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Showrooming, Meet Webrooming

May 6th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

What do customers want from their retail experiences today? Well, if your business includes both an ecommerce site and a physical location, then you’re one step ahead of the game. A new study from Accenture found what customers want most is the ability to shop anytime, any way and anywhere they want to—so the more options you can offer, the better.

Some 89 percent of consumers in The Accenture Seamless Retail Study say it’s important for retailers to let them shop for products however is most convenient for them. But retailers still have a way to go to accomplish this goal. While 94 percent say shopping in-store is easy, and 74 percent say online shopping is easy, just 26 percent say it’s easy to shop on a mobile phone.

While online shopping is growing, and 43 percent of respondents say they plan to shop more online in the future, it’s not necessarily growing at the expense of in-store shopping. In fact, although 73 percent of shoppers engage in showrooming (examining products in a retail store and then buying them online), a whopping 88 percent participate in “webrooming”—looking at products online and then heading to a physical store to make the purchase.

Regardless of their original shopping touchpoint – in-store, online or mobile – consumers expect their interaction with retailers to be a customized, uncomplicated and instantaneous experience, according to the survey. The research also indicates that consistency weighs heavily on the consumer experience. For example, 73 percent of consumers expect a retailer’s online pricing to be the same as its in-store pricing, and 61 percent expect a retailer’s online promotions to be the same as its in-store promotions.

The biggest takeaway from the survey: Consumers expect the same pricing, promotions and products in your physical store and your ecommerce site. They also expect the same level of service and ease of use in both places.

How important is speed to online and offline shoppers? Well, that depends:

  • 25 percent would wait up to 2 weeks to get the product if it means they get free shipping.
  • 24 percent say a same-day delivery option is important.
  • Of those, 30 percent will pay $5 to $10, and 19 percent will pay $11 to $20, for same-day delivery.

Asked what they would do if a store had a product they wanted but it was after business hours, 39 percent would wait for the store to open and buy it there; 36 percent would buy it online from the same retailer; and 22 percent would buy it elsewhere online.

What type of advertising influences retail shoppers? Physical and email coupons and offers ranked number-one, cited by 56 percent of respondents. Almost half (49 percent) were influenced by in-store offers. The least effective ads were online popup or banner ads, with 69 and 62 percent respectively saying these ads “never” influence what they buy.

What’s the lesson from this research? Far from being a drain on an ecommerce business, a physical store is still a “crucial asset” in differentiating your business from purely online retailers, the report contends. If you have both online and physical locations, the key is to make sure your brand and your shopping experience are consistent at every stage of the purchase process, and every place the customer might encounter it.

Image by Flickr user lululemon athletica (Creative Commons)



Web.com Small Business Tip of the Day: What Are Your Customers Doing Online?

May 3rd, 2013 ::

What are your customers doing online? The answer is most likely social media, according to a new survey from Experian Marketing Services, which also showed five minutes of every hour is spent on shopping. A great deal of this social networking and shopping is happening on consumers’ mobile devices, which brings up the question, how are your online marketing efforts doing? Is your business well-represented on local search sites? How does your website look on a smartphone? Are you using social media to announce new products, promote daily specials and communicate with your customer? The truth is there’s probably more you could be doing, so make it a point to find out what you don’t know about online marketing and get your business on the right track.

Web.com Small Business Tip of the Day: Are Big Trade Show Events Worth It?

May 2nd, 2013 ::

Times are definitely changing. Remember the days of setting up a booth at a big trade show to market your business and find vendors?  A new study by the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council and Exhibit & Event Marketers Association (E2MA) says marketers find it more and more challenging to measure ROI from big events. While marketers still find value in events, 40 percent of respondents are cutting back on big trade shows in favor of more targeted events, while 44 percent are choosing to host their own events. If you’re not sure whether a trade show or event is worth it, ask the event organizers for any analytics available and talk to previous attendees and exhibitors for their feedback.


Want to Reach Affluent Consumers? Here’s How

May 1st, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

If you’re trying to reach affluent consumers, what marketing and advertising venues work best? The newest Shullman Research Center “Survey of the Affluent,” reported in MediaPost, has some insights. The study looked at 6.7 million U.S. adults with household incomes of $250,000 or more. These high-income consumers account for just 3 percent of the U.S. population. Of these, 40 percent (3.1 million) are age 35 to 54; 31 percent (2 million) are age 55 and up; and 23 percent (1.6 million) are under 35.

No matter what the age group, Shullman found, these high-income consumers are devoted to their electronic devices and apps, and are open to advertising in almost any venue. Interestingly, when consumers were asked where they were most likely to see or hear ads that sparked some interest or high interest in their daily life, health clubs/gyms ranked at the top of the list. This was especially true for the under-35 age category, 85 percent of whom saw or heard ads in health clubs that interested them.

Next came magazines, which ranked second for all age groups. However, if you want to reach under-35 affluents, you’d best not advertise in the newspaper. While newspapers ranked third in effectiveness for the 35-to-54 and 55-plus age groups, they were the least effective means of reaching the under-35 category. Television ranked fourth in effectiveness overall and works well for all age groups.

If you’re specifically targeting under-35s, advertising in bus stops, subway stations and train stations works best; 89 percent of this age group said this advertising interested them. Looking to reach the 55-and-over club? Focus on magazines and newspapers.

When asked what type of electronic device they would keep if they could only keep one, the majority (58 percent) of these very-high-income consumers chose their smartphone. Even among the age 55-plus group, 58 percent voted for the smartphone; among the 35-to-54 group, 63 percent did. Tablets came in second, chosen by 22 percent overall.

Older consumers were more likely to use weather, e-reader, GPS/directions/maps, business and finance apps on their smartphones. Younger users were more likely to have social networking apps on their smartphones.

What do these results mean for your business?

  • Tailor your advertising to your target age group. Traditional media still work best for the older consumers, while younger consumers are more open to ads in less traditional venues such as out-of-home and health club ads.
  • Don’t stereotype. Among the very affluent, the oldest age group is equally devoted to its mobile devices as the youngest age group. Purchasing ads on business, finance or weather apps is a good way to reach these users.
  • Keep your eye on tablets. Although they’re not considered as essential as smartphones, they are rising quickly, with more than one-third of under-35 affluents indicating plans to buy a tablet in the next 12 months.

Image by Flickr user DonkeyHotey (Creative Commons)


Help Your Customers Spend Their Tax Refunds—With You

April 30th, 2013 ::

By Karen Axelton

Tax time is over, and those Americans who are expecting a refund are already making plans to spend it. How? A study of Twitter feeds by IQ Agency found that as of early April, 65 percent of Americans already knew how they planned to spend their tax refunds. The result is good news for retailers, with

  • 14% planning to spend it on electronics
  • 11% planning to spend it on fashion
  • 11% planning to spend it on automotive
  • 10% planning to spend it on food and beverages
  • 7% planning to spend it on travel
  • 7% planning to spend it on events
  • 5% planning to spend it on music.

You’ll notice most of these purchases fall into the discretionary category, which means consumers can easily be swayed to buy by emotional appeals. Consider a marketing approach that does one or more of the following:

  • Focuses on the tax refund as “found money” that won’t impact the family budget if spent on discretionary items.
  • Emphasizes the “reward yourself” or “treat yourself” aspect of making these purchases.
  • Suggests making a long-desired, big-ticket purchase (such as a new TV or electronic device) that otherwise would be too costly.
  • Highlights the experiential quality of spending on vacations, events, or food and beverages, such as sharing good times with friends or making memories with the family.
  • Appeals to the sensible side by offering discounts or deals on these product and service categories to tempt consumers who may be on the fence.
  • Uses humor to sympathize with consumers’ tax time headaches and celebrate that they’re finally over.

Even for the 35 percent of Americans that IQ Agency found plan to save their refund or use it to pay bills, there could be opportunity for financial planners, insurance salespeople and advisers. With tax time fresh in customers’ minds and finances on their brains, you can:

  • Contact existing clients with suggestions for how to maximize their refund.
  • Offer to review current clients’ portfolios or insurance coverage, suggesting that refund money provides an opportunity to upgrade with “found money.”
  • Reach out to prospects by offering a free consultation as to how their refund can be the start of an investment plan or used to purchase needed insurance that they may have been putting off.

Image by Flickr user bradleygee (Creative Commons)

4 Ways to Get More Subscribers to Your Email Newsletter

April 26th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

An email newsletter is a key element of your content marketing strategy, driving users to your website, your social media accounts and your business. So if you’ve got an email newsletter, you’re ahead of the game. But how do you get more subscribers to help spread your content far and wide (and buy more stuff from your business)? Try these tactics.

1. Encourage sign-ups everywhere.

It’s essential to put a signup box above the fold on the home page of your website. Ideally, you should also have it on every page. But don’t limit yourself to your website. Regularly post on your social media sites reminding customers to sign up for your newsletter if they haven’t already. Or post content from the newsletter and then say, “To get articles like this every month, sign up for our newsletter (link).” If you send receipts or order acknowledgements by email, make sure those emails include a link to sign up for your newsletter.

And don’t limit yourself to the digital world, either. Have sign-up sheets at the point-of-sale checkout in your store; ask for signups when you give customers the check at your bar or restaurant; ask if customers want to sign up when you’re handing them the invoice after completing work on their home or car. You get the idea. You can also enclose information about your newsletter in packing slips when you ship product, stick it in the bag when customers buy at the counter, or print it on receipts.

2. Keep it simple.

Subscribing to a newsletter is often an impulse decision, so don’t smother the impulse by asking for too much information. To send out an email newsletter, all you really need is the person’s email (it’s nice, but not necessary, to have their name too).

Keep in mind, you can always collect more details about them later, after they’ve been a subscriber for a while and you’ve earned their goodwill. Customers will be more likely to provide personal details if they’ve grown to trust you and feel that they are getting something of value from your newsletter.

3. Offer something in return.

Bribery works. Make your newsletter desirable and encourage subscriptions by offering something in return. This could be a downloadable ebook on tax tips (for an accounting firm) or a $5 discount off the next purchase (for a clothing retailer or restaurant).

4. Make it shareable.

People trust their friends’ recommendations, so using social sharing is a great way to encourage new subscribers. Include icons in your email newsletter to make it easy for recipients to like or follow your business on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or whatever social media sites you use. Every issue of your newsletter should also include a friendly request asking customers to forward the newsletter to others who might enjoy it.

Image by Flickr user Sean MacEntee (Creative Commons)

What Luxury Travelers Want in 2013

April 25th, 2013 ::

By Karen Axelton

If your business is involved in the travel industry, benefits from travelers or markets to them, you’ll want to know what luxury travelers are planning for this year. The news from Unity Marketing is positive: The company’s latest report, Affluent Consumers & Their Travel Plans for 2013, surveyed over 1,300 affluent consumers with an average income of $267,800 and found that nearly half (45 percent) plan to spend more on travel in 2013 compared with 2012.

Where are luxury consumers planning to go? Internationally, three destinations were especially popular compared to 2011: the Caribbean, Asia and Australia/New Zealand. In the U.S., Las Vegas and Nevada in general topped the list of planned vacation spots, followed by New York, Florida, Boston/New England and Los Angeles. 15 percent of consumers plan on visiting Western Europe, especially France, Germany Italy and Spain.

What else do you need to know about luxury travelers?

Luxury travelers typically take multiple long vacations. In 2013, the average luxury traveler will take 2.8 separate vacations lasting four days or longer.

Luxury travelers don’t want to spend a lot of money getting to their destination. They rarely fly first-class, for example, and they seek to use frequent flyer points and other means to economize on the trip. Receiving discounts was cited as more important this year than in the prior 2011 survey.

Once they get to their destination, however, luxury travelers splurge, typically staying in four- to five-star hotels. Experience is key for luxury travelers, and the types of experiences they want most this year are relaxation/stress reduction, sightseeing, and fine dining/food and wine experiences.

This year, luxury travelers are relying much less on travel agents and much more on online reviews and other online tools. Less than one-third will use a travel agent to plan their trips, and the importance of online reviews rose compared to the 2011 survey.

But there is still opportunity for travel sellers, tour companies and other travel-related businesses. To make the most of luxury travelers’ growing budgets:

  • Provide or link to online reviews of your business on your website.
  • Offer discounts, special offers or packages to appeal to luxury travelers’ desire to save.
  • Provide a curated experience. Luxury travelers care greatly about creating meaningful memories and having unique experiences, so if your business can help them discover or enjoy unusual experiences, you’ll appeal to their interests.
  • Focus on high quality. Luxury consumers demand the best, so make sure your service is up to their standard.

Image by Flickr user breezy421 (Creative Commons)

How to Craft Content That Works for Your Content Marketing Campaign

April 24th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

The essence of any content marketing strategy is, of course, content. But for small business owners, this is often the biggest stumbling block. Chances are you’re not a writer, so how do you and your team craft content that will work to improve your website’s SEO and drive traffic and sales? Here are some tips.

Focus on quality. You may read articles that give you the idea your content has to be stuffed with keywords. In reality, this leads to articles that make no sense (we’ve all read them—those blog posts that sound like they were written by someone who didn’t speak English). Think about what your audience wants to know, and write articles that answer their questions. For example, if you own a lawn care and landscaping business, your customers might want to know how to keep their lawns green, how to prevent weeds, what types of grass are best for the local climate, etc.

Include both timely and timeless content. You don’t want every article you write to become outdated in a month. However, tying your content to current trends (such as seasons, holidays or hot topics online) does help boost your SEO and make your site seem fresh. Aim for a mix of timeless topics (such as what types of grass are best for the climate, or how often to mow a lawn) and timely ones (such as popular plants this summer, or how to prepare your garden for winter).

Use keywords. I mentioned not stuffing your articles with keywords, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to use them. Figure out what keywords you want to be found for (for example: San Francisco lawn care, landscaping service, best landscaping company) and use those keywords in the headlines, subheads and first paragraphs of your articles. If you use photos or graphics, you should also use keywords in the captions, descriptions and tags of the artwork.

Enlist your staff. If you’re not a good writer, do you have someone who is on your team? Remember, content isn’t just words, so see what kind of talent exists on your staff. You might have someone who’s great at shooting videos or taking photos. Used properly on your website and social media accounts, these can be excellent traffic drivers.

Get professional help. Creating content, especially blog posts, articles and newsletters, can be time-consuming and stressful if you don’t have an experienced writer on staff. Consider outsourcing to a freelance writer or marketing copywriter. You can find tons to choose from on sites like Guru.com, Elance.com or Freelancer.com.

Image by Flickr user mrsdkrebs (Creative Commons)

What Do Women Want When They Shop?

April 22nd, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

The way women shop is changing, with brick-and-mortar stores no longer the focus, reports the second annual SheSpeaks/Lippe Taylor Women’s Buying Behavior Index. The study polled some 2,152 women in the past two months about their buying habits and future purchasing plans.

The biggest finding? Shopping no longer starts in stores, but online. Asked how they most often research products, some 71 percent of women say they use their desktop/laptop and 18 percent chose a mobile phone or tablet. Just 6 percent said they research by actually browsing in a physical store; amost as many (5 percent) say they ask friends and family.

Where do women most often make the actual purchase? Even when it comes to buying, digital still has a slight edge, with 47 percent saying they most often buy via desktop/laptop. Forty-five percent most often go to the store. Just 8 percent say they most often buy via mobile phone or tablet.

While mobile devices aren’t women’s top choice for making the purchase, they are heavily used for other types of shopping behavior:

  • 53 percent use phones and other devices to find store locations and hours
  • 49 percent use mobile devices in-store to look up and compare prices
  • 46 percent use them to search for coupons
  • 41 percent use them to get detailed product information
  • 24 percent use them to make purchases

If you’re trying to target women with your marketing messages, you’ll want to know when they typically do their research. Most (43 percent) said they research at home during the day; 42 percent say they research at home at night. Just 9 percent did product research at work and only 7 percent did so at home on the weekends.

Women’s purchasing habits don’t just affect the products and services they buy for themselves. Women not only wield major influence over men, they actually buy for them. Asked in what categories they are the primary shopper for their husband or boyfriend, 71 percent say apparel; 69 percent say grooming products; 51 percent cited travel; 39 percent said technology products; 29 percent said financial products and services and 18 percent said cars.

What does it mean to your business?

Online research is a huge factor in the purchasing process for women, with nearly 90 percent of women regularly going online on computer, tablet or phone before they buy. Make sure you provide all the information women need to make their decision, including:

  • Reviews and ratings of your business
  • Local search information about your business so women can more easily find you
  • Search-optimized website that drives women to your site when they use the keywords relevant to your business to search for information

Another huge takeaway? Even if you sell products and services for men, you need to take women into account, since women are buying just about everything for men (and, if not actually buying, most likely having input into the decision). When you picture your target customer, picture his wife or girlfriend, too, and target specific marketing messages to her.

Image by Flickr user Kevin Ryder (Creative Commons)

Why Local Search Matters to Your Business

April 19th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Are you taking advantage of all the ways local search can drive users to your business? The 6th Annual 15miles/Neustar Localeze Local Search Usage Study, conducted by comScore, found that local search is more important than ever in attracting customers and closing sales. Here’s some of what they found, and what it means to your business.

Search is the primary activity consumers conduct on mobile devices is search. Nearly 86 million Americans regularly look for local business information on their smartphones. Last year, the total number of visitors to search sites and search apps grew by 26 percent on smartphones and 19 percent on tablets.

In contrast, PC/laptop searches are in decline. The percentage of local searchers who say PCs/laptops are their main way of accessing local search sites has dropped by 7 percent year-over-year.

There are important differences in how users search on laptops/PCs, tablets and mobile phones:

Mobile phone searchers are more concerned about accuracy rather than depth of information. They are more likely than tablet users to say maps, driving directions and distance are helpful to them.

PC/laptop searches are more likely to take place earlier in the purchase process, during the research stage. In contrast, mobile and tablet searches were more likely to be used in the middle or at the end of the purchase process. These searches were also more likely to lead to a purchase. Just 59 percent of PC searches resulted in a purchase, but 78 percent of mobile phone searches and 77 percent of tablet searches did.

Local searches on tablets are declining too, dropping from 64 percent to 48 percent compared to last year. This suggests tablet users are becoming less mobile with the device, and is probably why they are more interested in in-depth information than mobile phone searchers are.

Accuracy of information was the most important factor for all three types of searchers; however, tablet and PC/laptop searchers gave slightly more importance to depth of content than they did last year.

What can you do to benefit from all types of local searches?

  • Make sure your business is represented on local search sites such as Local.com, Bing and Citysearch.com.
  • Provide driving, map and distance information to help users find your business.
  • Regularly check your listings to make sure they’re still accurate.
  • Provide as much detail as you can to help shoppers make the decision to visit your business, whatever device they are using.
  • Make it easy to contact you quickly with a click-to-call button or prominently displayed phone number for customers on the go.

Image by Flickr user vestman (Creative Commons)