7 tips to boost your online sales this Christmas

Chritmas shopping trolleyThe predictions are in and by all accounts Christmas 2013 looks set to be a record year for online retailers. So, as we go full steam ahead into the busiest shopping period of the year, ask yourself whether you are making the most of the opportunities Christmas presents to maximise your online sales.

A record Christmas for online sales

Forecasts indicate that consumer spending will break through the £10 bn mark for the first time this year as internet shopping will account for the largest ever share of sales . Retailers are already coming in with glowing pre-christmas sales reports. Indeed,  John Lewis has announced a 23.7% year-on-year growth in eccomerce sales, with  31% of  the £101.4m made in the week in question were from sales made online.

Monday 2nd December – Cyber Monday – is just a few days away and looks set to be the busiest online shopping day of the year. Therefore we thought it was the opportune moment to offer some timely tips to help you take advantage of this record breaking period and increase your Christmas sales.

7 tips to boost your sales and keep your customers happy this Christmas

1. ‘Christmas up’ your Website

Get into the Christmas spirit and inspire your customers  by making your website Christmas friendly.  Creating a festive feel with the use of some appropriate graphics sets the right atmosphere and helps create a relevant environment for Christmas shopping.

Identify the products that will make great Christmas gifts and  create a Christmas page where you can showcase them.  Make things easy for customers and categorise products so they are easy to find under headings such as; gifts for him, gifts for her, gifts for kids, gifts for foodies, gifts under £20, sticking fillers – you get my drift. This helps inspire customers with gift ideas and can help motivate them to buy.

Don’t be afraid to look at what your competitors are doing and to take some inspiration from other bigger websites like John Lewis and Not on the High Street .com  that do Christmas really well.

2. Be multi-device friendly this Christmas 

“Online retailers also need to be mindful of the need to provide a consistent multi-channel experience to shoppers across all devices”  Digital Strategy Consulting

According to the latest research findings from IBM the volume of traffic to UK retail websites has grown 60% year-on-year (October 2012 – October 2013) and sales from mobiles is up 80% in the same period. Therefore, it is more important than ever to make sure your  website is equally well viewed on whatever device your customer is using to browse or buy from your online shop – whether laptop, mobile, tablet or desktop.

You may have a fantastic Christmas friendly website selling a multitude of great products but if it can’t be viewed effectively on the device the customer is using at the time, then you may lose the customer and the potential sale.

3. Special christmas promotions – discount codes and special offers

Christmas shoppers are on the hunt for good deals so now is the time to entice customers to your website and motivate them to purchase with some special Christmas promotions.  For example use discount codes and sales vouchers to offer special Christmas savings such as  percentage off, multi-buy savings, free delivery and limited time money-off discounts.

4. Entice customers with Christmas friendly shipping and delivery

Getting shipping and delivery right at Christmas is hugely important. Offering free shipping is great but only if the product gets to the recipient in time for Christmas. Give customers peace of mind by being very clear about estimated delivery dates. Remember at Christmas the sheer volume of packages results in longer delivery times. Build this into your delivery estimations so as not to disappoint customers. Why not consider click and collect options for your customers. They may find this more more convenient than waiting at home for a delivery.

Communicate with your customers, send email status up-dates letting customers know when their products have dispatched.  And most importantly don’t forget to make sure you state the last day for guaranteed Christmas delivery. As we’ve already mentioned, not getting their purchase in time for Christmas is a huge frustration for customers. Reinforce your last shipping dates on you website, social media sites and in email communciations. Perhaps consider a Christmas delivery countdown such as  – 11 shipping days to go.

5. Don’t forget stock and resources

With all your offers and promotions – take time to think about your stock and staffing levels . Identify the products most likely to sell (last years Christmas sales figures should help) and make sure you are managing your stock to meet any uplift in sales. Also, with increased orders do you have enough hands to fulfil and despatch orders in time to meet your promised deadlines? Think about taking on some temporary staff or rope in family and friends to help if necessary.

6. Promote, promote, promote

Christmas is the time to go all out with your marketing. You need to make sure your offers are communicated effectively to customers. There is no point implementing great offers and incentives if your customers remain unaware of them. Shout your promotions from the rooftops using your website, all your social media channels and email. As a small business all these tools are low-cost and effective ways to get your messages out. Keep promoting, refreshing  and pushing your messages throughout the entire  Christmas shopping season.

7. Don’t forget last-minute shoppers

There is a  large proportion of shoppers that do their Christmas shopping at the last minute in the week before Christmas so try and think of creative ways of enticing them in for some extra last minute sales. Perhaps offer next day delivery options or promote some last minute offers. You could even think about a last minute Christmas shopping promotion – perhaps a special offer and some last minute gift ideas for customers.

Christmas 2013 looks like a great year for online businesses so we wish you some very happy and healthy Christmas sales.

We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment

Advertisements

Marketing for small business: Getting started with Pinterest

The Pinterest PhenomenonPinterest logo

For the last year or two, this social media phenomenon has been the buzz word on every marketer’s lips. It is already massive in the US and looks like set to take the UK and Europe by storm as well. So as a small business what does Pinterest mean for you? Should you be including it in your social media portfolio?

Impressive Pinterest Statistics

There is no doubt that Pinterest has seen meteoric growth since it launched in 2009. Here are a few statistics to give you a feel for the sort of growth it has experienced in the US  – a trend we are likely to see replicated in the UK:

Push pinSo what is Pinterest all about?

“Pinterest helps people collect and organize the things they love” Pinterest

The easiest way to think about Pinterest is as a sort of social media pin board or scrapbook.  People share their interests by ‘pinning’ them to ‘boards’. It is a social media platform with a strong emphasis on the visual and people connect to each other through feeds and by following boards that has content they find interesting.

Pinterest explains the ‘Pin Cycle’ as follows:

Pin

For example, lets say an unusual piece of jewellery on a website catches the eye of someone on Pinterest. The pinner pins the image onto their ‘unique accessories’ board

Repin

A follower of the pinner likes the pin and repins the jewellery onto their ‘stylish jewellery’ board.

 Discovery

Someone browsing their feed or searching for ‘stylish jewellery’ or ‘unique accessories’ will find the pin for the unusual piece of jewellery

Click through

As more people discover and repin, the more people click-through to the source of the pin – the original website

Benefits for small businesses

As we mentioned at the start of this post, statistics indicate that Pinterest is growing and is likely to be here to stay as a social media platform, so there is value to getting on-board. If you are concerned about time and resources, then perhaps a good starting point is to think about how easily you business lends itself to Pinterest.

If  you are in retail – particularly B2C you’ll probably find Pinterest is an easy step to make without too much effort. B2B can work well but it may require a little more creative thinking at the start. For example, if you are already generating content in the form of say a blog or video then these can work really well. In fact here at ShopIntegrator our first board was our Small Business Blog as it was an easy first step into Pinterest for us.

If you are able to commit some time to Pinterest then it offers an additional opportunity to engage with and learn about your customers. It also provides a good way to help build your brand and develop your brand’s personality.

A few useful tips for getting started

1. Get a feel for Pinterest

Before you dive in setting up your own presence, spend a bit of time getting a feel for how Pinterest works. What are other businesses doing? This way you’ll get an idea for what works and what makes a  pin popular (how many times a pin has been re-pinned is a good measure of popularity). Check out  your competitors and those businesses in a similar market that are popular and have a good following. Pinterest also has some interesting  case studies that are worth looking at for some inspiration.

2. Think about your target market

You should be thinking about your target market when you start creating your presence.  What are your customers likely to be interested in? If you sell kitchenware for example, you’d expect your audience to be interested in cooking and food so your pins could include recipes, seasonal produce and new food trends. Make yourself a bit of an expert in the areas associated with your industry or market. Look at your customers own pinboards – what are they pinning and who are they following. This will give you an insight into what it is your target market is likely to value and find interesting.

3. Create and organise boards

Once you have got a feel for who it is you are pinning and creating boards for, you can get started on generating ideas. There are all sorts of popular boards that you can create in addition to product boards. Here are some popular boards that could help get you started: client showcase boards (showcase your customers latest products), fan boards (customers can pin images to a board that show your brand off in real life environments) employee recommendation boards (get your employees to set up their own boards perhaps with employee recommendations or top tips)  how to boards (give your customers ideas and tips for using and getting the most out of your products), blog boards, seasonal boards and contest boards. Pinterest is a great way to get creative.

4. Follow other boards and repin

Like any social media Pinterest is all about interacting and engaging with the community – your customers. So, to make the most out of your presence be active – follow other people’s boards, repin, like and comment on pins that relate to your business area.

5. Promote your Pinterest presence

Promote your Pinterest presence on your website and emails by adding the Pinterest button. Don’t forget you can also use your other social media to help promote your boards.

Useful resources from Pinterest

The great thing about getting started with Pinterest is that it is all pretty straightforward to set up and use – we’ve put some useful support links from Pinterest below that will help you make the most of your Pinterest presence:

Pinterest Set up: http://uk.business.pinterest.com/setup/

Guides: Pinterest guide for Business http://business.pinterest.com/best-practices/

Useful Tools: Pinterest analytics, Pin It Button, rich text pins http://uk.business.pinterest.com/rich-pins/

Pinterest Business Blog:  http://businessblog.pinterest.com/

Happy pinning!

Image: Single pin image courtesy of  Master isolated images, freedigitalphotos.net
 

We would love to hear your own experiences and thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment

Why good customer care is so important for small businesses

old vintage telephone representing customer servicesNever underestimate the value of good customer care and just how important it is to look after your customers. Poor customer service is a sure-fire way to lose a customer. Small businesses tend to have a smaller client base, therefore losing a customer can potentially have a significant impact on profitability.

70% of shoppers have stopped buying goods or services from a company after experiencing poor customer service andyhanselman.com

In order to develop and sustain a positive, long-term relationship with your customers you must ensure that your business is focused on offering a high standard of customer care. As a small online business you should be looking at your customers as your most important asset.

Take John Lewis as a renowned example of how customers are looked at as a priority. Excellent customer service is so much a part of John Lewis’s  business ethos that it is completely ingrained into their brand image. Consequently , John Lewis has an enviable  large, loyal and long-term customer base. Customer care is all about building enduring, positive relationships with your customers.

The benefits of  good customer care

81% of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience andyhanselman.com

Embracing the importance of customer care brings with it a number of benefits.  For example:

  • Build loyalty and repeat custom. Offering good customer service is a key element in gaining loyalty and repeat business from your customers.
  • Lower costs and higher sales. Don’t forget it costs far more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing customer. In addition, an existing customer is likely to spend significantly more than a new customer “statistically speaking, the cost of acquiring a new customer costs 5-10 more than retaining an existing one. Not only that, but repeat customers spend on average, 67% more” Chartered Institute of Marketing
  • You don’t need a big budget. As you’ll see from our tips below, you don’t need a big budget to offer quality customer care.
  • Gain competitive advantage. Offering your customers a positive experience can give you an advantage by differentiating you from your competitors.
  • Win referrals. Happy customers are far more likely to recommend your business to friends and acquaintances

Tips for building positive customer relationships

Customer care is about building positive, long-term relationships by offering the best service possible to your customers. There are plenty of ways small online businesses can develop their customer service offerings.

1. Communicate with your customers regularly

Communicating regularly with your customers shows them they are valued. The interactive nature of the web lends itself brilliantly to direct engagement with customers. It is the ideal environment in which to develop customer relationships by keeping in contact with customers through social media and email.  For example, simple things like sending  customers an order confirmation and dispatch email makes a big difference to how customers view  the efficiency of your service. And, using social media platforms is a great way to keep customers informed of new developments and exciting offers, helping build interest and loyalty in your business.

2. Encourage feedback

Enabling your customers to engage in tw0-way dialogue through opportunities for customer feedback is important. Your customer feels their opinions matter and you gain valuable insight into how your product or service is viewed and how it could be improved to increase customer satisfaction.

3. Respond to all of your customers

It is important that you respond to all your customers. No matter how small or insignificant the query may seem to you – it will be important to your customer. Not being responded to is probably one of the most frustrating things a customer can experience. As a small business it is not always possible to answer a query immediately, but try to make it a priority to respond as quickly as you can. In the meantime it is a good idea to acknowledge your customers query and let them know you will get back to them as soon as possible.

4. Deal with customer complaints quickly, efficiently and pleasantly

Nobody likes dealing with negative feedback or complaints. However it’s important that you address them as quickly and efficiently as possible. Listen to your customers’ grievances and deal with them professionally. Customers will stay loyal if their complaint is dealt with satisfactorily. Indeed, it can work in your favour since  “Happy customers who get their issue resolved tell about 4 to 6 people about their experience” .

5. Good manners cost nothing

Don’t forget whenever you are communicating with your customers to use simple, old fashioned good manners. Give your customers your full attention and don’t undervalue how a simple and genuine please and thank you can make all the difference to how a customer feels about their experience. Give your customers the service, care and attention you would expect to receive yourself and you won’t go far wrong.

6. Be consistent, make sure all team members are singing from the same song book

It is important to make sure it’s not just you engaging in a high standard of customer care. Make sure any one else responding to your customers are fully briefed and on-board with what you expect from them in terms of how they communicate with customers. Customer care must be consistent – no matter who it is from your business that is responding.

We would love to hear your own experiences and thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment.

Thinking about selling digtal downloads from your website?

shopping cart selling digtal downloadsSelling digital downloads? What are the benefits and what do you need to consider?

Continued growth in global internet access alongside an explosion in portable internet devices such as tablets and smartphones, has meant the last decade has seen a shift in how consumers use the internet. It is no longer used for information and communication purposes alone –  a growing number of people use the internet for entertainment purposes such as, listening to music, reading e-books, watching videos, playing games and downloading multi-media.

Consequently,  over the last few years e-commerce has seen a huge rise in sales of digital downloads such as audio tracks, MP3’s, e-books, software, images, videos and webinars.  According to statistics from the European Commission’s Study on Digital Content Products in the EU, by 2016:

  • Global digital spending on entertainment and media will increase at a rate of 12.1% whereas non-digital spending will only increase by 2.8%.
  • 67% of total global spending on entertainment and media growth will be generated by digital spending.

The benefits of selling digital downloads

There is no doubt that in addition to its rosy future growth, selling digital content brings with it a number unique benefits, for example:

  • Speed and ease of delivery – customers benefit from instant access to their product and you benefit from having little, if no handling or fulfilment your end.
  • Stock and storage – Unlike tangible products you don’t have any stock control issues to manage or physical storage space and storage costs to consider.
  • Low production costs and higher profit margins – once you have produced your digital content you can then sell it over and over again without incurring any additional costs. And, without raw materials and such like, production costs and profit margins are often higher.

Be aware…

However, even with the benefits we’ve outlined above there are still things that as a seller you need to consider. Research findings from the European Commission showed that alongside the impressive growth in digital content products there has also been a significant rise in the number of complaints from consumers who are experiencing difficulties when buying or using digital content products . It is therefore important that  the customer buying experience is at the forefront of your mind when you are considering selling digital downloads from your website. When choosing an ecommerce provider be aware of the issues that may cause a customer to complain and for you to potentially lose repeat business.

Key factors to consider when selling digital downloads from your website

If you are looking to sell digital content products from your website then you need to consider what key features you need from your ecommerce provider and then research your options accordingly. So, what are the key elements should you be considering when selling digital downloads from your website?

1. Speed

As customer expectations rise so to does the demand for immediacy. This expectation of instant access to files is particularly prevalent with paid digital downloads. The quicker a customer can receive your download the happier the customer. Consider a service that uses a Content Delivery Network (CDN) such as Amazon Cloudfront, CloudFlare, CDNetworks or Akamai. Essentially CDN speeds up the delivery process through a network of servers across the globe. Customer downloads are delivered to the nearest geographically located server, which drastically shortens the distance your data needs to travel in order to be downloaded by your customer – making the overall download process far quicker.

2. Deliverability

Another area that can be incredibly frustrating (for both you and your customer)  is if your email containing the link to your customer’s paid digital download gets lost your customer’s SPAM or JUNK email filter. It delays the customer receiving their file which can reflect poorly on the efficiency of your business.  Some ecommerce providers offer a specially designed web page (digital download portal) that, after payment, gives the customer immediate accesses to  their files. Your customers don’t have to log into their email account and wait for their to their email link to arrive and you don’t run the risk of the email being caught up in a SPAM filter and have to manually re-send the file yourself.

3. Storage

Think about what size of data you are going to need to store (both now and in the future) and check if there are any storage restrictions. Consider choosing  a provider that offers scalable cloud storage. Essentially with cloud storage  your files are saved online on the cloud instead of on a PC or an external hard drive.  Cloud storage should give you a much larger storage capacity. There is a difference between cloud storage providers so just make sure that cloud storage service your ecommerce provider is using gives you high capacity storage, good security, data protection and back-up features such as file recovery and guards against loss from infrastructure failures.

4. Secure Download Links
You don’t want to go to the trouble of creating digital content to sell that is then easily accessible to anyone who gets a hold of the download link. Once the buyer has purchased something you need to make the content available for them to download. It is not good to rely on only a ‘secret’ file download link that is publicly accessible, just hidden from most people because they don’t know about the secret link until they have paid for it. It only takes one buyer to post your ‘secret’ download link to something they’ve bought on a social network or a forum for thousands of other people to have access to that file download without paying. Remember hidden public download links does not mean secure! Make sure you choose a system that acts as a security guard controlling the secure access to the download for just those people who have purchased it, expiring download links once they have been used.

And finally…

Fundamentally, when you are selling digital downloads from your website your primary focus should be on choosing a ecommerce provider that helps you give your customers a positive shopping experience and  provides you with an efficient, automated service for your business. If you need a few more tips on the process of selling digital downloads with PayPal from your website checkout our new PayPal digital download tutorial on YouTube.

We’d really love to hear your thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment.