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.
In the last post, we talked about registering a trademark
to officially claim your brand identity for your products and services. While trademarking your logo, message and product name is not required when creating and building your brand, a trademark can be useful if some other aspect of your brand becomes ingrained in the recognition of your product or service. The goal of registering a trademark is to firmly associate an element as being part of your brand.
Here are a few examples of familiar and significant trademarks:
Post-It notes are a product launched by 3M in 1977. A scientist was working on developing a super strong adhesive and accidentally created a reusable adhesive instead. This creation led to the development of “Press n’Peel”, the original name of the product that came to be known as Post-It. The original name and product did not perform well initially, but a few years later it was re-introduced under the Post-It® name and found its niche. 3M trademarked both the name and the signature yellow of the flagship notes, and went as far as suing Microsoft years later when Microsoft used the same color to create a computer version.
Apple has registered so many trademarks we don’t have space to list them. You can view a complete list here: http://www.apple.com/legal/intellectual-property/trademark/appletmlist.html
Apple owned “app store” while battling Amazon to use it. The lawsuit dragged on for two years before apple finally dropped the suit against Amazon and allowed them to use the term.
Whatever you choose to incorporate into your brand identity, when you create your website, you want to make sure your message is unique and identifiable. By refining your brand to the point where a trademark is useful, your product or service will be recognizable online or off.
Once you have established your brand, you might want to consider whether or not you want to trademark your logo, tagline or symbol. Trademarking not only lets you claim official ownership of your logo’s design or tag line wording, but more importantly, your brand’s legal identity.
Trademarking your brand identity is a statement of dedication to your established brand, and it does not have to be a tagline or logo. Examples of famous brands’ trademarks include the Nike swoosh, Tiffany & Co.’s Tiffany Blue, and TOMS’ “One For One®” messaging. Unique elements that identify your brand can be registered as your trademark.
How do you register a trademark?
It’s surprisingly affordable to obtain a trademark registration, costing only a few hundred dollars to register with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The cost will go up if you utilize legal services or advisors to facilitate the process, however the United States Patent and Trademark Office website
has helpful videos under Trademark Basics
that you might wish to view for more information.
There are different symbols used for different types of trademarks. Here are the common examples, with definitions from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trademark
• ™ (the "trademark symbol", which is the letters "TM" in superscript, for an unregistered trademark, a mark used to promote or brand goods)
• ℠ (which is the letters "SM" in superscript, for an unregistered service mark, a mark used to promote or brand services)
• ® (the letter "R" surrounded by a circle, for a registered trademark)
If you want to move forward with claiming your brand and registering a trademark, you will need to do so through the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Unlike copyrights, trademarks do not expire, and there are many examples of long-standing trademarks in existence and active use today. Mercedes was first registered in 1900, and Pepsi in 1896. The identity you trademark will remain registered as long as you choose to keep renewing your registration.
In our previous articles, we’ve talked about creating a message
, determining the tone of voice
and refining the look and feel of your logo design
when developing your brand. However, all of these elements should tie in with the story behind your business. What is your story?
Strong brands tell clear stories through their name, messaging and logo. Your story is also helpful when you’re creating content for your social media and marketing platforms. Good stories can help engage new audiences and create fans for your business’ media, as well as help you grow your business without a lot of costly expenditures.
Here are some things to consider when writing the story of your business:
Why did you start your business?
Why should people choose your business over your competitors?
Where does your product come from?
Who is the team behind your product or service?
Does your product have a social impact?
Don’t make your story too long, as it’s not meant to be a blog post at this stage. You must develop a story that can be presented consistently with the same message and tone as the rest of your brand elements, and that you can present it in an entertaining or engaging way.
Ford Motor Company is a good example. The image and story of Heny Ford’s creation of the Model T and his development of the first affordable, mass-produced car in history and improvements to the assembly line is a genuinely interesting and impactful story to tell.
Another example is TOMS, a shoe brand. Their story is the “One For One®” idea of giving a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair they sell to a consumer. It’s a great story and message that they went as far as registering a trademark for the “One For One” phrase.
What will your story be?
We’ve talked about how to get started defining your message and tone of voice to build you brand, whether your business is small or large. As a business owner, you need to define your brand, because if you do not, your customers will define it for themselves. You should be the one driving the decisions that go into your brand and your business.
So what’s next?
Another important piece of your branding is your logo. Logos, with or without text or the name of the business, can convey a lasting and strong impression to potential customers. As with your message, keep it simple, and make sure it reflects the image and tone you wish to use.
For example, using a heavy font, such as a bold Arial, can give more weight to the feel than something like Times New Roman, which can convey a softer, classic feel. Choosing upper case, lower case or a mix can also affect the tone of your logo.
Not all logos need or include text. A simple image could represent your company and reflect your message. An example of this kind of logo is Shell Gasoline. In earlier versions, the logo included the name of the company, but today it has been reduced to the shell image alone. When we see this image, we immediately know it’s a gas station, which shows how well branded the image has become. Volkswagen is another—it is simply the initials VW, but we all know who the logo belongs to and what the initials stand for. It does not need to spell out the whole word.
One of the last things to consider is color. What color or colors are incorporated in your company brand? Colors often have associations to things in nature, such as red standing in for a frame and blue for sky. Color can drastically affect our perception of the things around us, and you want to make sure the colors you have chosen reflect you.
Once you have defined the brand message in your logo, you will want to make sure that you are consistent in using it in your website. Images, fonts and colors will leave a deep impression of who you are and your brand message to the visitors of your website. If you aren’t creative or lack a designer within your company, you can always hire a graphic designer or web designer to create the visuals for your logo and website as long as you have worked out your message and tone.
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