Wednesday 19 February 2014

Best Tips for Improving Your Ecommerce Strategy

As customers increasingly turn to the Internet and smart phones for purchasing decisions, economies are seeing brick and mortar evolve into "click and order," and ecommerce become intertwined with m-commerce
More and more businesses are expanding online — from grocery stores to "beer grams," almost any product or service is available via the click of a button or the swipe of a finger. Studies shows online customers are exceedingly loyal — perhaps even more so than customers who shop in-store.
For businesses breaking into the ecommerce space, the process can be a bit of a whirlwind. Ecommerce presents countless opportunities for retailers and brands, so businesses seeking to take advantage of the benefits must also address some tough decisions — site design, mobile and social media strategies, customer service and product pricing, to name a few.
Here are seven best practices for your ecommerce strategy.

1. Create a User-Oriented Experience

When your customers can't physically see and touch the products you're offering online, convincing them to break out their credit cards can be a harder sell. Pricing products appropriately and delivering a user-friendly, all-around personalized experience is one way to encourage customers to fill their digital shopping carts.
Luvocracy is an online platform dedicated to helping shoppers find products they'll love via recommendations from "trusted tastemakers." One of the reasons the platform is successful is because of the feel-good experience of providing quality recommendations to likeminded users. 
People want to feel good about the decisions they make, and feel like they matter through the help they provide to others. Creating a place where those helpful moments are captured, shared, celebrated and easily allowed to cross from the digital to our physical lives is incredibly rewarding.
 Design-with-a-purpose emphasis on aesthetics and UI to provide customers with the best possible online shopping experience is important. Just as it is important to greet customers with a firm handshake when you meet them in-person.
Design has to be beautiful, easy to use, and entertainingly educational, illustrating through iconography and beautiful graphics
A user-oriented approach to ecommerce helps drive brand loyalty, which is crucial to the bottom line — almost no online retailers can break even by relying on one-time shoppers. Personalizing users' experiences also helps businesses segment their audience, which can translate into more effective marketing via targeted advertising campaigns.
To really engage with customers, you have to appeal to the emotional side of your users. More than the age or the city you want to target, it’s important to look for people who share feelings and behaviors towards something. Once you know this, it’s easier to find what your target customer likes, uses, does and where to engage with him/her.

2. Design a Service you’d want To Use Yourself

The best test subjects for an online business, app or ecommerce site are often friends, family and fellow team members. Make your team test the service like your ideal consumer: If you can't use it pleasantly for an hour straight, it's not good enough. If your 99th percentile server performance isn't good enough, you will notice. Put yourself in customers’ shoes.
"When the entire team is thinking like a customer, it shows in the final product."

3. Customer Feedback Is Crucial

Any business knows that customer service is part of the foundation for success, but small and medium businesses in particular rely on their customers for word-of-mouth promotion and brand loyalty.
Customer feedback is important for crucial decisions in the development of any businesses to succeed.  Entrepreneurs believe that the ideas they have and the products they build will be attractive for everyone — but it turns out they have to go out to the market, ask and try. You have to listen to your customers; what you're building is for them, so they will have a pretty good idea of what they need.
Listening to feedback on multiple channels is hugely important when making adjustments or introducing new products: Customers' feedback, whether it comes in the form of a supportive email or a note on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, should be read and shared widely. Listen to the feedback and react swiftly and accordingly.
Not only does customer feedback help businesses evolve and perfect their product or platform, listening to customers can also have a "juggernaut" effect when it comes to building a business. Leverage the authentic voice of the customer.
Your customers are dying to help you and be made to feel like they matter. They are the reason you succeed, Rather than feeling like you're constantly trying to shock them into participating, make them feel good about what they do and the fact that they've decided to buy into your brand and product."

4. Utilize Social Media — But Don't Rely on it Exclusively

A social media strategy particularly paid advertising and an engaging content strategy can be an effective way to target audiences and drive traffic to your site. Sites and networks such as Pinterest, eBay and Instagram are often hugely useful for ecommerce businesses of any size. Social is also a great way to get word-of-mouth momentum started, which is perhaps the most important method of launching a new site or platform to success.
Modern brands must embrace two-way communication online, there's just no question. It's about remaining nimble to consistently learn from our customers, and to benefit from their sincere interest in helping to grow.
Social media word-of-mouth can have a "snowball" effect.
While you want to excel on social media, it's important to note that focusing on social alone isn't enough. Many factors go into ecommerce success — and putting all your eggs in the social media basket is more than likely misguided. Social should be more than an afterthought — but it shouldn't constitute an entire business plan. Consumer expectations are higher than ever; being present in all of the channels customers expect is now table stakes, but overall performance of the technology is equally important across all of them.

5. Invest In Mobile

It's becoming increasingly clear that ecommerce companies simply cannot afford to disregard mobile users. In fact, four out of five smart phone owners use their devices to shop.
One thing is certain, go mobile or die trying, Mobile goes with you. Users can be engaged into making a purchase via a smart phone or tablet anytime and anywhere, so it’s crucial in the growth of ecommerce.
Businesses should take advantage of the entertainment or "me-time" value of smart phone culture, and points out that, as a more affordable and portable method of accessing a site than via laptop, mobile presents an opportunity to appeal to a larger market, especially in emerging markets. Additionally, a more interactive interface leaves room for creative methods of customer engagement.

6. Incentivize Customers

Anyone with an Amazon Prime account will testify that incentivizing customers works. Whether the offer is a promotion, discount, or loyalty program for VIP customers, providing little extras for your customers can increase word-of-mouth promotion and build positive brand affinity.

7. Be Ever-Evolving

As the online marketplace evolves, so must businesses that want to stay a step ahead of the competition. Continuously listening to customers, keeping up with the latest trends, analyzing metrics and conducting vigilant research help companies stay up-to-date with emerging technologies and effective strategy. Experiment with new tools and make tweaks in real time to improve the experience for your users and the bottom line for yourself.
There is no ecommerce, there's only commerce, Instead of using a megaphone, use an inside voice and talk to the customers who already love you and tell them why you love them. Or change your product so they do.

Thursday 9 January 2014

3 Social Media Trends You Should Know About

It's the beginning of a new year, and chances are you're resolving to do several (hundred?) things for the first time, differently, or better. But before you start listing out your new and improved social media plans for 2014, find out what the experts are saying will be big in social media this year, read on.
Their predictions will help you nail those resolutions — and maybe even keep a few of them.

1. The Social Media Job Scene: Bigger and Better

According to Business Insider, there are six social media jobs that are going to explode in 2014: SEO Specialist, Social Media Strategist, Online Community Manager, Social Media Marketing Manager, Social Media Marketing Coordinator, and Blogger or Social Media Copywriter.
If you're determined to find a social media job this year, research the jobs on this list — which are you most qualified for? Interested in? On the flip side, if you're an executive at a company that plans to invest more in social media this year, these jobs is good predictors of what people will be paying attention to in the social world in 2014. Know anything about SEO and social media? If not, you may want to add "hiring an SEO specialist" to your resolution list.

2. Beyond Facebook: The New Platforms on the Block

Forbes outlined the top seven social media trends it predicts will dominate 2014. The most interesting? MySpace will make a comeback, Google+ will "become a major factor" and there will be more micro-video. Here's what this means for you:
·         Since MySpace part two is still in its infancy, Building out an entire social strategy for your brand on the platform just yet is not suggestible. However, keep an eye on if — and how —brands are adopting the platform this year.
·         As the article states, Google+ is proving itself to be an integral part of Google's grand scheme in terms of SEO, social signals, and providing a more personalized search experience. If you don't have a Google+ account, this should be the year you resolve to try it out.
·         If you haven't mastered Vine or Instagram's video feature yet, now is the time to get comfortable. If the prediction is correct, making compelling short videos will be as important as writing in 140 characters. The earlier you can master the trend, the better.

3. Small Moments, Big Trends

PR Daily took a look at 10 social media moments in 2013 that it believes are precursors to major trends in 2014, including Oreo's tweet during the Super Bowl, Facebook launching hashtags, and Pinterest's makeover. What do these milestone moments mean for your social media resolutions this year?
·         Oreo's hugely successful live tweet during the Super Bowl was a moment that social media experts talked about all year. PR Daily predicts that, similar to the way brands pay for product placement, companies will make deals with networks to learn a TV show's storyline beforehand so their content is more timely. Which would be a really interesting way for brands to not only publish timely content, but also hugely relevant content
·         PR Daily predicts that Facebook's introduction of hashtags signals that brands will be incorporating hashtags into their TV, print, and radio spots more frequently to strengthen their social campaigns. If you're not fluent in the language of hashtags, make that one of your top goals.
·         Pinterest got a makeover this year and introduced features like Place Pins, analytics, and Rich Pins, strengthening its ROI for brands. Not on Pinterest? Make a point to check out its new functionality.
As you're mapping out your priorities for the year, there's nothing more powerful than arming yourself with information. But if you find yourself getting lost in the noise, remember your #1 resolution for your brand: Keep it genuine and authentic. The rest will follow.

Tuesday 7 January 2014

10 Predictions about the Future of Ecommerce

Personalized shopping is changing the way we find, buy and recommend products to our friends already.
But from a business point of view, what's going to capture shoppers' attention next?
10 founders share what they think the future of personalized shopping holds (eCommerce entrepreneurs listen up!). Here's what they had to say:


1. Custom Everything

Clothes, shoes, glasses and just about everything we thought would never move fully online will all be online. The reason is simple: why leave the comfort of your own home when you can get something custom made to your exact size for less? this is the future.


2. Customized Outfit Planning

With websites such as DailyLook that mass-produce trendy outfits, it's only a matter of time before a company can produce individualized outfits. Combining user-submitted and digitally collected data with current trends would provide a service that could put together outfits to fit the consumer's style while being trendy and even suggest sizes. The programming could be extended to hair care, skin care and cosmetics. All the consumer would have to do is click a button and a whole look that's entirely her style would show up on her doorstep at a discount.


3. Virtual Sizing

The hassle of trying on various sizes will decrease as video quality improves and we're able to measure and size clothes from the comfort of home. Because brands vary widely in size charts, it will be even more important for profit margins to avoid returns and exchanges for color, style, design, and fit. As a bonus, this same technology will be a boost to the fitness industry as consumers can see their bodies change (for better or worse) from one fitting to the next.


4. Custom Designs

More and more companies these days are allowing customers to represent themselves through custom designs. NikeiD lets customers design their own shoes. And customers can buy an interchangeable face and strap at Modify Watches. This trend of custom designs and interchangeability lets customers truly express themselves through their clothing. It's very powerful.


5. Personalized Brands

There's so much data available about customers, and the e-commerce companies that care enough about their clients to personalize their communication will win the day. That means every element of the messaging will be personalized, from the on-site experience to social targeting and especially email. In five years, the communication you receive around shopping mall will be rooted in your behavior, demographic and psychographic data. It will feel like every store has a personal shopper just for you, and it will communicate to you that way. Those who don't and stick to the "batch-and-blast" style of broadcast communication will lose out to the brands that truly embrace personalization.


6. 3D Printing for Clothing

Anyone can eventually be able to print their own clothes. You will be seeing 3D printing start to take off, and they are in the very early stages of this revolution. Who would have imagined the factories that have today 100 years ago? Today, we can't even begin to comprehend the ways they'll produce products years from now. 3D printing technology will get to the point where you will be able to print clothes according to your sizes. How cool would it be to go to Banana Republic, pick out the fabric of your choosing and have the machine print out some shirts for you? It will happen.


7. Human Online Shopping Concierges

Many consumers appreciate the assistance of a real person when it comes to certain types of shopping. Technology will enable companies to provide a concierge-style service that will use underlying personalization algorithms to allow a real person to make recommendations to you. The added personalization of human reps will be justified by far more meaningful and long-lasting relationships with the consumer. Trust will be built, and consumers will grow accustomed to outsourcing much of the online shopping experience to a personal assistant.


8. Shopping Experience Convergence

As Internet shopping became prominent in the '90s, there was a distinct line drawn between brick-and-mortar and Internet retailers. As brick-and-mortar stores started seeing sales slip, they plunged headfirst into the Internet, thus creating click-and-mortar operations. This blurred the lines between physical and virtual retailers. Now the line is drawn between mobile and computer. Until a few years ago, mobile shopping was nearly unheard of. We read about mobile this and mobile that, still creating that delineation between mobile and computer. As this line blurs, the shopping experience will converge around the person. People are expecting to look, touch and research across multiple devices, in person and virtually. The medium or device ultimately becomes irrelevant.


9. Algorithmic Recommendations

Amazon's product suggestions are great because they have so much aggregate data. But they don't have enough data about consumer from other services and products that they own. If they did, we could get an amazing aggregate view of what's relevant to us based on a more complete profile.


10. 360-Degree Customer Engagement

It takes six to ten "touches" before consumers buy from a brand. Today's customers are experiencing your product or service across platforms — from mobile, Web, physical, media and referral sources. We can expect to engage consumers where they are and carry that experience across platforms for each of those first half-dozen touches. A customer may first experience your brand from a personal referral, but then may explore on mobile or a tablet before doing a deep dive on the Web. After those experiences, they may review on a third-party site before going in-store to purchase. That cross-platform, pre-purchase experience requires a 360-degree view of the customer to ultimately complete the sale. Think holistically about how a consumer experiences across platforms.