THE BLOG

05
May

Powering Conversational E-commerce With Instant Messaging

From its humble beginnings as a limited business-to-business phenomenon in the early years of the internet more than forty years ago, e-commerce leaped quickly beyond the stodginess of brick-and-mortar stores after the dawning World Wide Web gained widespread public popularity in the mid-1990s. After two decades of expansion that drove past at least one cycle of frenzied speculative investments, modern e-commerce looks on track to consume an even bigger share of global economic activity. An extensive report from The Wall Street Journal reports among other things that Activate, a leading industry research group, sees global e-commerce revenues soaring to $2.1 trillion annually by 2021.

Still, classic e-commerce has always suffered from a few shortcomings. Whether or not most people are consciously aware of it, face-to-face encounters with other human beings soothe our social natures. The brick-and-mortar experience inherently includes such encounters even if many shoppers skip speaking with anyone but the cashier and perhaps one or two other customers.

Enter conversational e-commerce.

Text messaging has become the de rigueur method for quick communications, eclipsing email. Instead of showcasing a jumble of goods and services with little or no direct interaction with other human beings, savvy e-commerce websites offer customers the ability to instantly discuss their needs or place direct requests for their desired goods or services. Then a friendly store staffer fulfills the order without fuss.

That some store staffers are no more than sophisticated chatbots is beside the point. The comforting illusion of human contact is maintained. The nature of texting makes this tactic an easy ploy for reducing costs and conserving limited staff resources for complicated orders and especially demanding customers.

An explosion in mobile computing.

Mobile computing has exploded in popularity over the past decade. Busy people increasingly want to do their shopping on the run. They don’t want to be tied to a desktop for renting automobiles, buying new clothes, making restaurant reservations, and everything else imaginable. While mobile computing is undeniably convenient, smaller screens can be limiting when trying to wade through screen after screen of information.

Conversational e-commerce largely bypasses this problem. Instead of endlessly scrolling around within the limited visual scope of smartphones or tablets, customers can simply describe their desired outcomes and leave it up to the e-commerce company to figure it out. Company website resources serve in this context as guides rather than exact catalogs.

Better branding and profitability.

Some people think chatting is inherently frivolous. Far from being frivolous, instant e-commerce messaging is an opportunity to listen closely to customers’ needs and concerns and persuade them that the company’s brand naturally means friendly, helpful staffers. It’s an opportunity to slip personalized upselling into the conversation. It’s an opportunity to build loyalty and generate positive buzz on social networks. Above all, it’s an opportunity to exploit the worldwide Messenger communications network for every possible avenue to greater profits and stronger branding.

A powerful tool for marketing.

E-commerce messaging has joined email marketing, search engine optimization, content marketing, and social media marketing as another powerful tool for attracting customers, building loyalty, and increasing profits. Instant chat boxes can help make your customers happy with their shopping experience. They’ll feel as if your company has been paying personal attention to their needs.

Happy customers leave complimentary reviews and mentions on social media. E-commerce messaging support creates goodwill, builds your brand, and strengthens your company’s reputation for superior goods and services.

E-commerce platforms everywhere.

A complete e-commerce website has clickable buttons to pay for orders, to support customer feedback loops, and to fulfill other e-commerce functions. Now, that indispensable toolkit includes built-in functionality or plug-in buttons for starting live chats between consumers and e-commerce staff members. Messaging plug-ins are available for a growing number of e-commerce platforms. If you’re already using a major e-commerce platform, the chances are good that you can immediately install a plugin to start having real-time conversations with your customers. Easy solutions to your messaging support needs include Shopify Messenger, Zendesk Chat, among others.

Rampant growth in messaging.

The greater messaging environment promises only to grow. As Business Insider’s BI Intelligence research branch reports, the four leading mobile messaging apps now rival the four leading social media networks in monthly users. In 2016, Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp chat applications, twin giants of the American chat marketplace, saw upward of a billion monthly users. Chinese chat colossus WeChat reached a staggering 697 million active users monthly by the end of 2015. Other popular chat applications such as Japan-based Line have contributed still further to meeting the enormous global appetite for live chat networks.

Many industry experts expect the number of regular users of chat apps to reach 3.6 billion by 2018, representing 90 percent of all people with internet access. In the face of such growth in the popularity of chat apps, the majority of professional marketers view on-site live chat with Messenger compatibility as a mandatory tool for e-commerce websites.

March into the future with on-site Messenger support.

The sooner you upgrade your e-commerce website with the capability for live Messenger chats, the sooner you can reap the benefits of instant customer support, such as upselling opportunities across a global marketplace for your goods and services.

28
Apr

7 Free Tools to Craft a Brag-Worthy Email Campaign

You know the names — Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram. You’ve likely heard the tales — viral posts, exploding marketing campaigns. Still, when the rubber meets the road, 140 characters doesn’t always cut it. When you have a longer message to send, you need an email.

Email may not be as flashy as a Tweet, but it can be remarkably effective. Question: How can you harness the magic of an old-fashioned email marketing campaign? Answer: With the right tools. Here are some of the best (free) email marketing tools that will help you convert leads into sales.

Benchmark Email

With the Free for Life plan, subscribers can send up to 10,000 emails per month, an amount far higher than what’s available with most free programs. By signing up, you have access to a huge array of features, including email templates for nearly every occasion and industry, photo editing, message tracking, and a code editor for users who are more HTML savvy. As your email list expands to an international market, Benchmark Email also translates your email footers and unsubscribe pages into a variety of languages, including Chinese.

Mail Chimp

With 15 million customers, Mail Chimp must be doing something right. The program allows you to build on your e-commerce marketing strategy by connecting with your online store. It also has integrated Facebook advertising, marketing automation, tracking analysis, and customization features.

Litmus

While there are a plethora of paid features that are worth consideration on Litmus, there are some spectacular free options as well. In case you’ve ever wanted to know how other marketing geniuses pull it off, Litmus’ free program Scope will give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse. It also lets you review and share mobile and desktop previews of your own emails. A little apprehensive about sending an email without first previewing it? Putsmail lets you do just that. Simply enter your desired recipient list, subject line, and HTML to view a fully functional perspective of your marketing campaign. Though online forums usually have about as much information as your refrigerator, Litmus’ Community betrays the odds. There, you can communicate with other marketers who are tech-savvy and willing to help each other overcome the challenges of Outlook and Gmail.

Vertical Response

VerticalResponse’s free plan allows subscribers to store up to 1,000 contacts and send up to 4,000 emails every month. While this number is much less than what other programs provide, it is a solid option for businesses that don’t have a wide circulation. Choose from a library of professionally designed mobile-friendly email templates, automatic email welcome messages to new subscribers, and analytics so that you know who opened the email and what links they clicked on in the email.

Mad Mimi

For people who appreciate simplicity, Mad Mimi delivers. It offers a free newsletter plan and simple email templates with a straightforward interface that makes email marketing very doable. Through an ‘Add Things’ feature, you can engage in RSS marketing, create web forms, and more… but it’s completely functional (and not overwhelming) if you choose not to as well. The program allows you to deliver up to five emails a month to 2,500 recipients at no cost.

ReachMail

Another user-friendly option that is intuitive for people who don’t necessarily know how (or want) to code, ReachMail lets you create an email marketing campaign within minutes. There is a myriad of reporting features to help you analyze what’s working in your efforts, as well as automated social media sharing, a spam checker, email list cleaning, and free email templates.

Sendloop

Sendloop is unique in that it allows you to send drip campaigns — that is, automated emails that go out whenever people buy a product, sign up to a list, or anything else — for free. It also provides detailed stats about your efforts so that you know when to stay the course or change direction. Similar to Mad Mimi, you’re granted five emails per month to a maximum of 2,000 people.

Selecting the right tool to craft your email marketing is just the beginning of the journey. You still need to create your emails, learn the apps, and build your list of contacts. It’s a lot of work, to be sure, but worth every minute if you use the right approach.

21
Apr

Why Strong Customer Feedback Loops Are a Top Priority

In the humdrum routine of daily operations, it’s easy to miss warning signs of trouble ahead. Failing to notice customer dissatisfaction is like missing oncoming shark fins while you’re surfing the waves. If you don’t respond in time, your profits could disappear into the toothy mouths of hungry competitors.

The horror … the horror.

An influential 2011 report from Oracle goes into chilling detail. A devastating 89 percent of the consumers surveyed said they’d jump ship to a competitor after having had a bad experience with a company. Fully 86 percent indicated they’d willingly pay more for a better experience, and half said having to wait a week for an answer to their question was enough to drive them away.

That’s disturbing enough, but it gets worse. The report discloses that a startling 79 percent of the surveyed consumers saw absolutely no response to complaints they posted online about poor customer experiences. Snubbing unhappy customers doesn’t sound like a recipe for roaring success, does it?

A wonderful opportunity.

With eCommerce competitors a mere mouse click away and social networks ready to pounce on the smallest scandals, paying attention to rumbles of discontent is mandatory. It’s not all gnashing teeth and frothing mouths, though. Widespread consumer dissatisfaction with non-responsive brands is an opportunity for your own company to eat the profits of inattentive competitors.

Listening to your customers.

Ironically, initial success at many companies is itself the problem. Procedures meant for a smaller operation may not scale well. Customer experiences begin to get lost in a welter of bureaucratic inertia. Uncaring or undertrained line employees start to routinely blow off consumer complaints while telling out-of-touch managers that everything is peachy.

Fortunately, fixing this problem isn’t hard. Instead of relying on random observations, you can set up strategic customer feedback loops wherever they make sense. eCommerce websites lend themselves perfectly to such feedback mechanisms.

What’s a customer feedback loop, anyway?

It’s as simple as discovering what customers think of how your company is treating them and then reacting to that feedback with thoughtful improvements. Setting up a customer feedback loop could be as easy as putting a clearly marked button on a sales page that pops up a quick form for gathering comments on the sales process, which then go straight to the sales manager. The button might be accompanied by the following text: “Did you have a good experience? Please tell us how we’re doing!”

The sales manager or whoever else is responsible for customer care might have a detailed manual of responses or maybe just a few Post-it notes stuck to the wall, but the reaction is always the same. Learn why a customer is unhappy and make that customer happy. Change the company’s procedures so that other customers will be happy too. Ask line employees what other improvements would boost customer satisfaction. The same logic applies to shipping speed, product quality, service quality, and every other company operation that directly affects your customers.

An expansive toolkit for all needs.

Truth to tell, the toolkit for smart businesspeople is expansive. Surveys, community forums, social media reviews, feedback forms, follow-up calls, personalized after-sale emails — the list goes on and on. You’ll have no trouble finding the right tools for creating customer feedback loops that work for your own business.

Smooth sailing ahead.

Having effective mechanisms in place for tracking and responding to customer concerns and questions isn’t the whole story, but it’s a big part of it. Listening closely to your customers means the difference between merely keeping your head above water and surfing huge waves of profit. The presence of strong customer feedback loops at all levels of your eCommerce company will lead to smiling faces, rising profits, and smooth sailing!

14
Apr

4 Common SEO mistakes that are easy to avoid

Imagine you’re playing soccer. Tensed but ready for a shot at the goal, you strategize as sweat trickles down to the small of your back. Bouncing off your foot, the ball’s trajectory seems right; you’re pretty sure you’ve nailed this one. Excitement builds. Yet, in the fractions of a second before the ball is supposed to meet the back of the net, the whole goal shifts—just an inch to the left. Nevertheless, that inch is enough to make the ball hit the side post and careen off the pitch. No goal, no point.

You feel completely deflated.

When you’re trying to optimize your website for search engine hits, that sinking feeling you get may feel very similar because the game keeps changing. Google and other search engines keep growing smarter. Tactics that worked a mere three years ago seem outdated by today’s standards. The challenge, then, is to simultaneously keep up with website maintenance while also updating for SEO purposes.

Here’s a glimpse at some of the most common SEO mistakes that even the most seasoned among us make. The good news is that each of them is easy to circumvent. Hint: That’s where we come in.

1. Only Focusing on the Numbers

When it comes to website traffic, quality matters far more than quantity. While it’s nice to see the number of visitors increase, it’s rather meaningless unless those numbers become conversions. Keep in mind that lower-traffic phrases will convert better because they’re more targeted to your ideal customer. Obtaining first-page search engine results with just a few of those key phrases can propel sales.

To find out what’s working, use an analytics package to establish conversion tracking for keyword phrases. Then, compare them against one another to see what’s benefitting the budget.

2. Keyword Cannibalism

Overstuffing your website with keywords and adding more content just to add more keywords is not useful. Though it may have worked years ago, Google has become privy to this practice and now favors quality over quantity. It also causes your pages to compete with one another. Instead, add a canonical to competing pages, create content that prompts people to share, and generate worthwhile inbound links.

3. Neglecting Meta Descriptions

Sure, the meta descriptions may not be as sexy as keywords, but they are nearly as important. Craft thoughtful meta descriptions to improve click-through rates from the SERPS and lessen bounce-through visits. Both of these are crucial elements to rankings on search engines.

4. Forgetting the Outside World

While you want to establish yourself as an authority, it’s important to link to authoritative outside sources as well. All too often people expend tremendous energy on linking within their site and neglecting to build credibility with outside authorities.

17
Feb

5 Tips to Streamline Customer Service Accessibility

With data-driven marketing, it is easy to get lost in all the numbers. Still, it’s important to focus on your customers as unique individuals. Every touchpoint you have is an opportunity to understand their needs and to delight them with your exemplary service. Here are some ways you can streamline your processes to improve accessibility.

1. Use Live Chat

This is a much better option than directing your customers to automated responses or making them wait to speak to an executive. Customers prefer this channel as they can communicate in real-time. In fact, a recent ZenDesk study showed that customers were more satisfied with live chat than any other channel.

Live chat is less demanding than phone calls and enables your executives to multitask, thus cutting down your contact center costs. You can also streamline the process by using standard templates for certain common queries to improve the response time and quality. However, take care not to make the interaction too mechanical. Live chat also gives you a great opportunity to upsell products and reduce bounce rates; you can guide customers through the purchasing process in a non-intrusive way.

2. Include Customer Service Link on Your Website

Make it easy for your customers to get in touch with you when they need assistance. One good way of doing this is to display a prominent link to your customer service center at the top of your page. Include this link on your home page as well as other pages. This way, even when customers are navigating through your website or browsing for different products, they are just one click away from reaching out to you if they need assistance.

3. Display The Customer Service Phone Number Prominently

People enjoy the option of shopping online without having to interact with overzealous store assistants. However, when they have queries and complaints, they look for a chance to speak to people who can address their issues. This is why on-call support ranks just behind live chat in customer satisfaction. Display your phone number prominently so that your customers can get in touch with you easily.

4. Offer Easy Returns (minimize small text in your policy)

Dmitry Agarkov should be your new hero. Why? He shook down Tinkoff Credit Systems for an undisclosed amount of money by changing the fine print in the terms and conditions of his credit card. He edited the terms so that he would not have to pay any interest and also included a clause that the bank had to pay a fee of 6 million rubles ($182,000) to Agarkov if they wanted to cancel his card.

The moral of this story is that nobody reads the fine print. Not even companies themselves. Make life easier for yourself and your customers by minimizing the fine print in your returns policy. Being upfront about the policy will not only cut down confusion but also help you gain trust. Extending the return period and making the whole process easy will also help you gain more customers.

5. Use Videos

Creating good video content is not necessarily expensive or tedious anymore. Depending on your product, there are different ways in which you can leverage video content. Live webinars offer interactivity while video testimonials help establish trust in your brand. You can even develop a helpful FAQs page with walkthrough videos to guide your customers through the purchasing process.

Using a combination of these approaches can help you build better relationships with your customers. Improved support services will build goodwill for your brand which will ultimately translate into stronger sales.

If you found this helpful and would like to receive an occasional tip on growing your eCommerce business sign up for our email newsletter.

10
Feb

Product Photography That Turns Browsers Into Buyers

They say a picture is worth a thousand words—and nowhere is this more applicable than in the world of e-commerce. Often, the trustworthiness of a company and the value of its products are based on the visual allure of its website. More to the point, the eye-candy sprinkled throughout a site can prove to be the difference between profit and loss.

To create an attractive website, you need to showcase your products at their very best, including how they can be used, worn, or consumed. Doing so helps buyers justify their purchases. However, before you wildly start snapping pictures and posting them online, consider this: 67% of consumers consider image quality ‘very important’ when making a purchase online.

Here are some tips to help you transform pixels into purchases and browsers into buyers.

Simplicity

There was a time when consumers were in awe of flash, color, and blinking images. Not anymore. Now the key to success lies in simplicity. A simple, white background conveys professionalism and class. A white background showcases the item being sold and fits in well with nearly any website color. The exception to the rule is when your product or the website on which it will feature is predominantly white or light in color. Then, choose a darker or textured background.

Along with background simplicity is image simplicity. Focus on the product being sold and only on that product. Resist the temptation to clutter the image or website with irrelevant or distracting props. Customers want to know exactly what they’re buying and are reluctant to wade through unrelated imagery to figure it out.

Consistency

Maintain consistency to convey a professional, well-designed appearance. Keep the same background throughout and ensure that each photo is taken from a similar distance from the object. Likewise, make sure the item is in the same position and space within the frame. By creating a uniform look, you create an aesthetically pleasing landscape that is easy for a viewer’s eyes to scan.

Less Isn’t Always More

In many ways, less is more. In terms of product photography, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most websites limit visitors to using only one sense — that of sight. That’s why it’s critical to capture every angle and detail of the product being sold.

Start with a basic photograph of the product that will appear first under the product listing. With few exceptions, this is a frontal shot. For chairs, it often means a 45-degree angle; for plates, it is typically top-down; and for shoes, it’s almost always taken from the side. From there, capture the image from a variety of angles so that consumers can see the details and imagine themselves actually using the product. Consider using 360-degree imagery so the product can be fully rotated and viewed from every angle.

Action Shot

This tactic requires a bit of psychology, as you must climb into the minds of prospective buyers and imagine what they might do with the product. Now take a picture of that. Once you’ve figured out uses, play with space, positioning, and color to create an alluring image. Give viewers a focal point. If photographing more than one object, avoid lining them up. Instead, place them on different levels and at slightly different angles.

Consider Video

There’s no such thing as too sophisticated. This becomes apparent when you consider all the video imaging potential you can harness. Take buyers on a journey of your product by filming it from different angles for a genuine 360-degree perspective. Capture a person or animal interacting with the item so that customers can imagine using it in their everyday lives.

When designing an e-commerce site, it’s about crafting an experience so enticing that consumers will click on it to learn more and then make a purchase. Bottom line? The better your stuff looks, the more you will sell.

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03
Feb

Seven Lessons that Businesses Can Learn from E-Commerce Giant Amazon

When attempting to build a successful e-commerce plan, you don’t need to look much further than Amazon’s e-commerce business model. Amazon is not only one of the earliest and most popular eCommerce platforms, but also the longest running and most consistently successful. From its early history as an online bookseller to its current status as the US’s largest e-commerce company, Amazon has grown its sales model and skillfully navigated multitudes of challenges as it moved from a twentieth to a twenty-first-century company.

Here are some of the key elements found in Amazon’s model, as well as some ideas on how you can apply them to your own business:

1. Personalization

Remember that online shopping is an experience as well as a means to an end. A one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to provide a pleasurable online customer experience. One of Amazon’s greatest successes is the way it has skillfully built personalized home pages which use past searches and interests to recommend a tailored list of products. In this way, Amazon has transformed itself from a company that sells everything to a website that curates a personal shopping list.

2. Need for speed

If a website’s pages take a long time to load, customers will simply lose interest and go somewhere else. Amazon has researched the relationship between speed and customer retention and adjusted its own site accordingly. An additional delay of 0.5 seconds to page-load time causes a 20% drop in traffic. Never sacrifice speed for bells and whistles and test your web pages’ performance.

3. Usability (keeping it simple)

Amazon’s simple interface—in which a customer can look at products, decide on a purchase, and easily pay with only a few steps—illustrates the company’s no-frills, easy to navigate approach. It also saves addresses, allows customers to configure primary addresses and payment plans, and streamlines customer accounts.

4. Reviews

Consumers trust online reviews from validated sources. Think of reviews as a form of content marketing; they can describe the key selling points of a product in detail. Amazon goes a step further than the average Joe. Their space efficient and user-friendly dedicated review page illustrates how to make reviews simple to access and easy to find helpful reviews. Reviews are sorted according to rating and can be easily filtered or up- or down-voted according to usefulness, causing the best reviews to rise to the top, which further validates the worthiness (or lack thereof) of the product.

5. Transactional emails

Transactional emails, or automatic emails deploying orders, shipping, etc., have higher opening rates than other emails, and encourage customer interaction and repeat sales. Amazon also leverages automatic emails to encourage customers to rate and review products. In addition, personalized emails, sent directly to the customer based on purchasing habits, connect the customer to special offers or a perfectly-timed coupon.

6. Mobility first

By emphasizing a mobile-friendly website with options such as auto-fill or one-click ordering, Amazon has become an industry leader in mobile e-commerce. It’s important not just because e-commerce is going mobile, but also because Amazon experiments with new interfaces and emerging trends. Do not be afraid to experiment to improve customer satisfaction, and remember to test your site to verify usability and performance on mobile.

7. Free, no-hassle Shipping and Returns

More than in almost any other area, Amazon has set the standard for e-commerce by offering cheap and fast shipping with free, easy returns. It was also Amazon who has made two-day shipping normal. E-commerce lends itself to frequent returns, and customers feel better knowing they can exchange products easy.

While these are seven crucial lessons that can be learned from Amazon’s rise to the top, there are many more lessons to be learned from them. We’ll cover a few of  their other signature successes, such as Amazon Prime and free 2 day shipping in more depth in the future. Knowing what works best in eCommerce is essential to making your own brand and company compete with the best, but don’t sacrifice originality. Amazon wasn’t copying another eCommerce giant for all of their tricks but they weren’t afraid to learn a few tricks from those around them and adapt them to their own marketplace. Learn from their successes and make them your own.

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27
Jan

The Top Five Toughest Items to A/B Test on eCommerce Sites (That Should Be Tested, Anyway)

No online marketer worth his or her salt should undervalue A/B testing for e-commerce sites. After all, these sites always aim to convert visitors into buyers, and one of the most efficient ways to improve their conversion rates is through A/B testing different elements.

Also known as split testing, A/B testing is a way of testing multiple versions of an element to see which one converts better. For example, half of your visitors will see landing page A, while the other half will be directed to landing page B. These two versions are then compared and analyzed to see which one performs better.

Ideally, you should test every single element on the site to optimize conversion. Unfortunately, the following items are a little bit harder to A/B test, although doing so can reap substantial rewards:

1. Pricing

Product prices are one of the key elements of every eCommerce website, so one would think testing them should be fairly simple. But while there’s usually no problem with presenting different prices, it’s tough on most eCommerce platforms to ensure that the system charges only what is shown on the product page according to the test variation. Plus, it’s extra tough for international sites that transact in multiple currencies.

2. Shipping Strategies

When you have to deal with different shipping options like FedEx, UPS or USPS, it can be difficult to A/B test all of them. Some eCommerce sites also make it almost impossible to bring the shipping estimates to the product detail page or shopping cart, where it is convenient for most customers.

Free shipping promotions that are done in exchange for, say, subscribing to a newsletter or signing up for a club, can also be hard to test on most conventional A/B testing tools due to the complexity of the process. The same goes for shipping discounts once the consumer reaches a certain amount in his shopping cart.

3. Checkout Process

Many eCommerce platforms have hard-coded checkout processes that make it impossible to change the steps involved. So, if you want to reduce the number of steps during a consumer’s checkout process (or create a single-page checkout), you might need to use more advanced A/B testing tools.

4. Product Filters

Results of split testing for product filters and categories have always produced mixed results, with some eCommerce sites finding product categories unnecessary while others find them indispensable. Indeed, it’s a case-to-case basis, which is why it’s important to A/B test them, though this is by no means an easy feat. For one, you need to group each of your products in categories via the front-end, and this can be a tedious process. If you fail to do that, your testing team will be limited to what’s been grouped on the website already, thereby yielding incomplete — and therefore inaccurate — results.

5. Social Sharing Impact

Tracking social sharing is a slippery slope when it comes to A/B testing eCommerce sites. Shares via social media buttons can be tracked quite easily, but measuring its reach and network effect is still impossible as there is no technology available for split testing this yet.

The elements mentioned above may be mere drops in the ocean of eCommerce web pages, but they can create ripples of ever-increasing revenue once you optimize them properly through A/B testing. You just need the time, skills, and necessary resources to do so. In the end it will be more than worth it!

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20
Jan

Email Marketing: What to Consider Before You Press ‘Send’

When you run an online business or an eCommerce store, every minute of your time and every marketing dollar is critical. You have finite resources for both, but stretching them to get the very best results in terms of traffic, revenue and profits is not as hard as you might think. Simply use a tried and true method: email marketing!

While it might surprise you that we suggested email and not social media, there is no better medium than email marketing for businesses. The statistics are quite clear and they are astounding:

What Works in Email Marketing?

Taking the time to carefully plan your first campaign will give you better engagement and a better payoff by focusing on the purpose of your campaign.

Personalize It

Cater your emails to the people they are addressed to; people decide whether to open your communication based solely on the subject line, so make it count by making it personal. Which email would you open?

  • Open this email right away
  • Debbie, I’ve got some great news for you about XX
  • Information about XX inside

If you are like most people, the one that starts with your name (and tells you upfront what the email is about) is the winner. Beware of forcing personalization, though—and it follows by implication that it’s difficult to make large email blasts sound cozy. Nevertheless, being as personal as one can be in one’s email marketing definitely pays dividends.

Preview and Test It

Always preview and test your campaign. This way, you can avoid the rookie mistake of sending out an email to hundreds of people with a typo, a bad link, or images that don’t load.

Use your email marketing tools to test your content on a variety of devices and different email systems to see how it will look to recipients. Make sure your emails are mobile friendly, meaning they’ll fit nicely on whatever sized screen the recipient is viewing. If not, count on it being instantly deleted.

Never Spam

You want your email marketing to make you money, not scare off potential customers, so make sure nothing you send can be construed as SPAM. Spam filters will weed out certain content, so don’t use all capital letters, lots of exclamation points or spammy words and phrases. Chances are, emails with those things will never hit inboxes.

To entice your subscribers to engage, keep the content you send relevant, on-brand and consistent.

Be Yourself

It’s very easy after seeing an unsuccessful email to go out to overthink things and to try and change your style. Don’t! Write for the audience that wants to read from you not for the person who wants to write for them. Learn your genius and make your own brand. There will always be people who leave or who don’t like your content, but don’t let that change how you write. It’s good to get to know your audience, but don’t let them define you as much as inform you.

Track Your Metrics

How will you measure success in your email marketing campaign? What are your goals for open rates and click throughs? Create realistic goals so that you can measure your campaign performance. You should review these average email marketing rates from Smart Insights so you know what to expect, and plan from there:

  • Open rate: 22.87%
  • Click-through rate: 3.26%
  • Unsubscribe rate  0.53% (0.47%)

Not everyone will open your email but if over 20 percent of people do on your first try, you’re doing great. Likewise, click-through rates show what your recipients are responding to, giving you good information for future campaigns. Good tracking will guide you in the right direction. When you have a flop, move on, but when something works, rinse and repeat!

If you found this helpful and would like to receive an occasional tip on growing your eCommerce business sign up for our email newsletter.

13
Jan

Three Simple Steps to Defining Your Target Audience

Knowing and understanding your target audience is arguably the most important factor in internet marketing. Not only will this allow you to produce great work that draws attention and makes money, it will also ensure that your business is making the right choices to achieve economic security, sustainable growth, as well as establishing itself as an industry leader.

1. Who is your business?

The first step in this process is to figure out who your business is. Yes, who. Chances are you know what your business sells, where it sells what it sells, and how you go about selling. But ‘who’ is the heart of the matter here—who is your business?

If you’re actually a little stuck for an answer, think back to the planning or brainstorming phase. That was when you and your team members were narrowing down the business’s focus and considering whom the product or service would attract. Reconsider your business’s mission statement or the central purpose of your product or service.

Knowing who your competitors are can help you position your business within the market, too, so consider the top five. You can run a quick Google, Facebook, or Twitter search using some keywords related to your field of business. You may even dig a little deeper by reading into their mission statement or scanning the About section. By the end of this process, you should know the purpose of your business and its products, who is looking for and purchasing your content, and how you can do it better than your competitors.

2. Who is your Customer?

Next, delve down deeper into who you are selling to. Of course, it is wise to distinguish your customer bases, but aim high for this one and imagine your top customer base, the most specific, most profitable, but also the customer bases you’re planning to connect with in the future. Having high hopes for your business and the audience you market to only further supports business growth in the long run.

For this step, it’s necessary to tap into your analytics. You can find the relevant data on your primary website, via your previous advertising campaigns, on social media pages, and particularly your business’s purchase history. Google Analytics is also a great tool for viewing data on your audience, and Facebook Insights can show you how you’re doing on social media. Does the data show you’re connecting with those you’d like to target? Or does it show another customer base you did not intend marketing to? Can you align the two?

If you are having trouble locating or producing reliable data on your audience or your business has no previous customer base to work with, you can always work from assumptions. However, be wary of making your audience feel dumb. Your users may not necessarily understand your industry terms or they may not have had previous experience dealing with a brand like yours. Be conscientious and when in doubt, be broad and extremely detailed.

Revisit your analytics regularly using the tools above. You can also try sending out automatic emails to your audience asking for their feedback or conducting a semi-annual or annual user survey. This will give you more specific, individualized responses from your audience,  but this approach is generally more time intensive and produces fewer results than Google Analytics.

3. Learn and Change

In the third and final step, take the information gathered and apply what you already know. Maybe you are concerned your business has strayed too far from your initial target audience, that your product has turned out to be more appropriate for a different crowd. If this concerns you, work towards realignment—in other words, make sure you are making the right material for the right people.

Or, perhaps you are willing to accept the new audience your product appears to be servicing and changing your target audience altogether. In this case, you may consider customizing your user experience to accommodate the new target audience. If you have reached this point in understanding your audience, get back to basics. Rinse and repeat steps one through three – now with this new audience in mind.

By following the steps outlined above, you are ready to know and grow your business. So go for it – your market is waiting!

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