertising campaigns.
This upcoming holiday season eMarketer predicts online retail sales will account for nearly 25 percent of 2012 revenue, and we predict that online video will be a factor in driving that revenue. So whether you’ve been preparing your site since July or are getting ready now, these five video tips are sure to enhance holiday marketing initiatives to effectively engage customers for maximum financial impact during the most competitive shopping season.
- Ensure on-site videos are mobile/tablet compatible
Not only should all of your videos be mobile and tablet-compatible year round, it is especially crucial this holiday season as tablet-based shopping is expected to boom. Consumers will shop both on the go and from their sofas via smartphones and tablets in the coming months. And not just online – many in-store experiences are including kiosks and sales associates with tablets for consumer browsing and purchasing if items are unavailable on the floor.
- Refresh video creativity to reflect holiday seasonality
This is an opportunity to refresh your brand personality by infusing videos with new, seasonal messages that are light and deliver cheer to your customers. A great example of this is last year’s Overstock.com holiday video ad, which brings the holiday spirit to the viewer while showcasing the brand’s values, namely superior customer service.
This year, West Elm’s on-site product videos will have a seasonal theme for the holiday shopping period. Likewise, a top US family vacation destination applies seasonal creativity, too, in order to refresh their year-round video program that welcomes visitors to their vacation. Treatment includes seasonal themes such as snowfall, Santa hats, Christmas festivities, holiday CTAs “add this gift to your cart,” and the inclusion of key dates such as the last order date for timely delivery, last date for gift returns and exchanges.
- Keep video ads updated to reflect promotions and price changes
Ever-changing promotions, door-busters and time-sensitive sales are great tactics for incentivizing customers, yet can pose a challenge for brands to ensure such communications are always up-to-date. Utilizing smart, real-time video technology ensures communications reflect these changing offers. Timely videos also deliver a better user experience that ultimately increases customer loyalty and retention.
- Create personalized video recommendations for customer’s shopping list
Understand your audience and anticipate their needs this season. Videos that are personally relevant to your shoppers not only support them throughout the ecommerce experience, but also develop loyal customers who will keep coming back long after the New Year. Create your video holiday gift guides with infused personalized content to engage holiday shoppers and make your message more relevant. Smart, real-time videos can include the customer’s recent browsing behavior and products viewed, and recommend related items to recently purchased gifts.
- Create video content that supports your customers through the holidays
Video content that educates consumers during the holiday mayhem is another engaging way to drive brand loyalty. For instance, a few years ago Target partnered with YouTube and created a “Holiday Solutions” video channel that shared recipes, party tips and gift ideas. This type of video content conveys the ability to understand and cater to customer needs and interests. Take this a step further with personalization, presenting tips and ideas that are relevant to purchase history and demographics.
Luxury brands, specialty retailers and mass merchants are all embracing online video as not only a marketing tactic, but also a customer engagement tool, proven to boost sales, brand impact and loyalty. The holiday season is an ideal time to maximize the power of video, and it’s not too late to enhance your marketing initiatives with video today.
A product of both established and emerging organizations, guest author Kelly Ford is a technology marketer and optimist who has built a 18-year career on a passion for breaking new ground. She comes to SundaySky from Operative Media, where, as Senior Vice President of Marketing, she led initiatives to establish and scale the company as the leader in advertising business management, including the acquisition and integration of its primary competitor. Prior to Operative, Kelly headed marketing for LivePerson, leading go-to-market and demand generation initiatives that resulted in 85 percent revenue growth during her tenure. Kelly also previously held senior management roles at Oriel, Groove Networks (now Microsoft) and IBM.
As Vice President of Marketing at SundaySky, Kelly sets and executes strategies that build presence and pipeline, and ensure SmartVideo category leadership. Kelly received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Michigan State University.
Online payments are so convenient!
By Heather Legg
November 5, 2012
Whether a business is an online one or a physical store or business, a big benefit it can have is accepting online payments. Not all businesses start out this way, and it can be a big mistake. All businesses should really employ online payment services. Here are some reasons why:
1. It’s Easier!
Most people are foregoing the checkbook these days and opting for debit or credit card payments. Whether a store is an online business or even a physical one, online payments make it easier. It’s also very easy for a business to set it up whether they do it themselves or hire an eCommerce company to do it.
An online store needs to accept online payments or else they’ll be waiting for checks to come in and being held up their transaction. But a physical store can also benefit from the ease of online transactions. Think about businesses that have monthly payments coming in, whether it’s a pest control business, utility company, or a dance school. It will be much easier for them if they just set up online payment services for their customers. Other businesses that have monthly bills can do the same.
2. It’s Reliable
Everyone is familiar with the term, “The check’s in the mail,” but it seems too often they the check never actually shows up. With online payments, there’s no more waiting around for a check to come in. There is also a clear record of payments. This works in both the business owner’s and the customer’s favor. No more lost payments from either end.
This works for the customer and the business!
3. Better Recordkeeping and Cost-Cutting
If there is a payment issue, it is a lot easier to resolve with online payments. Not only is it easier for the business owner to keep track of payments, but the customer can also check to make sure payments have gone through. Happier customers make for better business!
It also allows the business to cut costs by omitting sending out paper bills through the mail and physically entering payments into a system, which is a costly, time-consuming part of business. With online payments, this is all cut out, freeing up more time and money for other aspects of the company.
4. Choices and Options Are Still Available
Some businesses heading in this direction are providing options for online payments. Some are doing automatic billing, such as membership places like gyms or businesses that offer lessons or services that are a consistent price each month or annually. Some offer the option of non-automatic payments so the customer still has the control over the payment, but it can be done online all the same. This makes it convenient, again, for the business owner as well as the customer.
5. Provides Payment Options Around the Clock
With online payment options, worries of late payments can be forgotten. Payments, even non-automatic ones, can be made at midnight or any time other of day. Usually these online payments clear much faster than waiting on a check and physically depositing it. Not only can the payments be made at any time, but that also means that the money is in the business owner’s pocket faster.
With so many aspects of business going online, the financial end should be one of them. Most businesses already advertise online and have some sort of online presence, even if they are a primarily physical business. It’s easy enough to add online payments to this, and things will only get easier and more profitable.
Guest author Heather Legg is a blogger who writes about Internet safety, online shopping, and the many advantages of businesses that accept credit cards.
By Nicolas Fincher
October 31, 2012
Getting Mobile-Ready – Being Sleek or Being Smart
Only a few years ago, mobile gadgets like smartphones, iDevices and tablet PCs were the signs of eminence – because of their rather high price, only well-off people could afford these technological advancements. However, as a natural matter of progress, today’s mobile devices have lost their value and become standard attributes of our everyday life. Many families even have a device for every member, including children.
These changes reflect the current tendencies in the m-commerce and mobile stores, turning them from fashion trends into urgent necessity. Originally, many online business owners created mobile versions for their web stores in order to stand out from the crowd and be on the cutting edge of the latest trends. Today however, as you’ve probably noticed, clients are getting more and more addicted to their smartphones, iPhones, iPads, etc. They use their mobile devices for the great variety of purposes, including online shopping. This makes m-commerce a necessity.
Many modern shoppers appreciate (and almost expect) the opportunity to visit web stores and make necessary purchases while they are on-the-go, without being tied down to their home or office computers. Most online stores admit that their mobile traffic makes a significant contribution to the overall traffic they get on a daily basis, and this volume is increasing every single day. Moreover, some online ventures confess that before going mobile-ready, they had received many complaints saying that their websites needed mobile versions.
Nowadays, it has become imperative to make your e-commerce website mobile-friendly and provide your visitors with an ultimate shopping experience from their smartphones and iDevices. Otherwise, there may be a high chance for your web store to be viewed as outdated and it will be increasingly difficult to gain and retain a competitive edge on the modern market.
Various media sources report that today’s m-commerce market is progressive commerce and is growing every single day. In other words, we have entered a so-called mobile-tablet era. While getting more powerful and functional, modern mobile devices and tablet PCs provide users with a much more convenient and improved web surfing experience, including online shopping, and thus deliver online business owners new, remarkable opportunities to improve brand awareness and increase sales.
No doubt, getting a mobile-optimized web store version is no longer a fashion tribute, but rather an urgent need for every online venture aimed to grow, expand and succeed on the modern highly-competitive Web market. Let’s sum up the most crucial advantages of having a mobile presence:
- Be more available to modern, on-the-go markets.
- Stay on top of the latest e-commerce trends.
- Increase your overall traffic rates.
- Attract more prospects with additional accessibility.
- Show your visitors that you’re a customer-oriented business.
Mobile Applications vs. Mobile Websites
Do you wonder what the best way to go mobile is? There are two basic concepts for establishing a mobile presence; you can download and install a mobile application for web store browsing or you can make sure your e-commerce website is optimized for a full-fledged mobile experience.
At first glance, the download and installation requirements for mobile applications may impose a sort of barrier between your visitors and your website. However, there are certain market niches and cases where this necessity really makes sense. For example, interactive e-commerce projects (e.g. web gaming portals), complicated sets of data that need manipulation, and anything that would like to function without internet connections are best through mobile apps.
Mobile websites may not be best for the specific markets above but they’re perfect if you want a website that is instantly available, without any download requirement. They are also easier to maintain, update, share and… they cost less. Any website can eventually be turned into an application so, in many cases, it may be best to start here.
Luckily, today there are plenty of powerful and efficient programs and applications you can take advantage of to make your online store mobile-ready for viewing and shopping. Take your time to choose the optimal solution for your business and establish an ultimate, multifunctional mobile presence for your web store
Guest author Nicolas Fincher is a community and marketing manager at CS-Cart, an established company specializing in online shopping cart systems.
By Sam Allen
October 29, 2012
SEO can be a cut throat industry which is full of so-called experts and gurus who will guarantee you 1st place rankings in Google. Arrrrrr!!
Picking a bad agency can have dire effects which can even result in your whole site getting banned from Google. But don’t let this put you off- there are good agencies afloat and business to plunder in the great Google ocean!
Over the years I have seen the good and bad when it comes to SEO but hopefully I can pass some of what I have learned on to you to help you recognise the tell-tale signs of a good (or bad) agency!
- In-house monitoring
Firstly you need someone in-house that is willing to monitor the SEO campaign your agency is conducting. This person should have a dedicated amount of time each month to keep track of results and the campaign progress. The in-house person should organise regular communication with the SEO agency so nothing is lost in the abyss.
- Learn the SEO basics
It helps if the in-house team member managing the campaign understands the SEO basics. They won’t just be able to learn this in a day but having a simple take on how Google works can make the whole process a lot smoother. You can find some easy to understand guides and resources at the Search Engine Journal. It would also be valuable to keep in the loop of SEO developments and the ever-changing Google algorithm. Search Engine Roundtable is a great site for this.
- Understand analytics
It is a must that the in-house person monitoring the campaign understands basic analytics which will show all the important traffic and sales information for your site. The most common analytics software is Google Analytics which is a free web based service. There are online training sessions but if you would prefer there are lots of companies offering paid training courses.
- Don’t trust agencies that guarantee 1st place rankings
No one can do this (except probably Google). If this is one of their main selling points, alarm bells should start ringing. There are standard processes to go through when getting a site to rank in Google but there is also a lot of educated guesswork and each site is different.
- Ignore pricing packages
You can tell alot about an agency by the way they set out their pricing structure. I would stay away from agencies that use pricing packages or mention any of the following “bronze, silver or gold package”; “ you will get 100 comment links, 50 social bookmarks, 20 directory links a month” or “10 pages costs xx, 20 pages cost xx”. Pricing a SEO campaign should depend on how competitive your industry is or your sites’ current condition. For example, promoting t-shirts or sex toys will be a lot more competitive than a local hotel or restaurant.
- Ask for examples
Ask to see previous work. This is not a foolproof way to see how good an agency is but if they can’t show you any previous results you can rule them out.
- Do they make you feel confident?
How well does the agency respond to your questions or explain campaign results? If they don’t sound confident in their own response it could because they are unsure themselves. But you can’t expect them to know everything so give them a chance to investigate and respond.
- Try a test campaign
Don’t sign up for a full 12 month contract - try a test campaign. SEO can’t be achieved in the short term but you can sign up for a 4-6 month campaign and review before signing your life away.
- Don’t be impressed by keyphrases with no value
Have you ever heard something similar to “Hey we have just achieved some amazing results you now rank number one for [blue with white stripe t-shirt in los angeles] how good are we!” This phrase has no value because no one will use it when searching Google. You can use the Google Keyword Tool to review phrases but it’s not 100% accurate and you need to understand the different settings such as exact match. It’s also important you don’t focus on volume and instead focus on quality and relevance.
- Quality not quantity
Getting “500 visits a day” or “ranking for these 30 phrases in Google” sounds good but is it doing anything for you? Don’t focus on number of visits or number of ranking phrases, focus on the number of conversions whether it be making an enquiry, viewing the contact page, downloading a brochure, signing up for a newsletter etc. These are the most important things, so that’s what you want to increase! But you must take into account that a bad website can affect conversions which an SEO agency can’t help.
- Look out for SEO techniques that could put you at risk
Cloaking, Link networks, paid links, deceiving search engines, link exchanges and hiding text are all things you should be looking out for. They can seriously hurt your website and get you banned from Google. If it sounds sneaky or dodgy then it’s probably bad news.
- Complete Transparency
Your agency should be sharing all the information on your campaign with you. If they are deliberately hiding things it could trouble. There is no reason why an SEO agency should be hiding anything from a client.
- Full Campaign Reporting
SEO agencies should supply easy to understand monthly reports. Which includes traffic and goal conversion stats as well as explanation of activity. If you only get supplied with a sheet of rankings, this is not good enough!
I hope this guide helps you in your hunt for success in Google. It’s important to remember there are lots of good agencies out there if you know what to look for. Never forget to go with your gut instinct – if they seem too good to be true it’s often the case!
Guest author Sam Allen is the search manager at Zeta, a company which specialises in SEO services. If you have any questions you can ask Sam through Twitter.
By Diana Maria
October 22, 2012
Infographics outline the opportunities for global e-commerce. In recent hard days of the economic recession, e-commerce was still one of the biggest sources of trade for many countries. Next year is set to be a turning-point with the highest predicted growth through e-commerce in six nations; Brazil, Russia, China, Italy, France and India.
What are infographics and what do they do?
Infographics give people visual figures of data, information and facts on a variety of subjects. Many are drawn to infographics in our day-to-day readings for their ease-of-use. For instance, newspapers publish weather information and other pertinent statistical data using infographics. There are also modern maps that give routes as transit information, using infographics. In a nutshell, infographics provide complex information quickly and clearly by using shapes, signs, maps, technical writing and journalism to help the reader take in information and make decisions.
Infographics in relation to e-commerce
Infographics are the newest trend in information sharing. In the past years, retailers of several leading nations have begun targeting overseas markets with great success, using infographics to appeal to an international audience. Due to the slow economy at home, the foreign retailers use overseas markets as potential new places for on-line retailing. Infographics also play an important role in foreign sales by informing the retailers about the potential of the overseas by reporting the average online spending of foreign buyers. This helps retailers make decisions and focus on new markets.
Infographics can help predict future needs
When infographics data is laid out in the proper manner, it can help e-merchants set and achieve business goals based on past performance and future expectations. Online retailing is already considered an effective medium and is tremendously successful for achieving business goals but it’s potential is not yet fully recognized by many small entrepreneurs and retailers across the world.
Infographics help in distribution of information
When you have great amounts of information that you’d like to get across but don’t want to write a boring article, infographics can get your point across in a more fun manner. For example, they can be used instead of boring graphs to tell a retailer about the purchase behavior of people and what their target audience would be interested in buying. Infographics give accurate graphic data about the most boring details and make them fun. Their look and delivery of information can tell a lot about the brand behind them as well as the market they’re projecting for. Demographics, habits and consumption patterns of people are all taken in at a glance with these graphic tools and people enjoy their simplicity.
E-commerce is emerging slowly as the future of global trading and infographics are helping that trend by being easy to understand across international markets. Distance and languages are quickly becoming unimportant as the need for accurate and easy-to-understand research grows. Infographics are the perfect tool for global trading. In fact, this article would have been better… in an infographic form!
Guest author Diana Maria is a freelance content writer and a blogger with over 2 years’ experience. She consults at Devrover.com and can be found designing web apps prototypes.
By the ZippyCart content team
October 26, 2012
We need a volunteer! ZippyCart and GetVero, an event-driven marketing company, are teaming up to collect information on behavioral marketing and lifecycle emails. We are looking for an interested ZippyCart eCommerce News Blog reader who would like to take part in the free study. If you own an online business that has multiple product streams that could be upgraded or repurchased every 12 months or less, please either comment with a contact email to express interest or contact the ZippyCart or GetVero team personally.
A case study: customer lifecycle emails and how they can work for you
By Chris Hexton, co-founder of GetVero.com
When it comes to lifecycle marketing, you are missing the sweet spot.
Most online stores are pretty savvy when it comes to sending weekly or monthly newsletters but ignore other, more powerful opportunities, to use email marketing effectively. Mastering the art of lifecycle emails will put you squarely in the sweet spot and ahead of your competitors.
Lifecycle emails are merely emails that are triggered by a customer’s individual actions. The world’s best online businesses use these emails to increase their sales by as much as 15%. They’re extremely effective – on average an email newsletter, such as ‘Father’s Day Specials’, will have an open rate of 20%. Contrast this with lifecycle emails which have an open rate of as much as 50%.
That means lifecycle emails are often 100% more effective than email newsletters!
Better yet, lifecycle emails are ‘set and forget’. These days you can use software to analyze your customers’ behavior and automatically send the right email at the right time. Taking a few hours or days to set up quality campaigns will increase your sales permanently – that’s powerful thinking.
The tough part, when it comes to lifecycle marketing, is knowing which campaigns work. We’ve put together two proven campaigns, along with two real-world examples from an individual case study, which you can implement immediately. These alone will get you off to a flying start.
1. Newsletter Remarketing
80%+ of the emails that arrive in my inbox from online retailers feature deals that are ‘only available for a limited time’. It’s no secret that these emails work. Stores send these emails every couple of weeks because they make a lot of money.
Newsletter remarketing is a new tactic that lets you increase the effectiveness of your offer newsletters by retargeting customers who interact with the initial email with a targeted, personalized follow-up email. Although similar to display remarketing, which uses online banner ads to target customers, email remarketing is up to 5 times as cost effective.
How does it work?
The trick to understanding newsletter remarketing is the buyer’s journey. What you’ll be tracking is which customers receive your special offer newsletter and use it to click through and browse your site. When a customer interacts in this manner, it is an indication that they are well into the buyers’ journey, are considering different product options and attempting to rationalize a purchase.
Based on this knowledge, tracking these interactions and sending a personalized reminder email just before your special offer expires is really powerful.
As a savvy store owner, implementing these campaigns yourself is a great place to start. They’re easy to get going as they work with the email marketing you already do and they can be automated to run every time you send a special offer, meaning you’ll get a great return on investment for the time spent setting these up.
The results of this campaign will generally lift your e-commerce newsletter effectiveness by 20-50%.
Personalized reminders can greatly increase the results of your remarketing campaigns!
2. Product Lifecycle Campaigns
Product lifecycle remarketing campaigns work best for stores that sell products which can be upgraded or re-purchased every 12 months
Fortunately, this works well for most e-commerce stores on the web, including stores selling clothes, electronics, books, music, etc. In all of these markets customers generally buy products regularly.
How does it work?
Product lifecycle marketing involves tracking your customers’ purchases and automatically sending them an update email when a product line is refreshed or updated.
A quick example – if I buy two men’s long sleeve dress shirts today, there is a good chance that I will want to buy more shirts from the same brand in 9-12 months (dress shirts are a staple for men who work in an office environment). Using this knowledge I can setup an email that is sent in 12 months to everyone who previously purchased men’s shirts by brand X. This prompts the customer to consider the new purchase and is very effective at driving return sales.
The alternative is to take your previous order history, break it down into common product categories and use this in conjunction with email marketing software. In doing this, you could send email marketing updates at relevant times to drive repeat sales.
The above two campaigns are very practical introductions to the world of lifecycle email marketing. Although it could seem daunting at first, once you setup these campaigns you will quickly see the permanent effect they will have on your sales. Top online retailers are beginning to embrace these strategies and, as cloud software advances, it is now easy enough for any online store to setup.
By keeping your lifecycle emails straightforward and by isolating tests you can continue to optimize your campaigns until they really move the needle on your sales!
If you have any questions or want more details, please leave a note in the comments as I’d love to answer your questions.
Chris Hexton is one of the guys behind Vero, a behavioral marketing product. He spends each day helping customers make more money by conducting better email marketing. When not working he loves to read and play his guitar. You can follow him on Twitter via @chexton.
By the ZippyCart Content Team
October 24, 2012
Occasionally the team here at ZippyCart come across a specific strategy that we really feel will help our eMerchant readers bring more success to their online store. This is one such an example. It is a conference call with ShoppingCartElite
‘s owner Igor Soshkin and one of his clients; they are discussing the importance of increasing conversion rates and touching on issues like paying for advertising but not getting much from the investment.
To begin, a bit of history from Soshkin…
In 2001, I started my first ecommerce business, and for the next decade I went through the school of hard knocks. It took me four years to break into my first million in sales, and it took me a decade to understand how to do it over and over again with very little risk and without losing any money while doing it.
I get this told me to a lot, “I am not making any sales”, or “I am not making enough sales to make this worth it”, or “I need more traffic”, or “Why is my business not successful”.
Every time, when I review the clients website and try to answer that question, I get overwhelmed at how much information I would need to tell them.
So this time, I had a good client of mine tell me that his sales are not good enough to keep spending time on his website and I decided to really dig deep into “WHY” and record the meeting with this client.
If you are not making at least one million and up in sales annually, you are not implementing the majority of the strategies that your ecommerce website needs. If you are barely making any sales, you are probably not implementing any of the strategies that I explain in the video.
I dare you to stop what your doing, and watch the conference call I had with this client to really understand the big picture behind your business. It is your business and your life on the line. The meeting is 50 minutes long and I split it into two videos.
Again YOU MUST WATCH THIS if you want to succeed, and more importantly you must do what I explain in the video.
FIRST CONFERENCE CALL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZ9r3wvNuC0
By Jordan Foutz, eCom expert of PinnacleCart.com
October 22, 2012
In the realm of eCommerce software there are two basic options to decide between: lease a hosted solution or purchase the licensed version. For those that don’t know, licensed shopping cart users pay a one-time fee to “license” the software and then install it on a web server so they can run their store. With hosted solutions, the online merchant pays a monthly fee for both the software and the hosting environment it resides in. Every business is unique in its needs so our goal to help you decide which version is better for your online store.
There are positives and negatives to both solutions; today we’re going to look at both to help you better understand what solution works best for you.
First let’s look at the advantages a licensed solution provides.
- You control the hosting environment so you can customize your cart as necessary.
- You can choose when and how to keep updated with current applications and code.
- It is more portable and can be moved to hosting companies of your choice.
- You are responsible for the hosting environment. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your level of technical expertise or the level of expertise of the hosting company you select. But generally speaking, you are responsible for technical aspects of your store.
- Licensed software typically has a higher start-up cost than hosted does. This may not be the best for those just starting out but when you look at the big picture, it has a much better overall value as your only paying for the software once and will continue to use it for year.
Hosted shopping cart packages give you the following benefits:
- Reputable ecommerce solution providers will provide you a PCI compliant hosting environment, free of charge.
DO NOT consider any solution that isn’t PCI compliant.
- If you are trying to reduce costs during your first year of business, the overall costs of a hosted solution are less than the one-time fees of licensed software.
- Everything is included in a hosted set-up as the site and shopping cart are bundled together under one server. From email hosting to customer support, you’re covered. That means less troubleshooting for you!
Hosted shopping cart packages give you the following drawbacks:
- You do not have much control over the design of your store front.
- Generally speaking, you are very limited on the amount of customizations you can make to the feature set. Most hosted solutions update the software globally which can wipe out any code changes you make.
- Your business is tied into the offerings of the ecommerce provider you select. As your business grows you will need additional server space, bandwidth and more. You selected provider will control these costs and you’ll have to pay the fees they charge.
- Over time, hosted solutions never stop charging their monthly fees (and transaction fees, where applicable). To get out of monthly fees, you will need to upgrade to a licensed solution.
Both solutions have their advantages and disadvantages. Hosted eCommerce (sometimes called SaaS) are a fantastic way to start an ecommerce store. The cost of start-up is much lower, when compared to licensed solutions, and most of the technical aspects of the store are managed by the provider, allowing you to spend your time on the things that matter most, like making money. Licensed solutions provide greater freedom and flexibility, which you’ll need as business grows.
Choosing between licensed and hosted eCom software will depend on you business needs… but there may be a 3rd option!
So what should you do?
My suggestion is to use an eCommerce solution that can offer you both. Selecting a company that offers both hosted and licensed provides your business the maximum flexibility and allows your business to grow without constraint or limitations. While it’s true that most shopping cart companies fall on only offer one type of solution, either hosted or licensed, if you do your research (or use a site like zippycart.com, which does it for you ) you’ll find a couple of companies that offer both, such as Pinnacle Cart and CoreCommerce.
Remember this is a fundamental decision that could dramatically affect the outcome of your business for years to come. Make sure you plant your business in soil that will allow it to germinate and flourish and help you achieve the success and lifestyle you seek.
Prepare for holidays by strategizing for different global customs and shoppers around the world!
By Liz Elting
October 18, 2012
With the holidays quickly approaching, online businesses are strategizing now to prepare for the influx of shoppers around the world who will flood the Internet looking for the best deals. In fact, many online retailers are putting the final touches on their site codes and will launch holiday-themed landing pages before the end of October. While most retailers understand the need for optimized, consumer-facing initiatives during the holiday season, if these initiatives are in English only, those businesses will miss a huge opportunity to increase holiday revenues and build brand loyalty with consumers who either need or prefer to shop in other languages. For example, a retail site that offers Web content and product information in Spanish but provides an English-only checkout can see as much as a 90 percent drop in conversion rates. A retailer that offers in-language content and checkout options, as well as recognition of Hispanic culture or imagery can expand its conversion rates significantly.
A global message with a localized approach
E-commerce companies are faced with the challenge of reaching a wide scope of consumers with different backgrounds, cultures, and languages. Even the word “holiday” has different connotations in different parts of the world. One message can have a different meaning for different audiences. Online shoppers have choices, and they want to be exposed to content when, where, and how they want it. This is where content localization comes into play; retailers must take into consideration the culture and atmosphere in which the message is distributed in order to drive the accuracy of the message beyond language translation. To perfect localization, marketers are partnering with language service providers to reach global audiences and present relevant messages to targeted customers in key markets. In doing so, online businesses can capitalize on brand engagement and convert shoppers to buyers.
E-commerce beyond the campaign and throughout the sales lifecycle
Content translation and localization is crucial to the effectiveness of a global, online campaign, but that is just the first step. Shoppers will visit retail sites this holiday season with the expectation that they will read messaging in their native languages from the initial browsing stage until the point of checkout and even post-sale with shipping and return instructions. In-language customer support must be available via phone, online chat and email in order to create an environment as interactive and supportive as an in-person sale. Shoppers who invest the time to seek customer support are likely serious buyers, and online businesses must meet their needs in order to guarantee sales.
To ensure accuracy and proper sentence structure, make sure your translation service has the help of professionally trained people.
Translation beyond the machine
Machine translation has been a long-standing solution for converting large amounts of content into various languages in order to reach a global consumer base, but it has flaws. To get it right, machine translation needs the help of trained people who can check for context and accuracy. Not all words and phrases mean the same thing across borders. In fact, within one language, take Spanish as an example, a word or phrase can have a different meaning to people in Mexico than it does to people in Puerto Rico. A poor translation can send a negative message about your brand, encouraging online shoppers to abandon ship and shop elsewhere. Marketers need to keep the human element in mind. What message are you trying to convey, and how are members of different cultures going to perceive it? This can be addressed in a number of ways. They can present your team with suggested alternatives that will ensure a positive message in your target market.
Your holiday shopping strategy is crucial to closing your company’s revenue for the year on a strong note. According to a recent report from eMarketer, online holiday sales are expected to account for nearly a quarter of the $224.2 billion in U.S. retail e-commerce sales forecasted for 2012. With the proper strategy, preparation, and resources, e-commerce companies can capitalize on the most prosperous time of year for online retail. With so much riding on your holiday sales, it makes sense to globalize your approach and work with a language service provider to increase your customer base.
Guest author Liz Elting co-founded TransPerfect in 1992. Today, TransPerfect is the world’s largest privately held provider of language and business services with more than $300 million in revenue. The company, which continues to be owned entirely by its co-founders, operates in 70 countries with more than 2,000 employees worldwide. Elting oversees the day-to-day operations of the company, headquartered in New York City. She has earned numerous awards for her outstanding entrepreneurship, including Working Woman’s Entrepreneurial Excellence Award for Customer Service, the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and American Express and Entrepreneur’s Woman of the Year Award.
By Jessica Sanders
October 15, 2012
There are a number of ways you can go about choosing the shopping cart software that’s right for your business. From cost effectiveness to user friendly credit card processing, the most important aspect is your customer.
When looking for a successful shopping cart for your eTail storefront, you want to keep in mind two things: what you customer needs to make the purchase and what they want from your ecommerce platform in general.
Top Notch Analytics
The first step in finding customer-friendly, shopping cart software is to seek out superb analytics. While this will be great for the customer, it’s also very beneficial to you. Knowing where they come from, where they go upon reaching your site, and why they abandon the cart allows you to modify the process making it better for them.
- Keyword uses: What keywords are your customers using to find you? This gives you an idea of what they want, allowing you to give them that.
- Overall navigation: Where do they travel when on your site? Does it seem like they’re searching for something they can’t find, or clicking away when you ask for too much information?
- Why they dropped off: Many eTailers are dealing with cart abandonment – dropping off the purchasing cycle before making that purchase. Did they need more customer reviews? Were they misguided by your marketing? Find out what they need to make that purchase.
Specific Customer Needs
When it comes down to it, what your customer wants is what you should be giving them. While you can use analytics to improve your site and navigation, there are specific things you know your customers will need. Consider the following:
- Credit card options: Visa, MasterCard, Discover – do you accept all of them or just some? Do you accept payments through PayPal and Amazon Checkout? Your customers are as diverse as their purchasing methods, and your adherence to that should be a priority.
- Gift certificate use: Do you offer gift certificates? Be sure that they can be used online.
- Coupon capability: If you use coupons, customers should be able to use them at your eStore. Whether you use a code or go by customer name, it’s advantageous to you for the technology to be there.
Designed for the Customer
Finally, you want a solution that is not only equipped for your customers, but designed specifically for them. The only person that can do that is someone familiar with your customer and your business. Thus, being able to customize the program post-purchase will be critical to taking a customer-focused approach to finding the right software. Some customization you might want to consider includes:
- Customer reviews: This might be the difference between making a sale or not. Your customer often needs this positive reinforcement before clicking “check out”, and it should be built into the interface.
- Similar products: Upsell and provide that little extra by offering similar products throughout the process.
You wouldn’t need shopping cart software if you didn’t have customers purchasing from you, so why not choose the right one for them? Consider what they need, what they want, and how you can give that to them with the right software options.
Guest author Jessica Sanders is an avid small business writer. As the marketing copyeditor of Resource Nation, she touches on a range of topics such as Credit Card Processing, POS systems and sales software.
By Susan D
October 10, 2012
These days, marketing can make or break an online business so it’s important to pick an eCommerce solution that has a robust set of marketing tools. Every business has different needs, of course, but our ZippyCart team of experts has compiled a list of the general favorite marketing tools of online business owners.
- Social Media Marketing – Social media marketing is a fairly new type of marketing that has taken the eCommerce world by storm. Small business owners can do their own social media promotion and drive visitors to their website for ‘free’ but medium business may want to invest in a social media specialist, as there can be a lot of work involved to reach the full potential. Great social media tools to look for include an RSS subscription, a store blog, ‘Sharing’ and ‘Liking’ products on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and Pinterest, and the ability to Sell on Facebook with a free FB application or storefront.
- Mobile Commerce – Having the ability to browse a store through a smartphone is becoming an expectation so today’s eMerchants had better be prepared. It’s best to find be partnered with a shopping cart software that gives you this feature for free in all packages so that you won’t have to worry about extra costs adding up. The opportunity to reach more than 1/3 of the USA population and many others throughout the world can greatly increase your sales. Look for companies who offer free applications that support all smart phones and tablets, including the iPhone, iPad, Android devices and Blackberry.
- Cart Abandonment ReMarketing – Shopping cart abandonment is the Achilles Heel of eCommerce and a huge problem for eMerchants. There are many reasons an online shopper may leave in the middle of a sale so it’s important to have the opportunity to pull them back in with special offers and other incentives. Check the marketing features of any eCommerce solution to make sure they offer cart abandonment remarketing.
- Email Marketing – Occasionally emailing your existing customer base is a great way to keep them informed on any promotions, sales and coupon offers you may be having. Offering these unique perks and incentives is also a great way to encourage customer loyalty and get return customers. The key here is balance… be careful you don’t email too often! Make sure that your shopping cart software offers email marketing or is integrated with a company such as Mail Chimp or Constant Contact.
- Customer Product Reviews – Clients love to read what other buyers have to say about a product they’re considering and reviews are said to help make a final decision for many online shoppers. Moderated customer reviews are great for the online shop, too, as they offer a ton of new content, which helps with SEO and ranking.
- Business Blogs – Another great way to get the word out about new products or promotions is through your store’s blog. Write up some unique content, share it through your social media and watch it drive traffic to your online store. Like customer reviews, a blog is another great way to increase your sites content and improve SEO and ranking.
- Special Offers – Almost everyone loves a good deal so making sure your shopping cart software allows you to feature things such as coupons, buy 1 get 1 free, seasonal promotions, discounts based on total shopping cart sale, and free shipping will help create a sense of urgency and deliver a positive response from your target audience and increase revenue. All of the better quality eCommerce solutions should cover these basics but it’s best to check and be sure of the cart you’re looking at.
It’s easy to understand why these 7 marketing tools rank amongst the top favorite for eCom owners today. No online store should be without them as they make life easier for both the eMerchant and the online shopper!