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Friday Small Business Roundup: Get Ready for Holiday Retail and More

August 23rd, 2013 ::

Is Your Ecommerce Site Making These 5 Fatal Mistakes? Read Rieva Lesonsky’s post and find out what you might be doing wrong.

Then start getting your ecommerce site ready for holiday 2013 retail: Read 3 Ways Email Can Boost Your 2013 Holiday Sales.

Get more out of your social media presence. Read Monika Jansen’s tips on How to Become an Industry Influencer.

Then check out her post 13 Small Changes That Will Greatly Improve Your Social Media Marketing for quick tweaks you can make right away.

Are you marketing to moms? Learn the secrets to attracting these powerful consumers in Karen Axelton’s post, When Marketing to Moms, Mobile and Social Are Key.

How Do Your Healthiness Habits Measure Up? Learn how you compare to other small business owners in Maria Valdez Haubrich’s post.

Friday Small Business Roundup: Email Marketing and More

July 12th, 2013 ::

Is your email marketing getting the results you want? Read Monika Jansen’s Top 7 Takeaways From the 2013 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmarks Study to learn how to pump up your ROI.

Wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes…Most Small Businesses Aren’t Prepared for Disaster. Is Yours? Read Karen Axelton’s post to get ready.

Does your business slow down in summer? Check out Rieva Lesonsky’s post 5 Ways to Make Downtime Productive Time and get the most from your slow season.

If you’re feeling frazzled by all your mobile devices, check out Rieva Lesonsky’s post, Can Unplugging Make You More Productive?

A picture is worth 1,000 words. Make your blog posts, social media efforts and all your marketing outreach work better with the tips in 6 Effective Ways to Improve Your Visual Marketing, by Monika Jansen.

If you’re running a business without health insurance, you could be putting more than your health at risk. Read Maria Valdez Haubrich’s Could Ignorance About Health Insurance Cost You Your Business? to find out more.

Make sure you’re marketing to customers and prospects the right way. Read Rieva Lesonsky’s How Tablets Are Changing Online Behavior to learn what consumers want now.

Did you know writing a book can be a great marketing tool? Read Monika Jansen’s post How to Self-Publish and Market a Book to learn more.

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)

How to Use Video in Your Content Marketing Strategy

April 18th, 2013 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

If you’re trying to boost the success of your content marketing efforts, one way to do so is by adding video. Online video is becoming more a part of consumers’ everyday lives, especially when it comes to online shopping, according to a report from Invodo and the eTailing Group.

The survey of over 1,000 Internet users found that the majority (52 percent) regularly watch video during the online shopping process. About one-third say they always watch video if it’s available; almost all (90 percent) watch it at least occasionally. Shoppers are also turning to video earlier in the shopping process—during the research stage—especially when it comes to big-ticket purchases or complex purchases.

What’s important for content marketers to know—whether or not they are e-tailers—is that:

  • Internet users are showing more interest in video compared to prior years.
  • Consumer engagement is greater on sites that offer video.
  • Consumers are spending more time watching videos than in prior years.
  • They are also watching more videos in more product categories than in prior years.

While Invodo’s study focused on ecommerce-related videos, there is a wide range of options for small business video—from an e-tailer’s video demonstrating what clothing or apparel looks like on a model, to an accountant’s video explaining the latest tax deductions.

Clearly, adding video is a great way to engage your prospects. So what can you do to make sure your videos get watched?

  • Make them educational. Create videos that demonstrate your products or services, show past customers talking about their satisfaction with your products or services, or educated consumers about what you do or sell. Invodo found videos with an educational or demonstration aspect were more likely to get watched.
  • Make them easy to share. Consumers eagerly share videos on social media—in fact, they’re more likely to share videos than they are images or photos. Add share buttons or embed codes that enable users to pass your content along, as well as text encouraging them to share the video with others.
  • Consider mobile. Invodo found viewing of videos on mobile devices is on the upswing, so create your videos with mobile in mind. This means simple setups that are easy to see on small devices.
  • Shorter is better. Under two or three minutes is a good length for most types of videos. If you’re trying to cover a complex topic, break it down into a series of shorter videos. You’ll have more content and are more likely to attract views that way.
  • Post in multiple places. In addition to your website, post videos on social media and consider creating a YouTube channel for your business. The more places your videos are available, the more traction they’ll gain.

Image by Flickr user M4D Group (Creative Commons)

Web.com Small Business Toolkit: PageSpeed Insights (Website Speed Analyzer)

March 28th, 2013 ::

PageSpeed Insights

How fast does your website load? If it’s not fast enough, you could be losing customers who get impatient waiting for your beautiful but complex site to load. To help figure out what’s slowing your site down, check out PageSpeed Insights from Google. Simply input your URL and PageSpeed Insights will scan your website and make suggestions on how to speed up your site by optimizing photos, adjusting HTML and more. PageSpeed will also prioritize the changes in order of importance so you can see results immediately by taking care of the high-priority changes first.

The Anatomy of an Effective B2B Landing Page

March 12th, 2013 ::

Coming in for a landingOne of the best ways to generate leads via your website is with landing pages. Landing pages are hidden pages (i.e., they’re not accessible via your site’s menu) that allow a visitor to download or access content – a demo, ebook, whitepaper, etc. – after they fill out a short form.

Whether you have a landing page or want to add one (or a few) to your site, here are the 4 elements you’ll need to incorporate on your page to make it as effective as possible:

1. Clear and visible messaging

The messaging and value proposition on your page should be written clearly and concisely and positioned front and center on your page.

  • Include the value proposition in the headline
  • List the benefits of acting on the offer
  • If the offer was created by an industry expert, let the visitor know what makes that person so great
  • Make it clear what the visitor will receive

2. Clean layout

Avoid the temptation to clutter the page with graphics, quotes, a laundry list of your products or services, or offers for other content.

  • Keep design to a minimum – lots of white space is good
  • Remove a menu or other navigation tools so the visitor stays on that page
  • Make sure the download button is large and pops off the page

3. Short information-capture form

Decide what information you really need in order to 1) qualify the visitor as a lead, and 2) then contact them. There’s a big difference between must-have and nice-to-have, and the shorter your form, the easier it is for the visitor to access the offer.

  • At the least, ask for name, company, job title and email
  • To qualify them further, you could ask for location, company size, website and/or their biggest challenge in a certain area (a free form field)
  • If an question is optional, make it clear

4. Thank you/access page

OK, so this is technically not part of the original landing page, but I wanted to include it. Once your visitor submits their information, take them to a new thank you page that has a similar look and feel to the landing page.

  • Say thank you!
  • Remind them what they’re getting
  • Provide an access link to the offer, or let them know you just emailed access to them
  • Provide links to other content or pages on your website where they can find more information on the subject
What else should a landing page include?
Image courtesy of the author

Etailers Rejoice: Ecommerce Spending Hits New Records

February 26th, 2013 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

You know that ecommerce spending is growing—but did you know by just how much? In 2012, online shopping in the U.S. grew by 15 percent compared to 2011, reports comScore’s recently released full-year 2012 data. This was the strongest annual growth rate since back before the recession began. Overall, U.S. online shoppers spent $186.2 billion in 2012.

In the fourth quarter of 2012 alone (which includes the holiday shopping season), ecommerce sales grew by 14 percent year over year, reaching approximately $56.78 billion. ComScore had originally forecast a higher growth rate for 2012 ecommerce holiday sales, but last-minute consumer worries about the “fiscal cliff” appear to have had some effect on dampening online holiday sales just a bit.

Of course, the fourth-quarter sales are still nothing to complain about. Fourth-quarter 2012 was the first quarter ever that online sales hit $50 billion. It was also the thirteenth consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth and the ninth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth.

What kinds of products contributed the most to the growth in ecommerce sales? The strongest areas (those where online sales increased by at least 15 percent year over year) were digital content and subscriptions, consumer electronics, toys and hobby-related items, apparel and accessories, and books and magazines. So while digital content still leads the way (not surprisingly), most major retail areas are well-represented.

Overall, the number of U.S. ecommerce buyers rose by 6 percent, showing that more consumers are more comfortable buying online. In addition, the average spending per buyer rose by 8 percent.

All told, U.S. online spending accounted for 10 percent of total U.S. retail spending last year (excluding spending on food, gas and automotive). That makes 2012 the first time that U.S. ecommerce spending has hit double digits.

While comScore hasn’t yet made a projection as to 2013 ecommerce spending, the report says that as long as the lower-than-expected fourth-quarter 2012 sales were just a temporary setback, rather than a foreshadowing of decreasing economic confidence among consumers, 2013 is highly likely to see strong growth as well.

Image by Flickr user SamahR (Creative Commons)



Web.com Small Business Toolkit: Arqball Spin (360-Degree Photography)

February 4th, 2013 ::

Arqball Spin

To improve your click-through rates, you need to improve the look and intrigue level of your website. Stunning, eye-pleasing photography is a must, and if the consumer wants to see products from all angles you can either take many shots or show the object in 360-degree photography. Arqball Spin is a 360-degree photography solution that works right from your phone or tablet. You place your object on a spinning table and then use the free Arqball Spin app to capture, edit and share an interactive 360-degree image. Bonus: 360-degree photos reduce returns by helping customers see the product from all angles before making a purchase.

Luxury Marketing Goes Digital

February 4th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Surveys have shown that luxury consumers spend more time and money online than the average consumer. No wonder, then, that marketers of luxury products and services are expanding their focus on digital marketing in 2013.

eMarketer recently reported the results of a study by Worldwide Business Research and ShopIgniter that polled more than 130 worldwide luxury marketing executives. Some 85 percent say they plan to increase their digital marketing spending in 2013. Of those, 72 percent are planning to spend more on social media, making social the biggest overall area of focus.

The most popular social media platform for luxury marketers is Facebook, where 95 percent of luxury marketers are actively engaging with their customers. Next most popular is Twitter, used by 85 percent; then come Pinterest (used by 60 percent) and YouTube (used by 59 percent).

In fact, Luxury marketers are more likely to engage with customers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube than they are on ecommerce sites. However, more than half (52 percent) are connecting with customers on ecommerce sites as well.

Since luxury products tend to be highly visually focused, it’s perhaps not surprising that luxury marketers are using visual-focused social sites to reach out to customers and prospects. As mentioned, Pinterest and YouTube have high penetration, and even relative newcomer Instagram is used by 29 percent of luxury marketers.

Luxury marketers’ top content and product promotion tactics were posting images of products (81 percent), posting video (75 percent) and creating content about new product launches (60 percent).

One surprising area where luxury marketers are falling short is in their mobile presence. While the visual focus of luxury marketers could make it a challenge for them to translate their marketing efforts onto the smaller screen of smartphones, the crisp displays of tablets should be a natural for luxury marketing imagery. Still, just 35 percent of luxury marketers report using mobile apps, while a mere 26 percent say they currently use mobile commerce.

Another area of untapped opportunity for luxury marketers, according to the survey, is loyalty programs. Only 20 percent of companies currently use loyalty campaigns to reward customers.

Editor’s Note: Network Solutions offers an easy way to build a website for mobile devices in mere minutes: goMobi™, powered by dotMobi.

Image by Flickr user Mauro Cateb (Creative Commons)