Often, business owners express concerns over the risk of receiving negative reviews and the work inherent in maintaining and monitoring social media accounts. While it is true that social media requires attention, it is important that your customers’ opinions are heard not only by you, but also by potential future customers and visitors to your social media and website. Even negative comments and reviews can be useful, if you honestly try to figure out the reasons behind them and work to improve the situation that generated the negative response. Being genuine and thoughtful in your response to negative feedback and remedying the situation can help create a more positive impression than no response to a negative review.
You cannot ignore reviews left by your customers. Most consumers today research companies they plan to do business with, and reading online reviews and checking ratings are key factors in their decision making process. Many consumers also give more weight to recent reviews, with reviews left within the previous month carrying more weight than older ones.
Hiding from your reviews and not actively soliciting feedback from your customers because you fear negative responses means you are also losing out on positive reviews and potential businesses that could be swayed by them. Face the fact that there is no business that will always have 100% positive reviews, and when you have a positive experience with a customer transaction, ask the to leave you a review.
There are lots of places online where you can gather reviews, but the important ones you want to use are Google, Facebook and portal sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp, which cater to service-oriented businesses.
On average, most people read at least 1-3 reviews of the business of a business they are researching. Take the time to ask your customers to review your business, review the responses that are left and address any negative ones. Consumers are smart enough to suss out legitimate reviews and evaluate how you respond to any negative feedback to form an impression of your business that will inform their decision as to whether or not to do business with your company.
Don’t be afraid of online reviews, and take advantage of your happy customers to grow your positive review count. Referrals from happy customers are also one of the best sources of new business, so don’t forget to ask happy customers to send anyone they know with similar needs your way.
“Zero moment of truth”, a phrase defined by Google, is analogous to “first moment of truth”, a term used at Proctor & Gamble. Both refer to the idea that when a shopper first stands in front of a wall of products, marketers have 3-7 seconds to convince a shopper to choose their product and make a purchase by appealing to their senses, values and emotions. The moment of truth is seeing how much of an impression a brand or product can make, and the product is tested to see if it is chosen by the consumer.
In the past, news articles, magazine ads, TV and radio spots drove our emotional relationship to a product. Along with the emotional connection, shoppers would see products and make a connection when they chose a specific one. Encountering the product in a store was part of the decision making process that contributed to their emotional connection to the product.
The introduction of the internet into our daily lives has changed how we connect to products and brands. Today, when you are in front of a product shelf, you often already have already done research to decide exactly which product to choose. The initial 3-7 seconds of being in front of the products doesn’t apply as much when the customers have already put themselves in front of the product through reviews and other information they’ve sought out online.
Potential customers can easily shop for products with different price points, compare services and warranties and any other information they might require. Most commodities are the same no matter where you purchase them, so the difference becomes the various commerce sites and their fulfillment, customer service, after care and reviews posted by previous customers.
How can you make your site or service stand out? It depends on what you’re offering on your E-commerce site. Keep in mind that consumers are intelligent and empowered with the tools available to them online. Just as you would do with offline customers, be genuine and don’t neglect those who can be swayed by the zero moment of truth.
It’s important to stay abreast of where technology is moving, even when not quite ready to adapt to new practices or technologies as they emerge. It’s especially important for businesses, as it will not only affect the way we conduct business in the future, but also changing customer expectations.
Digital wallets are an emerging technology to be aware of. Although it is still very new and hasn’t been adopted by a large segment of the population yet, it will be widespread in the next few years.
What is the point of a digital wallet when you already carry a credit card?
Many digital payment systems use Near Field Communication (NFC), a relatively new technology that allows devices to use very short range (about 2-4”) wireless communication using a magnetic field to connect. NFC was developed by Philips and Sony as a standard for devices to establish a peer-to-peer network to exchange data.
Mobile devices such as iPhones and Android phones can use NFC in conjunction with other measures such as fingerprint scans to conduct transactions with extra security measures. Once you’ve registered a credit card with your device, you can make payments using just your phone and leave your physical credit card at home.
Merchants that have recently upgraded their credit card terminals with chip readers would need to update those machines to accept payments via NFC to conduct transactions with consumers using digital wallets instead of credit cards.
PayPal and other such payment processors are another form of digital wallet technology, though it does not require a mobile device to complete a transaction. Using PayPal, a store could accept payment after a customer enters their credentials and authorize the password without the merchant ever having access to the credit account information.
The bottom line is that we all need to keep a finger on the pulse of the technology world and be aware of new developments in order to be prepared at such time as it becomes necessary to adopt new technology in order to conduct business transactions online or off.
Whatever purpose your website fulfills, it’s important to keep Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in mind when creating and updating your site’s content. When you’re setting up an E-commerce site, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
1) Individual product pages
Each product page you set up will need content that conveys the information your customers want to know about the product—photos, description, videos, size charts, etc. What can be less obvious but is very important to your SEO is that your E-commerce site uses Universal Resource Locators (URLs), or web addresses, that include your product name. This helps search engines find your product and related information and index it at a higher rank that will make it more likely for potential customers to find it when they search for a product like yours. URLs include more than just your domain name and in order for search engines to be able to index and rank them in relation to your product name, they need to be formatted with words instead of a string of unreadable characters, such as domain.com/my_product_page.html instead of domain.com/pr1234hq.html. In that same vein, use your product name in the file name for any photos you include on that product’s page. Search engines scan file names as well as text contents, so this is an important and simple step to remember.
2) Out of stock products
When a product is out of stock, don’t delete the page from your site, update it to show the product is out of stock and leave the page on the site. If you have a date when the product will be back in stock, include that information. It’s easy to lose a potential future customer if they click in to your site from a search engine link only to find a 404 error, and you lose the authority that page has earned through it’s longevity. Don’t lose your page rank by deleting and recreating pages.
3) Discontinued products
When a product is permanently unavailable for whatever reason, you have two choices. The first is to update the page with a discontinued notice. The second, and much better, option is to set up a 301 redirect for that page that will send the visitor to a different page automatically, such as your home page or the top page of your E-commerce site, which keeps the visitor on your site and lets you show them information that can help provide them with a different solution. 301 redirects require someone with web design knowledge to set up, such as your service company or web designer. Search engines don’t ding your ranking for having a 301 redirect if your ranked URL doesn’t exist anymore. If your URL structure allows for it, you may also update the page with a related product and keep the existing URL.
4) New products
New pages will take time to be ranked in search engine results. One of the easiest ways to speed this process along is to mention it and link to the new page as often as you can from other established pages. Many E-commerce platforms can include “suggested products” listings within the body of your product pages—this is a great way to utilize that feature in a way that benefits your site and promotes a new product at the same time. If it’s possible to get the new page linked from other established sites, that is also very helpful. Using a blog is an easy way to do this, and a good excuse to post new content there that will benefit both the blog and your new page.
While our focus is on E-commerce this month, today we’re going to diverge a bit from the main topic of this series and talk a little about the future of money and e-commerce.
As new technologies emerge, how we handle money and commerce will evolve as new concepts and ideas come about thanks to our always-connected lifestyle. M-commerce, or mobile commerce, is one example of how a changing marketplace is driving the development of new ways of doing business.
M-commerce is an offshoot of E-commerce, using mobile devices to complete transactions. Services such as Uber are a great example of M-commerce in action—you reserve your Uber and pay for your ride on your phone using the Uber app without needing any other device or physical currency to complete the transaction.
If we dissect this transaction, we can see M-commerce in action.
First, you register your account and pre-authorize a payment method with the Uber app. Uber’s system takes care of all payment details, from setting the fare, allowing you to add a tip, and transferring funds to the driver’s account. You approve and authorize the transaction, but you don’t need to show your card when you pay or handle cash to complete payment for your service.
AirBnB is another example of this, as the site connects the hosts and travelers and handles the actual financial transactions between the two parties.
Without being a merchant provider, a credit card provider, or a gateway service, Uber, AirBnB and other similar services and apps handle the payment from one party to the other, rendering physical credit cards and cash irrelevant at the time of the transaction.
ApplePay, Google Pay and PayPal are also working towards making your wallet obsolete. Chip technology has helped make plastic credit cards more secure, but soon that may be irrelevant as well as we use digital currency transactions more and more in the brick and mortar world. Payment services such as ApplePay, Google Pay and PayPal allow us to link our banks and credit cards to our mobile devices and make payments without needing to take out a plastic credit card.
Paper currency is just paper unless it is backed up by our trust that it is worth the monetary value printed on it. The internet has introduced another form of currency—digital currency. The most well-known example of digital currency today is Bitcoin. Bitcoin trade services exist to convert digital currency into conventional currency, but there are also sites out there that accept Bitcoin as payment for digital products and services, such as hosting.
As with any currency, digital or otherwise, there is always a risk of fluctuating values affecting how much a Bitcoin is worth. A recent incident in Japan involved a Bitcoin trade floor running out of cash to exchange is an example of one of those risks. Trusting that Bitcoin and other digital currencies have value is the first step towards digital currency becoming more commonplace.
So you’ve decided that you want to open an e-commerce site—how do you get started? There are a lot of terms involved that can be very confusing when you’re trying to decide how you want to proceed, and it gets even worse when we start dealing with e-commerce-specific acronyms that get tossed around with little or no explanation of what they mean.
We’ve created a brief lexicon of four common terms and acronyms to help explain what they mean and how they might affect your choices. Take a few minutes to review the listed terms and get started digging deeper into the options that sound like the best fit for your business:
This one is easy—it stands for “electronic commerce.” It can also be spelled with or without the hyphen, such as eCommerce and e-commerce. The term applies to any commerce or trading that occurs online, and includes all aspects of online shopping and online subscriptions.
2) Shopping Cart
A shopping cart is a component of an online shopping system which tracks the items added by the user until it’s time to check out and move through the payment process.
This is one of the harder terms—it stands for “Software as a Service,” which is different than the software you might purchase in a box. SaaS is software that you purchase a license to use, but is hosted and maintained elsewhere by the developer. Many subscription services you access through a web browser would fall under this category, such as our Dreamersi web and email hosting and online business tools. This type of software solution requires less investment on your part when getting started, which can be a benefit, and SaaS shopping sites can be a great option for those with basic needs. The drawback to SaaS is that you must rely on the features and options provided by the developer, often with little opportunity for customization as your needs grow.
4) TLS & SSL
Transport Layer Security (TSL) and Secure Socket Layer (SSL) are encryption methods used between customers’ browsers and shopping sites’ servers. SSL is the older of the two terms, but TLS is beginning to surpass it in use, as SSL 3.0 was upgraded and became TLS 1.0. The numbers following the acronym identify the version number, which defines the protocol being used. When you access a site using TSL or SSL you will see a locked padlock next to the URL in the location bar of your browser.
You need to have TLS or SSL installed to be trusted to provide secure credit card transactions. Many sites that handle personal information in any way have this installed, and there are many TLS/SSL license providers you can choose from. TLS and SSL licenses are issued to specific domain names, so if you want to sell using multiple sites, each new domain will need it’s own license.
Hopefully these definitions will help you get started navigating the information and options available to your business and help choose the option best suited to your needs. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us, we are happy to give you advice to fulfill your e-commerce needs.
Starting an electronic commerce (eCommerce) site has been growing in popularity in recent years, since it’s much easier and less expensive outlay than opening up a brick and mortar retail store. In general, eCommerce stores have lower overhead, since they can be managed without a retail lease and reach a wider geographic market than a local storefront. But is giving up a physical storefront in favor of an eCommerce site worth the tradeoffs?
Here are a few questions you should answer when deciding whether eCommerce is a good fit for your business:
What is your product, what is your message, and what is your brand?
Yep, it always comes back to the basics. We’ve covered defining your brand, message and content before, but this is a vital step for eCommerce sites asa well. The most important thing your site will do is express your brand and message within its content. Without doing this, even the best-designed site will fail to convert potential customers. Remember, first impressions are made in the first 30 seconds or less—your content needs to engage your visitors and express your message within that limited window.
2) What will your customer experience be like?
When you walk into a store, you generally have an expectation regarding what your experience inside will be like. If it’s a store selling clothing, you would expect to see trendy and seasonal clothing in the front, while sale and clearance items tend to be in the back, making it easier for visitors to find regular priced merchandise than the discounted section.
The same kind of consideration of the customer experience needs to go into your online store as well. If you were to walk into your own store, how would you like to be treated? What kind of information would you want to find quickly? What kind of a customer service experience would you expect? These elements are sometimes forgotten when setting up an eCommerce store, but adhering to your company’s values and message can help close sales and retain customers.
3) How will customers find you?
ECommerce sites have a unique challenge in that they are one in a sea of millions of other websites competing for your visitors’ attention and money. This is one of the places where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is very important, as a higher rank in Google and other search engine result pages will help more people find your store.
There is no one size fits all solution to any of these questions, but staying true to your brand and delivering an excellent customer experience will do a lot for growing your business’ fan base—a very important factor in online business. The more you grow your audience, the more your business can grow. There is no difference between a customer that patronizes your business online and one that visits your physical store—both should be served with the best customer experience you can manage and the best products and services you have to offer.
We've discussed tips for improving your website's search engine optimization (SEO)
in the past, but what about that video you spent so much time putting together? How can you help ensure that it reaches a wider audience?
Here are a few easy things you can do to help your video rank higher and reach more people:
1) Use a thumbnail
YouTube and other video platforms allow you to upload a thumbnail image to display next to your video link in search results and preview links. Take the time to create an image that will draw the interest of viewers, and don't forget to include the title of the video in the file name.
2) Use keywords
Be sure to use relevant keywords in the title of the video, but also in the description and meta data as well. Keywords in the text of links to the video from a web page or blog post are also helpful.
3) Include royalty-free music
While using music won't increase search rank on its own, videos that use music tend to be watched for longer than videos that do not, which can increase the search rank of the video. Royalty-free music is easily available and can provide a helpful boost to your video engagement.
4) Don't rely solely on YouTube to host
Where possible, it's better to host your video on your website. YouTube is a great option for those who can't do so or who rely on shares and viewer interaction to generate ad revenue, but if that isn't your goal, uploading and sharing your video directly on Facebook can be of benefit as well. Facebook and YouTube are also handy for their video analytics data, which can help you figure out what types of videos your audience prefers.
5) Include transcripts
If your chosen video hosting platform allows for you to include a transcript, take advantage of this feature and do so. If it does not, consider including a link in the description to a page on your site that contains the transcript. Take advantage of this opportunity to provide relevant, keyword-rich, searchable text linking to your site and your video so that searchers and engines alike have another way to find your video and engage with your content.
Growing a fanbase for your brand is a powerful way to build your brand’s reputation and expand your potential audience beyond your current customers. This is both easier and harder to do than ever before, thanks to the rise of social media. It takes a lot of energy and dedication to real-time responsiveness to meet the demands of your customers as well as your expanded social audience.
Here are a few things to plan for before you start leveraging social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, for your business:
1) Set a goal and establish a strategy
Before you start posting on social media, make sure you have decided on a goal and have a strategy to back it up. Initial goals are often very simple, such as getting more fans for your page that share your content. The strategy you create to achieve that goal, as well as the goal itself, should be in keeping with your business’ brand and story.
2) Decide on a platform
Depending on your business, your customers and your resources, some social media networks will be a better fit for your business than others. For instance, a bridal shop might have better luck and reach more of its target consumers using Instagram and creating their own hashtag instead of posting articles on Linkedin.
3) Know your audience
Your customers, potential customers, and aspirational customers are the audience you want to have interest in your brand and your story. Find out what social networks your customers are actively using and expend your effort there.
4) Be genuine, and be prepared to deal with negative feedback
One of the biggest concerns most people have when getting started with social media for business is what to do when someone posts a negative comment. Our advice is always to avoid ignoring or hiding the negative feedback. Be prepared to respond with authenticity and professionalism where needed, and don’t delete or hide from someone who has something bad to say about your business or your posts. Dealing with negative feedback in a positive way can demonstrate what kind of business you run and gives your audience a better impression of you than denial or negative responses ever could. Showing that you take your customers’ feedback seriously can very easily turn a negative comment into a positive demonstration of your customer service skills.
5) Evaluate & repeat
Once you’ve been posting regularly for a bit, get into the habit of evaluating how your social media practices are performing. Are you growing your audience? Are they active, liking and sharing posts or commenting on your page? Do some times of day or types of post perform better than others? Analyze the reactions you see and the page insights and analytics data provided by your social network to determine what actions are worth repeating, and what are not working towards furthering your goals. Repeat as necessary until your goal is met, then create a new goal and do it all over again.
In all of your actions, adhere to the tenets of your brand and story. Growing a social media audience is much like growing anything else—it requires care and regular attention to reach its full potential and achieve your goals.
Have you noticed that Google updates their logo every day with a different theme? Changing out the logo with a new version themed to represent historic events, notable people and popular culture is a marketing tool used by Google to catch the attention of their users and engage them in repeat visits to the site to view the latest version. Done well, using alternate versions off your own logo that are relevant to a current event, place or occasion can be a useful way to change the overall look and feel of your website and engage with your own website viewers.
Much of the time, you update your website because you’ve been told that doing so regularly is good for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Realistically though, most of your websites’ human visitors don’t care about your SEO at all—they come to your website looking for information relative to their needs. While SEO is important to ensure that the website reaches new visitors, your company website’s primary purpose is to deliver information to your current and potential customers while serving them with content that will engage them and keep them coming back for repeat visits. Periodically updating site contents and the look and feel of your website can go a long way in helping build and maintain your repeat visitor traffic, which can develop into more and better leads.
Though it’s a risk to change up a well-established or trademarked logo with fluid design variants, it is a great way to keep your site looking current and your visitors engaged. It’s easy to get carried away with your SEO strategy and site updates and forget the original goals and objectives behind building and maintaining your site in the first place.
Creative, fluid logos are no the only way you can engage visitors for repeat traffic. Relevant content and up to date information is equally important, as it doesn’t matter how well the SEO is working if visitors land on the site and leave because the information or design is hopelessly out of date. One of the easy way to avoid the former is update content or add a blog post every time your product or service has an update or upgrade. You can share this with your customer and web visitor mailing lists through a newsletter that teases the details of your new articles and encourages recipients to click over and visit the site for more details. Unless a visitor is already monitoring your site for changes—highly unlikely!—they won’t have any way of knowing something is different until the next time they have an issue they think you can resolve. Reminding them that there is something new to see will encourage more repeat traffic.
Fluid logos are just one of the ways you can have fun with your site while actively engaging visitors. Have fun with your logo design and content, just make sure whatever updates you make are in keeping with the overall brand identity that makes your site an identifiable part of your company.
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