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Boost Your Post Holiday Sales for a Happier New Year

The holidays are over, but that doesn’t mean that the extra revenue they brought has to be boxed up along with the decorations. This new infographic from Wiser helps online retailers make the new year a bit happier with profit and revenue boosting tips. Check it out below to learn the top 5 ways maximize sales in Q1.

Why Consumers Prefer Online Shopping

With the arrival of a new year, number of shoppers making purchases online is anticipated to steadily grow. What is motivating consumers to shop online rather than making their purchases at a typical brick and mortar store? Check out the infographic below to learn more about the reasons behind this growing trend.

Via Nextopia

Post Holiday Checklist: Things You Can Do to Make 2015 a Success

You made it through Christmas. Whew. Pat yourself on the back. But now it’s time to get back to work.

Here are some things you can do to capitalize on your holiday success as well as put yourself in a good position for 2015.

Counter drop in revenue with lead capture form

In Q1, conversion rate and site traffic drop significantly. This means it’s imperative to maximize results from your traffic. One way to do this is by adding a lead/email capture form to your site. You’ve seen these before—it’s the lightbox/window that greets you upon arrival to a store. The retailer asks for your email address, and in return, you get a discount. When configuring the form, set it to first time visitors only; incentivize those new shoppers to become customers.

Lead capture forms work. We’ve seen retailers capture anywhere between 3% – 20% of their traffic. That’s instant, incremental revenue. You can’t afford to not add a lead capture form. In addition, you’ll build your email list. You can nurture these new customers and get them primed for your next busy season.

Segment Your Email List

Personalization is more important than ever. Shoppers expect you to cater specifically to them as individuals, not as part of a group. So segment your lists to get as personal as possible. One approach is to use RFM analysis for segmenting lists. R (recency), F (frequency) and M (monetary) allow you to put customers in buckets. You can quickly identify your best customers, those which are most likely to churn, and those who haven’t purchased from you in a long time. Then cater your email messaging to each bucket.

Also, if you sell consumable products (ink & toner, for example), put those customers into a specific list. Determine the average reorder period for that product, then set up specific automated email campaigns to drip out along a specified timeline. Sometimes reminding a customer is all it takes to get them to re-order.

Customer feedback

You want to learn what you did well over the holidays. But more importantly, you need to understand shortcomings so you can get better.

A customer with an okay-to-good experience doesn’t refer you to friends and family. A customer with a great experience does. The easiest way to collect feedback is through a survey. Sure, only a fraction of customers will fill it out, but you’ll find nuggets of information that never occurred to you. You can use the insights to make improvements to your store, as well as…

A/B test new messaging

Launching a new shipping program in 2015? Don’t like the performance of your paid search ads? Whatever the reason, Q1 is the perfect time to test new messaging across both paid and non-paid channels. You’re pitching a smaller, tougher audience, so if you can convert well this time of year, imagine your results for the rest of the year. Get your messaging tight now, and it will pay dividends down the road.

Create new content

Ugh, content. For an eCommerce company, content is hard to write. And it’s easy to put off creating content. But now is the time to double down on content creation. It’s a slow time of the year, so you should be able to put more time and resources toward content projects. Make your content unique and interesting. Every store has a personality. Put yours into everything you do on your site.

Not only will interesting content help your conversion rate, it can help with SEO. Compelling content that improves user experience can only help you in the search engine rankings. In addition to the basics such as product descriptions, work on helpful items such as product guides and articles. When you give shoppers more information, two things happen: 1, they stay on the site longer, and 2, they will reward you for helping them.

 

About the Author:
Sean Godier is head of marketing for Spring Metrics and eCommerce consultant. Spring Metrics is a SaaS company which helps internet retailers drive more revenue, capture email addresses and expand their social presence. Sean is a 15+ year eCommerce veteran, heading up eCommerce for companies such as Yahoo! and Business Supply (acquired by Staples).

Top 5 Best Practices for Ad Viewability

Many of the ads served on the web never appear on a screen. But thanks to new advancements, we can now measure which digital ads were actually viewable- on screen. And as advertisers shift to paying for viewable instead served impressions, it’s important to understand what factors affect ad viewability.

One surprising finding: Above the fold does not always mean viewable.

Via thinkwithGoogle

Shark Tank Success: 5 eCommerce Tips From Tipsy Elves

Tipsy Elves, founded in 2011 by college friends Evan Mendelsohn and Nick Morton, is a company that specializes in the sale and manufacturing of ugly Christmas sweaters and accessories. In 2013, Tipsy Elves appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank and accepted a $100,000 offer from Robert Herjavec, in return for 10%. Robert has stated that funding Tipsy Elves was one the best deals that he has ever made on the show.

Since their first appearance on Shark Tank, Tipsy Elves has rapidly expanded and they now ship to over 200 countries, with websites specifically for the UK and Canada. They recently made a second appearance on Shark Tank in November of 2014 where Evan and Nick predicted that Tipsy Elves will make around $8 million in revenue this holiday season.

Evan Mendelsohn, one of the co-founders of Tipsy Elves, started his career as a lawyer but switched occupations due to his knowledge of SEO and a high search volume for ugly Christmas sweaters.  Here is what Evan has to say about SEO:

1. You have previously mentioned your background in SEO and that you started Tipsy Elves due to a high search volume for Christmas Sweaters —How did you get started working with SEO?
I’m formally trained as a lawyer but have always been interested in internet marketing. I attended a few meetups and read a few books on the topic and really got started with trial and error. I built a few informational sites (like Day-Finder.com) that started ranking pretty well for some money keywords, and this is how I really started learning the ins and outs of SEO. When we launched Tipsy Elves, we knew that the market for Christmas sweaters was saturated and competitive, so we focused more on product development and design rather than SEO since we understood that it was only through high quality and unique products that we would be able to create a differentiated business. This has especially proven important since we’ve seen tremendous increase in SEO competition over the life of the business.

2. How do you think SEO has changed since you first started Tipsy Elves?
I’ve never believed in grey or black hat SEO and I think more so than ever, these methods are only going to get your burned in the long run or see only short-lived results. I think in many ways SEO is very straight forward these days and the companies that deserve to rank well for a particular term generally do. I don’t think Google gives fresh domains a chance to rank well the way it once used to. Rather than obsessing about how to make TipsyElves.com rank well for the term “Christmas sweaters,” we instead focus on creating unique and fun sweaters that will appeal to customers searching for Christmas sweaters online. This reduces bounce rate, increases engagement, and creates natural and organic backlinks that would be impossible to replicate through SEO strategies alone.

3. How did you prepare your website for the “Shark Tank Effect” to ensure that it did not crash due to the high volume of traffic?
During our first airing, we had a whole team of about six or seven people involved. We had a few load testing specialists, the Rackspace managed cloud support specialists, and a few hosting specialists all engaged in the setup. We also had everyone on a conference call during the update so we could make quick fixes and tweaks in real time if anything happened. For the the most recent Shark Tank update (after learning from our first airing), we had just a few developers and hosting specialists on the phone since we had kept much our setup in place since our 2013 airing.

4. What do you think is the most difficult thing about running a seasonal business, and how do you overcome those difficulties?
I think cash flow and expansion can both be difficult. Cash flow for a seasonal apparel company is tough since you are making big outflows of cash during the off season in anticipation for an upcoming season that hasn’t hit yet. It can also make staffing and growth difficult because it’s tough to grow a business when cash cycles are so irregular. No one wants to hire employees they don’t feel they can keep busy year round.

5. What is the most essential thing you have learned since launching Tipsy Elves and appearing on Shark Tank?
I think people tend to overvalue their companies and I’ve found this to especially be true with Shark Tank entrepreneurs. When we went on Shark Tank, we understood that there is tremendous value that comes with partnering with one of the “Sharks” as opposed to a passive investor. We have found this to be especially true with Robert Herjavec. We were okay taking a lower valuation than we felt we deserved in order to partner with a Shark. Our partnership with him has proved invaluable so far.

I also think having a business partner you see eye to eye with is essential. Tipsy Elves has two founders – myself and my college friend Nick Morton. We share a very similar risk tolerance and have a similar approach to issues and problems our business faces. I couldn’t imagine if we disagreed about the small stuff, since there are much larger issues to tackle on a daily business. Having someone on your level to talk through critical issues and strategies with is essential, whether that person is a business partner or a mentor.

6. What other eCommerce advice can you offer based on your experiences and success?
Some people think e-commerce is easy because it appears outwardly to be so hands off and passive compared to brick and mortar retail. However, there are thousands of things going on behind the scene with e-commerce that people don’t realize, and this list doubles if you are building a brand versus creating a dropshipping website (where you sell other brands) – hosting, development, fulfillment, customer support, sourcing, design, shipping, conversion rate optimization – and the list goes on and on. I work way longer hours now than I have ever worked before (even as an attorney at a large law firm) and I still feel like there are hundreds of more things I could tackle if time permitted.

10 Do’s and Don’ts of Conversion Rate Optimization

Conversion Rate Optimization, or CRO, is at the heart of successful ecommerce. Converting more visitors to buyers means you make better use of the money you spend driving traffic to your site.

Every time a customer visits your ecommerce site, you have an opportunity to improve your conversion rate. You should learn from their actions to make your site and your value proposition better for the next visitor. Use tools and data to get in touch with what works for your customers and continually improve your approach.

These 10 Do’s and Don’ts will help you find the right path to conversion optimization on your site.

Do’s

1. Use the latest technology: Conversion Rate Optimization is about using the latest technologies available in digital marketing to improve conversion. Try the latest tools and platforms and stay up-to-date with emerging technologies.

2. Be a scientist: When you are improving your conversion rate, act like the lead scientist for your ecommerce site. Create experiments and test different versions of pages and popups with different content and color choices.

3. Try something out of the ordinary: Remember, act like a scientist, keep an open mind and form hypotheses, and run experiments. Try something different and you’ll be surprised by what works!

4. Measure your results: There are plenty of tools available to help you capture and measure results. Google Analytics offers a suite of tools for tracking your site’s performance and conversion rate. Other tools to consider are Optimizely, and Unbounce. You’ve got to capture and review data. Using a software tool saves a lot of time and effort.

5. Focus on what’s important: While you should try something out of the ordinary, keep your attention on what’s important. You can change all the colors you want, but when your shipping costs are too high, for example, you need to offer a discount for free shipping to see measurable results.

6. Optimize sales and signups: Some customers may not be ready to buy when they visit your site. Give them the opportunity to signup to an email list and you’ll have the opportunity to market to these visitors over the long run.

7. Keep your finger on the pulse of your site: It’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of your ecommerce site. You know your site and your customers best. Keep an eye on the key metrics that you know are important for driving conversions on your site.

8. Know your audience: While it’s important to use the latest technology and try things that are out of the ordinary, it’s important you know your audience. Be sure your messages are audience-directed towards the values and needs of your customers.

9. Use exit-intent technology: Exit-intent technology gives you a second chance to convert visitors right before they leave your site. By offering an incentive in a well-timed message you can increase conversion rates by up to 10%.

10. Get as much data as you can: Conversion Rate Optimization is a numbers game, you’ve got to have enough data to see what works and what doesn’t. Use one of the testing tools and make sure you have their code setup across your entire site so you can capture as much data as possible.

Dont’s

1. Predict the outcome before it happens: Scientists actually have a name for this, it’s called confirmation bias. Keep the mindset of a scientist running experiments. You don’t know the outcome until you see the results.

2. Think you know everything: Don’t think you’re so right that you can’t be wrong. Stay focused on the numbers as they are, not what you think they should be.

3. Be afraid to use paid traffic to get started: Any new ecommerce site needs a way to get visitors through the door. Don’t be afraid to run paid advertisement on search engines or social media to start gathering data on your site. You need enough data to start with, and the clock is ticking. Don’t sit there and watch the clock, and don’t be afraid to use paid traffic to give your ecommerce site an early boost.

4. Be afraid to make mistakes: Unless you try some new ways of approaching your customers, you won’t know what works. You might have a few misses, but even pro athletes don’t make 100% of their shots. Don’t hold yourself to an impossible standard, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

5. Try to hit a home run everytime: Everyone wants to wake up to a 300% increase in conversions, but trying to make drastic changes can result in a decrease in conversions. Conversion Optimization is the science of making incremental improvements and tracking them over time. It’s the incremental improvements that add up to a big difference in the long run.

6. Change too much at once: When you change too many things at once, it becomes very difficult to determine which change made a difference. Change one thing at a time and measure the results. This could be the amount of a discount you are offering, or the copy on your site. Don’t try to do too much at once or you’ll go nowhere fast.

7. Make a decision too soon: Don’t make a decision too soon, you could miss a great opportunity to connect with your customers. Change one variable at a time and make sure you have enough data to make a clear decision before optimizing your conversion rate further.

8. Ignore your instincts: You know the core metrics of your ecommerce site better than anyone else. Follow your instincts, look for trouble areas, and then use that data to help you pinpoint where the problem is.

9. Spend your time copying and pasting from one platform to another: Use tools that can simplify or reduce the amount of time needed for your tasks. Integrate platforms when you can, and automate tasks that don’t require your attention. Don’t spend your time copying and pasting, look for tools and platforms that have integration and automation built-in.

10. Forget your business metrics: Don’t forget to track important business metrics when you look at the conversion rate on your ecommerce site. Sales and profit are the bottom line for any business.
There’s one important ’Do’ we forgot to mention: Do have fun!

Make your own path to conversion optimization and have fun trying different experiments. When something works and you start seeing results, you can announce like Dr. Frankenstein in his laboratory, “It’s alive! It’s alive!”.

Keeping things light-hearted will also help you keep an open mind. Being open-minded, capturing as much data as you can, and using the latest software and tools are sure steps on any path to ecommerce conversion optimization.

 

About the Author

Csaba Zajdo is the founder of OptiMonk and several other projects specializing in conversion. OptiMonk is one of the most powerful lead generation tools in the world, leveraging the power of Exit Intent Popups. We’re pioneering the use of exit-intent technology at OptiMonk, we’ve developed an easy to use platform that has customization and testing built-in!

The Complete Approach To E-Commerce Marketing On A Budget

SEO

You know your new business isn’t going to survive without some marketing, but after getting everything started, the funds aren’t exactly flowing. Don’t worry; you are not alone. Maintaining a strong marketing campaign while just starting out is a challenge many e-commerce companies face. It’s not easy, but if you have some time to spare, it can definitely be done.

Of course, you should take some time to optimize your website for the search engines with high-quality content and keywords, but there are a lot of other things you should be doing if you really want your business to succeed — and most of them won’t cost you a dime.

Join the Conversation

Forums can be found on a wide variety of websites. These online gathering spots are filled with people looking for information. Seek out forums or LINKED IN groups in your industry and offer expert advice on the topics being discussed. Provide solutions to common problems, give insight into your market, and just be helpful in any way you can. However, American Express points out that you should never use the forums as a place to directly sell your product. Once people realize you are the specialist you claim to be, they will likely click on your profile, where they will discover the link to your website.

Go the Extra Mile

Customers love to feel like they are valued. It’s a simple fact: if they feel appreciated, they will repurchase time and time again. If you think customer service is not applicable to your online business, you should rethink that. First, you want to make sure to personally make phone calls or send emails to upset customers. Additionally, Microsoft believes that you should include a hand-written thank-you note and/or a free sample of one of your other products in any orders you send out.

Offer Free Information

Another great way to attract customers is to give some of your wealth of knowledge away for free. Forbes suggests creating short e-books that are applicable to your business. Offer them for free to anyone who is willing to give you their email address. It is also a wise idea to design one-page tip sheets that are aesthetically pleasing, include your company logo and website address on them, and then promote them on image-centric social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram.

Participate in Social Media

Speaking of social media, you also want to make sure you have a strong presence on all of the heavy hitters, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. That being said, you need to be using the sites to build relationships with your users, not to throw your product in their face over and over again. Post engaging content that is meant to inform or entertain your audience, and reply to the comments you receive. You should only promote your e-commerce site once per week, if that. When you establish trust with your followers they will be much more likely to turn into paying customers.

Consider Affiliate Links

Instead of putting all of the pressure of marketing on yourself, why not recruit others to spread the word for you? By offering people a percentage of the sales they can bring to you, you will encourage them to share your site with everyone they know. Obviously, you don’t want to give too much away, but the more enticing you can make the percentage offered, the more willing people will be to share.

Be Active at Trade Shows

Just because you do all of your business online, that doesn’t mean your marketing efforts are limited to this platform. Trade shows are one of the best places to network and introduce your product to a new audience. Find as many trade shows as you can within your industry and rent out a booth. Yes, it may seem expensive, but the ROI is unbeatable. To capitalize on your investment, put in the extra effort to make your booth stand out from the crowd. It is also wise to give away some sort of promotional item with your company’s name and website on it so people can easily remember you after they leave. The more unique you can make this item, the better your chances of making a lasting impression.

As you can see, there are many ways you can spread the word about your new company, even if you don’t have deep pockets. Just an hour per day spent on your online marketing efforts can produce results that make it all worth it.

About the author:
Mark Ditteaux is the President and COO of Mark-it-Smart, Inc. Bag Warehouse, a subsidiary, supplies conference bags to businesses based on their unique promotional needs. The company brings more than 15 years of marketing and promotional experience to help with your promotional marketing campaign.

Big B2C Ecommerce Targets B2B Ecommerce Franken-sites

Website

What does your B2B e-commerce website look like today? Is it unnavigable to all but the heartiest of your customers? Does integration to your order creation system involve spreadsheet dumps? Is it columns and rows of eye-straining part numbers with no pictures and little to no product description? Is it something your IT team duct-taped together with B2C e-commerce apps, hacking, tacking, cutting and customizing until now no one can manage it except the ones who built the Franken-site monster?

Here’s the big question: Would you shop there? Honestly?

Some big B2C e-commerce players are moving into B2B E-commerce, and they are well aware of the missteps of their B2B cousins. Do the names of Amazon and Ali-baba sound familiar? If you’re a wholesaler in a largely commoditized industry, those names should strike fear into your heart.

It’s no secret that consumers today love to shop online; global B2C e-commerce sales are set to top $1.5 trillion this year, and that figure promises to continue to grow until it reaches $2.3 trillion in 2017. Here’s a newsflash: those same customers tired of faxing an order to you also shop for retail products online. They wish they could do the same with you, in fact, almost 90% of your customers do.

To little fanfare, B2B e-commerce has been a steady climber. In 2013, B2B saw online sales increase to $559 Billion. Why has it been so slow to rise compared to B2C when the potential payoff of B2B e-commerce is triple that of B2C? Why do many businesses still buy and sell using paper invoices, faxes, phones and checks?

  • Complexity has been one reason: It’s not easy to put together a B2B site with B2C-like personalization down to the user level – not when there are multiple ship-to’s, contracted prices, earned discounts, dozens of catalogs for different lines of business, and multiple customer types. Go ask the developers who put together your current Franken-site.
  • Business Processes have to change if the e-commerce initiative is to succeed. Too often businesses are not willing to make changes about the way they create orders, the very fundamentals of their business, until they feel the heat; only a very few innovators make the change because they see the light.
  • Integration to back-end ERP Order Creation systems sounds easier than it really is – for all the reasons listed in the first bullet point and because it has to be in real-time.
  • CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote) of configurable products, a common thing in B2B, adds a whole extra layer of complexity to e-commerce because of the need for customer-specific, real-time pricing and validation of configurations

But if you’re serious about B2B e-commerce, and you don’t wish to face extinction because of the turf invasion of B2C predators who know how to deliver a great customer experience to your bread-and-butter customers, then here are some trends you should pay attention to:

  1. Mobile devices
    Over 67 percent of the global population uses mobile devices, and growing. The customer base is mobile, for B2C and B2B, and that makes a big difference in how you need to sell to your customers.A good mobile strategy starts with Responsive Design. E-commerce websites must render well on mobile devices. One bad experience on a mobile device guarantees a customer won’t return. E-commerce companies must create a seamless omni-channel experience that allows customers to browse and make purchases the exact same way, no matter what kind of device they’re using.
  1. Security
    In the wake of recent high-profile data breaches, the need for security is clear. Customers want to know their sensitive data is being protected, and PCI-DSS standards are evolving as the e-commerce demands grow more complex. The consequences of a public data breach or a regulatory penalty can be huge, both in the form of monetary losses and the loss of customer trust; customer trust is something that takes years to establish and minutes to break. That’s why even a single data breach is one too many.
  1. Big data and analytics
    The B2C e-commerce industry has been using big data and analytics to drive better results for years. Across B2B industries, organizations are re-discovering the years of business data available to them from backend systems; this discovery represents a tremendous opportunity to understand and serve customers better. The mere fact that big data exists doesn’t necessarily mean you will gain value from it; in fact, big data is just as likely to overwhelm with useless data as it is to provide data you can actually use. Investing in analytics is the only way to separate out the valuable from the irrelevant.
  1. Software solutions from a vendor of B2B e-commerce solutions
    Software has always been an important part of the e-commerce equation, and a lot of B2C solutions are available. None of them have the architecture to take on the complexities of the B2B world. Because of this, there are far fewer B2B offerings, and fewer still who take the time to build out-of-the-box integration between the e-commerce storefront and the back-end system. You wouldn’t go to a car-dealer to purchase a truck for your shipping fleet. For the same reasons, you don’t look at B2C solutions to solve B2B e-commerce problems. Yes, the truck is more expensive – but no matter what modifications you make to the car, it will never deliver your products to market, and neither will a B2B Franken-site patched together from B2C solutions.

About the Author:

Steve Sassi, SAP E-Commerce Specialist at CDI Technology, the leading provider of B2B and B2B online payment solutions for the e-commerce industry. With over 10 years of experience in the software industry, Steve has expertise in web store solutions, payment solutions and mobile solutions.

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