8 Marketing Ways to use Instagram for e-Commerce

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

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

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

A brief comparison of the business potential of Facebook and Instagram

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Try influencer marketing

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

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

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

iamgala3. Use raw, natural photos

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

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

tsuru

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

4. Use Instagram Direct for e-commerce marketing

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

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

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

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

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

5. Leveraging the Videos Channel in Explore

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

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

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

6. Run contests

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

bowsnties

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

7. Use Instagram Stories

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

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

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

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

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

Takeaway

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

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

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

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

 

customer service for small business

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

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

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

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

Impact of poor customer service

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

Impact of great customer service

7 customer service tips to help your business stand apart

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

1. Offer that little bit extra

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

2. Walk in your customers shoes

walk in your customers shoes

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

3. Be flexible.

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

4. Save precious time – pre-empt simple queries

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

set up an FAQ page

 

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

5. Start with ‘sorry’

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

6. Have clear guidelines in place

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

7. Respond to negative comments

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

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

 

social media dealing with negative comments

 

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

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

 

 

 

Social media advertising – top tips for small business ecommerce

social networks

If you’re a small online business or start-up, chances are you’ve already dipped your toe into social media. For example you’ve probably established a business presence across the social media platforms relevant to your target market. Social media has become an integral part of marketing and if you are looking to increase your reach across these networks, it may well be worth considering advertising your business on social media.

Social media advertising continues to be big business and has seen phenomenal growth over the last few years. Indeed, according to research;

What opportunities can social media advertising bring to small online businesses?

Most of the key social media platforms offer advertising options which, when executed well, can offer small business ecommerce a number of advantages. For example:

Targeted Audience. Social platforms enable you to drill down in terms of targeting. Allowing you to be specific about who you are looking to target, not only through basic demographics, but by purchase behaviour and interests. Facebook even enables you to target ‘Lookalike Audiences’ – opening the door to a wider, but still closely related audience.

Low cost of entry. Entry costs for social media advertising isn’t prohibitive to small businesses. You can set your budget on a daily or campaign basis – spending only what you can afford.

Immediacy. Social media advertising is immediate and offering you great flexibility. You can create, launch and tweak campaigns quickly and easily.

Brand awareness: Social media exposure amongst a wider, targeted audience will help increase your reach and build awareness of your brand.

Easily track performance: Most social networks offer insightful analytics to enable you to easily track your advertising campaigns’ performance and ROI.

social media advertising

Top tips for creating great social media ads

Before you embark on advertising on your chosen social media platform or platforms, here are a few tips to help ensure success.

Clear goals and objectives:  Be very clear about what you want your advertisement to achieve?  For example are you looking to drive traffic to your website, raise awareness of a new product, get more page likes, grow attendance at an event or is it a brand building exercise?   Establishing clear goals will help your focus advertising making it easier to create the right content .

When you create an ad within  Facebook you are given a list of advertising objectives – so match up your goal with the objective you select.

Create goals and objectives

Target your audience. Be very clear about who it is you are trying to target. For example, are you going to break it down by demographics, interests or purchasing behaviour. Different audiences will respond differently to particular content. An advertisement that may appeal to one segment may not be so successful with another. If you can focus on a specific audience you can adapt your ad to reflect the triggers of that particular group.

Set your budget. Have a clear idea about your budget before you start. Otherwise you run the risk of getting carried away and spending more than you can afford. Set a daily maximum spend or a maximum campaign limit. You can always adjust your budget at a later date once you’ve tested the water.

Use interesting visuals: Social media is becoming an increasingly visual medium. Use high-quality, creative images to make your advertisement stand out from the crowd.

Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images.

There are a number of excellent image libraries available online where you can source interesting and engaging images such as Shutterstock, istockphoto, freedigitalphotos and dreamstime. If you’re on a tight budget then check out Pixabay, they have a great library of images that are free to use even for commercial purposes. Facebook also allow you to select from hundreds of Shutterstock images at no cost when creating an ad.

Be mobile friendly:  Increasingly, people are more likely to access social networks via mobile. Keep this in mind when you are creating your ads; as chances are it will be viewed on a small screen.

mobile friendly

 

Call to action: Even when you have limited space to work with a clear call to action is essential. Ensure your audience is left in no doubt about what it is you are asking them to do. For example, when you are creating a Facebook advertisement you can select from some of the following call to action buttons:

  • Shop Now
  • Learn More
  • Sign Up
  • Use App
  • Book Now
  • Download

Landing page: Don’t undo a great ad by sending your audiences to a general page on your website. Create campaign specific landing pages that reflect the content  and reinforce the message of your advertisement. Campaign specific landing pages will provide a better conversion rate.

Track response: Keep on top of how you ads are performing – what ROI are they providing? Most social media networks enable you to closely monitor and measure the performance of your campaigns.  Analysing your campaign analytics will help you identify what is working well, or not so well, so you can amend your campaigns accordingly.

Advertising options for social media platforms.

Most social networks offer advertising options for businesses. For further information for individual platforms, check out the links below:

Facebook: Facebook Adverts

TwitterTwitter Ads

Pinterest: Promoted Pins

LinkedIn: LinkedIn Advertising

Instagram: Advertising on Instagram

Exploring the advertising options offered on the  social media platforms that you are already using as business, can help amplify your social media presence through creating specific, highly targeted adverts at a manageable cost. So if you haven’t already tried social media advertising then it’s worth testing the water with your business.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on social media advertising, so please do leave a comment.

5 top Instagram tips for small online businesses and start-ups

instagram-1007070_1920

How can Instagram benefit your ecommerce business?  Launched in 2010 and bought by Facebook in 2012, Instagram is a free photo sharing app. Like Pinterest, Instagram is primarily a visual platform. If you consider that images are the most popular type of content for social networks, it follows that you should at the very least investigate the benefits Instagram could bring to your small online business.

Instagram – did you know…

The growing success of visual platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest is rooted in our natural inclination towards all things visual. For example:

  • 65% of us are visual learners
  • 90% of information coming to the brain is visual
  • Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images
  • Visual content is more than 40 times more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content.

5 top tips to get the most out of Instagram for your business

1. Get off to a good start.

Take a look at Instagram for business. It has plenty of resources such as a business blog, inspirational case studies and helpful tips.

Creating an account:

  • Download and install the Instagram app (IOS App store), Android (Google Play Store) or Windows Phone (Windows Phone Store).
  • To sign up you can either use your Facebook account or tap sign up and enter your email address. You’ll need to create a username when you sign up. Bear in mind that this is what everyone will see so, if you can, try to include your businesses name. If it’s already taken you might have to get a bit more creative to incorporate it.
  • Complete your profile by tapping Edit Your Profile.  You only have 150 characters to play with so spend some time crafting your biography – remember anyone can see your Bio. You want it to be interesting and engaging. Don’t forget to include your URL and a profile picture. Your logo is probably the best image to choose.
  • From settings, link your account to your other active business social networks so you can share photos and videos across all your platforms.

Start following, sharing, liking and commenting on other people’s posts. Don’t forget to add your Instagram profile link to your website and email communications.

2. Have a plan in place

Before posting images here, there and everywhere. It is a good idea to have a clear plan of how you intend to approach your presence on Instagram. As a small business owner time and resources are likely to be limited. A clear strategy will ensure your efforts aren’t wasted and you are making the most effective use of your time. Think about what you are hoping to achieve and decide the most effective way of taking that forward. As a starting point:

Set objectives: Having in place some clear SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely) objectives will help ensure you have focus and direction.

What are you competitors doing? Check out what your competitors are doing on Instagram. Who are their followers and who are they following. What are they doing well that you can learn from and what are they doing that’s not so great that you could do better?

Think about Brand: What kind of image do you want to convey to reflect your brand? The photos and images you post should support your brand personality. Instagram for business has some great examples of some creative brands that are well worth checking out for some inspiration.

How often? As part of your planning, think about putting together a schedule. You may have some fantastic ideas, but you need to be practical and think about how much time you realistically have available. Do you have any resources or will posting all be down to you? Like most social media posting regularly is advisable but equally quality will outweigh quantity.

using your camera on smarphone3. Be creative

You don’t need a state of the art, all singing, all dancing camera. Most of us have a pretty decent camera on our phones. With your smartphone you also have the added benefit of having a camera to hand at opportune moments. Saying that, do still take a sensible approach to taking pictures – you still want them to look professional. Checkout this link for some tips on taking better pictures with your smartphone.

Tip: On Instagram photos showing faces get 38% more likes than photos not showing faces

Instagram over 20 filters for you to play with to create the feel you want for your different photos. So let your creativity shine – even if you have rather uninspiring products there is no reason not to get creative. Take pictures of your colleagues, your office, your teams favourite lunch place, awards, celebrations and so on. It’s about projecting a lifestyle that reflects your brand and the personality behind it. It can be a good idea to involve other members of your team and get then snapping and posting.Just make sure you have clear brand guidelines on what is and isn’t appropriate to post.

4. Mix it up

Try to strike a balance between promoting your business and posting interesting and entertaining shots that engage your audience. As we mentioned earlier you can create fun and interesting images of your office, run competitions, post views from your desk, take pictures of colleagues, highlight your production process, charity events you support and attend, team birthdays, favourite products – anything that is relevant, interesting to your audience and supports your brand.

Tip: Scroll through the images Stella & Dot post on Instagram – there is a great mix of product shots (all nicely framed in real-life settings), inspirational text only images, team pictures and videos – all with a feel reflective of the Stella & Dot brand.

instagram stella and dot

 

Add text to images: Try livening up images with some captions or text. There are plenty of image editing tools available such as Canva or PicMonkey that allow you to easily add text to images and photos.

Video: Online video’s popularity continues to soar and now accounts for more than 50% of all mobile traffic. You can post videos of between 3-15 seconds on Instagram. Adding video is an excellent, and engaging way to mix up your Instagram content.

5. Engage to build an audience

Follow, share, like….Just like any other social media network engaging with your audience is key to a successful presence. Focus on building your community through actively following, sharing, liking and commenting on posts. If someone comments on your post then try to reply to their comment. It is a great way of engaging with your audience.

#Hashtags: To make it easier for people to discover your business make good use of hashtags. It will help put your content in the path of people searching for those particular keywords or phrases. Use hashtags that are relevant to the content you are posting. Try not to go overboard. Instagram allows you up to 30 hashtags, however if you look at the most successful brands you’ll notice they are usually using between 3 and 5.

To add a # to your photos and videos, just type in your hashtags in the Caption field. For example #silver #bracelet.

It is the very visual nature of Instagram that makes it such a useful addition to your social media toolkit. If you haven’t yet set up an Instagram account for your business, then at the very least it’s worth taking a moment to check out all its potential benefits.

 

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

 

 

How to offer excellent customer service on social media – 7 best practice tips

social media customer serviceIn the US social networking now accounts for the most time spent on a particular online activity, with the average person spending 37 minutes a day on it. As more and more people interact with social media on a daily basis, it is little wonder that it is becoming a favourite channel for customer services communication.  The beauty of social media is its two-way immediacy. The minute someone posts a comment on your page you are alerted so you can respond equally swiftly.

Many small businesses have embraced social media and it’s become an integral part of a businesses online presence. Indeed, out of the 4.8 million small businesses in the UK nearly 23% earn over £1000 per annum through connecting with customers through social media platforms. Providing a top class customer experience as part of your social media presence is essential as businesses are increasingly recognising that customer services should no longer be just focused around telephone and email.

  • 92% of customers in the UK have left one business for another in the last year due to poor customer service.
  • 71% of customers who have a positive customer service experience via social media are likely to recommend that company
  • If consumers receive good customer service via social media they are likely to spend 21% more
  • Social networks account for the most online activity in the US with an average of 37 minutes a day.
  • 33% of users prefer to contact brands using social media than the telephone.
  • Failure to respond via social media channels can lead to a 15% increase in churn rate for existing customers
  • 71% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good service

So as a small business are you confident you are following best practice when it comes to dealing with customer intereacions via your social media platforms?

7 Best practice tips for managing customer service online

1.Swift response

Customers need to feel that you take their concerns seriously.  Of course a prompt response to any customer service issue whether via email, telephone or letter is essential, but with social media speed becomes even more important. The very ‘immediate’ nature of social media is reflected in the time customers will expect you to respond. The speedier the better, particularly where complaints are concerned.

For example econsultancy note that53% of customers who ask a brand a question on Twitter expect a response within one hour. However, if a customer is making complaint to using Twitter, it goes up  72%.

Acknowledging comments as quickly as you can will score your business brownie points in your customers eyes. Whereas a slow response may reflect poorly on your business.

2.Dealing with negative comments.

Nobody likes handling negative comments but they are part-and-parcel of customer interaction. Dealing successfully with adverse communications is an essential part of successful customer service. Unlike telephone and email, when you are responding to negative comments on social media they are out there for everyone to see.  Don’t be tempted to ignore them as then the situation can mushroom out of control. When responding to a negative comment on social media:

  • Apologise upfront. Start with an apology as it shows you take your customers concerns seriously.
  • Be transparent. Don’t try to hide anything. Be upfront and honest about the situation, even if it is your mistake.
  • Don’t pass the person from pillar to post. Commit to dealing with the customer by supplying your name and a clear offer of help
  • Remain calm, polite and professional. No matter how disgruntled your customer, remain polite at all times without getting defensive.
  • Take it offline. When it’s appropriate, take an issue offline to deal with. For example, have a look at IKEA’s Facebook page. As you can imagine the very nature of IKEA’s business and its size means it gets a lot of adverse comments posted on its social media platforms. So when its appropriate they take it offline as in the example below.

social media dealing with negative comments

 

3. Clear and helpful information

In the same way customers visiting your website would expect to find information about your business, so to should your social media presence. Remember your website isn’t necessarily someone’s first experience of your business. Think about what information customers might be looking for. For example:

  • Completed profile pages: Make sure your businesses about us and profile pages are fully completed across all your platforms
  • Clear links. Have clear links to useful customer information such as to your website, FAQ page and contact us page.
  • Post helpful information. Post regular helpful customer services information such as delivery dates, opening times and service updates. This is particularly helpful during holiday periods such as Christmas when there may be a change to normal service. See the helpful example below from online retailer notonthehighstreet.com .

 

 

social media customer service

4.Learn to prioritise

It’s human nature to put off the things we find least enjoyable, and dealing with customer complaints probably falls into that category. However, as we mentioned earlier, the very immediate nature of social media means you have to respond as quickly as possible customers – that means no putting off dealing with the more difficult customer communications. Learning to manage your social media presence, particularly in regard to customer service is an essential skill.  Learn to prioritise how you respond to particular customer interactions.

Prioritise comments that require immediate attention for example, customer complaints, account queries, product issues, sales queries. Other more ‘proactive’ responses such as thanking someone for their feedback, commenting on a post and general queries regarding your business can wait a little longer.

Setting a response target for particular issues can be helpful. Of course it will depend on your business and how much manpower you have but for example, you could aim to respond to high priority queries within 30 minutes and more general queries within an hour. But don’t wait too long to answer any query as you don’t want to turn what started out as a general query into a complaint due to your slow response.

5.Train staff

If you aren’t the only one dealing with with your business on social media,  then you need to ensure you have trained your staff to how to respond appropriately the varied customer interactions.

Good communications skills are essential. How your staff deal with complaints and interact with customers is direct reflection on your business. Make sure you spend time ensuring staff have the key skills required to deal effectively with customers. For example excellent written skills are essential. Poor spelling and grammar won’t give customers much confidence in your business.

Make sure your staff understand the tone you want to set for your business on social media. Obviously it depends on your business and your customers, but even if you take a more informal approach in social media interactions, you and your staff must always remain professional. Making sure your staff understand the balance is important.

6.Personality – humanise your business

Social media is a great way to build your brand personality and bring a human touch to your business.  When someone posts a comment, likes your page or shares something,  thank them and where appropriate open up a discussion. Here are a couple of good examples from IKEA and Boden:

social media customer servie

 

Both Ikea and Boden set the right tone – friendly and not overly formal – keeping with the spirit of the posts.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 10.19.15

 

It’s good to show customers that they are dealing with real people so always add your name in, particularly if you are responding to a customer query or complaint.

7.Embrace customer feedback

Don’t underestimate the great opportunity social media offers your business. It’s a great way to get a feel about a particular product or service and so therefore postively encourage feedback from customers even if it is negative. Showing customers that you value their opinions shows them just how important they are to you. Here is another great example from Boden. Actively thanking customers for their feedback on a new collection even though the feedback is not hugely positive.

social media customer feedback

 

As more and more people use social media a channel for customer services, taking an integrated, multi-channel approach to customer care will ensure that you have covered all your bases and are offering your customers the best possible service. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of social media customer service so please do leave a comment. 

5 top tips to maximise your online Christmas sales in December

boost online christmas salesChristmas is knocking at the door.

We are already a few weeks into the key Christmas sales period but if you aren’t fully up and running with your Christmas promotions quite yet, then don’t worry there is still time to give those seasonal sales a bit of an extra push. This week ShopIntegrator takes a look at how your small ecommerce business can maximise sales with some easy to implement tips.

Online sales predictions for 2015

If predictions are correct 2015 is looking like another booming year for ecommerce in the UK. Researchers forecast 12% market growth and £116bn will be spent online. With many retailers creating over half of their yearly sales and profits in the three months prior to Christmas, making the most of your online presence is paramount. Indeed, according to the Centre for Retail Research last year in the UK online retail accounted for almost one-quarter (23.4%) of Christmas spending with online sales rising from £14.93 bn (2013) to £17.37 billion in 2014 – a very healthy growth of 19.5%.

5 tips to maximise your online sales this holiday season

The great news is that according to National Federation of Retailers 20% of us don’t intend to start their Christmas shopping until December and actually the busy day online isn’t Cyber Monday but the Monday or Tuesday a week or two before Christmas. So implementing a few tips now could still help boost your profits over the Christmas period.

1. Jolly up your website

First stop is your website. When potential customers arrive at your site you want to keep them in a Christmas frame of mind. Adding some appropriate seasonal graphics and images will help create the right environment to promote your Christmas products. Take a look at Tiffany’s home page. It creates the perfect environment for its brand at Christmas.

christmas homepage

Having a separate Christmas page that showcases the products that make great gifts works really well. Helping customers with the decision-making process is essential so spend some time categorising products into relevant groups. For example:

  • Gifts for Her
  • Gifts for Children
  • Gifts for Teenagers
  • Gifts for Him
  • Gifts that Sparkle
  • Gifts for Food Fanatics
  • Stocking Fillers.

Not only will this inspire customers, it can push them along the road to making a decision. For a successful example checkout notonthehighstreet.com’s christmas page.

 

online christmas sales

 

2. Spread christmas cheer on social media

Social media is a great way to communicate with your customers during the Christmas season. As a marketing tool it is low-cost and a very quick way to get your message across. Use social media to inspire with creative gift ideas, highlight any special offers and promotions and communicate helpful information such as reminders about key christmas delivery dates.

And don’t forget social media is the perfect channel to spread some Christmas cheer amongst your customers. It’s a chance to be a bit lighthearted and tap into all the seasonal excitement. Try running a festive contest, create christmas mood boards, share seasonal quotes and offer handy Christmas related tips and advice. To build engagement further open up discussions with fun questions like ‘What was inside your Santa’s stocking when you were a child?”.

Pinterest is all about the visual so a strong presence works particularly well this time of year. Create special Christmas boards and pins to showcase your wares.

Here are a couple of Pinterest examples from notonthehighstreet.com and Stella and Dot.

pinterest christmas boards

 

 

christmas pins on pinterest

 

3. Open a yuletide Facebook StoreOpen a Facebook shop

Think about opening a Facebook store in time for Christmas. With over 1.55 billion monthly active users it’s an excellent way to introduce an additional sales channel for your seasonal products. The great thing about a Facebook store is that you can strike whilst the iron is hot. Rather than having to whisk engaged customers off to your website to make a purchase you can sell to them directly off your Facebook page.

It doesn’t take long to set up a Facebook page either. Checkout ShopIntegrator’s guide to opening a Facebook shop.

4. Ho Ho Ho your emails

Get busy with your email marketing this christmas. Email is an essential part of a small business owners marketing toolkit. Flexible and cost-effective it one of the most effective ways communicate with your customers this season.

Gift ideas. You’ve probably already categorised your gifts on your website so now is the time to use email to inspire customers with your gift ideas. Here is a great example of an email I received from online clothing retailer Boden that does just that.

Boden: It’s just not Christmas without new pyjamas

christmas email

Countdown: Creating a sense of urgency in your emails as Christmas approaches is a great way to encourage conversion. Try sending out emails that count down the shopping days until Christmas.  Here is a fun and creative example from gift retailer notonthehighstreet.com.

notonthehighstreet.com: Nine more sleeps till the unwrapping starts

urgency emails

Last minute shoppers. There will always be a healthy proportion of shoppers who will leave everything to the last-minute. Offering guaranteed delivery a few days before christmas is very attractive to just such customers. Just be absolutely sure you can keep that delivery promise!

Sending an email to  customers reminding them of your last posting dates to guarantee a Christmas delivery is a good way to encourage those who are thinking of making a purchase to get on and do it.

Seasons greetings to your customers. After all the sales promotion emails it is a nice idea to send out a little christmas spirit  to show your customers you appreciate them. Sending out an e-card to customers and suppliers adds a personal touch and reminds then that they are important to you.

discounts, coupons and voucher codes5. Happy holiday promotions

At such a key time of year online businesses are all competing to win customers. A great short-term sales tactic way to boost your seasonal sales conversions is through offering special holiday promotions such as online vouchers, discount codes and e-coupons.

We all love to feel we’ve got a bargain especially during Christmas when it feels like money is literally flying out of our wallets. Special offers such as online discount vouchers can help encourage us to take our shopping cart to the checkout – especially if there is a deadline looming for the discount.

There are all sorts of variations you can use – popular ones include:

  • Free delivery and returns
  • Buy one get one half price
  • Save 25% 
  • Spend over £100 and get £10 off
  • 3 for 2 offers

Just remember if you are offering discounts to make sure you have done your sums first  and have read the guidelines laid out by the British Code of Sales Promotions and Direct Marketing.

Hopefully we’ve given you a few easy to implement ideas to help give your ecommerce sales a bit of a boost during what we hope will be a busy and profitable season for online businesses.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on maximising sales at Christmas. So please do leave  a comment.

 

 

How LinkedIn can benefit small B2B and B2C businesses

linked-in social networkMost of us probably think of LinkedIn as the go-to social network for B2B businesses, professional networking and recruitment. Certainly at first glance it’s not the obvious platform for small businesses and B2C focused companies. However, with steady year-on-year growth and 380,000,000+ registered users LinkedIn can offer  your business some real benefits.

“51% of B2C companies use LinkedIn as a marketing platform (far more than the 35% who use Pinterest).” LinkedIn Pulse 

More and more businesses are using  social media as an integral part of their marketing strategy. So too are consumers with 52% using two or more social networking sites. LinkedIn is a key social networking platform and so we take a look at how small businesses can profit from a LinkedIn presence.

linked-in statisticsDon’t dismiss the numbers: LinkedIn statistics

380 million registered users in 200 countries

2 new members every second

3 million company pages

1 in 3 professionals are on LinkedIn

35% users access LinkedIn daily

LinkedIn has over 1.5 million groups

93 million monthly unique visits 

How can small businesses benefit from LinkedIn  ?

LinkedIn offers you the opportunity to strengthen your brand, extend your reach, support your content marketing efforts and better understand your market. You may already have your own personal profile (as we mentioned earlier one in three professionals does!) but LinkedIn also encourages smaller businesses to build a company presence. They offer helpful tips and advice about how to set up your company page and make the most of your businesses profile. Check out LinkedIn Small Business .

extend reach and drive trafficExtend your reach

When we think of LinkedIn we tend to think ‘business people’ but remember professionals are consumers too.  Of course you may need to adjust your tone and content to reflect a more business orientated environment but LinkedIn offers you an additional platform to reinforce your brand, drive traffic to your website and generate new leads. It provides the opportunity to reach potential new customers who may not be preset on other more ‘consumer’ orientated networks. Research shows that:

13% of LinkedIn users are not on Facebook

59% of LinkedIn users are not on Twitter

83% of LinkedIn users are not on Pinterest.

brandingBuild your brand

LinkedIn provides an additional channel for you to raise awareness, reinforce your brand and increase your business’ visibility. To do this, creating a strong Company Page is essential.

When you out together your Company Page think about how to best optimise your presence.  Use high-quality images for your logo and banner and think carefully about the keywords you choose for your description. You can also create separate Showcase Pages that link off your main page. You can have a number of different standalone showcase pages (up to 10 initially) that allow you to highlight particular products or services. To create a Showcase Page click on the ‘Edit’ drop down to the right of your company page and click on ‘Create a Showcase Page’.

You and your employees should also have up-to-date Personal Profiles pages  connected to your company page. It will help further promote your business and your brand personality.

Content marketingSupport your content marketing

LinkedIn offers a further channel to support your content marketing efforts and drive traffic to your website. You can post content through Status Updates on your company page. To make the most of your presence post interesting content regularly and where appropriate include a URL link back to your site. For example try sharing industry updates, blog posts, company news, new product launches, Videos and infographics

Research shows that 60% of LinkedIn users are interested in industry updates, therefore when you are sharing updates do bear in mind that what you might post on Facebook may not work as well on LinkedIn. Choose content relevant to the LinkedIn environment.

Don’t forget to try to include eye-catching images with your updates. High-quality visual content will help increase engagement.

LinkedIn Pulse is another way to raise your profile and help establish you as an expert in a particular industry or field. Pulse is LinkedIn’s publishing platform. Although you can’t currently publish articles off you Company Page you can publish them from your (or your employees) Personal Profiles page. If you are interested in posting a blog article checkout this helpful video on ‘How to publish blog posts and articles on LinkedIn Pulse’.

networking on linkedinNetworking

Networking is central to success with LinkedIn. It will help you connect with potential customers, industry influencers, third-party suppliers and potential employees.  Keep active on LinkedIn through regularly sharing interesting content, following relevant companies and professionals, always responding to comments, reviews and queries and joining LinkedIn Groups.

Networking can help build leads for your business. Indeed, research from HubSpot found that traffic from LinkedIn generated their best visitor-to-lead conversion rates – three times higher than Twitter or Facebook. There are over 1.5 million LinkedIn Groups so chances are you’ll be able to find one relevant to your business sector and of course if you want you can even set up your own group.

balloons-874838_640Market research

LinkedIn is an excellent way to gather market intelligence. Joining groups can help you collect useful insights into your target audience and stay abreast of industry trends.

LinkedIn is also a great way to keep on top of competitor activity. Check out their company pages. What are they posting? Who are they following? How can you differentiate yourself?

Learn from other business outside your industry as well. Take a look at out the top sites with LinkedIn Best Company Pages 2014 and check out this link from the Content Marketing Institute for some great examples of how B2C brands are doing it.

Hopefully this article has shown that LinkedIn isn’t just for recruitment and B2B companies. Small businesses, including B2C, can also benefit from a presence. We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences using LinkedIn for your business, so please do leave a comment.