8 Marketing Ways to use Instagram for e-Commerce

Businesses, it seems, have squeezed the entire commercial potential of Facebook in the last few years. Reports suggest that there has been a 63% decrease in organic marketing reach since 2012 on Facebook. The world’s largest social network, in all probability, has plateaued. The decline of Facebook has led to a mad rush by brands to find the next big social network. And it is not without a sense of irony that this new social network is owned by Facebook!

We are talking about Instagram. And by all accounts, it is just getting warmed up. This visually-led social network has 500 million users, 300 million of which use Instagram daily, at last count, making it the fastest growing social network in the world. Launched in October, 2010, it was bought by Facebook at a whopping $1 billion within a year and a half. The amount Facebook closed this deal at was scoffed by most experts, but Zuckerberg, it seems, had the last laugh.

Although Instagram does not offer any business-specific features, it hasn’t dissuaded 93% of premier brands that are active on Instagram. Many smaller brands, especially, e-commerce, have made Instagram their own. With a 115% increase in organic marketing reach since 2012, Instagram has become a darling of brands.

A brief comparison of the business potential of Facebook and Instagram

Apart from the massive difference in organic marketing reach of the two social networks, more than twice the number of Instagrammers engages with brands as compared to Facebook users. Instagram has 58x more engagement per follower than Facebook. While brands on Facebook reach 6% of their followers per post, brands on Instagram reach 100% of their followers per post. Also while the average order value on Facebook was $55, it was $65 on Instagram. User statistics on Instagram are just as mind-boggling.

So how does an e-commerce brand that relies so heavily on product pictures use Instagram that does not allow use of copy or links to online stores?

1. No external links? No problem. Use hashtags instead!

The biggest challenge with Instagram is that it does not recognize links that takes a user outside of its cozy environs. For an e-commerce store, this could be the biggest problem as there is no way it can guide users to its online store. You can only have links in your profile.

warbyparker
Without links, hashtags are your best friends. Judicious use of hashtags help you organize your posts and make them noticeable to Instagrammers. If you are a fledgling entity on Instagram, use hashtags to get your pictures noticed. Find out the hottest hashtags on Instagram and use them for your brand.

hashtags
Once you garner a good number of followers, you can shift your strategy to focus more on pictures. A hashtag becomes a link to your brand. All your posts featuring a particular hashtag will be displayed at a single place. Thus, you can now showcase your products in one place. You can also invite users to submit pictures using a particular tag and they all will appear in one place.

2. Try influencer marketing

Influencers can turbo-charge your marketing on Instagram. The most popular industries on Instagram have influencers – those who have a ton of followers. Fashion, cosmetics, personal care, food and alcohol are among the industries that have a high number of influencers.

A bit of research into whom your target market follows and you can approach them to help you. The best way is to get them to post a picture wearing (or using) your product and a hashtag, and voila! You have a campaign on your hands. The bigger influencers will very likely expect to be paid while some smaller ones (having a fan base of a few thousand) will be happy with a free product sample. Choose your influencer depending on what you want to offer in return.

Influencers aren’t necessarily celebrities. It is how they post and what they post that has helped them garner such a huge following. Take for example Adam Gallagher. He is a big influencer in the fashion/lifestyle/travel industry and has a whopping 1.8 million followers. He is the founder of the popular blog “I am Galla,” which “aids the men’s demographic with styling tips, trend forecasts and third-party inspiration.”

iamgala3. Use raw, natural photos

Being a purely visual channel, Instagram poses many challenges for businesses looking to engage with their audience. It’s like selling without a copy, as Jim Squires, Instagram’s director of market operations puts it. He advises brands to be creative and use Instagram’s existing features to build an awesome user experience. “Fit in to stand out,” is what he tells marketers.

The brands that have been successful the most are the ones that use beautiful photos that elicit emotions. Use lifestyle photos of your products. Instead of studio pictures, ask users to submit their own pictures using/wearing your products. Take a look at how Tsuru, a local clothing retailer uses customer-generated content for promotion of its products.

tsuru

Instagram is also not following the Facebook route towards allowing explicit ads. It has set very strict rules for brands to follow.

4. Use Instagram Direct for e-commerce marketing

Instagram Direct is a way to send photo and video messages and can be used creatively by e-commerce brands. Brands can now share photos and 15-second videos and share it with their audience.

Using Direct is simple. Take a photo and/or record a video. Add effects, filters and captions if you like. Tap on the “direct” option on the screen. Select names of followers you wish to send this to and tap on “send.”

You can use Direct to announce the launch of a new product. Since Direct only allows you to send a photo or video to 15 followers at a time, you can use this strategy to give a sneak peek to a select bunch of really engaged users.

You can also use Direct to gift coupons to your best followers. You can select the followers that comment on, like and share your posts frequently and send them the photo with the gift code that they can use for their next shopping.

Direct also allows brands to chat with their followers. Holding a Q&A with followers gives you a great opportunity to get feedback and educate them. You can also target specific demographics using Direct that allows you to send your message to a select audience. This is a great way to do brand research.

5. Leveraging the Videos Channel in Explore

The Search and Explore feature in Instagram is an intuitive way that is used to serve relevant content to users depending upon their preferences. This is a non-invasive way and what content will be served depends upon any factors including the people one follows or the posts one likes.

In April this year, Instagram launched video channels in Explore. They’ve realized the popularity of videos among users and through this feature they’ll make it easier for users to discover relevant videos. This offers a fabulous opportunity for brands to create awesome video content and reach a wider audience – people who do not yet follow them.

According to Instagram, Explore gets better by adjusting to your preferences and shows you more content that you’ll enjoy. So you may consider it as free promotion of your content by Instagram! This is a great way to create awesome videos and let Instagram serve it to the right people.

6. Run contests

Contests are popular ways to engage users and drive attention. Everybody loves the chance of winning a prize in a contest. To make a hashtag trending, tie it with a giveaway or contest. Take a look at this simple content run by Bows-N-Ties.

bowsnties

The most important part of the contest is to choose the right hashtag, one that is, preferably, your brand name and which is not already in use. Set the scope for the contest (what kind of picture, whether it has to be your products, which hashtags to be included, etc.). Finally, set the reward. A recurring reward is better than a one-off contest as it keeps the hashtag alive and you get a continuous steam of user-generated content.

7. Use Instagram Stories

On August 2, 2016, Instagram announced the launch of Instagram Stories. Most experts believe that this is to counter the growing popularity of Snapchat and Instagram is pulling all plugs to retain its leader tag. Instagram CEO, Kevin Systrom even admitted that the credit for introducing the “stories” format goes to Snapchat.

This feature lets you share photos and videos without posting them to your profile. Your entire 24 hours will be packed in a slideshow format – your story. The story remains “alive” for 24 hours.

This is another exciting opportunity for brands to be as creative as they can and create brand stories that will increase user interest and engagement. Brands can upload photos and add effects like neon marker, brush tool, pen. They can increase the visual appeal by selecting various colors from the palette. Brands can also use Boomerangs and Hyperlapses and add them to the story to make it more enticing.

8. Check out these cool tools to make marketing on Instagram easier

  • Iconosquare – With this software, a small, dedicated team can easily manage a company’s Instagram account. A platform is created on your desktop which shows you your feed and what followers are posting. A powerful search functionality and statistics help you manage your account like a breeze.
  • Offerpop – They have a unique photo contest builder that you can use to create exciting contests on Instagram.
  • InstaOrders – With this software, you can create a free e-commerce store on your Instagram account. This allows shoppers to directly place orders on Instagram.
  • 10sec – This is a free flea market app that you can use to sell your products on Instagram. From making a listing to shipping an item to depositing money in your account, 10sec does it all.

Takeaway

Instagram has struck the right balance – helping brands to tell their stories and engage customers, without being too invasive. It still is a very personal social network, unlike Facebook. It has managed to create the right mix of social and commerce. The visual impact of this platform makes it creatively challenging for brands to create brand stories and yet gives them the perfect opportunity to engage better with its audience by allowing user-generated content on their profiles.

Even B2B marketers are using Instagram successfully. So it should hardly come as a surprise that e-commerce brands are using this exciting platform to generate a buzz around their products. We hope that the above-mentioned marketing ideas will inspire you to creatively engage with your audience on Instagram.

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

How to offer excellent customer service – 7 tips for small business ecommerce

 

customer service for small business

Customer service is a direct reflection on your business and your brand. Consequently how you manage your customer care is important. Poor customer care could result in the loss of customers and ultimately damage your reputation. Great customer service can create loyalty, bring in new customers and give you the edge over your competitors.

We now live in a society where social media and customer review sites are part-and-parcel of the business world and although they are both excellent vehicles for positive customer feedback, it also means that negative consumer experiences are out there for everyone to see – sometimes before you’ve even had the chance to deal with them directly yourself.

58% of consumers are more likely to tell others about their customer service experiences than they were 5 years ago

Ensuring that your small online business or start-up is offering all it can in terms of excellent customer care is essential for the long-term success of your business.

Impact of poor customer service

  • 82% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company due to poor customer service
  • 44% of customers switch to a competitor following inadequate customer care
  • 55% of customers intending to make a purchase have walked away due to poor customer service

Impact of great customer service

7 customer service tips to help your business stand apart

As a small online business or ecommerce start-up, you are unlikely to have an all-singing, all -dancing customer service call centre to hand. Chances are it is going to be you fielding the majority of  calls and emails. We’ve outlined some simple tips that are easy to implement, cost-effective and could make a big difference in terms of customer satisfaction.

1. Offer that little bit extra

Going that extra mile for a customer won’t cost you much but can pay dividends in terms of customer loyalty and repeat business. A little extra effort on your part – for example getting something in the post to a customer on the same day or going a bit above and beyond the call of duty to deal with a query or issue – will be noticed and appreciated by your customers. In the days of automated customer services, long waiting times and being passed around from pilar to post, you have the great advantage of still being able to personally deal with many of your customers directly – it’s your chance to establish a solid relationship.

2. Walk in your customers shoes

walk in your customers shoes

If you don’t understand your customers and recognise their needs, how can you be certain you are offering them a positive customer experience? Get to know you customers (and as we mention before you are in the great position of being able to have direct contact with your customers so use those moments to find out a bit more about what they like and don’t like about your business), think about their customer journey from start to finish and see what you can implement to improve their experience. Having a good understanding of your customers will enable you to deliver the service they want.

3. Be flexible.

There are times when a little bit of flexibility will reap rewards for your business in the long-term. Of course you will need to make a judgement call on each individual situation after all you are in business to make a profit, but a little bit of give now and then, particularly when you know you are dealing with a loyal customer, can be a great way to give a customer the feeling off special treatment. For example perhaps honouring a promotion or sales voucher when the deadline has passed or accepting a return even if it doesn’t quite meet your criteria.  Remember it is far more cost-effective to keep an existing customer than to acquire a new one. So where you can offer customers some flexibility – you’ll find it will be appreciated.

4. Save precious time – pre-empt simple queries

Of course, dealing with customer queries yourself is great for getting to know your customers and for relationship building, but the reality for a small business owner is lack of time means that having to deal with all customer queries is a potential headache. It is essential that you set up a way to deal with the most frequently asked questions and queries – ones that are simple and straightforward to deal with .  This will include simple things like your return policy, shipping times, opening hours, product descriptions, set up instructions and so on.

set up an FAQ page

 

Think about the calls you take and emails your receive.  What are your most frequently asked questions and which ones don’t require a telephone or email response. Set up  FAQ page and put all those kind of queries on to there. Make sure your FAQ page is clearly marked on the website and direct people there in your initial order confirmation emails and paperwork. It will save you time, enabling you to concentrate on the customer queries that require a little more personal attention.

5. Start with ‘sorry’

Even if you seriously question whether you should be saying ‘sorry’ always start your response to any customer complaint by saying that you are sorry that your customer has experienced a problem. This is simple good manners and not an admission that the fault is yours.  It takes the wind out of a customer dissatisfaction and shows that you are genuinely concerned that your customer is unhappy enough to take the time to make a complaint. Acknowledge if you have made a mistake and don’t try to  pass the buck. Your customer isn’t interested in whose fault it is – they just want their complaint listened to and dealt with quickly and efficiently. Remaining polite, well-mannered and professional at all times is essential no matter how frustrating the phone call or email .

6. Have clear guidelines in place

There may be times where other member of your team will need to step in and deal with complaints on your behalf. If this is the case with your small business, then it is imperative that you have clear guidelines in place. Not only on a practical level so that the issue can get resolved in your absence but also in your company’s overall approach to customer service. For example all members of the team should be clear on the kind of service they are expected to offer customers all  such as being friendly, polite, approachable, professional and communicating clearly and effectively.

7. Respond to negative comments

45% of customers share negative reviews on social media and 63% of consumers read negative reviews on social media.

Social media and customer reviews sites mean that even with the best effort in the world you will be faced with a disgruntled customer who will post a negative review. How you handle negative feedback is important. The difference between dealing with an unhappy customer via email or on the phone is that any negative comments posted on social media or customer review sites are there for everybody to see. It is really important to respond quickly and efficiently to comments. Apologise upfront for any inconvenience caused – showing you take the complaint seriously, be honest and remain professional and polite at all times – no matter how unfair you deem the complaint to be. To ensure the comment doesn’t escalate if it is appropriate take the comment offline to deal with – as in the IKEA example below:

 

social media dealing with negative comments

 

Don’t underestimate the importance of great customer service . It doesn’t cost the world and even implementing some simple practices can make a real difference to how you are viewed by customers and potential customers. A little bit of extra effort can pay dividends in the long-term.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on what great customer service means so please do leave a comment. 

 

 

 

How to create great online content for your small business website

Content Marketing for small business

 

Great content is an essential part of a successful online presence. It helps drive traffic, build relationships, grow brand awareness, reinforce trust and support SEO. So, what makes great content and how can you as a small business owner ensure you are getting it right?

We take a look at how to approach content creation with 7 helpful tips on how to produce content that is top-notch.

1. Focus on your customers

When you are thinking about the kind of content you want on your website your focus should be on creating content that is relevant and of value to your target audience. It can be tempting to pack your website full of sales orientated copy, which of course has it’s place, but your key aim should be to produce content that your customers and prospective customers will find interesting and useful.

SEO also plays an important part in content creation, but the days of keyword stuffing practices are long gone. Instead spend some time researching your target audience and brainstorming the kind of keywords and key phrases they might use to search for the products and services you are selling and incorporate them naturally into your copy.

Essentially if you write content with your target audience in mind you wont go far wrong.

2. Create original content

The most important content for marketers is original written content (45%)

Search engines like high quality content of which a key characteristic is originality –  essentially content that is not already on other website. Hence duplicating content from other sites is not the answer (in fact such practices can be detrimental to your search engine page ranking).  So how can you ensure you are getting enough original content on your site?

Blogging: Posting regular blog articles are an excellent way to ensure original and relevant content is being added to your site on a regular basis. Writing blog articles requires time however in addition to providing you with original content, blogging also helps generate traffic, yield new leads, maintain customer relationships and build brand trust.

blogging

Curated Content: A consistent flow of original content is essential, however in reality small business owners are under huge time pressures and have limited resources.  Therefore there are times when curated content can step in. For example a weekly ‘news roundup’ of relevant articles in your industry can work well – just ensure you are adding your own, original commentary and opinion to it (and as we mentioned before don’t plagiarise or try to pass it off as your own!)

Product pages. Write your own product descriptions rather than simply re-using the information supplied by the manufactures.  Create your own original descriptions with your target audience in mind, making them user-friendly and relevant.

 

3. Make it useful

“Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed“

Google Search Engine Optimisation Starter Guide

Think about what kind of content will be of interest and have a value to your target audience – is it informative content or entertaining content that will most appeal – or indeed a mixture of both? Useful, relevent content will help drive traffic to you website and keep people coming back for more. Some ideas include:

  • Free downloadable e/book or white paper
  • Infographics
  • Latest industry news and trends reports
  • Ideas and tips for using your products in real-life
  • Competitions or quizzes
  • Interviews with relevant industry figures
  •  Online videos such as useful tutorials, product instructions or demonstrations

4. Be visually engaging

Having great visual content is an essential part of successful content creation. As humans we are naturally drawn to all things visual , so think about how you can use visuals to create standalone content and support other content on your site.

visual content marketing

 

 

Engaging images: How can you make the images on your site more engaging? For example, instead of just using product images provided by the manufactures take your own photos – showing off products in relief scenarios.  Avoid using run of the mill stock images. There are some excellent online image libraries where you can source some interesting and inspiring images. Think about using software tools (some of which offer free services) like Skitch and Canva to add text to images. Essentially spend some time thinking about how you can produce your own interesting and engaging visuals for your website.

Video: If you can incorporate video into your online presence all the better. Video has become an important element of successful content marketing – indeed research indicates that 1 in 4 consumers actually lose interest in a company if it doesn’t have video.

5. Make content digestible

How you write and present your content online is important. Reams of unbroken text on a page is off-putting. you may have written something of huge interest to your target audience, but if they can’t grasp the gist of it in moments they aren’t going to bother to read it. Keep to the point and get rid off any unnecessary fluff and waffle.

Think about how you present text on the page – it should look inviting. Break up text into small digestible paragraphs, use headers, sub headers, text blocks, bullets points and of course engaging images.

When visitors look at the content on your website ensure it is visually appealing and that your content is displayed in manageable, easily digestible chunks.

6. Keep it fresh

It is important to keep the content fresh and up-to-date.  Go through your online content at regular intervals to ensure that there is no out-of-date information or broken links. Having old, stale content can make your site look unprofessional. And, whilst you are reviewing your content, make sure you are double checking for any typos and grammar mistakes.

Re-purposing or refreshing an old blog post with new updated information or updates is a quick way to freshen your content and add new original content to your site.

7. User generated content

Search engines like user-generated content such as customer testimonials, product reviews, blog comments and discussion forums. Moreover, this sort of ‘conversational’ content is a good way to keep regular, original and relevant coming into your site. Of course if you do go down this road, you will need to ensure that you are regular monitoring the content that gets put on, removing anything offensive or inappropriate immediately.

When you are creating online content for your business if keep your target audience in mind at all times, you won’t go far wrong. Content that appeals to your customers and is likely to keep search engines happy too. Focus on having a good variety of high-quality content that is relevant, interesting and offers value to your audience,

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experience of creating online content, so please do leave a comment. 

 

 

Beginner’s Guide to SMS Marketing

sms mobile marketing

Communicating with consumers doesn’t need to be hard. SMS is a simple, yet effective way to contact consumers. Using the right strategies and techniques will ensure your mobile marketing campaign is successful.

Reasons SMS is powerful:

  • 23 BILLION text messages are sent per day
  • 97% of Text Messages are opened on average (compared to just 20% of emails)
  • 80% of people are now using text messaging for business in some form or fashion

Trumpia’s beginner’s guide to SMS marketing infographic down below will help kick start your SMS marketing campaign.

Beginner guide to SMS marketing infographic

 

Guest Author: Sophorn Chhay

Sophorn is the marketing guy at Trumpia, a mobile content delivery service that allows users to customize their one-to-one marketing efforts by interconnecting and optimizing all digital platforms. As an innovator in two-way SMS messaging, Trumpia’s mission is to empower brands and public figures with interactive access to their audiences, reaching targeted affinity groups in a personal way. Trumpia delivers world-class content such as video, ticketing, polling, products sales, contests and giveaways.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this post. Please do leave a comment.

How small online businesses and start-ups can plan for email success

email marketing plan

Email remains one of the most useful and consequently best-loved tools in a small business’ marketing toolkit. Despite plenty of claims that time is up for email it continues to flourish – showing no signs of being pushed to the sidelines by newer entrants such as social media. Indeed, you are 6x more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than you are from a tweet.

According to recent statistics, the average person gets 121 emails a day and the human race as a whole gets 193.3 billion. Of those 193.3 billion,  business emails account for 108.7 billion.  With such high volumes you would be forgiven for thinking that people would be fed up to the back teeth with email.  On the contrary,  as consumers we continue to embrace email it because despite the high levels of unwanted communications we still find email valuable.  We actively sign-up to receive email from companies we like for information, offers and news. Indeed 95% of people who sign up for a newsletter from a recognised brand consider the email useful.

Small business owners and start-ups love email because it is:

  • Flexible – it is quick to set up and dispatch and we can use it for all sorts of business communication.
  • Cost effective – it won’t break the bank – indeed most email marketing providers offer free plans which is great for small businesses and start-ups. For example MailChimp offers up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails free per month.
  • Great ROI – email has one of the highest ROI of any marketing tool. Research shows that for every $1 spent, email marketing generates $38 in ROI.
  • High conversion rate – when it comes to purchases made as a result of receiving a marketing message, email has the highest conversion rate (66%), when compared to social, direct mail and more.
  • Plenty of DIY  options – there are so many excellent email marketing providers out there that we can create professional, visually appealing emails  all on our very own.
  • Lead generation – 89% of marketers say that email is their primary channel for lead generation.

 

Planning for email success

“An email communications strategy defines the value you can offer to different target audiences through the range of different types of email to maximise response.” Smart Insights

We’ve established that email is a valuable tool for small businesses and start-ups . The majority of use email for all sorts of varied business and marketing communications. However in order to really optimise the potential of email marketing and help grow  your business, you should spend some time looking at your email strategy and planning your email marketing activities. If you have a rather ad-hoc and scatter gun approach you could be missing out.

email marketing plan

 

 

Taking a step back to review your current email marketing, identify any possible gaps and taking a systematic and planned approach to implementation really can help boost performance.  We’ve outlined a few key areas to consider when you are at the planning stage to ensure you are getting the most from your email marketing.

Know your goals and set objectives

A key question to ask yourself is what are the key goals for your email marketing – what is it you want to achieve? For example do you want to boost online sales, generate leads, grow brand awareness or build customer relationships ? The clearer you are about what it is you want to achieve the more focused and effective your email marketing will be.

Critical to this is knowing your audience – even at a simplistic level you will have different objectives depending which customer group you are targeting. For example, you may want to reach out to your lapsed customers and your objective may be to get them to re-engage  or get feedback as to why they lapsed. Or for customers who abandoned their cart midway through their purchase your objective would be for them to go back to their basket and complete their purchase.

Of course your goals and objectives will depend on your business and how you segment your customers, but the point is you need to have a clear goals and specific objectives in place to enable you to create emails that achieve what it is you want for your business.

 

Map it out visually

I’ve found that a great way to get  handle on your email marketing communications is to map it out visually. A visual representation such as a flow chart will help you quickly identify all the various customer touch points, how you approach customers depending  upon where they are on the customer journey, your different target groups, the frequency of which you send your emails and so on.

With this amount of information it is far easier to digest visually. Any gaps that offering a potential email opportunity will be far easier to spot.

flow chart

 

Growing your list

Your email is only as good as the data you have. Marketing databases naturally degrade by about 22.5% each year, so planning ahead so that you continue to grow your list is an important element of email planning. What activities can you implement to plug any shortfall and build your list? For example;

  • Do you have a way for people to sign up to email communications such as a newsletter on your website?
  • Could  you consider implementing a refer a friend scheme?
  • Could you run a competition on social media?
  • Have you tried offering a free e-book download in return for contact details?

How does it look?

Thinking about how you create your marketing emails will also ensure a better response.  For example –

Brand consistency – email communications are a great way to build brand recognition so having a hold on all the emails that you send will help ensure that you are consistent across all your marketing communications .

Content – interesting, informative and engaging content is important if you want you email to get opened – there is no point sending out an email if you have nothing of value to the recipient in it. Plan ahead for interesting content – for example are there seasonal times of the year where you have special promotions or new products coming out?  If so timetable them in advance.

Visually appealing – visuals help people engage with content so spend some time sourcing interesting images and breaking text up into digestible chunks will make it more inviting to the recipient.

Email Automation

“Transactional emails have 8x more opens and clicks than any other type of email, and can generate 6x more revenue.

As a small business owner or start-up, there is a strong chance you are undertaking your business’ email marketing yourself. Indeed 91% of us are fulfilling our own marketing needs, often using an email service provider such as Mailchimp, Vertical Response or Weber. There are plenty of excellent providers on the market and if you haven’t already considered email automation then it is something that is worth thinking about when you are at the planning stage.

Automated emails are essentially email that are triggered automatically after a specific action. For example abandoned cart emails are often triggered automatically after a potential customer has abandoned their basket  and not returned to it after a specific period of time has lapsed. Another example is the automated email that you usually receive once you have subscribed or signed up to a newsletter.

Not only do automated emails help free up your time but statistics like the one above seem to suggest a very positive effect on response and revenue.

Have you buttoned down all the legal bits?

Sounds obvious but when you are planning your marketing just make sure that you have covered all the legal bits such as data-protection. Have you got permission to contact the person you are emailing? Have you included a clear unsubscribe button on all your email communications?

In the UK you would need to look at the Data Protection Act 1998 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation Act.

Measure and review

An integral part of your email marking planning is how you intend to measure and review performance. If you don’t measure your activities you won’t know what’s working well and what not working. When you are setting out your objectives it helps to include a measurable element for example, on an email newsletter your objective may be to achieve a 20% open rate.

Industry benchmarks can help with this initially for example current industry averages for email open rates and click-through rates for ecommerce are 16.82% and 2.48% respectively.

However you decide to measure the response rate of your email campaigns, just make sure you are setting realistic targets.

The key message to take away is that putting some time aside to really plan out your email marketing, will ensure you are fully optimising the benefits email can bring to your business, through generating better response, new leads, higher conversions and better customer relationships. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of email marketing so please do leave a comment. 

Email image courtesy of nokhoog_buchachon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

How to build online trust – 6 helpful tips for small business ecommerce and start-ups

online trust

Trust is integral to the success of any business. A customer will only buy from you, continue a relationship with you and share their experience positively if they trust you. Of course, building trust takes time so a key challenge for small business ecommerce and start-ups is getting customers to engage when they have no experience of you or your business. Therefore, as a small business owner or ecommerce start-up you have to work harder to instill a sense of trust in order for a customer to feel comfortable handing over their hard-earned money.

Well-known companies have built up trust over time to the point that it becomes ingrained within the brand (think John Lewis). Start-up’s don’t have that luxury – you need to impart a sense of trust from the first moment a potential customer comes in contact with you business. You have to be able to quickly convey the message that you are a credible, professional and trustworthy company.

Happily there are some practical actions you can implement that can help send out trust signposts to potential customers signalling that you are a business they can feel comfortable and confident engaging with. A good starting point is to take a look the entire customer experience – start to finish. From initial promotions (both online and offline), a customer’s first experience of your website , right through to the checkout process. Identify all the touchpoint along the customer journey that can provide you with the opportunity to develop your  message of  trustworthiness.

6 ways to help instill trust

1. A great website

Like it or not first impressions count. Your website may well be the first significant experience a customer get of  your business. If a new customer lands on your site and it it looks disorganised, dated and unprofessional any natural hesitancy they had will be amplified and it will be increasingly difficult for you to win their business.

Your website needs to look professional, be easy to navigate and information should be up-to-date. Go through it with a fine tooth comb and check for broken links, spelling mistakes and out-of-date information. A credible website makes a customer feel comfortable and secure. Think about the following aspects:

  • Navigation – How simple is it for your customer to access the information they are looking for? Can they get to their desired destination within a few clicks?
  • Usability – Does it load quickly? How easy is it for a customer to complete a specific action such as sending an email request,  adding an item to their shopping cart or completing the checkout process? Make your website as user-friendly as possible.
  • Design – we’ve already mentioned the importance of a good first impression. The design of your site has powerful impact on how your business is viewed. Is your website structured so your customers don;t have to think too hard. Is it visually appealing? Does it contain interesting and engaging images?

2. Relevant, fresh and engaging content

online content

The quality of your content is central to building trust and establishing an ongoing relationship with your customers. Offer customers a wide range of interesting, engaging and informative content. Think about how you can provide information that is of value to your audience. For example blogging is a great way to show you are interested in your customers, it helps keep new content coming into your site and can add an air of authority to your business.

Look at your content continuously on an ongoing basis. Nothing shrieks unprofessional as stale and out of date content. Customers may think if you can’t be bothered to take time over the content of your website you may not be too bothered in other areas either. Keep your content fresh, relevant and up-to-date and don’t forget if you have a presence on social media, the same applies – keep active and post fresh, interesting content regularly.

Finally, do also have a think about the tone of voice and approach you take to your content. As your brand develops and becomes more established you may take more risks and become more playful in your tone but when starting out then it is probably safer to take a friendly but professional stance – for example err on the conservative side!

3. Customer reviews and testimonials

  • 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site which has user reviews.
  • Consumer reviews are significantly more trusted (nearly 12 times more) than descriptions that come from manufacturers

Customer reviews on your website can act as a significant trust signposts. Customers trust reviews from other customers almost as much as word of mouth from friends and family – this can be particularly useful when starting out in a new business. Customer reviews can help improve customer trust in your product and/or service and helps build brand credibility. Having visible customer reviews on your website also conveys that you are confident in your product, having nothing to hide and are genuinely interested in and value the opinions of your customers.

There are plenty of online review sites available to help you manage and automate your customer reviews – for example Trustpilot, Feefo, Reevo. Alternatively don’t be afraid of directly contacting customers or clients  for a testimonial directly. If customers have had a positive experience they are usually quite happy to review you or provide you with a testimonial.

4. Display Trustmarks

 

trust mark security logos

Trustmarks in isolation won’t solve a customers concerns over the credibility of your site, but they can play a supporting role. A well designed, usable shopping cart checkout process is key but displaying trust marks security logos can help reassure customers that it is safe for them to shop on your website. Security logos and badges such as McAfee, Norton, TRUSTe, Twarte, Commode, PayPal will reassure customers that you have taken the appropriate steps to keep their personal  data safe and protect them from credit card fraud and identity theft.

In addition, if you are a member of any industry bodies or trade associations then it is worth flagging this up to. And, if your business works with closely with your local community or  supports a particular charity then highlight these activities as well  – they all help send out trust signals to customers that you are a credible, trustworthy and all-round good company to do business with.

5. Open communication channels

Your customers should be able to get in touch with you easily. Making them jump through hoops to make contact will undermine any trust you’ve built up. Being visible and easily contactable shows you care about your customers experience and have nothing to hide!

Ensure your contact information is flexible. Customers should be able to contact you in whatever way is most convenient to them be it phone, email or letter. Your ‘Contact Us’ page should be visible and easy for customers to find.

Central to developing trust offering excellent customer services. Being able to reassure a customer about an order or  a delivery goes a long way towards establishing a trustworthy relationship – particularly when a customer has no previous experience of your business.

6. Present a human face to the business

As a rule people like people and like doing business with people. Adding a human element is a great way for small business and start-ups to establish a rapport with potential customers. If they like the look of you and your business ethos, they are more likely to feel happy and willing to do business with you.

Checkout Riverford’s About Us page. It has genuine sense of community and you get a real feel for the people behind the business. So too take a look at Stella & Dot’s video – again is gives you a feel for the personalities behind the business.

Riverford About Us

 

Establishing brand trust doesn’t magically happen overnight it grows along with your business. However, as we’ve outlined above, when you are just starting out there are a number of trust signposts you can implement early on to help send out signals to potential customers that you are a credible, professional and trustworthy business that they can feel confident in engaging with. 

Online shopping image courtesy of sixninepixels at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thumbs up image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of building trust so please do leave a comment

Who are Hedonic Shoppers and How to Engage Them and Extend the Relationship?

Who are Hedonic Shoppers and How to Engage Them and Extend the Relationship
A large number of retailers have experienced a shift in the marketplace. The retail marketplace, both online and offline retailers have experienced a massive change and it is no longer sufficient to entice the customers by providing low pricing, discounts, wide assortment of products, etc. More and more retailers as well as ‘Etailers’ are recognizing the need to make the shopping experience entertaining to overcome the immense competition.

According to Baymard Institute, 67.89 percent shopping carts get abandoned. Most people believe that the shopping carts get abandoned due to poorly optimized carts or lengthy checkout processes, but you will be amazed to know there are many other reasons why shopping carts get abandoned. Moreover, the shopping cart abandonment rate increases due to the rise of a group of shoppers known as the ‘Hedonic Shoppers’.

Who are Hedonic Shoppers?

According to research performed to determine the types of shopping motivations, the shoppers can be divided into two categories – Utilitarian and Hedonic.

  • Hedonic shopping is mostly driven by entertainment and emotion. Hedonic values of a shopper are more subjective and personal and they are motivated by fun or playfulness of shopping experiences.
  • Utilitarian shopping is more goal-oriented and rational. Utilitarian shoppers are efficient shoppers who know what exactly they need. They are more concerned about meeting daily needs, seeking more variety, greater value, quality and looking for best prices.

Hedonic shoppers are more impulsive than the utilitarian shoppers. Although it might seem that the hedonic shoppers spend more on shopping, as compared to the utilitarian shopper, the shopping cart abandonment rates are higher as well (in case of hedonic shopping). So it has become increasingly important for the online retailers to adapt to this shift in shopping habits and optimize the shopping experience to incorporate fun, entertainment, excitement elements to satisfy both utilitarian as well as the hedonic shoppers.

For instance, Amazon is a great example of an online retailer that has diversified the shopping experience to satisfy both utilitarian and hedonic shoppers. Amazon is no longer focused on selling books only (utilitarian); it offers anything and everything a customer can look for (hedonic).

A study named, “Hedonic shopping motivations”, by Mark Arnold and Kristy Reynolds, revealed the hedonic reasons people go shopping and they came up with six major categories of hedonic shopping motivations:

  1. Adventure shopping – Driven by stimulation and excitement.
  2. Gratification shopping – To enhance one’s mood.
  3. Social shopping – Offers pleasure of interacting with others.
  4. Idea shopping – To stay updated with the latest trends.
  5. Role shopping – Offers pleasure from buying for others.
  6. Value shopping – Feel the excitement of finding deals (not necessarily make use of the deals found).

The immediate thought would be – how do I know what the motives of my visitors are. Google analytics and other analytics tools provide us with lots of information about your customers and their behavior, but there is no data about their motivations. Why did a visitor come to your website, what exactly made them abandon the shopping cart or how you can influence the customer’s motives to help them complete the purchase cycle.

You will have to get an idea of the motives by looking at the products you deal with. For instance, if you offer luxurious products such as jewelries or designer clothing, chances are a large portion of your audience has hedonic motives. One effective way to identify the motives is to create opinion polls or a short questionnaire. Remember the questions must be simple and to the point, otherwise your audience might abandon it as well.

So do you have to live with the fact that people would come and abandon carts and there is nothing you can do? Not really! It is true that no matter how good your website is in terms of shopping experience and functionality, the hedonic shoppers can abandon the carts anytime, but you can do things to convert them into customers as well.

Have a look at this:

70 – 95 percent of the first-time visitors who abandon a page without performing a desired action (including those who abandon carts), do not give up the idea of returning to the website to perform the intended action.

Again, 75 percent of customers who abandon the carts intend to return to the website to complete the purchase process – according to SeeWhy. As a matter of fact, about 11 – 29 percent of them return within 4 weeks.

visitors who abandon a page

This means, there is a fair percentage of people among the cart abandoners, who can be converted into customers. But how? Keep reading to know more.

Improving Your Relationship with Hedonic Shoppers

The next obvious question is – how to engage hedonic shoppers and convert them into customers. To achieve this goal, you have to:

  • Get a point of contact – e-mail address, social profile, etc.
  • Get back to the hedonic audience to promote your products and services through triggered mails.
  • Optimize the shopping experience to include more fun and entertaining elements.

Now let’s get into the details of each strategy.

E-mail

Have a look at the following statistics:

  • 77 percent of customers prefer to receive marketing messages via e-mail – MarketingLand
  • 80 percent of online retailers fail to get back to the cart abandoner by sending triggered e-mails – BizReport
  • Almost 78 percent of marketers have been able to achieve good to excellent results by triggering cart abandonment e-mails – Exacttarget

So if you are not triggering e-mails to the cart abandoners, you are missing out on a lot of opportunities. By sending e-mails, you engage the hedonic shoppers and create a strong relationship with them. Tell them that you will do everything to make the shopping experience even more exciting, incorporate new ideas and improve the overall value of your website.

Engagement that works wonders for utilitarian shoppers might not be enough to allure the hedonic shoppers. To allure this segment, you need to be more creative. To help marketers understand how to engage the hedonic shoppers better, let’s take a look at the six factors of customer engagement and then at the drivers for the various categories of hedonic motivations.

Six factors of customer engagement

  1. Focused attention
  2. Perceived usability
  3. Endurability
  4. Novelty
  5. Aesthetics and
  6. Felt involvement

Drivers for the hedonic audiences

  • Adventure shoppers are driven by the aesthetics of the website. Offer these people with a fun shopping experience to convert them into customers. By providing them with certain level of thrill, you can entice them to come back to your site.
  • Gratification shoppers are driven by the aesthetics and felt involvement. Make the gratification shoppers feel better while they perform shopping and build a strong relationship with your customers to persuade them to come back to you again and again.
  • Social shoppers are driven by the felt involvement. Creating a perfect set up for the social shoppers might be difficult, since these people love to be in company of their friends and family, but by engaging them in innovative ways, you can retain the social shoppers on your website.
  • Idea shoppers get driven by novelty. In order to allure this segment of hedonic shoppers, you must ensure that the website is up-to-date with the latesttrends and keeps the visitors updated about the latest trends as well. Show your creative side to entice the idea shoppers.
  • Role shoppers are driven by felt involvement.
  • Value shoppers get driven by novelty and the felt involvement. This segment of people is perfect for e-mail campaigns. Take the example of Groupon. They created their websites to keep the value shoppers on their toe by promising to provide them with attractive deals every day. So create a strong e-mail strategy to win the hearts of the value shoppers.

Groupon

So in order to reach out to all classes of the hedonic shoppers, you must do everything to enhance your e-mail lists. Here is how you can build an extensive e-mail list:

  • Create impressive landing pages: Build an impressive and optimized landing page that compels the visitors, both hedonic and utilitarian, to sign up by entering their e-mail addresses.
  • A highly optimized sign-up form: Design a sign-up form that allures the visitors to subscribe by promising to offer value in return.
  • Exit-intent Technology: This is an advanced technology that detects the mouse movement of a particular user to detect abandonment. The moment the user intends to abandon the cart, an exit overlay is activated that offers high-level engagement for the user, in order to hold them back.

By engaging the hedonic shoppers and establishing a relation with them, you can increase the conversion rate and sales for your online store. However, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. You will have to put in a lot of effort to understand what the hedonic shoppers are exactly looking for and optimize the shopping experience accordingly.

Let’s take a quick look at what has been discussed till now:

  • Hedonic shoppers make a large portion of shopping cart abandoners
  • Shopping carts are not abandoned only due to poorly optimized shopping carts or check-out processes.
  • Instead of frowning over the cart abandonment numbers, take each abandonment as a new opportunity.
  • Create a list of cart abandoners, using the latest technologies like exit-intent technologies, landing pages, etc. to reach out to the hedonic audience and convert them into potential customers.
  • Optimize your website to incorporate fun, excitement and entertainment to allure the hedonic shoppers.
  • Try to offer the best possible engagement for your visitors.

Conclusion

The shopping habits have changed drastically over the decade and it is necessary for the online retailers to adapt to this change to survive the immense competition. Remember, website visitors have different motives to visit your website that range from emotional to rational. So in order to entice visitors from all segments (utilitarian and hedonic), you must create a blend of user-friendliness, functionality and features that evoke emotions that persuade the customers to complete the purchase cycle.

Thus, instead of trying to reduce the shopping cart abandonment rates, try to engage users and encourage them to buy products.

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