How to create a successful brand for your small business or ecommerce start-up

branding for small businessesMany small businesses have been up and running a good while before their thoughts turn to brand building. Even then branding ends up slipping to the bottom of the to-do list. Of course, with the 101 things small business owners are faced with on an every day basis this is understandable. Yet it is important not to underestimate the importance of good branding.

In order to be successful long-term, branding needs to be at the heart of your business. Working on creating a proper brand presence early on can pay dividends in the long run. Why? Because the impression you make as a business as critical to your long-term success and this is tied intrinsically into branding.

What is a brand?

“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. Jeff Bezos, Founder Amazon

Your  brand is essentially the set of ideas your business stands for in people’s minds. Recognisable visually such as through a logo, your brand is also shaped by your actions as a business.  A successful brand will help differentiate you from your competitors, build loyalty, increase traffic, create brand advocates and help connect people emotionally to your business.

For example I have being buying Converse All Star for well over 20 years. Not solely because of the trainers themselves but because over years I have connected emotionally to the brand through a sense of belonging becoming a loyal returning customer in the process.

brand loyalty

 

Defining your brand

Branding itself is a massive area indeed, large companies have  dedicated people such as brand managers and brand directors working on their brand full-time. As a small business owners we obviously don’t have that luxury, yet with a bit of time and effort we are quite capable of building a successful brand for our business ourselves. Before you embark on building your brand presence you need first to spend some time thinking about the fundamentals of your brand.  Considering the following questions will help you get you off to a solid start.

  • What is your purpose as a business?
  • What are your businesses core values?
  • Who is your target audience and what are their needs?
  • What do your customers think when they think of your business?
  • What differentiates your business from that of your competitors?
  • And most importantly, what is it you want your customers to think when your business comes to mind.

7 essential tips small business can use to build their brand

The great news is you don’t need a huge budget in place to build your brand. You will however need to invest some time and thought into establishing a solid brand presence.

excellent customer service1. Offer a positive customer experience.

72% of consumers say customer service is central to brand loyalty.  

 

I mentioned earlier that branding is closely associated with the impression you make as a business. Central to this is offering your customers an all round positive experience from start to finish. Ensuring that your customers experience a seamless journey – from navigating your website, browsing products, using your shopping cart, making a payment, shipping and delivery to exemplary customer service – is essential if your want to building a positive impression and healthy reputation.

2. Use content to build your brand

Authentic, relevant, quality content is integral to building your brand. Content that reflects your brand identity and is relevant to the needs of your customers will build brand engagement, brand loyalty and brand trust.

80% of consumers say that the authenticity of content is the most influential factor in their decision to become a follower of a brand.

Focus on providing a variety of engaging, value added, visual and non-visual content for your customers. For example;

  • Blog posts
  • New articles
  • How to Guides
  • Online Tutorials
  • Webinars
  • Infographics
  • Competitions and Quizzes.

3. Create a brand personality

People prefer to do business with other people. For small business owners your brand personality is likely to be you – it is what you do on behalf of your business. Think about the tone you use when you write, how you interact on with people on the phone, what things you post on social media and what visual images you use. Remember what you are submitting is a reflection of your business and your brand values.

Try using your ‘About Us’ page to give customers a feel for the people behind the business. ‘Meet the team’ or ‘behind the scenes’ can give a face to your business and help people build an emotional connection to your brand. Take a look a Stella and Dot or Riverford’s About Us videos.

Use Social media to build brand awareness4. Use Social Media

71% of people say they are more likely to make a purchase from a brand they follow on social media. 

Social media is a great platform to build awareness of your brand. Firstly consider not only the platforms your target market are likely to be using but also which platforms best support your brand image. For example Facebook is probably a safe starting point for most businesses as it is has huge and diverse audience, if you are heavily imaged based then look at Pinterest and Instagram and if you are B2B then you probably want to be on LinkedIn. The point is to give it some thought before you leap in.

The content you post should reflect your brand image and support your brand values. The more valuable it is to your customers the higher the likelihood is that it will be shared.

5. Brand trust

A successful business with a loyal customer base will have worked hard over time to establish brand trust – think John Lewis, FedEx, Apple and Amazon. As a small business and start-up the best way to start developing brand trust is, as we mentioned earlier in the article, through providing a consistently positive customer experience.

When you are starting out it is also a good idea to include various trust signposts that will signal to new customers that your business is trustworthy. For example:

  • Security logos and Trustmarks
  • Customer testimonials
  • Awards or accolades
  • Customer reviews
  • Transparent information on delivery and returns 
  • Exemplary customer service
  • Easy to find contact details and registered address
  • Links to official organisations and associations

6. Visual identity

Building a recognisable visual identity is essential to establishing a  brand. Firstly create a great logo and use it everywhere. Think also about your visually branding in terms of fonts, colours, style and feel. This should be applied to all your marketing materials both online and offline. If you keep these things consistent you will start to establish visual brand recognition.  It is a good idea to create a set of visual brand guidelines and standards – such as how your logo can be used, what font should be used and the Pantone reference for your brand colours.

7. Be consistent.

brand consistencyApparently it takes between 5-7 brand impressions before someone remembers your brand. Therefore staying consistent is absolutely essential if you want to establish your brand in the mind of customers.  Consistency will reinforce your brand identity making your brand recognisable and differentiating you from your competitors. Mixed messages and inconsistent branding will only leave customers confused about your business with no reason to invest in what you have to offer.

 

 

We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences on building a brand for your small business, so please do leave a comment.

 

 

10 Tips To Boost Revenue With Upsell And Cross Sell

Broadly speaking both upselling and cross-selling deliver the same effect i.e. increased profit.

Generally people require a genuine second person review or suggestion while shopping. And what if the seller himself performs this, in that case the customer would want to entrust even his future shopping assignments to him. A website cannot manifest a human touch, but if a site escorts a customer in his online shopping journey it would profit both sides.

And hence the entire objective of this operation should not just be manifold profit but to make the user’s experience expedient and comfortable.

To understand it better let’s take an illustration: Recommending accessories to pair up with your jeans might not just help you earn more profit by selling more products to the same customer. It will also resolve few hassles in advance which would spring up in the future.

10 Tips To Boost Revenue With Upsell And Cross Sell

What is Upselling?

Upselling is inducing a customer to purchase a product for which he had not shown any prior buying inclination. However it should not be taken as needless buying. As sometimes consumers do have a need which they do not acknowledge until they are made to.

You can upsell anything – a product, a service or an extended warranty contract (Terms and conditions as they are mostly provided in case of automobiles and electronic goods – it is nothing but an advanced coverage for repairs and periodic service).

Example: Amazon.com. Their persuasive course doesn’t end on completion of a purchase, it actually starts there. And it comprises regular mails with alluring offers and product images to customers. As the customers have already established a trade relation, making a new purchase all the more smooth (only if they had a positive experience).

Companies into direct retail associate bonuses with upselling and cross selling to employees in order to increase their revenue margins.

A few upsell tips that will swell your revenue figures

  1. A high end product which gets rejected for its high pricing can fetch a profitable sale if well promoted. The basic trick to upsell is learning about your customer and his background. This will help you figure out the utility-void for your product. If a customer comes looking for a smartphone and you suggest him a television, this foolhardy would not just irritate the customer but demonstrate ruthlessness at the same time. And this will also impact customer’s perception of your brand. A brand that is just bent upon selling products irrespective of its applicableness to the person concerned holds less value. And it would rarely bother about customer concerns after the sale is completed.  On the contrary a brand that takes account of customer clicks and search criteria before making a recommendation is perceived to be smart and stands to gain on account of relevant suggestions. Additionally, knowing customers purpose behind the buying decision will enable you to make more helping recommendations.
  2. Do not spin the customer amongst pages. Most of the time customers compare products before buying, and comparison rule implies that comparable products with their specifications share the same screen space. Therefore a customer should be provisioned to view other products alongside his current selection. And this can be worked up by presenting other products from the same category on the same page. Insert either a horizontal or vertical frame to carouse similar products without losing the sight of the selected product.
  3. Your suggestion frame should neither be flashy to project a nasty objective nor impede the current selection process. There can be two ways to go about it:

    1. Keep product suggestions at the bottom of the page (above the footer). Here the frame is noticeable even at a glance and at the same time does not obstruct a user in his selection process.
    2. Place the product recommendation after the first conversion step, which happens to be before cart confirmation. This would ensure the first sale and give user a last moment insight into other product range offered.

  4. Ecommerce sites usually suggest similar complimentary product options from different brands, that customer did not know existed. Nobody has the time to run over the entire product range displayed by a website. A customer always trims the product list according to his preference criteria. A productive way of recommending products would be – Displaying only the products that fulfill the chosen criteria and explicitly mention it in words. For example if a person comes looking for smartphones having 13 megapixel primary camera.  Additional product recommendations to him should be made based on the same criteria and be worded so – “Other smartphones having 13 mp camera”.
  5. Lastly, the only way to convince a customer for buying a more expensive product over his selection is by proving higher returns of the product. Invade the customer’s qualm about durability; nobody would want to buy a product that is irreparable and high maintenance. A refrigerator which is higher in cost but consumes less power being eco-friendly will fetch more savings in the long run than its economic counterpart. Effectively conveying this message to the consumer will coerce him into buying a product that is heavy on the pocket now but will alleviate the burden later. Such deals benefit both the vendor and customer, provided you deliver what you guarantee.

What is Cross selling?

A man goes to a restaurant for lunch. After noting the order waitress asks him politely “Sir would you like to have something to drink with it, we have some fresh seasonal juice you will like”. Cross selling is nothing but proposing additional products from different categories to the customer to up your sale amount.

Effective tips to smartly implement cross selling

  1. Couple one product to another for making more sales; most cosmetic companies cross sell using this criteria. A consumer intending to buy a hair shampoo is sold an after-shampoo conditioner emphasizing the need to condition hair after washing them. And since washing is a regular routine activity people do, the profit margin doubles for the manufacturer and retailer.
  2. There is a new product people are not aware about. Unless marketed people will never come to know about it. Simply asking the people to buy a new product is not enough for cracking a sale. It requires attractive embellishment to draw visitor attention. For this you can ascribe eye catching discounts to such products. This will fetch it sufficient recognition nearing purchase. You must have seen retail stores flaunting “Buy two and get 40% off”; clubbing discounts can also earn you more. And you can extend it to varied product quantities to provide an offer for everyone. Godfather’s famous lines “Make them an offer they cannot refuse” make the most sense when it comes to devising discount schemes. Various kinds of people visit online stores, some are thrifty while some are ready to spend lavishly. And then there are those that carry a flexible budget, and are ready to stretch it if they are getting a good deal. Consider all these types of people when you plan out your discount options.
    Overstock
  3. The recommendations you make should be well within the confines of relevance. The products could be from different categories but complementing the selection. If customer adds a pair of formal shoes to his shopping cart he might require extra laces, a shoe polish, or insoles. Suggesting such items which don’t literally but superficially fall into the category will induce the customer to add more stuff into the shopping cart to pair up with his purchase.
    Amazon
  4. This is possible when all the products follow at least 2-3 level categorizations. A high level view may categorize a shoe into footwear category, but it can be broadly classified into Men and Women’s shoe category, going further this shoe can fall into a formal or a casual shoe category. Therefore a detailed categorization of all the products that encompass your range should be done. So that the algorithms that regulate product displays on the webpage are fed in advance. And hence whenever customer selects a product, algorithm picks recommendatory products from its sub-categories. On the other hand, another retailer Costco.com posts other product recommendations based on previous user searches.
    level categorizations
  5. Never team a cross-sell that costs higher than the original selection. Probability of it being selected is dim. If customer takes a leap to buy an extra commodity, it should be well within his buying budget. And that budget is definitely not double the price of his purchase. In fact it approximates to 25% of the initial product price. Recommendations that bear a small price tag stand a chance in the shopping cart, as accommodating them does not distinctly inflate the cart amount. If you are suggesting accessories make sure they are not expensive enough to scare a user away as this might lead to cart abandonment, especially if the customer finds a similar pair at lesser price on another store. Although this might require you to apply more than one algorithms and a strong knowledgeable staff at the backside for suggesting relevant product. Price is the most important criteria that influence buying decisions.
  6. Bundle up free delivery with carts exceeding a particular amount. Sometimes paying for the delivery takes a toll on customers, which causes them to shrink their cart total. Incentivizing their purchase order by free shipping can relieve them of the pressure and induce them to increase their purchase limit. Just to waive off the shipping costs, sometimes friends join their wish lists and make a single bill. This can also be done by clubbing products from the same retailer. This would not just ease off the shipping issues, but will also smooth the return and exchange process.

Track the progress of every marketing campaign after its implementation. Conduct webpage analysis to monitor the most frequented area of the page, keywords, etc. If your strategy combines both cross sell and up sell techniques, it would be tough to identify which technique generated more sales. If you contemplate the outcome based on user clicks, there could be many unknown factors that influenced the result. Maybe the customer just clicked to check product specifications or maybe it was a joint order by two people.

Often retailer use an amalgamation of Cross selling and Upselling, adopting any one of the two will be losing a revenue opportunity. Well this also depends on your articulation at these coercive techniques. Ultimately the intention is to maximize profit margins.

Image Source: (1, 2, 3)

5 indispensable pop up shop tips for small online businesses and start-ups

pop up shopContinued growth in ecommerce coupled with changes in the traditional retail environment has meant the last few years have seen a significant development in the pop up shop industry.  With projections for next year indicating that pop-ups will grow nearly 2.5 times faster than the UK’s traditional retail industry there are no signs of a slow down.

The very nature of pop up shops means that as well as being loved by the big brands its format lends itself really well to small online businesses and  start-ups. We take a look at the benefits a pop up store can bring your ecommerce business and provide some helpful tips for getting your pop up off to a flying start.

What is a pop up shop?

pop up shop spaceEssentially a pop up shop is a temporary retail store selling merchandise in a particular space or venue for a limited period of time – typically from 1 day to a few of months. The aim is to attract customers through creating a burst of impact and providing a unique and interesting experience of your brand.  Pop-up shops are incredibly flexible encompassing a wide variety of quirky spaces to suit all budgets – no matter how small. Examples of utilising space could include;

  • Shop shares
  • Vacant retail space
  • Shopping centres
  • Churches
  • Village halls
  • High street stalls
  • Farmers markets
  • Festivals
  • Art Galleries
  • Tents
  • Window displays
  • Garages
  • Even pubs are getting in on the act!

If you are looking to rent some shop space or similar then there are a number of online services available that you can organise this through. Checkout:

Benefits for ecommerce owners

A pop up store is a low risk, cost-effective way to complement your online presence with some exciting offline activity, bringing your small online business a number of benefits. Including;

Flexibility.  Pop-up shops can be adapted to suit your budget. Their temporary nature means you have no long-term commitment and no big overheads. You can simply choose the kind of pop up space your budget allows for the amount of time you need it. This could be anything from renting a vacant retail space for a couple of months to a table at a farmers market for a day.

Drive traffic.  Exposure to a new audience can generate leads that you can capture and drive online to your business website.

Customer engagement. If your business is primarily online then a pop-up shop is an excellent way to physically get yourself in front of potential customers. It gives you the opportunity  to engage in face-to-face conversation with your target market and gain valuable insight and feedback about your business.

Brand awareness. Pop-up stores can help get your brand in front of new customers, building awareness of your brand. Being creative can help generate interest and create a buzz around what you are doing – opening you up to some potential PR opportunities.

New products. Pop-up shops enable to you to test new product ideas out on your potential audience and obtain real-time feedback. If you’re launching a new product then a pop-up store is also a  great way to create some added excitement – complementing online marketing promotions.

Test offline retail. If you are thinking about expanding your business offline into bricks and mortar then pop-ups are a sensible first step and a good way to experiment with the offline environment – before taking the plunge permanently.

5 essential tips for getting started

pop up shop planning1. Planning.

Spending time planning your presence is absolutely essential if you want your pop up shop to be a success. Think about the practical considerations you will need to undertake to ensure a positive experience:

  • Have clear goals and objectives in place.
  • What type of space is available in your budget?
  • How long are you planning to run your pop up store – a few days, a few weeks or a few months?
  • Will you need to hire in additional staff to man your pop up shop?
  • What stock will you need?
  • Do you need there to be a good WiFi connection?
  • What time of year are you planning your pop up – will the weather have an impact?
  • How are you going to take payments?
  • How do you plan to data capture contact details such as email addresses?

2. Location.

Choosing the right location is of paramount importance so make sure you do your research first. Primarily think about where you are likely to find your target market. Choose somewhere with a high footfall, with good public transport links and a location that is easy to find. Do you need somewhere with good WiFi connection (essential if you want to  get visitors to check out your online store or promote real-time posts on social media)?

3. Make an Impact.

The more interesting and unique you can make your pop-up shop the more likely you are to attract an audience. It’s a great chance for you to get creative so spend time thinking about the visual impact you want your pop up shop to have. How will you display your merchandise? What signage will you use? Are you running any promotions or special events? For some great visual inspiration, check out Pinterest – there are plenty of boards dedicated to Pop-Up store displays.

publicise pop up store4. Spread the word.

Give people plenty of advance warning about your pop up shop and stress it’s for a limited time period – people don’t like to feel that they might are missing out on something! Promote your pop up shop on:

  • Your website
  • Your blog
  • Social media platforms
  • Local papers
  • Local notice boards
  • Local social media networks
  • Flyers
  • Press releases

follow up emails5. Follow up 

As an ecommerce business one of your key goals is likely to be driving potential customers to your online store. Therefore think about how you are going to capture prospect data such as email addresses so you are able to follow-up on possible leads. Competitions are a great way to get people to impart with their contact details. Ensure that you display your website address prominently and include it on all your flyers and packaging.

With a bit of thought and planning, pop up stores can be a great offline tactic for small business ecommerce and start-ups, so it’s worth giving it a try!

We’d love to hear your experiences using pop up stores so do please leave a comment.

 

 

9 Ways to Create Trustworthy Online Store

9 Ways to Create Trustworthy Online Store
Trades and businesses flourish on trustworthiness be it B2B or B2C. Customer confidence and credibility are not acquired overnight; it takes consistent perseverant years of service to appease your customers and flag out your name.

Ensure your business entails all those ingredients that engender trust in your brand. Drawn from my experience as a consumer and marketer I share 9 upshots that will help you construct a trustworthy online store.

1. Fathom audience needs

Let your audience propensity take the center stage position in web store design. Site’s interface and interaction should orbit around visitor behavior – the navigation styles they prefer, shopping cart features that delight them, designs that instill confidence, page clicks and duration of visits. Audiences must perpetually feel elated coming to your site. Their interaction with the site should generate trust that eventually translates into revenue. And to attain this even if you have to inject bespoke elements into the foyer of site development, don’t dither. As a rule consumers share a fascination for extensive product information. Serving extra details on your store can take you extra miles in spawning customer’s interest for your site.

Another unspoken expectation from your website is effortless accessibility. It should have clear navigation links and an in place search functionality. Carousel format to showcase products is an intelligible method. Besides drawing user attention to product this style enables visual perception to grasp other recommended products with equal concentration.

2. Carefully word your sale

Never in your marketing campaigns criticize a competitor. Your ethics and values are substantially important in carving your image amidst customers. People don’t via for brands that demonstrate a callous image. Condemning other brands can be perceived as your brands incompetence.

Another way is to support social causes to enjoin your establishment with society’s concern. You can integrate some cause marketing program with your campaign. Toms Marketplace is one such eCommerce site that has enjoined diverse humane causes to every product purchase. The site navigation is clean and versatile to the extent that shoppers can make purchases affiliating to a cause of their choice through ‘Shop by Cause’ option.

Carefully word your sale
Your brand projects a personality. You need to get it just right enough to strike a chord at the right place; neither a subdued design nor a flashy one can make a mark. Unless you merchandise children’s items don’t select comic sans font. A font that matches your genre compliments your motive. Not all customers are discrete about a site’s appeal, but readability matters to everyone.

Every copy that floats on web needs to be exhaustively proofread, because a single grammatical glitch or an overlooked spell error can mortify you in front of your customers. And mind you, such lapses are not expected of responsible firms.

Few sites even sport user testimonials, popular magazine reviews and followership counts to trumpet their renown. And this is by no way against the rules. In fact fusing your social presence with the site will unlock the gates for traffic coming from social media. This idea provides us cues on significance of user reviews in shaping consumer confidence. As the customers get a real life account of products from people who have already used your services, their decision making is facilitated.

3. Product quality makes a difference

In a retail business, nothing except a good quality product holds the power to gratify consumers. Delivering what you promise begets trust in return. Although seasonal sales witness intensified conversions due to price disruptions, but this revenue upsurge mostly confines to discount periods and does not sustain longer. Apart from price cut another reason being the inferior quality of products that do not deliver their value for money. If you sell low quality products to get rid of that old inventory however much you succeed in disburdening yourself, you will end up disappointing a loyal customer, who will never contemplate returning to your site again. State honest product grade information on your site; refrain from deceiving tactics of optimizing products appearance by visual effects. Even sharing user reviews alongside products will be useful in purchase decisions. Some sites also use rating algorithms instead of direct user feedbacks.

Just like the neighbors in your new neighborhood coming to your home, people coming to your site for the first time are unmindful of your strengths. Acquaint them to your flagship products, latest stock additions and discount schemes. Moreover tool tip and field level response messages in forms also boost the user experience on site.

Sometimes people explore online stores with a specific product image in mind, but are not always fortunate to find it. And this inability can greatly benefit your competitors who are just an opportunity away to grab your customers. To avert customers’ migration plans to another site, register their item requests, this would also demonstrate your responsiveness towards needs of a customer.

4. About Us Page

Apparently people who desire to trade with you would want to know about your existence so far and the need that drove you to launch this venture. How long have you been in this business makes a difference when it comes to making buying decisions. People comfortably relate to long-standing brands compared to newbies. Old brands boast of their experience by mentioning their age in their taglines. For example, a popular tomato ketchup brand projects its age of establishment in the logo.

About Us Page

Further, a map showing your company’s geographic location also adds to your credibility certifying your existence. Also include a small contact-us section in your site. Allowing the customers to communicate with you manifests your accountability.

5. Managing product returns

The only spot where online retail lags behind a physical sale is the absence of a physical handshake. Here the trading parties cannot see each other face-to-face, which is a primary aspect of any relationship. But this deficiency can be overcome by modestly serving your customers. While bargain and negotiation cannot be allowed here implementing an exchange and return functionality can do the needful.

A clean trade policy endorses product exchange as an instrument to channel customer trust. Retailers with a friendly retail policy find themselves in consumer’s good books. However difficult it might be to manage returns, this encourages customers to connect with you often. In fact consumer behavior surveys predict consumers select sites with smooth return policy over sites providing higher discount margins. Therefore employing a convenient return of goods policy will win you loyal customers.

6. Be neat with money

Money is a crucial trust determining factor in trade relations. Quote clear prices. Use legible font size and style in displaying numbers. Coming to financial transactions, adoption of a transparent policy as far as product pricing is concerned wins you customer adulations. All the payment steps should furnish appropriate messages to prevent checkout errors.

Sites that ascribe hidden charges into customer bills lose out on customers, eventually falling into oblivion within a span of years. Throwing surprise charges at customers on grounds of shipping costs leads to cart abandonment in future. In fact moving a step ahead in this direction¬ – sites should show an upfront cost bifurcation chart displaying product charges, delivery charges, warranty charges, etc. before urging the customer for payments.

Be neat with money

The best way to cater a large number of buyers is to include varied price range products in your stores. Selling only expensive products may not get you those thrifty shoppers which throng e-stores initially to window shop but encountering a modestly priced commodity, end up buying. Ensure a certified shopping cart transaction that maintains customers’ data privacy. Also provide multiple payment options.

7. Offer detailed product information

There is no exception to people wanting value for money from their purchases. This is the reason people surf more than one eCommerce site before making that purchase. Comparisons are an essential ingredient of purchase decision. Rather than customer opening multiple tabs to compare, it would be very cooperative of the eCommerce site to incorporate product comparisons on the same page.

Offer detailed product information

Comparisons can only transpire between similar objects who have furnished similar information. For instance a consumer looking for 15’ laptop screen will compare only those products who have furnished their screen width. Products that reveal incomplete information stand to lose in competition.

Let the images be shot in-house rather than an online purchased image of the same product. Include real life images into your site that speak of your work culture and people behind the scenes that they could see and believe.

8. Allow a product search feature

Not finding what they want users leave the site and move ahead, but worse is when the product exists on the site, and the customer was unable to locate it. To bring the product to customers table equip your website with a notable search box (preferably at the top of the webpage). A search function brings the required product to users table. E-commerce websites enclose multiple commodities which are spread across numerous pages, scanning all those pages to find one particular product is impractical and time consuming.

There exist two types of search functions: 1. Simple Search and 2. Advanced Search.

Simple Search: Basic search functionality can serve your purpose if you are unable to provide an advanced level search. This type of search is ideally suited for sites that sell lesser items with less variety.

Advanced Search: E-commerce giants like Amazon, who sell almost everything from books to automotive parts, use this search type in their apps and websites. As the products range is diverse, for a customer to reach his desired item requires to cross multiple category filters.

A site that adapts itself to consumers and offers maximum convenience enjoys a privileged stature with consumers.

9. Ensure a speedy response

Monitor your website speed incessantly. If the site’s loading time crosses the accepted duration perimeter it makes your website appear flippant. This is almost like going to a shop where the shopkeeper is very slow to respond. What most people will do in such a scenario is move to another nearby store.

This is the first thing visitors notice on your site. Even the site’s look and feel follows next. And due to its high importance, page ranking algorithms take into account a site’s loading speed. Therefore it is advisable to parsimoniously deflate the size and weight of all those components that add to site load and inhibit response time:

1. Use compressed images as far as possible and optimize them before uploading.
2. Style your text using light weight fonts that are less cumbersome on server.
3. Store bulky scripts and stylesheet separately from the webpage. So that every time a page is refreshed, browser doesn’t have to refresh the css and scripts.
4. If you have a large number of visitors thronging your site everyday, using a Content Delivery Network may help you resolve your problem as it allocates the request to users nearest geographical sever location.

Even websites that include plenteous input parameters considerably ruin user experience. A clean and speedy cart checkout which is secure at the same time, leads the user to the end of the conversion funnel.

Finally

Remember, the faith that customers bestow in your store is your ultimate profit. Be true to your word. Speaking alone will not help you will have to deliver to build trust.

Image Source: (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

How to generate leads with 5 essential in-bound marketing techniques for small online businesses

Small business ecommerce lead generationInbound marketing is essentially about attracting people to your website using techniques such as SEO, content marketing, social media and email. For small businesses and ecommerce start-ups it can be particularly appealing as it doesn’t come with the hefty budget required by more traditional outbound marketing approaches like advertising or direct mail.

Inbound marketing delivers 54% more leads than traditional outbound marketing.

Small business and start-ups are unlikely to have an established customer base or a ready-to-use database at their fingertips.  In-bound marketing tactics can build awareness, create interest and consequently attract prospects to your website ready for you to nurture into leads and ultimately loyal customers.

Content ImageThe crux of successful inbound marketing is content. It is through the creation of valuable and engaging content that you can draw visitors to your website and showcase all that your business has to offer.

71% of B2B marketers are using content marketing to generate marketing leads

To get the content right for your business it is essential to do some background work first. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are you trying to target – who is your key audience? What sector or industry are they in?
  • What information is going to be of interest to them – what kind of content would they find helpful, useful, entertaining or engaging?
  • Where do they look for information – where are they currently getting their industry knowledge (e.g. competitors, organisations, social networks) and what places could you engage with them?

5 Key inbound marketing tactics

There are all-sorts of inbound-tactics you can use to generate leads and grow your business. In this article we just focusing on a few key in-bound techniques that will get you up and running and help attract visitors to your site. It is important to take a long-term approach to in-bound marketing. The benefits may take some time to come to fruition, but will be well worth the time and effort you put in.

1.SEO

Audiences use search engines to discover information and as a consequence search engines can bring a sizeable percentage of traffic to your website. Optimising your online presence to reflect the keywords and phrases relevant to your business and industry is essential if you want to move up the search engine rankings and be found by your target audience. I don’t for one minute suggest the practice of keyword stuffing, rather use keyword research to find the keywords and phrases that are meaningful to your prospective customers.  It is those keywords and phrases that should form the basis of creating engaging, relevant content for your target audience.

blogging2.Blogging

B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads than those that don’t. 

Creating original, fresh, relevant blog posts for your site not only supports your SEO efforts, it draws new visitors to your site, helps build your brand personality, is highly sharable and provides added-value content for established customers.

Think too about guest blogging on other relevant industry sites. This opens your business up to a wider audience and creates links back to your site.

3. Visual content

The last few years have seen visual content literally explode in popularity. Introducing more visuals to your site is a great way to entice your target audience to your ecommerce business. We humans are naturally visual learners so it is no surprise that using visual content can have a greater impact that text alone.

  • Use inspiring and interesting photos and images to support your content.
  • Infographics.  People are 30 times more likely to read an infographic than a text-based piece of content. Infographics are a great way to convey ‘drier’ content such as research and statistics in an engaging format. There are a number of online tools such as Easel.ly and Piktochart that make it simple for you to create your own infographics using ready-made templates that won’t cost the earth to produce,
  • Video. People are naturally drawn to other people so videos are a great way to build a brand personality and put a face to your business. Implement an ‘ About Us’ or ‘Meet the Team’ video or try video blogging. You can also use video to help your convey complex information in a digestible format though Video Tutorials or How to Guides. And, interestingly, using videos on landing pages increase conversion by 86%

4. Email Marketing

Email is an essential part of the in-bound marketers’ toolkit. The added benefits for small businesses is that it is cost-effective, easy to measure and offers a healthy ROI. Use email marketing to communicate to your audience on a regular basis such as through a weekly or fortnightly newsletter. Email is a great way to build relationships and keep your business at the forefront of your audience’s mind. Offer links back to the valuable content on your site such as latest industry news, videos or your latest blog post.


Social media5. Social Media

Utilise your social media platforms to drive your prospects to your online content such as your blog, news articles, video tutorials – in fact all the compelling content you have created.

Rather than taking a scatter gun approach to social media, focus your efforts on the key social media platforms where you customers are. For example if you own a craft store you are probably likely to find Facebook or Pinterest relevant.  Whereas B2B’s may generate more leads through platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter. Indeed,  44% of B2B marketers have generated leads through LinkedIn.

Converting visitors to prospects

Of course once you have enticed your target audience to your website and sparked their interest with all your compelling content, you need to try to convert them into leads by encouraging them to impart their contact information.

  • Optimise your website to make it simple for people to sign-up. Don’t ask for unnecessary information and ensure any forms they may have to complete are quick and straightforward. In the first case of getting people to sign up to your newsletter, a first name and email address will suffice.
  • Offer incentives. Valuable, desirable content such as white papers, eBooks, special offers and giveaways are a great way to get visitors to pass you their details. Rule of thumb – the more valuable the reward the more information you can gather.

Of course the next part of the journey is turning those leads into paying customers…!

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences using in-bound marketing techniques, so please do leave a comment. 

 

 

 

 

 

11 Tactics to Improve Checkout Conversions and Reduce Abandoned Carts

11 Tactics to Improve Checkout Conversions and Reduce Abandoned Carts
What’s worse than not getting enough users to your e-commerce site? Losing out the ones that do visit your site thanks to a slew of abandoned shopping carts.

Abandoned shopping carts cost e-commerce companies trillions in lost sales every single year. The fact remains that nearly 69% of all shopping carts are abandoned by would be shoppers. While the reasons for shopping cart abandonment are many and varied, the solution is simple. Think like a customer when building your checkout process. The lower the easier it is to shop on your site, the lower will be the likelihood of vanishing would-be customers. Here are a few tips on getting those users to stick around longer and buy more.

1. Shorter, Quicker Checkout

Going by the attention span figures we saw earlier, another key takeaway is that your checkout process needs to be short and snappy. Research shows that the average number of steps in the checkout process of the top 100 e-commerce sites came in at 5.08 steps. Try and stay under that number – the shorter, the better.

Data proves this. Online travel giant Expedia grew their profits by an incremental $12 million in 2011 by simply deleting one single field in their checkout process. Sounds tempting now, doesn’t it?

2. Allow Guest Checkouts

Among the many reasons that make me such an Amazon junkie, is how much I hate creating a new profile on new e-commerce sites and remember the new username and password for each new site. It’s just easier to stick with the first profile I ever made – my Amazon one. I’m confident there are definitely tons of people like me out there who do not bother shopping on new e-commerce sites for identical reasons.

Don’t let your shoppers’ inherent laziness prevent you from bagging more conversions. Allow users to check out as guests on your site and save them the torture of compulsory registration. You can always email your users an auto-generated password to go with their email ID after they complete the transaction, if you must have a registered account for every user.

3. Collect Only Necessary Data Via Forms

Collect Only Necessary Data Via FormsSome businesses need more user data than others as a matter of fact. Buying an insurance policy online will obviously entail giving a lot more information regarding your health as compared to buying a digital camera. However, many e-commerce businesses do not realize how cumbersome it is for users to provide answers to endless questions on their forms and go ahead with monster sized online forms anyway.

Avoid this fundamental mistake. Ask only for information that is absolutely essential for you to process the transaction. Asking users to part with unnecessary data only makes them part with your site at double speed.

4. Autofill in Forms

Steve Krug’s iconic tome on usability ‘Don’t Make Me Think’, talks about reducing the effort a user needs to put in to complete any task on your website. The lesser the effort needed, the higher are the resulting conversion rates.

Apply Mr. Krug’s advice to your checkout forms. Autofill content wherever possible to make the process quicker and smoother for the user. If the user is signed in, autofill his name, address, phone number, even credit card details if you have them on record. That is not to say that you do not allow users to modify these details for each transaction if they choose so.

5. Checkout Completion Bar

Have you noticed that it is easier to complete tasks when you have the end in sight than those where you have no clue how much more time or effort you’ll need to put in? Yes, the anticipation of a result makes us move quicker and distances seem shorter.

Incorporate a task completion bar near the top of your checkout process indicating the user’s progress. As the user gets closer to completing the purchase, the progress bar lights up accordingly showing the user that the destination is just a step or two away.

6. No Hidden Costs

The single biggest reason why online shoppers abandon their shopping carts is when they are faced with sudden unexpected costs at the payment stage. This could be shipping fees, taxes, services charges or the like that make a user stop short in their tracks.

Avoid unpleasant surprises by displaying clearly all the involved costs upfront within the shopping cart at the very beginning. Leaving a user feeling cheated is the worst thing you can do for your brand.

7. Product Reviews and Ratings

Research by Nielsen has shown that word of mouth advice stands out as the biggest factor that convinces a user to buy a product or service. Buyers tend to believe the words of other buyers like themselves instead of believing the marketing spiel from the brand itself, as they see through the vested interests involved there. Factor in this insight when you design your product pages on your e-commerce site.

Users don’t have the luxury of touch and feel when they buy a product online. All they have to go on are product descriptions from the manufacturer (which they would normally discount) and reviews by other users. A product that has multiple reviews from existing users has a far higher chance of being bought than one that has none. Actively solicit product reviews and ratings from past customers. They will help you reel in new ones in the future.

8. Free Shipping

Free Shipping
E-commerce has a huge edge over brick and mortar stores in that they save on rent, utilities, overheads, warehousing and more, thanks to the absence of a real storefront. Conversely, the absence of a storefront means, users have no choice but to pay extra for shipping the products they buy online to their doorsteps. As a shopper yourself, you obviously know how much any shopper hates paying extra for anything in their purchase process. In fact, expensive shipping is among the biggest reasons for shoppers abandoning their carts before completing a purchase.

Get over this bump by offering your users free shipping wherever you can. Amazon has recently started offering free shipping for small, lightweight items with no minimum purchase requirement. This is a smart step to fend off competition from the online versions of Walmart and Target, which allow users to pick up items bought online from their physical locations for no fee at all. You may not be Amazon, but working out at least a free shipping option above a certain minimum purchase amount will not only benefit users; it will also push your average order value higher as users try and qualify for the free shipping offer.

9. Editable Shopping Cart

How many times have you gone back to the rack where you picked up an item in a store and exchanged it for another one before heading to the cash register? If you’re an indecisive shopper like me, multiple times would be my bet.

Not every shopper knows exactly what they want. Sometimes they’re just browsing and might change their minds halfway through the shopping process. Recognize this fickle nature of the average shopper and allow them to go back and edit the contents of their cart without having to redo the entire purchase from the beginning. A shopping cart that allows edits till right before the payments stage is one that loses much fewer shoppers than one that does not. Opt for the sticky version for your online shopping cart.

10. Multiple Payment Options

Multiple Payment Options
Imagine going into a candy store, picking out your favorite bits of candy, handing over your cash to the nice lady at the register, only to be told that your cash is no good. You need to pay for your candy in cowrie shells.

That’s kind of what happens to a shopper when your online store does not support the payment option that your user would like to use. In spite of wanting to complete the purchase, the user has no choice but to leave their shopping incomplete thanks to restrictive payment conditions. Stop frustrating potential shoppers and extend your payment options to include the most popular payment methods. Not only will your customers thank you for it, your bottom line will too. A shopping cart like ShopIntegrator allows you to offer users a variety of payment options ranging from debit card, credit card, bank transfers to PayPal and offline payments.

11. Security Labels

It is not enough to merely accept a variety of payment options on your website to convince users to buy from you. It’s equally important to assure them of the security of your site and the fact that their payment details and personal information are a 100% safe with you. This has become even more critical in the last few years thanks to all the cases of data theft that have come to light with large retailers like Target and eBay.

Besides displaying your returns and refund policy prominently in your checkout process, also make it a point to display security labels like VeriSign or McAfee Secure on your payments page. Familiar and trusted security symbols reassure users that they are shopping on a safe site and there’s no danger to their financial information. Making sure that your checkout process is hosted on an HTTPS protocol is another important step in this direction.

Conclusion

Improving checkout conversions is not a quick fix that you implement in one go. It’s a process that evolves with your website and changes based on your audience’s preferences. From helping users with live chat to displaying customer care numbers prominently, to even rewarding users for a completed purchase, there are multiple steps that you can take based on your reading of your users’ behavior on your site.

Remember, reducing cart abandonment is no one-size-fits-all formula. Once you get the basics described here in place on your site, incremental growth comes from understanding your users and modifying your approach accordingly.

Image Source: (1, 2, 3, 4)

How to use online video to improve your content marketing

online video marketingThe last few years have seen online video literally explode onto the scene and its popularity doesn’t look like it is going to wane any time soon. Indeed somewhat mind-bogglingly, researchers predict that by 2019 it would take an individual 5 million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks each month.

Online video has become an increasingly important component of successful content marketing and as such it is something that all small online businesses should be thinking about incorporating into their online presence.

Interesting video statistics include:

  •  Website visitors are 64% more likely to buy a product after watching a video about it.
  • 7 billion videos are watched each and every day on Facebook and YouTube.
  • 4 times as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it.
  • 56% of consumers believe that if a company has a website, it should have video.
  • Posts with videos attract three times as many inbound links as plain text posts.
  • Globally, consumer internet video traffic will be 80% of all consumer internet traffic by 2019.
  • 55% of people watch videos online everyday.

Benefits for small businesses

At a time when we are drowning in online information, video can convey a message in a format that is easily digestible and naturally engaging. As a small business this can help you stand out from the crowd and get your message heard. In addition:

Low production costs. You no longer need a hefty budget or in-depth technical knowledge to produce high-quality videos. Some excellent videos have been put together using just a Smartphone.  Online video creation services such as Animoto, GoAnimate and Stupeflix offer reasonably priced business packages that enable even a complete beginner to quickly and easily put together professional-quality videos with their pictures and video clips.

Helps with SEO. Search engines love fresh relevant and original content as Video. Research has shown that websites with video content are 53 times more likely to rank on page one of Google.

Made for sharing. Videos are more likely to get shared than other content. Indeed, 92% of mobile video viewers share videos with others.

Build your brand personality.  Clever use of video can help bring personality to your business.  You can use it to develop an image of how you’d like your business to be perceived.

5 tips to improve online video content5 ways to enhance your online video content

To help improve your content marketing efforts we’ve come up with a few online video ideas to get you started.

1. Showcasing. Use video to showcase your products in real-life scenarios or situations. Your audience will get a better feel for a product which in turn gives them the added reassurance that what they see is what they will receive upon delivery. Many online clothing retailers use video to help reassure customers. For example take a look at how Boden uses video.

2. Demonstrating. Video is a great way to demonstrate how a particular product or service works. ‘How to Guides’ and tutorials can impart complex information in an easily digestible manner. Indeed 4 in 5 consumers say a video showing how a product or service works is important. Here at ShopIntegrator we use online video tutorials to help clients set up their online shops.

3. Personality building. Meet the team’ or ‘about us’ videos, are a great way to build brand personality. Take a look at Stella & Dot’s ‘Our Story’ video. They successfully use video to give their audience a real feel for the people behind the business and its brand values. A short 60 second video about what makes your business unique can be a really powerful sales tool.

4. Customer testimonials. Customer testimonials are a helpful tool in the sales conversion process, they add credibility to your business and offer customer added reassurance about potential purchasing decisions. Whilst text only testimonials are fine, think about capturing some testimonials from your customers on video. Videos are more engaging and visitors will get a better understanding of the kind of business you are from your customer community.

5. Online advertising. Don’t forget about using video in your online advertising. Online display advertising is rapidly on the up with Forrester predicting spending will nearly double by 2019. This rise will be primarily driven by video advertising. Research indicates that consumers are very receptive to video advertising and are 27 times more likely to click-through on online video ads than standard banner advertisements.

share videos on social media
Top tips for successful online videos

And finally, we’ll leave you with a few helpful tips to ensure successful online video content.

  • Try to keep your videos as short and sweet  as possible. Nearly 2/3 of people prefer videos of under 60 seconds so aim to keep them as short and as informative as you can.
  • Always go for quality over quantity. It is better to produce fewer, relevant and well executed videos than churning out lots of unprofessional, immaterial offerings
  • The beauty of video is its shareability.  People like sharing videos so make sure you make it easy for people to do so by including social sharing buttons. Try also including  a clear call to action such as ‘If you enjoyed this video please share it with your friends’.
  • Post and promote your videos content on a variety of platforms. Social media is the perfect environment for video sharing. Indeed, since June 2014 Facebook has averaged more than 1 billion video views every day. And, from January this year iPhone and Android Twitter users can actually capture, edit and share videos of up to 30 seconds duration on Twitter.
  • Use video links in your email communications. Not only are you promoting your videos, your emails are more likely to get opened if they include a video. In fact, customers are nearly 50% more likely to read email newsletters that include links to video.
  • Spend time on your title. Your video title is important. In the same way you would take time to craft a good headline, create a strong, relevant title for your video using appropriate keywords.
  • Always keep you audience in mind. When you are creating your video content, just like any other content marketing, remember your audience. Think about what information will be of interest to them. What would they like to see?
  • Include your URL. Use your video to drive traffic to your site by including your business’ URL in both the video and your video’s description. . Remember people will be viewing your video on a multitude of different screens so make sure it can be viewed equally well no matter the device. In fact, are now on mobile devices
  • Multi-device friendly. Remember people will be viewing your video on a multitude of different screens so make sure it can be viewed equally well no matter the device. In fact, half of all YouTube views are now on mobile devices.

As a small business owner, you really can’t afford not to include video in your content marketing in some shape or form. It is far more accessible now and doesn’t cost the earth to produce professional, high quality video.  Hopefully we’ve given you a bit of inspiration and some helpful tips to get you started.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on using online video content, so please do feel free to leave a comment.