How small business ecommerce can plan for a successful Black Friday

Black Friday for small business ecommerce

Love it or hate it, Black Friday is here to stay in the UK.  This year it falls on 25th November 2016 and encompasses the four-day period from Black Friday through to Cyber Monday on the 28th November.

How you view Black Friday may well depend on your business. Whilst some online retailers welcome it with open arms, others find it more problematic and not necessarily something they are eager to embrace. According to Tech Radar businesses selling electronics or gadgets are likely to fare better over the Black Friday weekend than other industries. This is why it is important to plan your approach carefully to ensure both you and your customers are happy.

Black Friday 2015 saw record-breaking online sales in the UK

Traditionally Black Friday – certainly in the US – was more of a bricks and mortar affair however over the last couple of years in the UK we’ve seen it move steadily towards a major online event. According to research last year UK shoppers spent a record £3.3 billion online over the Black Friday weekend – with Black Friday itself taking in a record-breaking £1.1 billion online sales. This was an uplift of 36% from 2014 sales.

So, it looks like the Black Friday phenomenon is here for the foreseeable future with firm expectations from customers that there are deals to be had. So, as a small business owner, how can you ensure you make it both successful and profitable?

Planning is key to a successful Black Friday

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Planning your Black Friday promotions is central to ensuring success. Probably the worst thing you can do is leave it to the last-minute, panic and whack out something like a 40% discount across the board. Not taking the time to work out your profit margins is likely to make your bottom line go pear-shaped very quickly.

Don’t plan in isolation – view Black Friday weekend as an element of your overall holiday planning and sales strategy. For many online retailers, the run up to Christmas is probably the biggest sale period of the year, so planning your sales and promotion strategy well in advance is essential.

Carefully consider your offers your promotional offers

Most importantly do your sums before you run any promotion. You should be confident that any discount you offer won’t adversely effect your profit margin. Of course you want to attract customers and show an uplift in sales, but this shouldn’t be to the detriment on your bottom line. Spend time working out what will numbers will keep both you and your customers happy.

Planning your Black Friday promotions in light of your overall Christmas sales strategy will help you implement the most appropriate and effective offers. Try and choose a promotion specific to Black Friday that stands out from the general seasonal promotions you have planned.

For example if you are running a regular general promotion over the Christmas sales period such as 10% offer with free delivery, then choose something else for Black Friday. If customers know that they can get the same offer from you in a week or two’s time there is little incentive for them to make a purchase. You want to create a sense of urgency amongst your customers – if they don’t take the offer up now they will miss out completely. Keep the promotion limited to a specific time frame such as the four days over black Friday.

What products do you intend to discount?

In the same way you look at the promotions you intend to run, think about which products you will include. For example to you intend to run a blanket sales promotion across all your products or are you going to be selective about what products are promoted and discounted.

If you decide to be selective then it can be a good idea to choose products, perhaps seasonal ones, that you think you are likely to find you have excess stock of in January.

Promote your black Friday deals in advance

Promoting your offers is essential to ensure customers are aware that you are running a specific, time-limited promotion over Black Friday. It’s about making sure that you generate awareness amongst customers and prospective customers that you have some special deals going on. Plan you promotions in advance – so you are ready to go on the day. This is far better (and likely to be far more effective) than trying to hastily put together some poorly thought-out promotions last-minute. Review last year’s activities – what worked well and what fell flat?

It can also be a good idea to give you customers some advance warning that you will be doing something for Black Friday. Some of the bigger retailers have holding pages on their website months in advance – for example here is Argos’ Black Friday holding page.

black friday ecommerce

 

Email: Email is a great way to promote your black Friday deals. Indeed, according to Forbes, email accounted for 27% of Christmas sales in 2014. Consider flagging up Black Friday in your newsletters or running  teaser emails beforehand so customers know that your business will be holding a special promotion.  Then ensure you alert customers on the actual day to any special offers you are doing. Create a sense of urgency by being very clear this is for Black Friday / Cyber Monday only and that offer is for a limited period.

Here is an example of 2015’s Black Friday email offering from Gap.

Black friday email promotions

Social Media: Don’t forget social media is a great place to promote your special black friday offers. Share you promotions across all your social media platforms. Use eye-catching images to help increase engagement and don’t forget to include relevant hashtags such as #blackfriday or #cybermonday.

 

PPC advertising: Competition is likely to be higher at this time of year but PPC can still offer you an additional channel to get your promotion in front of your audience. You may have to spend a bit more time crafting the right keywords  –  try looking at long-tail search terms and implementing some negative keywords to help make your search more relevant.

Other considerations…

Potential sales uplifts can have a knock on effect of other areas of your business. More traffic may mean more customer service queries, a surge in sales may result in longer delivery and fulfillment times so take a moment to consider any potential impact.

For example do you intend to entice people in with free delivery? If so you will need to factor this into your costs and your profit margin.

Equally if, due to the costs associated with the promotion, you decide to only offer a standard delivery service then make sure this is clearly stated during the checkout process. Customer may well be content with longer delivery because of the saving they have made on your Black Friday promotions but only if you have made this clear upfront.

And, be realistic – are you likely to need to help to ensure your delivery and fulfillment runs smoothly? If you think demand will be high, then you may have to accept that you and your staff will need  to work longer hours or you’ll need to consider bringing on temporary help to ensure you products are fulfilled and delivered when promised.

Black Friday looks like its here to stay – at least for the foreseeable future anyway. To make the most of the potential sales opportunities it can offer your business, ensure you plan it into your calendar and most importantly look at it as a key element of your overall sales strategy. By planning your promotions, carefully considering what products to discount, implementing an effective marketing campaign and taking into account areas such as delivery and fulfillment, you are far more likely to find the right balance – one that keeps your customers happy and your profit margins healthy!

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on Black Friday, so please do leave a comment.

 

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18 top tips for successful email marketing

 

email marketing

Email is arguably one of the most useful tools in a small business’ marketing toolbox. It is incredibly flexible, cost-effective and offers an impressive ROI. Indeed most small businesses wouldn’t be without it.

A rosy future for email…

“9 out of 10 clients perceive email marketing as a channel of ‘importance’ or ‘great strategic importance’ for achieving business goals” DMA National Client Survey 2015

  • Email has an average ROI of $38 for each $1 spent
  • 92% of online adults use email, with 61% using it every day.
  • 76% of marketers are seeing active growth in their number of email subscribers
  • The average order value of an email is at least three times higher than that of social media
  • A message is 5x more likely to be seen in email than via Facebook

Email’s future continues to look rosy as newer technologies such as marketing automation offer even more options and email systems become better and better at identifying and getting rid of spam.

With this in mind, we’ve created a checklist of what we think are the key tips for ensuring your ecommerce business is making the most out of its email communications. So, in no particular order, here is our list of what to do and what not to do as far as your email marketing is concerned.

18 top tips for great email marketing

  1. Focus on content: The quality of your content is key to whether your emails succeed or fail. There is no point sending out emails where the content has no value to the recipient. Focus on sending out information that is relevant, entertaining or useful to your target audience – otherwise your emails we’ll remain unopened or go straight to the trash bin.
  2. Create killer subject lines: You may have painstakingly created an email that is packed full of valuable content for your audience, but if you don’t spend a bit of time crafting your subject line your email may not even get opened. Try to keep your subject line short and to the point and make sure it reflects the actual content of the email. Here are a couple of  helpful articles on how to create successful subject lines: 10 Simple Tips for Writing Killer Email Subject Lines and Best Email Subject Lines.
  3. Mix up your communications: Do not bombard customers and potential customers with just sales messages. You need to mix up the type of content you are sending. Of course, sales emails are essential but they be the only emails you send. Make sure you are also dispatching other useful content for example; newsletters, links to blog posts, helpful tips, relevant account information and so on. It’s all about having a good balance.
  4. Don’t use ALL CAPS.Using all capital letters in emails, particularly the subject headers can look a bit ‘spammy’. More importantly, they may get picked up by your customers’ email system’s spam filters and end up straight in Junk Mail.
  5. Make your email easy to read. Format your emails so they look visually appealing. Recipients don’t want to (and probably won’t) plough through reams of unbroken text. Use short paras, bullet points, images and sub headers  to break up the text. Not only will it look better,  it will also enable people to skim over your email and still understand what it is all about. Include a text only version too as you don’t want to exclude people who can’t open HTML templates.
  6. Personalise your email. Personalise your email when you can. This goes back to building a great permission-based database. Include first name and last name fields in your data capture forms. Research shows that emails that are personalised can lift open rates by  26%, click-through rates by 14% and conversion rates by as much as 10%.
  7. Proof your content: Always give your emails a thorough proofread before hitting send. Spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, missing information etc. can make you look unprofessional and could reflect poorly on your brand.
  8. Always have a clear call to action. With most of your small business email marketing you are likely to want the recipient to perform a specific action such as purchasing a product, leaving a review, registering for an event, signing up to a competition and so on. Whatever it is that you want, ensure your call to action is highly visible and leaves your audience in no doubt about what it is you are asking them to do.
  9. Test before hitting send. Once you’ve hit send there is no going back. Always send yourself a test email before you dispatch it to your whole small business marketing database. Check its format is multi-device friendly – you want people to be able to read it equally well on a mobile as on a desk top. Make sure all the links are working properly and give it a final once over in case you missed any spelling mistakes at the proofreading stage.
  10. Include an easily visible unsubscribe button. Make it easy for people to unsubscribe to your email communications. Not only are you required to do this, it is a great way to ensure you are keeping your email contact data clean and up-to-date. There is no point in sending out marketing communications to people who have no interest in your product – it serves no purpose and you will only annoy them.
  11. Grow your permission-based list. Focus on building a great permission-based email contact list. Email marketing databases can decay by as much as 23% a year so it is important that you look at ways to data capture new email address to enable your list to continue to grow.
  12. Consider email automation. Automated emails, particularly those that are triggered after a specific action, can have a great impact on your email marketing. In fact, research shows that transactional emails can have up to 8x more opens and clicks than other types of email, and can generate over 6x more revenue. Again there are plenty of excellent email marketing automation systems available offering this kind of email technology.
  13. Images help engagement. Using interesting and relevant images in your emails are a great way to capture attention and increase engagement. Most humans are, by nature, visual learners so by including images you can really lift response. Of course there are caveats – here is a helpful article on how to ensure you use images correctly within emails: Email Images: How and when to use them.
  14. Brand your email. Email is a great opportunity to strengthen your brand and grow your visibility. Include your logo in all of your email communications.
  15. Familiarise yourself with email rules and regulations. You don’t want to fall foul of the law, so familiarise yourself with the relevant legislation and best practice  guidance for you country. In the UK check out Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) and the Data Protection Act.
  16. Target your emails: Rather than sending out blanket communications to everyone on your database, try to target your emails to different segments of your audience. The more information you can gather about your customers, the better you will be able to do this. The more targeted you are the higher the likelihood of boosting your response rate and decreasing your unsubscribes.
  17. Test, measure, tweak. The great thing about email is that it offers you the ability to test, measure and tweak your emails quickly and easily to ensure you are getting the best response rates. There are plenty of excellent email service providers that offer free services to start-ups and small business. For example MailChimp offers a free service for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month.
  18. Don’t forget your landing pages. You may have just dispatched a top-notch email, full of interesting and inspiring content, however if you call to action buttons don’t take your recipient to an equally well thought out landing page, then your efforts will be wasted.

Of course, email marketing is a huge area and there a plenty more do’s and don’ts you will want to consider. But hopefully the above list gives you a helpful checklist to get you emailing with confidence.

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

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

 

customer service for small business

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

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

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

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

Impact of poor customer service

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

Impact of great customer service

7 customer service tips to help your business stand apart

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

1. Offer that little bit extra

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

2. Walk in your customers shoes

walk in your customers shoes

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

3. Be flexible.

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

4. Save precious time – pre-empt simple queries

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

set up an FAQ page

 

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

5. Start with ‘sorry’

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

6. Have clear guidelines in place

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

7. Respond to negative comments

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

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

 

social media dealing with negative comments

 

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

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

 

 

 

How to create great online content for your small business website

Content Marketing for small business

 

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

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

1. Focus on your customers

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

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

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

2. Create original content

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

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

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

blogging

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

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

 

3. Make it useful

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

Google Search Engine Optimisation Starter Guide

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

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

4. Be visually engaging

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

visual content marketing

 

 

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

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

5. Make content digestible

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

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

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

6. Keep it fresh

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

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

7. User generated content

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

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

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

 

 

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

online trust

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

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

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

6 ways to help instill trust

1. A great website

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

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

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

2. Relevant, fresh and engaging content

online content

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

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

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

3. Customer reviews and testimonials

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

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

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

4. Display Trustmarks

 

trust mark security logos

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

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

5. Open communication channels

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

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

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

6. Present a human face to the business

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

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

Riverford About Us

 

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

Online shopping image courtesy of sixninepixels at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thumbs up image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

7 tips small business owners can implement to help combat stress

how to combat stress

 

There are plenty of wonderful upsides to being your own boss. You’re in control, you set the hours and often you’re doing what you love or following a dream. Of course, it would be unrealistic to paint everything as rosy. Alongside all the great things that come with owning your own business there are also plenty of challenging aspects you have to deal with. The responsibility of sole management and shouldering all the worries, coupled with spending hours working alone can sometimes cause stress, lack of motivation and make you feel isolated.

We take a look at some useful tips to help you deal with stress when it raises its head. Obviously we are not suggesting stress can be erased completely, after all it is part and parcel of owning a small business, but hopefully by implementing a few of the tips we’ve outlined below it will help you manage stress better to reduce its overall impact.

7 tips to help manage stress at work

71% of small business owners experience high levels of stress.”

Being you own boss, juggling lots of balls and carrying the full weight of success and failure on your own shoulders is undoubtedly stressful at times. Indeed, stress is a key issue for small business owners and solo entrepreneurs. The very nature of small business ownership opens you up to higher levels of stress. At its worse it can lead to exhaustion, depression and hinder your ability to run your business.

Eradicating stress completely is probably unlikely. However learning to identify what triggers stress and taking steps to manage it can make it big difference to how you cope during stressful periods.

1.Learn how to identify stress triggers

Of course different people will have different stress triggers but one of the major triggers is the feeling that you lack of control over a situation – from deliveries not arriving in time, other people’s behaviour and even the weather (the list goes on and on).  Accepting that there are certain things you will never be able to control and finding ways to manage them as best you can when they arise will help you better cope when things are out of your immediate control.

Most of us have an idea of what it is that really our stress levels through the roof. For me it’s having too much on my plate to the point I can’t see the wood for the trees. I’ve learnt that on those days I’m far from at my best. Such days don’t go away but by recognising this I’ve learnt to try to pre-empt the impact by planning ahead where I can.  If I know I’ve got a ridiculously busy day or week coming up then I try to see if there is anything within my control that I can do beforehand to alleviate some of the pressure.

Point is, if you can learn to recognise what makes your stress levels rise you are better able to work on positive ways to manage it.

2. Recognise the first signs of stress

Recognising the first signs of stress can help you manage your symptoms before they take over and damage your health and your ability to successfully manage your business. Stress can take different physical and mental forms. Some common signs include:

  • A feeling of being unable to cope
  • Anger and aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Lethargy
  • Sleeplessness
  • Demotivation
  • Exhaustion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low mood

Recognising that you may be suffering from higher than normal levels of stress will help you take steps to address those symptoms or if needed get help from your GP.

3. Re-evaluate your time-management skills

 

effective timemangement

It probably feels that time management is wheeled out every time stress at the workplace is mentioned – so forgive me if you’ve read it all before! However putting effective time-management into practice really can help you reduce your stress levels and means you’re less likely to find yourself  working ridiculous hours to get things done. Examples of good time management techniques include;

Plan. Schedule 30 minutes a the beginning of each day to plan what you’ll be doing that day.

Prioritise. Divide your tasks into things that are critical (they absolutely have to be done today), essential (are important to the smooth running of your business but aren’t as urgent as your critical tasks and then everything else (nice but not essential tasks). Deal with critical first, then move on to essential and finally tackle everything else once the ‘critical’ and ‘essential’ tasks have been dealt with.

Remove distractions.  When you have critical or urgent tasks that need your full attention, remove all potential distractions. Put your phone on silent (people can always leave a message) and sign-out of email, instant messenger and social media.

Allow for interruptions. When planning your day allow some additional time for interruptions when you will need to be unexpectedly pulled away from the task at hand.

Organise your workspace. A messy workspace will hinder your attempts at effective time-mangement. So keep your work space organised and clutter free.

4.Outsource where you can

If you are a start-up with a very tight budget, outsourcing may seem like a no-go option. However, you don’t have to outsource something major to benefit. Is there something you could delegate to help out more at home so you not fretting about cleaning the house or making the dinner on top of everything else. Try looking at it from a business perspective as well. Is your time being well-spent? For example are you spending time stuffing envelopes instead of getting on with sales calls which could generate new business?

As a small business owner you are probably juggling lots of hats. Take a step back and see if you can relinquish some control to someone else – perhaps in an area you don’t enjoy or to someone  who is better placed to do it than you? Freeing up this time will leave you more time to focus on other important areas.

5. Look after yourself

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” Helen Keller

Taking care of your mind and body is essential to keeping your stress levels down. Healthy eating, exercise, getting enough sleep and relaxation time are essential. Being able to draw the line is also important – work cannot be all-consuming as it is simply unsustainable in the long run. Taking good care of yourself is intrinsically linked to feeling positive  and the more positive your feel the more optimistic you are about work and the world around you.

positive thinking

Practice positive thinking. Think about all the great things you’ve achieved, remind yourself why you wanted to be your own boss and what you love about your business. Positive thinking can have a significant impact on how you deal with challenges.

6. Realistic goal setting

There is a tendency for us to heap pressure upon ourselves to achieve goals and we are often overly hard on ourselves if we don’t always attain them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with aiming high, just make sure that when you are setting goals against which you are measuring yourself and your business, you are being realistic. Otherwise you are simply setting yourself up for failure before you’ve even started. A good goal should be a challenge but ultimately achievable.

7. Tackle isolation

“52% of all small businesses are home-based.” –Forbes

There is no doubt that being a small business owner can sometimes make you feel a bit on the lonely side. In the UK two-thirds of businesses are owned and run by just one person and 52% of small businesses are based at home. When you are feeling stressed it really helps to be around other people for support. If you work in a busy office and have a bad day you can often unload to your colleagues However,  if you work from home alone you don’t always have that opportunity.

tackle isolation at work

Have a think of ways you can introduce a bit more interaction into your busy working day. For example.

  • Hot desks. There are more and more co-working spaces popping up. Here you can hire a workspace. Even if you can only afford to do it once a week it means that you’ll be surrounded by individuals in a similar situation as yourself who will also probably appreciate a bit of company whilst working.
  • Join local business networking groups. This is a great way to meet other likeminded local business people who probably have to deal with similar issues as you.
  • Attend events relevant to your business and if appropriate think about opening a pop-up shop every so often.
  • Get outside at lunch for a walk or to have your sandwich.
  • Go for a coffee and take your emails with you – emails are something you can often answer on the move. You are out and about amongst people and are getting some work done at the same time!

Of course, it’s unlikely that whatever you put in place is going to eradicate stress completely as it is often part and parcel of owning a small business, but by implementing even just a few of these tips it may help you bring stress down to a more manageable level.

Ultimately keep reminding yourself of all the great benefits being your own boss brings and remember to look after yourself and pat yourself of the back every now and then as never forget that as a small business owner, you are absolutely vital to a thriving economy.

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on managing stress at the workplace, so please do leave a comment. 

Abandoned cart emails. Helpful tips for start-ups and small business ecommerce

shopping cart abandonment emails

If you are selling online, chances are a constant bugbear will be the number of customers abandoning their items before completing the checkout process. If you are just starting out and panicking at so many people leaving your website with unpurchased items in their baskets, don’t despair you’re not alone.  Shopping cart abandonment is an ongoing issue for even the biggest of players.

Indeed according to research, the average documented online shopping cart abandonment rate stands at around 68.63%.  It’s inevitable that some customers will sail away and will never complete that particular purchase no matter what you do. However some customers can be enticed back to complete the sale.  One of the most effective ways of doing that is through abandoned cart / dropped basket emails.

What are abandoned cart emails?

In a nutshell an abandoned cart email is usually triggered emails that get sent out when a customer leaves a website having added stuff to their shopping basket but not having completed the checkout process. Its purpose is to remind people of what they have left in their basket and encourages them to go back and complete the purchase. Below is a recent example of one I received from Amazon:

Amazon abandoned shopping cart email

Why do people abandon their baskets mid-purchase

There are a myriad of reasons that customers abandon their shopping carts halfway through the checkout process. ClickZ identifies the following as the top six reasons:

  1. Unexpected shipping and delivery costs
  2. Had to create an account to complete a purchase
  3. Just conducting research
  4. Payment security concerns
  5. Confusing checkout
  6. Couldn’t find the discount / coupon code

Some of these will be within your control. For example if you have a long, convoluted checkout process then you can take steps to fix it. Other reasons are going to be completely out of you control such as a customer’s telephone rang mid-purchase and they simply forgot to go back and complete the process.

A positive aspect to all this is that 75% of all visitors who abandon their cart do actually intend to buy. This is where shopping cart abandonment emails come in to play.

Tips for creating successful dropped basket emails

Implementing shopping abandonment emails can be great way to pull back some sales you may have thought were lost. Outlined below are some inspiring statistics for cart abandonment emails from an Econsultancy article.

  • 11.6% (over a tenth) of shopping basket abandonment emails are clicked.
  • 29.9% of shopping abandonment email clicks lead to a purchase back on website
  • 44.1% of all shopping cart abandonment emails are opened.
  • The average order value of purchases from shopping cart abandonment emails is 14.2% higher than average purchases.
  • Every single dropped basket email sent delivers over $8 in revenue.

The trick is to make them as successful as possible. So we’ve outlined some helpful tips on how to create winning shopping cart abandonment emails for your business.

Timing

Probably the most important element to getting an uplift in conversions is the timing of your email – wait too long before sending a reminder and your customer may well have gone elsewhere. The consensus seems to be that the initial abandonment email should be sent within the first hour of a customer abandoning their basket. In an ideal scenario you would be aiming to catch a potential customer before they leave their device and forget all about their half-finished purchase.

Here is a sample one from Boden that I received within 20 mins from abandoning my basket:

Boden abandoned cart email

Create a schedule of abandoned cart emails

To get the most conversions, consider sending out more than one reminder. It’s great to try to grab them as soon as possible, but also implement further follow-up emails. According to HubSpot:

  • 95% of people who purchased after abandoning a cart took up-to two weeks to complete their purchase. 

Create a sequence of timely reminders to try to catch those who take longer to make a purchase or who need a little more encouragement.

Strong subject header

In any email the subject  header is important. To even get opened it needs to stand out from all the other emails in the inbox. Do make it clear in the subject header that your email is reminding them that they have left something in their shopping cart.

There are lots of different approaches from creating a sense of urgency or excitement, to reminding customers about the product they left or even using humour. Just find the right approach for your audience. For example:

Product: Amazon takes a no-nonsense approach and just lists the product left behind:

“Zap Arsenal Red Crest Fleece Blanket”

Abandoned cart: White stuff is straight to the point:

“Don’t forget to complete your order”

Humour: Boden’s is slightly more cheeky

“You left something… but where? Oh look…”

Think about your copy

As well as pointing out to your customer what exactly it is that they’ve left in their cart, also use your copy to try to remind customers about why they chose to put the product in their basket in the first place.

John Lewis includes a clear link back to the product details so the customer can easily remind themselves of the product benefits.

Email copy

Use your copy to create a sense of urgency and possible loss.  For example the product is selling fast and you may not be able to guarantee how long the product in will remain in stock. Try and convey to the customer what they may risk missing out on if they don’t act soon.

Use images

If you can, include a visual of the product your customer has left in their basket. It tells people in an instant exactly what it is you’re emailing them a reminder about and can help reinforce the reasons they chose the product or service in the first place .

Here is an example of a Boden dropped basket email with a strong visual of the product in question.

Include an image in shopping cart abandonment email

Clear call to action

Always include a very clear call to action that takes the customer back to their basket so they can easily complete their purchase. Don’t tuck it away in the corner of youR email but display it prominently so the customer won’t miss it. Also make it very clear to the customer what it is you are asking them to do.

In the White Stuff email below, they have put two clear call to action buttons on the email, with a very straightforward call to action: Complete Order.

strong call to action

Abandoned cart emails can be a great way to pick up those customers who, for whatever reason, have left the checkout mid purchase. A well-considered dropped basket series may help turn around a sale that could potentially have been lost for ever!

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on shopping cart abandonment emails so please do leave a comment.