7 Ways to Tell if You Need an Ecommerce Site

ecommerce site for brick and mortar storeDoes your bricks-and-mortar retail business need an ecommerce site? Consider these numbers:

  • Global B2C ecommerce sales are nearly $1.3 trillion
  • B2C ecommerce sales in the US are nearly $600 billion; of that, $210 billion is retail purchases
  • Mobile retail commerce revenue in the US is $12 billion

Need I point out that these numbers are growing? That is a LOT of money your business could be leaving on the table. However, before you start building an ecommerce site, you have to decide if it’s actually worthwhile financially for you.

Here are seven questions to ask as you decide whether or not to build an ecommerce site: Continue Reading

9 Things Every Mobile Site Must Have

mobile friendly shoppingIn 2015, it is estimated that 1 billion people will be mobile-only – and that number will likely only grow. If one of the things on your to-do list is “Create an awesome mobile site this year,” then good for you – perfect timing!

One of the easiest ways to ensure your website is a mobile-friendly site is to use a responsive design. If you have a WordPress site, you can find those themes here, or you could use a plug-in. If your site is built on a DIY platform like SquareSpace or Shopify, your site should be responsive, but double-check just to be safe. Continue Reading

Webinar: From Search to Shopper

msh_webinar_blog_greyWe’re excited to partner with Main Street Hub to present a webinar for local businesses! “From Search to Shopper: How to attract customers with local business listings” will be hosted on Wednesday, February 4 at 3-4 p.m. ET / 12-1 p.m. PT. Join us live to hear industry experts discuss how to leverage online local business listings to get customers through your doors and back again.

At this webinar, you’ll learn:

  • Why local business listings are important for your business
  • How to optimize your listings to attract customers
  • How to use listings and social media to keep customers coming back

Spaces for this free webinar are limited so register now to hold your spot! After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with information about how to join on February 4.

 

How to Prepare Your Website for the Holidays

web presence for holidaysThe holidays are right around the corner. In fact, you may have already seen foot traffic increasingly slowly over the past few weeks. Chances are, your store is ready for seasonal shoppers. Can you say the same for your website? Customers increasingly go online to do research before they hit the stores. Others like to keep in touch by following your business on Facebook or other social media platforms. Optimizing your Web presence to prepare can make a big difference when it comes to sales this winter.

According to this infographic from Grazia, 64 percent of shoppers that intend to buy in the store still research online ahead of time. Whether customers want to check out your wares before coming in or simply need to determine where your store is located, the more information you have online, the better. This information doesn’t need to be just on your own website. Your own social media channels and external review sites are good places to look for data about your business.

Here are some digital tips for a successful holiday season:

Make sure customers can find you

Business hours and address should be easy to find on your website. But don’t stop there. Customers don’t always go directly to your website to find maps and other information. Instead, they might turn to Google, online review sites, or social media. If they find incorrect or outdated information, they may miss you completely. Chances are slim they’ll try to stop by again. Double check that addresses are correct. If your business hours have changed, be sure to update them. If you have different hours for the holidays, be sure to let people know.

Review your online reviews

When shopping or choosing a place to eat, user reviews are one of the first resources customers will consult. Take a look at the most recent comments. Are they positive or negative? If you can, respond to negative reviews to do some damage control. Another important thing to look at is whether reviews are recent. If the comments are all from a year ago, customers may wonder where you’ve been for the past 12 months. If you need more reviews, don’t afraid to ask for them, Search Engine Land suggests. For example, you could include a note on receipts or emails that encourages customers to leave you a review.

Use social media and email to get them in the door

If you have a storefront, the goal is generally to move customers from your website into your actual shop. In theory, this isn’t hard to do. People genuinely enjoy the experience of going out to the store. In addition, they can see a product in person and take it home immediately if they want to. Promote the in-store experience to get customers in the door. Here are a few ideas:

  • Email coupons or other special promotions that encourage customers to stop in
  • Create a special invite-only event with special prices for loyal shoppers
  • Tweet or post on Facebook about Black Friday deals to keep customers in the know

You don’t need to communicate with customers just with email. This type of messaging goes both ways. Once customers are in the store, post signage encouraging them to follow you online, and keep them engaged over time, even after the holidays are long gone.

The Internet can help drive customers to your store this season. Just make sure you are making it easy for shoppers to find you. Keep all your information up to date and build your presence online to develop relationships with customers over time.

Kate Blair is a Senior Writer for Brafton, Inc. She has written extensively about small business and marketing. You can find her on LinkedIn.

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.

How to Build Trust for Your Online Site

build trust in your online storeAn ecommerce site is a beautiful thing – your store is open 24/7, allowing you to reach more people and process transactions even if your bricks-and-mortar store closed five hours ago. If you don’t have a bricks-and-mortar location, even better – you are saving a lot on overhead!

However, for your site to be successful, it has to immediately inspire trust, especially if you’re a new business. Here are 8 ways to do that:

Make your site beautiful You know the saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover?” Well, people judge websites by their home pages all the time – and with so many competitors out there, it’s easy for a customer to jump to someone else if they don’t like your site. Seduce them with a beautiful site and encourage them to stay and explore with the imagery on your home page.

Prominently display your SSL certificate SSL stand for Secure Socket Layers system, and, if you already shop online, you are familiar with it. It’s a system that encrypts online payments and transactions; you can most likely buy it through your web hosting company.

Display social proof People trust social proof, because they can quickly see that other people “like” you. It’s great for building credibility, especially if you’re new. Add a “Like” box widget for Facebook to your home page, and show off the number of likes you have, plus the photos of people who like you.

Show off reviews and testimonials Reviews and testimonials absolutely build credibility. When a potential customer can clearly see (or read) that others have had a great experience with you, he or she trusts that they will also have a great experience.

Share your story On your about page, share the story of why you started your business. Include high-quality photos of you and your team, too, so customers can see that you are “real.”

Provide contact information everywhere Your phone number and email should be included everywhere on your site, and it should be easy to find. Definitely include it in your shopping cart, too, just in case people have last minute questions before they hit “buy.”

Use high-quality images This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. If you’re struggling to take great shots of your products yourself, hire a professional. The investment will be worthwhile.

Include specs and policies with product information The more details, the better. When someone looks at the product detail information, give them everything – materials used, source of materials, place it was made/manufactured, dimensions, etc. Include important shipping and return policies, too.

What makes you trust an online site?

 Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be startups and professional service providers. She is a blogger for GrowSmartBiz and the managing editor of UberStories. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.

How to Rebrand without Breaking the Bank

rebrandingIf your website is not working for you – traffic and leads have dropped, bounce rate has gone up, newsletter and blog subscriptions have dried up – time to do a rebrand. Does that sound like a little much for a Monday morning?

Before you spend money on a huge rebranding effort – new name, logo, website, etc. – try doing a mini-rebrand, aka, a rebrand without breaking the bank. If the mini-rebrand doesn’t work, fine, but if it does, you just saved thousands upon thousands of dollars. Here’s what to do:

Conduct a serious website content edit Reframe your content so it speaks directly to the customer and addresses their needs. Explain clearly how you help them and how you do it better, because, to be honest, no one cares about what you do, they only care about what you can do for them.

Instead of “We are the top salon in the area…” say, “You need a salon that can help you feel your best.” See how that second sentence is all “you, you, you?” That’s what people will respond to.

Also, cut out all repetitive content – just say it once – and use plenty of subheaders and bulletted lists, as people are more likely to skim than to read the content on your website.

Clear out the clutter If your web pages are so busy that your eye doesn’t know where to land on the page, it’s time to do a little spring cleaning. Remove sidebars, unnecessary graphics, boxed content, and other distractions.

Rethink color Only use three colors for all text throughout the site: A main color, a contrasting color to highlight headers and calls-to-action, and a shade of gray for subheaders and other phrases you want to stand out, but more subtly. Of course, if you have a brick and mortar side to your business you want your website to mirror your physical location, so make sure the colors you choose for your website match your existing in-store decor.

Make sure your site is responsive If your site looks bad on a mobile device – smartphone and tablet – you have two options: 1) Switch to a website template that is responsive, or 2) Ask the company that hosts your website if they have a service that will automatically make your current site responsive. This is especially important for local businesses that customers may be trying to find while on their phones.

Commit to blogging Not only do search engines like websites that are updated with new content regularly, but if your blog posts include keywords and phrases, it will be easier for customers to find you – you’ll float to the top of search results. If you’re not sure what to blog about, start with the top FAQs you are asked by customers. Don’t forget, you may have an employee who loves to blog.

Have a question about any of the above, or about branding in general? Leave a comment below, and I’ll do my best to answer!

Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be startups and professional service providers. She is a blogger for GrowSmartBiz and the managing editor of UberStories. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.

12 Website Mistakes That May Cost You Customers

frustrated computer userAs a copywriter who specializes in website content, I spend a lot of time picking apart websites that are about to undergo an overhaul so I can understand what is going to change and what additional content I need. As a result, I also spend a lot of time talking to web designers and developers about the user interface and user experience (UI/UX) to ensure the new website is going to meet its marketing and sales goals.

You see, without a fabulous UI/UX, your website will be useless. People won’t be able to find what they’re looking for quickly, or worse – they could be so distracted or annoyed that they leave your website with a bad impression of your brand.

Let’s avoid that outcome by avoiding these 12 terrible, horrible, no good, very bad website mistakes that can cost you customers:

1. Beautiful slider images that take up the home page and provide no guidance If you add a slider to your home page, overlay calls-to-action on those beautiful images to direct visitors towards your most popular products or services.

2. Hiding your top products and services Likewise, don’t hide your top selling products or services. Splash them front and center on your home page, as it’s likely that is what your website visitor is looking for.

3. Deep navigation Make the navigation on your website as flat as possible rather than rolling page after page under one section. Flat navigation will help your visitor find what they need faster.

4. No search function No matter how flat your website is, add a search function. This is especially important if you have an ecommerce site. The faster your website visitor finds what he wants, the more likely he is to buy it.

5. No contact information If you hide your contact information – or don’t even include it –what else are you hiding? Are you even a legitimate business? Why don’t you want customers to get in touch with you?

6. Auto-play audio or video Unless you want to annoy the crap out of your website visitors, don’t include auto-play audio or video ever. This is a common mistake made by salon and spa websites. I know you want to give a taste of the relaxation you offer, but if your client blasts this at work she may lose her job, and her ability to pay you!

7. FAQs that aren’t really FAQs Keep your FAQ page updated so that you really do answer the questions you get most often, or you could find yourself inundated with emails and phone calls.

8. Too many graphics, fonts, and colors A busy website leaves no place for your visitor’s eye to land. They won’t know where to begin looking to find what they need.

9. Slow loading time If your website takes a long time to load, visitors may abandon it altogether in frustration – and never come back.

10. Links that don’t work Double-check all of the links on your website to make sure they actually work, especially at the point of sale.

11. Non-responsive design How does your website look on your mobile phone or a tablet? If it looks awful, time to switch to a responsive design that will ensure a consistent experience across all devices.

12. Long forms No matter what you forms you have – newsletter sign up, coupon download, registration or reservation – only require that visitors provide the bare minimum of information.

Did I leave anything off this list? What makes you to abandon a website?

Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be startups and professional service providers. She is a blogger for GrowSmartBiz and the managing editor of UberStories. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.

      Top 4 Ecommerce Website Solutions for Small Businesses

      Ecommerce solutions for small business

      Ecommerce solutions for small business

      I have been doing some research on a new ecommerce website solution for my kids’ school’s PTA. The current website is so impossible to use that I’m the only one who knows how to update the darn thing – and barely, even though I update content on websites all the time for a living. So, I guess you could say the platform is difficult to use, but that would be a gross understatement.

      Because I like nothing more than to share useful information, I figured I’d share the results of my findings with you. You’ll find them below, but first, I want to point out that these are hosted platforms, which means the company provides the ecommerce package and hosts the site for you on their own server. These platforms are relatively inexpensive and easy to use for the non-tech savvy.

      Whether you are a small business looking to launch your first ecommerce site or just switch to a new one that might be a better fit for your needs, here are the 4 top hosted ecommerce website solutions for small businesses:

      Bigcommerce

      Biggest differentiator: Loads of built-in tools

      Bigcommerce might have some big customers (ABC News, CNN, The Food Network), but they are great for small businesses too. Their solution has a lot of built-in tools, like SEO, marketing, analytics, product reviews and coupons. I also like their “abandoned cart saver” that helps you reach out quickly to people who leave your site without buying, and the fact that you can integrate with leading accounting, marketing, and investory management systems.

      Shopify

      Biggest differentiator: Most flexbility

      The most popular ecommerce solution out there is definitely Shopify. As you build your site using one of their themes, you can increase your marketing capabilities by adding Shopify apps. Once you start selling, Shopify Reports lets you track and analyze your product sales, orders, and payments. There is also a built-in blogging platform and an easy-to-use content management system.

      Squarespace Commerce

      Biggest differentiator: Integrates with your current website

      Do you already like the website you have? Then you’ll want to use Squarespace Commerce, which lets you add an ecommerce component to your website.  SEO and social media are integrated into the platform, you can view analytics in real-time, and you can even print packing slips or customize emails.

      Weebly eCommerce

      Biggest differentiator: Big mobile shopping focus

      Don’t let the light-hearted name throw you off – Weebly means business. Your Weebly ecommerce site will work across all devices – desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone – and it includes SEO, mobile apps that let you manage your site while on the go, and display and merchandising options. If you feel like you need help getting started, you can sign up for their free, live training sessions.

      What kind of solultion do you use for ecommerce? What do you like most about it?

      Related Articles:

      Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be startups and professional service providers. She is a blogger for GrowSmartBiz and the managing editor of UberStories. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.

      Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.

       

      Five Ways To Optimize Your Blog Posts For The New Google Algorithm

      How to optimize blog posts for search results

      How to optimize blog posts for search results

      Did you know Google recently changed its search algorithm? Don’t worry – this is good news. Instead of Google looking at keywords in a phrase as separate entities in a phrase, it’s now looking at the phrase as a whole to decipher what it is you are actually looking for.

      Why’s this good? Because we don’t talk in keywords, we talk in sentences – and we write in sentences in our blog posts. Here’s how to take advantage of Google’s new algorithm (named Hummingbird) to ensure your blog posts are optimized for search:

      1. Use long-tail keywords

      The term “long-tail keywords” is a fancy SEO way to say phrases. If you want to get ranked for “best craft beer selection in Washington, DC” then use that in your blog headline, page URL, and in the content of your blog.

      2. Write attention-grabbing headlines

      Don’t get so bogged down with integrating long-tail keywords into your blog post headlines that you end up writing boring headlines. If you want your blog post to get read and shared, it needs to grab attention. Use a list format, use humor, or shock your audience – but don’t bait them with a headline that has nothing to do with what the blog post is actually about.

      3. Optimize links

      Because search engines look at the links in your blog post, you need to optimize them as well. Make sure the anchor text – the word or phrase you highlight to link elsewhere – are keywords rather than meaningless phrases like “here,” “read more,” or “this blog post.”

      4. Be thoughtful when adding tags

      Yes, search engines look at the tags you add to your blog posts, too, so you have to give tags a great deal of thought. Tags will only work for SEO if they are keywords you want to be found for and link content – meaning, they need to be used consistently.

      5. Add keywords to images

      When you add an image to your blog post, be sure to add the keyword you want to be found for. In WordPress, go the image library, choose to edit the image, and then add that keyword in the alternative text, focus keyword, SEO title, and meta description boxes.

      What else do you do to ensure your blog post is not just search engine-friendly, but reader-friendly?

      Related Articles:

      Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be startups and professional service providers. She is a blogger for GrowSmartBiz and the managing editor of UberStories. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.

      Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.