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

E-Commerce Business Hitting It Right with Its Loyalty Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Keep Things Simple

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

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

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

2. Make It Easy for Users

Make It Easy for Users

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

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

3. Simplify the Participation Process

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

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

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

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

4. Your Program Should Offer Value

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

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

5. Tickle Users’ Curiosity

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

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

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

6. Keep Users Engaged

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

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

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

7. Bring a Sense of Growth

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

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

8. Differentiate and Offer Better Experiences

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

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

9. Give Users the Information They Want

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

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

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

10. Let It Become the Talk of Town

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

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

Conclusion

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

(Image Source: 1, 2, 3)

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

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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.

 

 

9 Ways to Use Consumer-Generated Content for Your Brand

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

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

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

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

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

What is User-Generated Content?

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

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

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

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

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

1. Figure Out Your Point of Connect

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

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

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

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

2. Emphasize Quality

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

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

3. What’s Trending?

Trending

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Host an Event

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

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

6. Design a Contest

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

7. Deploy Influencers

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Display Customers’ Photos

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

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

9. Avoid Legal Troubles

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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How to write a press release – helpful tips for small businesses.

How to write a press release

A successful press release is an effective way of getting your small business in front of journalists, informing them about your products and services and hopefully getting them to spread the word via coverage in their publications. Consequently, knowing how to create a press release is a useful skill for small business owners to master. The good news is that you don’t need to be a PR guru. By following a few tips and keeping to a simple format you will be able to produce a news release to be proud of.

Press releases can help you get valuable coverage in relevant industry publications, blogs and websites. In addition, if you write and distribute your own releases they won’t take a big bite out of your precious budget.

So what makes for successful press release content?  Journalists get hundreds of emails so yours needs to stand out. The key thing to remember is to make it newsworthy – ask yourself if the information is going to be of interest to anyone outside your immediate business. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering but it needs to be interesting to those in your industry. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Launching a new product or feature
  • Announcing a new partnership or a new employee
  • Winning an award or accolade
  • Speaking engagements or any upcoming events you are running 
  • Research findings or survey rests
  • Charitable activities
  • Special business milestones or anniversaries
  • Free downloadable whitepapers or ebooks

Tips for creating a successful press release – do’s and don’ts

Here are a few helpful tips to bear in mind when creating a press release for your small online business.

Do…

  • Always write in the third person and avoid using ‘you’ ‘I’ and ‘we’ except within quotes.
  • Proofread thoroughly – spellings and grammatical errors look unprofessional
  • Write in a professional manner. You are not writing for social media, you are writing for journalists so your tone needs to be formal.
  • Be concise. Try and aim for one page and keep to the point.

Don’t…

  • Be ‘salesy’ – remember you are writing a for editorial not advertising.
  • Try and fluff your press release out with unnecessary waffle.
  • Overdo ‘jargon’. Keep it clear and simple for a wider audience to understand.
  • Use ALL CAPS’, exclamation marks or words like ‘amazing’ or ‘incredible’ to highlight or emphasise things. This will reduce the credibility of your release.

Basic format of a press release

There is a universally accepted format that you can follow to help you structure your press release in the correct way. There are of course variations but the key components remain the same.

1. Headline

Creating attention grabbing headline will help your press release stand out from all the other emails landing in journalists’ inboxes everyday. Keep it short, catchy and relevant. Use your most important keywords in the headline.  You may actually find it easier to write your headline last, this way you can make certain it that it accurately reflects the content of your press release.

2. Summary 

Your summary is a really important paragraph that summarises, in no more than a few sentences,  the overall ‘news story’ contained in your press release. If journalists don’t like this they are unlikely to read any further. This is a good place to include your company name.

3. Date

Always include your press release date near the top of your release. This way journalist can identify how new or old your new story is. You should also include your location next to the date. For example: 4th February 2016, Harpenden, Hertfordshire.

4. Body

This is where you can elaborate on the content of your press release. It should support your message and provide your reader with more information however, don’t be tempted to waffle on – remember your whole press release should be concise and stick to the news story in question. The body of your press release might follow this format:

  1. Lead / opening paragraph: Your first, or lead paragraph should answer the following – Who, What, When, Where and Why. It should grab your reader’s attention and essential sum up the your story in no more than 100 words.
  2. Centre paragraph(s): This is where you substantiate your opening paragraph with information that supports your news-story. If you have quotes, statistics, research and information to reinforce your news then this is where to use it.
  3. Final paragraph. Summarise the key points of your release here.

5. Boiler plate

Your boiler plate is a standard statement that goes at the bottom of any press releases you create. It provides the journalists with some background information about your company. Include a link to your website in your boiler statement.

6. Contact details

Clear contact details enable journalists or anyone else interested in your press release to get in touch with you. Include your name, job tile, company name, company address, telephone (mobile and landline), email and website address.

Enhance your press release

If you can, try to liven up your press release. Adding in a quote or including an image can be a great way to grab a bit of additional attention.

Quotes: A relevant quote is a good way to support your message. Although, make sure it’s not just meaningless spiel – it should be interesting and pertinent to your story. Quotes can be from you, an industry expert or even an end-user of your product or service.

“Quotes should be used to provide insight and opinion and sound like a real person said them. They definitely shouldn’t be full of jargon or technical language.” Guardian Small Business Network

Images:

Research shows that links to videos and pictures in a press release  increases engagement by about 18% for photos and 55% for videos.

Providing an image for the journalists is a good idea as it means they don’t need to chase you for one or source their own. Don’t embed the image in the press release, attach a high-resolution Jpeg. Printed media will need an image 300 dpi and at least 500kb in size. For online media your image should be at least 500 pixels wide.

Distribution

You can choose to distribute your own press release or use a press release service. It will probably depend how much time, budget and resources your small business has available and how frequently you are intending to send news releases out. Subscribing to a service can be costly but if you are sending out press releases frequently you may find it money worth spending. Some services offer one-off distribution – for example PRWEB will do a one-off mailing for you from about £59 for basic distribution

If you are building your own list of contacts then start by researching relevant industry publications and simply add in editorial email contacts into an excel spreadsheet. You can then simply dispatch off an email through your email provider. If you keep building your contact list,  in no time at all you’ll have a great database of press contacts.

Press releases offer a valuable way of getting coverage in relevant industry publications and shouldn’t be considered just the remit of PR professionals. Following the right format and avoiding the pitfalls we’ve outlined above, you should be confident to create and dispatch press releases for your small online business whenever you have something interesting to share.

 

We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences on creating effective press releases, so please do leave a comment.

 

 

Small business guide to successful content curation

contentcuration

 

We all know just how important creating unique, fresh and relevant content is for your online business. However for small business owners content marketing can be a real challenge due to time pressures and lack of resources.  Content curation can be a great way to support your overall content marketing strategy and help maintain a successful online presence.

What is Content Curation

In a nutshell content curation is the collating, organising and sharing of other people’s content. It  is usually third-party content  relevant to your audience’s interests. First things first, content curation is not the same as content marketing and in no way replaces it. Content curation should be looked at as a way to enhance your existing content as part of your overall content marketing strategy.

And don’t worry, by sharing other people’s content your audience won’t think you can’t create interesting content of your own. On the contrary, it shows you are relevant, understand the industry you are in and are confident enough in your own small business to share ideas and information from a third party.

How can Small Businesses Benefit from Content Curation?

Saves time. Content curation helps support and maintain an active online presence. Especially if you don’t have time to continuously create your own original content.

Helps establishes you as an expert.  Overtime content curation can help build trust and establish you and your business as an authoritative, go-to expert on a specific topic.

Offers value to your audience. If you are offering information that is interesting and of value to your audience, then they are more likely to opt-in to your newsletters and follow you on social media.

Supports SEO efforts.  65% of marketers use content curation to boost ranking. Lots of relevant links will help increase your visibility in SERPS (search engine results pages) 

Builds your brand. What you share is a direct reflection of your brand and can help build your credibility as a business.

How to introduce content curation to your small business:

The key to successful content curation is to put some organisation and strategy behind it rather than the ad-hoc retweet or share here and there. You may already do some basic content curation already, like I say I’m sure you’ve retweeted or shared posts on social media. However to really get the benefits you need to take it to the next level by including a personal touch.  Add value to what you are imparting.  For example include your own comments, insight and thoughts on the information you choose to share with your audience.

Social Mediasocial media content curation

76% of marketers use curated content on social media

Content curation is a great way to keep active on social media and provide your customers with links to information they may find interesting. Retweeting someone’s Tweet on Twitter, RePinning on Pinterest or sharing someone’s post on Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn are examples of social media content curation. This is a great starting point and a good way to maintain an active online presence – especially when you’re pushed for time or lack resources.

However as we mentioned earlier content curation becomes even more effective when you bring in your own personal slant on what it is your sharing. For example if you are sharing someone else blog post on social media, add in a few words about what you are choosing to share and why you think you audience will be interested in it.

Newsletters

Content curation can work really well in your company’s newsletter. For example in addition to your own content, you could do a weekly round-blog posts you think your audience will like or a weekly round-up of industry news and views. By picking out the most interesting and entertaining articles and presenting them in a digestible format, you are saving your own audience from having to spend time searching around the web. And, if your audience know they can get great information direct from your newsletter then they are more likely to read it and stay subscribed.

Here is a great example of content curation from WriteMySite’s marketing newsletter.

content curation newsletter

Blog Post Curation

In a similar vein to your newsletters why not try posting a blog post that is a weekly or monthly round-up of useful articles, interesting trends or news relevant to your industry? Organise the content into a theme, add in a great headline,  your own supporting commentary, a call-to-action for your own business and you have a great post.

Look at curated blog posts as offering a valuable service. By collating the information yourself you are in short saving your audience time by negating the need for them to research out the information themselves. Always keep your customer in mind so all your hard work collecting and collating is focused on the right information – information that is of value to your target market.

Collecting and Organising Content

content curationSo where do you start? How do you go about sourcing interesting, high quality, relevant online content that fits the needs of your audience? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Sign-up to relevant content specific newsletters
  • Subscribe to industry relevant online publications
  • Follow related shared content on social media

If you are collating lots of different information from various sources then it will make your life easier if you can organise all the information in one place. There are a number of marketing tools that can help you collate,organise and publish content such as – Feedly, ScoopIt and Storify.

If your just starting out then Pocket is a great ‘save for later’ tool.  Connecting the Pocket button will enable you to save to your Pocket account straight from your computer. You can quickly collect links to interesting information with and group and tag articles  for easy reference.

In order for content curation to be successful always keep in mind that it’s about adding value. Ensure;

  • content is high quality and matches the needs and interests of your audience
  • post regularly
  • add a personal note,
  • remember you are sharing information not plagiarising – always give credit to the original source. 

 

We’d love to hear your own thoughts and experiences of content curation, so please do leave a comment.

 

 

 

 

 

6 Resolutions eCommerce Store Owners Should Make for 2016

New Year Resolutions

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

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

1. Commit to Quality Content

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

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

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

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

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

2. Get Social while Leveraging Mobile

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

Get Social while Leveraging Mobile

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

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

Now consider the social media integration theory by Isra Garcia.

Social Media Integration Theory

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

Now how to implement this to your eCommerce strategy?

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

3. Invest in eCommerce SEO

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

AdWords Keyword tool

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

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

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

4. Access Better Data

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

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

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

5. Get New Customers and Retain Old Ones

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

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

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

6. Relax and Recharge

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

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

Conclusion

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

Happy New Year!

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

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. 

The Risky Business of Mobile Security and Holiday Shopping

Secure credit card processing

E-Commerce has seen continuous growth for over a decade now and 2013 worldwide business to customer sales amounted to more than $1 trillion. Same as regular shopping, e-commerce sales record a huge increase during holiday season. Other than holidays that boost brick and mortar retail stores’ sales, like Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Black Friday, bigger e-commerce stores also create special offers for a few unique online shopping holidays. These include:

  • Cyber Monday– this is the first Monday after Black Friday and it’s coming with the same shopping fuss all around the internet. Some retail chains continue offering discounts, even after this day and extend their offers to the whole week (Cyber Week).
  • Single’s Day – last year we witnessed new shopping phenomenon when one of the biggest Chinese online stores decided to turn minor Chinese holiday into the biggest shopping day in the world.

E-commerce entrepreneurs have a lot of work during these holidays, mainly due to increased traffic on their websites. Since smartphones are becoming more popular than ever, holiday sales growth is the most visible in mobile shopping statistics. Comparing to last year, number of mobile purchases doubled, while purchases from tablet devices quadrupled during this year. Some predictions even say that in the end of 2015, number of mobile and tablet purchases will reach 18 million. High holiday traffic means more security risks. In this article we presented several effective ways for e-commerce website administrators to protect their and their customer’s sensitive data from cyber criminals.

Identify Fraudulent Visitors

E-commerce administrators should take precaution measures before the holiday season starts. They should:

  • Spoofers – They should search for visitors who are trying to spoof mobile devices. These are more likely to have malicious intent
  • Jail broken iOS devices – these phones are either stolen or hacked so they can download paid AppStore apps. Users with jail-broken iOS, are also much more likely to commit acts of cyber crime
  • Android users with mini browser alternative – these are often used by the hackers to show a US based IP address, while communicating from elsewhere
  • Track consumers – Use advanced tracking and keep all data, in order to recognize and block users who try to apply malware software, like: man-in-the-browser and man-in-the-mobile Trojans

Apply Security Measures

Security should be tightened while waiting for the holiday season. These are some of the measures e-commerce administrators should apply:

  • Mobile app security testing – security should be the highest priority during all app building cycles. Apps should be customized to come with security strategies that are able to answer the latest mobile security challenges, rather than having generic and outdated solutions
  • SSL and PCI compliancy– admins should use strong Secure Socket Layer authentication and run frequent PCI scans
  • Don’t store sensitive data – customers’ credit card and personal data shouldn’t be stored on company servers. Data breach doesn’t happen when there’s no data
  • Address and Card verification systems – these systems should be applied in order to reduce fraudulent attempts
  • Set up alerts– alerts should turn on in case several suspicious transactions or data breach attempts are coming from the same IP address. These alerts should be connected with admin’s smartphone
  • Introduce remote software systems– when cyber-attack occurs, website and app administrators need to react fast, which is why remote server monitoring systems are very useful
  • Patch regularly– security systems should be patched, the moment new versions are released

Educate Customers and Employees

Both customers and employees should be educated about safety measures and precaution. This education should include:

  • Employee’s security training – all company employees should be introduced to cyber security, especially if the company is working on BYOD bases. They should know about safe use of e mail, text messengers and social media accounts
  • Require strong passwords from customers – strong passwords, especially passphrases are harder to break
  • Customer education– add mobile shopping security articles to company’s blog, send them over newsletter and provide links to them on product pages.

With e-commerce being such a competitive niche, only companies that enable customers to shop freely and without fear can stay competitive, especially during those shop-till-you-drop holidays.

 

Guest Author: Nate M. Vickery

Nate M. Vickery is a business consultant from Sydney, Australia. He is mostly engaged in providing entrepreneurs and small business owners with management and marketing advice. He is also the editor in chief on Bizzmarkblog.com.

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

 

* Secure credit card image sourced from Perspecsys Photos licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

 

 

3 Ways to Increase eCommerce Sales with Video Strategy

3 Ways to Increase eCommerce Sales with Video Strategy
You love it or hate it, videos are popular these days. Sometimes, insanely so. However, many marketers are yet to utilize this tool, especially in the eCommerce industry. They overlook the fact that videos can actually help them improve their eCommerce sales, necessary to blow past their competition and go to the next level. In case, you have been ignoring the power of video in your marketing mix, you can no longer afford to do it. Video is the future.

Most eCommerce marketers think that having a few quality images of the products with zoom features is enough. But they fail to realize that while photos are important, they have certain limitations. A quality video is the closest thing you can provide to your customers next to actual touching and feeling. It therefore should be an integral part and a secret weapon of your eCommerce marketing strategy.

According to a study conducted early this year by Animoto, “businesses using video have a leg up in 2015.” The study revealed the following statistics regarding incorporating video in your marketing mix:

  • Consumers are 4 times more likely to watch a product video than read about it
  • 1 out of 4 consumers lost interest in companies that failed to have a product video
  • Out of every 5 consumers, 4 people agreed that product/service video is important

It is therefore obvious that having a proper video strategy in place is crucial, especially for an online store. It basically helps you to achieve two objectives – product promotion to attract new customers and increase on-site average order value (AOV) to improve conversions.

But before getting into details about how to increase your eCommerce sales with a video strategy, let’s why is it important for your online store.

How Video Helps eCommerce

As mentioned, product videos can dramatically improve your conversion rates. Online shopping, although popular, fails to provide the advantage of actual touching and feeling that is normally associated with brick-and-mortar stores. So you need to provide something that at least help your customers to better understand your product. Video does that apart from providing a detailed information about the products you offer.

Don’t believe what we say? Consider these statistics. According to ComScore, visitors are 64 percent more likely to make a purchase after watching a video. Another study from MarketingSherpa finds eCommerce stores that have product video attract 300 percent more traffic, i.e. two to three times more monthly unique visitors and 157 percent more organic traffic from search engines. It also generates 100 percent longer on-site time spent per visitor.

These stats are self-indicating that having video on your eCommerce website is one of the most effective ways to generate leads and improve conversions along with killer copywriting, quality images and user reviews.

If you are still doubting whether or not to incorporate a video strategy, here are a few takeaways you need to consider.

It Improves Your Ranking

A Forrester Research study indicates that a video on your website’s landing page can increase your chance of being ranked on page 1 of Google by 53 percent. In addition to the regular search results, Google also displays images, news, maps and videos in their search engine result pages. So when you are adding product videos to your websites and optimizing them for ranking, there are chances you will rank on Google for those videos as well.

For better ranking in search engines, host your product videos on YouTube, the leading video sharing platform owned by Google. Besides, YouTube gets over a billion monthly unique visitors.

Engage Your Visitors

The Marketing Sherpa study we have referred to previously in this post also found that having videos on your website results in 63 percent increase in page views. It also doubles the on-site time spent of your visitors. In fact, users are spending more and more time watching video on the Internet. The average time spent for 2015 as found by eMarketers is 1:55 hours each day for digital video, whereas it is only 1:44 hours for social media.

Engage Your Visitors

This is especially applicable for millennials who spend 48 percent more time watching videos online than the average users.

The reason behind this is quite simple. Users find is rather easy to watch a short, 3-5 minutes product video than reading a detailed product description. Besides, videos are compelling enough to engage your users better, encouraging them to make a desired action.

Get More Shares

Pew Research Center found that the number of people sharing videos online has doubled in the past few years. Cisco too found that Internet video streaming and download “will grow to more than 80 percent of all consumer Internet traffic by 2019”.

One of the advantages of video is its inherent shareability. When was the last time you shared an interesting video on Facebook? Perhaps today? Just five minutes back? Studies indicate that compelling videos not only engage your visitors but are also more likely to get shared on social channels.

Since we live in an age of information overload, something that’s easy to read and digest is always a welcoming sight. This is exactly what videos offer. It is therefore no surprize that people prefer to click on a video thumbnail more than opening a page that’s devoid of such fascinating visual elements.

So if you think a picture is worth 1,000 words, wait till you see what video has to offer. According to Forrester Research, a minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. And nothing can beat that, period.

Using the audio-visual elements you can convey as much information as you want very quickly. A well-made product video allows the customers to understand how the item would look in real-life. And if you can strike an emotional chord with your customers, telling them what to feel about the item, they are more likely to make the purchase.

How to do that, however, is a different story.

Increasing eCommerce Sales with Videos

The following are different ways you can leverage video to improve your eCommerce store’s sales and revenue.

 1. Add Product Video

Product videos are designed to give your viewers detailed insight about the product’s capabilities. The audio-visual technology allows you to bring your products to life, which is never possible with text and images. You can not only provide a 360 degree view of the product but also a fluid look at the item. Since this is the closest an online shopper can get to the item he/she wants to buy, no details will be lost.

There are basically three types of product videos – general product videos, behind-the-scenes and how-to/product demos.

A general product video is the most common type of product videos we see in the online stores these days. These videos display the product from various angles, showing the features and specifications of the item. They often speak about the primary benefits of the products in order to establish an emotional connection with the potential buyers.

These type of videos are ideal for displaying products like jewelry, clothing, accessories, home-furniture and other stationary and visual items. Many brands are also using them to provide a touch-point about upcoming products to enhance curiosity and customer loyalty.

Next comes behind-the-scenes videos. If you want to add storytelling to your marketing mix, these videos are your best possible chance. Behind-the-scenes videos tell users how a product is made and where it comes from, sharing the story and the hard work behind your product. They are more engaging as these videos aim to trigger customers’ emotions to drive sales. Combine behind-the scenes with your how-to video videos and you have a killer strategy to win over your potential buyers.

Finally, we have the product demo videos. As the name suggests, these videos demonstrate how users should use the product. These are basically instructional or tutorial videos that help potential buyers to understand complicated or technical stuff in an easier way. If you have more technical products, especially those requiring installation, having product demo videos on your eCommerce store is one of the best ways to instruct and teach your customers.

Some of the best examples for product demo videos include Volvo’s video with Jean Claude Van Damme, Nooka’s AR Watch Try-On, Go Pro user generated demos and Dawn Dishwashing Liquid ads.

2. Include Several Types of Videos

While product videos are the most crucial part of an eCommerce website, your video strategy should go beyond it. The goal is to include several types of videos. Start with an about us or explainer video. In these videos, you don’t just talk about a particular product. Rather, you talk about your business.

An about us or explainer video aims to build your brand loyalty. It should speak about who you are, what is the story behind your brand, what you offer, how it helps people and why should they care about your brand etc. These videos should establish a sense of trust between the brand and the customers.

Another type of video your eCommerce website should include is customer testimonials. Chances are, you already have customer testimonials but they are probably in text, along with a tiny thumbnail image of the customers. While they are also useful, customer testimonial videos make it more authentic and credible. And a recent study by BrightLocal indicates that 85 percent of buyers read online reviews to determine the reputation of a business.

Interview happy customers and add video testimonials to share the positive experience of your existing customers, which in turn, will help you to build trust and reputability.

3. Leverage Off-Site Video Strategy

Again, your video strategy should not be limited to on-site videos. While on-site videos are designed to encourage your customers to make a purchase, off-site videos help you reach out to new potential customers as well as spark the interest of the old ones to come back for more. YouTube and Facebook are the two best platforms for your off-site video strategy.

But the question now arises: What kind of videos should you create for off-site marketing? Here, we have two options for you.

Create educational videos. One of the best practices of eCommerce video marketing is to provide your target audience with some additional value. Educational and thought-provoking videos are your best bet here. Consider the pain points of your target audience and the problem your product solves. Now, create an educational video content based around these areas. Add some extra value to show your expertise.

One thing to note here is that these educational videos may or may not be related to your product directly. For example, if you are a food store selling organic grocery items online, you can create off-site videos like ‘how to create organic Christmas cake’ or other healthy Christmas recipes and post them on YouTube, Facebook and other social and video networking sites.

The idea is to invoke the interest of your target audience in such a way that it also broaden your brand influence.

The second option is to create promotional videos. You can create short videos to promote special offers, deals, events and upcoming sales and post them on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and other social platforms. This is, in fact, the best time to leverage promotional videos, especially if you have a strong presence on Facebook. This social networking site now auto-plays videos in the Newsfeed. This makes your promotional videos easily shareable. Compared to photos, videos can generate 135 percent growth in Facebook’s organic reach.

But make sure, your off-site videos are short. A study by Social Bakers find that “videos under 2 minutes generate the most YouTube views.” This is quite obvious; even if you overlook the buffer time and slow connectivity at some parts of the world, no one is interested in knowing unnecessary details of your store and/or products. Viewers find short, concise videos more compelling and engaging. Use this information to your advantage.

Conclusion

Now that you know the opportunities and advantages video brings in to your eCommerce store in terms of user engagement and sales, it will be irrational to overlook this component. If you are still reluctant to hire professionals to create your product and company videos, there are several affordable high-definition video cameras available in the market. Grab one and start creating videos that can generate the highest ROI for your time and effort. More than a professional-quality video, you need something that add additional value to your potential customers’ experience.

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10 indispensable small business tips for effective email marketing

email marketing tipsEmail remains one of my favourite marketing tools. If effectively implemented it offers a number of benefits that make it an indispensable part of any small business marketing plan. Email is low-cost, flexible, measurable and, perhaps most importantly, has a very healthy ROI. According to the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) 2015 Client Report in the UK the average ROI for email is £38 per £1 spent. An impressive growth of 53% year-on-year.

With email software becoming more advanced and accessible every year, it has opened the door for smaller online businesses to produce some excellent, innovative email campaigns – giving even big companies with hefty budgets a run for their money.

Of course, no matter how fantastic the possibilities of email, there are still some universal best practice guidelines that every business should take on board in order to make the most out of their email marketing efforts.  I’ve outlined below 10 tips that can make a real difference to how your businesses email communications perform.

1. Plan your email communications

“Clients are moving away from ‘spray and pray’ methods to a more considered approach.” DMA 2015

Before enthusiastically firing off emails left, right and centre, take a step back and look at your email communications as a whole. Spending some time putting together an email strategy for your business will be time well spent. Set some clear goals – what are you looking for your emails to achieve? For example:

  • Converting prospective customers into active customers
  • Building awareness of your brand
  • Growing your marketing prospects database
  • Customer retention through the provision of interesting and valuable information
  • Driving traffic to your website

Segmenting your audience and creating a clear plan of action for each customer group will help ensure that not only have you covered all your bases but you are creating the right balance of optimising conversion opportunities but not over-mailing. Creating a flow chart or table of your email communications is a great way to visually summarise all your activities in one place and enabling you to see the wood from the trees when you are contending with a sea of potential email interactions.

planning email campaigns

2. Purpose, message and CTA

Once you have your email strategy in place, think about the  purpose, message and call to action for your emails. Without these they are unlikely to perform as you would like. Think about:

  • What is the specific purpose of your email? What outcome are you looking for your email to achieve?
  • What message do you want to convey? Even if the desired outcome or  purpose of the emails are the same how will you tweak the message to reflect the particular audience segment you are targeting.
  • Do you have a clear call to action? Is it clear to the recipient of the email what it is you are asking them to do? And do you have a strong link to a relevant, supporting landing page?

3.Email marketing software

Advances in technology has meant small businesses can produce their own professional, visually exciting email campaigns without breaking the bank or requiring huge amounts of email expertise. Email marketing software just keeps getting better. Email marketing solutions such as MailChimp, GetResponse, AWeber, ActiveCampaign and MadMimi make it easy for complete novices to create exciting and effective campaigns.

Even better, if you are a start-up with a small number of subscribers you can get up and running for free. For example with MailChimp if you have under 2000 subscribers you can send out up to 12,000 emails a month at no cost.

4.Event triggered emails

According to the DMA marketing automation is growing and triggered emails are driving revenue growth. Indeed in their 2015 National Client Email Report, emails triggered by events or behavior were responsible for 30% of revenue.

We know that the customer journey is complex with a numerous touch points, so being able to trigger automated emails after specific identifiable events have taken place can have real impact on your success. For example identify and set-up automated  email responses to customer behaviour triggers such when someone registers on your website, enters a free prize draw, downloads a white paper, signs-up to your newsletter or even leaves their shopping cart abandoned will optimise the effectiveness of your email marketing.

A lot of this goes back to the importance of taking a considered and strategic approach to email marketing. Investing your precious time planning your email communications really can pay dividends in the end.

5. Data, data, data

Of course your emails are only as good as the data you have. Therefore good data is a premium asset for your business.  Actively building and continuously growing a ‘white hat’ marketing prospects database is essential. Research shows that Email addresses degrade naturally at about 2.1% per month equating to an annual rate of about 22.5%.

You may need to give people a bit of a nudge to impart their email address.   I know that with the amount of email communications I receive from different companies every day, makes me think twice before I hand over my personal details. Enticing people in with an incentive can be a good way to build and replenish your database. For example, competitions, free prize draws, downloadable white papers, newsletter sign-ups,  exclusive subscriber offers and giveaways are all ways to offer something valuable to potential customers in exchange for their precious contact information.

6. Newsletters

I’m a big fan of newsletters. They are a great vehicle for communicating all sorts of varied things to your audience. Focus on providing interesting, varied content aimed at engaging your audience. A good newsletter can help with brand awareness, brand building, customer retention, driving traffic and ‘soft sell’ conversions. When creating your newsletter content think about what information your audience is going to be interested in and keep it varied. A newsletter is not the environment for hard sales.

Content could include:

  • Links to your latest blog posts
  • Industry  news and trends
  • New product launches or sneak previews
  • Competitions and giveaways
  • Special offers and discounts
  • Case studies or client stories
  • Surveys and polls
  • Event calendars

Email newsletter

7. Digestible Content

Engaging content is essential. But even  the best copy in the world won’t be read if it has been presented in a indigestible and unappealing format. Carefully structure your email from subject line right through to a clear call to action.

Scannable: Break up text so a recipient as able to easily scan the email to pick up all the key messages. When laying out your email use headings, sub headings  and bullet points  to break up text in to more digestible and bite sized chunks.

Strong subject line: Your email content may be amazing but if your subject header doesn’t grab attention and stand out against all the other emails they are competing with then your hard work will be wasted.  Your email will remain unopened or in the bin. Spend a bit of time crafting a compelling subject line. News, tips, how to, offers, question and using numbers are all good opens. Try to keep it short and to the point (aim for under 10 words) but most importantly make sure it accurately reflects the actual content of your email.

Visually appealing: Including photos and  images is a great way to engage the audience. We are naturally visual learners so using images that support your content are a great way to capture your audience’s attention and conveying meaning instantly.

Proof read: Spelling and grammar mistakes can look sloppy and reflect badly on your business.  Always proof read everything a couple of times over prior to dispatch.

8.Personalisation

If you can, try to personalise your emails. Dear ‘Jane‘ will have a stronger impact and higher response rate than no greeting or a general hello. According to HubSpot personalised emails improve click-through rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10%.

Most email software tools can happily add in automated personalisation so if possible personalise all your email communications. When you are building your database aim to collect first and last name fields from your prospects. This takes us back to point 5. Incentivising your data capture will help you get fuller contact details.

9. Cross promotion

Taking an integrated approach to your marketing should yield stronger results. Cross promoting across all your channels is a great way to reinforce your message and strengthen your brand – just ensure you remain consistent. Email newsletters are a particularly good tool for cross promotions. For example:

  • Provide links to your all social media platforms – Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ etc.
  • Promote your blog posts.
  • Drive traffic back to your site with links to relevant content
  • Cross promote giveaways, offers and competitions

cross promote marketing channels10 . Legislation

And finally but most importantly, make sure you don’t fall foul of the law by keeping on top of  email legislation. If you are UK based then familiarise yourself with the Data Protection Act 1998 and Privacy and Electronic Communications regulations Act. Not only that most email marketing services like MailChimp won’t accept your data unless you can ensure it’s ‘white hat”.

Implemented effectively email marketing offers small businesses a number of tangible benefits. I hope taking onboard the 10 tips outlined above will help you on your way to successful and fruitful email communications.

We’d love to hear your own thought and experiences on email marketing, so please do leave a comment