My name is Ben Bakhshi, I am one of the founders of Coordinato, a platform for sending phone/text/email messages and reminders for small businesses (eCommerce and physical). I have learned a lot about the Text Message marketing industry while building this business, I’d like to share a tidbit to help small businesses grow.
If healthcare companies send text messages to provide better healthcare (proving that in fact, people read text messages from their service providers), shouldn’t you consider using the same channel to help grow your business? The healthcare industry has been effectively using text messaging to communicate with patients for years now. Hospitals have successfully increased patient health measurably by decreasing no-shows due to appointment reminders sent by SMS. Retails have been doing the same. Today, it doesn’t take big budgets or systems, and in fact, it can all be done for free.
Traditional retailers use text messages to market products to their customers all the time. Online businesses, who have a good mobile website, can use texting to drive new sales from old customers. If you sign up for a retail credit card, or join a membership to get a discount, chances are that the retailer will be keeping tabs on your shopping, and sending you text messages to remind you to shop more (and buy more of what you want). But sending mass text messages is no longer only for large companies with big budgets. If you are a small business has or is able to collect your customers’ phone numbers, you should start to consider periodically sending messages to your customers.
Thanks to Twilio, and other SMS technology companies, the cost to build software that utilizes texting has gone down dramatically. These days, the smallest of businesses can use a flurry of web tools to send texts and grow your business.
We will briefly cover the goals of text message marketing, and then I will provide you with free & paid tools to get you on your way.
Increase incoming business immediately, without annoying your customers.
Your messages should be on point and should highlight something that is immediately available. Your customer will read the message, but they probably won’t remember it. If they can’t act now (get in the car, go to a website, make a phone call, or respond by text) then they will forget about the message, delete it, and go on with their lives.
For example, you can send message 1 week before a customer’s birthday, offering them discounted services. Or, might have received new merchandise, you can include a URL in your message, letting your customers visit your mobile website and make a purchase.
Do not be annoying. You should think twice about sending a text message more than once a month. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer, would YOU want to get a message once a week advertising to you?
You may want to track the performance of texting as a channel. If your customers are not responding, they may be getting upset, or your messaging is not relevant. Feel free to follow up. If you notice that an SMS marketing campaign was unsuccessful, pick up the phone and call a few customers to find out why they were not interested in the offering.
Ask for a referral. If a customer had a great experience with you, feel comfortable sending a text asking for a referral. You don’t have to offer a referral bonus, but you can if you think it will help you and the customer.
Discuss these and more issues with your team, and figure out the right way to balance effectiveness and courtesy with your customers. Your previous customers are one of your most important assets. Leveraging them will help you grow your sales, and also help you grow your referrals.
You can send messages one at a time, very easily, using Google Hangouts, which Google has migrated features into from Google Voice, is available standalone or via Gmail. Just enter the phone number, enter the message, and boom, your customer receives it. Google offers this totally for free, and you can receive incoming messages as well.
If you want to send group messages, or schedule text messages into the future, check out some of the more advanced platforms. There are a number of services out there, here are two of our favorite, feel free to Google around for more, I have seen dozens of them. AppointmentReminder.org, focuses on appointment based businesses who want to send reminders to their customers. SignalEngage.com which offers text, email and online marketing tools help you grow your customer base.
Go ahead and start texting your customers, you won’t be disappointed.
E-commerce consumers have choices about where they spend their dollars, but your ability to personalize their experience can be a huge competitive advantage. Here’s how you can customize your e-commerce experience, and why it’s so important.
Don’t wait to address the customer. Email remains a low-cost and highly efficient marketing channel, but as an e-commerce retailer, you have a superior advantage over offline retailers thanks to your ability to collect relevant online data from e-commerce visitors (even those that don’t order). You’re able to continually hone those analytics and insights to better predict what your customers may find interesting. With that said, don’t underestimate the amount of emails customers receive — or how little time you have to get noticed in their inbox. Regardless of why you’re sending the customer an email, personally address the recipient in every subject line, whether that means mentioning an item they’ve previously purchased, or acknowledging something about them that you know (which may be propensity toward a certain promotion, brand or product category) based on their past search behavior. In Experian’s 2013 Email Market Study it was revealed that multichannel retailers experience a 37 percent increase in unique open rates for emails with personalized subject lines compared to emails without personalized subject lines.
Make your brand’s personality personally relevant. Personalizing your customer’s online shopping experience in a way that leads to brand loyalty requires communicating your brand’s value in a way that is meaningful to their personal values. That starts with understanding your various customer segments and addressing each accordingly to reinforce your shared value system, based on data you collect over time. In one study cited in Harvard Business Review, the majority of respondents indicated they don’t view brands as something they have a “relationship” with, regardless of how frequently a brand messages to them — unless there is a sense of shared values. Experiment with creative ways to communicate and demonstrate what your brand stands for, understanding that your message may be different across segments. For example, one customer segment may care about your donating a portion of proceeds to a non-profit organization that aligns with your (and their) interests, while others will be moved by messages about your sourcing products based on parameters that align with their values.
Act like a personal shopper. Retailers with brick-and-mortar storefronts have the luxury of forming a connection with customers to personalize the shopper experience once they’re in store. Though you may never meet your customers face to face, you can deliver a similar one-on-one interaction that personalizes their experience. As customers browse your site and place items in a shopping cart, for example, leverage automated upselling tools that suggest additional products they’re likely to respond to, based on the data you already have about them (a study by McKinsey indicates that such cross-sell techniques can increase sales by 20 percent, and profits by as much as 30 percent).
If your site offers a promotion triggered by some kind of required threshold (like free shipping based on a certain order amount, or a free item with the purchase of another), make the consumer aware of how near they are to reaching that money-saving opportunity, and make their experience seamless by guiding them through to reach that redemption requirement. (In one infographic compiled by BrainSINS, e-commerce retailers noted a 54 percent increase in their average order values by personalizing the shopper experience in a similar way.) Likewise, think about personalization as a convenience offering: If the customer indicates a need for rush shipping on an item but it’s not in stock, let them know immediately and suggest an alternative product. Even features like live chat for customer support present an opportunity to make the customer feel special, even if it’s simply to acknowledge them by name and thank them for their return visit.
About the author:
Don Amato is Vice-President, Sales of Chicago Tag & Label in Libertyville, IL. The company delivers business solutions with custom forms, labels and tags for all types of businesses, including ecommerce.
Did you know 70% of the links search users click on are organic, not paid?
Google is continually improving algorithms, and this is evident from the recent ‘Penguin’ and ‘Panda’ updates changing the way websites rank, and the best way to optimize your website to rank higher. With ever changing techniques it can be hard to keep up – but the basics of SEO have remained the same for quite some time. We’ve shortlisted 4 simple, white-hat techniques you should always use when it comes to search engine optimization…
The general rule for keywords is to target broad keywords on the homepage and long-tail keywords in the internal pages of your site. However, it is not uncommon to see many SEO companies attempting to keyword stuff the homepage with as many keywords as they can fit in. Google penalizes sites for this, and attempting to cheat the system doesn’t get you anywhere with SEO anymore. Similarly, keyword stuffing guest posts and links won’t help you either – it’s always better to aim for organic, quality links that will bring real traffic to your site and naturally boost your SEO.
Stick to broad keywords on the homepage, and target long-tail keywords on internal pages of your site. As always with keywords, make sure you are including them within relevant, high-quality content and avoid sounding like a keyword churning robot. Google wised up to this a long time ago, and so should you.
If Google’s updates have taught us anything, it should be that user experience and high quality content is key. Whether it’s creating a quirky, interactive web design, writing high-quality informative and sharable blog posts or even just improving the speed of your site, user experience should always be the main focus of your SEO strategy. Consumers are expecting more and more, and with the competition and huge global corporates turning their main focus to the consumer you need to too, or you’ll fall behind.
User experience is all about creating great content, shortening the customer journey and creating a connection with consumers. All of which can also be helped massively by the use of social media…
There is much controversy regarding how effective/ineffective social media actually is for generating business and improving SEO, although the expectation for businesses to be at least present across platforms is here to stay. Social media acts as a customer service platform and creates a close, familiar bond with business and consumer, and it is a mistake to fail to use this to your advantage.
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and any social media platforms you use give you the tools to effectively share content and drive your audience back to your website. Google recognizes this spike in click-throughs and will reward you for it, so regularly update your social media and interact with consumers.
Social media and SEO go hand in hand, and by responding to consumers quickly and informally you create a connection that ultimately improves user experience, so use it to your advantage and learn to love it.
No really, there isn’t. Many SEO companies will practice black-hat techniques that may improve your rankings in the short-term, but the long-term effects are more than likely damaging to your site. Remember that quality always wins over quantity, and organically improving rankings through creating a great user experience and producing high quality, sharable content is best way to improve SEO. Not only will this improve rankings, but it will make sure you rank for the keywords that are relevant to you, bringing the right audience to your website and generating you more business.
Don’t be fooled by the concept of just paying for links or a quick-fix, these practices simply don’t work anymore. A good SEO strategy will take time and effort, but Google will reward you for it.
About the Author:
It’s no secret that every successful ecommerce website has a remarkable SEO partner. After all, search engine optimization plays a major role in boosting any online business. This is the reason why you need to get to know your SEO specialist better.
Just like in a real date, the getting to know stage will give you an idea if you wish to proceed with this person to the next level or find a better partner. There are certain things you need to watch out for so as to determine the true worth of your current SEO company.
When you go out with someone for the first time, your conversation mainly revolves around your backgrounds— where you studied, what work you do, what your family is like, etc. In the same way, you must find out how long the SEO company you work with has been in existence, how it came about, what services it offers, and what its track record is like.
In trying to figure out if a person is cut out to be your partner in life, you also try to assess quality. It’s not a matter of excellence, but rather a matter of suitability. You might actually meet someone who seems to be way beyond your standards and seems to be the perfect partner. But you need to go out with that person several times to see if you guys click.
With your SEO specialist, it works the same way. There ought to be a spark, a gut feel that you can work well together and trust each other. At the same time, it’s important to check how they do their SEO. Learn the analytics and strategies they use, the reports they provide, and more. These will help you determine their actual quality and if they’re a good fit for your business.
Relationships bank a lot on good communication, even if you’re just in the initial stages. Between an online entrepreneur and a SEO specialist, communication also means a whole lot. This is why you have to be clear about it from the very beginning. Ask for a well-defined communication plan that includes how often you’ll be contacted and through which channel, what types of reports you’ll receive, how long meetings will last, and how and when you can get in touch if you have concerns or questions.
If you’re experienced in dating, you can tell whether someone is good for a one-night stand, a temporary fling, or a long-term relationship. Finding out where your present SEO partner stands is of great importance too. You ought to sniff around and keep your senses on edge to figure out if your SEO specialist is a scammer or a real deal, great for short-term campaigns or cut out for lengthy partnerships.
Since you’ll always be in need of SEO expertise, it’s essential to not waste your time on short-term stints. Besides, you don’t want to be a victim of fly-by-night sort of SEO companies. Hence, you need to do your background research well and take the time and effort to truly get to know the specialist you’re currently working with. This way, you can shortcut your way to a genuine keeper and not squander precious time, sweat, and money on something worthless.
About the author
Joe Palko is the CMO of 3dcart. Prior to joining 3dcart in 2011, Joe was a true internet pioneer co-founding his first e-commerce website in 1994 which later sold to America’s largest mail order pet supply retailer in 2007. Joe also co-founded Solid Cactus in 2001, which was later sold to the Web.com Group in 2009.
Inventory management can be a challenge for an e-commerce company. Many companies start out small and have limited space. They might want to offer large product lines to their customers, but it’s a challenge to store the products at their location.
If your company is taking off or you want to expand your product offerings, but you’re facing the challenge of limited space, you might be considering finding a warehouse or switching to a larger one. Off-site inventory management is the perfect solution to this problem. This method can have many benefits for an e-commerce company, including the following:
When your company manages inventory itself, you have to cover the cost of the warehouse space, the overhead costs of running the warehouse and the employees for the warehouse. As your company expands and as time goes by, you have to manage all of those aspects in addition to your office and your own company’s staff.
By managing your inventory off site, your company won’t have to deal with all the work and expenses involved with a warehouse. J.M. Field Marketing explains that instead of handling the inventory management yourself, you can trust another company to take care of that work for you. You will only have to pay inventory management of the products that are ordered, instead of all those upfront costs to get started and the ongoing costs associated with running your warehouse. Plus, you can rely on a company that is experienced with inventory management.
You don’t have to completely hand over your inventory management to another company and have no idea what’s going on with it. Your company will still have control over your inventory, so that you can manage your business. You will be able to track the purchasing and the inventory in stock at the off-site location. This way, you can follow trends of your business and understand any changes you need to make to stay successful and to grow.
One of the challenges of an e-commerce business is handling extra orders during busy seasons or when the business is growing quickly. A reputable, outsourced fulfillment service can handle these changes, without your company needing to worry about it. It should be a positive for your company when you are getting extra orders, not a dreaded challenge to overcome. Off-site inventory management can turn it into a profitable experience.
When you take inventory management off the plate of your company, you are freeing up your time, resources and efforts to focus on other things. Your company can focus on retaining customers and marketing to attract new customers.
You won’t have to worry about your marketing efforts growing your company too quickly, because your off-site inventory management services will be prepared for the growth. Instead of managing both an office team and a warehouse team, your company will be able to focus its efforts on just one and rely on another company for the warehouse side.
Since inventory management is the specialty of inventory fulfillment companies, they are able to engage in bulk shipping. This can greatly reduce the shipping costs of products. Another way these companies often cut shipping costs is by choosing more affordable alternatives, such as shipping parts and assembling them on site. These shipping savings can be passed onto your company and to your customers, which can make them more likely to purchase, to become repeat customers and to be happier overall with their buying experience.
About the author
Don Amato is Vice-President, Sales of Chicago Tag & Label in Libertyville, IL. Chicago Tag & Label custom forms, labels and tags help streamline processes in many industries including retail, industrial, manufacturing, distribution and medical environments.
E-commerce is constantly changing to keep up with the needs of today’s customer as brands fight to get noticed in a sea of choices. For your business to keep up and have a chance in the market, it’s important to stay on top of current trends and figure out how to connect with your consumer. Here are a few key current and emerging trends in the e-commerce industry that can improve your business and your customer’s interaction with you.
Consumers want their shopping experience to be as quick and easy as possible. That’s usually why they’re shopping online in the first place. If you make the process easier on them, you will create a better connection with the customer, help them find what they’re looking for and encourage them to continue to shop with you. To achieve this, create ways for the customer to find their product and to order as quickly and easily as possible. Part of this can include having fewer products available to choose from and getting rid of unnecessary information or features on your site. In addition, make your site run smoothly without shutdowns so nothing impedes the consumer experience. Many companies are focusing on tactics to lower latency, such as putting more important information on flash storage and the rest on hard disks.
Mobile shopping from a smartphone is increasing in popularity with consumers, so your e-commerce company should focus on mobile to keep up. To be on top of this trend, create a site that people can easily maneuver on a device. You should focus on short blocks of text and a simple ordering process. You can also create apps for mobile devices that consumers can engage with to connect with your company and to order products. Apps are not always about ordering, but also about creating a connection and an experience. For example, James Gagliardi explains in a Wired article that a fitness equipment company can create health-tracking apps to go with their equipment.
Consumers are looking for personalization and a positive shopping experience, and software can help you with that. Configurator software can help you create custom product designs and price quotes to generate sales and production outputs. You can integrate this software with other software that will help your business, including your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. CRM helps a company manage its customer service, marketing, sales and support to control its customer interactions, while ERP can help companies track and interpret marketing, sales, inventory and other data. Software can help you figure out the “big data” to understand customers and target your business to them.
Personalization is the way to go with e-commerce. Customers do not have much time to focus on shopping when they are bombarded with a lot of different companies and products. When you collect information on your customers through big data analytics, you can target your ads, emails and products to them. You can target based on gender, career, lifestyle and other factors. Also, if a customer bought one of your products before, you can personalize emails and ads based on their previous purchase. For example, you could suggest when it’s time to repurchase a food or beauty product. Or you could make suggestions to your customers on products they might like that are similar to their previous purchases. Sometimes, you can even customize the products themselves. Many other current e-commerce trends tie into this, creating ways to cater to customers and facilitating a personal interaction between them and your company. That’s what customers are looking for and that’s how your business will thrive in the current e-commerce climate.
Ron Mouw, VP of Business Development at Configure One, a leading provider of product configurator and CPQ (configure price quote) software for enterprises.
E-commerce marketers have steadily eyed ‘Big Data’ to learn more about their customers – for example, understanding how shoppers behave, their path to purchase and what they ultimately buy (or don’t buy) so that they can do a better job of merchandising products, improving customer service, and strengthening loyalty. However, mining these stores of data can take a lot of time and effort – and it’s often hard to know what data really matters. But there’s an easier way to open a window into how your customers browse and buy, and that’s by examining the data in your site search.
Site search data yields valuable insights, but not enough online retailers take the time to delve into this gold mine of information. According to SLI Systems’ recent e-commerce survey, 57% of online retailers said they don’t use site search reports and information to enhance marketing programs, and half of the respondents said that they don’t use site search data to improve any business programs or processes.
That’s too bad, because there’s business intelligence there for the taking that can help win sales that might otherwise walk out the door. Here are our best ideas for using search data to get high value out of marketing campaigns and make them more relevant to customers.
Drive higher clicks from paid search: If you’re always looking for new keyword terms for your paid search campaigns, site search data is the place to start. The keywords that customers use on your site when searching for popular products are likely to have strong click-through rates. Party Supplies Delivered, an online party retailer, has seen great success using keyword terms from top searches on its site for its Google AdWords campaigns. In fact, the company’s bounce rate dropped 40% and page views increased by 132% once it began adding in keywords from search for its campaigns.
Create more targeted email marketing: Consumers are looking for any excuse to ignore merchant emails – unless you offer them a message that relates to products they really want. Site search data can help you determine what brands and items to highlight in personalized emails to make them more attention-getting.
For example, your emails can feature products related to the recipient’s previous search terms and top-selling items from their favorite brands. Shoe retailer Footwear etc. sends marketing emails with links to products from brands that it knows shoppers love. The result: click-through rates that are four times higher and sales revenue that’s three times higher (source: Patricia Seybold Group case study embedded below).
Sharpen search accuracy: When visitors to your site launch a search and actually find what they’re looking for, they’re more likely to convert. If they don’t find the desired item, they’re more likely to abandon your site. When you view search data regularly, you can discover which searches deliver poor results or no results and then add helpful synonyms or link products to search terms for more productive searches.
Increase conversions with merchandising banners and custom landing pages: Site search data can also help you create more compelling merchandising banners and landing pages that appear when visitors search on your site for a given product or arrive at your site after clicking on a search engine result. Motorcycle Superstore uses site search data to build custom landing pages with banners for visitors arriving from Google based on the keywords they use in their site searches. The company reports that the banners and product detail pages have generated an average conversion lift of 2-5% for the featured products.
Site search data can reveal the “secrets” of how customers shop on your site and what they want from your online storefront. Don’t miss the chance to use this information to improve your marketing programs, increase sales and ultimately get better value from your investment in search.
By Tim Callan, Chief Marketing Officer, SLI Systems
The sentiment of “saving a tree” is as relevant in e-commerce as in any other type of office operation. Despite all encouragement to the contrary, paper waste continues to this day. In a typical office, each employee discards an average of 350 pounds of paper every year. For even a one-man operation, that’s a big and possibly unnecessary expense.
Fortunately, a few policy changes can serve to cut paper waste in half. Making these changes a habit could be the biggest obstacle.
To cut down on the expense of printing, try to:
Whether incoming or outgoing, information exchanges have a way of consuming far too much paper. To cut down on this means of waste, remember to:
Although they may seem easier to use, all those paper plates, bowls and coffee cups aren’t doing you any favors. Continual restocking will cost you money, and washing the reusable kind isn’t very difficult.
Recycled paper products work as well as the non-recycled variety, and some people prefer their appearance. A bit of research will lead you to a number of locations that sell repurposed paper for every need.
What’s a cup of morning Joe without the morning paper? Although most news feeds today are available online, many still prefer the hard copy newspapers. When you’ve finished reading them, however, then what? You can always put them in the recycle bin, but have you considered using old newspapers in your shipping operation? Just crumple them up to stuff those boxes and save in more ways than one.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Don Amato is Vice-President, Sales of Chicago Tag & Label in Libertyville, IL. Chicago Tag & Label custom forms, labels and tags help streamline processes in many industries including retail, industrial, manufacturing, distribution and medical environments.