User experience can play a significant role in determining a website’s success. In fact, 88 percent of online consumers are less likely to return to a website after a bad experience. So, how can user experience be improved on a website? Users should more connected to the site through social interaction.
Contact forms, email links and traditional forums provided basic elements of social interaction in the past. Now, with the increase of social media, users are looking for more personalized ways to connect with businesses through their websites and with other users. Several techniques can be used to incorporate more social interaction on your website. Here are some suggestions:
Utilize creative content and blogs
Content is one of the most important features on a website. Not only does it help users find the site through search engines, it plays a significant role in keeping them interested in the pages. Content can be found in the form of website text, photos and captions, videos and even blog posts. Utilizing these various platforms can promote more social interaction on your website.
Blogs are a unique form of content because they can be updated much more frequently than website pages. Some blogs may be updated monthly, weekly or even daily, depending on the company. Blogs can be a place for businesses to genuinely connect with customers and clients through interesting content and stimulating images. Knowing your audience is the first step in making an impression on them.
These online journals often are less formal than traditional website pages and can feature more up-to-date content relative to your business, industry or field. Blogs could be a way to educate readers, but also a platform to initiate a conversation. Users will be able to read and share content on social media, making them more involved all while spreading your brand. Try using questions or polls to get readers active in a discussion.
Providing a comment section on blog posts lets businesses get a sample of what readers may be thinking with an easy avenue for responses. For example, if a home goods retailer includes a post about new design trends, customers may provide insight into what products they would like to see offered. This type of interaction could be effective for growing your business and customer loyalty.
Build an online community
Businesses often focus on building an online audience, but more effort should be put into building an online community. Users tend to be more involved and more social if there is a sense of collectiveness, rather than a one-way form of communication. Having users register on a website could be an easy way to get them more involved.
Website registration can be cumbersome for some users, but the process can be simple. It works best if users know why registering and providing their email is beneficial. Clothing retailer ModCloth provides those who register with personalized recommendations and allows them access to blogs where they can connect with the company and other users. The site also includes a personalized style gallery where customers can showcase their unique fashion with the company’s goods.
This builds a unique sense of community, rather than just an online forum. Users who register with the site can feel more connected to the brand, learn more about company products from former customers, review products and connect with other users. Additionally, this could simplify the checkout process for customers, combining practicality with fun.
Website registration also could lead to creative email marketing, which could foster another form of social interaction. Sending users emails about new blog posts, new products or information in the form of a newsletter could help to keep them involved in the online community. This brief contact could give them incentive to return to your website.
Add engaging promotions and stimulants
Varying the content on your website is another way to increase social interaction and create a better user experience. Instead of having only text paragraphs throughout the pages, businesses should consider other ways to stimulate website visitors. One creative technique is through gamification, or the use of game-design elements.
Adding game-design elements to a website is a widely used marketing technique for user engagement. This can be done through games, trivia questions, puzzles and other interactive elements that keep users on a website page. Quizzes relating to your industry or business also could increase user interaction with your website and give users something to share on social media.
These games can be used as a way to market your business or new products while keeping users active. For example, national chain Potbelly Sandwich Shop launched a “Mac and Cheese Name Generator,” a game to promote its new menu item. The short game provides questions, and the user’s answers determine his or her personalized mac and cheese order.
Once the game is complete, users have the opportunity to share their results on social media with the company’s personalized hashtag and enter a gift card giveaway. This game-like design keeps users connected to the company website and increases their likeliness of spreading brand awareness. It’s something simple and fun that users will remember.
These are some creative ways to help businesses promote social interaction on their websites. However, maintaining this level of communication is pivotal to its success. Anytime someone interacts with your brand, whether it is through a comment, sharing a video or registering with your website, let them know their actions are appreciated. This could mean replying to a comment or sending an email, whichever method works best for both parties. The smallest hint of gratitude can keep the conversation flowing.
About the Author
Cristine Sommers is the Chief Marketing Officer for Soar Payments, a payment processing company that helps eCommerce businesses obtain affordable credit card processing solutions.
On Wednesday, October 29th, JXT Group and Google co-hosted a Digital Happy Hour at the Google NYC office. The happy hour offered insights to the latest Google products and highlighted their growing online marketing opportunities. The two speakers included Candace Jordan, Google Agency Account Strategist and Menachem Ani, JXT Group Founder & CEO. Guests were able to enjoy delicious appetizers and drinks while watching outstanding presentations from these two industry leaders.
Candace kicked off the happy hour with a thought-provoking presentation about Micro-Moments, the new battleground for brands. Candace made the audience realize, that as marketers, our biggest opportunities are in the smallest moments, some more important than others (especially when cellphones are involved).
Some key takeaways from the Micro-Moments presentation:
After Candace finished discussing Micro-Moments, Menachem took the stage to discuss 5 Advanced Digital Marketing Strategies, and how they can be used to grow your business.
Some important points about these 5 digital marketing strategies:
We concluded the Digital Happy Hour with a Google Cardboard demonstration. Our guests really enjoyed playing with the cardboard!
On behalf of JXT Group, I would personally like to thank Candace Jordan and Darius Ameri and Google for their help in making this event a huge success! I would also like to thank everyone who attended the happy hour, we were excited to see some familiar faces in the crowd, as well as meet many new attendees! I hope that you were able to take away valuable information from the two outstanding presentations, and have fun at the same time!
We can’t wait to host another event like this in the future!
eCommerce is a multi-billion dollar industry; for some shoppers, big box stores are now literally no more than showrooms for items they can often purchase for less on the internet. For business owners, eCommerce means less overhead and the ability to reach a wider market.
By going to the company directly to buy products, the consumer can be assured that they are receiving the items as they are described. Sometimes dubious online marketplaces sell products that claim to be manufactured by specific companies, yet they really aren’t. When the customer receives their item, they might form an opinion about the product, thinking that the manufacturer is at fault, when really the product was counterfeit and illegally sold.
Things like this are fairly common in recent times, so knowledgeable consumers are sticking to online eCommerce websites that have a reputation as being safe and reliable. But how can you keep your eCommerce site more secure, as well as provide a safer experience for your customers? Well actually there are several different ways…
First, you’ll want to make sure that anyone who is signing up for an account on your eCommerce site has their information well protected. Allow visitors to your site to sign up with strong passwords; it’s recommended that you set up your site to inform new members during sign up whether or not their password fits the bill.
Strong passwords consist of numbers, both uppercase and lowercase letters and symbols. They should be at least eight characters long, contain more than one word (some use a phrase) and of course, exclude any sort of personal information. Be sure to apply these password tips to your own passwords as well since you too are responsible for protecting your customers’ accounts.
It would also be wise to use two-factor authentication on your site. Basically this means that anyone who is logging in on your page will have to provide more than just a password and username to access their account. This adds an extra layer of security for your customers, though like anything else, it isn’t without security vulnerabilities.
Some shoppers can be a bit weary of using their credit cards online to begin with, and if your company happens to be the victim of a data breach, you risk losing not only business, but also your good reputation. It’s extremely important that you take the proper measures to ensure that your clients are using a secure website when completing their orders.
Start with SSL certificates if you don’t already have them installed on your web server. This will protect the data shared between your customer’s computer and your website during check-out. It would also be wise to avoid storing your customer’s credit card information for future use.
Though it can be more convenient for your customers for their accounts to have their card information on file, it poses a security risk. Even big box stores have had their customers’ data compromised from storing it in their online database.
Speaking of protecting the information of your customers, did you know that you could be putting both theirs and your data at risk just by using an unsecure device? When you access your database, work on your eCommerce site or even use the internet on a computer that has personal information stored on it, you’re putting your business at risk.
If hackers access your computer or any other device that you might be using to connect to the internet, they can easily obtain crucial pieces of information and data that can be used for malicious purposes. The reputation of your company could plummet if you allow your data to become compromised, but luckily, safe-guarding your computer is actually simple.
Anti-virus programs are free, and although there are paid versions of these programs available, the free versions aren’t lacking in quality or protection. Some of these programs even offer anti-theft features, which will help a lot if a thief decides to take off with your gadgets. There’s an additional program you should consider installing as well: a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
Using a VPN service is the best way to protect your data from hackers. VPNs protect your computer a bit further than an anti-virus program does because it shields your device from more than just malware. They encrypt your connection and mask your IP address, so not only will your location be hidden, but you can also use an unsecured internet connection without any issues.
Hackers can easily make their way into your device when you’re using public WiFi or other unsecured connections, which is why a VPN is recommended. A VPN is actually a remote server that you route your internet traffic through; beyond the security features it offers, you also gain the additional benefit of being able to access geo-restricted content.
In the event that you ever do have your site compromised, you’ll be glad that you have a backup on hand. For tutorials on how you can download a backup of your website, refer to your web host’s page for help. When saving the backup file from your website, it’s wise to make more than one copy and store them across multiple devices.
You may want to store your backups in an encrypted folder (tutorial can be found here) for added security. Another option is to store them online by using one of the many storage services available, though like anything else online, the security of these services can be somewhat limited.
Any software that you are using for your eCommerce site should be updated as frequently as possible. Software updates typically include patches to common security vulnerabilities within their code so by using the most recent version of the program, you have a better chance of keeping your site secure.
Speaking of updates, don’t forget to monitor your website regularly as well. It’s also important that anyone you may have hired to work on the site also checks it on a regular basis. Monitoring your site not only helps it remain safe, but also ensures that a problem can be fixed quicker so your customers also remain protected and your eCommerce page continues to run smoothly.
When you’re dealing with a large customer base, it’s wise to invest in fraud management services. These can automatically scan through your orders to ensure that everything looks alright and nothing suspicious is occurring without your knowledge. Fraud management services will also prevent chargebacks, help you save money by preventing potential fees, stop shipments and overall, minimize payment fraud on your website.
One of the most important steps to ensuring that your eCommerce site remains secure is to thoroughly train your employees about internet security and confidentiality. Maintaining an online business comes with the possibility that your customers may be calling or emailing your company with their questions quite frequently, and by doing so, they could be putting their personal information at risk. It’s important that your employees are aware that they should not be discussing payment details via email, and in the situations where they must discuss payment over the phone, they should be asking for several forms of verification of identity from the customer.
Overall, the safer your company and eCommerce website is, the safer your customer is!
About the Author: Cassie Phillips works at Secure Thoughts and is a blogger who strives to help and encourage others to protect their personal information online. Over the years she has experienced her fair share of internet security breaches, which has inspired her to learn more about how she can safe-guard both her website and computer.
You’re officially invited to join JXT Group and Google for an exclusive digital happy hour on October 28th. Food and drinks will be provided!
Hosted at Google NYC, this is a fantastic opportunity to learn from digital marketing experts about the latest industry trends. Featuring presentations by Menachem Ani, Founder & CEO of JXT Group and Candace Jordan, Google Agency Account Strategist, this is one you don’t want to miss.
Please RSVP as soon as possible, space is limited.
Experts at RJ Metrics estimate that e-commerce sites account for about 10 percent of all websites. Yet, it estimates that just 110,000 of those sites generate revenue of any “meaningful scale,” proving that a “build it and they will come” approach doesn’t apply to the world of e-commerce.
Here’s a look at some of the most common mistakes made by money-losing e-commerce sites.
Your e-commerce site may be legally required to charge customers a certain amount of tax,; and their shipping method of choice may present an additional set of fees, too. Customers may inherently know that buying online will present such costs, but e-commerce sites must still be transparent about exactly what those are — and how they may change as the customer adds or removes items from a shopping cart — in order to convert an online browser into a buyer. In fact, in WorldPay’s Global Shopper Report, more than half of the 19,000 customers surveyed said unexpected costs are the primary reason they’ll opt not to buy from an e-commerce store.
A study by Kissmetrics revealed that 47 percent of customers expect the desktop version of a Web page to load in two seconds or less before they’ll abandon a site. Though not all site-loading issues are within your control, optimizing your e-commerce and m-commerce sites to function as seamlessly as possible is a direct investment in your site’s bottom line.
Nearly a quarter of respondents to WorldPay’s survey said they abandon an e-commerce site when navigation is too complicated. Ideally, it should not take your customers more than three “clicks” to find the information they seek. While menus can help structure your online shop, it should include no more than seven headers, and have no more than three subsets within each header. Use navigation that people recognize based on the functionality of leading e-commerce sites. For example, a left arrow usually indicates that a person can “go “back,” — be sure to design your site to follow the same navigation norms.
The terminology you use to describe various product categories on your site must also be relevant to the terms your target customer uses to find products and services. Though using clever terms to describe product categories may seem like a way to develop a unique brand voice, it could make it that much more difficult for customers to find the information they seek.
E-commerce checkout processes should instill customer confidence. Display familiar logos (like VeriSign and major credit card or payment acceptance symbols) that reassure the customer your payment processes are secure. Allow the option to checkout as a guest or to sign in using social media credentials. Prefill information like shipping and billing addresses once the customer inputs ZIP code. Provide checkout flows that are responsive based on the type of device the customer is using, so it’s as easy to complete a purchase on a mobile device as it is a desktop.
About the author:
Stephanie N. Blahut is the Senior Marketing Manager for Highland Solutions. Highland Solutions is a global provider of collaborative, enterprise solutions. Stephanie oversees the Highland Solutions website and has co-created their lead generation program.
We are honored to have participated in a case study about our ongoing success marketing The Baby’s Den online with Google AdWords.
“I expected positive results from JXT Group, but the campaigns far exceeded my expectations. The campaigns are doing extremely well.” —Igal Hatanian, founder and owner, The Baby’s Den
The Online Marketing Panel was led by David Markovich, Founder of Online Geniuses. Ilan Nass, Founder of Takital, and Jonathan Eisenberg, Founder and CEO of Spark Hospitality Group, were the other featured panelists.
The informative trio discussed their favorite online marketing tactics and gave insights on how they would personally market some of the different businesses that were mentioned during the Meetup.
Retargeting was another big talking point at the Online Marketing Meetup. The panelists discussed different ways that businesses use retargeting to sell you their products. They also discussed how lookalike audiences worked, and how they lead to an increase in conversions and sales.
This panel gave great eCommerce insights and helped many people understand how to better market their businesses online.
Click here to view the New York Online Marketing Panel.
If you’re an eCommerce store owner then it probably goes without saying you’re familiar with the trials and tribulations of growing an online business.
Whilst those skills are useful for building a business from scratch, they’re also coming in handy for a new wave of online entrepreneurs looking to buy a website instead.
The returns of buying can be very strong. The average expected annual return on buying an eCommerce business is around 33-50%, which is a great financial incentive for buyers.
There are many other strategic reasons to buy instead of building when it comes to growing your eCommerce portfolio. Many buyers acquire to add to their existing business and cross-sell products or use their skills to grow an under-monetized business for example.
FE International asked a number of eCommerce storeowners why they’ve gone down the route of buying existing stores. Here is what we found:
A common reason for acquiring is to purchase a store with a proven business model.
When buying an aged and successful business, the store has established itself as a going concern. It has traffic, suppliers and customers already and it has also benefited from the owner taking all the startup risk.
The focus should lie in whether it is in fact a ‘proven’ model. Be sure when vetting an online business that you assess its traffic and financial history as well as the operating metrics. Ideally you should look for businesses aged 2-3 years or older.
ECommerce is a broad space and there can be a variety of ways to improve the money making potential of a business.
It’s not unusual then to see businesses on the market with a truly unique selling point, which can be acquired by a buyer for strategic purposes.
At FE International, we’ve witnessed buyers purchase eCommerce businesses to gain supplier relationships, specific customers, and warehousing contracts. All of which were later used for improving profit in their existing businesses.
The benefits are not necessarily constrained to just the assets of the business. Business sales usually come with training time with the seller to help the purchaser understand the business. Oftentimes buyers have used this period to gain the knowledge, experience and contacts of the seller for use in their other businesses.
Many eCommerce business buyers are already storeowners themselves. As such a popular reason for acquiring an eCommerce business is to buy additional traffic and customers for cross-selling products and services to.
If you own an eCommerce store in the same or related space it can mean potential cross-sell capability. Many investors have enjoyed strong returns early on from cross promotion between email lists and targeted pages.
Evaluating cross-sell capability lies in the operations of the business. Using Google Analytics as well as shopping cart data, helps to analyze the underlying customer behavior and see if they are a good fit for your existing products.
Often it is said in business that there is only one thing more valuable than money, and that is time. Entrepreneurs and corporate types are often heavily engaged in their existing business activities but still have ideas and ambitions to grow their empires.
Buying an eCommerce business versus building one saves huge amounts of time and helps many entrepreneurs reach their goals faster. This brings another compelling reason to mind also…
For those new to eCommerce, buying a store can be the best way to leap frog the hard technical work in building a business such as keyword research, designing the website and finding suppliers etc.
It’s true also that under-monetized eCommerce businesses can be purchased for a small sum, meaning a buyer can acquire a business with a lot of sunk effort already in. This can mean buying a cheap launching pad for growth right away.
Buying an eCommerce business can be a very profitable, exciting and now much easier experience with the establishment of website brokers.
With the increasing size of the online business-for-sale industry, it’s worth the time for eCommerce entrepreneurs to think about buying an eCommerce business either for the standalone profit opportunity or the cross-sell potential.
About the author:
David is Brokerage Director at FE International. Starting out as an investment banker, he moved online to use his transaction experience for website brokerage. At FEI, he spends his time speaking with buyers, executing deals and working on raising industry standards to encourage more investments. In 2014, he closed more than $6M in sales and wrote a book on buying internet businesses for investors new to the space. Follow him on Twitter at @davidsnewell
Mobile payments can transform the smartphone or tablet you already own into a roving and affordable point of sale terminal — but they pack plenty of marketing punch, too. Here’s a look at how mobile payments can boost your marketing power.
As more retailers offer conveniences like “pay online/pick up in store” (with items often ready and waiting for the customer to retrieve within a matter of minutes), and the ability to pay without having a physical means of payment in tow, customers have high expectations for businesses of all sizes.
Though such high demands can be a burden for resource-constrained small businesses, mobile payments can multi-task beyond their primary purpose to present an inherent marketing benefit that could improve revenue and customer perception. That’s because some consumer behavior studies indicate that there is a direct correlation between the convenience a retailer offers, and the customer’s perception of the value of its goods and service. In tandem, that perception dictates what the customer is willing to pay. With mobile payments, you can equip several members of your team to use their smartphones or tablets to complete customer transactions from anywhere in the store, at the very moment the customer is ready to pay. Thanks to this optimized checkout service, the customer is more likely to have a memorable and positive perception of your brand.
Many mobile payment processors allow you to collect customer data — like email and phone numbers — to deploy mobile marketing campaigns based on the customer’s past purchase behavior and geolocation (with the customer’s permission). Unlike other forms of targeted direct marketing — like postcards, emails and even social media ads — mobile marketing efforts reach customers on the one device they rarely part with — at any time, day or night. (75 percent of mobile users admit to using their device during restroom visits.)
More than half of small business respondents to a Manta survey said the bulk of their marketing efforts are dedicated to existing customer retention. Regardless of how much customers like your products or service, they have options. Loyalty programs can be an inexpensive way to remind the customer to return, provided the offers are meaningful enough to drive repeat purchase — and easy to redeem. Many mobile payment providers equip small merchants with the ability to incorporate rewards programs into the mobile checkout experience. With this integration, customers are automatically credited for their rewards when they transact, and given the option to redeem them during the transaction.
Mobile marketing efforts tend be less expensive to develop and execute than traditional media — and far more flexible in terms of customer relevance. Because mobile devices travel with the customer, you can leverage location, purchase preferences, mobile search activity, and your own inventory and sales goals to customize contextually appropriate marketing offers to “low-hanging fruit.” (Data indicates that 70 percent of mobile users buy within the hour of conducting a mobile search.) Because the mobile marketing campaigns allow for flexibility, you’re empowered to control exactly who receives your offer, and for how long it’s valid.
Though marketing investment companies claim they’ll make more than $200 million in the mobile market, this industry remains a largely untapped medium — especially for small-business owners. Unlike junk mail, banner ads and paid social media posts — which have become so commonplace they’re often ignored by recipients — mobile marketing isn’t yet dominated. There is still plenty of opportunity in this space that small businesses can and should leverage to test and learn the ideal timing, language and strategy for mobile marketing campaigns that will deliver on business goals.
Mobile payments can improve your own operational efficiency at the point of sale — and in your marketing programs. With a combination of targeted offers, customer data, rewards and a convenient customer experience, mobile can prove a cost-efficient channel that equips your business to attract customers, generate revenue and cultivate loyalty.
About the author:
Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a credit card processing firm. She has more than 20 years experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, marketing and sales management. Follow her on Twitter at @BluePay_CMO.