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)

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.

Image Source: (1, 2, 3)

4 Ways to Boost eCommerce Average Order Value

Thoughtful woman holding shopping bags and looking up

Want to improve the amount of traffic and the number of conversions of your eCommerce store? Who doesn’t? These are, after all, imperative to grow your revenue. But for that you need to utilize the most powerful weapon in your marketing arsenal, which, unfortunately, is often overlooked. Yes, we are talking about your Average Order Value (AOV).

Average Order Value or AOV is a criterion used to compare your marketing campaigns’ efficiency. In addition, this key metric helps you understand the type of eCommerce customers you currently have. Using this metric you can understand how each traffic segment of your website is converting and where you need to improve to enhance your revenue. In short, it is your tool to create personalized marketing strategies for a better conversion rate.

Why Increase Your AOV?

The benefits of increasing your Average Order Value are pretty obvious. To begin with, it helps you increase your cash flow really fast, which is obviously one of your basic goals. And that’s not all; there are several other benefits of working your way out to improve your AOV.

For instance, you can simply increase your AOV by installing a plugin for your eCommerce shopping cart. In comparison, acquiring traffic not only has a significant cost attached to it but is also more difficult to achieve, thanks to the frequent search engine algorithm updates we are being subjected to these days.

It may also happen that any of your traffic sources might disappear one fine day, leaving you clueless and dumbfound. If you have worked on your AOV and improved it, chances are you will be in a much better position, while reducing your marketing spend.

But before we sum up the tips to improve your Average Order Value, you need to know how it is calculated. The AOV formula is quite simple to comprehend:

AOV = Revenue / Number of orders

Using this formula and a web analytics software like Google Analytics you can easily start optimizing your conversion rate. All you need to do is get the exact average order value from Google Analytics for each traffic source. Consider the numbers mentioned in Transactions and Revenue sections (under Acquisition -> All Traffic) and use the above mentioned formula to calculate the AOV.

Now that you know how to calculate your AOV, it’s time to look at some of the tactics to increase your Average Order Value.

1. Product Recommendations

More often than not, customers are only focused on what they are looking for. As a result, they overlook to browse your eCommerce store to find more. This, in turn, results in smaller carts, a.k.a. smaller Average Order Values.

While you cannot change how customers will behave, there is a very simple solution to improve your average order values. Simply add product recommendations on your product and check out pages. If you don’t believe us, consider that Amazon has been using this trick for quite some time now. Its recommendations come in forms of “Frequently bought together,” “Customers who viewed/bought this item also viewed/bought,” “Frequently bought with the item you added” and so on.

Product Recommendations
All that this eCommerce giant does is collect data about its visitors’ past shopping and browsing habits and combines that information with its algorithm and voila, it provides personalized product recommendations that buyers are most likely to purchase.

Profiling popular products or products that your customers have previously browsed is perhaps one of the best ways to increase your Average Order Values. In addition, it helps in minimizing friction before checkout. Studies indicate that 2 to 5 percent of an eCommerce revenue is attributed to product recommendations. Better yet, this increased revenue can go up as high as 20 percent, depending on how effectively you pair up products.

Similarly, showing your customers cross-selling options also helps you to improve your AOV. You can use such product recommendation tactics by using phrasing like “Complete the look” or “Get the look” on your eCommerce store and it works particularly well for fashion and apparel stores. It’s convenient for the customer and you can move your products without sounding pushy.

In fact, you can use cross-selling for almost all type of eCommerce sites. All you need to do is recommend additional and/or complementary products. Got a customer purchasing a Windows 10 laptop! Why don’t you recommend a laptop bag to go with it?

2. Cashback Techniques

Another simple way to increase your Average Order Value is by utilizing cashback technique. In fact, cashback technique is quite a traditional tactic used by retailers to attract and retain customers. How many times have you seen eCommerce stores offering free vouchers on your next purchase? Quite some time; the Internet is filled with ads like “Spend $100 and get $20 cash-back on your next purchase.” All you need to do is spend a certain amount and you can redeem the voucher.

Cashback TechniquesThis is a great way to increase your repeat purchases and Average Order Values per customer. But to leverage this tactic you need to first set a spending threshold, ideally slightly above your present average order amount. This will help you identify shoppers who qualify for a cash-back reward on their next purchase.

Once this spending threshold is determined you need to format your offer and market it as aggressively as possible to increase its visibility. Display them front and center on your homepage as well as on other pages. The goal is to make your customers aware of the target number as clearly and vividly as possible while they shop so that they keep on adding products to their carts to make it to the cash-back minimum. Apart from displaying such offers on your webpage, you can even spread the words through SMS marketing.

You can also offer cashback in other ways. For example, you can build partnerships with other companies to allow your customers to redeem the gift vouchers at several purchase points. This will further inspire buyers to reach the cash-back minimum. Another way to increase your site conversion is through “refer a friend and get cashback programs.” All your users need to do is refer a friend and get cashback in form of a gift voucher to be redeemed on their next purchase.

Gift Vouchers

Cashback technique works like a charm and generally outperforms any other promotional techniques when it comes to increasing your Average Order Value. Better yet, it even encourages return visits and helps you turn your one-time visitors into loyal fans.

3. Free Delivery

Along with the cashback technique, free delivery option (when bought item(s) over a particular amount) is a great way to increase your Average Order Value. Free delivery is something almost all customers expect when making an online purchase but providing free delivery is a major financial challenge for most retailers, especially if it is smaller AOV. Setting free delivery threshold is a great solution to this problem.

Free Delivery

Just like the cashback technique, you need to determine a spending threshold. For this, consider the average site spend first and how much the delivery costs you. Once you have the numbers, set an amount slightly above your current average order amount. Also, display the amount required to get free delivery on your product as well as checkout page to use this tactic effectively.

In essence, this technique combines upselling and cross-selling with an incentive to increase your Average Order Value. For example, if a customer is purchasing an item worth $40, display a message like “spend another $10 to get free delivery” to improve your AOV. And if you are still not convinced about free shipping, consider the following findings:

So what are you waiting for? Just dive in.

4. Gamification

A more contemporary technique, gamification can not only help you engage users but also make them buy more. McDonalds, for instance, used this tactic though in form of Monopoly Campaign UK to increase its Average Order Value.

Gamification
This technique works because of its meaningful structure and reward systems. Let’s see how McDonalds used it. McDonalds allows users to peel off a prize (stickers) from their meal, giving them an instant prize in form of a monopoly piece. This way, users can collect monopoly sets to win big prizes.It is quite obvious that the larger meals at McDonalds had more stickers on them, enticing people to spend on them.

McDonalds achieved two things with their persuasive gamification technique. First, it increased their AOV and second, it increased the chances of a returning visit. You too can achieve a similar result with gamification; all you need to do is create an appealing system that exceeds your buyers’ expectations.

That said, you really don’t need to create a game to entice your buyers to purchase more (although you can always do that if you have the resources). Setting an effective rewarding system based on purchasing points too can help you obtain a similar result. Announce a particular point for every order they make and offer a significant discount when they reach a pre-determined threshold. For example, “Get 5 points for each purchase and claim $30 off for 100 points.”

Gamification is a great idea for customer retention as it helps you create a relationship with your buyers, making them come back to you time and again.

Conclusion

While there are several ways to incorporate AOV strategies to improve your conversion rates, their effectiveness largely depends on your eCommerce solution. Most shopping cart systems include these basic AOV features and offer add-ons and plugins for them. However, if your eCommerce software fail to support them, you should better upgrade to a shopping cart solution that does. Using these simple, yet powerful tools is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to increase your AOV.

Image Source: (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

Sharing Your Business Story: Why and How To Do It

Sharing Your Business Story Why and How To Do It

Who doesn’t like a good the-underdog-wins story where everything works out for the best in the end? However, the old adage ‘it’s easier said than done’ applies everywhere, especially if you’ve experienced this kind of a situation firsthand.

Typically, humans tend to downplay their struggles, failures and inhibitions, and hide their fears to the greatest extent possible. We prefer to project ourselves as successful, inspirational and happy-go-lucky individuals, who have everything going for them. In a scenario where everyone pretends that all is hunky-dory, the true story of your trials and tribulations is sure come as breath of fresh air, especially to those looking for inspiration.

A story with a universal appeal is bound to be valuable. Through your story you get the opportunity to tell your audience that the road to success is rocky and uncertain, rather than straight and levelled.

The Importance of Brand Stories

It’s no secret that the customer is the king. After all, he is the one with purchasing power. Customers are constantly on the lookout for credible content that helps them make buying decisions.

Did you know that 70% of consumers look to blog posts to make such decisions rather than ads?

They read the content provided on your company’s website, refer product reviews on third-party sites, and any other source they can find online before buying from you. This is done to know more about the product, its value proposition and reliability.

Your story can become incredibly powerful when you explain your journey to your customers as it will connect you to them on an emotional level.

Businesses and Stories

Your customers may not care much about your marketing goals, but they will appreciate a great story from you. Any business that can give them this stands to benefit greatly.

Social media can be tremendously helpful in achieving this. Customers are already present on social media and are comfortable engaging with companies, who are equally active in putting up their content on such networks. As the majority of companies publish their content, only those who are able to craft compelling stories, instead of just dishing out a mountain of facts and figures, have a better chance at succeeding.

Mentioned ahead are a few undeniable reasons you should share your business story with the world:

1. Establishing Brand Identity

With the help of stories, you will be able to transform the ostensibly vague core values of your organization (for example, hard work and ethics) into tangible and measurable attributes.

Almost all organizations have a bigger organizational narrative with small stories to sustain, restate, and personalize it. These smaller stories are consistently shared to create, strengthen and explore your brand. It is your organization’s values, mission and activities that form the central theme of its narrative.

2. Establishing Your Authority

Good stories that reinforce that your brand is, in fact, the solution to your customers’ problem can help you influence them positively, thereby establishing your authority in the market.

Craft your content in a manner that positions your brand as the preferred one. Highlight the strengths of your offerings in a way that lets your brand stand out from among the competition. And win!

3. Engaging Audiences

You want your audience to feel an emotional connect with your brand, which is why it is important to tell them stories about the people who make your organization the success that it is. This includes your employees, clients, investors, partners, and so on.

People like to engage with humans and not with undefined entities. When you share your story, you enable your audience to hear, understand and remember your organization better. Further, because stories are more comprehendible than random information and numbers, it becomes easier to share them.

Bear in mind, however, that one story can give rise to new stories i.e. your customers will probably draw out another story from the one you tell them. This is where the importance of having multiple channels of communication (for proper flow) comes into the picture. Once you have them in place, you can ponder over other questions related to the emerging themes and the kind of stories enabling real engagement.

4. Sharing Knowledge

As a brand, you’re bound to have tremendous knowledge and learning, which can be presented in a practical and sustainable structure. Doing so can also help you connect information, which can otherwise seem incoherent. Stories can elucidate numerical data, yield insights, and draw out lessons more easily.

5. Becoming the Guiding Light

Sharing true stories will enable you to build credibility which, in turn, will deepen the trust your internal and external stakeholders have in you. Stories make for fantastic mediums to foster communication through which people get heard. It also helps smart entrepreneurs decipher the meaning of projects and offerings.

Leaders/mentors in organizations that share their story are often adept at relating their projects and challenges to the narrative of the organization.

In fact, stories are more important to leadership than we know. Of course, there needs to be one strong narrative that weaves the various abstract and patchy bits together. This will help you communicate your company’s visions, ease out the complexities, and inspire change.

Leaders keep changing and one leader’s hindsight can be another’s foresight. By sharing the story of your struggles, you can greatly help up-and-coming entrepreneurs realize that their struggles are a normal part of the grind that everyone goes through, and there is a way out of it. More often than not, this is all the inspiration they need to weather the storms.

If your stories can provide them with actionable ideas and solutions through which they can solve their problems, they would be even more helpful.

6. Conquering Your Fears

As already mentioned, not everyone is comfortable with talking about their hardships, struggles, weaknesses, and failures. Some, however, find it to be cathartic and extremely gratifying. Getting over the fear of publicly acknowledging to such experiences requires courage. It can earn your tremendous admiration and respect. You never know, being earnest and forthcoming with your audiences about your strengths and weaknesses may just work in your favor!

Conquering Your Fears

Sold on the idea of telling your story but wondering how to begin and take it forward? We’ll tell you all about it.

  • Start by Talking about Your Purpose

In order to tell your story convincingly, you need to know why you are in business and explain this to your audience eloquently. The two questions to answer here are: what is the purpose of your business and what differentiates it from your competitors?

Answering these questions will help you figure out what makes your business powerful and interesting to others. You will be able to set a path for future successes only if you have a clear idea of where you’re coming from. You may not realize this, but customers want to know who they’re buying from. This includes their history, i.e. questions related to the origins of the company.

Smart entrepreneurs understand the importance of establishing a strong and realistic company mission. Businesses also need to have a clear corporate positioning that is in keeping with who they are. It should emerge from a clear comprehension of why they are in business and who they want to cater to.

The mission and vision of a company are a big part of the brand story as they help formulate a practical business strategy. These factors essentially help set the foundation for success.

  • Introduce the Main Characters

It is impossible to have a relatable story without having exemplary main characters, who shape it going forward. Make sure to create inspirational main characters as they will form the heart of your story and encourage your audience to take the desired action. You can do so by identifying real people or make up fictional characters that make your business flourish and use them as your main cast.

  • What Are You Out to Achieve?

The answer to this question will reveal the real reason for the existence of your business. It will also help your audience figure out what issues you’re looking to resolve through your offerings. Show them the bigger picture and let them know that there is a higher cause to achieve.

Are you in the business to inspire people? Do you want to revolutionalize the way your customers live through your products and services? Do you want to make the world a healthier place to live in? Such questions will help you get the perspective you need to grow your story.

  • Bring Up the Roadblocks

Success stories are incomplete if there is no mention of the failures encountered in the journey. Failures are stepping stones to success. Showing people how you failed before hitting the big time and embracing those trials will humanize you and your business and help your customers strike an emotional chord with your business, thereby making your story more impactful.

  • Give Them a Triumphant Conclusion

Leave them with a feel-good factor at the end of it all, where your product or service solves the customers’ problems. The idea is to position your offering as the medicine that cures all their ailments and gives them exactly what they’ve been looking for.

For your story to have the maximum impact, you need to know about the right techniques of storytelling. Here’s more on that:

  • Blogs

Almost all company websites have blogs and yours should too. They make for effective business storytelling vessels. You can get the maximum advantage by telling the story of either your own industry or other associated industries.

Do not forget to create a professional bio for yourself when you start to blog. In fact, your bio should do more than just announce your accomplishments. It should tell your audience who you are as a person.

The rule of thumb to remember here is that instead of talking on and on about what you do, make your blog posts action-oriented so that you can show your audience what you’re all about.

  • Case Studies

Case studies are the classic marketing vehicles for storytelling in business. After all, they do convey a brand’s story. You can make them more creative by adding humorous elements, building tension, and adding various dimensions and points of view to them, rather than keeping them dull.

  • Product Tutorials

Your customers will probably be looking for instructional material to understand exactly how they can make the most of your offerings. You can provide them with an instructional video that does more than just that. Craft an interesting story by making them the hero and the problem at hand the villain, and then position your product as the solution that can help solve the problem. Focus on providing them with material that answers the customers’ “hows” to make effective videos that arouse curiosity about your offerings.

Conclusion

In order to tell your story to the world, you need to know it well enough. Only then will you be able to do a brilliant job of explaining it to others. Ensure that you have your brand’s core value proposition in place, and that everyone associated with you has the same story to tell to the audience. Consistency is key to be able to share your story in an honest and engaging manner.

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Is Your E-Commerce Business Hitting It Right with Its Loyalty Program?

E-Commerce Business Hitting It Right with Its Loyalty Program

How often have you thought of devising a loyalty program for your e-commerce website that fits it just perfectly? After all, there is absolutely no use of having one that isn’t effective.

Several e-commerce retailers create loyalty programs that fail to deliver the desired results, either because they did not appeal to the users or the program itself was difficult to maintain.

On the other hand, there are several e-commerce websites that have benefitted a great deal from the right loyalty programs.

According to Forrester Research Paper, “If you’re set on building brand loyalty, a loyalty program like offering points for purchases in your online store may help in increasing your sales. After all, one loyalty program member spends up to 13% more than two non-members.”

This titbit of information indicates that when crafted properly, an e-commerce loyalty program can serve as a powerful tool that increases conversions. This implies better revenue from existing clients, getting new customers interested in your offerings, reducing customer defection, and lowering shopping cart abandonment.

A strong loyalty program may turn out to be just what your e-commerce website needs.

If you’re planning on starting an e-commerce business or already have one, you need to ensure that you incorporate a kickass loyalty program into your marketing program. Being smart and strategic about it will go a long way in helping you reap its benefits.

Mentioned ahead are a few features to take into consideration to make your loyalty program a roaring success:

1. Keep Things Simple

While it is completely understandable that you want your loyalty program to be a success, you need to think practically. Instead of creating a complex program, you would be better off keeping things simple. That way, the program as well as its goings-on will be more under your control.

Remember, loyalty programs should never be complicated. It is important that the reward system is completely understood by your users. If the points, rewards, levels and achievements leave them perplexed, rest assured that they will lose interest and things will get out of hand for you.

The idea is to create a loyalty program that is easy to get hold of and create an enjoyable shopping experience for the buyer. It does not take more than a few seconds for buyers to decide on whether or not they want to want to join it. It is, therefore, important to provide them with the simplicity they’re looking for and make the program as easy-to-understand as possible.

2. Make It Easy for Users

Make It Easy for Users

As mentioned in the above point, you need to make it as easy as possible for your buyers to join the program. This means removing the barriers between them and the program. Typically, the best way to do so is by allowing users to sign up with their e-mail address.

Apart from their e-mail address, they should also be able to sign up with their social media accounts, especially those customers who are already buying, sharing and interacting on social networks. This is preferred to creating a new login ID just to buy from your website.

3. Simplify the Participation Process

So you’ve got your users to sign up to your loyalty program and wondering about the next step? Let us give you a hint: the rewards should accumulate without the buyers having to fret over it.

More often than not, users get peeved when they have to enter a PIN or a coupon code just to partake in the loyalty program. This needs to be simplified by making it possible for your users to participate by paying with a dedicated card or app, for example.

The convenience you offer will make it easy for users to stay active on your website as a natural response to the great experience they have when shopping with you.

If your users need anything more than a login, card or app to become a part of your loyalty program, then it is probably too complicated to work with. Simplify it and see the difference. It is very likely that your customers will start participating more often.

4. Your Program Should Offer Value

If you want your loyalty program to be enticing to your customers, you have to ensure that it provides them with real value. A lot of loyalty programs tend to be shallow and do not provide rewards that make a difference to customers, which is why they fail. Customers today are smart and they can tell when a program is offered only to get them to sign up.

Keep in mind, a valuable loyalty program is one that pays off. Rewards such as cash-back offers, discounts, couples, rebates, and freebies are always a hit with customers. Tangible rewards will be snapped up quicker than the intangible ones, as the latter are perceived as superficial.

5. Tickle Users’ Curiosity

Your loyalty program will be a lot more effective if it contains an element of surprise (the pleasant kind) and/or mystery (the easy-to-solve kind). If you can tickle their curiosity, you will have them eating from the palm of your hand.

Loyalty programs can work well here as customers will always be waiting with bated breath to find out more about the next level, how to achieve it and what the final outcome is like. And this is exactly what you want!

You can do this effectively by introducing an element of obscurity in your loyalty program. For example, offering undisclosed “special bonuses” to regular customers at the highest level can do the trick. The unspecified bonus could be anything from a special preview of an upcoming sale event to an invitation to a special social event. If they want to find out, they will have to spend at your store and join your program. That’s the crux of the matter: their curiosity drives your sales.

6. Keep Users Engaged

A loyalty program requires continued participation in order to be successful. After all, it is this program that’s going to make your customers want to buy more from you. It is, therefore, critical that participation is encouraged.

How do you foster loyalty among prospective customers? We’ll tell you.

  • Encourage activity. If the customers become dormant, they should know there’s a penalty waiting in the wings. Create the program in a way wherein the points lapse or the redemption amount plummets after a certain period of inactivity.
  • Send reminders and alerts to your customers about their pending reward points and ask them to remain active. Your reminder should also let them know about their potential to earn more. Failure to do so can result in them dropping out from the program over time. There are several ways of doing so. Get their email address and send them email updates; or get them to download your app and provide push notifications. The idea is to egg them on participate as much as they can and improve your conversion rates.
  • Make it better for active users. Your loyalty program should be able to adapt to provide better outcomes to those who are active by enabling them to earn the kind of rewards that matter to them. This approach should help you create tremendous customer buy-in. Your customers will be motivated to stay more active, thanks to the real rewards you provide them with. Further, they will also stay interested and engaged in your loyalty program.

7. Bring a Sense of Growth

Everyone likes to see their hard work and dedication bearing sweet fruits. This logic can be applied to your loyalty program as well. You can do so by enabling your customer to “progress” as he/she buys from you. Create a sense of growth or progress, for instance, by allowing new users to earn new levels of rewards. This will motivate them to shop from you more frequently.

Make your customers feel empowered by enabling them to track their progress and eventually get to the highest level of the program by buying from you.

8. Differentiate and Offer Better Experiences

What is the point of buying from you when your customers can get the same experience from other e-commerce retailers? Why would they give you their money when other brands make them feel more special? The answer to both these questions lies in one word: differentiation.

Set your program apart from that of your competition and give your customers a reason to come back to you by offering better experiences. Your loyalty program should have a feel-good factor attached to it, the kind that is unmatched by any other brand in your league.

9. Give Users the Information They Want

Your customers will love you if you unfailingly answer all their questions. When you devise a loyalty program, rest assured that they will have a zillion questions about it. You need to ensure that you answer each and every one of them and keep ambiguity at bay.

Many a time, it is the most loyal customers who have the most questions. They’re always interested in knowing about the schemes – what they entail, what are the benefits, how they can earn more rewards, and the potential risk factors in the program.

This, however, does not mean that you need to provide them with all the terms and conditions of your loyalty program on the entry page. Rather, make it easy for them to find and access important information when they want it.

10. Let It Become the Talk of Town

If you want your loyalty program to gain maximum traction, make sure you make it easy to share and, therefore, grow. Here are three easy ways to do so:

  • Reward customers who share your loyalty program with others or cajole them to join in. This need not mean that your loyalty program has turned into an affiliate marketing program. You are merely thanking your existing customers for sharing. Most of your customers will share it to avail the rewards. You can bolster this by giving them extra points or rewards for getting their friends and family to sign up, thereby allowing your program to grow.
  • One of the easiest and effective ways of sharing your program is by using social media share buttons. You will do well to add social sharing icons to your rewards page, so that your customers can simply click on them and share to relevant pages. Moreover, this will also make it easy for customers to invite other members of their social network to join in.
  • Make it convenient for your customers to post their reward status online. A lot of reward programs enable customers to inform their online friends about what they’ve just achieved on a reward program. For instance, a built-in widget which generates an automatic message such as “I just won a free trip using my XYZ reward points!” would work well. Typically, users feel a sense of pleasure when they earn a reward, and enjoy telling others about their latest achievement.

Conclusion

While there is no fixed decree that mandates e-commerce businesses to have a loyalty program, having one in place makes perfect sense, especially because loyalty programs are highly instrumental in boosting conversion rates. It may not be easy to start them, and they can also get a tad expensive, but most of the time, the rewards are totally worth it. In fact, they can prove to be a great investment! You too will do well to start a loyalty program for your e-commerce business and avail the improvements, conversions and revenues that await you.

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9 Ways to Use Consumer-Generated Content for Your Brand

365

We live in a digitally-mobile and social world, and content seems to be prevalent everywhere. Your customers consume large amounts of content without even realizing it. It, therefore, makes sense to churn out content that organically engages consumers with your brand and, in doing so, creates credible endorsements for your products and services.

Do not underestimate the power of an Instagram photo or a Facebook post that portrays your product/service in a favorable light. Not only does it serve as brand marketing and word-of-mouth advertising, but also strongly indicates brand commitment and customer loyalty. This, in turn, supplements your bottom line, which is ultimately what it’s all about.

As a proactive marketer, you probably already know that customers want to feel engaged, be heard and even entertained. They want to deal with issues quickly and move on. Basically, they have put their trust in you and are looking to positive customer experiences.

In one study, Ipsos MediaCT, Crowdtap and the Social Media Advertising Consortium partnered to survey 839 millennial (18 to 36 years old) men and women. This was done to explore millennials’ media consumption habits, perception of information from various sources and how these sources impact their purchasing decisions. As far as user-generated content (or UGC) is concerned, it was discovered that:

  • Information received through UGC is trusted 50% more than information from other media sources, including TV, newspapers and magazines by millenials.
  • Millennials reported that UGC is 20% more influential on their purchase decisions than other media.
  • A majority of millenials reported tapping UGC before making big purchases like cars, major electronics or major appliances.

What is User-Generated Content?

According to Wikipedia, UGC can be defined as “any form of content such as blogs, wikis, discussion forums, posts, chats, tweets, podcasts, digital images, video, audio files, advertisements and other forms of media that was created by users of an online system or service, often made available via social media websites”.

Simply put, UGC refers to any content available on the Internet that users play a part in creating. This can include photos, videos and general posts that aren’t made by a brand. An increasing number of brands, however, have been leveraging user-generated content for improving their ranking on search engines.

UGC can take several forms. Some of the most popular ones include:

  • User-generated blog posts
  • Blog comments
  • User-generated videos
  • Social media posts and comments
  • Reviews
  • Podcasts
  • Inputs on communities and forums

Let’s face it, UGC is here to stay. If you’re wondering how to implement it for your brand, we have the following tips for you:

1. Figure Out Your Point of Connect

Even before you start putting together your UGC strategy, you will need to start thinking from your audiences’ point of view so that you can figure out how you want to use the content to establish a connection with them.

A few UGC-related questions to consider (for doing so successfully) are as follows:

  • How do you want to use your content? To inform or to entertain? How can you use it to do both?
  • Where will you find your target audience? Which social media platforms can you use to find them?
  • What motivates your customers to create content? What do they hope to get in return by doing so?

If you have the right answers to the above questions, you will be clearer when devising an effective UGC strategy. After all, well begun is half done!

2. Emphasize Quality

Quality will always trump quantity. One cannot deny the authority that high-quality content commands. It has the power to strongly influence your customers and forge the kind of connection that companies strive for. Whether it is text, images or videos you put out, ensure that they carry credibility, which can only come from quality.

Underestimate the power of using attractive (and high-quality) images and videos at your own peril. When it comes to accepting user content, it may seem impractical to remove all low-quality photos/videos. However, you can establish a few guidelines or ground rules to reduce the likelihood of your audience posting bad content. You can always tell them exactly how their submissions should and should not be by providing specification in terms of size, dimension, and so on.

3. What’s Trending?

Trending

When you consider all of your UGC in totality, you should be able to decipher the thought pattern of your core audience. Think about the following aspects when analyzing the type of content your customers are sharing:

  • Who will most likely share content about your brand? Do you have specific demographics to figure this one out?
  • What kind of content is being shared out there? Does it pertain to a particular style, product, service, or all of it?
  • Where are your customers when they share content about your brand? Are they at your store, the mall, the library, with friends?
  • When are your customers more likely to share content about your brand? Is it during a specific season, event or holiday?
  • Why are your customers tagging your products? How do their tags work for your brand?

4. Place Strong Calls-to-Action, Use Hashtags and Signage

Remember, when using user-generated content, there are two parties involved: you and your customers. So the content isn’t just about you, but also about them. Everything boils down to how they use your products and relate to your brand.

So, while your customers may tag a piece of content with a hashtag before your brand’s name, you may want seriously consider leveraging such content to your advantage by creating a personal, actionable hashtag that brings the focus back to your brand.

If you think your hashtag(s) will become popular at once, you couldn’t be more wrong. It requires hard work. Placing strong calls-to-action in places where your customers are most likely to engage with your content will encourage them to use your hashtags when sharing content about your brand.

For instance, you can place calls-to-action on your Instagram account in your bio, within the image caption, or when geo-tagging. Similarly, other places where placing it can prove to be useful include (throughout) your website, social networking channels, blogs, catalogues and other literature.

Further, you can use signage to engage your customers at one of the most effective points of the customer journey: your brick-and-mortar store(s). For example, if you’re a clothing retailer, you could display hashtags and signage at the main desk, outside dressing rooms, or near a photo-friendly installation.

5. Host an Event

Using UGC may be a great way to create awareness around your products, but it does require that your brand places its complete trust in the customers’ hands. You may often wonder as to what customers are saying about your products and services, and might even want to know if your competitor’s products are being mentioned along with your brand. That’s only natural!

The good news is that there is a way around this. Brands tend to be more strategic in their thinking than consumers. A great way to scale your UGC strategy (and be in charge of the environment thus created) is by hosting an event. This way, you have complete say in everything. You can set the scene to your liking and keep the audiences engaged. Be memorable and keep the conversation going by handing out free goodie bags (branded, may be?) to your guests at the exit.

6. Design a Contest

More often than not, consumer behavior with respect to using UGC is organic. This is what makes it so effective. Such behavior is devoid of bias, which is why it feels genuine. You can encourage this behavior by analyzing the content that is already surfacing about your brand, and then launch a targeted contest that aligns with those preferences to build upon it further.

7. Deploy Influencers

We live in times when social and digital influencers dominate the Web world. They are viewed as experts and leaders in their respective fields and among their social circles. They tend to have a multitude of active followers and feeds that instantly resonate with them.

Typically, when an influencer writes about a brand or posts an image of a product, he/she doesn’t just drive awareness, but also inspires an entire community to put their faith in that brand or product. In fact, consumers who see these images are more likely to partake in ongoing conversations by creating and submitting more content as well.

According to adweek.com, “There is already a lot of money in the influencer marketing space. 65 percent of brands participate in the market, 52 percent of companies have stand-alone budgets for sponsored social content and 25 percent have budgets in excess of $500,000”.

They further go on to say that influencers can solve several shortcomings your company may have by teaching consumers about your products, lend search-engine-optimization authority, counter negative feedback with positive feedback, increase sales and help with user-generated content.

You will do well to bear the following three factors in mind when engaging influencers:

  • The demographic they address and the type of content that wows their followers.
  • Whether or not they are available on the same social channels as you.
  • If they really do carry the kind of credibility that you’re looking for, i.e. if they really do have authority among your target market.

8. Display Customers’ Photos

Including user-generated photos in the e-commerce experience can enable brands to draw the attention of the shoppers towards making connections between images and products. As this happens, their most engaged customers also feel valued. This can go a long way in giving customers the social recognition they deserve and desire. Further, an on-site gallery of user images will help attract new UGC.

Remember, the more your audience loves your brand, the more amazing content they will continue to create for it.

9. Avoid Legal Troubles

To steer clear of legal issues that may arise out of the content that your users create or upload to your website, you will do well to include a few specific sections, clauses, and information on your website’s ‘Terms and Conditions’ section. Also, do not forget to ensure that your users clearly agree to your Terms and Conditions before posting any content that you wish to have covered by this legal agreement.

Make sure to include the following major elements in your agreement:

  • Ownership of Content: The Terms and Conditions agreement should spell out how the submitted content will be used. Use this section for limiting and restricting unwanted and undesirable behavior or activity on your website.
  • Copyright Violations: When allowing users to upload content, watch out for anything that violates copyright laws and constitutes as infringement of someone or something else’s rights.
  • Filter Bad Content: Remember, you’re in charge of what ultimately gets posted on your website. Use your authority to eliminate content that you don’t want on it, or any other content that goes against the terms of your website. Let your user know that you have complete discretion and take the final call when it comes to displaying and removing material.

Conclusion

When it comes to user-generated content, it all filters down to how you plan to generate and use the said content. UGC can surely benefit social teams and digital platforms, along with serving as a creative, economical and rewarding way of developing a variety of channels such as your homepage, product pages, emails, microsites, among others. By bearing the above aspects in mind, you should be able to build an effective UGC strategy that not only helps you meet your goals, but also keeps you out of hot water.

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6 Resolutions eCommerce Store Owners Should Make for 2016

New Year Resolutions

It’s that time of year again! New Year’s resolutions and promises and working through them. In fact, it is the perfect time to wipe the slate clean and start afresh. And it applies for eCommerce store owners too. Reflect on what you did last year – the good and the bad both and then think where you can improve in 2016 and start creating a strategic plan to implement those changes.

Here is 6 resolutions that eCommerce stores should make in 2016.

1. Commit to Quality Content

When it comes to digital marketing, content is king and marketing your eCommerce store is no exception. In fact, you need to be more careful with your eCommerce store content as it not just help search engines crawlers discover and rank your website but also convince your visitors to make a purchase decision. Besides, it your content that your visitors/customers share with their social followers. You will also need content to email your prospect lists, to develop your brand identity and ultimately build your business. The relationship between an eCommerce store and content is therefore a match made in heaven.

There is real financial value in content marketing that eCommerce store owners have started leveraging since the past few years. According to a study conducted by Econsultancy and EPiServer, almost all online retailers accept that revenue is one of the commercial benefits of eCommerce content marketing. The study further indicated that 60 percent of the participating companies saw content engagement increasing while 30 percent of them plan to create more number of original and unique content to improve SEO and stay ahead of the fierce market competition.

You can take inspirations from some of the leading eCommerce brands when it comes to content marketing. Betabrand, for example, uses their content to establish a character and personality to their brand. They place themselves as “as 99% fiction, 1% fashion” and their content (especially their product descriptions) reflect it perfectly. Intelligent listing and through humorous are their secret weapon to create a likeable personality that drives conversions.

Etsy too has a killer content marketing strategy. They are the kings when it comes to communicating with their audience. Esty has a great blog that features interesting stories and interviews from top sellers and leading artisans to tell the story behind their work. This gives more character and soul to the brand.

So this year, commit to invest on quality content if you really want to improve your online marketing efforts.

2. Get Social while Leveraging Mobile

More and more consumers are using their smartphones and tablets to shop online. Just consider the following mobile eCommerce statistics before we discuss further on this topic:

Get Social while Leveraging Mobile

You therefore need a proper mobile strategy for your eCommerce store. Begin with a responsive eCommerce website; make sure your website provides a seamless user experience across various devices and browsers. But that’s not enough. You need to get social as well.

You probably have some social media accounts by now; start strengthening them using the power of mobile. In short, we are asking you to combine social with mobile to engage your users. If you are wondering how to combine your social mobile offering, Foursquare is a great example. But to implement this in real life you need to first understand the three basic mindsets mobile users: They generally seek local information, they are always microtasking, and they are usually bored.

Now consider the social media integration theory by Isra Garcia.

Social Media Integration Theory

It points out four interactions that you need to manage and each of them can be combined with mobile mindsets. For example, connecting can always be combined with researching for a product/item whereas exposure signifies viewing information within the users’ network. Likewise, sharing occurs when a user reports something great on an ad-hoc basis or in a structured manner in order to reach out to other people and feedback is all about reviews and social recommendations.

Now how to implement this to your eCommerce strategy?

The answer is a mobile app. Today people are always on the go. So what could be a better way to reach out to them and remain connected apart from having a mobile app? Don’t use your eCommerce app to just generate leads and sales’ use it in different new ways. Allow users to write, view and share reviews and rating through the app, to recommend deals and invite others in their network to get a special deal. There are countless possibilities; all you need is to get creative and provide a great user experience by combining social and mobile.

3. Invest in eCommerce SEO

SEO has always been a big thing. You want your eStore to show up in front of millions of potential customers, so you need to work for that as well. You really need to get serious about it. Don’t just stop at finding keywords for your homepage, find highly relevant keywords for your product pages as well. Consider factors like local search volume and keyword ranking difficulty. Google’s AdWords Keyword tool is a good resource for this.

AdWords Keyword tool

Avoid keywords that are too competitive or too broad as they usually result in low conversion rate and higher bounce rate. You will also need to find the right keywords for your blog topics, especially the long-tail keywords which (although relevant) hardly find a place in your main eCommerce website.

In addition, find site errors (if any) and address them at the earliest especially if it is related to your website’s speed. Users often tend to abandon a website that take more than 2 seconds to load. Even delay by 1 second in page response can cause 7 percent reduction in conversions.

This year, focus on both on-page and off-page optimization to better rank in search engine result pages.

4. Access Better Data

To create a killer marketing strategy you need the most accurate data. Google analytics, although a reliable source, is not enough at times. It only provides data but you need actionable insights as well. Besides, you need your competitors’ data as well to gain an edge in the market. In 2016, make it a resolution to meet this need of your eCommerce store.

If you are sweating over the prospect, be assured there are several competitive analysis tools available on the market. The following are some of the tools you can use:

  • Moz, the industry favourite that allows you track your competitors’ activities and how you can match them
  • SEM Rush is another option that helps you track every activity of your competitors in paid search landscape as well as provide detailed and accurate insights about their organic search efforts
  • Bright Edge is a comprehensive web-based tool featuring a complete enterprise SEO marketing platform

5. Get New Customers and Retain Old Ones

Of course you need new customers to sustain your business. But at the same time your existing customers can add more value to your business than you possible think of. For one thing, it is more expensive to get a new customer than keeping an existing one. Besides, if you can increase your customer retention rates by 5 percent can boost your profits by 25 to 95 percent. KISSmetrics finds that the “the average value of a lost customer is $243.”

You should therefore implement an effective customer retention program to show your appreciation for your existing buyers. Small steps can help you gain a competitive edge here. For example, adding a ‘wow factor’ to your packaging will not only surprize your buyers but also delight them and they will always come back to you for more. Similarly faster delivery options, special discounts and offers to repeat buyers etc. are some of the best ways to gain their loyalty.

The secret lies in beating your customer expectations, every time. And convert them to your ardent fans who not only come back to your eStore for more but also recommend your products to their peers. Happy customers always spread the good words and bring you direct referrals even without any monetary rewards.

6. Relax and Recharge

Last but not the least, you need to make a resolution to relax and recharge yourself this year. You need to balance your work and personal life. According to Hiscox’s DNA of an Entrepreneur study, around 20 percent of small business owners in the U.S. take zero vacation days at present. However, research shows that vacations and time off from work help in relieving stress, allowing you to work better in the long run.

In addition, you need to do things you enjoy on a regular basis apart from work on a regular basis. It can be anything, from DYI projects and gardening to cooking, starting a blog to getting fit. Even Mark Zuckerberg is taking up a running challenge this year, planning to run 365 miles in 2016 after celebrating 2015 as “A Year of Books”. So what are you waiting for?

Conclusion

A new year brings in endless opportunities along with it. It is therefore the perfect time to make your eCommerce marketing dreams come true. If you can take your resolutions seriously and work through them, nothing can stop you from attaining what you desire. The only thing you need to do, however, is to commit yourself to constant improvement.

Happy New Year!

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