By Mary Weinstein
May 13, 2013
Every sales quarter, CPC Strategy conducts a study on the top shopping channels, including Google Shopping on seller metrics such as traffic and revenue. For Q1, Google shopping traffic almost doubled.
CPC Strategy’s 2012 Ecommerce Industry Report compares Google Shopping against rival shopping engine Amazon Product Ads. It analyzes the sales data of more than 200 online retailers with a buying power of more than $5 billion.
- Google Shopping conversion rates dropped for the fourth straight quarter, decreasing from 3.0931% in Q4 2011 to 2.4018% in Q4 2012, a YoY decrease of 22.35%.
- In Q4 2011 Google Shopping was sending merchants 79% of the traffic Amazon Product Ads was sending. In Q4 2012, Google Shopping now sends merchants nearly double the traffic that Amazon Product Ads does, 96.08% more.
- Google Shopping was on average 32.77% more cost-effective for merchants during Q3 and Q4 2012 than Amazon Product Ads.
To read more, feel free to head over to this Q4 CSE Rankings article
Google Shopping is a shopping engine which warrants merchant attention. An increase in traffic such as we seen from Q4 2012 to Q1 2013 is just another reminder of how important the paid campaign is for online marketers.
Guest author Mary Weinstein is Content Manager at CPC Strategy, with extensive experience in all things Ecommerce, comparison shopping (CSE) management, Google Shopping and digital marketing. A NY native, Mary spends her time discussing CSE strategy with online merchants, hiking and drinking copious amounts of coffee.
By Susan Delly
May 10, 2013
Mother’s Day is a wonderful tradition that is shared between mothers, grandmothers, aunties and other caregivers, with the children and loved ones who have come under their care. This celebration, in it’s many different forms, has spanned since early time but has been recognized in the USA as “Mother’s Day” since the early 20th century.
Simply put, it’s a day to spoil your mom. If you still don’t know what to get her however, here are a few quick and easy suggestions. In fact, you can do all of them on the computer, right now!
- Help Mom Organize Her Memories
This is a great, last minute idea for Mother’s Day! Bring your old, treasured images out of storage and into the limelight with digital scanning services. Just mail them in and PhotoBin will scan them with the option of online archiving for one year and a free DVD or CD for sharing and safekeeping. You’ll be able to view them online, email them to friends and family, upload them to Facebook, have them enlarged for framing, or turn them into video slideshows. Plus, professional scanning is a surefire way to protect priceless memories from time, elements, and curious toddlers. National: Professional Scanning Services ($109 Value)
- Show Your Mom That She’s a Star to You!
Another special last minute Mother’s Day idea can be found when you look to the night sky. Dedicate a star to the one you love for the entire world to see. Your Star Forever allows you to gift an actual star from the universe to someone you care about, so that the person’s name and a shared personal message is associated with it for eternity Every dedication includes a printable certificate of ownership, a personal photo, a personal video, a personal message, and a scheduled email or text delivery of the exciting news. Your choice of photo, video, star name, and message will be included in the registrar forever, so anyone who comes across your star will be able to see your heartfelt tribute. National: Dedicate A Star To Someone Special (89% Off)
- Let Mom Pick the Movie… and the Eats!
Oooh, most mothers would love to have a night out with pre-paid gift cards on Mother’s Day. Just in time to plan your next date night, get a Restaurant.com eGift Certificate, two movie tickets and a $5 Dinner and the Movies Gift Code. Enjoy an intimate dinner for two at one of over 18,000 restaurants nationwide and then head to the movie of your choice. The movie tickets are accepted at almost every theater in the US. It’s the perfect way to save on date night with your sweetie or birthday treat! National: Dinner And A Movie For Two (64% Off)
- Help Mom Take Better Pictures!
Would your mom like some help with her photography skills this last minute Mother’s Day? Capture stunning shots and develop a whole new outlook on photography with Mom and Pop Photo School. Designed for parents who want beautiful photos of their family, this course will help you feel confident stepping out of AUTO mode. MORE_START In the Mom’s Guide to Great Photos, you’ll learn the secrets of finding the right light and how to get any kid to cooperate—even your own! You’ll learn how to make photography fun with tips on how to stress less, go easy on yourself, and how to best use whichever camera you have – whether it’s a DSLR, point-and-shoot or even a phone camera. National: Mom’s Guide to Great Photos ($19 Value)
- Give the Kiva Gift That Keeps Giving
Charity is something that my mom stressed to me so she loves it when I give her a gift that let’s her help others. Every year we exchange a few Heifer International or Kiva gift cards… and then have fun finding new places to volunteer. If you don’t have the funds for a gift card this year, maybe you could simply take your mom to a place and volunteer with her. That special time will always be remembered well.
Give your mom the ability to help another mother in need.
We’d love to hear your last minute ideas for the perfect Mother’s Day gift in the comments!
By the ZippyCart eCom team
May 7, 2013
Popular social media platforms like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter are growing their active users count by millions. The number of active users on Facebook has totaled up to 700 million while Google+ has 300 million of them. Twitter is also not far behind with around 200 million active users.
Certainly, social media is unavoidable!
As the owner of an online store or an e-commerce business, you too have a serious responsibility to leverage the potential of social media. By integrating social media into your overall marketing plan, you can quickly gain an extra edge over your rivals and make more profits. Fortunately, most of ZippyCart’s top ecommerce solutions software choices come along with built-in social media managers, making things easier for you. (Just check in on our shopping cart reviews for more info on that.)
But before you jump onto the social media bandwagon, you really need to know how you should go about using social media networks, what you should do and what you should avoid doing.
If you want to take your e-commerce business to the next level by using social media marketing to your benefits, given below are some of the most important do’s and don’ts to make yourself aware of.
- Do Have an Active Presence
Regular activity is the very first thing that you need to keep at the top of your mind. If you post updates to social media networks only when you want, appear for a week and then disappear for a long stretch of time, you are giving your target audience a good reason to throw you out of their minds. They’ll forget about you very soon. Your followers count will never increase.
Most of the e-commerce business owners think they don’t have enough to post to their company’s social media pages. Come on, a lot of things keep happening to your small business. If you get yourself a little creative, you’ll have lots of things to post, share or tweet about.
- Do Focus on Variety
‘Variety is the spice of life’ – this applies to your social media participation too. Your audience is certainly hungry for useful information and updates, but they appreciate variety more than anything else. So, remember to share links, pictures, infographics and videos among others.
- Do Listen More and More
To achieve success with social media as an e-commerce or online business owner, you also need to be an avid listener. Social media marketing is not for talking about yourself or your products without showing any concern about what your audience has to say. In fact, you should try to listen as much as possible to find opportunities you can use to your benefits.
- Don’t Oversell
Remember, the more you sell, the less you’ll sell. After all, social media is not for selling products or services directly. Social media marketing or participation is all about building relationships, engaging the target audience in conversations and creating advocates for your brand. Constant blatant promotion will not get you anywhere. If you are posting 10 updates in a day, for example, talk about your products just 1-2 times. No more than that!
- Don’t Forget to Respond!
As a smart e-commerce business owner, you should never make the mistake of overlooking people who take the time to converse with you. When people want to interact with you, it’s your opportunity to respond to what they are saying, showcase your expertise and establish relationships.
- Don’t Get Personal
While participating at social media, you’ll come across with different types of people and comments. Always bear in mind not to get too personal with anyone or share your personal beliefs on political or religious issues. By getting personal with these sensitive issues, you can easily harm your reputation.
Also, don’t get too heated, sarcastic or even affectionate in your responses to comments, reviews or online dialog. Remember that everything you or your employees say will reflect back on your company… and people will remember the ‘bad’ much longer!
With these tips and the built-in social media managers that are found in all of the ecommerce solutions software that are found in ZippyCart’s favorites and ecommerce platform reviews, you’ll be on your way to a balanced social media life in no time!
By Lanette Willis
May 6, 2013
Have your online business within reach at all times with a mobile dash board app!
It’s become standard these days for eCommerce platforms to have some kind of dashboard feature. So standard in fact, that it’s easy to assume every dashboard is basically the same, and to overlook the true power and convenience that can be offered by this tool. Not all eCommerce solution dashboards out there are the same. With the right mix of data, a great dashboard should offer you an unparalleled ability to keep an eye on your store’s performance, alert you to trends, identify opportunities for growth, uncover and resolve breaks in your sales funnel, and give you peace of mind – all in an instant.
A dashboard must deliver important statistics quickly and easily. This is not necessarily for heavy reporting, but rather the place for information at a glance. Thus, one critical component is the ability see data instantly when you open the dashboard. You shouldn’t need to click anything, and the data should just be in front of you.
Easy to read graphs are also key. They say a picture speaks a thousand words, and your dashboard also needs to do this! Bar charts, line graphs, and pie charts allow you to see and process the essence of the data in seconds.
Having the ability to see performance over time (month, week, day, etc.) allows for comparison & trending, and should definitely be included. How were your sales last month, versus this month? Are sales increasing steadily across the last 3 months? A dashboard should be able to show you this.
A great dashboard offers the user the ability to change time frame of graphics (year, month, day, etc.). For example, typically you may be interested in seeing your sales data across the last 2 months, but if you’re running a promotion, you might be more interested in studying a day or week’s data to track the success of your promotion.
Sales data and visitor data should be offered in the dashboard, and both should be visible across an adjustable time period. Knowing that you’ve made $x for the year allows you to tell if you’re on target. How is your traffic? Usually, traffic is tied to sales. If you just released a promotion, you should see the spike in visitors, letting you know that your promotion is working. Likewise, if you don’t see this spike, it could alert you to a problem along the line. If you were only tracking sales, and not visitors, you might think there was some other on-site conversion problem.
We’ve already discussed the importance of the dashboard information to be presented quickly and clearly. It’s all about instant information. The ability to have palm-of-your-hand mobile access to your dashboard takes it to a new level.
If you’re in the interested in previewing a topnotch eCommerce dashboard, you may want to check-out, Nexternal, one of ZippyCart’s top reviewed eCommerce solution. This shopping cart software has just released a Dashboard Plus for iPhone and iPad users, so you don’t even need to boot up a computer to check in on your online business. Grab your iPhone, click a button, and there are all your stats, and peace of mind. Dashboard Plus is available for free in Apple’s App Store and can be downloaded here.
Guest author Lanette Willis is a Senior Account Manager at Nexternal. Before joining Nexternal she spent nearly a decade working in market research and professional services marketing, before running her own successful eCommerce apparel business. Lanette is passionate about both marketing and eCommerce.
Blogging is a great, free way to attract traffic to your online business!
By the ZippyCart eCom team
May 1, 2013
There are many ways that you can attract traffic to your online store. What you need to figure out is… which are the most effective ways to generate more traffic from your niche market? Sure, building an attractive online store with a good e-commerce solution (aka shopping cart software) is the most essential first step in bringing traffic your way, but there are many steps that follow. Some e-merchants choose to go for paid advertising, SEO and promotion for increasing traffic but there are other options that are free. One of the best ones is having an online blog attached to your online business.
In case you didn’t get the memo, attaching a blog to your online store is thought to be one of the best things you can do to attract more traffic for free. Setting up a blog isn’t a tough nut to crack either. In fact, a blog set up usually comes standard with most of the e-commerce solution software featured in the Zippy Cart Top Picks.
What’s more important, however, is that you know how to use your blog to drive more website traffic and attract the type of audience that will convert to sales.
Below are some of the most useful tips on how to use a blog to attract lots of traffic to an online store.
Focus on Keywords
This is where the game of SEO begins. Before you start writing content for your blog, you should choose the right keywords to optimize for the needs of your online business. It’s those terms that will attract search engines and rank your site for people who are searching in your marekt. What are the main keywords that you would like to target? If you don’t have a good idea (and even if you think you do) you should check-out tools such as GoogleAdWords and see what they say.
In terms of choosing SEO keywords, you should remember to be neither too broad nor too specific. You need to focus on those keywords that you think have a fair search volume and are less competitive as far as ranking at the top of search engines is concerned. Also, find ways to insert them properly into your blogs, so they flow well and make sense.
If you spend adequate time on keyword research and use them properly in your blogs, you should see the effects increase your traffic!
Create Top Quality Content
While it’s essential to focus on SEO, you can never achieve success until you pair it with top quality content. To make your e-commerce blog work really well, identify the target audience and figure out what they want to read about. It’s only when you know what they want that you can offer content to solve their day-to-day issues.
Creating top quality, relevant content for your blog is a time consuming task and can chip away at precious work hours. Consider hiring a professional blog writer for this task so you and your specialized staff are free to look after other important tasks.
Quality blogs work when they’re frequent and consistent. Once your target audience becomes aware of your e-commerce blog and start liking the quality of content, they’ll want to visit over and over again. That’s exactly where you need to be consistent with your publishing schedule. Remember, the audience is hungry for top quality information. If you publish great content on a consistent basis, the first-time visitors will soon become regular visitors (i.e. prospects) and will share you content through their social media market, as well.
An editorial calendar can help you schedule blogs in a manner that makes sense with your market. With an editorial content calendar, you can plan all your content topics in advance, have them completed in time and make them go live exactly when you want. That’s how you’ll have a consistent publishing schedule.
Do you have any questions or comments? Please let us know in comments.
Offering a variety of image tools and great product images will help boost your sales!
By Ricky Tsao
March 27, 2013
Years ago, I was a Planogram team member for a Target. My whole job was to influence the customer’s purchase decisions by placing and displaying products in a certain way. From signage to posters, display shelves and in-store advertising, Target put the utmost care and attention to how products are shown to customers. This tactic is used in all major brick-and-mortar retailers throughout the world, as well as in the e-commerce market.
Image Manpulation Features and Tools
In the e-commerce world, we use product images to influence our customers. Due to their inability to touch, smell, see, and hold a product like you would at a physical retailer, image is the only way an online customer can interact with your product. Because of this limitation, it’s important to make sure your e-commerce solutions software provides a variety of appropriate features and tools that will make your images standout. eMerchants need to make-up for the absence of the real world purchase by giving them every angle and zoom they could possibly want from a product image.
Quality and Size
The size and quality of the image have a direct correlation to how the buyer sees the product. For example, if you are selling chocolate, a hi-def, crisp image of a chocolate will help give the buyer a feel of freshness, quality ingredients, and value. Small blurry pictures will make the buyer feel the chocolates are stale, untasty, and boring.
Make sure online shoppers can enlarge the product image they’d like to see.
Naturally, a high quality image have a much higher influence to the buyer than smaller low quality images. Therefore, make sure the e-commerce software you are using have options to show large, hi-def quality images. It should provide ways for you to organize your products, display thumbnails, and let your customers see enlarged high resolution images.
Say you have a very simple product, such as a book. Do we put on a gleaming photo of the book and consider it done? No. You want to have different ways for your customers to see your product. Just like in the physical world, you want your e-commerce software to offer options to have multipe image perspective of your product. A good way to show off the many perspectives of your book is to have photos for front cover, back cover, and numerous inside pages. If you are to sell clothing, you should have three or more photos showing the front, back, and side. It will also be helpful to let the customer see different colors. Bottom line: always give your customers multiple perspectives to see the product in order to simulate reality. The e-commerce software you are using should have features to let you display different perspectives of your product.
Image tools help increase sales!
In order to push the limit on simulating reality, we use technology to add features such as rotation, zoom and magnification. For example, if you are to sell electronics such as a laptop or camera, an image rotation will be helpful.
Zooming in let’s the customer see product details.
If you are to sell clothing, magnification will be perfect so it can show the fabric in detail. Other options such as side by side comparison would also be ideal in a clothing e-commerce site. The bottom line is to recreate the shopping experience as if the customer is at the retail store physically.
We list below some minimal image manipulation features your e-commerce software should provide:
- Supports image magnify, zoom, lightbox, and enlarge
- Generates thumbnails and catalog page images automatically
- Ability to resize images on the fly
- Control image placement on product and catalog pages
- Create photo galleries
- Display / hide images with a mouse click
Because you have many high quality images and image manipulation features, you need to make sure your e-commerce hosting solution can serve data fast. The options available out there is Virtual hosting vs Dedicated hosting.
Most small to medium-sized sites use virtual hosting, where a number of Web sites reside on the same server. Large and/or busy sites usually can’t share server space because the volume of Web traffic from many sites would quickly overwhelm the server. If your current hosting solution contacts you about your wesite being too busy, look for an e-commerce solution that offers dedicated hosting.
E-commerce is serious business with heavy hitting competitors so you need every advantage in encouraging your customers to purchase. One of the best ways is to provide image features that can help your customers see the product. Make sure the e-commerce software you are using has the appropriate tools and features to show off your specific product line. By using your e-commerce software’s image manipulation tools, you can fully engage your users to see and feel your product, leading to increased revenue and profit for your company.
By Debbie Allen
March 18, 2013
Businesses of all sizes can use payroll software programs to handle the processing and calculations of its payroll. In addition to computing payrolls, these software programs can also be used to keep accurate records. In other words, payroll software programs streamline the payroll process. Even in large companies, the programs make the task of handling payroll very manageable.
Although outsourcing payroll requirements is a viable option, keeping the process in-house offers the advantage of standardized flexibility. The company can easily make changes according to its specific needs. This can be especially helpful for such things as keeping up with employee reimbursements for travel and similar expenses.
Even if a company chooses to use professional payroll services, it is still a good idea to have an in-house payroll software program. An automated system can ensure that the appropriate information will always be gathered and sent to the payroll service in a timely manner. This provides peace of mind for all concerned.
In this way, everyone can rest assured that checks will be received on schedule. This will happen even if a key player is out due to sickness or on a vacation. The payroll software program can do the work it is programmed to do.
Payroll Software means less work for the person responsible for payroll tasks.
There are several payroll software programs available to choose from. Some can be used to print checks or even to make direct deposit payments. Other programs can interact with human resource files. This means less work for the person responsible for payroll tasks. The program can gather essential information from the human resource files.
Not only does this save time and work, it also eliminates some human errors. In addition, some payroll programs can handle tax forms. This helps ensure employees receive their W-2s as required.
Before buying payroll software programs, it is wise to do a little research. One of the first considerations is deciding exactly what it is that is needed from the program. For instance, a large construction company will have different needs than a hair salon. Regardless of the type or size of business the program is being purchased for, scalability is also important.
The program should offer room for growth and flexibility. Every company needs the ability to customize their payroll software program.
In addition, the payroll should be compatible with other accounting software programs in use. Plus, it should interact with human resources files. This is especially important in larger companies. Payment options such as direct deposit are also important. This option eliminates paperwork – which saves time and money.
Online payroll software programs are an excellent choice. These programs are always current and well-maintained.
The bottom line is, payroll software programs are cost-effective tools that save time and provide peace of mind. As long as the program purchased meets the needs of the company and works with other software programs already in use, a payroll software program is a great investment.
Debbie Allen is a freelance writer that likes sharing tips about topics like how to choose a quality payroll service provider. Images courtesy of Stuart Miles, David Castillo Dominici and xedos4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
By Kinjal Adeshara
March 11, 2013
“Ecommerce” will continue to be a buzz word in 2013 and while this comes as no surprise, what needs to be seen is what will be the trends that will power this domain. Ecommerce will definitely evolve as it did in the past years but this evolutionary process is going to accelerate.
- More Personalized Services
No, personalized services may not something that is fresh or unique but, this is going to be a continuing popular trend. The focus, however, will be on offering as personalized a product or service as possible. There are new technologies that will monitor and analyze the buying pattern of consumers to bring forth some startling revelations as far as consumers buying decisions are concerned. This will help you personalize the content to suit the specific needs and requirements of your target audience.
- Ecommerce will align with Mcommerce Again this is a trend that we are witnessing, but this alignment will happen far more seamlessly this year. Your site will need to be mobile compliant, that’s a given, but that’s not something that will have you laughing to the bank. What your future buyers will look forward to is a better, more intuitive and highly engaging shopping experience that makes shopping a largely interactive process. They are looking to form a deep connect with the product or service they want to buy and they will expect this from an integration of web and mobility.
- Augmented Reality The adoption of this technology will come of age this year and the years beyond. The first trend that I mentioned was that Ecommerce will become more personal, well it is this technology that will play an important role in bringing this about. So, the next time you are moving through a particular store, don’t be surprised if you start getting information about the store, the various products it has on offer and the various offers on the same; all this, as you keep moving through the different parts of the store. 2013 will be shopping at its finest yet.
- Cross Channel Targeting of the Same Consumer Right, you have a product and you believe that an SEO campaign is the best fit, as far as its online promotion is concerned. Well, while SEO is important, this kind of thinking will have competition in 2013 as you will be forced to target your consumer through various marketing channels. Yes, it will be the same consumer, but you will be keeping at him, from all directions. So, yes, there will be an SEO campaign that will be launched, but also of importance will be a presence on social media, and you of course wouldn’t want to miss out on targeting him through his mobile device. Integrated marketing campaigns will be the name of the game.
- More focus on Social Network Integration Can’t miss out on this one can we? There will be more and better social network integration than ever before. As we keep using social media for marketing our products and services, we are getting better and better at it. Social media channels like Facebook and Twitter keep getting better and better and new ones like Pinterest allow us to explore new avenues for establishing a social media footprint for business benefit. The integration of social media with an Ecommerce solution will become even more intensive and incisive in 2013. What’s more, with the plethora of options on hand, you will be hard pressed to choose the one that suits your needs and requirements best
- Customization of Products and Services – Consumer in Charge Heard about ‘Web-to-Print’, ‘Design your own T-shirt’ etc.? These are all examples of the kind of solutions that put the consumer in charge of the designing and customization process of the product that he/she wants to buy. Yes, customization was, is and will always be important to sell products and services, but now the merchant will increasingly allow the target consumers to tailor make the product, as per their specifications. Ecommerce as its stands will never be the same again.
- Content What you say, will become even more important this year. As competition increases and the need for accurate information become even more paramount, the significance of content will keep getting bigger and bigger. The presentation of your content in terms of form, style, tone and facts will decide whether the sales of your products and/or services increase or remain stagnant or for that matter go down.
- Think Global but Go Local Even if you are targeting a global market, the focus will still be on thinking ‘local’. Niche oriented Ecommerce will rule as people will keep looking for products and services through local search. So, even an enterprise level organization will need to ensure that its marketing is focused on specific locations/regions; if they want they can target different markets with different campaigns, with each campaign keeping in mind the needs, interests, preferences and buying behavior of the local population.
- Responsive Ecommerce You have heard of responsive design (it will be huge in 2013), but as an online business owner, what you also need to take note of is responsive Ecommerce. All eMerchants will need to quickly respond to the needs of their target consumers and if they cannot, they will need to adapt to the changing demands of the market to respond as their consumers expect them to.
- Keep it Simple At the end of the day, the lesser the complications, the better you can control a particular process. So, Ecommerce will become more compartmentalized, where merchants and marketers will not try and do a lot of things, but will want to do a few of the things perfectly. As can be imagined, each aspect of Ecommerce is going to be consumer focused and it’s upon the merchants to identify which is that collection of strategies that will help them zero in on a profit generating Ecommerce campaign.
Guest author Kinjal Adeshara is a web enthusiastic and blogger who interested in all things, software, web design especially ecommerce website development. She is also work with Rightway Solution which is offshore Software Development Company. She loved to write articles and shares new, exciting and informative content with users.
By Susan Delly
March 8, 2013
One of the things that we love about Shopping Cart software is innovative and fast paced… it’s always improving. This is especially apparent when you look at the shopping cart solutions on ZippyCart’s top carts of 2013 comparison list.
Here are a few recent upgrades and changes that are worth noting.
- Fortune3 – after a recent upgrade, the team at Fortune3 was pleased to announce their integration with Endicia, for all of your shipping needs. It’ll now be easier to print postage and labels online!
- PinnacleCart – as of March 15, 2013, PinnacleCart.com has decided to focus their efforts on their hosted solution and no longer offer their licensed solution. They will still be providing the same quality support to their existing licensed stores and right now, they have a killer offer for those who want to get in on their licensed product last minute. Check them out if you’re interested!
- AmeriCommerce - with the latest upgrade, they added new embedding tools, blog widgets, a customer reward system, additional payment options, a new coupon code generator, a bunch of new apps and 2 new themes. They’ve been busy over at AmeriCommerce!
- Ashop – a company on the rise… AshopCommerce is currently taking on some major upgrades. They have recently put out an amazing new admin design and layout and have disabled some features that were outdated, to make for a smoother, easier navigation. For more information, check out their ZippyCart review and site.
- Shopify – version 3.4 of Shopify mobile was recently released and with it comes some stress reducing goodies. Their new mobile dashboard allows eMerchants to access key orders and products easily, as well as manage batch or multiple orders with one click!
With the whirlwind of changes and improvements, the eMerchant always wins!
By the ZippyCart eCom team
March 7, 2013
In order to keep up with the changing consumer demands, the techniques of marketing also change their course. As the owner of an online business or an e-commerce store, you may have heard about ‘inbound marketing’, as opposed to outbound marketing. But do you know what inbound marketing is and how it is more beneficial for online stores?
If not, let us go into the details briefly so that you know what these marketing techniques stand for and you can make a well-informed decision when it comes to connecting with the modern-day consumer.
What’s Outbound Marketing?
This is a marketing technique which deals with advertising via paid media. By embracing this method, you advertise your products via promotions, billboards, TV spots, radio spots, banner advertisement and press among others. This form of marketing stops delivering results as soon as you stop spending those dollars. Additionally, as the times change, consumers have little or no trust in billboards or TV spots. There’s a fundamental shift in the behavior of consumers.
Outbound marketing has become an old marketing technique, which is fast giving way to inbound marketing
What’s Inbound Marketing?
As the new way of connecting with consumers, inbound marketing makes use of the internet, social media, and search engines. Inbound marketing is blogs, newsletters, online video and other content driven techniques. It’s about connecting with the target audience on a personal level, winning their trust and building relationships. In short, it’s a two-way communication channel.
How many times have you muted, fast-forwarded or left the room for commercials on TV? According to stats, 86% of people who watch TV ignore or skip television commercials. Direct snail mails have also lost their weight, as very few people even open items that are obviously advertisements. Today, direct mails are considered to be waste of time, postage and paper. Consumers’ behaviors are changing!
Inbound marketing is a clear leader and the best option for most online store owners. It offers a better way of connecting with the consumer, requires a much small monetary investment, and brings opportunity to the customer through a two-way dialogue. Inbound marketing technique gives people more control over what type of information they want to receive, which makes them better consumers.
Inbound Marketing is Better for Online Sales
Since you now understand the difference between inbound and outbound marketing, it should be easier to see how inbound marketing can work for SMB merchants and e-commerce store owners who want to promote their products in a meaningful way, sell more and increase sells.
Inbound marketing is the most effective tool in the hands of marketers or small business owners who want to earn the target audience’s trust, build genuine relationships and engage them in a way that they are ready to buy from them and become their loyal customers. That’s why the quality of leads that you generate through inbound marketing is way better.
By creating engaging and educating content (i.e. content marketing, an inbound marketing technique) and delivering the same through various social media channels, SMBs and online store owners are able to earn consumers’ attention, rather than buying their attention. Inbound marketing is better for online stores because it costs less while providing you a better ROI. The days of intrusive advertising and annoying marketing techniques are almost over, as inbound marketing takes over and revolutionizes the way customers buy.
Take a little time to build some unique content and work on your inbound marketing. You’ll see the results in the success of your online business.
The most important factor in the eCommerce path to success – navigation and design:
By Paul Rufus
March 4, 2013
On a regular basis, I’m asked to evaluate a prospective clients’ e-commerce store. Often they are frustrated by lower than expected conversion rates or declining sales.
Question number one tends to be something along the lines of why have you designed and built your e-commerce store? Question two: So, why have you made it so difficult for users to actually buy from your site?
A research reported released by Brand Perfect on online shopping habits and consumer opinion in both the UK and United States revealed the biggest irritations when shopping online and what would make them abandon their purchase.
It makes for interesting reading.
For online shoppers in the UK, 67% of over 1,500 respondents said that pages or product images were slow to load and that was the top reason they’d abandon a purchase. In the US this figure is 51%.
A significant proportion of factors relate specifically to the user experience on the site. Site navigation and difficulty finding products was referred to by 50% of UK respondents. 40% of UK respondents cited too many steps to purchase, with a further 34% saying that having to register caused irritation. Poor design accounted for 29%, while 20% mentioned the site’s payment process.
Brand Perfect says that bricks and mortar retailers should invest more in design expertise when embarking on digital services for their customers, to maintain brand consistency across online and offline activities, and to have the expertise on hand to properly consider user experience.
In the report, Gerry Leonidas, a senior lecturer with the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication at the University of Reading emphasised the importance of designing an effective user experience is essential for developing a successful e-commerce store:
‘Even in well-established brands that enjoy considerable trust by consumers, an online experience that is inconsistent, unintuitive, or off-brand will either turn people off online shopping, or lead to abandoned browsing and purchasing’.
This is further underlined by research from ’I Spy Marketing’ that pointed to a number of key success factors for e-commerce stores. The most important – navigation and design:
‘75% of consumers say they would not continue to shop on a website which was difficult to navigate or poorly designed’
What can retailers (and website designers and developers) do to ensure that the shopping experience is better for customers? In my opinion the feedback from US-based respondents is not difficult to implement (in order):
- Ensure the site is easy to browse and navigate (61%)
- Ensure the site is secure (59%)
- Make sure the site loads quickly and functions properly (52%)
- Fonts should be clearly legible (44%)
- Site should be well designed (43%)
- Mobile and tablet versions should be as easy to use as the main website (42%)
- Site should link to the users account and enable quick shopping (28%)
- Site looks and feels authentic (26% – I believe this links with the well designed observation above)
The price of not taking notice of what consumers are telling us and making it difficult for consumers to make a purchase? They’ll simply go to the next website on Google and buy it from there.
Guest author Paul Rufus is responsible for marketing and business development for Yetti, a cloud-based e-commerce and content management platform.
Have you ever considered having a favorite star promote your brand through a tweet?
By Susan Delly
March 1, 2013
Social media has long proven itself to be an effective way for online business owners to keep in touch with their shoppers and increase sales and revenue in doing so. Aside from the basic tweeting and promotion, however, what can you do with it? One of the underground trends that you may not have considered is hiring a celebrity tweet.
You heard me right. You can pay a celebrity to tweet about your brand / current sale / hottest products / etc. Or if you’re lucky, you might get one to do it for free!
It makes sense, right? Tweeting a product is just another way for celebs to make a buck promoting and placing products or to thank vendors for sending them free stuff. With Twitter in the game now, SMB eMerchants are given an opportunity to use celeb endorsements in a way they may not have been able to afford before. (Tweets can run anywhere from $100 – $10,000, depending on the celeb.)
Is this type of promotion good for my business? Do paid celebrity tweets work?!
Possibly. Experts tend to agree that you may see good short term benefits from a celeb tweet but, it’s not a good strategy for repeat or long-term marketing. When going over the possibility for your online store, there are a few things for you to consider so you can judge your potential success.
- Evaluate your target audience and think on which celeb they may identify with and be following. If you sell women’s fashion, consider a Kardashian. If you are a sports dealer, look towards Mike Tyson. If you just wrote a new book, consider an established author in your genre.
- Check the tweet stream of your preferred celebrities and make sure they’re not crowded with obvious promotional tweets. Fans will catch on quickly if paid tweets have saturated a healthy Tweet stream.
- Think on the celeb’s reputation and if it works with your company’s personality. We all know gossip and controversial celebs can catch a lot of media and their tweet may bring a lot of traffic but, you need to decide if your company may be hurt or benefit from the association. Likely, if you just use them one time, you’ll only see a positive impact but that’s a decision you’ll have to make.
- Look at the number of followers your potential celebrities have and compare that number to the amount they charge per tweet. Is it worth it to your business?
- Consider your marketing budget and decide if it can support an experimental tweet. Some companies have had good conversions off of celebrity tweets. If you choose wisely, you could see a lot of short term success with it, too.
Celebrity tweets give you an interesting way to reach a new pocket of consumers and some fresh traffic. Plus, they’re fun. Think of the top 5 – 10 celebrities that have an audience that may overlap with your online store’s audience and then give their agents a shout to see if they’re open to a little Twitter promotion for your brand. Or, for smaller business… try smaller, more personal celebs. Send your local and upcoming celebs a message or gift them the product you’d like them to try and simply ask them to give you a shout-out. They may do it for free because they’re cool or because they like the free gear. You never know until you try!
Who are your favorite celebs and do they offer promotional tweets? Have you tried this marketing method? We’d love to hear your comments below.
Stand out from the rest!
By The ZippyCart eCom team
Feb 27, 2013
In the past, it was quite easy to attract customers to your online business and increase your sales. Today, there are so many choices (and fierce competition) that getting customers seems like a daunting task. First, you need to attract lots of traffic to your website, and then you have to engage them in a way where they like you, trust you completely and are ready to buy from you.
That is no easy task.
It’s incredibly important to set your online business apart from your competitors and the best way of doing it is by ‘personalizing’ your brand. On your website, you can do a number of things to give a human face to your online business.
Here’s how you can use your website to connect with customers on a personal level, so they can associate with your online business quickly.
#1. Colors & Graphics
Does your website really appeal to the target audience? Depending on the niche you cater to, you should be able to pick the right colors and graphics (or images) to attract your audience. For example, yellow is said to appeal to the youth while orange is considered an aggressive, call-to-action color. A professionally designed website has the ability to quickly connect with visitors. By paying careful attention to the use of colors and graphics, you’ll be on your way to making a long-lasting impression on the mind of your customers as they land on your website.
#2. About Us or Profile Page
Your company’s ‘About Us’ page is an often under worked area where you have an excellent opportunity to give a human face to your online business. This is the section where you should be able to tell the story about your brand. With some creative use of descriptive words, imagery and humor, you can use the profile page of your website to create an emotional attachment with visitors. In any case, keep your story short (2-3 paragraphs) so that you don’t get readers bored.
#3. Physical Contact Info
When it comes to personalizing your online business, you shouldn’t simply put your phone number or email address on your website. Instead, you should always place your complete physical contact information. By doing so, you’ll create trust among visitors as they will know you really exist… irl!
The way you interact with blog posts and customer reviews will help your business personality!
#4. Responses to Blog Comments (or Reviews)
Keeping up with blog comments and customer reviews is a great way to make a site seem more alive! It’s not wise to only feature your products or services and not interact with customers when they need it. If you have a blog attached to your business website and receive comments on a regular basis, you should be available to respond in a timely manner. If your website also allows customers to submit reviews, you should react favorably as well.
#5. Product Descriptions
Product descriptions are very important. Not only do they sell products but they give you a chance to let your business’s personality shine! While it’s great to feature top quality product images on your e-commerce website, it is also important to include thorough, entertaining descriptions. Customers will always want to know what your product can do for them, how it can solve their day-to-day issues. Talk about the benefits while writing product descriptions. It will help you connect with customers and convert them into buyers.
#6. Testimonials vs Customer Reviews
In the past, in order to increase their online sales, businesses would make the mistake of adding fake testimonials to their website. Today’s customers are smart enough to see through made-up testimonials. If you are really serious about giving your online business a personality, you should always feature real testimonials or better yet, scrap them for a mixed basket of customer reviews on your products. If you have a great product or service, you should receive some great, positive feedback to share.
#7. Online Videos
Internet users don’t read much. The popularity of YouTube should tell you a lot about how much web users like watching videos. Rather than building text-heavy websites (like others are doing), you can create short-length, engaging videos about your products or services. It increases the stickiness of your website as well as creates personal attachment. Online videos are definitely a trend in eCommerce that will help your business stand out!
What are you doing to humanize your brand? Is it easy for your customers to associate with your brand? Let me know your thoughts.
By Matt DeLong, CEO of CoreCommerce
Feb 25, 2013
Google prefers responsive design sites because it “crawls” the site more efficiently and helps keep the site’s information up to date.
The use of tablets or smartphones to surf online has been a driving force for a movement in web development called responsive design. Simply put, responsive design is a single web design that adapts itself to multiple screen sizes, no matter which type of device, tablet or smartphone is used. According to ComScore, the number of mobile internet users is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years, to a projected 1.9 billion in 2015. That is a lot of potential customers with a variety of devices for your website to accommodate!
Before responsive design, there were separate, multiple “mobile optimized” versions of your online store for desktop, tablet or smartphone, unlike responsive design which uses the same version of your store for all devices. Most online stores would automatically detect what kind of device you were using to access the site to tell whether to display the mobile or desktop version of an online store. Many websites are still “mobile optimized” but the movement towards responsive design is growing fast.
So why make the transition from mobile optimized stores to responsive design? The main benefit of using responsive web design is that you no longer have to manage multiple versions of your online store. With responsive web design, CSS3 media-selectors can be used to define min-width & max-width rules for handling portrait and landscape views, regardless of how your customers access your online store. Not only that but Google prefers responsive design sites because it “crawls” the site more efficiently and helps keep the site’s information up to date.
Another reason to design responsively is to allow for a site to be be easily adaptable to ever changing phone and tablet sizes now and in the future. Every time a new device is introduced, you won’t need to rethink how your store displays or how that translates on a potential customer’s tablet or smartphone, saving time and money in the long run. Ultimately, the goal of responsive design for a web based business to ensure an enjoyable experience for the customer, no matter what kind of device they’re using.
If you are developing your website, remember that it’s much easier to build a responsive site from the start versus attempting to retrofit a non-responsive or “mobile optimized” store to make it responsive. This year will be an interesting year in e-commerce, as mobile devices are slated to take over PCs as the dominant platform and online sales continue to grow. Good luck as you develop your responsive site!
Guest author Matt DeLong is the CEO and founder of SumEffect Software, Inc., the developers of e-commerce shopping cart, CoreCommerce. He has 15 years of experience with programming and software and started Sum Effect Software in 2001 when he created Digishop. When Matt isn’t working on cool new features or updates for CoreCommerce, he enjoys racing sailing boats and watching movies with his family.
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